The books of Horatio Alger, Jr.

Happy Birthday Horatio Alger, Junior!

Horatio Alger, Jr. was born in the coastal town of Chelsea, Massachusetts, on January 13, 1832, to Horatio Alger, a Unitarian minister, and his wife Olive Augusta Fenno.

Horatio Alger, Jr. in 1852

Horatio Alger, Jr. in 1852

The future author was the descendant of Plymouth Pilgrims Robert Cushman, Thomas Cushman, and William Bassett. He was also the descendant of Sylvanus Lazell, a Minuteman and brigadier general in the War of 1812; and Edmund Lazell, a member of the Constitutional Convention in 1788.

Horatio attended Gates Academy, a local preparatory school, and completed his studies at age fifteen. In July 1848 Alger passed the Harvard entrance examinations, and was admitted to the class of 1852.

His first novel Marie Bertrand: The Felon’s Daughter was serialized in the New York Weekly in 1864. His first boys’ book Frank’s Campaign was published in Boston later the same year. Alger initially wrote for adult magazines, including Harper’s Monthly and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper.

A friendship with William Taylor Adams, a boys’ author, led him to begin writing for the young.

The following short piece by Mr. Alger appeared in The Christian Recorder in 1865.

Edward’s Temptation

It was six o’clock in the afternoon. At this time the great wholesale warehouse of Messrs. Hubbard & Son was wont to close, unless the pressure of business compelled the partners to keep open later. The duty of closing usually devolved upon Edward Jones, a boy of fourteen, who had lately been engaged to perform a few light duties, for which he received the sum of $50 annually. He was the boy, but if he behaved himself so as to win the approbation of his employers his chance of promotion was good. Yet there were some things that rendered this small salary a hard trial to him – circumstances with which his employers were unacquainted. His mother was a widow. The sudden death of Mr. Jones had thrown the entire family upon their own resources, and these were indeed but slender.

There was an elder sister who assisted her mother to sew, and this with Edward’s salary, constituted the entire income of the family. Yet by means of untiring industry, they had continued thus far to live, using strict economy, of course. Yet they had wanted none of the absolute necessaries of life.

But Mary Jones – Edward’s sister – grew sick. This not only cut off the income arising from her labor, but also prevented her mother from accomplishing as much as she would otherwise have been able to do.

On he morning of the day on which our story commences, Mary had expressed a desire for an orange. In her fever it would have been most grateful to her. It is hard, indeed, when we are obliged to deny those we love that which would be a refreshment and benefit to them.

Mrs. Jones felt this, and so did Edward.

“I only wish I could buy you one, Mary,” said Edward, just as he set out for the store. “Next year I shall receive a larger salary, and then we sha’n’t have to pinch so much.”

“Never mind, Edward,” said Mary, smiling faintly. “I ought not to have asked for it, knowing how hard you and mother find it to get along with me.”

“Don’t trouble yourself about that, Mary,” said Mrs. Jones, rather soothingly, though her heart sank within her at the thought of her empty larder. “Only get well, and we shall get on well enough afterwards.”

It was with the memory of this scene that Edward went to the store in the morning.

All around him were boxes of rich goods representing thousands of dollars in money.

“Oh,” thought he, “if I only had the value of one of these boxes, how much good it would do poor Mary,” and Edward sighed.

The long day wore away at last, and Edward was about to close the warehouse. But as he passed the desk of his employer, his attention was drawn to a bit of paper lying on the floor beneath.

He picked it up, and to his great joy found it to be a ten dollar bill.

The first thought that flashed upon him was, “How much good this will do Mary. I can buy her the oranges she wants, and she shall have some every day. And perhaps she would like a chicken.”

But a moment later his countenance fell.

“It isn’t mine,” he sighed. “It must be Mr. Hubbard’s. This is his desk, and he must have dropped it.”

“Still,” urged the tempter, “he will never know it; and after all, what are ten dollars to him? He is worth a hundred thousands.”

Still Edward was not satisfied. Whether Mr. Hubbard could spare it or not was not the question. It was rightfully his and must be given back to him.

“I’ll go to his house and give it to him this very night,” said Edward. “Otherwise I might be tempted to keep it.”

He determined to go to Mr. Hubbard’s before he went home. The sight of his sick sister might perhaps weaken his resolution, and this must never be. He must preserve his integrity at all hazards.

He knew where Mr. Hubbard lived. It was a large, fine-looking house, on a fashionable street. He had passed it several times and wondered whether a man must not feel happy who was able to live in such a style.

Without any unnecessary delay, therefore, he went to the house, ascended the steps, and rang the bell.

A man servant came to the door.

“Well?” he said.

“Is Mr. Hubbard at home?”

“Yes, but he has only just come in, and I don’t think he will see you,” was the rather supercilious reply.

“I am in his employ,” said Edward, quietly, “and I have just come from the store. I think he will see me, if you mention this to him.”

“Very well, you can come in.”

Edward was left standing in the hall, while Mr. Hubbard was sought by the servant.

“Well?” he asked, inquiringly, “has any thing happened?”

“No, sir,” said Edward, “but I picked up this bill near your desk, and I supposed you dropped it. I thought I had better bring it here directly.”

“You have done well,” said Mr. Hubbard, “and I will remember it. Honesty is a very valuable quality in a boy just commencing a business career. Hereafter I shall have perfect confidence in your honesty.”

Edward was gratified by his assurance, yet as the door closed behind him, and he walked out into the street, the thought of his sick sister at home again intruded upon him, and he thought regretfully how much good could have been done with ten dollars. Not that he had regretted that he had been honest. There was a satisfaction in doing right.

Mrs. Jones brought some toast to her daughter’s beside, but Mary motioned it away.

“I thank you for taking the trouble to make it, mother,” said she, “but I don’t think I can possibly eat it.”

“Is there any thing that you could relish, Mary?”

“No,” she said, hesitatingly, “nothing that we can get.”

Mrs. Jones sighed a sigh which Edward echoed.

It was with a heavy heart that Edward started for the warehouse the next morning. He had never felt the craving for wealth which now took possession of him.

He set about his duties as usual. About two hours after he had arrived at the warehouse, Mr. Hubbard entered. He did not at first appear to notice Edward, but in about half an hour summoned him to the office, which was partitioned off from the remainder of the spacious rooms in which goods were stored.

He smiled pleasantly as Edward entered his presence.

“Tell me, frankly,” he said, “did you not feel an impulse to keep the bill which you found last night?”

“I hope you will not be offended with me, Mr. Hubbard,” said Edward, “if I say that I did.”

“Tell me all about it,” said Mr. Hubbard, with interest. “What was it that withheld you? I should never have known it.”

“I know that,” said Edward.

“Then what withheld you from taking it?”

“First, I will tell you what tempted me,” said Edward. “My mother and sister are obliged to depend upon sewing for a living, and we live but poorly at the best. But a fortnight since Mary became sick, and since then we have had a hard time. Mary’s appetite is poor, and does not relish food, but we are able to get her nothing better. When I picked up that bill, I could not help thinking how much I might buy with it for her.”

“And yet you did not take it?”

“No, sir; it would have been wrong, and I could not have looked you in the face after it.”

Edward spoke in a tone of modest confidence.

Mr. Hubbard went to his desk and wrote a check.

“How much do I pay you now?” he asked.

“Fifty dollars a year,” said Edward.

“Henceforth your duties will be increased and I will pay you two hundred. Will that please you?”

“Two hundred dollars a year!” exclaimed Edward, his eyes sparkling with delight. “Yes, and at the end of the year that will be increased, if, as I have no doubt, you continue to merit my confidence.”

“Oh, sir, how can I thank you?” said Edward, full of gratitude.

“By maintaining your integrity. As I presume you are in present need of money, I will pay you one quarter in advance. Here is a check for fifty dollars which you can get cashed at the bank. And, by the way, you may have the rest of the day to yourself.”

Edward flew to the bank, and with his sudden riches hastened to the market where he purchased a supply of provisions such as he knew would be welcome at home, and then made haste home to announce his good fortune.

A weight seemed to fall off the hearts of mother and daughter as they heard his hurried story, and Mrs. Jones thanked God for bestowing upon her son those good principles which had brought them this great relief.

And Mr. Hubbard slept none the worse that night, that at a slight pecuniary sacrifice he had done a kind action, confirmed a boy in his integrity, and gladdened a struggling family. If there were more employers as considerate as he, there would be fewer dishonest clerks.


Collection: African American Newspapers
Publication: The Christian Recorder
Date: December 16, 1865
Title: Edward’s Temptation
Author: Horatio Alger, Jr.
Location: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This item, and others like it, can be found in Accessible Archive’s African American Newspapers Collection. This enormous collection of African American newspapers contains a wealth of information about cultural life and history during the 1800s and is rich with first-hand reports of the major events and issues of the day.

All images included in blog posts are from either Accessible Archives collections or out of copyright public sources unless otherwise noted. Common sources include the Library of Congress, The Flickr Commons, Wikimedia Commons, and other public archives.

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