A Tale of Two Carnegies


Photo courtesy of John Mark Kuznietsov of Unsplash

Did you know that Dale Carnegie (1888-1955), author of the bestselling How to Win Friends and Influence People, had an original last name of Carnagey?

It’s true; around 1913 he changed the spelling of his last name so that the general public would associate him with the family (and status) of Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919). Andrew Carnegie was an exceedingly wealthy steel tycoon and philanthropist.

Both men had been born into poor families and both made their own ways to financial success. And although they did share a passion for books and learning, they were not related.

In 1900 Andrew made a point of telling his family (and anyone who asked) why he was donating the bulk of his fortune (the $350 million would be worth nearly five billion in today’s dollars) by writing a small book called The Gospel of Wealth.

Andrew felt that too much money ruined a person. He encouraged all wealthy people to be socially responsible and use their money to help others.

Part of the money Andrew Carnegie left endowed over 200 libraries.

A man after my own heart.

It’s been thought that Andrew Carnegie and his wife held one of the first prenuptial agreements. Apparently he wanted to leave his wife and daughter enough money to be comfortable, but not so much that they might end up lazy.

In an interview with one of his great granddaughters (Linda Thorell Hills), she said her family has been appreciative and supportive of Andrew’s legacy; they try to live as he did.

Here’s a fantastic quote from a Forbes article from Ms. Thorell Hills:

“Making one’s own way in life is a healthy way to be. Our family has been very much raised with the philosophy that our own individual lives are what we make of them.”

While Andrew Carnegie literally gave away most of his wealth, I cannot find that Dale Carnegie did the same.  In fact, if you do a specific Google search (putting the phrase in quotation marks) for “Dale Carnegie Philanthropist,” you get ZERO hits.  About 0 results (0.69 seconds)

Can you tell me the last time you Googled something and got zero hits?

A biographical website for Dale Carnagey/Carnegie, says that the name spelling change was “a brilliant, if somewhat disingenuous, business tactic.”

Well, I guess he really did know how to influence people.






2 thoughts on “A Tale of Two Carnegies

  1. Betsy says:

    Having visited the Johnstown Flood National Memorial (a part of our National Park system) this year, I discovered some interesting information about Andrew Carnegie and the other wealthy individuals of that time in history. Before praising Mr. Carnegie for all of his philanthropy, which is truly a part of his legacy, one might want to read the following article – https://www.wsj.com/articles/national-news-1889-club-is-found-culpable-in-johnstown-flood-1404765832. Here’s another article that may be of interest to any who might like to delve deeper into the life of Andrew Carnegie – https://www.britannica.com/event/Homestead-Strike.

    • Norma Thatcher says:

      Yes, in fact, I was aware that Andrew Carnegie was a member of the “boys” club that was deemed responsible for building a defective dam. My sister Beverly has compiled much info on the Johnstown flood and I’m sure that’s where I learned that.

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