Horatio Alger Jr. - History

Horatio Alger Jr. - History


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Horatio Alger, Jr., was born in Revere, Massachusetts, on January 13, 1834. After graduating from Harvard College in 1852, he traveled in Europe, then spent three years writing for local newspapers. His father pressured him into enrolling at Harvard Divinity School, from which he received a degree in 1860. Alger spent another year traveling in Europe, and was ordained as a minister of a Unitarian church in Brewster, Massachusetts in 1834. In 1836, however, after having written several novels that drew little notice, he moved to New York to devote himself to writing. He drew on his social work experiences at the Newsboys’ Lodging House in New York, and began writing stories about young men. Ragged Dick (1867), his first serial story, became a bestseller. In addition to his novels, such as Luck and Pluck (1869) and Tattered Tom (1871), he wrote biographies of self-made American men, such as Abraham Lincoln, the Backwoods Boy (1883) and the James Garfield biography From Canal Boy to President (1881). Alger also wrote a book of poems, entitled Grand’ther Baldwin’s Thanksgiving (1875).
Through his biographies and 119 novels, Alger created an architypical hero who embodied the American dream: a young man who brought himself out of poverty through hard work, and succeeded in becoming a man of greatness. The "Alger hero" influenced and inspired many young men of his generation, and contributed to the general acceptance of the business creed of the time. In addition, young men across the country read voraciously Alger’s entertaining adventure stories, and there were reissues of his writings as late as the 1960s. Alger died on July 18, 1899, in Natick, Massachusetts.


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