Andrew Carnegie, Organ Donor

  • Religion
  • 1902

By the beginning of the twentieth century the organ had become an important animator of worship in American churches. Andrew Carnegie turned up the volume by donating nearly 7,700 organs to churches worldwide (4,100 of those in the U.S.), starting in 1902. Carnegie, only a sporadic churchgoer himself, considered fine music a devotional experience, and quoted Confucius’ line: “O Music, sacred tongue of God, I hear thee calling, and I come.” His organ-funding program was very methodical. Churches applying to his foundation had to contribute half of the funds, and they had to select an organ that was suited to the size of their worship hall. It was an ecumenical program—Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, Lutheran, and Episcopal congregations alike received instruments. This highly personal initiative by one of America’s seminal donors transformed American church life.