Saturday, November 11, 2006

Pittsburgh Pirates

In an earlier post, I linked to Matthew Price's review of biographies of Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. I had titled that post Pittsburgh Powerhouses after a phrase used by Price. A better title, used for headlining Richard Parker's review in NYTimes, is "Pittsburgh Pirates".

The word "Pirate" used to bring violent and horrific images to mind; after its appropriation by Pittsburgh's baseball team, it now brings to mind (to the American mind, at least) a bunch of people indulging in acts no more violent than throwing, hitting and chasing a ball. (I'm specifically ignoring the comic faux fights that break out every once in a while in baseball games!). The word's past and present reputations parallel, roughly, those of the two Andrews of Pittsburgh. The lives of Carnegie and Mellon had many episodes of atrocious public behaviour (corruption, union busting of a horribly violent sort, tax evasion, the works); and yet, their present reputation is in far better shape, thanks largely to their philanthropic acts that include the founding of many public libraries (Carnegie) and the National Gallery of Art (Mellon).

The biographies seem forbidding: both reviews emphasize their size (together, they add up to a formidable 1700 pages). The reviewers also point to Carnegie as a far more interesting character, and to his biography by David Nasaw as the better of the two. I will certainly be looking out for this book when it becomes available in India (preferably under the crucial 10 dollar price barrier).


  1. Anonymous said...

    Never knew that Carnegie and Mellon were different people!

    I was in Pittsburgh last week, and visited the Carnegie museum of natural history -- all the dinosaurs and all. It was great.

  2. Abi said...

    The Carnegie museum and the Carnegie public library (which is right next to it) are treasures of Pittburgh. Truly wonderful places.