Horatio Alger Jr. (; January 13, 1832 – July 18, 1899) was a prolific 19th-century American author, best known for his many young-adult novels about impoverished boys and their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of middle-class security and comfort through hard work, determination, courage, and honesty. His writings were characterized by the " rags-to-riches" narrative, which had a formative effect on America during the Gilded Age.
All of Alger's juvenile novels share essentially the same theme, known as the " Horatio Alger myth": a teenage boy works hard to escape poverty. Often it is not hard work that rescues the boy from his fate but rather some extraordinary act of bravery or honesty. The boy might return a large sum of lost money or rescue someone from an overturned carriage. This brings the boy—and his plight—to the attention of a wealthy individual.
Alger secured his literary niche in 1868 with the publication of his fourth book, Ragged Dick, the story of a poor bootblack's rise to middle-class respectability. This novel was a huge success. His many books that followed were essentially variations on Ragged Dick and featured casts of stock characters: the valiant hard-working, honest youth, the noble mysterious stranger, the snobbish youth, and the evil, greedy squire.
In the 1870s, Alger's fiction was growing stale. His publisher suggested he tour the American West for fresh material to incorporate into his fiction. Alger took a trip to California, but the trip had little effect on his writing: he remained mired in the tired theme of "poor boy makes good." The backdrops of these novels, however, became the American West rather than the urban environments of the northeastern United States.
In the last decades of the 19th century, Alger's moral tone coarsened with the change in boys' tastes. Sensational thrills were wanted by the public. The Protestant work ethic had loosened its grip on America, and violence, murder, and other sensational themes entered Alger's works. Public librarians questioned whether his books should be made available to the young. They were briefly successful, but interest in Alger's novels was renewed in the first decades of the 20th century, and they sold in the thousands. By the time he died in 1899, Alger had published around a hundred volumes. He is buried in South Natick, Massachusetts. Since 1947, the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans has awarded scholarships and prizes to deserving individuals.
Horatio Alger, Jr. was a 19th-century American author.
Horatio Alger may also refer to:
- Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, a nonprofit organization based in Alexandria, Virginia
- the Horatio Alger myth, an idea analogous to the American Dream
Usage examples of "horatio alger".
They are still living in the era of Horace Greeley, Horatio Alger and in some cases, Eugene Debs.
But I was determined to wipe Horatio Alger out of the North American consciousness.
They were discussing the Young Hoosier Horatio Alger Award for 1962, awarded to Charley by the Indiana Federation of Conservative Young Republican Businessmen's Clubs.
At the front of the room, between the dusty portraits of Charles Darwin and Horatio Alger, was the mega-screen listing all fifty-five students' names in rank order of the day's mounting incomes.
In Milagro, this meant that since the last quarter of the nineteenth century most sheep ranchers had been serfs of the Devine Company, which, during the seventies and eighties, in one of those democratic and manifestly destined sleights of Horatio Alger's hand (involving a genteel and self-righteous sort of grand larceny, bribery, nepotism, murder, mayhem, and general all-around and all-American nefarious skulduggery), had managed to own outright, or secure the grazing rights to, all the property on the Jorge San-doval Land Grant in Chamisa County.