An Iron Coup

When Tom David stopped by that winter for a visit and asked his buddy how life was treating him, Carnegie exclaimed, “Oh, Tom, I'm rich. I'm rich!” 1 So he was. During these first years of the Civil War, Carnegie had answered a pivotal question for himself: Did he want to play the conservative company man, or did he want to assume risk, extend himself financially, and put money to work? Did he want a few chickens in the backyard, or did he want a gaggle of geese laying golden eggs? He chose the latter. He took advantage of his Homewood friends—William Coleman, Thomas Miller, David Stewart, and John Vandevort—and his Pennsylvania Railroad contacts to secure the inside track on buying stock in a variety of sure thing companies—at a discount, of course.

When preparing his personal taxes, levied by the Federal government to pay for the war, Carnegie made a statement for his 1863 income on Pennsylvania Railroad Company notepaper. It listed investments in a dozen concerns, including a few shares of Western Union, that generated over $45,000 for the year, while his railroad salary contributed a paltry $2,400. It was the railroad, however, that made it all possible. Over the next two years, he would buy into another oil field called Pit Hole; purchase stock in two insurance companies, several coal-mining companies, and a brick manufacturer, as well as increase his Western Union holdings; and acquire Homewood land. 2 He was often joined in these investments by his brother, as well as Miller, Pitcairn, Stewart, Vandevort, and John Scott, a fellow railroad executive.

Carnegie reveled in owning a piece of a company; it was like owning a piece of the glorified Republic. He bathed gleefully in his riches. Making money was noble, as he told Dod. Being rich was to be celebrated, as he demonstrated with his exclamations to Tom David. Under Scott's tutelage, he had developed a lust for money that he expressed openly, and determined to succeed on a grander scale than his father had failed, he would continue to extend himself, borrow money to invest, and assume ever-greater risk.


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