Thanksgiving and philanthropy go hand in hand. No one felt this more strongly than Andrew Carnegie, who in his day set a new American course for philanthropy that continues to inspire today.
As people everywhere give thanks and launch this year's holiday season, here's a look at some private papers of Mr. Carnegie, whose birthday -- November 25, 1835 -- we celebrate this weekend... unique reminders of the importance of giving back.
(These images are from the Carnegie Collections at the Rare Book & Manuscript Library of Columbia University in New York.)
The immigrant experience shaped Mr. Carnegie’s world view. Born in Scotland, he became a United States citizen in 1885. He encouraged fellow immigrants to secure the benefits of citizenship—but also to bear the responsibilities—which he saw as vital for the strength of American democracy.
Originally titled simply “Wealth” and published in the North American Review in June 1889, Andrew Carnegie’s essay, which begins “The problem of our age is the proper administration of wealth…” is considered a foundational document in the field of philanthropy. Mr. Carnegie believed in giving wealth away during one’s lifetime, and the essay includes one of his most famous quotes, “The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.”
As this 1885 journal page shows, Andrew Carnegie was meticulous about recording his charitable expenses among other financial transactions. He passed this habit of transparency on to the organizations he established, which long-time Carnegie Corporation trustee Russell C. Leffengwell famously termed “glass pockets,” a phrase that has caught on throughout philanthropy.
Andrew Carnegie valued his pension list, referred to here in a document signed four days before his death in 1919. A year earlier, when he discovered how little financial security university teachers had, Mr. Carnegie set up a pension system for them, creating the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America, now TIAA-CREF, one largest financial services companies in the world.
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