image of book cover Andrew Carnegie by David Nasaw

This is a transcript of a special Public Affairs luncheon on October 26, 2006.


JOEL ROSENTHAL: We're really blessed to have David Nasaw here with us. Mr. Carnegie's life is just a fascinating story. When I talk about the Carnegie Council with people, I find that very, very often people want to know more about who Mr. Carnegie was, what he was up to with all of his various philanthropies and endowments, and what he exactly expected also from organizations like this as they moved forward beyond his lifetime.

I often joke with people, when they ask about what's in the plan for the Carnegie Council—what are you going to do next year, what are your priorities, and so on—and I always say, "Well, occasionally, late in the evening, I come down and I sit in this room and I look at the portrait and I commune with Mr. Carnegie and he tells me what to do."

I'm really looking forward to the book so I can get some added inspiration as we think about the future of the Carnegie Council.

David, thank you so much for coming.


DAVID NASAW: Andrew Carnegie was a product of the Scottish Enlightenment, fused with Herbert Spencer's social Darwinism, with a little spice of American can-do spirit. The result, in the words of that great man and philosopher Oscar Hammerstein, is that Andrew Carnegie was a cockeyed optimist.

He spent the last 20 years of his life concentrating most of his energy, his time, and some of his money on, first, preventing the American annexation of the Philippines. He was an opponent of the Spanish–American War. A lifelong Republican, he got into trouble with his party over President McKinley. But, as the largest contributor to the Republican Party, he was allowed to say just about anything he wanted to say.

He protested the British intervention in South Africa in the Boer War. He campaigned for naval disarmament. But Carnegie Steel made millions and millions and millions outfitting American battleships with steel armor, and set up an office in St. Petersburg to do the same for the czar's navy, and tried to move into Asia with the Japanese navy. But, while making those millions, on the one hand, he campaigned for full naval disarmament.

He was a battler for a world court, a League of Peace, and bilateral and multilateral arbitration treaties between the leaders of the world. Ironically, though he became the nation's—perhaps the world's—most visible, most valuable, and perhaps best-connected peace activist, he had, by 1908—when he had been retired for eight years, 10 years after he became a peace activist—he had yet to donate more than a few thousand dollars to any of the many peace organizations. He would give a thousand or a couple of thousand dollars to peace organizations in London, in Scotland, in New York, in Washington, in Boston, tiny amounts of money, while he was giving millions to establish a center for applied research in Washington—the Carnegie Institution—a library, a natural history museum, art gallery, and concert hall in Pittsburgh—the Carnegie Institute. (It took me years to figure out that one out; I'm still always worried that I've gotten it wrong somewhere in the book—the institute is Pittsburgh, the institution is Washington.)

He gave free tuition, set up a $10 million grant, gave a $10 million trust, to provide free tuition and fees for university students in Scotland. Another $10 million trust to establish the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, which provided pensions for university professors in the United States.

He set up a Hero Fund as part of his peace activism to honor heroes in civilian life. He did not believe that soldiers and sailors, who were trained to kill and maim the enemy, should be honored as the only heroes. So he set up a Hero Fund in the United States, first in Pittsburgh, then in Canada, then in five, six, seven nations in Europe.

He gave gifts of millions of dollars to small colleges and technical institutions across this country and in Britain, including what would become Carnegie Mellon, and probably more money to Tuskegee than anyone else.

And I haven't even mentioned the thousands of libraries and of church organs that he donated. He was not a believer in religion, he did not believe in a god, but he loved church music. For most working-class people he thought that was the only way they were going to get an introduction to classical music. So he gave organs to churches.

Why did he give money for a peace organization? Because he couldn't understand how an endowed peace organization, certainly not one led by the peace establishment, many of whom were Quakers, not businessmen—he couldn't understand how they were going to make any difference in the world. He was a top-down organizer. He didn't believe in grassroots agitation. He believed that if peace was going to come to this world, one man was going to do it, Andrew Carnegie.

He was the confidante of every president from Grant to Wilson, and every prime minister, and he communicated personally to Kaiser Wilhelm, although the Kaiser didn't write back. He was going to bring about world peace by himself because, as a child of the Enlightenment, he believed that reason had to triumph. As a believer in social Darwinism, he knew there would be down moments, but that the world was headed in the direction of greater rationality and greater justice, that the age of barbarism and militarism was going to give way to the age of industrialism, where the captains of industry would succeed the captains of the army.

For that reason, or for these reasons, he could not believe that the Great War, the European war which he saw on the horizon, could not be stopped. Now, he had been wrong about the Spanish–American War and he had been wrong about the Boer War, and he was devastated by both, especially by the bloodshed in the Philippines and by the carnage in South Africa.

When Teddy Roosevelt succeeded to the presidency after McKinley's assassination, Carnegie leaped at the occasion to become Roosevelt's advisor on peace and peace treaties. Teddy was a young man who, Carnegie believed, needed the advice or wisdom of an older man, especially a man who had proved himself a phenomenal success in everything he had ever done, and was, again, probably the largest contributor to Republicans.

Roosevelt had no choice but to welcome Carnegie to the White House and listen to him and get his letters and read his speeches. Carnegie sent him a full weekly diet of material. Carnegie never shut up. When he wasn't talking he was writing. When he wasn't writing he was talking. He gave speeches. He probably wrote more letters to the editor and had more published than any human being alive. He wrote scholarly articles, he wrote articles in the daily press, he wrote his letters to the editor, and he wrote his letters to Teddy Roosevelt.

Roosevelt, unbeknownst to Carnegie, made fun of him on an almost regular basis. He had absolutely no trust in Carnegie. He believed he was something of a fool, of a dreamer, of a silly little man who thought he knew everything. Roosevelt was a realist. He understood that peace couldn't be achieved by signing pieces of paper. He believed that nations had to protect their honor, and often that meant going to war. But that was okay for Roosevelt. Not for Carnegie.

They carried on their conversations in private and in public, and Roosevelt talked behind his back whenever he had the occasion and wrote a whole succession of terribly nasty letters.

With Roosevelt's decision not to seek reelection in 1908, Carnegie saw an opportunity, an opportunity that came once in a lifetime. He, in effect, saw this as his occasion to hire Teddy Roosevelt to be his messenger, his envoy, his spokesperson, his Henry Frick. Just as Carnegie had run his steel mills using the younger man Henry Frick, he was going to run his peace operation using Teddy Roosevelt.

Carnegie was smart enough to know, or believed, that every man had his price. Teddy Roosevelt wanted to go to Africa. An African safari, such as Roosevelt was going to undertake, cost lots and lots and lots of money. Roosevelt, while he was still in the White House, made all sorts of deals with the Smithsonian to fund his expedition, because he was going to bring back all sorts of artifacts and heads of antelopes and bodies of lions, and the Smithsonian was going to pay for it. The Smithsonian did not have enough money, and, even if it had, it wasn't going to give it all to Teddy Roosevelt's African trip.

But Carnegie filled in the gap, and Carnegie gave Roosevelt in effect a blank check in return for Roosevelt's agreement to do his bidding when he came back from Africa. And what was it that Carnegie wanted Roosevelt to do? He knew precisely. He had a plan all set up. He had set up this plan with his friends in Britain, including John Morley, who was a member of the British cabinet, and his friends in Washington. He had told Taft about it.

The plan was that Roosevelt was going to come back from Africa, he was going to spend a couple of weeks vacationing with his family, and then he was going to go directly to Berlin, and in Berlin he would meet with Kaiser Wilhelm II, and he would say to Kaiser Wilhelm II, "I want you to come with me, not now but sometime in the future, and I want you to meet with King Edward VII of Britain, and I want the two of you to sign a peace agreement and to agree to be the first two signatories on an agreement to establish a League of Peace."

The League of Peace would bind every nation that joined to arbitrate all international difficulties, never to resort to war but to resort to arbitration. There would be a world court, or a court of arbitration, at The Hague in the Peace Palace that Carnegie had already built.

As a man of reason, he could not imagine but that Kaiser Wilhelm, King Edward VII, the German cabinet and military, the British cabinet and military, would agree to this; and once they agreed, Taft would sign on; and once Taft signed on, the French would sign on, and the Russians, and the Great War would be avoided.

Roosevelt had no choice after taking the man's money. Roosevelt was an honorable man. Roosevelt agreed to do precisely as Carnegie asked.

In the spring of 1910, he returned from his year abroad, killing more animals apparently than—I don't have the figures, but the figures were just unbelievable, the slaughter that Roosevelt left in his wake of everything, from elephants to lions, to boars. He just couldn't help himself. As you can tell, I am not a friend of Teddy Roosevelt because I see him through the eyes of Carnegie and I see what Carnegie didn't see.

The plan looked like it was going to be derailed almost immediately because of circumstances that none of the participants could have foreseen. That major circumstance was the death of King Edward VII. Days before stage one, when Roosevelt was going to meet Kaiser Wilhelm, King Edward VII died. King Edward VII of Britain was the uncle of Kaiser Wilhelm, so the Kaiser couldn't very well conduct a state visit while his uncle lay in state, as it were.

But the Kaiser wanted to meet Teddy and Teddy wanted to meet the Kaiser. They worked out an agreement. They spent four or five days together. They reviewed troops. They did what heads of state do. They reviewed troops, they went horseback riding, they had dinners, they went for long walks, they had more dinners, more troops, more walks. Roosevelt had every opportunity to lay before the Kaiser precisely what his mission was.

But he didn't do it. On the contrary, as we know from letters Roosevelt later sent to George Trevelyan, the liberal statesman and historian, he said, "We both agreed." "I said to Kaiser, 'You don't want to go to war with Britain,' and the Kaiser said, 'No, I don't want to go to war with Britain.'" And Roosevelt said, "Well, good. I'm not a peace-at-any-cost man, and I don't believe in these [inaudible] schemes, and I don't believe in leagues of peace or treaties." The Kaiser said, "Even if I wanted to sign such a treaty, I couldn't, because my military wouldn't let me do it, and I'm becoming more and more of a figurehead."

Roosevelt washed his hands about the whole deal, said to Carnegie, "I did your bidding," went to England. Stage two of his process fell apart immediately because, with the king's death, the cabinet, including Asquith, the prime minister, all these people who were supposed to meet with Roosevelt, were preparing for the funeral. Roosevelt refused to wait another week. Roosevelt attended the funeral, he went bird watching with Lord Grey, and he came back to the United States.

The end. Carnegie had planned this for two years. He had arranged with the German ambassador, the American ambassador to Germany, for Roosevelt's visit. He had set up a meeting at the American ambassador's home of the entire cabinet. He had issued invitations. He had talked to Taft. He had been lobbying for this for over a year. It was gone. It was over.

And what did Carnegie do, the supreme optimist, the cockeyed optimist? Began all over again. His new messenger, his new hero, his new peacemaker, is going to be William Harding Taft, because Taft had made a speech somewhere saying, "Why can't we have arbitration? Sounds good to me." Carnegie picked up on this and decided that Taft was going to be his hero, his leader.

In the fall of 1910, after the debacle, after his first plan had fallen completely apart, Carnegie returns to New York, immediately takes the train to Washington, meets with Taft, and says to Taft, "This is what we're going to do together. We are going to"—and Carnegie, by calling attention to what Taft said, had created editorial groundswell and a petition in Congress that Taft tried to bring to fruition in a series of bilateral and multilateral peace treaties.

Carnegie goes to meet with Taft, whose secretary of state happens to be Philander Knox, whom Carnegie had employed as his lawyer in Pittsburgh, and he says to Taft, "We're going to do this together. We're going to start all over. We're going to have a treaty between the United States and Britain, we're going to have a treaty between the United States and France, then we're going to get the French and the British to have a treaty, and then the Germans will have no choice but to enter into this."

The only roadblock was the U.S. Senate, because the U.S. Senate was not about to give up its right to declare war, to protect the honor of the Americans, to any kinds of treaties.

But Carnegie didn't [inaudible]. Carnegie had a great idea, and that great idea was to establish a $10 million peace trust and to put at the head of this peace trust Elihu Root, former secretary of state, former secretary of war, perhaps the greatest corporate lawyer of his generation, who was now the senator from New York and a senior Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. So Carnegie puts $10 million into what Root calls the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Elihu Root—someone should have asked how can he be a senator and run this organization at the same time, but nobody did.

At age 75, Carnegie starts again. He goes to work, writing letters to the editor, writing articles about these peace treaties, giving speeches. He goes on his own little tour to the West Coast, to the north, to Cleveland, to Chicago. Everywhere he goes he assembles peace groups and gives speeches supporting Taft.

Meanwhile, he set up this endowment. The job of the endowment is to educate the American people to the need for these treaties and, more importantly, to lobby senators and to start this groundswell of opinion to get the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to pass treaties, which would have tied its hands. These treaties would have automatically obligated the Americans to arbitrate international agreements, whether the Senate wanted to or not.

The Senate said no. Again, Carnegie's hopes, his dreams, are dashed. But now he has the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and he takes this one last chance. Taft will run for election in 1912. Taft will run on a peace treaty campaign. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will support candidates and will lobby for peace treaties. It's a great plan.

Elihu Root tells him he can't do it. Elihu Root says, "This cannot be a partisan organization, it cannot be an advocacy organization." Carnegie, having given $10 million of his own money to Root, reluctantly agrees that for the sake of the Endowment and for its long-term worth—he had been ready to disband the Endowment a year after he had founded it because he thought these peace treaties were going to happen and he was going to shift the money to Europe. He now realizes not only that he can't do that, but he can't use this instrument for foreign policy that he had created.

The Endowment becomes an educational institution, not an advocacy institution. It's 1912. Carnegie is now 77 years old. He sees war on the horizon. He sees the nations of the world, especially the British and the Germans, engaged in this campaign to build bigger and stronger battleships, the dreadnaughts. But he doesn't give up. He keeps fighting for peace.

In February of 1914—now, he is still fighting for naval disarmament, for a League of Peace, for bilateral and multilateral treaties—in February of 1914, he realizes that he needs one more peace organization, the last one, the final Carnegie trust.

He asks his friend and colleague in the peace movement, a man named Frederick Lynch, to invite an interdenominational group of 50 or 60 churchmen to meet with him at 91st Street. He tells Lynch to make sure that there are some rabbis included.

Lynch says—well, first he asks, "Can you get tomorrow or next week 60 of the most important church leaders here?" Lynch says, "Of course." He says, "Well, make sure there are some rabbis."

He gives the group $2 million to establish what he calls the Church Peace Union. This is going to be an educational institution—he understands that—but it also going to be an advocacy institution. It is going to do the stuff he had wanted the Endowment to do but the Endowment wasn't able to do.

The Church Peace Union's first activity—remember, it's formed in February 1914—and some you know the rest of this story—the first activity of the Church Peace Union is to organize a peace conference, to bring churchmen from all over the world—predominantly from Britain, Germany, France, and the United States—to a peace conference. Where is that conference going to be held? Berlin. And when was it going to be held? June of 1914.

All the guests of the conference arrived, they began their deliberations, and the war broke out. Carnegie got a telegram. Carnegie at the time—Carnegie entertained so much at Skibo that his wife got sick and tired of it, and she said, "I've got to have a vacation from my vacation." So he had a cottage, named some kind of a Welsh name, Auchinduich, something like that. It's a cottage, a cottage probably the size of this building [a large, five-story house]. He was on vacation from his vacation at Skibo at the cottage when he was visited and told about the outbreak of hostilities. He was devastated. He fell into an uncharacteristic silence.

Then he recovered, and he wanted to know about the people in Berlin. Lynch had gotten in touch with him. He immediately set up money to get everybody out. They were among the last group of Englishmen to get out of Germany. He brought everybody to London, put them up in hotels, and then sent them home.

He was devastated, but he was still not ready to give up. The fourth act of my story. He comes back to the United States, arranges an early passage back to the United States. He says good-bye to his friend John Morley, who resigned from the British cabinet when the British declared war after Belgium. Carnegie comes back to the United States. Carnegie refuses to join in the condemnation of the British for declaring war. He thinks the British are justified in declaring war over Belgium.

He comes back to the United States, goes to Washington to meet with President Wilson, who wants little to do with him. But he continues to lobby. He continues to try to get Wilson to arrange a peace settlement. Through the fall and into the late fall, right around this time—he had been back in the country for two months—he had spoken, he had written, he had lectured. He was indefatigable. He suddenly realized that everything he had dreamed of, everything he had hoped for, all his belief in reason, in evolutionary progress, everything he had learned from the Scottish Enlightenment and from Herbert Spencer, that he was wrong, that he had been absolutely wrong, that reason does not triumph in the end, that the madness of war had taken over.

Right here in this time he begins canceling all of his—he was supposed to introduce William Jennings Bryan at a peace conference, and he cancels—and then he cancels two or three dinners. And he reads the headlines, and the headlines talk only of bloodshed and carnage. All sides now have given up any hope of negotiating an end to this war. He sees in front of him three years of bloodshed, of unbelievable bloodshed, of a generation of young men being destroyed on the battlefield.

He lapses into silence. The most garrulous man in the world, a man who never shut up and who never stopped writing, goes into a retreat. He stops writing John Morley, whom he has written every Sunday for 30 years. He doesn't communicate with his friends. Cancels all his appointments. Goes into an internal retirement that lasts until his death in 1919.

He congratulates Woodrow Wilson on his plans for the League of Nations, suggests that The Hague might be a wonderful place to sign a peace treaty, his Peace Palace. That's his last communication, and one of his only communications until he dies in August of 1919.

So in the end this cockeyed optimist—and most of the stories I tell about Carnegie have happy endings; this one doesn't—the cockeyed optimist was defeated by unreason, by the suicidal madness of a great war. And yet the lesson we have to take from him is not the defeat and the silence over the last three years, but the 20 years of agitation and activism for the cause of world peace that came before.

Thank you.

JOEL ROSENTHAL: I can't thank you enough for that. It was inspiring for all of us.

We have some time just for questions, answers, informal conversations.

Questions and Answers

QUESTION:Obviously, Carnegie was a very independent-minded and self-sufficient individual. Was there anybody that you discovered early in his intellectual formation that had any influence on him or whom he particularly admired for one reason or another?

DAVID NASAW: Yes, Herbert Spencer. I've gotten some wonderful reviews. I'm happy as can be.

QUESTION: By whom was the book published?

DAVID NASAW: The book was published—the official release date was Tuesday. It's published by Penguin Press. I've already gotten, as we've talked about—great reviews came out very early.

Two of the first reviews—one loved it—I have a whole chapter about Herbert Spencer—one absolutely loved it; Newsday thought it didn't belong there.

It's one of my favorite chapters, because Herbert Spencer—Carnegie channels Herbert Spencer through a generation of robber barons. There's nobody like Herbert Spencer and there's nobody like Andrew Carnegie to interpret him. Herbert Spencer says—in a funny way, he sort of fuses a Christian message or a theological message with a Hegelian message, that the world is constantly—everything is getting better and better and better, that whatever happens, happens for a reason—and, you know, you can't make an omelet without breaking some eggs along the way.

What he says is that if robber barons like Carnegie and Morgan get fabulously rich it's for a reason, and the reason is that evolutionary progress demands that money be accumulated in the hands of the few so that those few can then use that money for the benefit of the community.

So what Spencer does for Carnegie is he puts a [inaudible] behind this optimism. It also says everything he did was okay. And more than that, it says: If you're going to be a leader of men and the captains of industry are now the leaders of humanity, you can't be weak-minded when it comes to the wages and the working conditions of your guys. All the robber barons loved that, lapped it all up.

But Carnegie then takes it one step further. Carnegie reads Spencer and he understands he's a trustee, that all this money is coming to him so that he can give it back to the community. Well, then, that's what he's going to do. He determines very early that he is going to give away 100 percent of his wealth.

And how do I know he determines this early? The other biographers have said that he did it because he was guilty or ashamed, he wanted to rescue his reputation after Homestead. Wrong. He decides years before that. I found, with the help of Vartan Gregorian, his prenuptial agreement. In his prenuptial agreement, which his wife signed, his wife says, "I understand that I am marrying a very, very, very, very rich man, and (2) I understand that I will inherit nothing, and (3) I support my husband's decision to give away his money to charity."

QUESTION: After he founded his group of religious leaders—one of the intentions was to avoid the world war that was coming, and obviously failed—what was his role with the group? Did he remain active with this group, or did he continue to set the agenda for the group's international affairs, or did he just leave it and let them take over and went on to other things?

DAVID NASAW: He lapsed into silence less than a year after the group had been founded. The first meeting of the group was in February of 1914. By June war had broken out. It was very difficult for the Church Peace Union and for the Endowment for International Peace to figure out what the hell to do during the war. You know, how do you fight for peace and how can you be a peace organization when the nation is just about to enter war and then go into war? He was of no help because he had, again, lost his heart and retired.

VOICE: At that point the momentum was such there was nothing that could have been done anyway.

DAVID NASAW: There was nothing that could have been done, no.

VOICE: So the group continued on?

DAVID NASAW: The group continued on as the Church Peace Union.

VOICE: CRIA doesn't come until much later, after World War II perhaps.

VOICE: What was it called first?

VOICE: The Church Peace Union until 1961.

DAVID NASAW: That was the name that he gave them.

VOICE: Then Council on Religion and International Affairs.

VOICE: And the peace [inaudible] that he wanted the religious community to make the decisions, and he founded and he gave them the money, and he was not going to have anything to do right from the start.

DAVID NASAW: Right. He said that with all of his organizations. With most of them he was absolutely true to that. Nevertheless, with his other organizations, except the Carnegie Corporation—the Carnegie Corporation he founded when he realized he wasn't going to be able to give away all his money doing this—he was heartbroken. Elihu Root said, "You can give it to—you can set up a corporation." The Carnegie Corporation he ran in the first years out of 91st Street and used it to disburse whatever moneys he wanted.

But he was an absolutely remarkable philanthropist. He gave each of the foundations the opportunity—he set out a mission statement and then gave them all the opportunity to change it in any way that they wanted. He chose who he thought were the smartest, most honorable people as his trustees and then let them run it.

But during his lifetime, except for Root, who said, "I know what's in your heart, what you want to do with the Endowment, but you can't do it"—the other groups wanted more money from him. In order to get more money they had to follow his dictates, especially the Dunfermline groups, [inaudible] his home town, and the Pittsburgh Institute and the Washington Institution.

VOICE: You should tell the group about the experience we had at the library when they had a gathering of all the Carnegie—

JOEL ROSENTHAL: Yes. I'll just tell you fairly briefly. This was organized by Vartan Gregorian in 2001, at the 100th anniversary of Mr. Carnegie's major philanthropic efforts, to mark them. He gathered together all of the existing Carnegie endowments.

My recollection is there were 20, 21, something like that. It was fascinating. There was a designated leader of each organization, and we each got two minutes apiece to say who we are and what we're doing. There was a big traffic light in front of us, green/red, somebody with a hook. It was fascinating from my point of view.

It went in chronological order.Governor Kean was up there, sort of keeping order. As the 21st speaker, my line was—David will appreciate this—my line was, "As a middle child myself, I know that the youngest is the favorite."

It was a great event for all of us, because it probably gave us—I should thank Vartan again for organizing it—because it gave us a sense of something you were talking about, Mr. Carnegie himself, his vision, the history, and how we fit into that.

VOICE: There were a couple of his descendants who got up and spoke about the fact that they were very bitter that he didn't [inaudible].

VOICE: In your book did you go into the relationship between Carnegie and his father and the impact of all that on him and his values, and into the relationships Carnegie and Frick?

DAVID NASAW: In my book, whether I'm happy or whether I'm proud of this, it's about 900 pages, 800 pages of text, so I go into it all, much more than anybody [inaudible].

But with his father, one of the things I discovered was that the relationship he talks about with his father is almost wholly fictitious. His only authorized biographer, Burton Hendrick, who was hired by the Carnegie Corporation and Louise Carnegie to write a biography, was paid—I found this too—by the Carnegie Corporation. He was a pay-for-hire. At the end, if Louise or the Carnegie Corporation didn't like the book, it wouldn't be published. He would have gotten paid up to that point.

He went to Dunfermline and he interviewed dozens of people who had know the Carnegies. Every one of those people said that Will Carnegie, Carnegie's father, was the nicest guy but not a very hard worker and not a terribly good or dedicated weaver, and that while many other weavers were able to maintain a livelihood or to move into other lines, Will just wasn't able to do it.

Carnegie in his autobiography talks about how his father worked so hard and was defeated in the end by the Industrial Revolution. But that's the only time he ever said it. To his friends, to his relatives, he had nothing to say about his father.

His heroine was his mother. He idolized his mother. I think when it came time to write the autobiography he realized he had to say something about his father, and he created a fictitious relationship. So that's all there, as is the relationship with Frick and what I think is the story of Homestead. I was able to get access to the complete Frick–Carnegie correspondence, which no biographer has had access to because it has been tied up in litigation forever.

VOICE: Do you tell the story of him taking his mother on coach rides?


VOICE: It's a beautiful story.

DAVID NASAW: The love for his mother is absolutely real.

VOICE: I just have a little anecdote, which is years ago, when Cooper-Hewitt, which was Carnegie's house before it became part of the Smithsonian, and we were just moving into that, I was involved in organizing a tour for some people who were coming. I know that the doorway to his office is very low and he was very short. I understood from what people told me that he would meet people in his terms, they came through his doorway [inaudible].

DAVID NASAW: It's a great story. One of the things that I discovered in the course of doing this research was that he was probably under five feet tall. If you look at all the photographs of him, almost all the photographs, he is never photographed in a group standing up. If it's a group photograph, it's on stairs, everybody is sitting down, he is leaning against something. He is photographed once standing up with his dog, but only then late in life. There is one photograph of him with his wife, which is in the book, the next-to-last photograph.

He also wore, if you look very carefully and if you get obsessed, as biographers get obsessed, if you look at every photograph, you see he wears high-heeled boots as well.

Why? The smoking gun is a letter. The family gave me access to letters that he wrote home in 1865, when he went on his first six-month tour of Europe. He writes his mother, who is terribly worried that her poor boy, who is 30 years old, isn't well enough to go hiking—he had been sick two years before and he wasn't totally recovered—so he writes her a letter and he says, "Don't worry about me. I'm fine. I'm absolutely great. I've put on some weight. I'm healthier than I've ever been. I weigh something-something stone or 109 pounds." Now, do the figuring. This is a 30-year-old man with big bones, a big frame, who weighs 109 pounds after putting on a couple of pounds.

VOICE: British pounds.

DAVID NASAW: He's a little man, a little, little man.

VOICE: That was a fascinating talk that you gave. Two questions, if I might. The first one: in his later years, his persona and [inaudible] chasing of windmills and trying to change the course of destiny and events, where he had a lot of frustrations along the way, did you find that he found much joy out of anything within his foundations or his other personal life that kept him going?

DAVID NASAW: Carnegie had a joy, he had a talent, for living and enjoying life that makes his retreat into silence in 1915 all the more depressing, all the more frightening, all the more traumatic, certainly for the biographer. He enjoyed himself immensely. Everyone who met him and everyone who knew him always talked about it. He was the center of every party. He danced. He led his group, his friends, in conversation, in song, in dance, he told stories. He was the happiest man alive.

And he never gave up. He continued to believe that these treaties would be signed, that this League of Peace would get there. And even as late as two-three months into the war, he wrote a letter to an editor saying, "It looks bad now, but as soon as we negotiate an end to this war, people will understand how bad war is and we will end all wars." He said that in September—October 1914, still believing that it was possible.

VOICE: Thanks for a great presentation.

DAVID NASAW: Thank you.

VOICE: I have a number of thoughts. One, since I was connected to Columbia and Nicholas Murray Butler, who you know was Chairman of the Board of Trustees at that point—I don't know a lot about that period in history—could you say something about his connections to people at universities? You talked about connections to governments and that sort of thing and the independent foundations. But it's curious that—I guess he created Carnegie Mellon—but there doesn't seem to be much connection to universities.

DAVID NASAW: He made it very clear that the large universities had huge endowments, they didn't need his money, he wasn't going to give them his money. Nicholas Murray Butler was a very close friend. Nicholas Murray Butler tried every which way to get money out of him. At any time of day or night, summer, fall, spring, or winter, he would give Butler a call and he would come from wherever he was to go play golf with Carnegie. He was a trustee of several of the organizations.

When Elihu Root said, "You can't spend money lobbying for peace candidates," Butler said, "Well, I'll do it. Give me the money. I've got the International Arbitration Society. I'll do it."

Andrew White was one of his closest friends, the president of Cornell. Not a penny.

He gave Woodrow Wilson a lake at Princeton, but that was—he actually did. He gave him a lake because he hated football. He absolutely detested football, as did Butler. He thought if the Princeton students had a lake they could row, they could do things that were much more wholesome than trying to destroy each other on the football field.

JOEL ROSENTHAL: This is great. This has been endlessly fascinating. I hope this is an ongoing conversation with you.

DAVID NASAW: Thank you.

JOEL ROSENTHAL: Thanks so much for coming.

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