Visit the Birthplace of Philanthropist Andrew Carnegie
Visitors to the charming town of Dunfermline in Fife will find it worthwhile to set aside some time to explore the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum. As the name suggests, this historic stone cottage was the birthplace of Scottish-born philanthropist and millionaire, Andrew Carnegie (25 November 1835 – 11 August 1919). Carnegie immigrated to the United States with his family when he was 13 years old, and it was there that he made his fortune. But he never forgot the land, and town, of his birth, and Dunfermline was where he built the first of nearly 3,000 libraries he funded throughout Scotland and in other parts of the world.
The cottage was bought for Carnegie by his wife Louise as a gift for his 60th birthday. It was initially let out to tenants, but later opened to the public as a museum. Following the death of Carnegie, his wife funded the Memorial Treasure House – an extension of the original cottage – which was officially opened in June 1928. Since then the museum has been developed and upgraded, and visitors will find a range of colorful window panels, display cases filled with fascinating items, and interactive touch screens, offering insight into the history, arts, sciences and natural history of the region and beyond.
The life experiences of Andrew Carnegie and his family are detailed through various documents, books, manuscripts, photographs and personal items. His extensive philanthropic projects are also displayed, as are photographic records of his travels in Japan, China, India, Ceylon, Egypt and Italy back in the 1870s. The historic section of the museum covers the impact of the textile industry in Dunfermline and surrounding towns. Andrew Carnegie’s father worked at home as an independent weaver, and the industrialization of the industry, where weavers were expected to work in factories, was a motivating factor behind the family’s move to the United States. On display are various textiles, household items and furniture from that era, along with a collection of academic gowns and caps from universities which have bestowed honorary degrees on Andrew or Louise Carnegie in recognition of their contribution to learning through the establishment of libraries and education centers.
The museum’s fine arts collection includes works by renowned artists Andrew Blair, William Geddes, Howard Russell Butler, Seymour Thomas and Aaron Henry Gorson, with the subject matter including the Carnegie family, landscapes, townscapes and historical industrial scenes. The decorative arts collection boasts a range of presentation caskets gifted to Carnegie, as well as presentation mallets, honorary keys, honorary degrees and freedom certificates awarded to him.
The science collection at the Andrew Carnegie Birthplace Museum features documents and photographs chronicling the history of Carnegie’s steel industries in the United States, along with other items relating to his business, such as a section of the original T-shaped train rail manufactured in 1831 at the mills of Sir John Guest in Wales.
Andrew Carnegie was thought to be the richest man in the world, but had this to say: “The man who dies thus rich, dies disgraced.” He chose to use his wealth to benefit others with gifts that keep on giving.