Only known recording of Andrew Carnegie gives voice to history

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Andrew Carnegie is 78 years old, far from Pittsburgh and the steelmaking that made him rich. His voice is shrill, laced with an unmistakable Scottish brogue, as he reads from his 1889 essay "The Gospel of Wealth," a text he altered slightly for a reading inside Thomas Edison's sound studio in the Bronx, N.Y.

The recording, set down 93 years ago on a contraption known as the "Kinetophone," is far from pristine, both in quality and performance. Amid static, the greatest steelmaker of the 19th century and the father of modern philanthropy clears his voice twice and stumbles a few times before finding his groove at the end of the six-minute track. Raising and lowering his high-pitched voice for emphasis, Mr. Carnegie hammers home his message about the responsibility of millionaires to give away their fortunes: "The day is not far distant when the man who dies leaving behind him millions of available wealth, which was his to administer during life, will pass away un-wept, un-honored and un-sung . . . Of such as these the public verdict will then be: 'The man who dies thus rich dies disgraced.'"

This is the only known chronicle of what the diminutive, white-haired icon of the Gilded Age actually sounded like. Earlier this month, a digitally restored copy of the Jan. 20, 1914, recording was given to Carnegie Mellon University President Jared Cohon by James Mellon II, a great-great grandson of Mr. Carnegie's Pittsburgh contemporary, "Judge" Thomas Mellon, during a philanthropic medal ceremony in Oakland. Another honoree, Eli Broad of Los Angeles, cited Mr. Carnegie's "The Gospel of Wealth" as an influence on his own philosophy of giving, saying that "he who gives while he lives knows where it goes."

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