Babies named for Horatio Alger

American author Horatio Alger (1832-1899)
Horatio Alger

During the last three decades of the 19th century, American author Horatio Alger (1832-1899) wrote dozens of young adult novels. All of them were about boys who overcame poverty — through honesty, hard work, “cheerful perseverance,” and a bit of luck — to attain wealth and respectability.

Alger’s most successful rags-to-riches tale was Ragged Dick (1868), about a quick-witted bootblack named Dick (who began to go by “Richard” after his position in society had improved).

His subsequent novels featured similar plots and protagonists. They had titles like Mark, the Match Boy (1869); Ben, The Luggage Boy (1870); and Dan, the Newsboy (1893). These stories “influenced several generations of young readers, future achievers, and memoir-writers, from Andrew Carnegie to Malcolm X.”

No doubt many baby boys in the U.S. were named after Alger’s various main characters, but I’ve also found a handful named after Alger himself. Some examples…

Several others were born conspicuously early:

The first one — just seven years younger than Alger, and born in the same town — must have been named in honor the author’s father, Unitarian minister Horatio Alger, Sr.

The next three may not have been named until they were several years old (à la Emancipation Proclamation). Or perhaps they were named as babies, but their parents were inspired by Alger’s earlier work. His poem “Gone to the War” appeared on the front page of a Minnesota newspaper in 1861, for instance, and his short story “Edward’s Temptation” ran in its entirety on the front page of an Ohio paper in 1864.

Interestingly, Charles Alger Hiss, whose father was “a great admirer of Horatio Alger,” was, in turn, the father of Alger Hiss — the U.S. State Department official accused of being a Soviet spy in the late 1940s. The Hiss case helped advance the careers of noted anti-communists Richard Nixon and Joseph McCarthy.


Image: Horatio Alger Jr.

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