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Carnegie Hardcover – February 1, 2001

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Editorial Reviews


.""..the book looks like a Tom Clancy novel and anyone who likes those should be pleased with it..."" (Independent on Sunday, 1 December 2002)

""A superb new account of the legendary industrialist and philanthropist's life... timely, balanced... revealing."" --""Barron's""

.""..Krass provides a detailed thorough and thoughtful appraisal of a major figure..."" (Times Higher Educational Supplement, 14 November 2003)

From the Inside Flap

Andrew Carnegie stands next to J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller as one of the great business leaders in United States history. Immigrating from Scotland as a child, Carnegie rose from the slums of Pittsburgh to become a steel industry titan remembered for his many philanthropic endowments, ranging from free libraries to his work toward world peace.

Yet this complex man embodied the contradictions that divided America in the Gilded Age. Was he truly the tyrant that many thought him to be, a ruthless robber baron who worked his men to death for his own personal gain . . . or was there more to this man who gave away his immense fortune, who has at times been invested with the virtues of a saint?

The first full biography of this industrialist and philanthropist in thirty years, Carnegie delves into the mind of a generous yet ruthless man who wore many masks throughout his life. Peter Krass captures the drama behind the building of Carnegie’s empire, revealing how he manipulated the rules of fair play and how he was a pioneer in philanthropy. He separates fact from the Carnegie legend by relying heavily on diaries, letters, and other writings by both primary and peripheral characters in Carnegie’s life as well as on the copious Carnegie-related archives.

Carnegie was devoted to his family and friends and believed himself to be a hero of the working people. But his actions bespoke internal conflict: he publicly supported the unions–and then wallowed in riches while his laborers struggled to meet their daily needs. From Carnegie’s meager beginnings to his multimillion-dollar fortune, Krass takes a probing, insightful look into what inspired and moved this contradictory business giant.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 612 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 30, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471386308
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471386308
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.6 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #227,513 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I like to dabble for "a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds" as Ralph Waldo Emerson would remind us. Although I'm not sure how far dabbling will get you, I've enjoyed working on biographies, business books, newspaper stories, business articles, that all-consuming yet maddeningly elusive arena of fiction, and poetry.

And now my wife and I are Vermont farmers to boot, with a sugar bush that glows in the low winter sun, chickens who lay regularly, a coq who never crows before 7am, honey bees who are sweet as, well, honey, and 2 German shepherds who want more than anything to shepherd the chickens ...

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

61 of 67 people found the following review helpful By lector avidus on June 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
Peter Krass's biography of Andrew Carnegie is very well-written; he recounts the waypoints of Carnegie's life: his humble origins in Scotland, his jobs as a telegraph clerk, railroad executive, and steel magnate in the US, and his ultimate metamorphosis into a noted philanthropist and apostle for peace. When you first read this book, you really feel as if you are reading a good book. It's not until you start thinking about the claims Krass makes, and the lessons you think you have learned, that you realize it has gigantic holes.

My problem with this book is that Krass makes claims which are dubious, and doesn't furnish credible historical sources to substantiate his less flattering allegations. He doesn't do justice to the reality that Carnegie lived in a different time, nor does he seem to understand the dilemnas that Carnegie faced. Some examples: In the 1870s, the railroad industry was growing by leaps and bounds. When Carnegie won contracts to supply his own railroad-employer, he was one of the few people that the railroad's management knew to be capable, loyal as far as keeping trade secrets, and to have something to lose (his job), if problems arose later. Today this would be self-dealing and cronyism; back then, it happened all the time and sometimes was practically the only way to get the job done. By not putting this into the proper historical context, Krass portrays Carnegie in a false light. Similarly in the 1870s-1900s, the money supply and US economy oscillated between boom and bust. In bad times, when the sales of rails dropped by 85%, Carnegie had no choice but to lower wages at his mills, which Krass duly bemoans.

Krass's book is full of hints that Carnegie was an abusive employer.
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26 of 32 people found the following review helpful By M. Swanson on April 22, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
One thing I always ask myself when I pick up is why is the author writing this book? What makes the subject interesting to him? Where is the writer coming from?

Answers here are in the subject. Andrew Carnegie was once the richest man in the world. At the height of his wealth he had $100 billion dollars in today's dollars. Bill Gates had $50 billion at the height of the stock market bubble.

By the time he died Carnegie gave almost all of his money away. Carnegie was the first of the super-rich to become famous for his giving and tried to justify himself and build a philosophy around it.

That philosophy centered around Herbet Spencer's theories of social darwinism that justified his accumulation of money through a fight to the death against competitors and cost cutting that brought slave wages to many of his workers. Krass notes that the money Carnegie committed to libraries in the 1880's was almost the same that he spent on wages.

Carnegie wrote an important essay called the "gospel of wealth" in which he tried to explain his position in society - calling people like himself people who rose to the top due to superiority and whose wealth they used as a "trustee" for the better of society.

That essay is Carnegie's central importance in history - he provided the philisophical underpinning for the "robber baron."

Krass's book is the first major biography of Carnegie written in 30 years. It provides an excellent window into the era that Carnegie lived in and the more open and individualistic capitalism of the times. After Carnegie big business would be dominated by "trusts" and the "finance capitalism" of interlocking directorates and bankers.
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22 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Jon Hunt on January 31, 2004
Format: Paperback
Peter Krass's biography, "Carnegie", is a terrific look at a man whose name most of us have known all of our lives, but whose life has remained something of a mystery. The name "Carnegie" evokes thoughts of money and power and in this mature biography, Krass has managed to give us a thorough look at Andrew Carnegie, from his hardscrabble boyhood days in Scotland, to his eventual rise to the top of the business world and to the monetary charity that marked his final years.
Not only does the author spend time writing about Carnegie's achievements but he is careful to include the emotional state of his subject. Carnegie could be petty and vicious one minute then caring and loving the next. How that affected his business as well as his personal life is what makes this book so engrossing.
While most of us know that Andrew Carnegie made his millions in the steel business, his knowledge of other businesses and how they intertwined with his own (especially the railroads) is fascinating. Through his gift-giving for the erection of hundreds of libraries around the world he made sure that Andrew Carnegie's name would be remembered for generations. No small ego here! It would seem that the author has given Carnegie a balanced look with the good side outweighing the bad in the final analysis.
What I gleaned from Peter Krass is a part of Andrew Carnegie about which I hadn't known...his efforts in the "peace movement" of his day. How firmly committed to the abolishment of war was Carnegie and his means to that end are cleary laid out in this biography. Carnegie's close working relationships and correspondence with every president from Cleveland to Wilson is offered by Krass, giving an added bonus to those of us who enjoy biographies of U.S.
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