From the archives: The Carnegies visit Santa Cruz

From the archives
Carnegie, center, was honored at a luncheon among the redwoods. Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Public Libraries.
Andrew Carnegie in Santa Cruz, 1910. Photo courtesy of Santa Cruz Public Libraries.


By contemporary accounts, the visit of Andrew Carnegie and his wife, Louise, and daughter, Margaret, to Santa Cruz, Calif., on March 11, 1910, was thoroughly enjoyed by both the visitors and their hosts. The Carnegies were in the middle of a six-week rail tour that started in New York City, and on the agenda was a visit to the Carnegie Library of Santa Cruz, which was built in 1903 with a $20,000 grant from Carnegie.

The Santa Cruz Sentinel recorded the visit in an article by Josephine Clifford McCrackin as appearing the next day: “Royalty itself had never a more royal welcome than the Carnegies had at the library… Every inch of standing room was occupied on the main floor of the library; all that Santa Cruz holds of men prominent in mercantile enterprise and the professions, ecclesiastics and men in literary pursuits and journalistic branches, was present.” Children were given a half-day off school to see the “greatest public educator in the world.”

McCrackin described their benefactor: “Naturally Andrew Carnegie himself was the object on which every eye was fastened, a slender-built elderly gentleman, not above medium height, but with head and face remarkable for character and expression. His pictures do not do him justice; I had thought him a severe, stern-looking man; but his face is genial, and he has the most beaming smile, as though his very soul looked out through his eyes. With the most unaffected interest he seemed to listen to all that was told him; shaking hands and making friends, for it is easy to prophesy that all to him this kindly, pleasant-faced man speaks, will be his friends for all times. Yet there is something shrewd and penetrating in these eyes, a canny Scot, who can not be deceived.”

Festivities then included a visit by the Carnegies and local dignitaries to a stand of redwoods, with a steak luncheon for 50 served in the grove (top photo). Carnegie was clearly impressed by the giant trees: “Several times I have murmured to myself today, ‘the groves were God’s first temples,’ and I do not believe any temple ever reared by the hand of man can be considered in the same place with this before us.” Sentinel coverage reported that he was “speechless to describe all that he had seen. His wife replied, ‘Yes, especially with your phonetic spelling and the limited vocabulary you advocate.’”

Margaret, who would turn 13 later that month, recorded in her journal: “We were shown all the biggest trees… and our inclination was to talk in whispers. I felt as if I were in church.”

The Carnegies were given redwood seeds as well as a redwood sprout planted in a small baking powder can. Carnegie said his intent was to plant the young tree and the seeds on the grounds of Skibo, his estate in the Highlands of Scotland. Before the party rose to their feet to sing Auld Lang Syne, Mrs. Carnegie said, “I will remember these big trees always, but more still I will remember the big hearts of your people.”

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