How to Succeed, or Stepping-Stones to Fame and Fortune



There can be no doubt that the captains of industry to-day,
using that term in its broadest sense, are men who began life
as poor boys.

Poverty is very terrible, and sometimes kills the very soul
within us, but it is the north wind that lashes men into
Vikings; it is the soft, luscious south wind which lulls them
to lotus dreams.

‘Tis a common proof,
That lowliness is young ambition’s ladder

“Fifty years ago,” said Hezekiah Conant, the millionaire manufacturer and philanthropist of Pawtucket, R. I., “I persuaded my father to let me leave my home in Dudley, Mass., and strike out for myself. So one morning in May, 1845, the old farm horse and wagon was hitched up, and, dressed in our Sunday clothes, father and I started for Worcester. Our object was to get me the situation offered by an advertisement in the Worcester County _Gazette_ as follows:


WANTED IMMEDIATELY.–At the _Gazette_ Office, a well disposed
boy, able to do heavy rolling. Worcester, May 7.

“The financial inducements were thirty dollars the first year, thirty-five the next, and forty dollars the third year and board in the employer’s family. These conditions were accepted, and I began work the next day. The _Gazette_ was an ordinary four-page sheet. I soon learned what ‘heavy rolling’ meant for the paper was printed on a ‘Washington’ hand-press, the edition of about 2000 copies requiring two laborious intervals of about ten hours each, every week. The printing of the outside was generally done Friday and kept me very busy all day. The inside went to press about three or four o’clock Tuesday afternoon, and it was after three o’clock on Wednesday morning before I could go to bed, tired and lame from the heavy rolling. In addition, I also had the laborious task of carrying a quantity of water from the pump behind the block around to the entrance in front, and then up two flights of stairs, usually a daily job. I was at first everybody’s servant. I was abused, called all sorts of nicknames, had to sweep out the office, build fires in winter, run errands, post bills, carry papers, wait on the editor, in fact I led the life of a genuine printer’s devil; but when I showed them at length that I had learned to set type and run the press, I got promoted, and another boy was hired to succeed to my task, with all its decorations. That was my first success, and from that day to this I have never asked anybody to get me a job or situation, and never used a letter of recommendation; but when an important job was in prospect the proposed employers were given all facilities to learn of my abilities and character. If some young men are easily discouraged, I hope they may gain encouragement and strength from my story. It is a long, rough road at first, but, like the ship on the ocean, you must lay your course for the place where you hope to land, and take advantage of all favoring circumstances.”

“Don’t go about the town any longer in that outlandish rig. Let me give you an order on the store. Dress up a little, Horace.” Horace Greeley looked down on his clothes as if he had never before noticed how seedy they were, and replied: “You see, Mr. Sterrett, my father is on a new place, and I want to help him all I can.” He had spent but six dollars for personal expenses in seven months, and was to receive one hundred and thirty-five from Judge J. M. Sterrett of the Erie _Gazette_ for substitute work. He retained but fifteen dollars and gave the rest to his father, with whom he had moved from Vermont to Western Pennsylvania, and for whom he had camped out many a night to guard the sheep from wolves. He was nearly twenty-one; and, although tall and gawky, with tow-colored hair, a pale face and whining voice, he resolved to seek his fortune in New York City. Slinging his bundle of clothes on a stick over his shoulder, he walked sixty miles through the woods to Buffalo, rode on a canal boat to Albany, descended the Hudson in a barge, and reached New York, just as the sun was rising, August 18, 1831.

For days Horace wandered up and down the streets, going into scores of buildings and asking if they wanted “a hand;” but “no” was the invariable reply. His quaint appearance led many to think he was an escaped apprentice. One Sunday at his boarding-place he heard that printers were wanted at “West’s Printing-office.” He was at the door at five o’clock Monday morning, and asked the foreman for a job at seven. The latter had no idea that the country greenhorn could set type for the Polyglot Testament on which help was needed, but said: “Fix up a case for him and we’ll see if he _can_ do anything.” When the proprietor came in, he objected to the newcomer and told the foreman to let him go when his first day’s work was done. That night Horace showed a proof of the largest and most correct day’s work that had then been done. In ten years Horace was a partner in a small printing-office. He founded the _New Yorker_, the best weekly paper in the United States, but it was not profitable. When Harrison was nominated for President in 1840, Greeley started _The Log Cabin_, which reached the then fabulous circulation of ninety thousand. But on this paper at a penny a copy, he made no money. His next venture was the New York _Tribune_, price one cent. To start it he borrowed a thousand dollars and printed five thousand copies of the first number. It was difficult to give them all away. He began with six hundred subscribers, and increased the list to eleven thousand in six weeks. The demand for the _Tribune_ grew faster than new machinery could be obtained to print it. It was a paper whose editor always tried to be _right_.