Mr. Scott was promoted to be the general superintendent of the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1856, taking Mr. Lombaert’s place; and he took me, then in my twenty-third year, with him to Altoona. This breaking-up of associations in Pittsburgh was a sore trial, but nothing could be allowed to interfere for a moment with my business career. My mother was satisfied upon this point, great as the strain was upon her. Besides, „follow my leader” was due to so true a friend as Mr. Scott had been.
His promotion to the superintendency gave rise to some jealousy; and besides that, he was confronted with a strike at the very beginning of his appointment. He had lost his wife in Pittsburgh a short time before and had his lonely hours. He was a stranger in Altoona, his new headquarters, and there was none but myself seemingly of whom he could make a companion. We lived for many weeks at the railway hotel together before he took up housekeeping and brought his children from Pittsburgh, and at his desire I occupied the same large bedroom with him. He seemed anxious always to have me near him.
The strike became more and more threatening. I remember being wakened one night and told that the freight-train men had left their trains at Mifflin; that the line was blocked on this account and all traffic stopped. Mr. Scott was then sleeping soundly. It seemed to me a pity to disturb him, knowing how overworked and overanxious he was; but he awoke and I suggested that I should go up and attend to the matter. He seemed to murmur assent, not being more than half awake. So I went to the office and in his name argued the question with the men and promised them a hearing next day at Altoona. I succeeded in getting them to resume their duties and to start the traffic.
Not only were the trainmen in a rebellious mood, but the men in the shops were rapidly organizing to join with the disaffected. This I learned in a curious manner. One night, as I was walking home in the dark, I became aware that a man was following me. By and by he came up to me and said:
„I must not be seen with you, but you did me a favor once and I then resolved if ever I could serve you I would do it. I called at the office in Pittsburgh and asked for work as a blacksmith. You said there was no work then at Pittsburgh, but perhaps employment could be had at Altoona, and if I would wait a few minutes you would ask by telegraph. You took the trouble to do so, examined my recommendations, and gave me a pass and sent me here. I have a splendid job. My wife and family are here and I was never so well situated in my life. And now I want to tell you something for your good.”
I listened and he went on to say that a paper was being rapidly signed by the shopmen, pledging themselves to strike on Monday next. There was no time to be lost. I told Mr. Scott in the morning and he at once had printed notices posted in the shops that all men who had signed the paper, pledging themselves to strike, were dismissed and they should call at the office to be paid. A list of the names of the signers had come into our possession in the meantime, and this fact was announced. Consternation followed and the threatened strike was broken.
I have had many incidents, such as that of the blacksmith, in my life. Slight attentions or a kind word to the humble often bring back reward as great as it is unlooked for. No kind action is ever lost. Even to this day I occasionally meet men whom I had forgotten, who recall some trifling attention I have been able to pay them, especially when in charge at Washington of government railways and telegraphs during the Civil War, when I could pass people within the lines – a father helped to reach a wounded or sick son at the front, or enabled to bring home his remains, or some similar service. I am indebted to these trifles for some of the happiest attentions and the most pleasing incidents of my life. And there is this about such actions: they are disinterested, and the reward is sweet in proportion to the humbleness of the individual whom you have obliged. It counts many times more to do a kindness to a poor working-man than to a millionaire, who may be able some day to repay the favor. How true Wordsworth’s lines:
„That best portion of a good man’s life – His little, nameless, unremembered acts Of kindness and of love.”
The chief happening, judged by its consequences, of the two years I spent with Mr. Scott at Altoona, arose from my being the principal witness in a suit against the company, which was being tried at Greensburg by the brilliant Major Stokes, my first host. It was feared that I was about to be subpoenaed by the plaintiff, and the Major, wishing a postponement of the case, asked Mr. Scott to send me out of the State as rapidly as possible. This was a happy change for me, as I was enabled to visit my two bosom companions, Miller and Wilson, then in the railway service at Crestline, Ohio. On my way thither, while sitting on the end seat of the rear car watching the line, a farmer-looking man approached me. He carried a small green bag in his hand. He said the brakeman had informed him I was connected with the Pennsylvania Railroad. He wished to show me the model of a car which he had invented for night traveling. He took a small model out of the bag, which showed a section of a sleeping-car.
This was the celebrated T.T. Woodruff, the inventor of that now indispensable adjunct of civilization – the sleeping-car. Its importance flashed upon me. I asked him if he would come to Altoona if I sent for him, and I promised to lay the matter before Mr. Scott at once upon my return. I could not get that sleeping-car idea out of my mind, and was most anxious to return to Altoona that I might press my views upon Mr. Scott. When I did so, he thought I was taking time by the forelock, but was quite receptive and said I might telegraph for the patentee. He came and contracted to place two of his cars upon the line as soon as they could be built. After this Mr. Woodruff, greatly to my surprise, asked me if I would not join him in the new enterprise and offered me an eighth interest in the venture.
I promptly accepted his offer, trusting to be able to make payments somehow or other. The two cars were to be paid for by monthly installments after delivery. When the time came for making the first payment, my portion was two hundred and seventeen and a half dollars. I boldly decided to apply to the local banker, Mr. Lloyd, for a loan of that sum. I explained the matter to him, and I remember that he put his great arm (he was six feet three or four) around me, saying:
„Why, of course I will lend it. You are all right, Andy.”
And here I made my first note, and actually got a banker to take it. A proud moment that in a young man’s career! The sleeping-cars were a great success and their monthly receipts paid the monthly installments. The first considerable sum I made was from this source. [To-day, July 19, 1909, as I re-read this, how glad I am that I have recently heard from Mr. Lloyd’s married daughter telling me of her father’s deep affection for me, thus making me very happy, indeed.]
One important change in our life at Altoona, after my mother and brother arrived, was that, instead of continuing to live exclusively by ourselves, it was considered necessary that we should have a servant. It was with the greatest reluctance my mother could be brought to admit a stranger into the family circle. She had been everything and had done everything for her two boys. This was her life, and she resented with all a strong woman’s jealousy the introduction of a stranger who was to be permitted to do anything whatever in the home. She had cooked and served her boys, washed their clothes and mended them, made their beds, cleaned their home. Who dare rob her of those motherly privileges! But nevertheless we could not escape the inevitable servant girl. One came, and others followed, and with these came also the destruction of much of that genuine family happiness which flows from exclusiveness. Being served by others is a poor substitute for a mother’s labor of love. The ostentatious meal prepared by a strange cook whom one seldom sees, and served by hands paid for the task, lacks the sweetness of that which a mother’s hands lay before you as the expression and proof of her devotion.
Among the manifold blessings I have to be thankful for is that neither nurse nor governess was my companion in infancy. No wonder the children of the poor are distinguished for the warmest affection and the closest adherence to family ties and are characterized by a filial regard far stronger than that of those who are mistakenly called more fortunate in life. They have passed the impressionable years of childhood and youth in constant loving contact with father and mother, to each they are all in all, no third person coming between. The child that has in his father a teacher, companion, and counselor, and whose mother is to him a nurse, seamstress, governess, teacher, companion, heroine, and saint all in one, has a heritage to which the child of wealth remains a stranger.
There comes a time, although the fond mother cannot see it, when a grown son has to put his arms around his saint and kissing her tenderly try to explain to her that it would be much better were she to let him help her in some ways; that, being out in the world among men and dealing with affairs, he sometimes sees changes which it would be desirable to make; that the mode of life delightful for young boys should be changed in some respects and the house made suitable for their friends to enter. Especially should the slaving mother live the life of ease hereafter, reading and visiting more and entertaining dear friends – in short, rising to her proper and deserved position as Her Ladyship.
Of course the change was very hard upon my mother, but she finally recognized the necessity for it, probably realized for the first time that her eldest son was getting on. „Dear Mother,” I pleaded, my arms still around her, „you have done everything for and have been everything to Tom and me, and now do let me do something for you; let us be partners and let us always think what is best for each other. The time has come for you to play the lady and some of these days you are to ride in your carriage; meanwhile do get that girl in to help you. Tom and I would like this.”
The victory was won, and my mother began to go out with us and visit her neighbors. She had not to learn self-possession nor good manners, these were innate; and as for education, knowledge, rare good sense, and kindliness, seldom was she to meet her equal. I wrote „never” instead of „seldom” and then struck it out. Nevertheless my private opinion is reserved.
Life at Altoona was made more agreeable for me through Mr. Scott’s niece, Miss Rebecca Stewart, who kept house for him. She played the part of elder sister to me to perfection, especially when Mr. Scott was called to Philadelphia or elsewhere. We were much together, often driving in the afternoons through the woods. The intimacy did not cease for many years, and re-reading some of her letters in 1906 I realized more than ever my indebtedness to her. She was not much beyond my own age, but always seemed a great deal older. Certainly she was more mature and quite capable of playing the elder sister’s part. It was to her I looked up in those days as the perfect lady. Sorry am I our paths parted so widely in later years. Her daughter married the Earl of Sussex and her home in late years has been abroad. [July 19, 1909, Mrs. Carnegie and I found my elder-sister friend April last, now in widowhood, in Paris, her sister and also her daughter all well and happy. A great pleasure, indeed. There are no substitutes for the true friends of youth.]
Mr. Scott remained at Altoona for about three years when deserved promotion came to him. In 1859 he was made vice-president of the company, with his office in Philadelphia. What was to become of me was a serious question. Would he take me with him or must I remain at Altoona with the new official? The thought was to me unbearable. To part with Mr. Scott was hard enough; to serve a new official in his place I did not believe possible. The sun rose and set upon his head so far as I was concerned. The thought of my promotion, except through him, never entered my mind.
He returned from his interview with the president at Philadelphia and asked me to come into the private room in his house which communicated with the office. He told me it had been settled that he should remove to Philadelphia. Mr. Enoch Lewis, the division superintendent, was to be his successor. I listened with great interest as he approached the inevitable disclosure as to what he was going to do with me. He said finally:
„Now about yourself. Do you think you could manage the Pittsburgh Division?”
I was at an age when I thought I could manage anything. I knew nothing that I would not attempt, but it had never occurred to me that anybody else, much less Mr. Scott, would entertain the idea that I was as yet fit to do anything of the kind proposed. I was only twenty-four years old, but my model then was Lord John Russell, of whom it was said he would take the command of the Channel Fleet to-morrow. So would Wallace or Bruce. I told Mr. Scott I thought I could.
„Well,” he said, „Mr. Potts” (who was then superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division) „is to be promoted to the transportation department in Philadelphia and I recommended you to the president as his successor. He agreed to give you a trial. What salary do you think you should have?”
„Salary,” I said, quite offended; „what do I care for salary? I do not want the salary; I want the position. It is glory enough to go back to the Pittsburgh Division in your former place. You can make my salary just what you please and you need not give me any more than what I am getting now.”
That was sixty-five dollars a month.
„You know,” he said, „I received fifteen hundred dollars a year when I was there; and Mr. Potts is receiving eighteen hundred. I think it would be right to start you at fifteen hundred dollars, and after a while if you succeed you will get the eighteen hundred. Would that be satisfactory?”
„Oh, please,” I said, „don’t speak to me of money!”
It was not a case of mere hire and salary, and then and there my promotion was sealed. I was to have a department to myself, and instead of signing „T.A.S.” orders between Pittsburgh and Altoona would now be signed „A.C.” That was glory enough for me.
The order appointing me superintendent of the Pittsburgh Division was issued December 1, 1859. Preparations for removing the family were made at once. The change was hailed with joy, for although our residence in Altoona had many advantages, especially as we had a large house with some ground about it in a pleasant part of the suburbs and therefore many of the pleasures of country life, all these did not weigh as a feather in the scale as against the return to old friends and associations in dirty, smoky Pittsburgh. My brother Tom had learned telegraphy during his residence in Altoona and he returned with me and became my secretary.
The winter following my appointment was one of the most severe ever known. The line was poorly constructed, the equipment inefficient and totally inadequate for the business that was crowding upon it. The rails were laid upon huge blocks of stone, cast-iron chairs for holding the rails were used, and I have known as many as forty-seven of these to break in one night. No wonder the wrecks were frequent. The superintendent of a division in those days was expected to run trains by telegraph at night, to go out and remove all wrecks, and indeed to do everything. At one time for eight days I was constantly upon the line, day and night, at one wreck or obstruction after another. I was probably the most inconsiderate superintendent that ever was entrusted with the management of a great property, for, never knowing fatigue myself, being kept up by a sense of responsibility probably, I overworked the men and was not careful enough in considering the limits of human endurance. I have always been able to sleep at any time. Snatches of half an hour at intervals during the night in a dirty freight car were sufficient.
The Civil War brought such extraordinary demands on the Pennsylvania line that I was at last compelled to organize a night force; but it was with difficulty I obtained the consent of my superiors to entrust the charge of the line at night to a train dispatcher. Indeed, I never did get their unequivocal authority to do so, but upon my own responsibility I appointed perhaps the first night train dispatcher that ever acted in America – at least he was the first upon the Pennsylvania system.
Upon our return to Pittsburgh in 1860 we rented a house in Hancock Street, now Eighth Street, and resided there for a year or more. Any accurate description of Pittsburgh at that time would be set down as a piece of the grossest exaggeration. The smoke permeated and penetrated everything. If you placed your hand on the balustrade of the stair it came away black; if you washed face and hands they were as dirty as ever in an hour. The soot gathered in the hair and irritated the skin, and for a time after our return from the mountain atmosphere of Altoona, life was more or less miserable. We soon began to consider how we could get to the country, and fortunately at that time Mr. D.A. Stewart, then freight agent for the company, directed our attention to a house adjoining his residence at Homewood. We moved there at once and the telegraph was brought in, which enabled me to operate the division from the house when necessary.
Here a new life was opened to us. There were country lanes and gardens in abundance. Residences had from five to twenty acres of land about them. The Homewood Estate was made up of many hundreds of acres, with beautiful woods and glens and a running brook. We, too, had a garden and a considerable extent of ground around our house. The happiest years of my mother’s life were spent here among her flowers and chickens and the surroundings of country life. Her love of flowers was a passion. She was scarcely ever able to gather a flower. Indeed I remember she once reproached me for pulling up a weed, saying „it was something green.” I have inherited this peculiarity and have often walked from the house to the gate intending to pull a flower for my button-hole and then left for town unable to find one I could destroy.
With this change to the country came a whole host of new acquaintances. Many of the wealthy families of the district had their residences in this delightful suburb. It was, so to speak, the aristocratic quarter. To the entertainments at these great houses the young superintendent was invited. The young people were musical and we had musical evenings a plenty. I heard subjects discussed which I had never known before, and I made it a rule when I heard these to learn something about them at once. I was pleased every day to feel that I was learning something new.
It was here that I first met the Vandevort brothers, Benjamin and John. The latter was my traveling-companion on various trips which I took later in life. „Dear Vandy” appears as my chum in „Round the World.” Our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Stewart, became more and more dear to us, and the acquaintance we had before ripened into lasting friendship. One of my pleasures is that Mr. Stewart subsequently embarked in business with us and became a partner, as „Vandy” did also. Greatest of all the benefits of our new home, however, was making the acquaintance of the leading family of Western Pennsylvania, that of the Honorable Judge Wilkins. The Judge was then approaching his eightieth year, tall, slender, and handsome, in full possession of all his faculties, with a courtly grace of manner, and the most wonderful store of knowledge and reminiscence of any man I had yet been privileged to meet. His wife, the daughter of George W. Dallas, Vice-President of the United States, has ever been my type of gracious womanhood in age – the most beautiful, most charming venerable old lady I ever knew or saw. Her daughter, Miss Wilkins, with her sister, Mrs. Saunders, and her children resided in the stately mansion at Homewood, which was to the surrounding district what the baronial hall in Britain is or should be to its district – the center of all that was cultured, refined, and elevating.
To me it was especially pleasing that I seemed to be a welcome guest there. Musical parties, charades, and theatricals in which Miss Wilkins took the leading parts furnished me with another means of self-improvement. The Judge himself was the first man of historical note whom I had ever known. I shall never forget the impression it made upon me when in the course of conversation, wishing to illustrate a remark, he said: „President Jackson once said to me,” or, „I told the Duke of Wellington so and so.” The Judge in his earlier life (1834) had been Minister to Russia under Jackson, and in the same easy way spoke of his interview with the Czar. It seemed to me that I was touching history itself. The house was a new atmosphere, and my intercourse with the family was a powerful stimulant to the desire for improvement of my own mind and manners.
The only subject upon which there was always a decided, though silent, antagonism between the Wilkins family and myself was politics. I was an ardent Free-Soiler in days when to be an abolitionist was somewhat akin to being a republican in Britain. The Wilkinses were strong Democrats with leanings toward the South, being closely connected with leading Southern families. On one occasion at Homewood, on entering the drawing-room, I found the family excitedly conversing about a terrible incident that had recently occurred.
„What do you think!” said Mrs. Wilkins to me; „Dallas” (her grandson) „writes me that he has been compelled by the commandant of West Point to sit next a negro! Did you ever hear the like of that? Is it not disgraceful? Negroes admitted to West Point!”
„Oh!” I said, „Mrs. Wilkins, there is something even worse than that. I understand that some of them have been admitted to heaven!”
There was a silence that could be felt. Then dear Mrs. Wilkins said gravely:
„That is a different matter, Mr. Carnegie.”
By far the most precious gift ever received by me up to that time came about in this manner. Dear Mrs. Wilkins began knitting an afghan, and during the work many were the inquiries as to whom it was for. No, the dear queenly old lady would not tell; she kept her secret all the long months until, Christmas drawing near, the gift finished and carefully wrapped up, and her card with a few loving words enclosed, she instructed her daughter to address it to me. It was duly received in New York. Such a tribute from such a lady! Well, that afghan, though often shown to dear friends, has not been much used. It is sacred to me and remains among my precious possessions.
I had been so fortunate as to meet Leila Addison while living in Pittsburgh, the talented daughter of Dr. Addison, who had died a short time before. I soon became acquainted with the family and record with grateful feelings the immense advantage which that acquaintance also brought to me. Here was another friendship formed with people who had all the advantages of the higher education. Carlyle had been Mrs. Addison’s tutor for a time, for she was an Edinburgh lady. Her daughters had been educated abroad and spoke French, Spanish, and Italian as fluently as English. It was through intercourse with this family that I first realized the indescribable yet immeasurable gulf that separates the highly educated from people like myself. But „the wee drap o’ Scotch bluid atween us” proved its potency as usual.
Miss Addison became an ideal friend because she undertook to improve the rough diamond, if it were indeed a diamond at all. She was my best friend, because my severest critic. I began to pay strict attention to my language, and to the English classics, which I now read with great avidity. I began also to notice how much better it was to be gentle in tone and manner, polite and courteous to all – in short, better behaved. Up to this time I had been, perhaps, careless in dress and rather affected it. Great heavy boots, loose collar, and general roughness of attire were then peculiar to the West and in our circle considered manly. Anything that could be labeled foppish was looked upon with contempt. I remember the first gentleman I ever saw in the service of the railway company who wore kid gloves. He was the object of derision among us who aspired to be manly men. I was a great deal the better in all these respects after we moved to Homewood, owing to the Addisons.