Ramblings about Andrew Carnegie (and a few diversions).

Len Mullenger

The BBC recently broadcast a series of programmes on the Carnegie Publication Scheme. As these were mid-afternoon broadcasts I was not able to listen to them but it did start me wondering who Carnegie was .... after all Carnegie Hall is a famous Concert Hall in New York and there is the Carnegie-Mellon University, the Carnegie Institute in Washington and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh (one of the largest research museums). A quick look at the Oxford Companion to Music and the Oxford Concise History of Music both drew a blank. I have a reasonable library of music books so I started trawling through them. In Henry Wood's My life in Music he mentions meeting Andrew Carnegie in New York in 1903 from which I learned that Carnegie surely must have been the only man who ever engaged an organist to awaken him every morning with the sound of an organ prelude. Whoever he was, Carnegie certainly sounded interesting.

From Colles' Essay Some English Musicians I discovered that the Carnegie Trust had sponsored the publication by Oxford University Press of the ecclesiastical works of Gibbons in time for his tercentenary in 1925. From Radio Times I learned that Andrew Carnegie had sponsored an annual competition for contemporary British music with the winners being published in beautifully printed scores which were distributed free to libraries. It seems that Carnegie was responsible for the publication of many of my particular favourites in English music: Vaughan-Williams: London Symphony, Warlock: The Curlew, Bridge: The Sea, Holst: Hymn of Jesus etc. Whoever he was, he did seem to specialise in English music.

From Andrew Porter's books I learned that there is a Carnegie Concert Hall and a smaller Carnegie Recital Hall:

Carnegie Recital Hall has become a shabby, depressing little room that does nothing to lift the hearts of its audiences. We have to go there, since it is where a fair amount of new music is played, but going there isn't much fun. A Musical Season p240

Carnegie Recital hall is quite a decent little room, but the lobby and stairway that lead to it are dismal. The Empire Brass Quintet played there on a bright, sunny afternoon and deserved to be heard in bright, cheerful surroundings. Huddled on the Carnegie stairs during the intermission, the audience conversed in whispers, as if at a wake. Music of Three Seasons 1974-77 p285

I seldom visit Carnegie Hall without a thought of thankfulness that it is still there. Without it New York would be for musicians a sad and sonically drabber place. Yet, some fifteen years ago (he was referring to 1961) it was in danger of being destroyed ibid p275 [the NYPO moved to the Lincoln Centre in 1960. Isaac Stern mounted a successful campaign to save the hall which was eventually bought by New York City. In 1986 it underwent a major restoration]

Carnegie Hall is a civilised place, once the scrum in the narrow lobby has been breached. Its ushers are courteous, smartly caparisoned, and often comely. It serves coffee in cups with saucers under them. It pleases both the eye and the ear. ibid p224

Porter does not like the organ. In discussing the 1976 Karajan season with the Berlin Philharmonic he says:

One instrument in these performances made a horrid noise; it did not come from the Berlin Philharmonic but was the hall's own electronic organ, disagreeable to hear in the Brahms and Mozarts Requiems and disastrous to the timbre of the climax of the Te Deum.

[I love reading Porter. Take for instance: "The sight of Leonard Bernstein dancing and prancing all over the podium, leaping into the air, leaning over like a lover to shape every last nuance of a cello solo, makes it hard to take him seriously as a conductor. If one averts one's eyes, one hears something less extraordinary than the performance he mimes. I have not seen him at work in the recording studio and wonder if he puts on a similar show there - and whether the Philharmonic players need such carryings-on to induce them to play with passion".]

But then I learned, again from Porter (Music of three more seasons 1977-80 p11) that Andrew Carnegie laid the foundation stone of the King's Theatre in Edinburgh. So, it was back to my search for information on Andrew Carnegie who was evidently a musical philanthropist on a large scale. The obvious place to look seemed to be the multivolumed Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians where I found only an article on the Carnegie United Kingdom Trust, established in 1913 for the improvement of the well being of the masses of the people of Great Britain and Ireland but nothing about the man himself Finally I gleaned my information from Britannica and the World Wide Web. It would be an irreplaceable loss if the demise of the net book agreement and the advent of electronic publishing and the World Wide Web were to spell the death knell of Britannica and such ventures.

photo_Andrew_CarnegieI can now tell you, although you may well have known already, that Andrew Carnegie (1835 - 1919) was a US industrialist but was born in Dunfermline which explains his interest in things British. His father was a hand-weaver who suffered from the rapid industrialisation of the textile trade in the 1840s and finally emigrated to the States when Andrew was 13, settling in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh. Andrew started work the following year as a bobbin boy at $1.20 a week, and then as a telegraph boy for Western Union. He later joined the Pennsylvania Railway as a telegrapher becoming General Superintendent of the line by 1859. He was responsible for the introduction of the sleeping car. He bought shares in the company that made sleeping cars and his profits were reinvested in oil and oil-bearing land. He also realised that wooden bridges would be replaced by iron or steel so started the Keystone Bridge Company to make them. He built the first iron bridge on the Ohio and founded the Pittsburgh steel industry using the new Bessemer process. By 1883 he owned a huge steel plant, coal and iron fields, 425 miles of railway and a steamer line.

In 1901 his companies were all taken over by the United States Steel Corporation for $250Million (over $2 billion at todays prices). With this vast sum of money he bought a vast estate on the Firth of Dornoch and built Skibo Castle to which he eventually retired and seems to have spent the rest of his life giving his money away. He set up pension and relief funds for his erstwhile workers and trusts for the benefit of the people of Pittsburgh, Dunfermline and Scottish Universities. He established separate HERO funds in the UK and USA to reward great courage, a fund to help American teachers and education and one to work for International peace.

One of Carnegie's life-long interests was in the establishment of free public libraries and by the time he died over 2500 were built and he had spent $70 Million on endowments. Carnegie Hall, which opened in 1891 as the Music Hall was renamed in 1898 because of his large contribution to its construction. The U K Trust installed organs in 3800 churches and chapels in the UK and between 1916 and 1929 financed the publication of 56 contemporary works by British composers. Even as late as 1965 it commissioned and financed the production of Malcolm Williamson's choral operetta The Brilliant and the Dark. During the war the Trust gave emergency financial assistance to Sadlers' Wells and many orchestras including the LPO, LSO, RLPO, Halle and Scottish Orchestra. The trust is still active as are all the Carnegie Trusts. In total Carnegie gave away $300,000,000.

Many wealthy people have contributed to charity, but Carnegie was perhaps the first to state publicly that the rich have a moral obligation to give away their fortunes. He asserted that all personal wealth beyond that required to supply the needs of one's family should be regarded as a trust fund to be administered for the benefit of the community.

His epitaph was:

Here lies a man who was able to surround himself with men far cleverer than himself.

The Carnegie Dumfermline Trust, Carnegie Hero Fund Trust and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland do not appear to have web sites. There is a web site for the unconnected American grant-making foundation Carnegie Corporation of New York and a number of other American links:
If you can add any information to this article please mail me.


I have received the folowing note from Elizabeth East of the Carnegie UK trust:

I was sorry to read from your website that you have been having difficulty in finding out about the Carnegie Trusts. There are four Carnegie Trusts in the UK - The Carnegie UK Trust, the Carnegie Dunfermline and Hero Fund Trusts, and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland. In addition there is the Carnegie Birthplace Museum. All are situated in Dunfermline. All Trusts with the exception of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust (who are currently updating their site) have websites. The main domain name is carnegie.org.uk from which you can access the other sites.

The Carnegie Uk Trust as you quite rightly say had a policy to support young composers - the Carnegie Collection of British Music. Our Trustees have recently given the Collection on permanent loan to Kings College London Special Collection. It was also the publisher of the Tudor Music Collection. We are a very active Trust who for many years have supported the amateur arts. We also set up the Voluntary Arts Network, now an independent charity as the 'voice' for the amateur arts.

We are sister trusts of the American Carnegie Trusts. We were all set up with independent endowments and our work tends not to overlap.

Hope this is of some help. If you want to read more about us, please visit our site carnegieuktrust.org.uk.

Yours sincerely, Elizabeth East,
Executive Officer, Carnegie UK Trust

Other Links

In conjunction with the centennial of the Trust agreement, executed by Andrew Carnegie on April 20, 1899, which legally established the Andrew Carnegie Free Library  Carnegie, Pennsylvania, the library has established an "Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries Photograph Album." This includes photographs of Andrew Carnegie, places and things related to his life, and several of the libraries he founded.
see The Andrew Carnegie and Carnegie Libraries Photo Album,  History of the Andrew Carnegie Free Library and Music Hall Carnegie, Pennsylvania  and  Andrew Carnegie - A Tribute
(The library opened to the public on May 1, 1901; Carnegie Men's Glee Club opened Music Hall on May 10, 1901; Andrew Carnegie dedicated Library and Music Hall, from Music Hall stage on April 22, 1902)

Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Carnegie Moscow Center
Carnegie Hall West Virginia
Carnegie Hero Fund Commission
Carnegie Institute of Washington
Carnegie Mellon University
Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh
Carnegie Science Academy
Carnegie Library of Homestead, Munhall, PA
Carnegie Free Library of McKeesport, White Oak, PA

This article first appeared in ORMS NEWS (November 1995), The newsletter of the Olton Recorded Music Society

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