When Mr. Kloman had severed his connection with us there was no hesitation in placing William Borntraeger in charge of the mills. It has always been with especial pleasure that I have pointed to the career of William. He came direct from Germany – a young man who could not speak English, but being distantly connected with Mr. Kloman was employed in the mills, at first in a minor capacity. He promptly learned English and became a shipping clerk at six dollars per week. He had not a particle of mechanical knowledge, and yet such was his unflagging zeal and industry for the interests of his employer that he soon became marked for being everywhere about the mill, knowing everything, and attending to everything.
William was a character. He never got over his German idioms and his inverted English made his remarks very effective. Under his superintendence the Union Iron Mills became a most profitable branch of our business. He had overworked himself after a few years’ application and we decided to give him a trip to Europe. He came to New York by way of Washington. When he called upon me in New York he expressed himself as more anxious to return to Pittsburgh than to revisit Germany. In ascending the Washington Monument he had seen the Carnegie beams in the stairway and also at other points in public buildings, and as he expressed it:
„It yust make me so broud dat I want to go right back and see dat everyting is going right at de mill.”
Early hours in the morning and late in the dark hours at night William was in the mills. His life was there. He was among the first of the young men we admitted to partnership, and the poor German lad at his death was in receipt of an income, as I remember, of about $50,000 a year, every cent of which was deserved. Stories about him are many. At a dinner of our partners to celebrate the year’s business, short speeches were in order from every one. William summed up his speech thus:
„What we haf to do, shentlemens, is to get brices up and costs down and efery man stand on his own bottom.” There was loud, prolonged, and repeated laughter.
Captain Evans („Fighting Bob”) was at one time government inspector at our mills. He was a severe one. William was sorely troubled at times and finally offended the Captain, who complained of his behavior. We tried to get William to realize the importance of pleasing a government official. William’s reply was:
„But he gomes in and smokes my cigars” (bold Captain! William reveled in one-cent Wheeling tobies) „and then he goes and contems my iron. What does you tinks of a man like dat? But I apologize and dreat him right to-morrow.”
The Captain was assured William had agreed to make due amends, but he laughingly told us afterward that William’s apology was:
„Vell, Captain, I hope you vas all right dis morning. I haf noting against you, Captain,” holding out his hand, which the Captain finally took and all was well.
William once sold to our neighbor, the pioneer steel-maker of Pittsburgh, James Park, a large lot of old rails which we could not use. Mr. Park found them of a very bad quality. He made claims for damages and William was told that he must go with Mr. Phipps to meet Mr. Park and settle. Mr. Phipps went into Mr. Park’s office, while William took a look around the works in search of the condemned material, which was nowhere to be seen. Well did William know where to look. He finally entered the office, and before Mr. Park had time to say a word William began:
„Mr. Park, I vas glad to hear dat de old rails what I sell you don’t suit for steel. I will buy dem all from you back, five dollars ton profit for you.” Well did William know that they had all been used. Mr. Park was non-plussed, and the affair ended. William had triumphed.
Upon one of my visits to Pittsburgh William told me he had something „particular” he wished to tell me – something he couldn’t tell any one else. This was upon his return from the trip to Germany. There he had been asked to visit for a few days a former schoolfellow, who had risen to be a professor:
„Well, Mr. Carnegie, his sister who kept his house was very kind to me, and ven I got to Hamburg I tought I sent her yust a little present. She write me a letter, then I write her a letter. She write me and I write her, and den I ask her would she marry me. She was very educated, but she write yes. Den I ask her to come to New York, and I meet her dere, but, Mr. Carnegie, dem people don’t know noting about business and de mills. Her bruder write me dey want me to go dere again and marry her in Chairmany, and I can go away not again from de mills. I tought I yust ask you aboud it.”
„Of course you can go again. Quite right, William, you should go. I think the better of her people for feeling so. You go over at once and bring her home. I’ll arrange it.” Then, when parting, I said: „William, I suppose your sweetheart is a beautiful, tall, ‚peaches-and-cream’ kind of German young lady.”
„Vell, Mr. Carnegie, she is a leetle stout. If I had the rolling of her I give her yust one more pass.” All William’s illustrations were founded on mill practice. [I find myself bursting into fits of laughter this morning (June, 1912) as I re-read this story. But I did this also when reading that „Every man must stand on his own bottom.”]
Mr. Phipps had been head of the commercial department of the mills, but when our business was enlarged, he was required for the steel business. Another young man, William L. Abbott, took his place. Mr. Abbott’s history is somewhat akin to Borntraeger’s. He came to us as a clerk upon a small salary and was soon assigned to the front in charge of the business of the iron mills. He was no less successful than was William. He became a partner with an interest equal to William’s, and finally was promoted to the presidency of the company.
Mr. Curry had distinguished himself by this time in his management of the Lucy Furnaces, and he took his place among the partners, sharing equally with the others. There is no way of making a business successful that can vie with the policy of promoting those who render exceptional service. We finally converted the firm of Carnegie, McCandless & Co. into the Edgar Thomson Steel Company, and included my brother and Mr. Phipps, both of whom had declined at first to go into the steel business with their too enterprising senior. But when I showed them the earnings for the first year and told them if they did not get into steel they would find themselves in the wrong boat, they both reconsidered and came with us. It was fortunate for them as for us.
My experience has been that no partnership of new men gathered promiscuously from various fields can prove a good working organization as at first constituted. Changes are required. Our Edgar Thomson Steel Company was no exception to this rule. Even before we began to make rails, Mr. Coleman became dissatisfied with the management of a railway official who had come to us with a great and deserved reputation for method and ability. I had, therefore, to take over Mr. Coleman’s interest. It was not long, however, before we found that his judgment was correct. The new man had been a railway auditor, and was excellent in accounts, but it was unjust to expect him, or any other office man, to be able to step into manufacturing and be successful from the start. He had neither the knowledge nor the training for this new work. This does not mean that he was not a splendid auditor. It was our own blunder in expecting the impossible.
The mills were at last about ready to begin and an organization the auditor proposed was laid before me for approval. I found he had divided the works into two departments and had given control of one to Mr. Stevenson, a Scotsman who afterwards made a fine record as a manufacturer, and control of the other to a Mr. Jones. Nothing, I am certain, ever affected the success of the steel company more than the decision which I gave upon that proposal. Upon no account could two men be in the same works with equal authority. An army with two commanders-in-chief, a ship with two captains, could not fare more disastrously than a manufacturing concern with two men in command upon the same ground, even though in two different departments. I said:
„This will not do. I do not know Mr. Stevenson, nor do I know Mr. Jones, but one or the other must be made captain and he alone must report to you.”
[Footnote 34: The steel-rail mills were ready and rails were rolled in 1874.]
The decision fell upon Mr. Jones and in this way we obtained „The Captain,” who afterward made his name famous wherever the manufacture of Bessemer steel is known.
The Captain was then quite young, spare and active, bearing traces of his Welsh descent even in his stature, for he was quite short. He came to us as a two-dollar-a-day mechanic from the neighboring works at Johnstown. We soon saw that he was a character. Every movement told it. He had volunteered as a private during the Civil War and carried himself so finely that he became captain of a company which was never known to flinch. Much of the success of the Edgar Thomson Works belongs to this man.
In later years he declined an interest in the firm which would have made him a millionaire. I told him one day that some of the young men who had been given an interest were now making much more than he was and we had voted to make him a partner. This entailed no financial responsibility, as we always provided that the cost of the interest given was payable only out of profits.
„No,” he said, „I don’t want to have my thoughts running on business. I have enough trouble looking after these works. Just give me a h – l of a salary if you think I’m worth it.”
„All right, Captain, the salary of the President of the United States is yours.”
„That’s the talk,” said the little Welshman.
[Footnote 35: The story is told that when Mr. Carnegie was selecting his younger partners he one day sent for a young Scotsman, Alexander R. Peacock, and asked him rather abruptly:
„Peacock, what would you give to be made a millionaire?”
„A liberal discount for cash, sir,” was the answer.
He was a partner owning a two per cent interest when the Carnegie Steel Company was merged into the United States Steel Corporation.]
Our competitors in steel were at first disposed to ignore us. Knowing the difficulties they had in starting their own steel works, they could not believe we would be ready to deliver rails for another year and declined to recognize us as competitors. The price of steel rails when we began was about seventy dollars per ton. We sent our agent through the country with instructions to take orders at the best prices he could obtain; and before our competitors knew it, we had obtained a large number – quite sufficient to justify us in making a start.
So perfect was the machinery, so admirable the plans, so skillful were the men selected by Captain Jones, and so great a manager was he himself, that our success was phenomenal. I think I place a unique statement on record when I say that the result of the first month’s operations left a margin of profit of $11,000. It is also remarkable that so perfect was our system of accounts that we knew the exact amount of the profit. We had learned from experience in our iron works what exact accounting meant. There is nothing more profitable than clerks to check up each transfer of material from one department to another in process of manufacture.
The new venture in steel having started off so promisingly, I began to think of taking a holiday, and my long-cherished purpose of going around the world came to the front. Mr. J.W. Vandevort („Vandy”) and I accordingly set out in the autumn of 1878. I took with me several pads suitable for penciling and began to make a few notes day by day, not with any intention of publishing a book; but thinking, perhaps, I might print a few copies of my notes for private circulation. The sensation which one has when he first sees his remarks in the form of a printed book is great. When the package came from the printers I re-read the book trying to decide whether it was worth while to send copies to my friends. I came to the conclusion that upon the whole it was best to do so and await the verdict.
The writer of a book designed for his friends has no reason to anticipate an unkind reception, but there is always some danger of its being damned with faint praise. The responses in my case, however, exceeded expectations, and were of such a character as to satisfy me that the writers really had enjoyed the book, or meant at least a part of what they said about it. Every author is prone to believe sweet words. Among the first that came were in a letter from Anthony Drexel, Philadelphia’s great banker, complaining that I had robbed him of several hours of sleep. Having begun the book he could not lay it down and retired at two o’clock in the morning after finishing. Several similar letters were received. I remember Mr. Huntington, president of the Central Pacific Railway, meeting me one morning and saying he was going to pay me a great compliment.
„What is it?” Tasked.
„Oh, I read your book from end to end.”
„Well,” I said, „that is not such a great compliment. Others of our mutual friends have done that.”
„Oh, yes, but probably none of your friends are like me. I have not read a book for years except my ledger and I did not intend to read yours, but when I began it I could not lay it down. My ledger is the only book I have gone through for five years.”
I was not disposed to credit all that my friends said, but others who had obtained the book from them were pleased with it and I lived for some months under intoxicating, but I trust not perilously pernicious, flattery. Several editions of the book were printed to meet the request for copies. Some notices of it and extracts got into the papers, and finally Charles Scribner’s Sons asked to publish it for the market. So „Round the World” came before the public and I was at last „an author.”
[Footnote 36: Round the World, by Andrew Carnegie. New York and London, 1884.]
A new horizon was opened up to me by this voyage. It quite changed my intellectual outlook. Spencer and Darwin were then high in the zenith, and I had become deeply interested in their work. I began to view the various phases of human life from the standpoint of the evolutionist. In China I read Confucius; in India, Buddha and the sacred books of the Hindoos; among the Parsees, in Bombay, I studied Zoroaster. The result of my journey was to bring a certain mental peace. Where there had been chaos there was now order. My mind was at rest. I had a philosophy at last. The words of Christ „The Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” had a new meaning for me. Not in the past or in the future, but now and here is Heaven within us. All our duties lie in this world and in the present, and trying impatiently to peer into that which lies beyond is as vain as fruitless.
All the remnants of theology in which I had been born and bred, all the impressions that Swedenborg had made upon me, now ceased to influence me or to occupy my thoughts. I found that no nation had all the truth in the revelation it regards as divine, and no tribe is so low as to be left without some truth; that every people has had its great teacher; Buddha for one; Confucius for another; Zoroaster for a third; Christ for a fourth. The teachings of all these I found ethically akin so that I could say with Matthew Arnold, one I was so proud to call friend:
„Children of men! the unseen Power, whose eye For ever doth accompany mankind Hath looked on no religion scornfully That men did ever find.
Which has not taught weak wills how much they can? Which has not fall’n in the dry heart like rain? Which has not cried to sunk, self-weary man, Thou must be born again.”
„The Light of Asia,” by Edwin Arnold, came out at this time and gave me greater delight than any similar poetical work I had recently read. I had just been in India and the book took me there again. My appreciation of it reached the author’s ears and later having made his acquaintance in London, he presented me with the original manuscript of the book. It is one of my most precious treasures. Every person who can, even at a sacrifice, make the voyage around the world should do so. All other travel compared to it seems incomplete, gives us merely vague impressions of parts of the whole. When the circle has been completed, you feel on your return that you have seen (of course only in the mass) all there is to be seen. The parts fit into one symmetrical whole and you see humanity wherever it is placed working out a destiny tending to one definite end.
The world traveler who gives careful study to the bibles of the various religions of the East will be well repaid. The conclusion reached will be that the inhabitants of each country consider their own religion the best of all. They rejoice that their lot has been cast where it is, and are disposed to pity the less fortunate condemned to live beyond their sacred limits. The masses of all nations are usually happy, each mass certain that:
„East or West Home is best.”
Two illustrations of this from our „Round the World” trip may be noted:
Visiting the tapioca workers in the woods near Singapore, we found them busily engaged, the children running about stark naked, the parents clothed in the usual loose rags. Our party attracted great attention. We asked our guide to tell the people that we came from a country where the water in such a pond as that before us would become solid at this season of the year and we could walk upon it and that sometimes it would be so hard horses and wagons crossed wide rivers on the ice. They wondered and asked why we didn’t come and live among them. They really were very happy.
On the way to the North Cape we visited a reindeer camp of the Laplanders. A sailor from the ship was deputed to go with the party. I walked homeward with him, and as we approached the fiord looking down and over to the opposite shore we saw a few straggling huts and one two-story house under construction. What is that new building for? we asked.
„That is to be the home of a man born in Tromso who has made a great deal of money and has now come back to spend his days there. He is very rich.”
„You told me you had travelled all over the world. You have seen London, New York, Calcutta, Melbourne, and other places. If you made a fortune like that man what place would you make your home in old age?” His eye glistened as he said:
„Ah, there’s no place like Tromso.” This is in the arctic circle, six months of night, but he had been born in Tromso. Home, sweet, sweet home!
Among the conditions of life or the laws of nature, some of which seem to us faulty, some apparently unjust and merciless, there are many that amaze us by their beauty and sweetness. Love of home, regardless of its character or location, certainly is one of these. And what a pleasure it is to find that, instead of the Supreme Being confining revelation to one race or nation, every race has the message best adapted for it in its present stage of development. The Unknown Power has neglected none.