Bar Harbor has so much to offer in the way of natural beauty and outdoor activity that it is hard for us to honestly suggest that visitors ought to spend much time indoors, but one who spends the better part of the day hiking or biking or kayaking does require some degree of rest. For such occasions we keep a number of books on hand (not to mention many cozy places to enjoy them!), and one we suggest might be of particular interest to our guests is David Nasaw’s account of Andrew Carnegie. At about 800 pages in length the book is somewhat of an undertaking, however it is broken up into 42 chapters which can be picked at individually–for example, several chapters provide a look at the issue of labor relations during a formative period of the industrial economy, while a later chapter details the transaction that created US Steel, the world’s first billion-dollar company, and briefly made Carnegie the wealthiest person alive (he was soon overtaken by John D. Rockefeller, whose family’s donations of land comprise much of Acadia National Park). Additionally, those interested in Carnegie’s philanthropic ventures will find a great deal of insight into his motives and manner of giving. Somehow Carnegie managed to give away nearly all his money in his own lifetime–rather a tall task, as his assets amounted to something of rough equivalence to a few hundred billion 2019 dollars.
We think it’s always enriching for travelers to read about those subjects with connections to the local area, so it is worthy of note that Carnegie was good friends with James G. Blaine, probably the most influential politician in Maine’s history. Blaine’s political career began rather humbly in the Maine House of Representatives and yet he very nearly won the presidency in 1884, losing the election narrowly to Grover Cleveland of New York. Carnegie was a master of cultivating key relationships in the context of his business ventures so it’s no surprise he took a liking to a politician as influential and well connected as Blaine, who served as Secretary of State under three different Presidents. Carnegie was a world traveler and visited Blaine in Bar Harbor, where Blaine owned the palatial Stanwood Cottage, which once stood only a mile or two from The Inn on Mount Desert.