Andrew Carnegie Overview (01:40)
Some people saw the iron and steel industrialist as a greedy capitalist; others saw him as a manifestation of the American Dream.
Iron Works (01:14)
Throughout the Industrial Age, iron and steel contributed to railway, building, military, and automobile infrastructure. By the late 1800s, Carnegie was the richest man in America.
Saugus Iron Works (04:34)
In 1640, New England Puritans relied on expensive iron imports. John Winthrop the Younger located iron ore deposits and timber to fuel the furnace; by 1645, he had built America's first iron works. Learn about the process of turning iron ore and charcoal into iron, and hear how the pig iron got its name.
Pennsylvania Iron Plantations (02:48)
By the mid-1700s, the iron industry's rapid growth challenged English dominance—contributing to the American Revolution. The Cornwall furnace produced pig iron and farm tools; Hopewell specialized in cast iron stoves. These ironworks developed into communities..
Pittsburg Iron Industry (01:14)
In 1839, David Thomas developed technology using coal to heat furnaces. Ironworks moved to urban centers with railway access.
Westward Expansion and the Civil War increased iron demand. Learn about Carnegie's early career as a messenger boy. He became Tom Scott's secretary and assisted with railroad logistics and telegraph dispatching during the war.
Entering the Iron Industry (03:49)
After the Civil War, Carnegie formed a company building railroad bridges. In 1856, Henry Bessemer developed a technology injecting air into molten iron to produce steel for railroads and buildings. Carnegie adopted this process, ushering in the Age of Steel.
Without automation or safety regulations, steel production was dangerous in the 1800s. Carnegie hired Bessamer process experts to design his Pittsburgh mill—it opened in 1875 amid high railroad demand. It produced 10,000 tons monthly in an efficient operation.
Leadership Style (01:53)
Carnegie was unsatisfied with profits. He inspired and challenged managers to lower costs, pushing workers to their limits with 84 hour work weeks, low wages, and dangerous tasks. Blast furnaces heated molten steel over 2,000 degrees.
Gilded Age (02:31)
Carnegie steel supplied buildings and railroads across the nation. By 1890, he was the richest man in America. Many industrial aristocrats adopted Darwinian theories or religious arguments to justify income inequality—viewing labor unions as anti-ethical.
Hardline Anti-Union Policy (01:56)
Despite labor unrest, Carnegie's mills remained nonunion during the 1880s. He took over the Homestead Mill in 1891—a bastion of union power. His second in command, Henry Frick, was strongly opposed to organized labor.
Homestead Strike (04:04)
Frick hired Pinkerton Agents to break union picket lines in 1892. Learn about the ensuing battle to control the ironworks. An assassination attempt turned public opinion against unions; the Pennsylvania State Militia crushed the strike. Carnegie regretted the bloodshed that damaged his reputation.
In 1895, Carnegie replaced Frick with Charles Schwab to ease worker tension after the Homestead defeat. Carnegie cut his prices and expanded into specialty steel products—alarming competitors. J.P. Morgan convinced him to sell Carnegie Steel for $492 million.
U.S. Steel and Gary, Indiana (02:12)
By merging Carnegie's company with 11 others, Morgan created the largest company in America. He replaced Schwab with Elbert H. Gary, who resisted anti-trust legislation by creating a domain encompassing all aspects of the industry.
Steel in the 20th Century (02:36)
Gary Works was located on Lake Michigan, near Detroit. By the 1930s, automobiles consumed over 40% of America's steel. Production skyrocketed during World War II, when hundreds of thousands of planes and ships were manufactured.
American steel was the largest and most modern industry after World War II; workers earned relatively high wages. European and Japanese factories with new technology sold cheap, subsidized steel in the American market. Many American steel companies went bankrupt.
Becoming Globally Competitive Again (03:42)
The American steel industry is making a comeback with new furnaces and mill technology. Continuous casting has increased efficiency and reduced labor costs. Investors are building smaller mills and developing innovative operations.
Credits: Andrew Carnegie and the Age of Steel (01:02)
Credits: Andrew Carnegie and the Age of Steel
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