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Harvard College


Lucy Osgood


saasaas«[email protected]«»a!^S9g<


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Frontispiece ** Poor Boys* Chances."


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Poor. Boys' Chances


Author of Helenas Babies, Trifand Trixy, etc, etc.

With numerous portraits and illustrations.

Henry Altemus Company

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J u. u- ( ^ CP ,


^.Ccjc/ C^f^-^J'^^

Copyright 1900


Henry Alt emus Company

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Introduction 11

Benjamin Franklin .... 13

George Washington 30

Alexander Hamilton 48

Stephen Girard 66

John Jacob Astor 81

Eli Whitney 90

Andrew Jackson • 101

Henry Clay 122

Peter Cooper 133

Horace Mann 145

** Commodore" Vanderbilt 153

Abraham Lincoln 1()4

Alexander H. Stephens 182

General Grant 194

** Stonewall'' Jackson 212

George Peabody 222

President Garfield 231

Jay Gould 245

'^Buffalo" Bill 256

** Wizard" Edison . . . . „ 268

"1 Puor Boy»

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What Shall I Be? Franiispiece.

The Boy's Dream 13

Benjamin Franklin 15

Benjamin Delivers Candles 16

Benjamin Heads While Eating 17

Benjamin Hears His Contributions Discussed 19

Benjamin Leaves Home 21

In Keith's Library 21

'*The Cold Water Printer'* 23

Starting the Philadelphia Library 25

Drafting the Declaration of Independence 27

Franklin at the French Court 29

George Washington 31

Washington's Birthplace 3?,

Washington's Mother Objects to His Going to Sea 35

Washington Breaking a Colt 37

Washington on His Mission to the West 39

Braddock and His Young Aide-de-Camp 41

Washington's First Interview with His Wife 43

Washington Taking Command of the Army 45

Washington at the Battle of Princeton 47

Alexander Hamilton 49

The Defeat at the Battle of Long Island 51

First Meeting Between Washington and Hamilton 53

Arrival of the French Fleet 55

Hamilton in the Trenches at Yorktown 57

Washington's Entry into Yorktown 59

John Marshall 61

Washington and Hamilton at Valley Forge 63

Duel Between Hamilton and Burr 65

Stephen Girard ... 67


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British OflRcers Impressing American Seamen ,69

Girard's Residence in Philadelphia 70

Girard's Musical Secretary 71

Girard's Old Yellow Chaise 72

Main Building, Girard College ... 78

Drawing Room, Girard College . .6

Natural History Room, Girard College 76

Bathing Pool, Girard College 77

Girard College Cadet 79

Soldiers' Monument. Girard College 80

John Jacob Astor 83

The ** Astor House" 87

The '* Astor Library" 89

Eli Whitney 91

Cotton Boll Nearly Ripe 93

Cotton Boll Perfectly Ripe 94

The Boll Shedding Its Cotton 95

The Boll After Shedding Its Cotton 96

Picking Cotton 97

Ginning Cotton 99

Hauling Cotton 100

Andrew Jackson 103

Birthplace of Jackson 104

A Log Cabin School House 105

**Sir, I am a Prisoner of War" 107

** Andrew Walked Forty Miles" 109

Aaron Burr 115

The Battle of New Orleans 117

Vanquished Chieftain in Jackson's Tent 119

Jackson's Tomb at *'The Hermitage" 121

Henry Clay 123

Birthplace of Henry Clay 125

*'The Mill Boy of the Slashes" 127

Clay's Famous Speech in the Senate 129

Residence of Henry Clay— ** Ashland" . 131


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Peter Cooper 136

The First Railway Train 137

The First Atlantic Cable 139

The Second Atlantic Cable 140

Laying a Cable at Sea 141

Cooper Unic New York 143

Horace Mann 147

Antioch College 149

Horace Mann's Monument 162

Cornelius Vanderbilt 166

"He was Successful with His Small Craft" 166

A Ferry Boat, New York Harbor 167

Village on the San Juan River 169

The "Merrimac'* in Action 161

** Commodore** Vanderbilt at Home 163

Abraham Lincoln in 1865 166

Birthplace of Lincoln 167

Lincoln's Early Home • 169

Lincoln Splitting Rails 173

Lincoln's Law OflSce 176

Lincoln's Residence at Springfield, Illinois 177

Abraham Lincoln in 1858 179

Lincoln and His Son "Tad" 181

Alexander H. Stephens 183

Jefferson Davis 186

A Southern School House 187

The Confederacy Inaugurated 191

The Confederate Capitol, Richmond, Va 192

General Ulysses S. Grant 195

Birthplace of Ulysses S. Grant 197

"It was Hard, Dirty Work" . . , 198

"A Regular Teamster" 199

"Hazing was then Common" 201

"He Made a Record as a Horseman" . , 203

The Cannon in the Church Tower 205


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Bombardment of Fort Sumter 207

Grant's Attack on Fort Donelson 209

General Grant in 1880 211

Thomas J. Jackson 213

Jackson at the Battle of Churubusco 215

The Battle of Bull Run 219

** Stone wair* Jackson's Monument, Richmond, Va 221

George Peabody 223

Birthplace of George Peabody 225

The Grinnell Expedition in the Ice 227

Peabody Institute, Peabody, Mass .229

James A. Garfield 233

Birthplace of Garfield 235

Garfield on the Towpath . 237

Hiram College, Hiram, Ohio 240

Garfield as Ros6crans' Chief-of-Staff 241

The Battle of Chickamauga 243

Jay Gould. 247

Birthplace of Jay Gould 249

Building the Union Pacific Railway 250

Residence of Jay Gould's Father at Roxbury, N. Y 251

First Sight of the Locomotive ... 252

Store of Jay Gould's Father at Roxbury, N. Y 253

Elevated Railway, New York 254

William F. Cody, '* Buffalo BiW* 257

Cody as a **Cow-Boy" 260

A Post-Office on the Plains 261

The King of the Herd 263

Indian Attack on the Overland Mail 264

The *Deadwood Coach" 267

Thomas A. Edison 269

Edison Printing His Paper . . i 273

Edison's Incandescent Light 275

Edison's First Phonograpli 277

Moving Picture Exhibition 278


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A full list of poor boys who have become successful men
would include the names of almost all prominent Ameri-
cans of past and present days. There are several reasons
for this ; one is that rich men's sons are few, in proportion
to population ; another is that rich boys have so many op-
portunities from which to choose that they seldom avail
themselves of any. A far better reason, however, is that
the boy who is poor feels the spur of necessity, so if he
has proper respect for himself he seizes whatever chance
is nearest at hand and makes the most of it.

But lazy boys, cowardly boys, thoughtless boys and
boys who are in haste to become rich are as apt as some
men at complaining that nowadays there are no oppor-
tunities, no ^'streaks of luck,'' no good chances, such as
there used to be. It is true that a few — a very few, of the
old-time chances are gone, but it is also true that for every
one that has disappeared there are a hundred new ones.


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Indeed, the wonder is that the boys of two or three genera-
tions ago found any special opportunities for bettering
their condition, for manufactures were few, and there was
little chance in them to get rich quickly ; there was none of
the railroads, mines and scores of other new businesses
which are now enriching many thousands of men and
stimulating the minds of hundreds of thousands.

How few and mean were the chances of boys of the
last generation and of the two or three which preceded
it may be learned from the following pages, in which are
noted briefly the opportunities of a score of American boys
who became famous in different departments of effort.
Almost all of these chances that were of any service are
within the reach of modern boys. What boys have done
boys can do.

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Born January 17, 1706; died April 17, 1790.

In the good old times when lucky chances were supposed
to have abounded for poor boys, one of the most fortunate
of Americans was Benjamin Franklin, for he was re-
spected by every one who knew him and feared by every
one whom he opposed ; he succeeded at almost every thing
he undertook, he enjoyed life to his latest days, which were
prolonged far beyond the customary three-score years and
ten, and he never was out of money. Most men of prom-
inence owe their success to proficiency in some one single
line of endeavor, but Franklin knew so much, and about
so many things that his most recent biographer calls him
"The Many-Sided Franklin." No one, not even Washing-
ton, was more useful than he to the patriot cause during
the Revolutionary period, yet he retained the friendship of


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the many Englishmen who had known him while he was
the agent in England of the Pennsylvania Colony. In his
old age he became the ^'social lion*' of Paris, though he
dressed plainly and was as simple and direct of manner
as while he was at home. He was liked, respected and
trusted by every member of the Continental Congress,
though those worthies were so full of the jealousies of
their respective colonies that they were suspicious of
almost all their fellow members ; Franklin did more than
any one but Washington to allay this suspicion and make
a permanent union of the colonies possible.

Yet this remarkably successful American was **born and
bred in poverty and obscurity" (the words are his own,
from his autobiography). He was the fifteenth child of
his father, a maker of soap and candles in Boston,
at a time when that city contained only a few thousand
people and most of the inhabitants made their own soap
and candles, so the elder Franklin's business was a poor
one. As Benjamin once said that he could remember to
have seen thirteen of his brothers and sisters at table at one
time, no farther evidence of the family's poverty is neces-

Nevertheless the elder Franklin wished to make Benja-
min (his tenth son), a minister, and to prepare the youth
for college he sent him to the grammar school at the early
age of eight years; a grammar school, at that time, at-
tempted to teach little but the elements of Latin and Greek,
so a boy might pass through one successfully without
knowing even the multiplication table. But the expense of
the grammar school course became too great for the elder
Franklin to meet, so Benjamin was removed to a lower
school to learn reading and writing, these, with reading,
being the only branches in which instruction was given.
Even this elementary schooling stopped when young


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Benjamin Franklin.

Franklin reached his tenth year, for the boy's hands were
needed in the shop, to help earn the family living.

It was a chance to learn a trade, but Benjamin did not
like soap boiling and candle-making; he wished to go to


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sea, where the greater business chances of the period ap-
peared to be, though it is true that they were attended by
great risks. His father objected to his becoming a sailor,
so the boy gratified his nautical tastes to the best of his
ability with small boats. Many years afterward he wrote
that he handled them well, young though he was, "and was
commonly allowed to govern, especially in any case of
difficulty, and upon other occasions I was generally a

leader among the boys.''
These few words fore-
shadow his entire career,
for whatever he did
throughout life, from the
first we knew of it, was
well done, so although he
was assuming or aggres-
sive he was sure to find
himself in a position of
leadership among men.

His dislike of the soap
and candle business con-
tinued ; so did his desire to
Benjamin Delivers Candles. ^^ to sea, but his father,

who seems to have been a
model parent, found time to take him about to see
men at work, hoping that some form of handicraft
would engage the boy's fancy. The experiment did not suc-
ceed to the father's liking, but young Franklin's eyes
seemed to see as well as to look ; there is a great diflference
in these two ways of using the eyes. In those occasional
hours began the interest in the mechanic arts which Frank-
lin always manifested afterward and which he often put
to practical use.

Young Franklin manifested early in life a fondness
for reading, but the books he names in his autobiography

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as having read
before his twelfth
year would not
appeal to any
small boy of the
present day; they
were John Bun-
yan's works, Bur-
ton's "Historical
Collections," De-
foe's "Essays on
Projects" and
Mather's "Essays
to Do Good."
Perhaps he had
to choose between
these and noth-
ing, for it is cer-
tain (and perhaps

it was lucky for Benjamin Reads While Eating.

Benjamin) that

novels and story-books were not to be had in Bos-
ton in those days ; boys had never even heard of such
means of killing time.

Franklin's first real chance came when he was about
twelve years of age, but it was not at all to his liking. One
of his adult brothers, who had been to England and learned
the printer's trade, returned to Boston to begin business
for himself, and Benjamin was apprenticed to him. The
boy learned quickly to set type, but what pleased him more
was that the business made him acquainted with book-
sellers' apprentices, some of whom lent him their employ-
ers* books, to read over-night. It was thus he began his
education, for he never went to school again. His reading
hours were few, for the working day was long in New


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England in the early part of the last century, but he
read far into the night, in order to finish a book and
return it before the owner could miss it.

While still a boy in his brother's shop there came
to him a chance which many an older lover of literature
would have hailed with joy. He had taken a fancy to
poetry, which led to the making of verses. Noting this,
his brother set him to writing ballads on tragic events of
the day ; the brother printed them and sent Benjamin about
the town to sell them, so the boy had the satisfaction, de-
nied to many older poets, of knowing who really read his
verse. ''They were wretched stuff," Franklin wrote many
years later, but they "sold wonderfully" ; evidently Boston
had not yet become fastidious about poetry. What the
nation might have suffered and lost had Franklin aban-
doned himself to verse is dreadful to contemplate, in
the light of later days ; fortunately for all of us the boy's
father laughed at the ballads and told his son that verse-
makers generally became beggars, so Benjamin was saved
for nobler efforts and entirely through heeding his father's
warning — a chance that occurs frequently in the lives of
boys, though many of them have reasons of their own
for not profiting by it.

To a similar chance Franklin owed that command of
language which made him far more effective at writing
and speaking than most of the public men of his day. He
had the common boyish belief, which the majority of boys
retain until they grow old and die, that mere disputation is
argument. He quarrelled for months by letter, with an-
other boy, over the advisability of educating women — ^boys
seem as bad as men in selecting, for discussion, subjects of
which they are utterly ignorant. Franklin's father saw
some of the letters and suggested that his son's writing
lacked method, clearness and p-race. Nobodv enjoys that
sort of criticism, but again Franklin heeded his father, and


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Benjamin Hears His Contributions Discussed.

soon another great chance came in his way — one that is in
reach of almost every American boy to-day, for it was
merely an odd volume of Addison's ^'Spectator." Franklin


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immediately set himself to improving his style by studying
that of Addison, and he could not have had a better model
at that time ; indeed, though modern aspirants to elegant
English can study also Macaulay, Ruskin and Hawthorne,
the boy who masters Addison's methods of expression will
never lack listeners and readers if he really has any thing
to say. But imagine, if you can, a modern 'prentice boy,
only fifteen years of age, spending his spare hours over the
pages of the old ^'Spectator," as Franklin did! He read
other **heavy" books, too, of his own accord — Locke's
"Human Understanding,*' and Xenophon's ** Memorabilia
of Socrates," and he also studied hard at arithmetic and
grammar — two studies which most boys dodge whenever
they can. Yet he was not a prig, nor a recluse, nor a book-
worm ; on the contrary, he was a big, healthy boy, full of
animal spirits and love of fun.

Meanwhile his brother had begun the publication of a
newspaper — a startling enterprise, for only three other
papers had been started in America, and one of them had
suspended publication. Benjamin immediately began to
contribute by the indirect method of slipping his contribu-
tions, unsigned, under the office door. When his brother
finally identified the new writer he did not make him assist-
ant editor and raise his pay ; on the contrary, he was dis •
pleased, apparently fearing that success at writing would
make the boy vain. Soon afterward, however, the editor-
proprietor was sent to jail for a month for having printed
something which displeased the local government. Then
Benjamin had a chance indeed, for he, although only six-
teen years of age, "ran the paper," and he did it so skilfully
as to keep himself out of jail, though he also freed his
mind regarding the government. Perhaps he was too
smart — a not uncommon failing of editors, for when his
brother was released the Massachusetts Assembly ordered


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that ''James Franklin
should no longer print the
paper called the New Eng-
land Courant/'

But the Franklins were
not Yankees for nothing;
James put up the name of
Benjamin as the printer of
the paper, and soon the boy
found himself in a pecu-
liar position ; nominally an
editor and publisher, he
was really apprentice and
newsboy to his brother,
Benjamin Leaves Home. who was also his master,

and who frequently exer-
cised the master's right, under the laws of the time, to
give his apprentice a sound thrashing!

Benjamin ended this anomalous state of affairs by
leaving his brother, who
retaliated by warning all
other Boston printers not
to employ the runaway ap-
prentice. The boy made
his way to New York but
could get no work there,
for the present metropolis
was not much of a town a
hundred and seventy-five
years ago. He heard of a
possible job in Philadel-
phia, where he knew no
one. He was but seven-
teen years of age, Philadel-
phia was a hundred miles in Keith's Library.

2 ^oor Boy a o j

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away, he had very little money, there were no railway
trains on which a boy could beg or steal a ride, and travel
of any sort was risky for boys who could not give a
straight account of themselves, for at that time many
white men and boys, called indentured servants, were liter-
ally bought and sold for specified terms of service ; many
of them ran away from their masters, and the capturing of
these, for the rewards offered, was quite a flourishing
business. Yet Franklin started, and succeeded; when he
reached Philadelphia his cash had been reduced to a single
dollar, but he soon found employment.

This was the only chance for which he had been looking,
but not long afterward a brilliant one appeared unexpect-
edly, for Sir William Keith, the governor of the province,
heard him mentioned as a clever young man and printer,
called on him, invited him to his house, and finally offered
to set him up in the printing business for himself, to send
him to England to buy type and a press and to become
acquainted with London printers and stationers, who pro-
duced most of the books and paper sold in America.

At eighteen years of age Franklin started for Lon-
don, paying the passage-money from his own savings. The
letters of introduction and the letter of credit promised
by the governor did not reach him before he sailed, nor
did they ever reach London, so the boy found himself three
thousand miles from home, with but little money, and,
worse still, with a good-natured but good-for-nothing-
companion who frequently borrowed but never repaid any
thing. At that time Franklin's only gain from his seeming
great chance was his first knowledge of politicians' profes-
sions and promises ; this knowledge proved of great value
in later years, but no boy could be expected to rightly
estimate such knowledge so far in advance.

Still, he took to work instead of to drink, though he
found the latter tcJ be the favorite diversion of Lon-


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don printers. Indirectly, this drink-habit gave him a
chance which he improved and of the results of which
he was afterward quite proud. He was nicknamed the
*'cold-water printer/' yet he could carry two ''forms'*
of type, while the other men, who sought strength in
beer and spirits,
and thought they
found it there,
could carry but
one. This differ-
ence in strength
caused great won-
der ; Franklin at-
tributed it to his
non-drinking habit,
and many of his
brother workmen
afterward followed
his example with
satisfactory results
to their physiques
and pockets.

Before he came
of age another
great chance came
in his way. A Phil-

adelphian of Eng- " The Told Water Printer »

lish birth and high ^^^ ^^^ ^^^^'^ ^°*®';-

character, who had crossed in the ship with him, pur-

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Online LibraryJohn HabbertonPoor boys' chances → online text (page 1 of 14)