Andrew Carnegie and Electronic Communication

Andrew Carnegie would have been interested in electronic communication--in fact, had he lived in the late 20th century, he would have quickly mastered online information techniques.

Carnegie was as much a communicator as businessman, and he was the most literary of all American 19th century business entrepreneurs. Largely self-educated, he eventually produced ten volumes of collected writings, which included books about travel, biographies, letters, and most of all, newspaper and magazine articles.

As a young executive he published a manual for the operation of the telegraph of the Pennsylvania Railroad (1863) during the Civil War--he was then in charge of wartime telegraph communications and was one of the first people to translate telegraph messages by sound only, instead of by using paper tapes. For decades he published his opinions about politics, the economy, trade policies, the world peace movement (he was an ardent pacifist), and the iron and steel business, and he wrote for influential periodicals such as the North American Review, Forum, the New York Times, the London Times, the Tribune.

In 1868, just after he left Pittsburgh to live in New York City, he wrote a private memo in which he vowed to give up business entirely lest he be completely debased by the pursuit of money, and instead go to Oxford, get a proper education, and (since he was rich) "purchase a controlling interest in some newspaper or live review and give the general management of it attention, taking part in public matters…." He did buy and control a newspaper syndicate of seven daily and ten weekly journals in England between 1881 and 1885, and tried through publishing to abolish the House of Lords and the monarchy itself, and to get William E. Gladstone elected prime minister. "Dynamite is a child's toy compared to the press," said Carnegie.

His good friends were often literary figures, such as Mark Twain, who wrote him letters begging for money addressed to "Saint Andrew," and to whom Carnegie replied with letters of advice addressed to "Saint Mark." His closest friend was probably the British political leader and editor of the liberal Fortnightly Review, John Morley. Carnegie was proud to be a member of the Author's Club of New York, and in his will in 1919 he bequeathed it $200,000 for its Relief Fund.

Carnegie would have immediately understood Zine375 as an expression of the electronic age of information, and he would have been pleased that his two-year Technical School had evolved into a high-tech institution that produced young writers who worked hard to become journalists.