Andrew Carnegie and New York's Public Libraries


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By Tom Meyers and Bowery Boys Media. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.

EPISODE 308 In the final decades of his life, steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie -- one of the richest Americans to ever live -- began giving his money away.

The Scots American had worked his way up from a railroad telegraph office to amass an unimaginable fortune, acquired in a variety of industries -- railroads, bridge building, iron and steel.

In the age of the monopoly, Gilded Age moguls often made their money in ways we might consider unethical and illegal today. But Carnegie's view of his wealth was quite different than that of his rarefied clubhouse peers

Carnegie devoted his latter years to philanthropy, primarily devoting his energies to the creation of libraries across the country.

By the late 19th century, the New York City area already had dozens of libraries and reading rooms throughout the future five boroughs. But they were certainly not welcoming to every person. And those circulating libraries that were available were limited and woefully overburdened.

Carnegie's unprecedented financial gift to the city would jump start the city's nascent library systems (the New York Public Library, the Brooklyn Public Library and the Queens Public Library) and broaden their reach into communities with the development of dozens of new branch libraries.

In this episode, we are joined by Adwoa Adusei and Krissa Corbett Cavouras, hosts of the Brooklyn Public Library podcast Borrowed, who give the Bowery Boys a tour of one of Carnegie's most popular New York City libraries.

In the winter of 1908, thousands stood in line to visit the new Brownsville branch library. How do treasured structures like Brownsville continue to serve the needs of the neighborhood in the 21st century? Are Carnegie libraries, most of which still stand, prepared for the future?

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