Sunday, January 13, 2013

January 13

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.

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