“We discount only our own bills, and not those of private persons,” said the cashier of the Bank of England, when a large bill was offered drawn by Anselm Rothschild of Frankfort, on Nathan Rothschild of London. “Private persons!” exclaimed Nathan, when told of the cashier’s remark; “I will make these gentlemen see what sort of private persons we are.” Three weeks later he presented a five-pound note at the bank at the opening of the office. The teller counted out five sovereigns, looking surprised that Baron Rothschild should have troubled himself about such a trifle. The baron examined the coins one by one, weighing them in the balance, as he said “the law gave him the right to do,” put them into a little canvas bag, and offered a second, then a third, fourth, fiftieth, thousandth note. When a bag was full he handed it to a clerk in waiting, and proceeded to fill another. In seven hours he had changed £21,000, and, with nine employes of his house similarly engaged, had occupied the tellers so busily in changing $1,050,000 worth of notes that no one else could receive attention. The bankers laughed, but the next morning Rothschild appeared with his nine clerks and several drays to carry away the gold, remarking, “These gentlemen refuse to pay my bills; I have sworn not to keep theirs. They can pay at their leisure, only I notify them that I have enough to employ them for two months.” The smiles faded from the features of the bank officials, as they thought of a draft of $55,000,000 in gold which they did not hold. Next morning notice was given in the newspapers that the Bank of England would pay Rothschild’s bills as well as its own.
“Well,” said Barnum to a friend in 1841, “I am going to buy the American Museum.” “Buy it!” exclaimed the astonished friend, who knew that the showman had not a dollar; “what do you intend buying it with?” “Brass,” was the prompt reply, “for silver and gold have I none.”
Every one interested in public entertainments in New York knew Barnum, and knew the condition of his pocket; but Francis Olmstead, who owned the Museum building, consulted numerous references all telling of “a good showman, who would do as he agreed,” and accepted a proposition to give security for the purchaser. Mr. Olmstead was to appoint a money-taker at the door, and credit Barnum toward the purchase with all above expenses and an allowance of fifty dollars per month to support his wife and three children. Mrs. Barnum gladly assented to the arrangement, and offered, if need be, to cut down the household expenses to a little more than a dollar a day. Some six months later Mr. Olmstead happened to enter the ticket office at noon, and found Barnum eating for dinner a few slices of bread and some corned beef. “Is this the way you eat your dinner?” he asked.
“I have not eaten a warm dinner since I bought the Museum, except on the Sabbath; and I intend never to eat another until I get out of debt.” “Ah! you are safe, and will pay for the Museum before the year is out,” said Mr. Olmstead, slapping the young man approvingly on the shoulder. He was right, for in less than a year Barnum had paid every cent out of the profits of the establishment.
A noted philosopher said: “The favors of fortune are like steep rocks; only eagles and creeping things mount to the summit.” Lord Campbell, who became Chief Justice and Lord Chancellor of England and amassed a large fortune, began life as a drudge in a printing office. A little observation shows us that, as a rule, the men who accomplish the most in the world are the most useful, and sensible members of society, the men who are depended upon most in emergencies, the men of backbone and stamina, the bone and sinew of their communities; the men who can always be relied upon, who are healthiest and happiest, are, as a rule, of ordinary mental calibre and medium capacity. But with persistent and untiring industry, these are they, after all, who carry the burdens and reap the prizes of life. It is the men and women who keep everlastingly at it, who do not believe themselves geniuses, but who know that if they ever accomplish anything great, they must do it by common drudgery and persistent industry and with an unwavering aim in one pursuit. Those who believe themselves geniuses are apt to scatter their efforts and thus fritter away their great energies without accomplishing anything in proportion to their high promise. Often the men who promise the most pay the least.
Mrs. Frank Leslie often refers to the time she lived in her carpetless attic while striving to pay her husband’s obligations. She has fought her way successfully through nine lawsuits, and has paid the entire debt. She manages her ten publications entirely herself, signs all checks and money-orders, makes all contracts, looks over all proofs, and approves the make-up of everything before it goes to press. She has developed great business ability, which no one dreamed she possessed.
A little boy was asked how he learned to skate. “Oh, by getting up every time I fell down,” he replied.
The boy Thorwaldsen, whose father died in the poorhouse, and whose education was so scanty that he had to write his letters over many times before they could be posted, by his indomitable perseverance, tenacity and grit, fascinated the world with the genius which neither his discouraging father, poverty, nor hardship could repress.
“It is all very well,” said Charles J. Fox, “to tell me that a young man has distinguished himself by a brilliant first speech. He may go on, or he may be satisfied with his first triumph; but show me a young man who has not succeeded at first, and nevertheless has gone on, and I will back that young man to do better than most of those who have succeeded at the first trial.”