Horatio Alger

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Horatio Alger Jr.

Horatio Alger Jr. (1832 - 1899) was born on Friday the 13th of January, 1832 in Chelsea, Massachusetts, the oldest of five children. He was the author of over 100 books for boys in which the heroes rose from rags to riches through virtue and hard work. His mother, Olive Alger, was the daughter of a wealthy merchant. His father, Horatio Alger Sr. was a Unitarian Minister.

In 1848, at 16, Alger was accepted to Harvard University with financial assistance from his father’s cousin Cyrus Alger. Studying under such famous teachers as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, he started to show his writing skills with poetry and academic essays on topics from chivalry to Miguel de Cervantes, earning the title Class Poet and winning many awards and prizes.[1]

What is a “Horatio Alger story”?

A “Horatio Alger story” are ones of redemption, and have deep roots in our religious history. The two most well-known stories in the Bible are stories of redemption. In Hebrew scripture, we are told that for years the Israelites suffered slavery in Egypt under Pharaoh. Then Moses led his people to freedom, to a new covenant with God, and to the Promised Land. Something good came out of something bad. In Christian Scripture, we are told the story about Jesus suffering and dying on the Cross, but then rising again after three days, saving all humanity from punishment from sin. Again, something good came out of something bad.

The Puritans who came to America compared themselves to the Israelites, and told a story of redemption about themselves. They were persecuted in Europe and suffered through living in the Massachusetts’ wilderness before creating a new society, a city on a hill to be an example to the world. Other stories of redemption, less religious and more secular, are a part of American history too.

The story that Benjamin Franklin tells of himself in his Autobiography is a story of redemption - - a story about of a poor, dirty 17-year-old boy becoming a prosperous citizen, one who helped found the United States of America, and guide it through its early years.

What most people don’t know is that Horatio Alger was a lapsed Unitarian Minister, dismissed from his congregation after being falsely accused of “sexual improprieties". After contemplating suicide, Alger went on to write more than 100 books, most of which were rags-to-riches stories about young men who overcame adversity through hard work and a commitment to moral living. In an ironic twist of fate, the books never sold well during Alger’s lifetime, but became bestsellers after his death, and are still widely read and quoted even now, more than a hundred years after his death. Even in his own death, and writing success after death, Alger was himself ultimately a story of redemption himself.

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  • Abraham Lincoln: the Backwoods Boy; or, How A Young Rail-Splitter Became President (1883)
  • Adrift in New York; or, Tom and Florence Braving the World (1904)
  • Adrift in the City; or, Oliver Conrad's Plucky Fight (1902)
  • Andy Grant's Pluck (1902)
  • Ben Bruce. Scenes in the Life of a Bowery Newsboy (1901)
  • Ben Logan's Triumph; or, The Boys of Boxwood Academy (1908)
  • Ben's Nugget; or, A Boy's Search for Fortune (1882)
  • Ben The Luggage Boy; or, Among the Wharves (1870)
  • Bernard Brooks' Adventures. The Story of a Brave Boy's Trials (1903)
  • Bertha's Christmas Vision. An Autumn Sheaf (1856)
  • Bob Burton; or, The Young Ranchman of the Missouri (1888)
  • Bound to Rise; or, Up the Ladder (1873)
  • A Boy's Fortune; or, The Strange Adventures of Ben Baker (1898)
  • Brave and Bold; or, The Fortunes of Robert Rushton (1874)
  • Frank Fowler, the Cash Boy (1887)
  • Cast Upon the Breakers (1893)
  • Charlie Codman's Cruise. A Story for Boys (1866)
  • Chester Rand; or, A New Path to Fortune (1903)* The Cousin's Conspiracy
  • Dan, the Detective (1884)
  • Dean Dunham; or, The Waterford Mystery (1891)
  • A Debt of Honor. The Story of Gerald Lane's Success in the Far West (1900)
  • Digging for Gold. A Story of California (1892)
  • The Disagreeable Woman; A Social Mystery (1895)
  • Do and Dare; or A Brave Boy's Fight for Fortune (1884)
  • The Erie Train Boy (1890)
  • The Errand Boy; or, How Phil Brent Won Success (1888)
  • Facing the World; or, The Haps and Mishaps of Harry Vane (1893)
  • Fair Harvard (book) (1852)
  • Falling in With Fortune; or, The Experiences of a Young Secretary (1900)
  • Fame and Fortune; or, The Progress of Richard Hunter (1868)
  • Finding a Fortune (1904)
  • Five Hundred Dollars; or, Jacob Marlowe's Secret (1890)
  • Forging Ahead (1903)
  • Frank and Fearless; or, The Fortunes of Jasper Kent (1897)
  • Frank Hunter's Peril (1896)
  • Frank's Campaign; or, What Boys can do on the Farm for the Camp (1864)
  • From Canal Boy to President; or, The Boyhood and Manhood of James A. Garfield (1881)
  • From Farm Boy to Senator: Being the History of the Boyhood and Manhood of Daniel Webster (1882)
  • From Farm to Fortune; or Nat Nason's Strange Experience (1905)
  • Grand'ther Baldwin's Thanksgiving (1875)
  • Hector's Inheritance; or, The Boys of Smith Institute (1885)
  • Helen Ford (1866)
  • Helping Himself; or, Grant Thornton's Ambition (1886)
  • Herbert Carter's Legacy; or, The Inventor's Son 1875)
  • In a New World; or, Among the Gold-Fields of Australia (1893)
  • Jack's Ward; or, The Boy Guardian (1875)
  • Jed, The Poor House Boy (1899)
  • Jerry the Backwoods Boy; or, The Parkhurst Treasure (1904)
  • Joe the Hotel Boy, or Winning Out by Pluck (1906)
  • Joe's Luck; or Always Wide Awake (1913)
  • John Maynard: A Ballad of Lake Erie January (1868)
  • Julius; or, The Street Boy out West (1874)
  • Lester's Luck (1901)
  • Life of Edwin Forrest (William Rounseville Alger) (1877)
  • Lost at Sea; or, Robert Roscoe's Strange Cruise (1904)
  • Luck And Pluck; or, John Oakley's Inheritance (1869)
  • Luke Walton; or, The Chicago Newsboy (1889)
  • Making His Mark (1905)
  • Marie Bertrand (1864)
  • Mark Manning's Mission. The Story of a Shoe Factory Boy (1905)
  • Mark Mason's Victory; or, The Trials and Triumphs of a Telegraph Boy (1899)
  • Mark Stanton (1890)
  • Mark the Match Boy; or, Richard Hunter's Ward (1869)
  • Ned Newton; or, The Fortunes of a New York Bootblack (1890)
  • Nelson the Newsboy; or, Afloat in New York (1901)
  • A New York Boy (1890)
  • The New Schoolma'am; or, A Summer in North Sparta (anonymous 1877)
  • Nothing to Do: A Tilt at Our Best Society (1857)
  • Nothing To Eat (1857)
  • Number 91; or, The Adventures of a New York Telegraph Boy (1887)
  • The Odds Against Him; or, Carl Crawford's Experience (1890)
  • Only an Irish Boy; Or, Andy Burke's Fortunes and Misfortunes (1894)
  • Out for Business; or, Robert Frost's Strange Career (1900)
  • Paul Prescott's Charge: A Story for Boys (1865)
  • Paul the Peddler; or the Fortunes of a Young Street Merchant (1871)
  • Phil the Fiddler; or, The Story of a Young Street Musician (1872)
  • Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Bootblacks (1868)
  • Ralph Raymond's Heir; or, The Merchant's Crime (1869)
  • Randy of the River; or, The Adventures of a Young Deckhand (1906)
  • Risen from the Ranks; or, Harry Walton's Success (1874)
  • Robert Coverdale's Struggle; or, On the Wave of Success (1910)
  • A Rolling Stone; or, The Adventures of a Wanderer (1902)
  • Rough and Ready; or, Life Among the New York Newsboys (1869)
  • Rufus and Rose; or, The Fortunes of Rough and Ready (1870)
  • Rupert's Ambition (1899)
  • Sam's Chance; and How He Improved It (1876)
  • In Search of Treasure. The Story of Guy's Eventful Voyage
  • Seeking His Fortune, And Other Dialogues (1875)
  • Shifting for Himself; or, Gilbert Greyson's Fortune's (1876)
  • Silas Snobden's Office Boy (1899)
  • Sink or Swim; or, Harry Raymond's Resolve (1870)
  • Slow and Sure; The Story of Paul Hoffman the Young Street-Merchant (1872)
  • The Store Boy; or, The Fortunes of Ben Barclay (1887)
  • St. Nicholas (novel) (1875)
  • Strive and Succeed; or, The Progress of Walter Conrad (1872)
  • Striving for Fortune; or, Walter Griffith's Trials and Successes (1902)
  • Strong and Steady; or, Paddle Your Own Canoe (1871)
  • Struggling Upward; or, Luke Larkin's Luck (1868)
  • Tattered Tom; or, The Story of a Street Arab (1871)
  • The Telegraph Boy (1879)
  • Timothy Crump's Ward; or, The New Years Loan, And What Became of It (1866)
  • Tom Brace: Who He Was and How He Fared (1901)
  • Tom Temple's Career (1888)
  • Tom Thatcher's Fortune (1888)
  • Tom Tracy (1888)
  • Tom Turner's Legacy (1902)
  • Tony the Hero (1880)
  • The Train Boy (1883)
  • Try and Trust; or, The Story of a Bound Boy (1873)
  • Victor Vane, The Young Secretary (1894)
  • Voices of the Past (1849)
  • Wait and Hope; or, Ben Bradford's Motto (1877)
  • Wait and Win. The Story of Jack Drummond's Pluck (1908)
  • Walter Sherwood's Probation (1897)
  • A Welcome to May May (1853)
  • The Western Boy; or, The Road to Success (1878)
  • The World Before Him (1902)
  • The Young Acrobat of the Great North American Circus (1888)
  • The Young Adventurer; or, Tom's Trip Across the Plains (1878)
  • The Young Bank Messenger (1898)
  • The Young Boatman of Pine Point (1892)
  • The Young Book Agent; or, Frank Hardy's Road to Success (1905)
  • Young Captain Jack; or, The Son of a Soldier (1901)
  • The Young Circus Rider; or, The Mystery of Robert Rudd (1883)
  • The Young Explorer; or, Among the Sierras (1880)
  • The Young Miner; or, Tom Nelson in California (1879)
  • The Young Musician; or, Fighting His Way (1906)
  • The Young Outlaw; or, Adrift In The Streets (1875)
  • The Young Salesman (1896)



  1. [1] The Horatio Alger Society
  2. [2] The Horatio Alger Society

The New American Desk Encyclopedia, Penguin Group, 1989