Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Andrew Carnegie: Captain of Industry

Andrew Carnegie: Captain of Industry

Dana Meachen Rau
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Compass Point Books, 2006   ISBN: 978-0756509958

Andrew Carnegie planned to follow in his father's footsteps and become a weaver, but it was not to be. When Andrew was a teenager a mill was built in his town in Scotland and the home weavers like his father found that they could not compete with the cheaper products that were made in the mill. It was decided that Andrew, his brother Thomas, and his parents would go to Pennsylvania in America where family members now lived.

Because money was so tight Andrew was not able to go to school. Instead he went to work in a mill as a bobbin boy. Later he worked in the basement of the factory making sure that the steam engine ran correctly. Andrew really disliked this job and he was much relieved when he was given a position in the office where he wrote letters and helped to keep the books.

Andrews rise in the world was surprisingly fast. He began working when he was thirteen or fourteen and by the time he was eighteen he was working for the Pennsylvania Railroad. He not only began earning decent wages, but he also began investing, and his investments paid off because he intimately knew the companies he was investing in. Andrew went on to have a well placed job in the railroad company and he came to know the business inside and out. He developed an interest in the iron industry because iron was needed so widely in his line of work and in 1863 he and some colleagues created the Keystone Bridge Company. The business did so well that in 1865 he stopped working for the railroad and put all his energies in iron.

There was a problem with iron though, and that was that it did not last long. Rails for trains made out of iron had to be replaced often. The solution was to use steel instead of iron, and Andrew Carnegie was the first person to make the transition. It was a decision that would help make him one of the richest men in America.

In this Signature Lives title the author provides her readers with an excellent picture of what Andrew Carnegie was like. She also sets the scene so that readers can understand the world in which Carnegie lived. Readers will come to see that Carnegie was not, by today's standards, an understanding and generous employer when it came to his workers, but he did believe that he should give back. And this he did to the tune of 350 million dollars. With his money libraries, museums, concert halls, schools, universities, and an observatory were built. He also created pension funds for employees and in the end created a foundation to oversee the donation of funds to worthy causes. He was a pacifist who did what he could to prevent war, and who grieved when war broke out.

In addition to the main text, there are numerous information filled boxes throughout the book, and the text is further complimented by the many photographs and illustrations.