At one point in his life, Andrew Carnegie was the richest man in the United States. Not bad for the uneducated son of a feckless Scottish weaver.Tiny Andrew (he stood less than five feet tall which is why he was often photographed in his top hat, and never photographed next to his taller wife unless she sat or stooped) was a force to be reckoned with -- smiling and joking and telling tales, treating his friends lavishly but at the same time absolutely ruthless in his treatment of employees or colleagues.
David Nasaw has written a dauntingly thorough biography. It is a fascinating book, partly because of the many stories he tells about his subject's character, his triumphs and failures, but also because of his attention to the historical details of the period. As Carnegie himself admitted, he was able to acquire his fortune because the laws allowed his rapacious actions, and his very success was untimately responsible for the passage of financial and labor legislation which have leveled the playing ground at least a bit.