Orison Swett Marden (1850 - 1924)
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.
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.
Marden was a definite and highly influential figure, whether consciously or not,
in the outreach of New Thought ideas into the general culture of his time.