Sunday, January 13, 2013
Horatio Alger, Jr., proponent of the fundamental American ideal of “pulling yourself up by your bootstraps,” was born on January 13, 1832, in Massachusetts. He became a Unitarian minister but was expelled from the church in 1866 for sexual misconduct with boys. He moved to New York, where his rags-to-riches story, Ragged Dick (pictured), was serialized in 1867 (later expanded as a novel). This story of a poor bootblack's rise to middle class respectability and comfort through hard work, honesty and determination was a huge success. Its plot and theme were repeated wholesale in Alger's other novels. But Alger’s formula for a boy’s transformation frequently was not hard work at all but an act of bravery or honesty that impelled a wealthy older man to take in the boy as a ward. Nonetheless, Alger left a legacy of a moral, humane philosophy that contradicted the corrupt, robber-baron capitalism of his time.