Celebrating Louise Carnegie

Thank you to Irene Lofthouse for her wonderful portrayal of Andrew Carnegie’s most trusted confident, his wife Louise Carnegie, in Keighley Local Studies library on Saturday 12th October, given to a packed audience. This event in our historic Carnegie library marked Libraries week and 100 years since the death of Andrew Carnegie in 1919.

Here are some photographs of the event and a short biography of Mrs Carnegie.


Louise Whitfield was born in Manhattan on March, 7, 1857. Her parents, John and Fannie, descended from families that emigrated from England in the 1600s… Louise’s father was a textile merchant. As he prospered he moved the family from Chelsea to Gramercy Park (where one of Louise’s playmates would be Teddy Roosevelt) and finally to a comfortable brownstone uptown on West 48 Street and Fifth Avenue—two blocks away from the Windsor Hotel. Andrew met John Whitfield through a mutual friend and enjoyed his company. He made frequent visits to the Whitfield home; during one of those visits, he met Louise.

Mrs Carnegie

Louise Carnegie

They shared a love of riding horses and he invited her often to Central Park. During these rides, she let it be known she didn’t want to marry someone who was already successful, but rather help a husband to succeed. He let it be known that he had no intention of holding on to his fortune, but rather wished to give it all away…

…Louise realized that Andrew would not marry while his mother was alive; four years after their meeting, the engagement was called off. But not the friendship. After nearly a year of corresponding, they decided to renew their engagement, but kept it a secret from Andrew’s mother.

Mr Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

In the fall of 1886, Andrew contracted typhoid fever; inconceivably a week later, his brother Tom became ill with pneumonia. While Andrew’s condition fluctuated, Tom’s rapidly deteriorated and he died on October 19 at the age of 43, leaving behind a wife and nine children. Margaret, already ailing, could not bear the news of the illnesses of her two sons and died three weeks later on November 11 at the age of 77. She was not told of Tom’s death and Andrew was not told of his mother’s death for nearly three weeks until he was fully recovered.’ https://www.carnegiehall.org/Blog/2013

The couple married in 1887 and, unusual for the time, they signed a pre-nuptial agreement, in which Andrew stated that he wanted to give away the bulk of his fortune. They were married for 32 years, had one child named Margaret, and Louise was an influential member of the board of The Carnegie Corporation until her death in Manhattan on June 24, 1946, at the age of 89.

Outstanding community benefits for the time

Significantly, the Carnegie Institute in New York City hosted events and meetings for the American Women’s Suffrage Movement. Similarly the Carnegies’ libraries were accessible to both sexes, all classes and all ethnicities. In fact, the Carnegie Library in Washington was the first public building that was non segregational.

Keighley’s Carnegie Public Library


Mrs Louise Carnegie was also ever present as a guiding hand with the arrangements undertaken with Sir Swire Smith for the gift of £10,000 for the building of Keighley Carnegie Public Library. This was the first library in the whole of England ever to be financed by Andrew Carnegie. The money was gifted to the people of Keighley by the Carnegie family because of the wonderful achievements of Keighley’s students, from all backgrounds, studying at Keighley’s Mechanics’ Institute. In the above photograph, Mrs Carnegie is seated with Andrew on her right and Sir Swire Smith, the champion of Keighley Mechanics’ Institute on her left. Mrs Louise Carnegie later attended the ceremony with her husband for the conferring of the Freedom of Keighley to Mr Carnegie and it was she who distributed the prizes to the students on that day, 25th September 1900.

Keighley Library view c1929corespondence 1899

The Carnegie Corporation of New York

Andrew Carnegie established this in 1911,

“to promote the advancement and diffusion of knowledge and understanding,” it is one of the oldest and most influential of American grant-making foundations

“The Corporation has devoted unremitting effort toward the two issues Andrew Carnegie considered of paramount importance: international peace and the advancement of education and knowledge.”  https://www.carnegie.org/about/our-history

The Carnegie UK Trust

Established in 1913 by Scottish-American philanthropist Andrew Carnegie:

“We have sought to deliver this mission in a number of ways over the past 100 years – investing in libraries, public space, further education, social work, children’s rights, rural development and many more…”



Gina Birdsall, Keighley Local Studies Library

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