Swedenborgian Church of North America Swedenborgian Church of North America

Andrew Carnegie

A captain of industry whose philanthropy adapted the Swedenborgian “doctrine of uses” to the Industrial Age

The son of a poor Scottish immigrant, Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) started out working at humble jobs but through his hard work and acute business insight he eventually formed the giant Carnegie Steel Company in 1892. In 1902 banker J.P. Morgan arranged to buy out Carnegie for $250 million, making him the world’s wealthiest man.

In his Gospel of Wealth, Carnegie set forth the idea that the wealthy should spend the latter part of their lives giving away their wealth. Carnegie established a pattern of modern philanthropy followed by later industrialists, and his Carnegie Corporation in New York continues to carry out his philanthropic work today.

Carnegie’s social conscience was shaped in part by his mentors Matthew Arnold and Herbert Spencer, but he was also influenced by Swedenborg’s Doctrine of Uses. As a young man, he attended the Sunday school of the Swedenborgian Church in Pittsburgh and was librarian of that church. Carnegie did not merely give away his wealth–he devoted considerable effort to make certain that his gifts would be put to proper use, an approach that fitted Swedenborg’s doctrine to early twentieth century America in a remarkable way.