Carnegie's grants were very large for the era, and his library philanthropy is one of the most costly philanthropic activities, by value, in history. Carnegie continued funding new libraries until shortly before his death in 1919. Libraries were given to towns and cities in Great Britain and much of the English-speaking world: Almost $56.2 million went for construction of 2,509 libraries worldwide. Of that, $40 million was given for construction of 1,670 public library buildings in 1,412 American communities. Small towns received grants of $10,000 that enabled them to build large libraries that immediately were among the most significant town amenities in hundreds of communities.
The patron of these libraries stands out in the history of philanthropy. Carnegie was exceptional in part because of the scale of his contributions. He gave away $350 million, nearly 90 percent of the fortune he accumulated through the railroad and steel industries. Carnegie was also unusual because he supported such a variety of charities. His philanthropies included a Simplified Spelling Board, a fund that built 7,000 church organs, the Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, and the Carnegie Endowment for Peace. Carnegie also stood out because some questioned his motivations for constructing libraries and criticized the methods he used to make the fortune that supported his gifts.
Topics: The lesson could be used in units on American social history between 1865 and 1919, particularly the widespread efforts of reform. Students will better understand the role of philanthropy in U.S. history and the place of libraries in American culture.Time period: Late 19th century to early 20th century
By looking at Carnegie Libraries: The Future Made Bright, students can examine the history of public libraries in the United States, the life of Andrew Carnegie, and the libraries that he supported through his philanthropy between the 1886 and 1919. Those interested in learning more will find that the Internet offers a variety of interesting materials.Library of CongressVisit the Digital Collections page to search for historical, architectural, and photographic documents on Carnegie libraries as well as Andrew Carnegie. Also search for information on industrialization and labor unions in America.Andrew Carnegie and The American ExperiencePBS and American Experience produced numerous documentary films on the life of Andrew Carnegie. The PBS site provides a synopsis of the films, further readings, as well numerous resources for teachers. To find all the films on Andrew Carnegie, search \"Carnegie.\" For a listing of all programs, click on programs A-Z.The Andrew Carnegie Birthplace MuseumThe Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum website tells the story of Carnegie's humble birth in Scotland and of his immigration to the United States as a child in the 1840s. The Web site also features art and artifacts related to Carnegie's life, both in Scotland and in the U.S.
Six Carnegie libraries were constructed between 1913 and 1916 in Los Angeles. Three remain, three have been demolished. The library's collection contains photos of these libraries plus other Carnegie-funded libraries in surrounding communities. Carnegie was feared and hated (during the worst labor dispute in history he refused to raise wages for his workers), but he was also revered and feted (high schools, concert halls, a cactus, and a dinosaur have been named after him). Nonetheless, many who never knew him (or even knew of him) and hold no opinion whatsoever of him have benefited from his charity with free use of their local public library. 153554b96e