Know Your History: Andrew Carnegie and Skibo Castle

As the story goes, Andrew Carnegie grew up poor within a stone’s throw of the majestic Skibo Castle in the northern highlands of Scotland. Because of a local feud, Carnegie’s family was never invited into the estate during the time when the owners would open the vast castle to the public each year. Andrew would stand on the edge of the estate grounds and watch the fun festivities, telling himself that one day he would own Skibo Castle. (Quite the imagination for a poor Scottish boy!)

Carnegie emigrated as a boy to America with his mother. They moved to Pittsburgh and lived poor conditions. Carnegie got a job as an errand boy and eventually the railroad. He slowly worked his way up until he became the right hand man for railroad executive Thomas Scot.

He had a revelation one day when he received his first dividend from a stock he got from the railroad. He realized that he had earned money, but hadn’t done any work. What a revelation indeed! This was the way, he determined, to make real wealth.

Through hard work and investment, Carnegie bought himself into the steel industry, revolutionizing it by bringing the Bessemer process to America and using it on a large scale. The Bessemer process enabled a steel producer to produce large quantities of steel, which was in high demand building railroads, bridges, and the infrastructure of America.  Carnegie built his Homestead plant outside Pittsburgh into the largest steel producer in the world, making himself one of the richest people in the world alongside the Rockefellers and Vanderbilts.

He had never forgotten his humble beginnings in Scotland, nor had he forgotten being left on the outside of Skibo Castle as a small boy. In 1897, Carnegie leased Skibo Castle for a year, optioning to buy in 1898 for 85,000 pounds. His dream had come true. He now owned the most prestigious and meaningful place in the world for him.

JP Morgan eventually bought Carnegie Steel for the astronomical price of $480,000,000; making Carnegie, for the time being, the richest man in the world. Morgan founded US Steel, and Carnegie spent the rest of his years giving away his fortune, building libraries around the world, building projects for universities, and famed music halls and museums.

Carnegie was one of the original Robber Barons – the ones who built America.

 

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