Horatio Alger Jr.
Alger, Horatio Jr. (13 January 1832 - 18 July 1899)
Author of Ragged Dick (1867–1868), Alger was reared by strict Puritan parents, but in 1864 he became a Unitarian minister in the Cape Cod town of Brewster, Massachusetts.
From 1848 5o 1852, Alger attended Harvard, graduating with an A.B. with Phi Beta Kappa honors. From 1857 to 1860 he trained for the Unitarian ministry at Harvard's Divinity School.
His father, Horatio Alger Sr. (1806 - 1881), was a Unitarian minister in several small Massachusetts areas.
At 5' 2" and with poor eyesight, he did not enter the army during the Civil War, but in Harper's Weekly and other journals he wrote patriotic stories.
Alger as minister to the Unitarian Church of Brewster, Massachusetts, was given the charge by Edward Everett Hale, but after one year Alger left. However, accused of “the abominable and revolting crime of unnatural familiarity with boys,” namely fifteen-year-old John Clark and his thirteen-year-old friend, Thomas Crocker, Alger left town for his father's home in South Natick and on to New York City. Whether or not his father knew of his sexual preference for males is not clear.
Concentrating upon his writing although allegedly “adopting” several youngsters “informally” without any scandals, he wrote popular novels, over twenty million copies of which have been sold. The 130 titles were based on the principle that if a boy struggles against poverty and temptation, he will eventually achieve wealth and fame.
Alger, who died of heart disease, was given a simple funeral at his father's old church in South Natick. Alger is buried at Glenwood Cemetery, ten miles southwest of Boston in South Natick. The pallbearers included seven respected citizens, all former orphan boys whom Alger had befriended.
Alan Seaburg's detailed biography includes
- The first novel Alger wrote in New York, Ragged Dick; or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks, 1868, was to be his most popular juvenile adventure. Indeed, it was continuously in print for the next forty years. The eponymous hero, Ragged Dick, leads the reader on a tour of mid-nineteenth century New York City. He humorously claims acquaintance with Peter Cooper, Horace Greeley, and other worthies: "Me and Peter Cooper used to go to school together" and "My friend Horace Greeley told me the other day that he'd get me to take his place now and then when he was off makin' speeches if my edication hadn't been neglected." Far from being tainted by his surroundings, Dick displays a natural goodness that blesses the lives of others he meets. "He had lived without a knowledge of God and of religious things," but "he was so far good that he could appreciate goodness in others."
- During the 1870s Alger added to his plots some of the lurid drama of dime novels. A number of the "social guardians" of society—including Unitarian minister, James Freeman Clarke—condemned these aspects; as a result, many public libraries banned his books. Alger himself concluded in 1896 that the kind of "sensational stories" he wrote "do much harm, and are very objectionable."