Horatio Alger, Jr.


Several books about Alger's life have been written over the years, with widely varying degrees of accuracy. To buy one of these books on Amazon, click the Amazon logo beside the title.

For more information on biographies of Horatio Alger, Jr, visit NIU's guide to Alger biographies and criticism here.

Alger: A Biography Without A Hero

By Herbert R. Mayes (1928)

Up until 1961, this completely ficticious account of Alger's life was the only biography of Alger ever written. The book recounts a version of Alger's life based on a diary and letters that never existed. For nearly forty years, this biography was accepted as definitive and accurate, and even today it is still mistakenly cited as a reliable source in most reference texts.

In the author's own words, this version of Alger's life, "literally swarms … with countless absurdities."


Horatio Alger, Jr.: A Biography and Bibliography

By Frank Gruber (1961)

This biography was the first major attempt to discredit Mayes' biography. It corrects some of Mayes' fictions, but incorporates others. It also features a chronological list of Alger's works and several pictures of Alger formats.

Horatio Alger, or, The American Hero Era

By Ralph Gardner (1964)

According to Northern Illinois University, Gardner single-handedly resurrected interest in Alger the writer and Alger as a collectible author during the 1960s. This biography uses artificially constructed dialogue to tell the story of Alger's life, which helps it read more like a novel than a research piece, even though it is not always contextually accurate.

It is also valuable for the appended bibliography of Alger's works, which is considered one of the definitive sources when it comes to identifying Alger first editions.

Horatio's Boys : The Life and Works of Horatio Alger, Jr

By Edwin Palmer Hoyt (1974)

This book is somewhat of a sensationalist biography of Alger, and relies heavily on Gardner's biography.

The Lost Life of Horatio Alger

By Gary Scharnhorst and Jack Bales (1992)

Scharnhorst's first book on Alger is considered the first to be completely factual. This collaboration with Jack Bales also gives a very accurate description of Alger's life, as well as discussing Alger's effects on literature and previous biographies of Alger.

The Fictional Republic: Horatio Alger and American Political Discourse

By Carol Nackenoff (1994)

This book takes a scholarly and well-researched look at Horatio Alger's writings and their influence on the American Character. Northern Illinois University calls it an "exceptional volume".

For more information on biographies of Horatio Alger, Jr, visit NIU's guide to Alger biographies and criticism here.