Economics and Business

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What is a “Horatio Alger story”?

It is any story about someone who, through sheer determination and good works, rises from poverty to wealth. During the second half of the 1800s, novels by American clergyman and author Horatio Alger Jr. (1832–1899) were extremely popular: He wrote more than 100 books, including the Luck and Pluck and the Tattered Tom series. All of the stories center on a boy from inauspicious beginnings who, through hard work, clean living, and a little bit of luck, becomes successful. Alger’s real-life experience working with orphans and runaways in New York City provided the foundation for his works, which inspired countless readers and fed into the American Dream: that the United States is a land ripe with possibility. Though dead for more than a century, Alger’s name lives on: many Americans still describe an honorable person’s rise from rags to riches as “a real Horatio Alger story.”


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