Andrew Carnegie’s most trusted confidant was his wife, Louise. “I can’t imagine myself without Lou’s guardianship,” he often said. He didn’t make one decision without first asking “Lou’s” opinion. In her quiet manner, she helped oversee one of the largest fortunes in US history, changing philanthropy forever. But it didn’t start off that way. In fact, it almost didn’t start at all.
Andrew met Louise Whitfield when he was 45 and she was 23. He was one the most famous bachelors in the US with a value of $20 million ($350 million today) and growing. His merged steel companies would become the largest corporation on earth. He had semi-retired and moved from Pittsburgh to New York City, taking a large suite of rooms at the Windsor Hotel for himself and his mother, Margaret. She was a formidable woman and Carnegie was devoted to her. While he had seen several women as potential marriage partners, inevitably they all ended the same. Margaret felt there was no woman good enough for her “Andra.” Louise would change that, but it took nearly a decade.
Louise Whitfield was born in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan on March, 7, 1857. Her parents, John and Fannie, descended from families that emigrated from England in the 1600s. The Henry Whitfield House in Guilford, Connecticut, is one of the oldest houses in America, dating from 1639—just 19 years after the arrival of the Pilgrims.