Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) came from Scotland to the United States in 1848, and his family settled in Allegheny, Pennsylvania. At age thirteen, Andrew went to work as a bobbin boy in a cotton mill. He then moved rapidly through a succession of jobs with Western Union and the Pennsylvania Railroad. In 1865, he resigned to establish his own business enterprises and eventually organized the Carnegie Steel Company, which launched the steel industry in Pittsburgh. At age sixty-five, he sold the company to J. P. Morgan for $480 million and devoted the rest of his life to his philanthropic activities and writing. During his lifetime, Carnegie gave away over $350 million.
Many persons of wealth have contributed to charity, but Carnegie was perhaps the first to state publicly that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes. In 1889, he wrote The Gospel of Wealth, in which he asserted that all personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one's family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community.
His philanthropic interests centered around the goals of education and world peace. One of his lifelong interests was the establishment of free public libraries to make available to everyone a means of self-education. There were only a few public libraries in the world when, in 1881, Carnegie began to promote his idea. He and the Carnegie Corporation subsequently spent over $56 million to build 2,509 libraries throughout the English-speaking world.
Carnegie set about disposing of his fortune through innumerable personal gifts and through the establishment of various trusts. Each of the organizations established by Andrew Carnegie has its own funds and trustees and is independently managed.