Horatio Alger

American writer Horatio Alger Jr. is one of the most prolific authors of the late nineteenth century. His stories for young readers were extremely popular. In fact, he made young boys the heroes of his stories. The boy characters were of solid moral character and always seemed to triumph over their circumstances in the end. This type of story became very popular and earned Horatio Alger an enduring name in the world of literature. The following gives some insight into the author of this beloved gathering of stories.

In January of 1832, Horatio Alger was born in the city of Chelsea, Massachusetts to Olive and Horatio Alger Sr. Horatio’s father was a Unitarian minister who also took on the position of postmaster to earn more money to support his family. In 1844, the family moved to Marlborough in the hopes of improving their financial situation. In his mid teens, Horatio Jr. found success in his academic studies and was accepted as a sixteen-year-old student at Harvard. He discovered a love of writing and poetry at the school where his talents were encouraged. After graduation, he submitted stories to magazines without much success. Eventually, he took on teaching jobs to earn a steady income, but continued to write in his off hours. As the young Horatio Jr. explored his writing talents, he continued teaching in various locales and even attended theological school. When the Civil War began he was drafted, but didn’t see any action. After the war, Horatio would find himself in the role of minister.

The First Unitarian Church in Brewster, Massachusetts was where Horatio took up his ministerial duties. Though initially welcomed by the people, he was only there a short time due to the occurrence of a scandal. He was accused of sexual misconduct with two boys and there was an investigation made. After the investigation, Horatio Jr. left his post as minister of the church. The news of the scandal apparently didn’t follow Horatio when he made the transition from Brewster, Massachusetts to a new type of work in a bustling city.

In the early 1860s, he became an advocate for delinquent, homeless boys in New York. The work he did with these wayward boys inspired many of the stories he would become famous for. One of his most popular stories of this sort entitled, Ragged Dick was written in 1868. Some of his other popular story titles include Mark the Match Boy, Bound to Rise, and Fame and Fortune. The boys in his stories triumphed over destructive forces while keeping their moral character intact. The familiar plots of these juvenile novels struck a chord with young readers. Furthermore, the memorable qualities of these stories made Horatio Alger Jr. a widely read author of his time.

All through his life, Horatio Alger Jr. had dealt with health problems such as asthma and vision difficulties. As he aged, these problems would flare up from time to time. Eventually, he stopped his work with troubled young boys. Although Horatio Alger Jr. experienced success with his writing, it didn’t earn him a comfortable living. In fact, he worked as a tutor for a time to support himself. Some of his students were from affluent families who lived in New York. After a time, he decided to leave New York and go back to Massachusetts to live with his sister, Olive Augusta.  

Horatio Alger Jr. died of heart failure in July of 1899. There are very few documents to assist readers in learning more about the life of this notable author. It seems that his sibling Olive Augusta destroyed many of the personal papers belonging to her brother. Undoubtedly, Horatio Alger Jr. will be remembered for his stories featuring young boys who found success in spite of their humble circumstances.

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