A conflicted salute today to Andrew Carnegie (25 November 1835–11 August 1919), a robber baron industrialist who broke strikes and exploited workers, but also used his fortune to build free libraries for the people all across the United States.
Above, the Nashville Public Library (1904). A Google Images search on “carnegie libraries" brings up a vast array of these temples dedicated to the advancement of learning. He built close to 1,700 libraries in the U.S., and over a third as many in Great Britain and Ireland, as well as many in Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.
The Carnegie Free Library of Braddock (PA), below, was the first to be built in this country (1888):
Carnegie wrote his essay The Gospel of Wealth when he was in his mid-50s; in it, he preached the responsibility of the wealthy not to squander their money on frivolities, nor even to recklessly leave it to charities about which they knew nothing. Rather, the wealthy should take personal charge of their own philanthropy, in order to guarantee it was being used wisely and effectively.
Peter Newell satirized Carnegie’s endeavors in this cartoon:
"We men are only lusty boys,
Though snowy be our locks,
So Skibo’s* master still enjoys
To sit and play with blocks.”
(Harper’s Weekly, 11 April 1903)
*Skibo Castle was Carnegie’s home in Scotland