Home / General / Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 19

Erik Visits an American Grave, Part 19


This is the grave of Andrew Carnegie, self-made man, steel capitalist, and terrible human who tried to buy love for his many, many sins, especially at Homestead, by building libraries around the country. Over half the towns in Pennsylvania rejected his libraries because they knew it was blood money from the dead bodies of his steel workers.


Andrew Carnegie is buried in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, Sleepy Hollow, New York. Oddly, one can throw a baseball from his grave and hit the grave of Samuel Gompers. Why they are buried not only in the same cemetery, but right next to each other, I have no idea.

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  • D.N. Nation

    …that’s it?

    • Vance Maverick

      Yep, when you die, all that’s left is a tombstone.

      Or were you complaining about the amount Erik chose to write?

      • D.N. Nation

        Let’s put it this way: Many of my relatives died penniless in Lowcountry South Carolina and all of their graves look more impressive than that. Surprised Carnegie didn’t design a big ol’ honkin’ monument to himself, but maybe humility was the intended aesthetic.

        • He was a Calvinist after all.

        • Jackov

          That is just Carnegie’s grave, his mausoleum
          is in Pittsburgh.

          • Bitter Scribe


            I thought a mausoleum was an above-ground grave. A house for dead people.

            Or as Ambrose Bierce called it, “The final and funniest folly of the rich.”

            • Jackov

              Less fun calling the Carnegie Museum a cenotaph

              I would not mind being interred in the Hall of Architecture.
              Looks like there is some room under the Parthenon.

  • CP

    Would’ve been nice if he’d put that money into paying his workers.

    • Brett

      That was the cruel joke of the matter. When Frick pressed his bad-faith demands, the union essentially offered to give up everything as long as they could keep the union. If Frick (and Carnegie) had actually intended to bargain in good faith, they would have walked away with a near-total victory anyways.

      • CP

        It’s just as important to take away the people’s illusion that they have a voice, as it is to take away their actual voice. If your workers are allowed to believe that they have any say on how the company works (in this case by allowing a union, even a toothless and tamed union), they might start thinking that they actually do have such a say, and that might make them restless, make them start asking for change again, later on.

  • Origami Isopod

    Why they are buried not only in the same cemetery, but right next to each other, I have no idea.

    The cosmos has a sense of humor?

    • N__B

      I blame Washington Irving.

    • BruceJ

      Because Sleepy Hollow NY is right in the heart of Westchester county, aka “the Gilt Hudson”, where ALL the Gilded Age monsters had their estates.

  • Linnaeus

    One of the old Carnegie libraries here was, a few years ago, an upscale restaurant named, of course, Carnegie’s. Now, I think it’s an Aussie/Kiwi bar.

  • Bruce Vail

    Washington Irving also buried in the same cemetery.

    The old Phillipse Manor in Sleepy Hollow was a day-trip destination for thousands of elementary school kids in the area when I was young. The Phillipse were Dutch-American landowners who exerted a kind of feudal control in the area into the early 1800s. The little town where I grew up, about 30 miles away, was once part of the Phillipse Patent.

    • Bruce Vail



      Haven’t been there in more than 40 years, but I remember it as being an interesting excursion for a youngster interested in history.

      • Dilan Esper

        Any headless horseman sightings?

      • BruceJ

        When we lived there (my wife grew up in Irvington, the next town south of Tarrytown, and where Philipse Manor is) we’d make regular pilgrimages for corn meal; they have a working grist mill as part of the estate, and sell freshly stone-ground cornmeal. Our cornbread recipe is right off the back of the package.

        • Sev

          Their discussion of slavery, class and the triangular trade has gotten a lot franker in recent years.

          • Bruce Vail

            I have no recollection of the slave trade being mentioned at all when I visited as a kid in the late 1960s. At that time, they seemed to want to gloss over some of the grittier facts of history in favor of a pleasurable tourist experience. I remember being surprised to learn years later that the Phillipse family were unrepentant British loyalists during the Revolutionary War and most of their lands were confiscated by the victorious patriots.

  • Hogan

    On his deathbed Carnegie sent a letter to Frick asking if they could meet and reconcile.

    Frick glanced up at Bridge accusingly, as if the messenger knew full well what was in the letter. “So Carnegie wants to meet me, does he?” . . .
    “Yes, you can tell Carnegie I’ll meet him,” Frick said finally, wadding the letter up and tossing it back at Bridge. “Tell him I’ll see him in hell, where we both are going.”

  • Brett

    Why they are buried not only in the same cemetery, but right next to each other, I have no idea.

    So they can rise from the grave, fist fight under the moonlight, and then return to rest before the sun rise. Duh.

  • West

    Andrew Carnegie was also one of the 61 owner/members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club, which owned the dam and reservoir that were responsible for the Johnstown Flood. That club had not built the dam, but they had performed numerous misguided alterations to it that badly weakened the original construction. Maintenance procedures were also severely flawed.

    Death toll from the flood was 2,209, including almost 100 entire families. Many gravestones had to go unmarked because there were no survivors who could identify many of the dead: in many cases, the deceased’s entire cohort of potential identifiers had also been killed, or were too injured and / or traumatized to do any identifying.

    The club was of course sued, but this was in the days before the concept of joint and several liability had entered US law, and so Carnegie and the other 60 owners got off scot-free in court (they of course later made a very generous voluntary contribution to a victims’ relief fund, and probably bragged about it). It was very clear to all that the club members shared responsibility from any common sense perspective, but no specific stupid decision could be pinned clearly behind any one club owner. And the owners of course threw workers under the bus (the workers who had done the actual dam modifications, that is, as well as the workers who had struggled to deal with the rising storm runoff and debris jam in the spillway on the night of the flood). My admittedly very imperfect understanding of the “joint and several” aspect of US law is that it arose partly from the outrage over the outcome of the Johnstown Flood litigation. Maybe one of the legal historians can correct me if I’m wrong, or fill in if I’m in the ballpark.

    I don’t dispute the evils of Homestead, but even if that had never happened, Carnegie and his 60 co-members of that club (including Mr. Frick!) should be burning in one of the hotter portions of Hell (if it exists) for their sins along the South Fork of the Conemaugh River.

    • LeeEsq

      The real reason why individual members of the South Fork Fishing and Hunting Club could not be found liable was because they designed the club’s finances to protect individual assets. The club itself had to be sued and the club had no resources to pay plaintiffs if they prevailed in the case. This caused state courts to adopt the British case, Rylands v. Fisher witch held that landowners are liable for unnatural uses of land. This has more to do with the idea of strict liability, that some activities are so unnaturally dangerous that you are going to be liable even if you did everything in your power to prevent harm.

      • West

        Thanks for the reference, I had thought there was some landmark case stemming from the Johnston Flood, couldn’t find it on a search. After seeing your post, I recalled that the case was borrowed from British law, which I find interesting: that we would still borrow legal concepts from Perfidious Albion post-1776!! (I refer to the home of over 50% of my ancestry so I’m allowed to call it that.)

        Is this strict liability concept akin to the concept I hear attorneys use called “corporate veil”? I usually hear it in the context of whether that veil can be “pierced” or not.

        I mean, all corporations and LLCs and partnerships are designed to shield individual assets, right? That’s the point and has been long before the Johnstown Flood, yes? And so at the property-owning level entities are intentionally set up to have either assets themselves, other than the property interest itself, while smoothly passing financial and tax benefits through to other entities, or individuals, that DO have assets.

        So any time a property-owning company of any formation gets sued, the question always arises as to whether the plaintiffs can pierce the corporate veil, right? (Along with lots of other questions, like, is there insurance so we don’t need to pierce the veil?) At the time of the flood, were there no other legal pathways, such as proving fraud or malfeasance, where the veil could get pierced, aside from this “unnatural uses of the land” that you reference and which came along later?

        On one point: you use the phrase “even if you did everything in your power to prevent harm.” If you meant that in the abstract, I fully understand what you mean. In the specific case of this dam, the club members may have done everything in their power to prevent harm to themselves via legal structures and corporate entity formation. However, the owners certainly did not do everything in their power to prevent harm to others from their dam; to the contrary, they did a long list of things very badly that collectively were very probably the cause of the disaster. And most of the things they did badly were understood at that time to be bad ideas; their own workers testified that they had argued against the owners on some of the specific alterations.

        • LeeEsq

          Strict liability merely means that for some activities a person is always liable if injury results because the activity is considered abnormally dangerous or some other reason. With other torts, there are a variety of defenses that remove liability but not with strict liability torts. It has nothing to do with piercing the corporate veil. Piercing the corporate veil is about holding the directors and officers personally liable for the actions of a corporation under certain circumstances.

  • DrDick

    I hope you availed yourself of the unique opportunity to relieve yourself.

    • bexley

      I assume he’s saving it for when he visits Scalia’s grave.

      • Aubergine

        With all the wonderful craft beers everywhere in America, no deserving grave need be neglected.

        • DrDick

          Indeed. Scalia’s grave merits binge eating and Exlax.

          • Malaclypse

            No, because solids will get cleaned up by some poor working stiff. Always stick with your basic liquid excretory functions.

        • bexley

          The pee of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the beer of patriots and marxists.

  • Juicy_Joel

    Do you leave coinage on all the graves you visit or was Boss Tweed special in that respect?

    Also what significance does this practice have?

    • Only Tweed.

      None of this has any significance at all.

  • John Revolta

    How do I get to Carnegie’s grave?

    • Hogan

      Practice dying.

    • Vance Maverick

      No, no, it’s “Who’s buried in Carnegie Hall?”

      • Lee Rudolph

        That’s “Carnegie Hell”, if you please!

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