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Andrew Carnegie: The Man Who Funded Libraries for Dublin's 'Toiling Masses'

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Presented by Charleville Mall Library, as part of Dublin Festival of History 2021

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Charleville Mall Library is delighted to host this online presentation by Dr. Mary Muldowney, Dublin City Council Historian-in-Residence for Dublin Central. Mary will explore the life and work of Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, including the contribution he made to the development of a public library service in Ireland.

Carnegie made a vast fortune in the American steel industry in the late 19th century but in the 20th century he turned his attention to philanthropy. He gave millions of dollars in charitable grants in the United States and throughout what was then the British Empire, including Ireland. Carnegie developed his ‘Gospel of Wealth’, in which he called on the rich to use their resources to improve society. In this regard he supported progressive taxation, including estate tax, and inspired a wave of philanthropy, giving away $350 million or 90 per cent of his own fortune.

One of the most enduring beneficiaries of his largesse is the library system in English-speaking countries, including Ireland, where he subsidised libraries for the ‘toiling masses’, to enable the poor to have access to books and the enlightenment they bring. Receipt of a grant was contingent on it being used to build or endow a publicly supported library, which would be open to people from all walks of life. Sixty six libraries in Ireland were funded to some extent by the Carnegie wealth. Charleville Mall Library was itself a beneficiary of a grant from the Carnegie Foundation, which funded a large extension to the building just a few short years after it opened as the first purpose built public library in Dublin City.

Dr. Mary Muldowney is the Dublin City Council Historian in Residence for Dublin Central. Mary is the author of books, articles and other writing on a wide range of historical subjects. She is a member of the organising committee of the Irish Labour History Society and the Grangegorman Histories Working Group and regularly presents talks on different aspects of the history of Dublin Central.

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Organiser of Andrew Carnegie: The Man Who Funded Libraries for Dublin's 'Toiling Masses'

The Dublin Festival of History is an annual free festival, brought to you by Dublin City Council, and organised by Dublin City Libraries, in partnership with the Dublin City Council Culture Company.

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