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…
- Horatio Alger Critchfield, b. 1875 in Ohio
- Horatio Algernon Rench, b. 1876 in Maryland
- Not an exact match, but I think it’s close enough to count.
- Horatio Alger Coppock, b. 1878 in Indiana
- Alger Horatio Salley, b. 1886 in Texas
- Horatio Alger Beach, b. 1888 in Michigan
- Horatio Alger Goins, b. 1894 in North Carolina
Several others were born conspicuously early:
- Horatio Alger Staniels, b. 1839 in Chelsea, Massachusetts
- Horatio Alger Jarvis, b. 1860 in Canada
- Horatio Alger Ropp, b. 1861 in Ohio
- Charles Alger Hiss, b. 1863 in Maryland
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.
- Horatio Alger – Wikipedia
- Horatio Alger – Britannica
- “Background Books: Social Mobility in America.” Wilson Quarterly, vol. 11, no. 5, 1987, pp. 136-139.
- “Investigations: Two Men.” Time 20 Dec. 1948: 17-20.
- Alger Hiss – Wikipedia
Image: Horatio Alger Jr.