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The Art of Money Getting
or "Golden Rules for Making Money"
Gutenberg Project Notice on this Public Domain Work
by P. T. Barnum
(Phineas Taylor), 1810-1891
In the United States, where we have more land than people, it is not at
all difficult for persons in good health to make money. In this
comparatively new field there are so many avenues of success open, so
many vocations which are not crowded, that any person of either sex who
is willing, at least for the time being, to engage in any respectable
occupation that offers, may find lucrative employment.
Those who really desire to attain an independence, have only to set
their minds upon it, and adopt the proper means, as they do in regard to
any other object which they wish to accomplish, and the thing is easily
done. But however easy it may be found to make money, I have no doubt
many of my hearers will agree it is the most difficult thing in the
world to keep it. The road to wealth is, as Dr. Franklin truly says, "as
plain as the road to the mill." It consists simply in expending less
than we earn; that seems to be a very simple problem. Mr. Micawber, one
of those happy creations of the genial Dickens, puts the case in a
strong light when he says that to have annual income of twenty pounds
per annum, and spend twenty pounds and sixpence, is to be the most
miserable of men; whereas, to have an income of only twenty pounds, and
spend but nineteen pounds and sixpence is to be the happiest of mortals.
Many of my readers may say, "we understand this: this is economy, and we
know economy is wealth; we know we can't eat our cake and keep it also."
Yet I beg to say that perhaps more cases of failure arise from mistakes
on this point than almost any other. The fact is, many people think they
understand economy when they really do not.
True economy is misapprehended, and people go through life without
properly comprehending what that principle is. One says, "I have an
income of so much, and here is my neighbor who has the same; yet every
year he gets something ahead and I fall short; why is it? I know all
about economy." He thinks he does, but he does not. There are men who
think that economy consists in saving cheese-parings and candle-ends, in
cutting off two pence from the laundress' bill and doing all sorts of
little, mean, dirty things. Economy is not meanness. The misfortune is,
also, that this class of persons let their economy apply in only one
direction. They fancy they are so wonderfully economical in saving a
half-penny where they ought to spend twopence, that they think they can
afford to squander in other directions. A few years ago, before kerosene
oil was discovered or thought of, one might stop overnight at almost any
farmer's house in the agricultural districts and get a very good supper,
but after supper he might attempt to read in the sitting-room, and would
find it impossible with the inefficient light of one candle. The
hostess, seeing his dilemma, would say: "It is rather difficult to read
here evenings; the proverb says 'you must have a ship at sea in order to
be able to burn two candles at once;' we never have an extra candle
except on extra occasions." These extra occasions occur, perhaps, twice
a year. In this way the good woman saves five, six, or ten dollars in
that time: but the information which might be derived from having the
extra light would, of course, far outweigh a ton of candles.
But the trouble does not end here. Feeling that she is so economical in
tallow candies, she thinks she can afford to go frequently to the
village and spend twenty or thirty dollars for ribbons and furbelows,
many of which are not necessary. This false connote may frequently be
seen in men of business, and in those instances it often runs to
writing-paper. You find good businessmen who save all the old envelopes
and scraps, and would not tear a new sheet of paper, if they could avoid
it, for the world. This is all very well; they may in this way save five
or ten dollars a year, but being so economical (only in note paper),
they think they can afford to waste time; to have expensive parties, and
to drive their carriages. This is an illustration of Dr. Franklin's
"saving at the spigot and wasting at the bung-hole;" "penny wise and
pound foolish." Punch in speaking of this "one idea" class of people
says "they are like the man who bought a penny herring for his family's
dinner and then hired a coach and four to take it home." I never knew a
man to succeed by practising this kind of economy.
True economy consists in always making the income exceed the out-go.
Wear the old clothes a little longer if necessary; dispense with the new
pair of gloves; mend the old dress: live on plainer food if need be; so
that, under all circumstances, unless some unforeseen accident occurs,
there will be a margin in favor of the income. A penny here, and a
dollar there, placed at interest, goes on accumulating, and in this way
the desired result is attained. It requires some training, perhaps, to
accomplish this economy, but when once used to it, you will find there
is more satisfaction in rational saving than in irrational spending.
Here is a recipe which I recommend: I have found it to work an excellent
cure for extravagance, and especially for mistaken economy: When you
find that you have no surplus at the end of the year, and yet have a
good income, I advise you to take a few sheets of paper and form them
into a book and mark down every item of expenditure. Post it every day
or week in two columns, one headed "necessaries" or even "comforts", and
the other headed "luxuries," and you will find that the latter column
will be double, treble, and frequently ten times greater than the
former. The real comforts of life cost but a small portion of what most
of us can earn. Dr. Franklin says "it is the eyes of others and not our
own eyes which ruin us. If all the world were blind except myself I
should not care for fine clothes or furniture." It is the fear of what
Mrs. Grundy may say that keeps the noses of many worthy families to the
grindstone. In America many persons like to repeat "we are all free and
equal," but it is a great mistake in more senses than one.
That we are born "free and equal" is a glorious truth in one sense, yet
we are not all born equally rich, and we never shall be. One may say;
"there is a man who has an income of fifty thousand dollars per annum,
while I have but one thousand dollars; I knew that fellow when he was
poor like myself; now he is rich and thinks he is better than I am; I
will show him that I am as good as he is; I will go and buy a horse and
buggy; no, I cannot do that, but I will go and hire one and ride this
afternoon on the same road that he does, and thus prove to him that I am
as good as he is."
My friend, you need not take that trouble; you can easily prove that you
are "as good as he is;" you have only to behave as well as he does; but
you cannot make anybody believe that you are rich as he is. Besides, if
you put on these "airs," add waste your time and spend your money, your
poor wife will be obliged to scrub her fingers off at home, and buy her
tea two ounces at a time, and everything else in proportion, in order
that you may keep up "appearances," and, after all, deceive nobody. On
the other hand, Mrs. Smith may say that her next-door neighbor married
Johnson for his money, and "everybody says so." She has a nice one-
thousand dollar camel's hair shawl, and she will make Smith get her an
imitation one, and she will sit in a pew right next to her neighbor in
church, in order to prove that she is her equal.
My good woman, you will not get ahead in the world, if your vanity and
envy thus take the lead. In this country, where we believe the majority
ought to rule, we ignore that principle in regard to fashion, and let a
handful of people, calling themselves the aristocracy, run up a false
standard of perfection, and in endeavoring to rise to that standard, we
constantly keep ourselves poor; all the time digging away for the sake
of outside appearances. How much wiser to be a "law unto ourselves" and
say, "we will regulate our out-go by our income, and lay up something
for a rainy day." People ought to be as sensible on the subject of
money-getting as on any other subject. Like causes produces like
effects. You cannot accumulate a fortune by taking the road that leads
to poverty. It needs no prophet to tell us that those who live fully up
to their means, without any thought of a reverse in this life, can never
attain a pecuniary independence.
Men and women accustomed to gratify every whim and caprice, will find it
hard, at first, to cut down their various unnecessary expenses, and will
feel it a great self-denial to live in a smaller house than they have
been accustomed to, with less expensive furniture, less company, less
costly clothing, fewer servants, a less number of balls, parties,
theater-goings, carriage-ridings, pleasure excursions, cigar-smokings,
liquor-drinkings, and other extravagances; but, after all, if they will
try the plan of laying by a "nest-egg," or, in other words, a small sum
of money, at interest or judiciously invested in land, they will be
surprised at the pleasure to be derived from constantly adding to their
little "pile," as well as from all the economical habits which are
engendered by this course.
The old suit of clothes, and the old bonnet and dress, will answer for
another season; the Croton or spring water taste better than champagne;
a cold bath and a brisk walk will prove more exhilarating than a ride in
the finest coach; a social chat, an evening's reading in the family
circle, or an hour's play of "hunt the slipper" and "blind man's buff"
will be far more pleasant than a fifty or five hundred dollar party,
when the reflection on the difference in cost is indulged in by those
who begin to know the pleasures of saving. Thousands of men are kept
poor, and tens of thousands are made so after they have acquired quite
sufficient to support them well through life, in consequence of laying
their plans of living on too broad a platform. Some families expend
twenty thousand dollars per annum, and some much more, and would
scarcely know how to live on less, while others secure more solid
enjoyment frequently on a twentieth part of that amount. Prosperity is a
more severe ordeal than adversity, especially sudden prosperity. "Easy
come, easy go," is an old and true proverb. A spirit of pride and
vanity, when permitted to have full sway, is the undying canker-worm
which gnaws the very vitals of a man's worldly possessions, let them be
small or great, hundreds, or millions. Many persons, as they begin to
prosper, immediately expand their ideas and commence expending for
luxuries, until in a short time their expenses swallow up their income,
and they become ruined in their ridiculous attempts to keep up
appearances, and make a "sensation."
I know a gentleman of fortune who says, that when he first began to
prosper, his wife would have a new and elegant sofa. "That sofa," he
says, "cost me thirty thousand dollars!" When the sofa reached the
house, it was found necessary to get chairs to match; then side-boards,
carpets and tables "to correspond" with them, and so on through the
entire stock of furniture; when at last it was found that the house
itself was quite too small and old-fashioned for the furniture, and a
new one was built to correspond with the new purchases; "thus," added my
friend, "summing up an outlay of thirty thousand dollars, caused by that
single sofa, and saddling on me, in the shape of servants, equipage, and
the necessary expenses attendant upon keeping up a fine 'establishment,'
a yearly outlay of eleven thousand dollars, and a tight pinch at that:
whereas, ten years ago, we lived with much more real comfort, because
with much less care, on as many hundreds. The truth is," he continued,
"that sofa would have brought me to inevitable bankruptcy, had not a
most unexampled title to prosperity kept me above it, and had I not
checked the natural desire to 'cut a dash'."
The foundation of success in life is good health: that is the substratum
fortune; it is also the basis of happiness. A person cannot accumulate a
fortune very well when he is sick. He has no ambition; no incentive; no
force. Of course, there are those who have bad health and cannot help
it: you cannot expect that such persons can accumulate wealth, but there
are a great many in poor health who need not be so.
If, then, sound health is the foundation of success and happiness in
life, how important it is that we should study the laws of health, which
is but another expression for the laws of nature! The nearer we keep to
the laws of nature, the nearer we are to good health, and yet how many
persons there are who pay no attention to natural laws, but absolutely
transgress them, even against their own natural inclination. We ought to
know that the "sin of ignorance" is never winked at in regard to the
violation of nature's laws; their infraction always brings the penalty.
A child may thrust its finger into the flames without knowing it will
burn, and so suffers, repentance, even, will not stop the smart. Many of
our ancestors knew very little about the principle of ventilation. They
did not know much about oxygen, whatever other "gin" they might have
been acquainted with; and consequently they built their houses with
little seven-by-nine feet bedrooms, and these good old pious Puritans
would lock themselves up in one of these cells, say their prayers and go
to bed. In the morning they would devoutly return thanks for the
"preservation of their lives," during the night, and nobody had better
reason to be thankful. Probably some big crack in the window, or in the
door, let in a little fresh air, and thus saved them.
Many persons knowingly violate the laws of nature against their better
impulses, for the sake of fashion. For instance, there is one thing that
nothing living except a vile worm ever naturally loved, and that is
tobacco; yet how many persons there are who deliberately train an
unnatural appetite, and overcome this implanted aversion for tobacco, to
such a degree that they get to love it. They have got hold of a
poisonous, filthy weed, or rather that takes a firm hold of them. Here
are married men who run about spitting tobacco juice on the carpet and
floors, and sometimes even upon their wives besides. They do not kick
their wives out of doors like drunken men, but their wives, I have no
doubt, often wish they were outside of the house. Another perilous
feature is that this artificial appetite, like jealousy, "grows by what
it feeds on;" when you love that which is unnatural, a stronger appetite
is created for the hurtful thing than the natural desire for what is
harmless. There is an old proverb which says that "habit is second
nature," but an artificial habit is stronger than nature. Take for
instance, an old tobacco-chewer; his love for the "quid" is stronger
than his love for any particular kind of food. He can give up roast beef
easier than give up the weed.
Young lads regret that they are not men; they would like to go to bed
boys and wake up men; and to accomplish this they copy the bad habits of
their seniors. Little Tommy and Johnny see their fathers or uncles smoke
a pipe, and they say, "If I could only do that, I would be a man too;
uncle John has gone out and left his pipe of tobacco, let us try it."
They take a match and light it, and then puff away. "We will learn to
smoke; do you like it Johnny?" That lad dolefully replies: "Not very
much; it tastes bitter;" by and by he grows pale, but he persists and
he soon offers up a sacrifice on the altar of fashion; but the boys
stick to it and persevere until at last they conquer their natural
appetites and become the victims of acquired tastes.
I speak "by the book," for I have noticed its effects on myself, having
gone so far as to smoke ten or fifteen cigars a day; although I have not
used the weed during the last fourteen years, and never shall again. The
more a man smokes, the more he craves smoking; the last cigar smoked
simply excites the desire for another, and so on incessantly.
Take the tobacco-chewer. In the morning, when he gets up, he puts a quid
in his mouth and keeps it there all day, never taking it out except to
exchange it for a fresh one, or when he is going to eat; oh! yes, at
intervals during the day and evening, many a chewer takes out the quid
and holds it in his hand long enough to take a drink, and then pop it
goes back again. This simply proves that the appetite for rum is even
stronger than that for tobacco. When the tobacco-chewer goes to your
country seat and you show him your grapery and fruit house, and the
beauties of your garden, when you offer him some fresh, ripe fruit, and
say, "My friend, I have got here the most delicious apples, and pears,
and peaches, and apricots; I have imported them from Spain, France and
Italy--just see those luscious grapes; there is nothing more delicious
nor more healthy than ripe fruit, so help yourself; I want to see you
delight yourself with these things;" he will roll the dear quid under
his tongue and answer, "No, I thank you, I have got tobacco in my
mouth." His palate has become narcotized by the noxious weed, and he has
lost, in a great measure, the delicate and enviable taste for fruits.
This shows what expensive, useless and injurious habits men will get
into. I speak from experience. I have smoked until I trembled like an
aspen leaf, the blood rushed to my head, and I had a palpitation of the
heart which I thought was heart disease, till I was almost killed with
fright. When I consulted my physician, he said "break off tobacco
using." I was not only injuring my health and spending a great deal of
money, but I was setting a bad example. I obeyed his counsel. No young
man in the world ever looked so beautiful, as he thought he did, behind
a fifteen cent cigar or a meerschaum!
These remarks apply with tenfold force to the use of intoxicating
drinks. To make money, requires a clear brain. A man has got to see that
two and two make four; he must lay all his plans with reflection and
forethought, and closely examine all the details and the ins and outs of
business. As no man can succeed in business unless he has a brain to
enable him to lay his plans, and reason to guide him in their execution,
so, no matter how bountifully a man may be blessed with intelligence, if
the brain is muddled, and his judgment warped by intoxicating drinks, it
is impossible for him to carry on business successfully. How many good
opportunities have passed, never to return, while a man was sipping a
"social glass," with his friend! How many foolish bargains have been
made under the influence of the "nervine," which temporarily makes its
victim think he is rich. How many important chances have been put off
until to-morrow, and then forever, because the wine cup has thrown the
system into a state of lassitude, neutralizing the energies so essential
to success in business. Verily, "wine is a mocker." The use of
intoxicating drinks as a beverage, is as much an infatuation, as is the
smoking of opium by the Chinese, and the former is quite as destructive
to the success of the business man as the latter. It is an unmitigated
evil, utterly indefensible in the light of philosophy; religion or good
sense. It is the parent of nearly every other evil in our country.
DON'T MISTAKE YOUR VOCATION
The safest plan, and the one most sure of success for the young man
starting in life, is to select the vocation which is most congenial to
his tastes. Parents and guardians are often quite too negligent in
regard to this. It very common for a father to say, for example: "I have
five boys. I will make Billy a clergyman; John a lawyer; Tom a doctor,
and Dick a farmer." He then goes into town and looks about to see what
he will do with Sammy. He returns home and says "Sammy, I see watch-
making is a nice genteel business; I think I will make you a goldsmith."
He does this, regardless of Sam's natural inclinations, or genius.
We are all, no doubt, born for a wise purpose. There is as much
diversity in our brains as in our countenances. Some are born natural
mechanics, while some have great aversion to machinery. Let a dozen boys
of ten years get together, and you will soon observe two or three are
"whittling" out some ingenious device; working with locks or complicated
machinery. When they were but five years old, their father could find no
toy to please them like a puzzle. They are natural mechanics; but the
other eight or nine boys have different aptitudes. I belong to the
latter class; I never had the slightest love for mechanism; on the
contrary, I have a sort of abhorrence for complicated machinery. I never
had ingenuity enough to whittle a cider tap so it would not leak. I
never could make a pen that I could write with, or understand the
principle of a steam engine. If a man was to take such a boy as I was,
and attempt to make a watchmaker of him, the boy might, after an
apprenticeship of five or seven years, be able to take apart and put
together a watch; but all through life he would be working up hill and
seizing every excuse for leaving his work and idling away his time.
Watchmaking is repulsive to him.
Unless a man enters upon the vocation intended for him by nature, and
best suited to his peculiar genius, he cannot succeed. I am glad to
believe that the majority of persons do find their right vocation. Yet
we see many who have mistaken their calling, from the blacksmith up (or
down) to the clergyman. You will see, for instance, that extraordinary
linguist the "learned blacksmith," who ought to have been a teacher of
languages; and you may have seen lawyers, doctors and clergymen who were
better fitted by nature for the anvil or the lapstone.
SELECT THE RIGHT LOCATION
After securing the right vocation, you must be careful to select the
proper location. You may have been cut out for a hotel keeper, and they
say it requires a genius to "know how to keep a hotel." You might
conduct a hotel like clock-work, and provide satisfactorily for five
hundred guests every day; yet, if you should locate your house in a
small village where there is no railroad communication or public travel,
the location would be your ruin. It is equally important that you do not
commence business where there are already enough to meet all demands in
the same occupation. I remember a case which illustrates this subject.
When I was in London in 1858, I was passing down Holborn with an English
friend and came to the "penny shows." They had immense cartoons outside,
portraying the wonderful curiosities to be seen "all for a penny." Being
a little in the "show line" myself, I said "let us go in here." We soon
found ourselves in the presence of the illustrious showman, and he
proved to be the sharpest man in that line I had ever met. He told us
some extraordinary stories in reference to his bearded ladies, his
Albinos, and his Armadillos, which we could hardly believe, but thought
it "better to believe it than look after the proof'." He finally begged
to call our attention to some wax statuary, and showed us a lot of the
dirtiest and filthiest wax figures imaginable. They looked as if they
had not seen water since the Deluge.
"What is there so wonderful about your statuary?" I asked.
"I beg you not to speak so satirically," he replied, "Sir, these are
not Madam Tussaud's wax figures, all covered with gilt and tinsel and
imitation diamonds, and copied from engravings and photographs. Mine,
sir, were taken from life. Whenever you look upon one of those figures,
you may consider that you are looking upon the living individual."
Glancing casually at them, I saw one labeled "Henry VIII," and feeling a
little curious upon seeing that it looked like Calvin Edson, the living
skeleton, I said: "Do you call that 'Henry the Eighth?'" He replied,
"Certainly; sir; it was taken from life at Hampton Court, by special
order of his majesty; on such a day."
He would have given the hour of the day if I had resisted; I said,
"Everybody knows that 'Henry VIII.' was a great stout old king, and that
figure is lean and lank; what do you say to that?"
"Why," he replied, "you would be lean and lank yourself if you sat there
as long as he has."
There was no resisting such arguments. I said to my English friend, "Let
us go out; do not tell him who I am; I show the white feather; he beats
He followed us to the door, and seeing the rabble in the street, he
called out, "ladies and gentlemen, I beg to draw your attention to the
respectable character of my visitors," pointing to us as we walked away.
I called upon him a couple of days afterwards; told him who I was, and
"My friend, you are an excellent showman, but you have selected a bad
He replied, "This is true, sir; I feel that all my talents are thrown
away; but what can I do?"
"You can go to America," I replied. "You can give full play to your
faculties over there; you will find plenty of elbowroom in America; I
will engage you for two years; after that you will be able to go on your
He accepted my offer and remained two years in my New York Museum. He
then went to New Orleans and carried on a traveling show business during
the summer. To-day he is worth sixty thousand dollars, simply because he
selected the right vocation and also secured the proper location. The
old proverb says, "Three removes are as bad as a fire," but when a man
is in the fire, it matters but little how soon or how often he removes.
Young men starting in life should avoid running into debt. There is
scarcely anything that drags a person down like debt. It is a slavish
position to get in, yet we find many a young man, hardly out of his
"teens," running in debt. He meets a chum and says, "Look at this: I
have got trusted for a new suit of clothes." He seems to look upon the
clothes as so much given to him; well, it frequently is so, but, if he
succeeds in paying and then gets trusted again, he is adopting a habit
which will keep him in poverty through life. Debt robs a man of his
self-respect, and makes him almost despise himself. Grunting and
groaning and working for what he has eaten up or worn out, and now when
he is called upon to pay up, he has nothing to show for his money; this
is properly termed "working for a dead horse." I do not speak of
merchants buying and selling on credit, or of those who buy on credit in
order to turn the purchase to a profit. The old Quaker said to his
farmer son, "John, never get trusted; but if thee gets trusted for
anything, let it be for 'manure,' because that will help thee pay it
Mr. Beecher advised young men to get in debt if they could to a small
amount in the purchase of land, in the country districts. "If a young
man," he says, "will only get in debt for some land and then get
married, these two things will keep him straight, or nothing will." This
may be safe to a limited extent, but getting in debt for what you eat
and drink and wear is to be avoided. Some families have a foolish habit
of getting credit at "the stores," and thus frequently purchase many
things which might have been dispensed with.
It is all very well to say; "I have got trusted for sixty days, and if I
don't have the money the creditor will think nothing about it." There is
no class of people in the world, who have such good memories as
creditors. When the sixty days run out, you will have to pay. If you do
not pay, you will break your promise, and probably resort to a
falsehood. You may make some excuse or get in debt elsewhere to pay it,
but that only involves you the deeper.
A good-looking, lazy young fellow, was the apprentice boy, Horatio. His
employer said, "Horatio, did you ever see a snail?" "I - think - I -
have," he drawled out. "You must have met him then, for I am sure you
never overtook one," said the "boss." Your creditor will meet you or
overtake you and say, "Now, my young friend, you agreed to pay me; you
have not done it, you must give me your note." You give the note on
interest and it commences working against you; "it is a dead horse." The
creditor goes to bed at night and wakes up in the morning better off
than when he retired to bed, because his interest has increased during
the night, but you grow poorer while you are sleeping, for the interest
is accumulating against you.
Money is in some respects like fire; it is a very excellent servant but
a terrible master. When you have it mastering you; when interest is
constantly piling up against you, it will keep you down in the worst
kind of slavery. But let money work for you, and you have the most
devoted servant in the world. It is no "eye-servant." There is nothing
animate or inanimate that will work so faithfully as money when placed
at interest, well secured. It works night and day, and in wet or dry
I was born in the blue-law State of Connecticut, where the old Puritans
had laws so rigid that it was said, "they fined a man for kissing his
wife on Sunday." Yet these rich old Puritans would have thousands of
dollars at interest, and on Saturday night would be worth a certain
amount; on Sunday they would go to church and perform all the duties of
a Christian. On waking up on Monday morning, they would find themselves
considerably richer than the Saturday night previous, simply because
their money placed at interest had worked faithfully for them all day
Sunday, according to law!
Do not let it work against you; if you do there is no chance for success
in life so far as money is concerned. John Randolph, the eccentric
Virginian, once exclaimed in Congress, "Mr. Speaker, I have discovered
the philosopher's stone: pay as you go." This is, indeed, nearer to the
philosopher's stone than any alchemist has ever yet arrived.
When a man is in the right path, he must persevere. I speak of this
because there are some persons who are "born tired;" naturally lazy and
possessing no self-reliance and no perseverance. But they can cultivate
these qualities, as Davy Crockett said:
"This thing remember, when I am dead: Be sure you are right, then go
It is this go-aheaditiveness, this determination not to let the
"horrors" or the "blues" take possession of you, so as to make you relax
your energies in the struggle for independence, which you must
How many have almost reached the goal of their ambition, but, losing
faith in themselves, have relaxed their energies, and the golden prize
has been lost forever.
It is, no doubt, often true, as Shakespeare says:
"There is a tide in the affairs of men, Which, taken at the flood, leads
on to fortune."
If you hesitate, some bolder hand will stretch out before you and get
the prize. Remember the proverb of Solomon: "He becometh poor that
dealeth with a slack hand; but the hand of the diligent maketh rich."
Perseverance is sometimes but another word for self-reliance. Many
persons naturally look on the dark side of life, and borrow trouble.
They are born so. Then they ask for advice, and they will be governed by
one wind and blown by another, and cannot rely upon themselves. Until
you can get so that you can rely upon yourself, you need not expect to
I have known men, personally, who have met with pecuniary reverses, and
absolutely committed suicide, because they thought they could never
overcome their misfortune. But I have known others who have met more
serious financial difficulties, and have bridged them over by simple
perseverance, aided by a firm belief that they were doing justly, and
that Providence would "overcome evil with good." You will see this
illustrated in any sphere of life.
Take two generals; both understand military tactics, both educated at
West Point, if you please, both equally gifted; yet one, having this
principle of perseverance, and the other lacking it, the former will
succeed in his profession, while the latter will fail. One may hear the
cry, "the enemy are coming, and they have got cannon."
"Got cannon?" says the hesitating general.
"Then halt every man."
He wants time to reflect; his hesitation is his ruin; the enemy passes
unmolested, or overwhelms him; while on the other hand, the general of
pluck, perseverance and self-reliance, goes into battle with a will,
and, amid the clash of arms, the booming of cannon, the shrieks of the
wounded, and the moans of the dying, you will see this man persevering,
going on, cutting and slashing his way through with unwavering
determination, inspiring his soldiers to deeds of fortitude, valor, and
WHATEVER YOU DO, DO IT WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT
Work at it, if necessary, early and late, in season and out of season,
not leaving a stone unturned, and never deferring for a single hour that
which can be done just as well now. The old proverb is full of truth and
meaning, "Whatever is worth doing at all, is worth doing well." Many a
man acquires a fortune by doing his business thoroughly, while his
neighbor remains poor for life, because he only half does it. Ambition,
energy, industry, perseverance, are indispensable requisites for success
Fortune always favors the brave, and never helps a man who does not help
himself. It won't do to spend your time like Mr. Micawber, in waiting
for something to "turn up." To such men one of two things usually "turns
up:" the poorhouse or the jail; for idleness breeds bad habits, and
clothes a man in rags. The poor spendthrift vagabond says to a rich man:
"I have discovered there is enough money in the world for all of us, if
it was equally divided; this must be done, and we shall all be happy
"But," was the response, "if everybody was like you, it would be spent
in two months, and what would you do then?"
"Oh! divide again; keep dividing, of course!"
I was recently reading in a London paper an account of a like
philosophic pauper who was kicked out of a cheap boarding-house because
he could not pay his bill, but he had a roll of papers sticking out of
his coat pocket, which, upon examination, proved to be his plan for
paying off the national debt of England without the aid of a penny.
People have got to do as Cromwell said: "not only trust in Providence,
but keep the powder dry." Do your part of the work, or you cannot
succeed. Mahomet, one night, while encamping in the desert, overheard
one of his fatigued followers remark: "I will loose my camel, and trust
it to God!" "No, no, not so," said the prophet, "tie thy camel, and
trust it to God!" Do all you can for yourselves, and then trust to
Providence, or luck, or whatever you please to call it, for the rest.
DEPEND UPON YOUR OWN PERSONAL EXERTIONS.
The eye of the employer is often worth more than the hands of a dozen
employees. In the nature of things, an agent cannot be so faithful to
his employer as to himself. Many who are employers will call to mind
instances where the best employees have overlooked important points
which could not have escaped their own observation as a proprietor. No
man has a right to expect to succeed in life unless he understands his
business, and nobody can understand his business thoroughly unless he
learns it by personal application and experience. A man may be a
manufacturer: he has got to learn the many details of his business
personally; he will learn something every day, and he will find he will
make mistakes nearly every day. And these very mistakes are helps to him
in the way of experiences if he but heeds them. He will be like the
Yankee tin-peddler, who, having been cheated as to quality in the
purchase of his merchandise, said: "All right, there's a little
information to be gained every day; I will never be cheated in that way
again." Thus a man buys his experience, and it is the best kind if not
purchased at too dear a rate.
I hold that every man should, like Cuvier, the French naturalist,
thoroughly know his business. So proficient was he in the study of
natural history, that you might bring to him the bone, or even a section
of a bone of an animal which he had never seen described, and, reasoning
from analogy, he would be able to draw a picture of the object from
which the bone had been taken. On one occasion his students attempted to
deceive him. They rolled one of their number in a cow skin and put him
under the professor's table as a new specimen. When the philosopher came
into the room, some of the students asked him what animal it was.
Suddenly the animal said "I am the devil and I am going to eat you." It
was but natural that Cuvier should desire to classify this creature, and
examining it intently, he said:
"Divided hoof; graminivorous! It cannot be done."
He knew that an animal with a split hoof must live upon grass and grain,
or other kind of vegetation, and would not be inclined to eat flesh,
dead or alive, so he considered himself perfectly safe. The possession
of a perfect knowledge of your business is an absolute necessity in
order to insure success.
Among the maxims of the elder Rothschild was one, all apparent paradox:
"Be cautious and bold." This seems to be a contradiction in terms, but
it is not, and there is great wisdom in the maxim. It is, in fact, a
condensed statement of what I have already said. It is to say; "you must
exercise your caution in laying your plans, but be bold in carrying them
out." A man who is all caution, will never dare to take hold and be
successful; and a man who is all boldness, is merely reckless, and must
eventually fail. A man may go on "'change" and make fifty, or one
hundred thousand dollars in speculating in stocks, at a single
operation. But if he has simple boldness without caution, it is mere
chance, and what he gains to-day he will lose to-morrow. You must have
both the caution and the boldness, to insure success.
The Rothschilds have another maxim: "Never have anything to do with an
unlucky man or place." That is to say, never have anything to do with a
man or place which never succeeds, because, although a man may appear to
be honest and intelligent, yet if he tries this or that thing and always
fails, it is on account of some fault or infirmity that you may not be
able to discover but nevertheless which must exist.
There is no such thing in the world as luck. There never was a man who
could go out in the morning and find a purse full of gold in the street
to-day, and another to-morrow, and so on, day after day: He may do so
once in his life; but so far as mere luck is concerned, he is as liable
to lose it as to find it. "Like causes produce like effects." If a man
adopts the proper methods to be successful, "luck" will not prevent him.
If he does not succeed, there are reasons for it, although, perhaps, he
may not be able to see them.
USE THE BEST TOOLS
Men in engaging employees should be careful to get the best. Understand,
you cannot have too good tools to work with, and there is no tool you
should be so particular about as living tools. If you get a good one, it
is better to keep him, than keep changing. He learns something every
day; and you are benefited by the experience he acquires. He is worth
more to you this year than last, and he is the last man to part with,
provided his habits are good, and he continues faithful. If, as he gets
more valuable, he demands an exorbitant increase of salary; on the
supposition that you can't do without him, let him go. Whenever I have
such an employee, I always discharge him; first, to convince him that
his place may be supplied, and second, because he is good for nothing if
he thinks he is invaluable and cannot be spared.
But I would keep him, if possible, in order to profit from the result of
his experience. An important element in an employee is the brain. You
can see bills up, "Hands Wanted," but "hands" are not worth a great deal
without "heads." Mr. Beecher illustrates this, in this wise:
An employee offers his services by saving, "I have a pair of hands and
one of my fingers thinks." "That is very good," says the employer.
Another man comes along, and says "he has two fingers that think." "Ah!
that is better." But a third calls in and says that "all his fingers and
thumbs think." That is better still. Finally another steps in and says,
"I have a brain that thinks; I think all over; I am a thinking as well
as a working man!" "You are the man I want," says the delighted
Those men who have brains and experience are therefore the most valuable
and not to be readily parted with; it is better for them, as well as
yourself, to keep them, at reasonable advances in their salaries from
time to time.
DON'T GET ABOVE YOUR BUSINESS
Young men after they get through their business training, or
apprenticeship, instead of pursuing their avocation and rising in their
business, will often lie about doing nothing. They say; "I have learned
my business, but I am not going to be a hireling; what is the object of
learning my trade or profession, unless I establish myself?'"
"Have you capital to start with?"
"No, but I am going to have it."
"How are you going to get it?"
"I will tell you confidentially; I have a wealthy old aunt, and she will
die pretty soon; but if she does not, I expect to find some rich old man
who will lend me a few thousands to give me a start. If I only get the
money to start with I will do well."
There is no greater mistake than when a young man believes he will
succeed with borrowed money. Why? Because every man's experience
coincides with that of Mr. Astor, who said, "it was more difficult for
him to accumulate his first thousand dollars, than all the succeeding
millions that made up his colossal fortune." Money is good for nothing
unless you know the value of it by experience. Give a boy twenty
thousand dollars and put him in business, and the chances are that he
will lose every dollar of it before he is a year older. Like buying a
ticket in the lottery; and drawing a prize, it is "easy come, easy go."
He does not know the value of it; nothing is worth anything, unless it
costs effort. Without self-denial and economy; patience and
perseverance, and commencing with capital which you have not earned, you
are not sure to succeed in accumulating. Young men, instead of "waiting
for dead men's shoes," should be up and doing, for there is no class of
persons who are so unaccommodating in regard to dying as these rich old
people, and it is fortunate for the expectant heirs that it is so. Nine
out of ten of the rich men of our country to-day, started out in life as
poor boys, with determined wills, industry, perseverance, economy and
good habits. They went on gradually, made their own money and saved it;
and this is the best way to acquire a fortune. Stephen Girard started
life as a poor cabin boy, and died worth nine million dollars. A.T.
Stewart was a poor Irish boy; and he paid taxes on a million and a half
dollars of income, per year. John Jacob Astor was a poor farmer boy, and
died worth twenty millions. Cornelius Vanderbilt began life rowing a
boat from Staten Island to New York; he presented our government with a
steamship worth a million of dollars, and died worth fifty million.
"There is no royal road to learning," says the proverb, and I may say it
is equally true, "there is no royal road to wealth." But I think there
is a royal road to both. The road to learning is a royal one; the road
that enables the student to expand his intellect and add every day to
his stock of knowledge, until, in the pleasant process of intellectual
growth, he is able to solve the most profound problems, to count the
stars, to analyze every atom of the globe, and to measure the firmament
this is a regal highway, and it is the only road worth traveling.
So in regard to wealth. Go on in confidence, study the rules, and above
all things, study human nature; for "the proper study of mankind is
man," and you will find that while expanding the intellect and the
muscles, your enlarged experience will enable you every day to
accumulate more and more principal, which will increase itself by
interest and otherwise, until you arrive at a state of independence. You
will find, as a general thing, that the poor boys get rich and the rich
boys get poor. For instance, a rich man at his decease, leaves a large
estate to his family. His eldest sons, who have helped him earn his
fortune, know by experience the value of money; and they take their
inheritance and add to it. The separate portions of the young children
are placed at interest, and the little fellows are patted on the head,
and told a dozen times a day, "you are rich; you will never have to
work, you can always have whatever you wish, for you were born with a
golden spoon in your mouth." The young heir soon finds out what that
means; he has the finest dresses and playthings; he is crammed with
sugar candies and almost "killed with kindness," and he passes from
school to school, petted and flattered. He becomes arrogant and
self-conceited, abuses his teachers, and carries everything with a high
hand. He knows nothing of the real value of money, having never earned
any; but he knows all about the "golden spoon" business. At college, he
invites his poor fellow-students to his room, where he "wines and dines"
them. He is cajoled and caressed, and called a glorious good follow,
because he is so lavish of his money. He gives his game suppers, drives
his fast horses, invites his chums to fetes and parties, determined to
have lots of "good times." He spends the night in frolics and
debauchery, and leads off his companions with the familiar song, "we
won't go home till morning." He gets them to join him in pulling down
signs, taking gates from their hinges and throwing them into back yards
and horse-ponds. If the police arrest them, he knocks them down, is
taken to the lockup, and joyfully foots the bills.
"Ah! my boys," he cries, "what is the use of being rich, if you can't
He might more truly say, "if you can't make a fool of yourself;" but he
is "fast," hates slow things, and doesn't "see it." Young men loaded
down with other people's money are almost sure to lose all they inherit,
and they acquire all sorts of bad habits which, in the majority of
cases, ruin them in health, purse and character. In this country, one
generation follows another, and the poor of to-day are rich in the next
generation, or the third. Their experience leads them on, and they
become rich, and they leave vast riches to their young children. These
children, having been reared in luxury, are inexperienced and get poor;
and after long experience another generation comes on and gathers up
riches again in turn. And thus "history repeats itself," and happy is he
who by listening to the experience of others avoids the rocks and shoals
on which so many have been wrecked.
"In England, the business makes the man." If a man in that country is a
mechanic or working-man, he is not recognized as a gentleman. On the
occasion of my first appearance before Queen Victoria, the Duke of
Wellington asked me what sphere in life General Tom Thumb's parents were
"His father is a carpenter," I replied.
"Oh! I had heard he was a gentleman," was the response of His Grace.
In this Republican country, the man makes the business. No matter
whether he is a blacksmith, a shoemaker, a farmer, banker or lawyer, so
long as his business is legitimate, he may be a gentleman. So any
"legitimate" business is a double blessing it helps the man engaged in
it, and also helps others. The Farmer supports his own family, but he
also benefits the merchant or mechanic who needs the products of his
farm. The tailor not only makes a living by his trade, but he also
benefits the farmer, the clergyman and others who cannot make their own
clothing. But all these classes often may be gentlemen.
The great ambition should be to excel all others engaged in the same
The college-student who was about graduating, said to an old lawyer:
"I have not yet decided which profession I will follow. Is your
"The basement is much crowded, but there is plenty of room up-stairs,"
was the witty and truthful reply.
No profession, trade, or calling, is overcrowded in the upper story.
Wherever you find the most honest and intelligent merchant or banker, or
the best lawyer, the best doctor, the best clergyman, the best
shoemaker, carpenter, or anything else, that man is most sought for, and
has always enough to do. As a nation, Americans are too superficial--
they are striving to get rich quickly, and do not generally do their
business as substantially and thoroughly as they should, but whoever
excels all others in his own line, if his habits are good and his
integrity undoubted, cannot fail to secure abundant patronage, and the
wealth that naturally follows. Let your motto then always be
"Excelsior," for by living up to it there is no such word as fail.
LEARN SOMETHING USEFUL
Every man should make his son or daughter learn some useful trade or
profession, so that in these days of changing fortunes of being rich
to-day and poor tomorrow they may have something tangible to fall back
upon. This provision might save many persons from misery, who by some
unexpected turn of fortune have lost all their means.
LET HOPE PREDOMINATE, BUT BE NOT TOO VISIONARY
Many persons are always kept poor, because they are too visionary. Every
project looks to them like certain success, and therefore they keep
changing from one business to another, always in hot water, always
"under the harrow." The plan of "counting the chickens before they are
hatched" is an error of ancient date, but it does not seem to improve by
DO NOT SCATTER YOUR POWERS
Engage in one kind of business only, and stick to it faithfully until
you succeed, or until your experience shows that you should abandon it.
A constant hammering on one nail will generally drive it home at last,
so that it can be clinched. When a man's undivided attention is centered
on one object, his mind will constantly be suggesting improvements of
value, which would escape him if his brain was occupied by a dozen
different subjects at once. Many a fortune has slipped through a man's
fingers because he was engaged in too many occupations at a time. There
is good sense in the old caution against having too many irons in the
fire at once.
Men should be systematic in their business. A person who does business
by rule, having a time and place for everything, doing his work
promptly, will accomplish twice as much and with half the trouble of him
who does it carelessly and slipshod. By introducing system into all your
transactions, doing one thing at a time, always meeting appointments
with punctuality, you find leisure for pastime and recreation; whereas
the man who only half does one thing, and then turns to something else,
and half does that, will have his business at loose ends, and will never
know when his day's work is done, for it never will be done. Of course,
there is a limit to all these rules. We must try to preserve the happy
medium, for there is such a thing as being too systematic. There are men
and women, for instance, who put away things so carefully that they can
never find them again. It is too much like the "red tape" formality at
Washington, and Mr. Dickens' "Circumlocution Office,"--all theory and
When the "Astor House" was first started in New York city, it was
undoubtedly the best hotel in the country. The proprietors had learned a
good deal in Europe regarding hotels, and the landlords were proud of
the rigid system which pervaded every department of their great
establishment. When twelve o'clock at night had arrived, and there were
a number of guests around, one of the proprietors would say, "Touch that
bell, John;" and in two minutes sixty servants, with a water-bucket in
each hand, would present themselves in the hall. "This," said the
landlord, addressing his guests, "is our fire-bell; it will show you we
are quite safe here; we do everything systematically." This was before
the Croton water was introduced into the city. But they sometimes
carried their system too far. On one occasion, when the hotel was
thronged with guests, one of the waiters was suddenly indisposed, and
although there were fifty waiters in the hotel, the landlord thought he
must have his full complement, or his "system" would be interfered with.
Just before dinner-time, he rushed down stairs and said, "There must be
another waiter, I am one waiter short, what can I do?" He happened to
see "Boots," the Irishman. "Pat," said he, "wash your hands and face;
take that white apron and come into the dining-room in five minutes."
Presently Pat appeared as required, and the proprietor said: "Now Pat,
you must stand behind these two chairs, and wait on the gentlemen who
will occupy them; did you ever act as a waiter?"
"I know all about it, sure, but I never did it."
Like the Irish pilot, on one occasion when the captain, thinking he was
considerably out of his course, asked, "Are you certain you understand
what you are doing?"
Pat replied, "Sure and I knows every rock in the channel."
That moment, "bang" thumped the vessel against a rock.
"Ah! be-jabers, and that is one of 'em," continued the pilot. But to
return to the dining-room. "Pat," said the landlord, "here we do
everything systematically. You must first give the gentlemen each a
plate of soup, and when they finish that, ask them what they will have
Pat replied, "Ah! an' I understand parfectly the vartues of shystem."
Very soon in came the guests. The plates of soup were placed before
them. One of Pat's two gentlemen ate his soup; the other did not care
for it. He said: "Waiter, take this plate away and bring me some fish."
Pat looked at the untasted plate of soup, and remembering the
instructions of the landlord in regard to "system," replied: "Not till
ye have ate yer supe!"
Of course that was carrying "system" entirely too far.
READ THE NEWSPAPERS
Always take a trustworthy newspaper, and thus keep thoroughly posted in
regard to the transactions of the world. He who is without a newspaper
is cut off from his species. In these days of telegraphs and steam, many
important inventions and improvements in every branch of trade are being
made, and he who don't consult the newspapers will soon find himself and
his business left out in the cold.
BEWARE OF "OUTSIDE OPERATIONS"
We sometimes see men who have obtained fortunes, suddenly become poor.
In many cases, this arises from intemperance, and often from gaming, and
other bad habits. Frequently it occurs because a man has been engaged in
"outside operations," of some sort. When he gets rich in his legitimate
business, he is told of a grand speculation where he can make a score of
thousands. He is constantly flattered by his friends, who tell him that
he is born lucky, that everything he touches turns into gold. Now if he
forgets that his economical habits, his rectitude of conduct and a
personal attention to a business which he understood, caused his success
in life, he will listen to the siren voices. He says:
"I will put in twenty thousand dollars. I have been lucky, and my good
luck will soon bring me back sixty thousand dollars."
A few days elapse and it is discovered he must put in ten thousand
dollars more: soon after he is told "it is all right," but certain
matters not foreseen, require an advance of twenty thousand dollars
more, which will bring him a rich harvest; but before the time comes
around to realize, the bubble bursts, he loses all he is possessed of,
and then he learns what he ought to have known at the first, that
however successful a man may be in his own business, if he turns from
that and engages ill a business which he don't understand, he is like
Samson when shorn of his locks his strength has departed, and he becomes
like other men.
If a man has plenty of money, he ought to invest something in everything
that appears to promise success, and that will probably benefit mankind;
but let the sums thus invested be moderate in amount, and never let a
man foolishly jeopardize a fortune that he has earned in a legitimate
way, by investing it in things in which he has had no experience.
DON'T INDORSE WITHOUT SECURITY
I hold that no man ought ever to indorse a note or become security, for
any man, be it his father or brother, to a greater extent than he can
afford to lose and care nothing about, without taking good security.
Here is a man that is worth twenty thousand dollars; he is doing a
thriving manufacturing or mercantile trade; you are retired and living
on your money; he comes to you and says:
"You are aware that I am worth twenty thousand dollars, and don't owe a
dollar; if I had five thousand dollars in cash, I could purchase a
particular lot of goods and double my money in a couple of months; will
you indorse my note for that amount?"
You reflect that he is worth twenty thousand dollars, and you incur no
risk by endorsing his note; you like to accommodate him, and you lend
your name without taking the precaution of getting security. Shortly
after, he shows you the note with your endorsement canceled, and tells
you, probably truly, "that he made the profit that he expected by the
operation," you reflect that you have done a good action, and the
thought makes you feel happy. By and by, the same thing occurs again and
you do it again; you have already fixed the impression in your mind that
it is perfectly safe to indorse his notes without security.
But the trouble is, this man is getting money too easily. He has only to
take your note to the bank, get it discounted and take the cash. He gets
money for the time being without effort; without inconvenience to
himself. Now mark the result. He sees a chance for speculation outside
of his business. A temporary investment of only $10,000 is required. It
is sure to come back before a note at the bank would be due. He places a
note for that amount before you. You sign it almost mechanically. Being
firmly convinced that your friend is responsible and trustworthy; you
indorse his notes as a "matter of course."
Unfortunately the speculation does not come to a head quite so soon as
was expected, and another $10,000 note must be discounted to take up the
last one when due. Before this note matures the speculation has proved
an utter failure and all the money is lost. Does the loser tell his
friend, the endorser, that he has lost half of his fortune? Not at all.
He don't even mention that he has speculated at all. But he has got
excited; the spirit of speculation has seized him; he sees others making
large sums in this way (we seldom hear of the losers), and, like other
speculators, he "looks for his money where he loses it." He tries again.
endorsing notes has become chronic with you, and at every loss he gets
your signature for whatever amount he wants. Finally you discover your
friend has lost all of his property and all of yours. You are
overwhelmed with astonishment and grief, and you say "it is a hard
thing; my friend here has ruined me," but, you should add, "I have also
ruined him." If you had said in the first place, "I will accommodate
you, but I never indorse without taking ample security," he could not
have gone beyond the length of his tether, and he would never have been
tempted away from his legitimate business. It is a very dangerous thing,
therefore, at any time, to let people get possession of money too
easily; it tempts them to hazardous speculations, if nothing more.
Solomon truly said "he that hateth suretiship is sure."
So with the young man starting in business; let him understand the value
of money by earning it. When he does understand its value, then grease
the wheels a little in helping him to start business, but remember, men
who get money with too great facility cannot usually succeed. You must
get the first dollars by hard knocks, and at some sacrifice, in order to
appreciate the value of those dollars.
ADVERTISE YOUR BUSINESS
We all depend, more or less, upon the public for our support. We all
trade with the public--lawyers, doctors, shoemakers, artists,
blacksmiths, showmen, opera stagers, railroad presidents, and college
professors. Those who deal with the public must be careful that their
goods are valuable; that they are genuine, and will give satisfaction.
When you get an article which you know is going to please your
customers, and that when they have tried it, they will feel they have
got their money's worth, then let the fact be known that you have got
it. Be careful to advertise it in some shape or other because it is
evident that if a man has ever so good an article for sale, and nobody
knows it, it will bring him no return. In a country like this, where
nearly everybody reads, and where newspapers are issued and circulated
in editions of five thousand to two hundred thousand, it would be very
unwise if this channel was not taken advantage of to reach the public in
advertising. A newspaper goes into the family, and is read by wife and
children, as well as the head of the home; hence hundreds and thousands
of people may read your advertisement, while you are attending to your
routine business. Many, perhaps, read it while you are asleep. The whole
philosophy of life is, first "sow," then "reap." That is the way the
farmer does; he plants his potatoes and corn, and sows his grain, and
then goes about something else, and the time comes when he reaps. But he
never reaps first and sows afterwards. This principle applies to all
kinds of business, and to nothing more eminently than to advertising. If
a man has a genuine article, there is no way in which he can reap more
advantageously than by "sowing" to the public in this way. He must, of
course, have a really good article, and one which will please his
customers; anything spurious will not succeed permanently because the
public is wiser than many imagine. Men and women are selfish, and we all
prefer purchasing where we can get the most for our money and we try to
find out where we can most surely do so.
You may advertise a spurious article, and induce many people to call and
buy it once, but they will denounce you as an impostor and swindler, and
your business will gradually die out and leave you poor. This is right.
Few people can safely depend upon chance custom. You all need to have
your customers return and purchase again. A man said to me, "I have
tried advertising and did not succeed; yet I have a good article."
I replied, "My friend, there may be exceptions to a general rule. But
how do you advertise?"
"I put it in a weekly newspaper three times, and paid a dollar and a
half for it." I replied: "Sir, advertising is like learning--'a little
is a dangerous thing!'"
A French writer says that "The reader of a newspaper does not see the
first mention of an ordinary advertisement; the second insertion he
sees, but does not read; the third insertion he reads; the fourth
insertion, he looks at the price; the fifth insertion, he speaks of it
to his wife; the sixth insertion, he is ready to purchase, and the
seventh insertion, he purchases." Your object in advertising is to make
the public understand what you have got to sell, and if you have not the
pluck to keep advertising, until you have imparted that information, all
the money you have spent is lost. You are like the fellow who told the
gentleman if he would give him ten cents it would save him a dollar.
"How can I help you so much with so small a sum?" asked the gentleman in
surprise. "I started out this morning (hiccuped the fellow) with the
full determination to get drunk, and I have spent my only dollar to
accomplish the object, and it has not quite done it. Ten cents worth
more of whiskey would just do it, and in this manner I should save the
dollar already expended."
So a man who advertises at all must keep it up until the public know who
and what he is, and what his business is, or else the money invested in
advertising is lost.
Some men have a peculiar genius for writing a striking advertisement,
one that will arrest the attention of the reader at first sight. This
fact, of course, gives the advertiser a great advantage. Sometimes a man
makes himself popular by an unique sign or a curious display in his
window, recently I observed a swing sign extending over the sidewalk in
front of a store, on which was the inscription in plain letters,
"DON'T READ THE OTHER SIDE"
Of course I did, and so did everybody else, and I learned that the man
had made all independence by first attracting the public to his business
in that way and then using his customers well afterwards.
Genin, the hatter, bought the first Jenny Lind ticket at auction for two
hundred and twenty-five dollars, because he knew it would be a good
advertisement for him. "Who is the bidder?" said the auctioneer, as he
knocked down that ticket at Castle Garden. "Genin, the hatter," was the
response. Here were thousands of people from the Fifth avenue, and from
distant cities in the highest stations in life. "Who is 'Genin,' the
hatter?" they exclaimed. They had never heard of him before. The next
morning the newspapers and telegraph had circulated the facts from Maine
to Texas, and from five to ten millions off people had read that the
tickets sold at auction For Jenny Lind's first concert amounted to about
twenty thousand dollars, and that a single ticket was sold at two
hundred and twenty-five dollars, to "Genin, the hatter." Men throughout
the country involuntarily took off their hats to see if they had a
"Genin" hat on their heads. At a town in Iowa it was found that in the
crowd around the post office, there was one man who had a "Genin" hat,
and he showed it in triumph, although it was worn out and not worth two
cents. "Why," one man exclaimed, "you have a real 'Genin' hat; what a
lucky fellow you are." Another man said, "Hang on to that hat, it will
be a valuable heir-loom in your family." Still another man in the crowd
who seemed to envy the possessor of this good fortune, said, "Come, give
us all a chance; put it up at auction!" He did so, and it was sold as a
keepsake for nine dollars and fifty cents! What was the consequence to
Mr. Genin? He sold ten thousand extra hats per annum, the first six
years. Nine-tenths of the purchasers bought of him, probably, out of
curiosity, and many of them, finding that he gave them an equivalent for
their money, became his regular customers. This novel advertisement
first struck their attention, and then, as he made a good article, they
Now I don't say that everybody should advertise as Mr. Genin did. But I
say if a man has got goods for sale, and he don't advertise them in
some way, the chances are that some day the sheriff will do it for him.
Nor do I say that everybody must advertise in a newspaper, or indeed use
"printers' ink" at all. On the contrary, although that article is
indispensable in the majority of cases, yet doctors and clergymen, and
sometimes lawyers and some others, can more effectually reach the public
in some other manner. But it is obvious, they must be known in some way,
else how could they be supported?
BE POLITE AND KIND TO YOUR CUSTOMERS
Politeness and civility are the best capital ever invested in business.
Large stores, gilt signs, flaming advertisements, will all prove
unavailing if you or your employees treat your patrons abruptly. The
truth is, the more kind and liberal a man is, the more generous will be
the patronage bestowed upon him. "Like begets like." The man who gives
the greatest amount of goods of a corresponding quality for the least
sum (still reserving for himself a profit) will generally succeed best
in the long run. This brings us to the golden rule, "As ye would that
men should do to you, do ye also to them" and they will do better by you
than if you always treated them as if you wanted to get the most you
could out of them for the least return. Men who drive sharp bargains
with their customers, acting as if they never expected to see them
again, will not be mistaken. They will never see them again as
customers. People don't like to pay and get kicked also.
One of the ushers in my Museum once told me he intended to whip a man
who was in the lecture-room as soon as he came out.
"What for?" I inquired.
"Because he said I was no gentleman," replied the usher.
"Never mind," I replied, "he pays for that, and you will not convince
him you are a gentleman by whipping him. I cannot afford to lose a
customer. If you whip him, he will never visit the Museum again, and he
will induce friends to go with him to other places of amusement instead
of this, and thus you see, I should be a serious loser."
"But he insulted me," muttered the usher.
"Exactly," I replied, "and if he owned the Museum, and you had paid him
for the privilege of visiting it, and he had then insulted you, there
might be some reason in your resenting it, but in this instance he is
the man who pays, while we receive, and you must, therefore, put up with
his bad manners."
My usher laughingly remarked, that this was undoubtedly the true policy;
but he added that he should not object to an increase of salary if he
was expected to be abused in order to promote my interest.
Of course men should be charitable, because it is a duty and a pleasure.
But even as a matter of policy, if you possess no higher incentive, you
will find that the liberal man will command patronage, while the sordid,
uncharitable miser will be avoided.
Solomon says: "There is that scattereth and yet increaseth; and there is
that withholdeth more than meet, but it tendeth to poverty." Of course
the only true charity is that which is from the heart.
The best kind of charity is to help those who are willing to help
themselves. Promiscuous almsgiving, without inquiring into the
worthiness of the applicant, is bad in every sense. But to search out
and quietly assist those who are struggling for themselves, is the kind
that "scattereth and yet increaseth." But don't fall into the idea that
some persons practice, of giving a prayer instead of a potato, and a
benediction instead of bread, to the hungry. It is easier to make
Christians with full stomachs than empty.
Some men have a foolish habit of telling their business secrets. If they
make money they like to tell their neighbors how it was done. Nothing is
gained by this, and ofttimes much is lost. Say nothing about your
profits, your hopes, your expectations, your intentions. And this should
apply to letters as well as to conversation. Goethe makes Mephistophilles
say: "Never write a letter nor destroy one." Business men must write
letters, but they should be careful what they put in them. If you are
losing money, be specially cautious and not tell of it, or you will lose
PRESERVE YOUR INTEGRITY
It is more precious than diamonds or rubies. The old miser said to his
sons: "Get money; get it honestly if you can, but get money:" This
advice was not only atrociously wicked, but it was the very essence of
stupidity: It was as much as to say, "if you find it difficult to obtain
money honestly, you can easily get it dishonestly. Get it in that way."
Poor fool! Not to know that the most difficult thing in life is to make
money dishonestly! Not to know that our prisons are full of men who
attempted to follow this advice; not to understand that no man can be
dishonest, without soon being found out, and that when his lack of
principle is discovered, nearly every avenue to success is closed
against him forever. The public very properly shun all whose integrity
is doubted. No matter how polite and pleasant and accommodating a man
may be, none of us dare to deal with him if we suspect "false weights
and measures." Strict honesty, not only lies at the foundation of all
success in life (financially), but in every other respect.
Uncompromising integrity of character is invaluable. It secures to its
possessor a peace and joy which cannot be attained without it--which no
amount of money, or houses and lands can purchase. A man who is known to
be strictly honest, may be ever so poor, but he has the purses of all
the community at his disposal--for all know that if he promises to
return what he borrows, he will never disappoint them. As a mere matter
of selfishness, therefore, if a man had no higher motive for being
honest, all will find that the maxim of Dr. Franklin can never fail to
be true, that "honesty is the best policy."
To get rich, is not always equivalent to being successful. "There are
many rich poor men," while there are many others, honest and devout men
and women, who have never possessed so much money as some rich persons
squander in a week, but who are nevertheless really richer and happier
than any man can ever be while he is a transgressor of the higher laws
of his being.
The inordinate love of money, no doubt, may be and is "the root of all
evil," but money itself, when properly used, is not only a "handy thing
to have in the house," but affords the gratification of blessing our
race by enabling its possessor to enlarge the scope of human happiness
and human influence. The desire for wealth is nearly universal, and none
can say it is not laudable, provided the possessor of it accepts its
responsibilities, and uses it as a friend to humanity.
The history of money-getting, which is commerce, is a history of
civilization, and wherever trade has flourished most, there, too, have
art and science produced the noblest fruits. In fact, as a general
thing, money-getters are the benefactors of our race. To them, in a
great measure, are we indebted for our institutions of learning and of
art, our academies, colleges and churches. It is no argument against the
desire for, or the possession of wealth, to say that there are sometimes
misers who hoard money only for the sake of hoarding and who have no
higher aspiration than to grasp everything which comes within their
reach. As we have sometimes hypocrites in religion, and demagogues in
politics, so there are occasionally misers among money-getters. These,
however, are only exceptions to the general rule. But when, in this
country, we find such a nuisance and stumbling block as a miser, we
remember with gratitude that in America we have no laws of
primogeniture, and that in the due course of nature the time will come
when the hoarded dust will be scattered for the benefit of mankind. To
all men and women, therefore, do I conscientiously say, make money
honestly, and not otherwise, for Shakespeare has truly said, "He that
wants money, means, and content, is without three good friends."
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