Born: 13 January 1832
Died: 18 July 1899
Birthplace: Chelsea, Massachusetts
Best known as:
The 19th century author of "rags to riches" books
Name at birth: Horatio Alger, Jr.
Horatio Alger, Jr. was a prolific American author of the 19th century whose name became synonymous with "rags to riches" stories -- tales of plucky boys who overcome poverty and hardship to achieve economic and social success. Alger was raised in Massachusetts and educated at Harvard and Harvard Divinity School, all the while writing short stories, poems and articles for magazines and newspapers. He became a Unitarian minister in Massachusetts in 1863, but was forced to leave the ministry after he was found to have molested two boys. He made his way to New York City, where he spent time with the "street boys" who would inspire his successful series of books for juveniles for the rest of his career. Alger wrote more than a hundred books, as well as hundreds of short stories and poems. Although he tried writing other books -- including a biography of President James Garfield -- he was known and sometimes derided for his "books for boys." During his lifetime his career had its ups and downs, but after his death there was a revival of sales as well as influence. Horatio Alger books came to represent the American myth of the self-made man up through the 1920s, but fell out of fashion as literary novelties. His most famous book was 1867's Ragged Dick, and his other books include Bertha's Christmas Vision (1856) and Frank's Campaign (1864).
Just over five feet tall, near-sighted and asthmatic, Horatio Alger did not serve in the Civil War because he couldn't pass the physical… His book on Garfield was titled From Canal Boy to President, and was published within a month after the president was dead.
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