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Oakland: Mr. Carnegie's Address


Two excerpts from Andrew Carnegie's address
at the dedication of The Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, 5 November 1895.

"Man does not live by bread alone." I have known millionaires starving for lack of the nutriment which alone can sustain all that is human in man, and I know workmen, and many so-called poor men, who revel in luxuries beyond the power of those millionaires to reach. It is the mind that makes the body rich. There is no class so pitiably wretched as that which possesses money and nothing else. Money can only be the useful drudge of things immeasurably higher than itself. Exalted beyond this, as it sometimes is, it remains Caliban still and still plays the beast. My aspirations take a higher flight. Mine be it to have contributed to the enlightenment and the joys of the mind, to the things of the spirit, to all that tends to bring into the lives of the toilers of Pittsburgh sweetness and light. I hold this the noblest possible use of wealth.

What we must seek, then, for surplus wealth, if we are to work genuine good, are uses which give nothing for nothing, which require co-operation, self-help, and which, by no possibility, can tend to sap the spirit of manly independence, which is the only sure foundation upon which the steady improvement of our race can be built. We were soon led to see in the Free Library an institution which fulfilled these conditions, and which must work only for good and never for evil. It gives nothing for nothing.

The taste for reading is one of the most precious possessions of life, and the success of Allegheny and Braddock Libraries proves that the masses in this community fully appreciate this fact, and are rapidly acquiring it.

I should much rather be instrumental in bringing to the working man or woman this taste than mere dollars. It is better than a fortune. When this library is supported by the community, as Pittsburgh is wisely to support her library, all taint of charity is dispelled. Every citizen of Pittsburgh, even the very humblest, now walks into this, his own library, for the poorest laborer contributes his mite indirectly to its support. The man who enters a library is in the best society this world affords; the good and the great welcome him, surround him, and humbly ask to be allowed to become his servants; and if he himself, from his own earnings, contributes to its support, he is more of a man than before.

Our newspapers have recently quoted from a speech in which I referred to the fact that Colonel Anderson--honored be his memory--opened his four hundred books to the young in Allegheny City, and attended every Saturday to exchange them; and that to him I was indebted, as was Mr. Phipps, for admission to the sources of knowledge and that I then resolved that if ever surplus wealth came to me--and nothing then seemed more unlikely, since my revenue was one dollar and twenty cents a week as a bobbin boy in a factory; still I had my dreams--it should be devoted to such work as Colonel Anderson's. The opening to-night of this library, free to the people, is one more realization of the boyish dream. But I also come by heredity to my preference for free libraries. The newspaper of my native town recently published a history of the free library in Dunfermline, and it is there recorded that the first books gathered together and opened to the public were the small collections of three weavers. Imagine the feelings with which I read that one of these three was my honored father. He founded the first library in Dunfermline, his native town, and his son was privileged to found the last. Another privilege is his--to build a library for the people, here in the community in which he has been so greatly blessed with material success. I have never heard of a lineage for which I would exchange that of the library-founding weaver. Many congratulations have been offered upon my having given for this purpose, which I have declined to receive, always saying, however, that I was open to receive the heartiest congratulations upon the City of Pittsburgh having resolved to devote part of its revenues to the maintenance of a library for its people.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope sufficient reasons have been given for devoting surplus wealth to the founding of the Library.

We now come to another branch, the Art Gallery and Museum, which the City is not to maintain. These are to be regarded as wise extravagances, for which public revenues should not be given, not as necessaries. These are such gifts as a citizen may fitly bestow upon a community and endow, so that it will cost the City nothing.

The Art Gallery and also the Museum you will to-night have an opportunity to see. Already many casts of the world's masterpieces of sculpture are within its walls. Ultimately, there will be gathered from all parts of the world casts of those objects which take highest rank. The Museum will thus be the means of bringing to the knowledge of the masses of the people who cannot travel many of the most interesting and instructive objects to be seen in the world; so that, while they pursue their tasks at home, they may yet enjoy some of the pleasures and benefits of travel abroad. If they cannot go to the objects which allure people abroad, we shall do our best to bring the rarest of those objects to them at home. Another use we have in view is that the objects, rare, valuable and historical, belonging to this region will here find their final home. We think we see that there will be gathered in this Museum many of the treasures of Western Pennsylvania, so that after generations may be able to examine many things in the far-distant past, which our present will then be, which otherwise would have been destroyed.

It is to be hoped that special attention will be given to the industrial feature, so that the artisans of Pittsburgh and their children may see and examine the raw materials as found in the mines, and after each of the various stages of their manufacture, up to the finished product, and that they may become acquainted with their physical and chemical properties, and learn how strange these are, and how wonderful their preparation for the use of man.

We should ever bear in mind that Pittsburgh is the greatest manufacturing centre, and can continue to be this if true to her destiny; and that the continuance of her supremacy rests equally upon the superior skill and intelligence of her workmen, for whom she is justly celebrated, and upon her men of affairs doing their duty. We are entitled to presume that there are in our mills to-day more than one embryo Brashear or Westinghouse capable of profiting by every new idea which we can place within their reach. It was well to begin with the mummies from Egypt, dating before our era, and to follow with casts of the great masterpieces of Greece and Rome, as we have begun, since these could be so readily acquired; but we should not end there. The practical and educative power of the Museum should never be overlooked, and it should be largely industrial.

Now we come to the third branch, the Art Gallery. Here we enter upon a wide field. I remember, as if it were yesterday, when I first awoke to the sense of color, and what an awakening it was and has been. A child, sitting in a cold, barren little church, the only relief to the dull white walls and plain ceiling being one inch of a border of colored glass around the edge of the principal window, and yet that narrow line of little square pieces of different colors was the first glimpse I ever had of what seemed to me the radiance of heaven. Color in nature--on the moors, and on the hills, and in the sky, and in the streams, and on the sea--and the scene of beauty pervading the earth becomes more and more a tearful joy. I am firmly convinced that no surer means of improving the tastes of men can be found than through color and the sense of beauty. The cant of art, indulged in most by those who are least under its influence, is not, perhaps, to be altogether deplored, for it keeps interest alive. Each petty school calls aloud that it has the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, but no school can embrace the whole, since art is universal, and the judgment of the masses of the people is finally to prove the truest test of the supreme in art, as it is admittedly in literature. Let us hope that the pictures exhibited here from time to time will be of all schools, and reach both extremes--the highest critic and the humblest citizen; as the greatest books appeal to both, and attract not only the few, but the many. That extreme care will be given to the purchase of pictures for the historical collection may be taken for granted.

One of the most important objects in view in endowing it with annual revenues is that this Gallery should eventually contain a chronological collection of American painting and sculpture. It is provided that the commission shall each year purchase at least three works of American artists exhibited in that year, preferably in this Gallery. These are to be placed permanently side by side, each year, so that if we imagine the coming of the year 2000 or 3000, Pittsburgh should be able to show to the world--for we may assume that the whole world will then be interested--an historical record of what was considered by a commission in this early day of the world's history the best that the United States year after year produced. It will not much matter historically, as you will observe, whether these pictures are invariably of surpassing excellence; if art in the United States has its periods of decadence and revival, it is proper that a historical record should show this clearly.

The commission is empowered, should it ever be necessary, to expend part of the endowment for extensions to the Gallery, so there never can be cessation of growth from lack of room.

There is a great field lying back of us, which it is desirable that some institution should occupy by gathering the earliest masterpieces of American painting from the beginning. But the field for which this Gallery is designed begins with the year 1896. From next year we may hope that the Nation will have something worthy of being considered in after years a record from year to year. Some day, perhaps, and that may not be remote, the artists of the United States will strive to have one of their productions selected as the best of its year, and placed in the historical collection of this Gallery, as to-day they strive to be admitted to the Luxembourg, and through the Chantrey bequest, to the British National Gallery. If this fond hope be realized, then Pittsburgh will be famous for art as it is now for steel. While thus looking to the future for these grand results, we shall have in the present the supreme satisfaction of endeavoring to do something year after year, in our own day and generation, toward the development and maintenance of the coming school of national American art. (14)

Mrs. Carnegie and myself, who have given this subject much thought, and have had it upon our minds for years, survey to-night what has been done; the use to which we have put our surplus wealth, the community to which we have devoted it, and say to ourselves, if we had the decision to make again we should resolve to do precisely as we have done. We feel that we have made the best use of surplus wealth according to our judgment and conscience; beyond that is not for us; it is for the citizens of Pittsburgh to decree whether the tree planted in your midst shall wither or grow and bear such fruits as shall best serve the county where my parents and myself first found in this land a home, and to which we owe so much.

There is nothing in what we have done here that can possibly work evil; all must work good, and that continually. If a man would learn of the treasures of art, he must come here and study; if he would gain knowledge, he must come to the library and read; if he would know of the great masterpieces of the world in sculpture or architecture, or of nature's secrets in the minerals which he refines, or of natural history, he must spend his time in the museum; if he is ever to enjoy the elevating solace and delights of music, he must frequent this [music] hall and give himself over to its sway. There is nothing here that can tend to pauperize, for there is neither trace nor taint of charity; nothing which will help any man who does not help himself; nothing is given here for nothing. But there are ladders provided upon which the aspiring may climb to the enjoyment of the beautiful and the delights of harmony, whence comes sensibility and refinement; to the sources of knowledge, from which spring wisdom; and to wider and grander views of human life, from whence comes the elevation of man.

We now hand over the gift; take it from one who loves Pittsburgh deeply and would serve her well. (15)

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