Carnegie Family, Institutions Mark 100 Years Since Philanthropist’s Passing
The centennial of Andrew Carnegie’s passing was commemorated by ceremonial wreath-layings on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean in the town of his birth and at Carnegie’s burial site. Held on Sunday, August 11, in Carnegie’s hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland, and organized by the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, the first memorial took place in Pittencrieff Park, a 76-acre park that Carnegie was banned from as a child but later purchased in 1902 and gifted to the people of Dunfermline.
After a piper led a procession down High Street and through the ornate gates named for Carnegie’s wife, Louise, about 75 people gathered in front of the park’s nine-foot-tall bronze statue of Andrew Carnegie. Led by Carnegie Dunfermline Trust Chairman Ian Wilson and trustees, the attendees included many representatives from the international family of Carnegie institutions. “We meet in a place that was of huge significance to Andrew Carnegie, for from childhood, in his mind, Pittencrieff Park was the image of paradise,” said Rev. MaryAnne Rennie, the minister of the Abbey Church of Dunfermline.
“His purchase of the park in 1902 and gifting it to bring ‘sweetness and light’ to the people of Dunfermline ensured that every child would be able to have more than ‘a peep’ at what lay behind the walls. Those who are here recognize that Carnegie’s passion for people was not limited to Dunfermline,” she said, citing the philanthropist’s local and worldwide legacy.
The sky was overcast, but the rain held off until after all six wreaths were laid at the base of the statue. Carnegie’s great-grandson, William Thomson, and Carnegie Corporation of New York President Vartan Gregorian were among those laying wreaths.
A month later across the Atlantic, Gregorian presided over a second wreath-laying at Carnegie’s grave in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, located along the Hudson River just north of New York City. Staff and trustees of Carnegie Corporation of New York attended the graveside memorial service on Friday, September 13.
“We thank you very much for your generosity, for your vision, and for your humanity,” Gregorian said, addressing the philanthropist’s tombstone, in a moving tribute. “We try to do justice to your vision and your legacy. We are fully aware that we are guardians of your legacy and your mission.”
Stained Glass from Tiffany Studio Installed in Dunfermline, a Century Later than Expected
The ceremonial activities performed on a long summer day in Andrew Carnegie’s hometown of Dunfermline, Scotland were 106 years in the making.
On Monday, August 12, a century-old debate was put to rest when Carnegie’s longtime wish to install a 11.5 by 7 foot Carnegie Tiffany window at the Abbey Church of Dunfermline was fulfilled at a ceremony attended by friends, institutions, and members of the Carnegie family. “Like Carnegie himself, the story of this window represents commitment, determination, innovation, change, vision, and some controversy,” said William Thomson, Carnegie’s great-grandson, at the ceremony.
“It is also a beautiful work of art and its future destiny touches many beyond Dunfermline,” Thomson continued. “I am therefore honored on behalf of the descendants of Andrew Carnegie and his working trusts and institutions to see this window gifted on his behalf to the Abbey Church of Dunfermline, where it will stand as he wished in memory of his family, amongst the other stained-glass windows of this historic venue.”
In 1913 Carnegie commissioned the famous Tiffany Studios of New York to create a stained-glass window to memorialize his family and hang in the Abbey Church in Dunfermline, but his plans were quickly thwarted. The dean of Dunfermline Abbey and His Majesty’s Commission for Ancient Monuments denied Carnegie’s wish, declaring the window “unecclesiastical and too modern,” according to Diane Shaw, Special Collections cataloguer with the Smithsonian Libraries, writing in Britain’s newspaper The Independent.
Shaw added that “while Carnegie apparently believed that the beautiful landscape depicted in the window expressed the glories of God with a sense of religious emotion, the administrators of the Abbey complained that the window was ‘an anachronism and inharmonious with the rest of the edifice.’”
Although unusual for its intended ecclesiastical setting, the art nouveau-style window stunningly depicts a landscape of trees framing mountains, a river, and flowering rhododendrons, all made of the colored Favrile glass patented by Tiffany in 1894.
During its banishment from the abbey, the window had several homes — first in storage in a cellar, later in Dunfermline’s Carnegie Hall (where it was eventually covered over because the light shining through detracted from stage performances), then in a display case in the concert hall’s restaurant. After a major restoration in 2008, the window was moved to the office of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, where it was available for viewing by request only.
Recently when the window’s latest need for repair coincided with the 100th anniversary of Carnegie’s death, proposals were made to install it in the Abbey Church at last.
Ian Wilson, chairman of both the Carnegie Dunfermline and Hero Fund trusts, said, “The window has had a checkered history since it originally arrived in Dunfermline, presenting many challenges of conservation and physical support along the way, resulting in long periods of storage and rest — at one point spending nearly a quarter of a century in storage in the cellar below the Carnegie Swimming Baths and for another lengthy period it was covered in blackout curtains in the Carnegie Hall because it was giving odd reflections from the stage lighting.”
He added: “Therefore, finding the right environment, in every sense, to ensure its accessibility and sustainability for posterity has been paramount to all of us who have cared for the window over the years.”
Stained-glass conservator Mark Bambrough, of Scottish Glass Studio, one of just a handful of such experts in the U.K., spent 10 months with a team of two others repairing, strengthening, and touching up the window before installing it in its new — and intended — home.
Stained-glass windows are typically made of a single layer of transparent glass that’s painted with details on the surface. Tiffany, instead, used up to four layers of opaque glass to depict images. But the result of the Tiffany technique is very heavy windows that need shoring up by experts like Bambrough.
After his restoration project, he and his team installed the window in the abbey, using a system that would allow the window to sit six millimeters above the sill so it has room to sag but is prevented from buckling outward. “Far more people now are going to get the opportunity of seeing a creative piece of art by one of the greatest glass studios in the world,” said Bambrough.
At the dedication ceremony, Thomson summed up the significance of the work’s new home: “The window is now in the place [my great grandfather] intended, and hopefully will be a source of peace, reflection, and inspiration for many years to come.”
Historic Scottish Backdrop for Announcement of Nine Recipients of Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy
By Celeste Ford
Steps away from the modest cottage where Andrew Carnegie was born in Dunfermline, Scotland, in 1835, the international family of Carnegie institutions gathered on August 12 to honor its founder’s philanthropic legacy with the announcement of the 2019 class of Andrew Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy recipients.
Rich with symbolism, the event took place at the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum, which Ian Wilson, chair of the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust, noted is widely considered the cradle of modern philanthropy. The announcement came a day after a wreath-laying ceremony commemorated the 100th anniversary of the death of Andrew Carnegie, whose ideals continue to endure, resonate, and inspire new generations of philanthropists, including the 2019 medalists.
“The nine medalists, who we are announcing today, embody Andrew Carnegie’s spirit of giving, each having had a significant and lasting impact on a particular field, on a nation, or on the international community,” said William Thomson CBE, great-grandson of Andrew Carnegie and honorary chair of the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy selection committee. “Among the most charitable and visionary philanthropists in the world, the medalists’ generosity has influenced a wide range of issues, including education, the environment, scientific research, arts and culture, healthcare, and technology.”
Speaking on behalf of the entire selection committee, Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, said, “Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller created the concept of scientific philanthropy, which meant don’t give with pity and sympathy alone. Give with intelligence by investing in causes that will better humanity and leave a great living memorial.”
Gregorian pointed out that Andrew Carnegie stands alongside Adam Smith and other great thinkers produced by the small region of Scotland whose flourishing of ideas contributed to the Scottish Enlightenment in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Since the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy was established in 2001, three Scots have been named: Sir Tom Farmer (2005), Sir Tom Hunter (2013), and now Sir Ian Wood, founder of The Wood Foundation, who made a special appearance for the announcement.
“I feel very fortunate and humbled to be one of the recipients of this medal and recognize this not so much as a personal success but as a reflection of the support of my family and the great Wood Foundation team,” said Sir Ian, after being named a recipient of the 2019 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy. “It is also testament to the many tens of thousands of people whom we have helped through our programs and investments, who have been open and willing to learn, stand on their own feet, and help themselves.”
Sir Ian said he is especially proud of a Wood Foundation program called the Youth and Philanthropy Initiative, which introduces Scottish high school students to philanthropy in their communities as well as an economic development program underway in Rwanda and Tanzania that helps grow and sustain the tea industry by working with smallholder tea farmers.
The Corporation will feature the philanthropic missions of all nine medal recipients on October 16, 2019, at The New York Public Library, itself one of Andrew Carnegie’s earliest beneficiaries and a popular example of one of his most enduring gifts: the construction of 2,500 libraries worldwide.
NEW YORK — He ranks with the outstanding immigrants of America who have risen to great heights in designing the intellectual landscape of this country. Especially noteworthy is his special commitment to the arts, education, and humanity through philanthropy.
On Monday evening, June 10, 2019, former New York City mayor Michael R. Bloomberg presented Dr. Vartan Gregorian with the coveted Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence for his many accomplishments and his inspiring story. The event commemorated both New York City’s festival of migration as well as the 100th anniversary of the passing of another legendary immigrant, Andrew Carnegie.
More than 230 people braved all-day thunderstorms to attend this gala presentation at the elegant Grand Ballroom of New York’s Plaza Hotel. This extraordinary event raised $1.9 million for Carnegie Hall’s program of music education and social impact projects.
Every year more than 600,000 students, teachers, and individuals are served through these programs.
Among the prominent guests present were top officials of Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Corporation of New York, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Starr Foundation, the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, and the Stephen Kellen Foundation, as well as former New York governor George Pataki, former New Jersey governor Tom Kean, PBS television news anchor Judy Woodruff, and Caroline Kennedy.
Also attending were several well-known Armenian dignitaries, including Varuzhan Nersesyan, Armenia’s ambassador to the United States; Mher Margaryan, Armenia’s ambassador to the United Nations; and Garen Nazarian, Armenia’s ambassador to the Vatican. Philanthropists Ruben Vardanyan, Noubar Afeyan, Aso Tavitian, Garo Armen, Edward Avedisian, and Sarkis Jebejian also attended.
As the guests filed into the ornately decorated Grand Ballroom, replete with huge baskets of ferns and branches hanging from the frescoed ceiling, there was an air of palpable excitement.
A Stellar Trajectory
The host, Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s executive and artistic director, in calling Gregorian “a great educator, leader, and philanthropic visionary,” added, “Vartan’s story is a reminder of what is possible with remarkable talent, tireless dedication, and limitless imagination. No one is more deserving of this honor.”
The speaker revealed to the elite, mostly non-Armenian audience that the honoree was born to Armenian parents in Tabriz, Iran. “His maternal grandmother Vosky being his greatest teacher and inspiration. She encouraged him to pursue his studies in Beirut at 15 years of age.” (Vosky means “gold” in Armenian.)
The two greatest lessons he learned from his grandmother Vosky were “dignity is not negotiable,” said Gillinson, and that “one must do good without expectation of reward.” Amidst a tumultuous childhood, the speaker continued, “Vartan found refuge in the Armenian library above the local archbishop’s residence.”
When he came to this country at age 22, he knew virtually no English. Attending Stanford University, education had become the cornerstone of his life from an early age.
He quickly advanced, and his storied career included Gregorian becoming the second foreign-born provost of the University of Pennsylvania, the first foreign-born president of The New York Public Library, the first foreign-born president of an Ivy League university (Brown), and later the president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.
Noted historian Robert Caro, with humor, described how Gregorian brought The New York Public Library “back to life,” how he advanced education at Brown University with “warm communication,” and how he “embodies the true spirit of generosity as a philanthropist.”
PBS news anchor Judy Woodruff recalled her 20-year friendship with the honoree, describing him as “this handsome bear of a man, with his big smile and open arms who used to bound into my office, giving of himself. He made a huge impact on public media, especially PBS, and he has been a man of inspiration, boundless energy, and special warmth both with the powerful and the not powerful.”
World-famous violinist Pinchas Zukerman, accompanied by Canadian pianist Bryan Wagorn, delighted the guests with several classical and popular selections.
Former mayor Bloomberg, in awarding the Carnegie Hall Medal of Excellence to the honoree, stated that Andrew Carnegie and Vartan Gregorian “are alike, both as extraordinary immigrants, in helping others, as gifted writers, and in reshaping philanthropy. As an optimist and a realist, Vartan knows how to bring people together.”
In expressing his gratitude, first to his late beloved wife, Clare, his family, and to all who made the evening possible, Vartan Gregorian, who is the recipient of 75 honorary degrees and 19 medals, said with obvious emotion that “this medal is the sweetest, happiest medal I have ever received.”
He revealed that he has tried to shape his life to legendary writer Alexis de Tocqueville’s principles of democracy. Then, revealing his deeply held belief, he declared, “Any wealthy person who has died rich did not have the sense on how to invest for the people,” bringing the huge crowd to a standing ovation.
Following the celebratory occasion, many attendees were anxious to reveal their feelings.
Former governor George Pataki declared, “There is no better public servant than Vartan Gregorian.”
Dr. Levon Nazarian, representing the philanthropic Nazarian family, asked rhetorically, “What Armenian has achieved more in America than Vartan?”
Dr. Raffi Hovanessian commented, “As a nation, we are being honored.”
Ruben Vardanyan called Gregorian “my mentor.”
Judy Woodruff gushed, “I am in such awe of this man that I have been privileged to know for 20 years.”
Noubar Afeyan noted, “If he wasn’t Armenian, and if I didn’t know him, I would still be here.”
Aso Tavitian declared, “I feel honored to be where he is honored.”
Sarkis Jebejian was “so proud of how highly respected Vartan is in all communities and cultures.”
And Vartan Gregorian, the man of the hour himself, humbly commented, “This is Carnegie’s honor.”
Carnegie Corporation of New York recognized for longstanding support of Sesame Workshop, the Tenement Museum, and the Institute for International Education
It was a celebratory spring for Carnegie Corporation of New York. Three important grantee organizations marked significant milestones, giving special recognition to the Corporation for its role in their founding and for its president, Vartan Gregorian.
Sesame Celebrating 50 Years of Children’s Educational Programming
Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street, celebrated 50 years of groundbreaking work helping children to grow “smarter, stronger, and kinder,” and its global social impact work with a star-studded event in May in New York City. Former first lady Michelle Obama was honored with the Joan Ganz Cooney Award, named for Sesame Street’s founder. The anniversary gala featured special appearances by John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Lin-Manuel Miranda, John Oliver, Hoda Kotb and the Sesame Street Muppets, with honorees spanning the organization’s past, present, and future.
“When I became first lady, and I knew that I wanted to help kids reach their potential, my first question was a simple but familiar one: Can you tell me how to get to Sesame Street?” Obama said upon accepting the award. “I cannot tell you how proud and thankful I am to come here tonight as a Sesame Street partner. You are always ahead of the curve, always out there observing, and learning, and creating new ways to help kids and parents navigate the world around them.”
At the gala, Ford Foundation president Darren Walker and Corporation president Vartan Gregorian received a joint Visionary Award for the pivotal role the two foundations played in the development of Sesame Workshop and public television itself in the 1960s.
“In 1969 the audacious philanthropy of Carnegie Corporation and Ford Foundation made the creation of Sesame Street possible, helping to improve the lives of millions of less advantaged children around the world,” said Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s president of social impact and philanthropy. “Fifty years later, we’re thrilled that similarly bold commitments from the MacArthur Foundation and the LEGO Foundation are helping us give millions of displaced children the tools they need to thrive.”
In acknowledgement of their historic gift, Julia Stasch, president of the MacArthur Foundation, said its $100 million contribution aims to help Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee bring early childhood education to children affected by refugee crises. LEGO Foundation CEO John Goodwin accepted the Innovation Award for his organization’s commitment to supporting displaced children through the power of playful learning.
All of Sesame Workshop’s social impact work — from providing early learning to millions of children affected by the Syrian and Rohingya refugee crises to addressing tough topics like homelessness and foster care in the United States — is made possible with the support of partners like the Corporation. The gala raised more than $4.5 million, helping Sesame Workshop reach children and families in more than 150 countries, including areas where children have no other access to quality early education.
“Sesame Street had a profound impact on children’s media, setting a template that the industry has followed for generations,” said Lloyd Morrisett, Sesame Workshop’s cofounder. “Fifty years later, Sesame Workshop continues to deliver on its mission every day, across multiple platforms, on six continents. We started as an experiment — and it worked.”
New York’s Tenement Museum Looks Ahead
Also in May, the Tenement Museum in New York, which advances understanding of the immigrant experience and highlights the role that immigration has played in American history, honored Corporation president Gregorian, along with educator and filmmaker Henry Louis Gates, Jr., and philanthropist Stephen Siegel, at its 2019 gala, held in Manhattan.
Tenement Museum trustee Nicole Howe Buggs, who also leads the Corporation’s information technology and grants management departments, delivered a moving speech recalling her own family’s immigration from Trinidad, and introduced Gregorian, an immigrant of Armenian descent from Iran, recognizing his work on behalf of immigrants.
“Much like the museum, Vartan brings the American immigration story to life,” Howe Buggs said. “He reminds us of the connection between the past and today, the crucial role immigrants play in strengthening our democracy, and he provides insight on how past events help us unlock and decipher current events as well as prepare us for what lies ahead.”
“While America is not perfect, it is perfectible.”
— Vartan Gregorian, President, Carnegie Corporation of New York
She added that during Gregorian’s tenure as president, the Corporation has awarded more than 300 grants, totaling more than $150 million, in support of immigrant civic integration.
Gregorian reminded the crowd that “While America is not perfect, it is perfectible.”
Later in the evening, Tenement Museum president Kevin Jennings spoke about the role the museum has begun to play in the national conversation on immigration since the launch of its five-year strategic plan at the previous year’s gala.
“Our goal is to reach millions, not thousands, with our message, and to help change the terms of the national debate on immigration,” he said.
IIE: Shaping Scholarship Around the World
In February more than 500 leaders from higher education, government, and diplomacy gathered in New York City for three days to explore the future of international education. The summit was one of several programs that celebrated the centennial anniversary of the Institute for International Education (IIE), an organization known for its prestigious Fulbright scholarship program and supported by the Corporation since its inception 100 years ago.
The IIE is the leading global organization administering some of the world’s most inclusive and innovative programs in international education and exchange, including the Fulbright Programs of the U.S. State Department, the Language Flagship of the U.S. Defense Department, and the Ford International Fellowships Program. IIE was one of the first advocates for international exchange, pioneering new models of collaboration among colleges and universities across the globe.
“There is no better way to foster diplomatic relations than through people-to-people exchange,” said IIE chairman Thomas S. Johnson at the event. “IIE’s century-long investment in international education makes the world a safer and more interconnected place, creating stronger global ties and enhancing mutual understanding among nations.”
At IIE’s centennial celebration events, former British prime minister Gordon Brown received the Henry Kaufman Prize, and Corporation president Gregorian, a former trustee of IIE, accepted a Centennial Medal on behalf of the Corporation. “This is one of the hopes of all educators: that with understanding you can solve differences and build alliances,” said Gregorian.
Over the past 100 years, IIE programs have aided thousands of scholars, students, and artists threatened by conflict and turmoil in their home countries. By providing refuge to imperiled scholars, the IIE has helped shape scholarship around the world. “This is an organization that is very much about using education as a diplomacy tool to make the world a better place,” said IIE vice chairman Mark Angelson.
Carnegie pride on display at New York’s 20th annual Tartan Day Parade
Every day, all over the world, Andrew Carnegie’s legacy and teachings are being put into action through the many Carnegie organizations and initiatives founded more than a century ago by the philanthropist. Yet, on a recent Saturday in April, the “Star-Spangled Scotsman,” as he proudly called himself, could be seen walking jauntily up Sixth Avenue with thousands of his fellow Scottish Americans. Well, at least a papier-mâché head of Andrew Carnegie, that is.
Artist and Carnegie Corporation of New York employee Virginia Mallon-Ackerman created and donned the larger-than-life papier-mâché head of Andrew Carnegie complete with tuxedo, lending some frivolity to New York’s Tartan Day Parade. The Andrew Carnegie mascot marched alongside nearly 60 representatives of various Carnegie organizations, including Corporation president Vartan Gregorian.
“It was good fun,” said Mallon-Ackerman, who drew inspiration from Mardi Gras, Mummers, and New York parade costumes to create her “jolly” likeness of Carnegie for the event.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of New York’s Tartan Day Parade, organized by the American-Scottish Foundation and part of the city’s Tartan Week celebrations. And given that 2019 marks the centennial of Andrew Carnegie’s death, it seemed like a fitting year for members of the Carnegie family of institutions to come together and rally around the heritage of their founder, one of the most impactful Scottish Americans who has ever lived.
“It was another way to show the Carnegie pride; to let the world know that we’re not just Carnegie Hall and Carnegie Corporation, but that there are a number of Carnegie organizations out there,” said Corporation chief of staff Jeanne D’Onofrio, who coordinated the efforts.
“It was a beautiful day and a really fun event with Scottish terrier dogs in kilts, bagpipes, and drum bands, and a quite a few Scottish American organizations we didn’t know existed. It was great exposure for us within the Scottish American community.”
Kilt Trip Thousands participated in New York’s annual Tartan Day Parade on April 6, part of a weeklong celebration of Scottish culture and heritage. The line of march included New York Caledonian Pipe Band, Shot of Scotch Dancers, 21st Century Kilts, Highland Divas and Friends, and proud representatives of the Carnegie family of institutions, including Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, and Carnegie Hall. Highlights of this gallery include: top row, second from left: Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York, with (on his right) Jeanne D’Onofrio, Corporation chief of staff, and Natasha Davids, executive assistant to the president; and bottom row, second from left: the genial man of the hour himself, Andrew Carnegie! … Actually, it’s the Corporation’s Virginia Mallon-Ackerman, the talented artist who designed — and wore — the giant head of the Corporation’s founder, becoming the de facto parade marshal for her contingent. (Photos: Celeste Ford)
The Carnegie organizations that marched included Carnegie Corporation of New York, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs, Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Hall, and Carnegie Mellon University, with others there in spirit.
The Corporation’s principal design director, Daniel Kitae Um, conjured up flags, kerchiefs, a banner, and even pom-poms in a design that combined the world peace tartan with the Carnegie Medal tartan, creating a waving sea of light blue, purple, and yellow among the contingent. They walked behind a banner emblazoned with a quote from Andrew Carnegie: “The whole world moves, and moves in the right direction — upward and onward.”
“It was wonderful to see Carnegie Corporation, led by Vartan Gregorian, join other Carnegie organizations on Sixth Avenue and march in the New York Tartan Day Parade,” said Camilla G. Hellman, president of the American-Scottish Foundation.
“Although they had not marched in the parade before,” Hellman continued, “Carnegie Corporation has been involved and helpful in the programming that the American-Scottish Foundation has done around Tartan Week, from an exhibit and panel discussion (led by Gregorian) on Andrew Carnegie at the Finance Museum to a previous talk we had done around The Scots who Built New York project.”
The Corporation has also worked closely with the American-Scottish Foundation on other projects over the years, such as a recent lecture by historian and architect John Kinnear entitled “The Scots Who Built New York: Andrew Carnegie’s Contributions to Architecture and the Promotion of Ideas, 1855–1919.” The talk was a part of Carnegie Hall’s ambitious Migrations festival, which explored how the history of America is indelibly linked to the movement of people, some not brought here of their own free will, whose perseverance and resilience transformed the nation.
D’Onofrio says that she sees this year’s Tartan Day Parade march as the start of a tradition for the Corporation. “Whenever there is an opportunity to get the Carnegie organizations together, we try and make it happen. We’re already talking about floats and costumes for next year.”
And that papier-mâché Andrew Carnegie? He’s bound to bring more joy in public appearances down the line, but for now he’s resting in Vartan’s office.
Pathbreaker: Charting Andrew Carnegie’s Life and Legacy in the Hall That He Built
A new exhibition follows the remarkable journey of the young factory boy who used his prodigious gifts to become the most prominent philanthropist of his time
Andrew Carnegie: His Life and Legacy
On view through October 31, 2019 at the Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall
154 West 57th Street (at Seventh Avenue), 2nd floor
Hours: open seven days a week, 11 a.m.–4:30 p.m.
(Also available evenings to Stern Auditorium concert patrons)
“He’s an enigma,” says Gino Francesconi with both intensity and wonderment. “The more I get to know him, the more elusive he becomes to me.” Francesconi has spent some time getting to know Andrew Carnegie. As archivist and director of the Rose Museum at Carnegie Hall, he has curated Andrew Carnegie: His Life and Legacy, the museum’s first exhibition about the hall’s founder, on display through the end of October 2019 in celebration of the centennial of Andrew Carnegie’s death.
Francesconi has spent his entire career under the roof of one of Carnegie’s greatest cultural contributions, starting off as an usher at Carnegie Hall 45 years ago. “I worked my way down from the balcony,” he jokes, referring to the Rose Museum’s location on the second floor.
In preparation for the exhibition, Francesconi spent a year researching, interviewing family members, poring over biographies, and digging through archival documents, vintage photographs, and historical artifacts. The resulting display deftly charts Carnegie’s journey from humble beginnings in Dunfermline, Scotland, to his position as the most prominent philanthropist of his time, a story unfolding across two 13-foot exhibition cases in the museum — a tight space for such an extraordinary life.
Many parts of Carnegie’s rags-to-riches story hardly seem credible. The early poverty. The grueling 10-week journey, by boat, ferry, and barge, that brought him and his family to western Pennsylvania in 1848 after his father lost his job in Scotland. The 12-hour shifts as a bobbin boy in a Pittsburgh textile factory, earning $1.20 a week to help the family make ends meet. And then … the boy’s ability to quickly master Morse code, making him something of local phenomenon … which led to a promotion … which brought him to the attention of the man who would tip him off to his first investment. To a remarkable degree, Carnegie possessed the ability to make insightful — even visionary — decisions at the critical junctures in his life.
Keen Instincts, Indelible Experiences
Young Carnegie heard about a well-to-do man who possessed a large library that he made available to working boys. He knocked at the door but was turned away when the man learned that he was but a lowly bobbin boy. Feeling deeply that this was wrong, the 13-year-old Carnegie had the acumen to write a letter to the editor of the local newspaper protesting this iniquity. The letter must have helped because the wealthy man changed his mind — and Carnegie went on to educate himself in that very library.
“It’s surprising how keen, from a very young age, his instincts were,” says Francesconi. “His quest for knowledge … his very uncommon sense of common sense!” Not to mention his sense of what is right and just, which would later come to play such a prominent role in his philanthropic work.
“Carnegie was about 20 years down the road about almost everything. He had impeccable timing: to be in the right place at the right time and to know what to do with it.”
— Gino Francesconi, Director, Rose Museum, Carnegie Hall
Carnegie soon took a job at the telegraph company running messages. His boss recommended that he invest in a forerunner of American Express. Carnegie’s mother traveled around gathering money from family, scraping together $500 (the equivalent of $10,000 today) for the investment. It proved a success, forever changing Carnegie’s life. After his first dividend check arrived, “a lightbulb went off,” as Francesconi describes it. Carnegie had the realization that he could earn money by investing it — rather than subjecting himself to the harsh demands of manual labor.
An early investment in railroad sleeper cars earned him his first considerable fortune. Carnegie went on to invest in nearly two dozen companies, and he founded the Keystone Bridge Company, which built the first iron truss bridge across the Mississippi. He purchased iron mills and experimented with the newest technologies for converting iron to steel.
By the age of 33 Carnegie was worth $450,000, or what would be $8 million today, more than he needed to live comfortably for the rest of his life. (And this was before his forays into steel manufacturing.) In the posthumously published Autobiography (1920), he wrote about working in the factory as a boy and his early determination: “I began to learn what poverty meant.” It was “burnt” into his heart that his father had to beg for work: “And then and there came the resolve that I would cure that when I got to be a man.” And cure it he did. Having amassed all the wealth he and his family would ever need by his third decade, Carnegie turned his sights to helping others, and helping others help themselves. The early privations combined with his remarkable instincts developed in him a sensitivity to the needs of others as well as a strong sense of what might best serve the wider community.
Setting the Course for Philanthropy
That year, in 1868, he wrote a letter of intent, a declaration to himself that began to define what would become his philosophy of philanthropy. The memorandum was discovered after his death, and his wife, Louise, allowed copies to be made for the Library of Congress and The New York Public Library. In it Carnegie set forth his ambitions: “Cast aside business forever, except for others.… [and take] a part in public matters, especially those connected with education and improvement of the poorer classes.”
Always a voracious reader on a wide variety of topics, Andrew Carnegie began to write, going on to publish dozens of books, pamphlets, and essays on subjects ranging from socialism, international arbitration, and slavery (which he opposed), to travel, economics, and peace campaigns. “He was always writing, he felt inspired,” says Francesconi, “counting Mark Twain and Booker T. Washington among his friends.” The first of Carnegie’s writings to gain wide readership in both the U.S. and Europe was Triumphant Democracy (1886), a book in which he describes how, in less than a century, the United States had surpassed Great Britain as the world’s great superpower. Calling for the abolition of the British monarchy, Carnegie argues that England should follow the American democratic system as a model.
Having amassed all the wealth he and his family would ever need by his third decade, Carnegie turned his sights to helping others, and helping others help themselves.
In 1889 Carnegie published a pair of articles in the Atlantic, which together have come to be known as The Gospel of Wealth. These two pieces — “Wealth” and “The Best Fields for Philanthropy” — caused a sensation by posing a radical idea: men of means should distribute their wealth during their lifetimes for the betterment of mankind, rather than enjoying lavish lifestyles and bequeathing vast sums to their (male) heirs (wives and daughters should be comfortably provided for). He wrote:
This, then, is held to be the duty of the man of Wealth: First, to set an example of modest, unostentatious living, shunning display or extravagance; to provide moderately for the legitimate wants of those dependent upon him; and after doing so to consider all surplus revenues which come to him simply as trust funds, which he is called upon to administer … in the manner which, in his judgment, is best calculated to produce the most beneficial results for the community — the man of wealth thus becoming the mere agent and trustee for his poorer brethren.
Books had offered Carnegie escape and enlightenment as a boy. As he recalled in his Autobiography, “In this way the windows were opened in the walls of my dungeon through which the light of knowledge streamed in. Every day’s toil and even the long hours of night service were lightened by the book which I carried about with me and read in the intervals that could be snatched from duty.” It is then fitting that his first major public donation was the gift of a public library to his hometown of Dunfermline.
Carnegie the benefactor was quickly becoming Carnegie the celebrity. By 1884 he had donated £5,000 for the Carnegie Baths recreation and health club in Dunfermline, funds for a public library in Allegheny, Pennsylvania, and $50,000 to establish the first medical research laboratory in the U.S., at Bellevue Hospital in New York City.
In 1911 Carnegie established Carnegie Corporation of New York to distribute his remaining wealth “to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding among the people of the United States.”
He was a trailblazing philanthropist. “He would give a town a library but wanted them to fundraise for the land,” says Francesconi. “Today that’s called a matching grant; his was the first of its kind. Carnegie was about 20 years down the road about almost everything. He had impeccable timing: to be in the right place at the right time and to know what to do with it.”
One such example was Carnegie Hall itself. At a time when the city was centered around 14th Street, Carnegie looked uptown — to 57th Street. Moreover, while other music halls of the era were built for companies like Steinway or for particular orchestras or impresarios, his was a grander gesture: he built a hall for all of New York City.
“I believe from the moment he started thinking along the lines of giving for the betterment of mankind, he could almost always see the bigger picture,” says Francesconi. “You can almost sense how he thought: Why build just another hall similar to the others when New York City in fact needs something on a larger scale?”
“All good causes may here find a platform,” said Carnegie at the laying of the hall’s cornerstone in 1890. And from its opening day on May 5, 1891, to the present, all causes have indeed found Carnegie Hall a welcoming platform, from a Margaret Sanger talk on birth control in 1917 to one of the earliest appearances of African American jazz musicians on a concert stage. “The variety of events is unique in the world,” observes Francesconi. “No one was ever barred from appearing because of politics, religious beliefs, or race, nor type of music. Nearly 50,000 events have taken place at Carnegie Hall, more than at any other concert hall in the world. I think Andrew would be happy.”
Carnegie gave away more than $350 million during his lifetime — the equivalent of nearly $7 billion today. He built more than 2,500 libraries; donated to the schools that eventually merged to become Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh; and established the Hero Fund to award grants to men and women who risked and sometimes lost their lives for others — to name but a few of many causes, initiatives, and institutions he supported. Carnegie grew increasingly committed to the promotion of world peace in the years preceding World War I: the Peace Palace in The Hague was built thanks to his largesse and he backed an international peace conference held at Carnegie Hall in 1907.
The early privations combined with his remarkable instincts developed in him a sensitivity to the needs of others as well as a strong sense of what might best serve the wider community.
In 1911 Carnegie established Carnegie Corporation of New York to distribute his remaining wealth “to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding among the people of the United States.” He endowed the Corporation with $135 million, giving the trustees permission to adapt its programs to the changing times. He wrote, “Conditions upon the earth inevitably change; hence, no wise man will bind Trustees forever to certain paths, causes or institutions. I declaim any intention of doing so.” This philosophy meant that in the future his foundation would have the freedom to be flexible, for example helping to fund such diverse initiatives as the discovery of insulin and the creation of Sesame Street.
Gino Francesconi recalls a quotation: “‘Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.’” He continues, “If ever a line applied to Andrew Carnegie, that’s it.”
Andrew Carnegie: His Life and Legacy runs through October and is part of Carnegie Hall’s extraordinary Migrations festival, a series of events spread across New York City celebrating the waves of immigrants that have come to America, including an ambitious and very clever young boy from Scotland named Andrew.
Scotland’s Dunfermline learned about dinosaurs, engineering, and collaboration when they built a dinosaur made of 35,000 Lego bricks
A six-and-a-half-foot red Lego dinosaur recently loomed large in the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum in the Scottish town of Dunfermline. One might not guess that thousands of hands and minds went into its construction, but this playful interpretation of the beloved Diplodocus carnegii dinosaur represents a grand collaboration. The original Diplodocus dinosaur, fondly dubbed “Dippy” by one and all, calls the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh home; a full-scale plaster replica of the original Dippy is currently touring the U.K. with great success. Meanwhile, Dunfermline went “Dippy About Dinosaurs” — thanks to Lego Dippy.
Children and other Dunfermline community members worked together with representatives from the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust and the Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, as well as with renowned Lego artist Warren Elsmore and his team, to put the dino’s 35,000 Lego bricks together, bringing the model to life for those in the area who might not be able to make it to see the traveling Dippy skeleton during its residency at Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum in Glasgow. Built in the collaborative spirit that was championed by Andrew Carnegie, Lego Dippy is an apt way to celebrate the philanthropist’s legacy today, during the centennial year of his death.
“The interactive build process really brought the community together, and everyone had a great time; children, staff, adult visitors, and the Police Scotland Youth Volunteers who participated,” says Nora Rundell, chief executive of the Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Fund Trusts. “Our idea was that not everyone can get to Glasgow to see the dinosaur cast and exhibition, and this event would provide a hands-on opportunity to relate to Dippy, even if it’s in Lego form. The aim of the exhibition in Glasgow and the Lego build in the Birthplace Museum was to allow people to see a Diplodocus take shape while learning about the fascinating story of Carnegie’s use of paleontology as a vehicle for peace diplomacy.”
Opening in Glasgow in January and running there through May 6, the extremely successful Dippy on Tour exhibition showcases the full-scale replica Diplodocus skeleton from the collections of the Natural History Museum in London. The exhibition includes materials, curated by the Birthplace Museum, telling the story of how Carnegie funded the excavation of the original fossil in Wyoming in 1898 — christened Diplodocus carnegii in honor of the dig’s benefactor. This eventually led to the development of Carnegie’s celebrated “Dinosaur Diplomacy” agenda: full-scale plaster replicas of the dinosaur skeleton were commissioned a few years later and gifted to seven heads of state, including the U.K., in an attempt to promote peace among nations. The original Dippy Diplodocus skeleton draws hundreds of thousands of visitors to Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Museum of Natural History each year. The U.K.’s Dippy replica, which has been on a tour throughout the country, continues to spread Carnegie’s ideals of peace and education.
“Carnegie was committed to inspiring younger generations in education and enterprise and the aim of the build was to make engineering concepts accessible to everyone, regardless of age or ability, and to engage them in the concept and construction processes.”
— Nora Rundell, Chief Executive of Carnegie Dunfermline & Hero Fund Trusts
In Dunfermline, the building of the Lego Dippy sculpture was one of several innovative educational programs designed by the Carnegie Dunfermline Trust and the Birthplace Museum to teach not only natural history but structural engineering as well. The program had the added benefit of encouraging collaboration and educating the public at large about Andrew Carnegie’s legacy.
“Carnegie was committed to inspiring younger generations in education and enterprise and the aim of the build was to make engineering concepts accessible to everyone, regardless of age or ability, and to engage them in the concept and construction processes,” says Rundell.
Edinburgh-based Warren Elsmore led the Lego engineers. Elsmore specializes in engineering complex Lego models that enable group participation and construction. The choice of the Dippy shape for the completed model was meant to reinforce the Carnegie connection but also to present certain construction challenges.
Founded on teamwork, Elsmore planned a build process running over three days with each of the more than 1,100 participants, whose ages ranged from four years to adult, building simple shapes that were then put together to make up the whole. Each step of the project was designed and overseen by engineers from his team, who have created a wide range of equally challenging models in museums across Europe.
The process reflected “Carnegie’s idea that education should be accessible to all and his belief that working together will help us all to achieve great things,” says Rundell. Carnegie wisely understood that by being a “shareholder” in a process, participants would value the outcome more.
“The participants loved it,” reports Rundell. “Some kids spent hours at the museum, not only building Dippy, but also building other things, looking around the museum, and participating in family workshops, including special sessions for toddlers with Duplo instead of Lego.”
The Lego build project represents a directional change for the museum. “In the past, the museum has had more of a top-down approach presenting a ready-made exhibition for visitors to see/enjoy,” says Rundell, “whereas now it is more about joining in and doing things together.”
The Dunfermline community members who helped build the Lego Dippy replica are keeping Carnegie’s legacy alive — in the arts, in culture, in science, and in education.
On display at the Birthplace Museum through April 17, Lego Dippy was accompanied by a series of themed events (running into May) designed to engage visitors of all ages and abilities and encouraging them to explore the museum’s collection. All of the museum’s educational activities are free, in line with Carnegie’s belief that everyone should have access to education regardless of their income or ability. A dinosaur egg hunt around the museum served as a scavenger hunt bringing visitors to every corner of the collection. Dinosaur-themed family craft days, Lego-building workshops, and paleontology-themed family days as well as activities for babies and children under five help engage the youngest visitors in the museum and in Carnegie’s life and work.
Carnegie believed “there’s little success where there is little laughter,” so programming has been structured accordingly, to engage in age- and ability-appropriate ways. Toddler sessions are aimed to help them improve dexterity, while school-age children learn about Carnegie and life during the Victorian era in Dunfermline. “Carnegie was an ordinary man who achieved extraordinary things, and we teach children that they can, too,” says Rundell. “Also, children learn about how life is different today than in his time. For example, hygiene was poor in Victorian Dunfermline, but things are not great now either — we have plastic pollution and other problems that need solutions.”
One particularly innovative morning session at the Birthplace Museum was geared to children with sensory issues and special needs, offering a quieter time to connect with Lego Dippy and participate in activities around the dinosaur. These types of inclusive events are a true extension of Carnegie’s mission to foster education for all. The development of programming for individuals with autism is meant to enable those who do not usually visit museums, because of too much noise, audio interaction, light, or crowds, for example, to experience the displays in a suitable environment with appropriate support.
“Our staff have undergone training and the sessions are scheduled before and after the museum is open to the general public,” says Rundell, who reports that other groups with particular support needs can also book individual sessions. “Sometimes just offering a space for these community groups is enough — they are positively surprised when the museum staff reaches out to them and offers them an opportunity to visit and join in, such as with Young Carers (these are children under 18 who must provide care for another because of family circumstances). In most cases, these groups feel nobody is interested in them in other public venues. If kids need a quiet space and to be away from other crowds — just allowing them to come in and see an exhibit before we open to general public means a lot to them.”
The Birthplace Museum Dippy exhibit was just one of the many worldwide events being held this year as part of the Forging the Future series commemorating the centennial year of Andrew Carnegie’s passing. The Dunfermline community members who helped build the Lego Dippy replica are keeping Carnegie’s legacy alive — in the arts, in culture, in science, and in education. As a matter of fact, Lego Dippy’s sojourn in Dunfermline was so successful that even after the big red dino was taken down, the Birthplace Museum hosted Bricks 4 Kidz workshops, where children continued using Legos to build models of such favorites as the Stegosaurus and the fearsome Tyrannosaurus rex. In Dunfermline, dinosaur fever rages on.
Andrew Carnegie’s “Dinosaur Diplomacy” Continues to Inspire
Dippy, the world’s most famous dinosaur skeleton, may call Pittsburgh home, but a full-scale plaster copy of the huge beast is wowing crowds in the U.K.
It’s January in Glasgow, Scotland, where four technicians and two conservators are crouched on the marble floor at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum, carefully piecing together an ancient jigsaw puzzle of sorts. For five days visitors gathered on balconies flanking the dramatically vaulted room watching the work. Before their eyes, 292 plaster bones were transformed into Diplodocus carnegii, a 14-foot-high, 14-foot-wide, 70-foot-long dinosaur skeleton filling the massive Center Hall, where it will hold court through May 6. Meet “Dippy,” as he is better known, the most famous dinosaur in the U.K.
Dippy’s arrival in Scotland, Andrew Carnegie’s birthplace, comes after three stops across the U.K., and prior to that, 12 months of careful work by conservators to prepare the huge — but delicate — object for its epic journey. The magnificent plaster of paris skeleton has never before traveled from its home in London’s Natural History Museum, not since 1905, when it was first unveiled there — the gift of Andrew Carnegie to the British people.
“Dippy is an enduring embodiment of Carnegie’s legacy and mission,” says Eric Dorfman, the Daniel G. and Carole L. Kamin Director of Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, where the original dinosaur skeleton resides. “He is a beloved treasure because he connects us vividly to Earth’s distant past. Thanks to Carnegie, millions of people have engaged with Dippy intellectually, in the name of science, and emotionally, in the name of wonder.”
“Dippy is an enduring embodiment of Carnegie’s legacy and mission. He is a beloved treasure because he connects us vividly to Earth’s distant past. Thanks to Carnegie, millions of people have engaged with Dippy intellectually, in the name of science, and emotionally, in the name of wonder.”
— Eric Dorfman, Director, Carnegie Museum of Natural History, Pittsburgh
Free to the public at each of its eight stops, the exhibition Dippy on Tour: A Natural History Adventure will travel to every region of the U.K. Just as Andrew Carnegie envisioned when he gifted the cast copy of the original skeleton to the British, Dippy on Tour is meant to spark curiosity about the natural world while helping to bridge differences between peoples with a frankly awe-inspiring symbol of our common history on this planet.
“Dippy has acted as an ambassador for the natural world,” observed Sir Michael Dixon, director of the Natural History Museum, during the opening of the Glasgow exhibition on January 22.
“We are thrilled that Dippy has once again made it safely across the Irish Sea and has now arrived at Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow. Dippy on Tour has so far seen record visitor numbers at the three previous venues,” said Dixon, referring to Dorset County Museum in England’s South West, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery in the West Midlands, and Ulster Museum in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Carnegie’s dinosaur is indeed a phenomenon on the road. In Dorset, Dippy was crowned “tourism champion,” and for the stop in Glasgow, Kelvingrove’s website urges visitors to use public transit to get to the museum because Dippy has proved so popular that “our car park is full from early morning at weekends.”
Dippy’s three-year tour throughout the U.K., its “natural history adventure,” aims to introduce 1.5 million people to this fascinating specimen of evolutionary history in an effort to inspire not only the next generation of scientists but to encourage families to set off on their own natural history adventures. The Kelvingrove exhibition includes information about animals currently under threat, and the steps being taken to protect them through conservation and re-wilding. The museum is also organizing a series of events to encourage visitors to explore its incredible natural history collections and to learn about the “biodiversity right on your doorstep in Glasgow.”
Stateside, the original Dippy, a composite skeleton of bones excavated in Wyoming in 1898, has been on display at Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh since 1907. Thought to be between 152 and 154 million years old and perhaps the most famous dinosaur skeleton in the world, the Pittsburgh Diplodocus serves as a beloved mascot for both the museum and the Steel City.
“Carnegie shared knowledge. He did not secret Dippy away after the discovery. He shared him with the world,” said Eric Dorfman. “For many people, Dippy is the definitive dinosaur, the image they imagine when they hear the word. Here at Carnegie Museum of Natural History, where the real Dippy is on view, hundreds of thousands of people of all ages get to marvel at him every year.”
But Dippy is not simply a gateway to learning about science and our natural world. As William Thomson, Andrew Carnegie’s great-grandson, pointed out at the Kelvingrove Museum opening, Diplodocus carnegii was seen by his great-grandfather as “a symbol and an opportunity.”
“By gifting copies to the heads of state of seven other countries as well as the U.K., Carnegie hoped to demonstrate through mutual interest in scientific discoveries that nations have more in common than what separates them,” he said.
“He used his gifts,” Thomson continued, “in an attempt to open inter-state dialogue on preserving world peace — a form of Dinosaur Diplomacy! Replicas of Diplodocus carnegii are still on display in some of the most famous natural history museums in Europe, but sadly the wellspring of their united history has been largely forgotten. The exhibition sheds some light on this remarkable story.”
An ardent evolutionist, Andrew Carnegie funded paleontology expeditions to the western United States. One such dig uncovered fossils in a Wyoming quarry that would be named Diplodocus carnegii in honor of the expedition’s benefactor. The specimen that was crafted from those fossils has proved to be incredibly important to science as it became the holotype, the original specimen upon which its species is based. Carnegie funded full-size cast models of that Diplodocus dinosaur and gifted them to museums around the world. His goal was twofold: to spread the advances that scientists were making in their understanding of the natural world, but also to celebrate our shared history and findings, both objectives serving in his eyes as a form of diplomacy.
Carnegie believed that celebrating our shared interests and the commonalities between nations would promote peace and understanding around the world, a noble cause at the very core of all of his philanthropic endeavors. A century after his death that work continues in the many philanthropic and educational organizations he founded.
“Carnegie’s legacy endures in the empowerment of people and the sharing of knowledge,” says Dorfman. “He understood how democracy and equality depend on access to knowledge, to culture, to education. Dippy’s U.K. tour, sharing this wonder with people who might otherwise not have access, is a proper tribute to Carnegie.”
After Dippy’s current residency in Scotland at the Kelvingrove Museum, the dinosaur will be carefully dismantled and packed up to continue on its grand tour. Following Glasgow, Dippy’s upcoming venues are:
Today, Norwich Cathedral, where Dippy on Tour concludes, serves as a place of both worship and learning, and is a fitting setting to bridge the scientific and spiritual questions that arise when contemplating our ancient evolutionary past.
“The presence of Dippy in Norwich will naturally bring people from all backgrounds and beliefs and will stimulate questions and debate about creations and the origins of life as well as some of the major issues facing humanity today,” said Jane Hedges, the cathedral’s dean. “It will prompt people to think about aspects such as climate change and food production.”
For Professor Eric Cross, dean of cultural affairs at Newcastle University, Dippy’s residency in the north of England provides a timely opportunity for scholarly research and discussion around environmental issues. Dippy’s visit, he says, “will help illustrate some of the key global challenges such as sustainability and climate change that are central to the University’s research.”
The Diplodocus carnegii cast has been the imposing star of Hintze Hall at London’s Natural History Museum since 1979, although his appearance has changed over the years to reflect advances in our understanding of dinosaur biology and evolution — most recently in 1993.
Andrew Carnegie’s remarkable philanthropic legacy has also continued to evolve over the years through the ever-evolving work of the organizations he founded. The challenges these institutions address are some of the most intractable and urgent of our time. In this centennial year of his passing, Carnegie institutions worldwide are hosting Forging the Future, a series of events celebrating his commitment to doing “real and permanent good in this world,” while also working to sustain his vision and his legacy into the 21st century.
The wildly popular Dippy on Tour exhibition is part of the Forging the Future series, which commemorates and expands upon Andrew Carnegie’s lasting achievements in peace, education, the arts, science, culture, and philanthropy. The Forging the Future series will culminate with the Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy awards ceremony in New York City, on October 16, 2019. Dippy will definitely be there in spirit.
The competition to design the new Peace Palace in The Hague was not without controversy, not least because on May 11, 1906, the jury announced that the winner was … French!
By Fred A. Bernstein
The magnificent Peace Palace in The Hague, Netherlands, built thanks to the largesse of Andrew Carnegie, soars as testament to the American philanthropist’s unshakable belief that for the progress of mankind, the tide had turned at last, and that “even the smallest further step taken in any peaceful direction would soon lead to successive steps thereafter.”
Big philanthropic initiatives on peace and security have become few and far between, according to a recent article in the Nation, ruefully titled “You Never Give Me Your Money.” Carnegie Corporation of New York’s Stephen Del Rosso told the Nation that he has seen a “retraction of funding” over the course of the past 20 years in the area of peace and security, adding, “It’s lonely out here.” But Carnegie Corporation of New York has peacebuilding in its DNA: its programs build on Andrew Carnegie’s efforts to banish war, which he called “the earth’s most revolting spectacle.” Perhaps Andrew Carnegie’s most tangible such effort was building a home in The Hague for the Permanent Court of Arbitration, an intergovernmental organization created in 1899. “At last there is no excuse for war,” Carnegie said of the court in a 1905 speech to the students at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. “A tribunal is now at hand to judge wisely and deliver righteous judgment between nations.”
Carnegie Corporation of New York has peacebuilding in its DNA: its programs build on Andrew Carnegie’s efforts to banish war, which he called “the earth’s most revolting spectacle.”
In 1913 Carnegie spoke at the dedication of the Peace Palace, the structure designed as the permanent home for the Court of Arbitration. Financed by Carnegie, it “became the physical manifestation of his desire to bring about world peace, the same desire that fuels the Corporation’s work today,” says Del Rosso, program director for international peace and security at the Corporation. Indeed, the Palace now accommodates not only the arbitration court but also the International Court of Justice (the principal judicial arm of the United Nations, commonly known as the World Court), as well as an international law academy and a research library holding the world’s largest collection of materials on international peace and justice.
To ensure that the building would be as lofty as its mission, the planners held an architectural competition — a tradition dating back at least to 1419, when Filippo Brunelleschi was selected to design the dome of the famed Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. By the 20th century, architectural competitions had become de rigueur for significant public projects. The Peace Palace competition presaged several better-known contests: in 1948, Eero Saarinen’s design for the Gateway Arch, on the St. Louis waterfront, was chosen from among 172 entries (including one submitted by his father, Eliel Saarinen). And in 1957, Jørn Utzon, a young Danish architect, triumphed in a competition to design the Sydney Opera House, known for its iconic, sail-like roofs. Tellingly, the Florence cathedral, the Gateway Arch, and the Sydney Opera House are among the world’s most recognizable structures.
At their best, competitions elicit compelling designs, often from little-known architects who wouldn’t otherwise have been considered for such high-profile commissions. To the list of relatively obscure architects who have won important competitions, add the name Louis-Marie Cordonnier (1854–1940) of Lille, France, whose Peace Palace design was selected in 1906 from among 216 entries. More than a century after its completion, the red-brick and sandstone building stands as an “icon of the development of international law,” in the words of Arthur Eyffinger, author of the definitive study The Peace Palace: Residence for Justice, Domicile of Learning (1988). It is also a major tourist draw. Upon entering the building, visitors immediately sense that it “is a ‘palace’ in the true sense of the word. The distinguished impression of the building’s exterior is heightened still by the soberness, the quiet of the interior, which has no room for ‘overcrowding.’ … Even a layman could guess at once that choicest materials from all corners of the earth have been gathered and lovingly made into what they are by artists’ hands,” wrote C. H. de Boer, author of a guidebook to the Palace (1948; 1951).
Such extravagance was made possible by the deep pockets of Andrew Carnegie, whose fondest hope was that the work conducted within the Palace walls would make war obsolete. This aim was shared by Russia’s Czar Nicholas II, who in 1899 convened the Hague Convention to address the problem of international weapons proliferation. Although the 26 nations participating in the meeting failed to reach a significant arms agreement, they did succeed in founding the Permanent Court of Arbitration as a means of resolving future international disputes.
Because the court had no home of its own, in 1900 Russian diplomat Frederic de Martens traveled to Berlin to enlist the aid of the U.S. ambassador to Germany, Andrew Dickson White, in securing funding for an appropriate structure. White immediately thought of Carnegie, whose interest in world peace was well established. Initially, the philanthropist offered to donate a library to the new court, but after protracted negotiations he pledged $1.5 million (more than $43 million in today’s dollars) toward construction. In 1904 the board of the Carnegie Foundation, which is based in The Hague, assumed control of the project, and a year later the Dutch government bought the Foundation two properties, totaling 16 acres, in an idyllic spot alongside the extensive royal woods known as the Zorgvliet. The Foundation, advised by a leading Dutch architect, began planning the competition.
Every architecture competition involves trade-offs, and this one was no exception. As Eyffinger, a classicist, law historian, and former head librarian of the International Court of Justice, recently explained in an email: “Prize competitions are highly interesting, if mostly saddening stories in which, more often than not, human nature and rivalry prevail over technical and strictly professional issues.” However, the ultimate success of the Peace Palace design speaks highly of the process followed by the Carnegie Foundation.
The first thing the organizers of an architectural contest must decide is whether to allow all architects, or only a preselected group, to enter. An open call may bring a flood of submissions, but few from established architects (who are likely to be deterred by the low odds of winning). Conversely, an “invited competition” would exclude lesser-known architects who might have the most original ideas. In the case of the Peace Palace, an additional question arose: Should the competition be limited to Dutch architects, as the Royal Institute of Dutch Architects demanded at the time, or should it be open to architects of any nationality, the view — not insignificantly — of Andrew Carnegie himself?
Eventually, the Carnegie Foundation board decided on a competition that was both open and closed. It would be international — as befits an organization dedicated to world unity — but limited to entrants nominated by the 26 countries that took part in the 1899 Hague Convention. (The single exception was the nomination of American architects, which was left to Carnegie himself; he chose Peabody & Stearns of Boston and Carrère & Hastings of New York.) The Foundation board, besieged by requests from foreign architects and their professional associations that the competition be open to anyone, eventually relented, although only the invited firms were paid a stipend for participating.
Another issue in architecture competitions is whether to solicit fully developed designs or mere conceptual sketches. The former approach, requiring hundreds of hours of work, might discourage all but the best-funded practitioners. The latter, a so-called ideas competition, may result in the choice of an exciting scheme by an architect who then turns out to have little practical experience.
In this case, the board set the bar very high: the “Programme of the Competition for the Architectural Plan of the Peace Palace for the Use of the Permanent Court of Arbitration with a Library,” distributed worldwide on August 15, 1905, informed architects that they had seven months to produce plans, elevations, sections, and perspectives for a finished structure meeting hundreds of precise requirements. The process proved overwhelming, and, as the deadline approached, the participating architects were granted an extra month.
More than 200 entries arrived by the (revised) deadline, April 15, 1906. The six jurors (chosen by the Carnegie Foundation board) included the president-elect of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the architect of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, and the German emperor’s personal architect, among other grandees of the profession. The one American was William Robert Ware of Milton, Massachusetts, founder of the architecture school at Columbia University.
Altogether, the entries comprised more than 3,000 drawings — so many it was hard to find a place to hang them, until Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands offered the walls of her Kneuterdijk Palace. There, in May, after reviewing the proposals privately, the jurors convened to pick a winner. They began by naming their favorite projects. Forty-four plans received at least one nod, and thus qualified for further discussion. The field was eventually narrowed to 16. Several jurors were unsatisfied with the pool of entries and suggested, to no avail, that the contest be reopened.
The jury took a final vote on May 11. In first place was Cordonnier’s scheme for separate courthouse and library buildings connected by a corridor, with four large corner towers, all in a richly decorated, neo-Renaissance mien. The jury, in a written statement, praised the design for “following the local traditions of XVI Century architecture.” But Eyffinger succinctly notes that this was not the case. “Cordonnier’s design,” he writes, “was in no way linked to Dutch tradition.” Nor did the choice of period make sense to everyone. “Why on earth the 16th-century style?” one critic asked mockingly. “Is it because Holland was engaged in war (with Spain) most of that period?” (In a detailed critique of the completed palace, the New York Times would later peg the style “Sicilian Romanesque,” explaining that the design reflected “in some degree both the Norman and the Oriental influence resultant from the many political mutations of the island of the Mediterranean in the Middle Ages.”)
More positive attention was focused on the fourth-place design, by the Austrian architect Otto Wagner, a leader of the Vienna Secession movement and one of the great figures of 20th-century architecture. In fifth place was the New York firm of Greenley & Olin, whose design hued to the neoclassical style exemplified by The New York Public Library’s central building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. A plan by another highly influential architect, Eliel Saarinen of Finland, didn’t make the top six, nor did any proposal from the Netherlands. Modernism was also nowhere to be seen among the finalists.
The selected plan prompted not just criticism but also litigation. Between 1907 and 1911 a group headed by Hendrik Berlage, a celebrated Dutch architect, fought to annul the result of the competition, claiming, among other things, that the cost of Cordonnier’s scheme would far surpass the announced budget. Although the board ultimately won dismissal of the suit, at one point it seriously considered scrapping the jury’s verdict and going with the Saarinen plan. Not legally bound by the jury’s decision, it also at one point thought of moving forward with the Greenley & Olin proposal.
Make It New — But Not Modern
When the Peace Palace opened in 1913, the critic for the New York Times christened its throwback architectural style “Sicilian Romanesque,” going on to note that many of its graceful but often inappropriately “warlike” details were of a nature to provoke criticism from “the lovers of pure art.”
The Peace Palace was meant to embody the promise of the future. But its style was based entirely on the past. Indeed, oddly for a building dedicated to eradicating war, many of its details were derived from forts and castles. Its architect, Louis-Marie Cordonnier, was accustomed to replicating the work of earlier eras. Born in 1854, he studied at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris, where he was influenced by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, restorer of France’s medieval monuments, and Charles Garnier, architect of Paris’s ornate opera house. But the design of the Peace Palace was backward-looking even within the context of Cordonnier’s career, given its unmistakable resemblance to his Dunkirk (France) Town Hall, completed in 1901. Perhaps it’s understandable that Cordonnier would reuse aspects of past projects — the Peace Palace competition required architects to assemble detailed drawings in a very short time and on a tight budget. (As one of the 26 architects invited to participate in the competition, Cordonnier would have been paid a small fee.) Moreover, the Beaux-Arts tradition encouraged copying the successful elements of older buildings.
But what about the judges? Were they right to pick a design that eschewed innovation, perhaps believing that historical references would give the building gravitas and, thus, legitimacy? Greenley & Olin’s admittedly beautiful and for its time thoroughly “safe” neoclassical design would have fit that bill nicely. Or would they have done better to choose something more forward-looking, given Andrew Carnegie’s desire that the world break with its past?
The New York Times weighed in on September 7, 1913, with an entire page devoted to the new Peace Palace. And though the sub-headline was kind (“It is a superb structure, the interior being especially beautiful”) the article itself was not. It stated:
The Palace of Peace … is far from being such a representative specimen of modern architecture as would have seemed fitting to its object. Indeed, it is wholly imitative of the architecture of another age, without the slightest effort at large symbolism of modern life. This is rather astounding, in view of the character of the man who gave the great fund for the creation of the Palace of Peace and of his adopted nationality, which is significant of the new and progressive, rather than of the old and retardative.
The unnamed critic went on to blame the Dutch (“a downright people as ever they were”) for the failures of the building, which he described as “closely allied in general aspect to the type of some certain much-visited Flemish town halls,” although lacking their “strength and the intensity of idea which some of these latter reveals.”
But could the building, as the Times critic suggested, have served as a “representative specimen of modern architecture”? To be sure, most of the great monuments of the modernist era lay in the future; Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, the German and Swiss-French masters of the International Style, did their most important work after World War I. Still, by the time the Peace Palace competition was announced in 1906, architecture’s future had begun to emerge in singular buildings on both sides of the Atlantic.
Indeed, of the 100 most influential buildings of the 20th century (as determined through an exhaustive survey of the world’s leading architects for the book 100 Buildings (Rizzoli 2017), eight predated the Peace Palace. Three were in the U.S.: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Robie House (Chicago; 1908–11), with its astonishing cantilevers, and his Larkin Administration Building (Buffalo; 1903–6), a kind of cathedral for workers; and the Arts and Crafts style Gamble House by the brothers Greene and Greene (Pasadena; 1907–19). In Scotland, Charles Rennie Mackintosh was developing his own arts and crafts vocabulary with his Glasgow School of Art (Glasgow; 1896–1909). And on the Continent, Otto Wagner was exploring novel facade treatments with his Post Office Savings Bank (Vienna; 1903–12), covered in flat squares of marble. Less than a mile away, Adolf Loos, with his Michaelerplatz House, nicknamed Looshaus (Vienna; 1909–11), had explored ways to make plain materials like stucco beautiful. Peter Behrens looked at the aesthetics of industrialization with his AEG Factory in Berlin (1907–9).
Perhaps most interestingly, in Holland Hendrik Berlage, the architect who in fact sued to overturn the competition results, had completed his stock exchange, the Beurs van Berlage (Amsterdam; 1896–1903), which helped make unadorned surfaces acceptable on significant public buildings. Each of these architects, though not ready to dispense with ornament entirely, pioneered new systems of decoration derived less from the classical orders than from scientific advances, non-representational art, and other contemporary sources.
Were the judges of the Peace Palace architectural competition aware of these new directions in architecture? One of the finalists was Otto Wagner, though it’s true Wagner proposed a design far less modern than the work he was doing in Vienna. Wagner must have understood that the judges — given the location and purpose of the building, and their own backgrounds — weren’t looking for a radical architectural solution. What they wanted was a building that would align the arbitration court, a new untested institution, with powerful institutions of the past, and that’s what Louis-Marie Cordonnier delivered.
In the end, however, the board set out to make the Cordonnier proposal work. So in July 1906, shortly after announcing the winning entry, board members traveled to Dunkirk, France, to see that architect’s town hall. That building so closely resembled Cordonnier’s Peace Palace design that, in Eyffinger’s words, the board members might have felt “downright cheated by the plagiarism.”
Moreover, Cordonnier, busy at his office in Lille, had little interest in relocating to The Hague, or even in making regular visits. The board persuaded him to collaborate with a Dutch architect so as to move the project forward, and eventually Cordonnier brought in the Haarlem firm of Johan van der Steur.
Even with the simplified design, the board had to ask Carnegie for additional funds — which led to his belated discovery that a brick-and-mortar library was to be a major part of the building. (When he initially offered to provide the funds for a library at the Peace Palace, Carnegie explained, he had meant a collection of books, not a library structure.)
Van der Steur’s first task was to cut costs by modifying the original design. As Eyffinger recently noted, “The building was, both on financial and aesthetic grounds, stripped of its all-too-elaborate decorations (Cordonnier was an artist first, an architect second), and two bell towers were cut out altogether. The dimensions were reduced, the ground plan altered, and the overall appearance adapted to the more modest Dutch taste — van der Steur was a very sober architect, the opposite of Cordonnier, but not exactly a creative genius.” The building, now a 234-foot square surrounding a courtyard of 102 by 132 feet, was not universally beloved in its time. Reviewing the finished building in 1913, the New York Times called van der Steur’s interventions “detrimental to a general scheme which already was by far too conventional.”
Even with the simplified design, the board had to ask Carnegie for additional funds — which led to his belated discovery that a brick-and-mortar library was to be a major part of the building. (When he initially offered to provide the funds for a library at the Peace Palace, Carnegie explained, he had meant a collection of books, not a library structure.) “I am positively wounded…. To speak of ‘The Library and Court of Arbitration’ is as if a bereaved husband were to ask plans for a sacred shrine to ‘my nephew and my dear wife,’” Carnegie wrote in a letter to David Jayne Hill, the U.S. minister in The Hague. However, through an exchange of letters and some personal diplomacy, matters were eventually smoothed over.
Meanwhile, work proceeded in the van der Steur offices. The Peace Palace’s cornerstone was laid on July 30, 1907, during the Second International Peace Conference, which was held, like the first conference (1899), in The Hague. This symbolic act preceded the actual groundbreaking by months, and splendid gifts soon began pouring in from around the world. The Russian czar sent an ornate and very grand vase — so heavy that the floor below it needed reinforcement. America’s offering was perhaps less impressive, although today the marble figure of Peace Through Justice is given pride of place at the top of the great staircase in the main entry hall, greeting visitors to the Palace in her own way. As Eyffinger, the Dutch historian, explains wryly:
America’s official gift was the marble statue representing Peace Through Justice, as it was named. After WWI, with President Wilson furious at the profitable neutrality of the Dutch during the war, the U.S. Congress did not vote in favor of a gift to the Peace Palace, and the statue (by Andrew O’Connor, and not produced until 1924) will initially have been meant for different purposes altogether. The marble lady of peace wears a wedding ring and has hands like shovels. Perhaps the records of O’Connor’s life will tell you more of the provenance of the statue!
The result is an edifice rich in allegorical detail and metaphorical allusion. Here’s de Boer, the guidebook author, describing just a bit of the decor of the Great Hall of Justice, the nobly proportioned and beautifully appointed room in which the International Court of Justice sits in session:
Remarkable for this room are its four stained-glass windows, which are a present of Great Britain. They were painted by Douglas Strachan and represent the development of mankind from its primitive days to the period when war as a means of international politics will have been banished. The painting by Albert Besnard is a gift from France. It represents a young woman separating two horsemen to prevent their fighting, while the men standing on the rocks are trying to settle their dispute by arbitration.
A grand opening was scheduled for August 1913, a month during which peace conferences were held throughout The Hague. As Eyffinger writes in The Peace Palace, “All in all, it looked very much as if the whole universe of pacifism had gravitated to The Hague — indeed, the atmosphere … was that of a joyful world reunion.” The high point came on August 28, as hundreds of dignitaries turned out for the inauguration of the Peace Palace. Old world met new, with Andrew Carnegie bowing deeply to the Dutch queen. However, as Eyffinger observes, to the Dutch public that day, it was Andrew Carnegie who was visiting royalty, likening his ride to the Peace Palace to a Fifth Avenue ticker-tape parade. Carnegie was profoundly moved by the occasion. His diary for that day reads:
Looking back a hundred years, or less perchance, from today, the future historian is to pronounce the opening of a World Court for the Settlement of International Disputes by Arbitration the greatest one step forward ever taken by man, in his long and checkered march upward from barbarism. Nothing he has yet accomplished equals the substitution for war, of judicial decisions founded upon International Law, which is slowly, yet surely, to become the corner stone, so long rejected by the builders, of the grand edifice of Civilization.
Taking his turn at the lectern that day, Carnegie predicted that the end of war was “as certain to come, and come soon, as day follows night.”
Tragically, Carnegie’s certainty did not become a reality. Exactly 11 months to the day after the opening of the Peace Palace, World War I — “the war to end all wars” — erupted when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia. All seemed hopeless.
And yet …
The Peace Palace endures, and the seemingly never-ending work of the world’s peacebuilders continues.
In late September 2018, at the Peace Palace, Carnegie PeaceBuilding Conversations connected leading stakeholders from various backgrounds and generations, including underrepresented players and those directly affected by conflict and war. Presented by Carnegie institutions worldwide and their partners, the three-day program was designed to generate unexpected insights and routes for progress in promoting world peace.
At the closing event, held in the Great Hall of Justice, the winners of two notable peace prizes were announced and their extraordinary achievements celebrated. Youth-led organization BogotArt received the first Youth Carnegie Peace Prize for its “Letters of Reconciliation” project, which creates a dialogue between disconnected groups in Colombia, addressing the challenges of promoting youth participation in peace transition processes. For Leonardo Párraga, BogotArt executive director, the prize is “a direct demonstration of the power that the youth have to transform conflict and build sustainable peace.”
War correspondent Rudi Vranckx, winner of the 2018 Carnegie Wateler Peace Prize, has for more than three decades put his life on the line to give voice to people caught in some of the most dangerous conflict areas in the world. “Every word has consequences,” Vranckx reminded the audience. “Every silence does too. Silence is not an option.”
Again, old world met new. Next-generation peacebuilders are ready. Dr. Bernard R. Bot, chairman of the Carnegie Foundation–Peace Palace, forcefully invoked Andrew Carnegie, who made both the Peace Palace and the Carnegie Foundation tangible realities. “In all his ideas, he was dominated by an intense belief in the future, in progress, in education, and in a future without war. His spirit as well as his faith in the ability of individuals to better themselves, and thus the society in which they live, is a beacon of light for future generations to follow.”
Fred A. Bernstein studied architecture (at Princeton University) and law (at NYU) and writes about both subjects. He has contributed more than 400 articles, many on architecture, to the New York Times, and is a regular contributor to such magazines as Architectural Record and Architectural Digest. He has also published in journals like the New York University Review of Law and Social Change. In 2008 Bernstein won the Oculus Award, bestowed annually by the New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects for excellence in architecture writing.