What else would we use the letter C for but the name of the man without whom the Hall and it's subsequent illustrious history would never have come to pass?
The story of Andrew Carnegie's life (before the earliest suggestion of his eponymous Hall came into view in 1887) is well known. Born poor in Scotland, he became one of the richest men in the world through hard work and business acumen.
His involvement with what would become Carnegie Hall began in the middle of the Atlantic. In the spring of 1887, on board a ship traveling from New York to London, newlyweds Andrew Carnegie (the ridiculously rich industrialist) and Louise Whitfield (daughter of a well-to-do New York merchant) were on their way to the groom's native Scotland for their honeymoon. Also on board was the 25-year-old Walter Damrosch, who had just finished his second season as conductor and musical director of the Symphony Society of New York and the Oratorio Society of New York, and was traveling to Europe for a summer of study with Hans von Bülow.
Over the course of the voyage, the couple developed a friendship with Damrosch, inviting him to visit them in Scotland. It was there, at the Kilgraston estate, that Damrosch discussed his vision for a new concert hall in New York City. Carnegie expressed interest in committing a portion of his enormous wealth to the project, and the idea of Carnegie Hall was born. From this germ of an idea grew a legendary concert hall whose allure has drawn the world’s greatest artists to its stages, setting the standard for excellence in music for more than a century.
Although most people think of him as the white-bearded older man depicted in many photographs and portraits, Carnegie was already semi-retired by his mid-30s. He fully retired in 1901 and spent the rest of his life trying to give all of his money away. In addition to libraries, he provided hundreds of church organs to local communities. Carnegie's wealth helped to establish numerous colleges, schools, and nonprofit organizations all over the world.
By the time of his death in 1919, Andrew Carnegie had given away about $350 million (nearly $5 billion in contemporary currency). His efforts to give away all of his money continue through the work of the trusts and institutions that he endowed.
Carnegie Hall's Archives and Rose Museum Director Gino Francesconi explains how Andrew Carnegie was set apart from his Gilded Age contemporaries by his different approach to wealth.
RelatedA to Z of Carnegie HallThe History of the Hall