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Scottish hometown Dunfermline to celebrate Andrew Carnegie Day

Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Steel industry tycoon and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie built 660 libraries in England, Scotland and Ireland, purchased a park and public swimming pools for his hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, and donated unprecedented amounts of money for causes in the United Kingdom.

But Carnegie's hometown and native country often don't recognize his impact on the arts, education and research, officials there said.

“Everybody knows his name, but very few people realize his proper legacy in Scotland,” said Thomas Moffat, director of Visit Dunfermline Ltd., a tourism agency.

For that reason, Visit Dunfermline organized its first Andrew Carnegie Day on Monday, on what would have been Carnegie's 178th birthday.

“We just hope that we can kickstart people's imagination and desire to learn more about Andrew Carnegie and his legacy,” Moffat said.

Set during the United Kingdom's largest history festival, dubbed “Previously … Scotland's History Festival,” which ended Nov. 30, Andrew Carnegie Day included free, public activities at the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, guided tours around Dunfermline and an afternoon tea in the Glen Pavilion in Pittencrieff Park, which Carnegie bought in 1902 and gave to the town a year later.

Carnegie ascended from humble beginnings — his family had to borrow money to pay for their transport from Scotland to Pittsburgh in 1848 when Carnegie was 12 — to become the richest man in the world in 1901 when he sold Carnegie Steel Co. to J.P. Morgan for $480 million. The deal allowed Morgan to create U.S. Steel, according to the Carnegie Corp. of New York.

During Carnegie's lifetime, he donated more than $350 million to charitable endeavors, according to Columbia University Libraries.

He and the Carnegie Corp. spent more than $56 million to build 2,509 libraries. The first Carnegie library opened in Dunfermline in 1883, according to the library there.

“He was self-educated. He believed that libraries were the way for poor people to become educated and get out of poverty, really,” said Lorna Owers, curator manager for the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, the site of Carnegie's childhood home.

It's not an overstatement to call Carnegie's a rare rags-to-riches story, said David Nasaw, a professor of history in the City University of New York's Graduate Center.

“I think it's just the fact that he believed it was the duty of a rich person to give all his money back to the community that had given him the tools to make it rich,” said Nasaw, whose biography of Carnegie was published in 2006.

Carnegie founded the Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh in 1895, and in 1900, he founded a technical school that would later become Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon University.

In October, 12 Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh staff members and donors traveled to Edinburgh, Scotland, for Andrew Carnegie International Legacy Week 2013 events and visited Carnegie's hometown, said Barbara Tucker, the museums' director of individual giving.

“I think he's more recognized here in this country than he is there. ... It's very strange,” she said.

Carnegie died at his Massachusetts home in 1919.

Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or




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