Orison Swett Marden
(1850-1924)

Founder of Success Magazine


“All who have accomplished great things have had a great aim, have fixed their gaze on a goal which was high, one which sometimes seemed impossible.” - Orison Swett Marden

Orison Swett Marden, founder of Success Magazine, is also considered to be the founder of the modern success movement in America. He certainly bridged the gap between the old, narrow notions of success and the new, more comprehensive models made popular by best-selling authors such as Napoleon Hill, Clement Stone, Dale Carnegie, Og Mandino, Earl Nightingale, Norman Vincent Peale, and today's authors Stephen R.Covey, Anthony Robbins, and Brian Tracy.

Who was Orison Swett Marden?

He was the son of poor parents, born on a New England farm in 1850. He attended Boston University, and also Andover Theological Seminary. Graduating from Boston University in 1871, he took an M.D. at Harvard in 1881, an LL.B. degree, also at Harvard, in 1882, and studied at the Boston School of Oratory.

During his college days he worked at catering and hotel management and was so sucessful that he had some $20,000 in capital when he finished his formal training. Then he went to Block Island, near Newport, Rhode Island, and bought a property which he developed into a thriving resort area. Hardly a background, one would think, for a later literary career. He went on to buy a chain of hotels in Nebraska, but in 1892 met financial reverses and had to take employment once more as a hotel manager in Chicago during the World's Fair of 1893. Then he went back to Boston and started over again.

When he first met Samual Smiles is not disclosed, but the English writer became his first literary hero and inspired much that Marden wrote and accomplished. Smiles's Self-Help, which he had found in an attic and read, did much in the shaping of his career. He once wrote, "The little book was the friction which wakened the spark sleeping in the flint." Later of course he also read Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Longfellow, Phillips Brooks, and others, but Smiles was the "awakener." It became his ambition, he says, to become the Samual Smiles of America, and there is little doubt that he achieved his ambition.

On his return to Boston, he began to try to put together his ideas, particularly concerning optimism, which was to be a central theme in his writings -- incidentally also a central theme in New Thought. Whilst most of his books make little or no mention of religion, some do. Marden was rather a writer of essentially New Thought faith than a writer technically on New Thought as such. Actually he was for several years president of the League for a Higher Life, A New Thought organization in New York City of which Eugene del Mar was for many years the effective leader, and of which Robert H. Bitzer, longtime president of the INTA, was onetime secretary.

Marden's first book, Pushing to the Front, published in 1894, had a phenomenal circulation. In 1897 he founded Success Magazine, which reached the enormous circulation, for that time, of nearly a half-million, meaning of course that it was read by from two to three million readers. This publication ran into financial difficulties and suspended publication in 1912. But once again, 1n 1918, he founded a new Success which was rapidly climing in circulation when death ended his career, in 1924.

His book titles express eloquently the outlook of cheerful optimism and confidence. At his death it was said of him that he averaged two books a year, from his first in 1894 to his last just before his passing in 1924, and had some two million words in as yet unpublished manuscripts when he died. His writings are definitely in the New Thought tradition, though, in common with those of Ralph Waldo Trine, another prolific author of this period, they wear a cloak of orthodoxy which enabled them to reach a far larger readership than many other authors in this field.

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