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A dip into American steel history

At the turn of the Century one Andrew Carnegie sold his Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Steel Company, for a staggering $480 million, approximately $13.5 billion at 2012 prices. He had started with the Pennsylvania Railroad Company in 1853 having emigrated from Dunfermline in 1848 with his family, with no prospects and no money. He was employed as a secretary/telegraph operator at a salary of $4.00 per week. By the time he was 18, this hard working boy began a rapid rise through the company, to become the superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division. He learnt from his boss much about management at this time, proving vital in the years to come. By now the Pennsylvania Railroad Company was one of the largest railroad companies in the US. In the following years, Carnegie started to amass capital with the help from the managers at the PRC.

During the America Civil War, 1860 -1865, he really put his entrepreneurial flair to work, arranging a merger between and Pullman and TT Woodruff, a company he had had investments in previously. He helped open railway lines to Washington DC that had been destroyed in the fighting, and he together with others proved how vital the railroad was for supplies and troops in this bitter war. Under his organisation, the telegraph service became a vital and efficient service to the Union cause and significantly assisted in its eventual victory. Carnegie then turned his sole attention to his iron works, and with others, a steel rolling mill, and his steel empire was born.

Carnegie made his fortune in the steel industry, controlling the most extensive integrated iron and steel operations ever owned by an individual in the United States. One of his two great innovations was in the cheap and efficient mass production of steel by adopting and adapting the Bessemer process for steel making. For the next few years he became the enormously generous benefactor still known today, and, not forgetting his humble beginnings, he built swimming baths and a public library in Dunfermline.  So this is a very real story of how steel made one man very rich, and benefitted people throughout America and UK.

31st October 2013

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