Thursday, May 19, 2011

Twenty Six Habits of Highly Successful People?

In a small stationary box, the size of a 4 x6 note card I found a piece of paper, torn from an old ledger book, columns in faded red ink ignored by the writer. Folded over and over to fit inside the little box, the page is creased but quite legible. Written in fountain pen ink in my maternal great, great, great grandmother's hand is the following:

Here is the transcription of Lorena Pelsue Hyde Berry Grammer's, (or Gramma Grammer, as we have come to know her,  page: 
  • Attend carefully to details of your business
  • Be prompt in all things.
  • Consider well, then decide positively
  • Dare to do right, fear to do wrong
  • Endure trials patiently
  • Fight life’s battles bravely, manfully
  • Go not into the Society of the Vicious
  • Hold integrity Sacred
  • Injure not another’s reputation nor business
  • Join hands only with the virtuous
  • Keep your mind from evil thoughts
  • Lie not for any consideration
  • Make few acquaintances*
  • Never try to appear what you are not
  • Observe good manners
  • Pay your debts promptly
  • Question not the veracity of a friend
  • Respect the counsel of your parents
  • Sacrifice money rather than principal
  • Touch not, taste not, handle not intoxicating drinks.
  • Use your leisure time for improvement
  • Venture not upon the threshold of wrong
  • Watch carefully over you passions
  • Xtend to everyone a kindly salutation
  • Yield not to discouragement
  • Zealously labor for the right                               
            •   “And Success is Certain.”

It took me a little time to figure out that this was an A-Z list of rules to live by, with a little poetic license taken with the letter X. There was nothing identifying where this came from, where she may have read it or if she had composed it herself. I looked through the book of newspaper clippings I have belonging to her, her daughter and granddaughter, but found nothing there that would help me find the origin of the piece.

Clearly, it impressed her, or she wouldn't have taken the time to write it all out, nor would she have kept it with her other correspondence. In fact, it may have been mailed to her daughter or granddaughter, to whom she wrote frequently, who was the one who actually decided to keep it with other written keepsakes. Most of the letters in the little box are written by Gramma Grammer to my great, great grandmother and to my great grandmother,  who kept them always. 

From her letters, I am sure she was the kind of woman who made every effort to follow these twenty six 'suggestions'. I have no doubt that she observed 'good manners' and I bet that she 'never touched, tasted or handled intoxicating drinks'. But I did wonder about it and so I went to Google-my favorite research tool of them all.

Sure enough, I did get some hits. Nothing too specific,  and I had to keep digging deeper into the hits I did get to find anything of interest. I determined that the list had a title: "Alphabet for Success". The first place I found it published, was in "The Home Comfort Cookbook" published by the Ladies' Sewing Circle of the Congregational Church of Shirley, MA in 1908.

In the cookbook, immediately following the 'Alphabet for Success', and preceding the table of weights and measures, was the following related verse: 

"With weights and measures just and true,
With stoves of even heat;
Well buttered tins and quiet nerves,
Success will be complete."

Unfortunately, neither piece was attributed to any particular author. As far as I know, Gramma Grammer didn't have any connection with the Congo Church in Shirley, and I wasn't sure that was really the earliest it may have appeared. Based on the clarity of Gramma Grammer's penmanship, it was most likely written earlier in her life when her hand was steadier. In 1908 she was already 74. So, I kept looking.

The next appearance of the list that I found was in something called The Washington Newsletter, A Monthly Magazine of Divine Healing. In this magazine in 1904 an article entitled Alphabet of Success, prefaced the list with the following: 

The following alphabet is printed on a neat card and hung
up in coffee taverns and places of resort and business
 in Great Britain:

This magazine's editor and publisher was Oliver Corwin Sabin, self-appointed Bishop of the Evangelical Christian Science Church, which he founded. I learned the following about Bishop Sabin from this obituary published in 1914.

This gave me a little bit of interesting info on the departed Bishop, but nothing more about the Alphabet for Success. The Bishop gave no credit to any author, either.

Going back further chronologically, the next reference to the Alphabet that I found was dated May of 1904 when it was printed in a magazine called "Salesmanship: Magazine for All Who Sell Or Have to Do With the Selling End of Business."

In the April 1904 issue, for just $1.00 you could buy 12 issueds of the magazine AND a certificate making you eligible for a chances to enter into a contest with cash prizes amounting to $75,000. All you have to do to win is guess the number of paid attendees to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair. 

There are some interesting articles in the issue I looked at covering everything from the evils of tipping to the idea of the saleswoman, something new on the scene in 1904, primarily relegated to retail rather than the door-to-door variety. Here is one quote from that article that I thought was interesting:

"But how about the saleswoman? How many of them look forward to a successful business career? What is their life's goal? There is but one answer to this: marriage and a happy home, and they would not be women and have it otherwise.  This may suggest to some a solution of the perplexing problem of how to bring this branch of our business nearer to perfection.  It is a matter of deep concern and regret that we must recognize as a fact that many of them show a want of appreciation of the requirements and necessary qualifications of their position,  want of attention to details and in many cases the partial disregard of established rules and regulations may with all fairness be attributed to the conviction that their present position is after all only temporary, that the necessity of work will cease sooner or later and therefore any effort at advancement is not worth while."

For the first time, there was a reference to where this alphabet came from. Ironically, the editor wrote : "The Alphabet for Success" was recently printed in the Ladies' Home Journal." I think that's kind of interesting.  
I found another reference to the list, also attributing it to the Ladies' Home Journal. In the Peirce School Alumni Journal dated May of 1903, it was also reprinted. The Pierce School was founded in Philadelphia in 1865 particularly for returning Civil War vets who were finding it hard to find employment in the post war years. It was founded to retrain these adult veterans when they returned from the war. Today it is a "private, four-year, specialized institution providing practical, leading-edge curricula to primarily working adult learners." I'd say the Alphabet for Success was probably well received by the alums in 1903.

Still, I was trying to find the very earliest appearance of the Alphabet, strictly to satisfy my curiosity. Now I knew it came from the Ladies' Home Journal before appearing in the Alumni Journal and the Salesmanship Magazine. The earliest date I had so far was 1903. I found one more reference to the "Alphabet", in what I think is the most interesting of all publications I came across. I found it printed in an issue dated January 1901 in a publication called "Our Paper". 

"Our Paper" was published by the inmates of the Massachusetts Reformatory in Concord, MA from 1884-1947. The superintendent was the editor but the inmates provided the written articles. It included articles reprinted from other publications as well as original articles. They would write articles about local life, local baseball league standings, visiting preachers to area churches, letters to the editor, some of which are quite interesting; political speeches and races; accounts of fairs and shop openings, and so forth. Letters to the editor were written by inmates and people outside of the prison who were regular readers. Some regular readers were inmates' family members and friends, but subscriptions to the paper were also sold to the townspeople in West Concord. One of the letters I read congratulated the talented prison choir, comparing it to some of the best choirs around Boston. Evidently, people came to the prison on Sundays to participate in the services held there. Another letter was written by a "graduate" of the prison who wrote that he was about to enter college. Some of the articles were about world news and some were about historical look-backs at various events. There seemed to have been a lot of interest in the building of new roads around town. Were they interested because they might end up working on them or because they may find a new way "out of town" some day? Hmmmmm.. There are random bits and pieces of deaths in other parts of the country, no explanation as to what connection the deceased may or may not have to the inmates or the prison. Some funny stories and just about anything they can find to fill up the space. All in all, it was a kind of interesting find during this little investigation.  Click here for a link to an issue of Our Paper

I didn't find out if The Ladies' Home Journal attributed the Alphabet for Success to "Our Paper". "Our Paper didn't attribute it to the Ladies' Home Journal. I don't know how many inmates followed these guidelines an became successful in their later lives, but there may have been some. And, I don't know if Lorena Pelsue Hyde Berry Grammar ever read the Concord Prison's Newspaper. However, there is a reference to one Mrs. E. R. Hyde who was a regular reader of "Our Paper". She sent poetry in to them for them to publish from time to time. I haven't been able to determine if this Mrs. Hyde was any relation to our Hyde family, or to Lorena specifically, but, I'm just saying...

Actually, my best guess is that Gramma Grammer probably read it herself in the Ladies' Home Journal sometime in 1901, or in a reprint in her local newspaper about that same time. It seems to have been a  popular list of guidelines for a successful life that appeal to folks with widely disparate interests. These were just a few of the references found on-line. There were references to this list in other publications  all through the 1920s, into the 1960s and right up through to today on someone's Facebook page.

This seems like a long list, yet I think we all strive to follow almost all of these guidelines in our lives. I don't know if success is certain, however, But for the most part, it's advice well-taken that has stood the test of time.

Personally, I think the guidelines for successful baking will be easier for me to follow. I always carefully measure my ingredients and my tins are always well-buttered. But I may have to work on the quiet nerves thing.

*The actual entry for the letter "M" reads "Make few special acquaintances" in all the publications I have found. Gramma Grammer's handwritten page leaves off the word 'special'.