Books / Digital Text

Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics 19, no. 3 (Fall 2016): 302–306

Entrepreneur Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) emigrated to the United States from Scotland at age 12, working entry-level jobs (bobbin boy, messenger, telegraph operator) that taught him about the importance of initiative and self-taught education. At age 17, Carnegie became a railroad superintendent’s personal secretary when his employer discovered he could read and write. He became privy to challenges faced by railroads, and was enterprising enough to grasp opportunities for improvement and self-enrichment. Trusted with greater authority, Carnegie learned about investments and cost-accounting, was promoted to railroad superintendent, and formed a company to manufacture iron for rails. Carnegie also invested in coal, express, horsecar and oil companies, and owned $400,000 in assets ($6.8 million today) by age 33 when he wrote a memo to himself vowing to set aside his business affairs and devote his time to philanthropy, formal studies and a public policy career. He achieved the philanthropic goal but not before playing a key role in creating the first billion-dollar U.S. corporation. ...

Carnegie’s entrepreneurial talents in developing new markets and technological innovation cannot be ignored, Bostaph writes, despite his support for protective tariffs and unscrupulous dealings with politicians. Readers interested in an economic examination of Andrew Carnegie’s commercial career will benefit from Bostaph’s work.

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