Carnegie Hero Fund

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Andrew Carnegie Andrew Carnegie, three-quarter length portrait, seated, facing slightly left, 1913.jpg
Andrew Carnegie

The Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, also known as Carnegie Hero Fund, was established to recognize persons who perform extraordinary acts of heroism in civilian life in the United States and Canada, and to provide financial assistance for those disabled and the dependents of those killed saving or attempting to save others. Those chosen for recognition receive the Carnegie Medal [1] and become eligible for scholarship aid and other benefits. A private operating foundation, the Hero Fund was established in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1904 with a trust fund of $5 million by Andrew Carnegie, the Scottish-American industrialist and philanthropist.



The fund was inspired by Selwyn M. Taylor and Daniel A. Lyle, who gave their lives in rescue attempts following the Harwick Mine disaster in Harwick, Pennsylvania, just outside Pittsburgh, on January 25, 1904. The disaster claimed 181, including Taylor and Lyle, who were killed during rescue attempts. Greatly touched by Taylor's and Lyle's sacrifice, Carnegie had medals privately minted for their families, and within two months he wrote the Hero Fund's governing "Deed of Trust", [2] which was adopted by the newly created commission on April 15, 1904.


The Fund is administered by a 21-member volunteer board and a small staff. [3] As of December 2022, a total of 10,340 Carnegie Medals have been awarded since the Fund was established, with the Fund paying $40.5 million in grants, scholarships, death benefits, and other aid. [4] About 11% of nominees received the Carnegie Medal. [5]

The Commission’s working definition of a hero as well as its requirements for awarding remain largely those that were approved by the founder. The Fund's website states the criteria:

About 90% of those awarded are male, and, over the life of the Fund, roughly one-quarter of awards have been given posthumously. [6]

Carnegie Medal

The three inch (7.13 cm) in diameter bronze medals which are given to awardees, are struck by Simons Brothers Co. of Philadelphia and consist of 90% copper and 10% zinc. [7]

A verse from the Gospel of John encircles the outer edge: "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (John 15:13).

The first medals issued by the trust were in bronze, silver and gold. The trust soon stopped issuing gold medals. The last silver medal was issued in 1981. [7]

Expanded into Europe

Dutch medal of the Carnegie Hero Fund. Medaille Carneggie Heldenfonds.jpg
Dutch medal of the Carnegie Hero Fund.

On 21 September 1908, Andrew Carnegie expanded the concept with the establishment of the British Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, based in Dunfermline, Scotland. [8]

Within the next three years, the British trust was followed by equivalent foundations in nine other European countries:

See also

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  1. "Awardees". Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  2. "Deed of Trust". Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Retrieved 22 March 2016.
  3. Commission Members and Staff, Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.
  4. 18 named Carnegie heroes for acts of extraordinary heroism, Carnegie Hero Fund Commission, December 18, 2018.
  5. 1 2 Investigation Process, Carnegie Hero Fund Commission.
  6. McDougall, Christopher (November 2007). "The Hidden Cost of Heroism". Men's Health. p. 207-08.
  7. 1 2 "Carnegie Medal". Carnegie Hero Fund Commission. Retrieved 18 December 2015.
  8. "Carnegie Hero Fund Trust, Registered Charity no. SC000729". Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator.