Professor Elaine Bassett
3 August 2009
Andrew Carnegie: The Father of Middle-Class America
For decades Americans couldn’t help but love the red-headed, fun-loving Little Orphan
Annie. The image of the little girl moving so quickly from poverty to wealth provided hope for
the poor in the 1930s, and her story continues to be a dream of what the future just might hold.
The rags-to-riches phenomenon is the heart of the American Dream. And few other people have
embodied this phenomenon as much as Andrew Carnegie did in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
His example and industry caused him to become the father of middle-class America.
Andrew Carnegie can be looked to as an ideal example of a poor immigrant making his
way up to become leader of the capitalist world. Carnegie was born into a poor working-class
family in Scotland. According to the PBS documentary “The Richest Man in the World: Andrew
Carnegie,” the Industrial Revolution was difficult on Carnegie’s father, causing him to lose his
weaving business. The Carnegie family was much opposed to the idea of a privileged class, who
gained their wealth simply by inheritance (“Richest”). This type of upbringing played a large
factor in Andrew Carnegie’s destiny. In order to appease his mother’s desire for material
benefits, and perhaps in an effort to heal his father’s wounds, Carnegie rejected poverty and
cleaved to prosperity.
Carnegie’s character was ideal for gaining wealth. His mother taught him to “look after
the pennies, and the pounds will take care of themselves;” he later turned this proverb into
“watch the costs, and the profits take care of themselves” (“Richest”). Such thrift was integral to
his future success. He also believed that “all is well since all goes better” (“Richest”). His theory
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