Thursday, November 10, 2016

Recently Read: Andrew Carnegie, by David Nasaw

I can't imagine there being a need for a more comprehensive biography of Andrew Carnegie, so hats off to David Nasaw for years of amazing research, compilation and detailed writing. Every era of Carnegie's rags-to-riches life is illuminated, with little commentary, judgement or the sort of psychoanalyzing used by lesser biographers.

Carnegie was once, arguably, the richest man in the world and the means to which he acquired his wealth, his strategic business tactics, complex relationships with working partners and varied interests in nearly all the arts makes for a fascinating tale. He gradually began giving away as much, and then more, money than he was making, and the list of institutes, organizations and philanthropic councils he created or provided seed money for is longer than can be tabulated here. Foremost was the money he gave for the building of libraries. In fact, the library from which I borrowed this biography was a "Carnegie library". (It's sad to consider how many of them have been torn down in the last hundred years or, as in the case of the Columbus Metropolitan Library, purged themselves of a substantial percentage of their book holdings).

Carnegie was far from admirable in some of his business tactics and Nasaw's books tells the good with the bad, building a portrait of a man full of contradictions, but one who, unlike many so-called robber barons, created a lasting legacy which continues to today. I'm looking forward to reading Nasaw's biography of William Randolph Hearst.

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