Oakland: Andrew Carnegie's Motive
By Frederic C. Wilkes in Construction 12 August 1905.
Do Prejudice and Envy Conceal from the Mind the True Meaning of
What the Iron Master Seeks to Do for the Common People?
With all the discussion that has taken place over the various gifts that Andrew Carnegie has presented to Pittsburgh during his long career as her citizen and leading manufacturer, even to his latest and probably his most important, and by far his greatest gift to any community, in the new technical schools, there remain many side lights to his beneficence that have barely been given a thought by the average resident of Pittsburgh. Figured in actual money value, Mr. Carnegie's gifts have been stupendous, and almost unheard of in the world's history of municipalities. Conservative estimates--and these are all that is possible, because Mr. Carnegie has given many thousands of dollars that have never been made known--the total gifts run over $12,000,000. His giving has not been completed either. But the mere giving of magnificent buildings, either for schools or libraries, or for the advancement of science and art, is trivial compared with the work that has been and will be accomplished through these great agencies for the betterment of the common people of his home city.
The greatest lesson that Andrew Carnegie himself says he has been anxious to teach through the disposal of his wealth, has been that of "giving." If he has been able to make either man, set of men, municipality, commonwealth or nation give for the benefit of humanity, in enlightening, broadening and elevating the mind and soul of the common people, he has accomplished his first and foremost object.
Has he done this? There are many who recall the day when a gift of a few thousand dollars for some pet object has created almost national attention. These gifts came few and far between. Men then hoarded their wealth and sought to leave princely fortunes behind them as monuments to their memory. It took an Andrew Carnegie to break this unhappy custom. More men of wealth now show the spirit of Carnegie in their life time, than ever before in the history of the world. Perhaps this is not all due to Andrew Carnegie but it would indeed be a narrow mind that would refuse to give credit for some of the influence for this changed state of affairs to this Pittsburgh Scot. His teaching, his doctrine of giving to communities by donating libraries--the greatest educator of the common people known--providing the communities receiving them maintain them, and thus value them for their real good, is but another side light on the methods of the veteran iron master. Had he given libraries and funds to maintain them, half of the value would be lost. Interest would pass from them, for they would care for themselves. When the people are taxed even a trifle for their maintenance, each year this draws attention to them and causes renewed interest in the work they are doing. Hence his second ambition is accomplished.
Andrew Carnegie's third motive for his giving can be found in the work of the great libraries of Pittsburgh. He brought to their directorship men with advanced ideas in conducting libraries. They abolished the old-fashioned idea that a library was a receptacle for books, and in its place established the modern theory that books were merely placed in the library until people could be induced to read them. Good books, the work of the brightest students in the world, are not held until some one by chance hears of them and asks to read them, but skilled and specially trained librarians wander among the children and the poor people instructing them, encouraging them to read, read, read, until ambition, a new ambition has been born in them. The youth thus aroused assumes one of the most important factors in the future of his country. He sees something beyond a life of toil and limited capacity for enjoyment of the higher ambitions of life. He reaches out to better his own condition upon the models he has read in Carnegie's books. When he does this he places himself in the same position that Andrew Carnegie was placed when he first began reading books when a boy. When Andrew Carnegie accomplishes this great work he has accomplished another of his fondest ambitions. And when it is considered that this work for the inspiring of higher ambitions among the youthful populace of not only Pittsburgh, but hundreds of other cities where Carnegie libraries are located, has been conducted with wonderful success, with results only measured by the increasing demand for good books and wholesome knowledge among the common people, is there not a cause for unlimited satisfaction for the benefactor who first gave, then induced others to give, then placed before the coming men and women of America the opportunities to become better men and better women?
In Pittsburgh, one of the most significant features of the annual reports of the librarians is the steady decline for novels and story books by the increasing number of readers at the libraries and in the homes, and in their place an increase in demand for books containing definite information on some subject matter studied by the reader. In other words, the secret of the library is being discovered by the people just as Andrew Carnegie wanted it to be, and they are taking advantage of the exhaustless fund of information that will help them along in the battle of life and aid them in rising to a higher plane of civilization than they ever dreamed possible. This same condition is showing elsewhere. It is spreading over the country. It is most marked among the younger readers and this is just what Andrew Carnegie wanted. Thus in the minds of millions of readers of books drawn from the Carnegie Libraries all over this country are being laid the foundation stones of a monument to Andrew Carnegie, that not even a Bridges nor his type of assailants can ever hope to root up. It is the kind of a monument that does not destroy with jealousy, rivalry or enviousness. In other words, it is a monument that means something, and reaches closer to the heart and life of the human being than any other form could.
On the other hand, that great system of libraries augmented in Pittsburgh by the institute for the advancement of science, art and music, spreading out among the people more rapidly than any other form of education, with the burden of the cost upon Andrew Carnegie, is not costing Pittsburgh but a fractional interest for maintenance. The people never grumble when they are asked to give to thousands the opportunities that schools fail in, because of misfortune and poverty, and present to the struggling masses of ambitious boys and girls, young men and women, toiling by day and reading by night, a means for bettering themselves, mentally, and thus financially? Is it not just as much the duty of American citizenship as maintaining schools? Does it not touch a wider, a more important and a more vital element in society in Pittsburgh and benefit the greater masses?
Blame has been placed on Andrew Carnegie by thoughtless ones because he has not built hospitals, homes and charitable institutions and practically made indigents out of thousands with his wealth. Has not this great benefactor gone deeper into the problem of pauperism than most people realize, and by mental development among the masses struck at the root of pauperism and practically begun removing the cause for it in all persons that it is possible to remove it from? On the other hand, donations such as have been mentioned, for poor, for dependents and unfortunates fall as a duty upon all civilized communities. Should Andrew Carnegie assume them, relieving the rich of their just portion of tax for the maintenance of these public institutions? Would not such giving be more to the rich than to the poor in the end? Perhaps it is with this idea that Andrew Carnegie began his final work of monument building in Pittsburgh. The great technical or trade schools now building are really the outgrowth of the library idea. Broad in their scope, covering every trade that is used as a means of livelihood in Pittsburgh and its vicinity, these schools first offer to the boy and the girl the means to make better artisans than their fathers and forefathers. To the present apprentice they are to offer the means of reaching a higher stage of perfection in their craft than would be possible by years of development in the crude form of former years. To the journeyman craftsman they offer means for reaching higher degrees of expertness, thus increasing the power to earn wages. To the master of the trade, they offer the deepest researches into all the foundation truths of each craft. In other words, to the toiling craftsmen, mechanics, artisans and wage earners Andrew Carnegie has evolved a school idea that appeals to every age, every calling in Pittsburgh, and with the sole purpose of making Pittsburgh, his own city, the producer of the most skilled craftsmen of the world.
In this work, and perhaps the most absorbing of all his gifts, Mr. Carnegie has begun the foundations of a monument in the hearts of thousands of students among all the generations to come, that will not be shattered by the mud slinging of the same type as has sought to misinterpret and misconstrue his motives of the past. To the businessman, the manufacturer and the thoughtful citizen there is hard to find a subject for more serious consideration and for more sincere congratulation for their own community than in the working out of these plans of Andrew Carnegie, having no personal gain for himself, but a tremendous gain for thousands of people known as bread winners, and in their uplifting, a direct and invaluable benefit to the employers of these men. In other words, the great schools are preparing for the commercial and industrial life of Pittsburgh in the future, the best and most perfectly trained experts in all crafts that the world can produce. Is there any broader, more far-reaching beneficence than this? The demands upon all skilled crafts are increasing year by year. The world's supply is being sought out in the heat of competition and the supply is not keeping pace with the demand. Andrew Carnegie is making Pittsburgh advance in this line just twice as fast as other industrial communities are advancing and thus will enable Pittsburgh to maintain her position as leader in industrial enterprise on a footing that no other community without a Carnegie can hope to do. Behind Carnegie's idea of giving, behind his method of giving, there is an underlying principle that will come out with tremendous force in years to come, and by no one community in the world will this tremendous force be more keenly felt than by the old home city of Pittsburgh, not only by the thousands of people directly affected by his great beneficence, but by the manufacturers and commercial leaders of the community.
In conclusion, this suggestive thought comes concerning Andrew Carnegie and his relation to Pittsburgh. He rose from a poor boy in Pittsburgh to a position of wealth and power in commercial life that has seldom been seen in the world. It was his wonderful shrewdness and insight into human nature and human character that gradually permitted him to build up the greatest steel business in the world and made him feared by competitors not only in this country but all over the world. He has retired from business, numbered among the richest self-made men in the world, and with his mind still active and his native shrewdness making him still keenly alert, he has turned his wonderful business ability into channels other than commerce. Applying the same capacity he has shown through all his business career, to a building up of a desire among the people, particularly of his old home, for a higher intelligence, a greater ambition, awakening in them the same enthusiasm that he felt in his active commercial life, and by applying his trained mind to this project, he is gradually working out for Pittsburgh a future, using his own great wealth to aid him, that will place her and her people above all other industrial communities, socially, morally and commercially.
Mr. Carnegie's success in his own life would seem to insure his ability, with the slightest degree of cooperation, to bring about his desired result in the future years for Pittsburgh. In business Mr. Carnegie was always able to surround himself with the brightest minds and the highest ability, and to this he generously attributes much of his success. In his development of his latter day life along educational lines, he has surrounded his cherished projects with a body of men whom the outside world has said make up one of the most powerful bodies in culture, intellectuality and commercial and professional ability in existence, and this body of men is now working for the purpose devised by Mr. Carnegie himself. They have imbibed his enthusiasm and will they not add greater assurance of success to his stupendous plans?