Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie

Jul 15, 2012 by

Have you ever wondered how the first millionaires of the United States made their fortunes?  If so, you will love this book, the  Autobiography of Andrew Carnegie  first published in 1920. What a time he lived in – everything was available and possible, but you had to grab it…and grab it he did!

Here’s a wee peek into Mr. Carnegie’s autobiography in his own words to learn how he did it : “The adaptability of the American was never better displayed than in this region. Order was soon evolved out of chaos. “When we visited the place not long after we were serenaded by a brass band the players of which were made up of the new inhabitants along the creek. It would be safe to wager that a thousand Americans in a new land would organize themselves, establish schools, churches, newspapers, and brass bands — in short, provide themselves with all the appliances of civilization — and go ahead developing their country before an equal number of British would have discovered who among them was the highest in hereditary rank and had the best claims to leadership owing to his grand- father. There is but one rule among Americans — the tools to those who can use them. Today Oil Creek is a town of many thousand inhabitants, as is also Titusville at the other end of the creek.

The district which began by furnishing a few barrels of oil every season, gathered with blankets from the surface of the creek by the Seneca Indians, has now several towns and refineries, with millions of dollars of capital. In those early days all the arrangements were of the crudest character. When the oil was obtained it was run into flat-bottomed boats which leaked badly. Water ran into the boats and the oil overflowed into the river. The creek was dammed at various places, and upon a stipulated day and hour the dams were opened and upon the flood the oil boats floated to the Allegheny River, and thence to Pittsburgh. In this way not only the creek, but the Allegheny River, became literally covered with oil. The loss involved in transportation to Pittsburgh was estimated at fully a third of the total quantity, and before the oil boats started it is safe to say that another third was lost by leakage. The oil gathered by the Indians in the early days was bottled in Pittsburgh and sold at high prices as medicine — a dollar for a small vial. It had general reputation as a sure cure for rheumatic tendencies. As it became plentiful and cheap its virtues vanished. What fools we mortals be! The most celebrated wells were upon the Storey farm. Upon these we obtained an option of purchase for forty thousand dollars. We bought them. Mr. Coleman, ever ready at suggestion, proposed to make a lake of oil by excavating a pool sufficient to hold a hundred thousand barrels (the waste to be made good every day by running streams of oil into it) , and to hold it for the not far distant day when, as we then expected, the oil supply would cease. This was promptly acted upon, but after losing many thousands of barrels waiting for the expected day (which has not yet arrived) we abandoned the reserve. Coleman predicted that when the supply stopped, oil would bring ten dollars a barrel and therefore we would have a million dollars worth in the lake. We did not think then of Nature’s storehouse below which still keeps on yielding many thousands of barrels per day without apparent exhaustion. This forty-thousand-dollar investment proved for us the best of all so far. The revenues from it came at the most opportune time. The building of the new mill in Pittsburgh required not only all the capital we could gather, but the use of our credit, which I consider, looking backward, was remarkably good for young men.

Having become interested in this oil venture, I made several excursions to the district and also, in 1864, to an oil field in Ohio where a great well had been struck which yielded a peculiar quality of oil well fitted for lubricating purposes. My journey thither with Mr. Coleman and Mr. David Ritchie was one of the strangest experiences I ever had. We left the railway line some hundreds of miles from Pittsburgh and plunged through a sparsely inhabited district to the waters of Duck Creek to see the monster well. We bought it before leaving. It was upon our return that adventures began. The weather had been fine and the roads quite passable during our journey thither, but rain had set in during our stay. We started back in our wagon, but before going far fell into difficulties. The road had become a mass of soft, tenacious mud and our wagon labored fearfully. The rain fell in torrents, and it soon became evident that  the wells on the Storey farm paid in one year a million dollars in cash and dividends, and the farm itself eventually became worth, on a stock basis, five million dollars. “   Wow!  and that’s how you make your millions!  Enjoy!




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