Published in Citiscope

By Gregory Scruggs

In 1889, the Scottish-born industrial Andrew Carnegie, who made a vast fortune in the United States as a steel manufacturer, wrote “The Gospel of Wealth”. In the article, he said, “Surplus wealth is a sacred trust which its possessor is bound to administer in his lifetime for the good of the community.” Carnegie led by example, giving away 90 percent of his fortune, some $350 million—the equivalent of nearly $80 billion in today’s value.

Among the many fruits of Carnegie’s generosity, his endowment constructed more than 2,500 libraries from 1893 to 1919 in cities and towns across the United States, United Kingdom and British Commonwealth—in Suva, Fiji; San Fernando, Trinidad; and many more places. With their elegant architecture, Carnegie libraries remain a historic landmark in many communities and oftentimes planted the seed of a more robust public library system.

This effort was an early indication of how philanthropy can invest in civic infrastructure to supplement the efforts of a municipal government. Carnegie sparked a wave of philanthropy among the titans of industry in the United States. In 1913, for instance, John D. Rockefeller dedicated a portion of his oil fortune to an endowed foundation. Two decades later, carmaker Henry Ford established the Ford Foundation.

The Ford Foundation

The Ford Foundation is an independent organization working to address inequality and build a future grounded in justice. For more than 85 years, it has supported visionaries on the frontlines of social change worldwide, guided by its mission to strengthen democratic values, reduce poverty and injustice, promote international cooperation, and advance human achievement. Today, with an endowment of $16 billion, the foundation has headquarters in New York and 10 regional offices across Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East.

Media Contacts

Press Line
Tel (+1) 212-573-5128
Fax (+1) 212-351-3643
[email protected]