Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks
At a time when central park was still a rough track of land lined with workers hats, there was a boot black known as Ragged Dick. With his mother dead and his father gone to sea, Dick spends his day shinning shoes for businessman, his evenings, if he has some spare coins watching cheap plays at the Old Bellary Theatre and his nights in doorways, rapped up in newspapers, if he is flash he will stay at the News Boys Lodging House for 6 cents a night and buy a meal at a café.
After an unexpected windfall Dick rents a squalid room that to him seems impossibly luxurious, in return for tutelage, he lets another boy the ones well cared for well-read Hendry Falls Dick shares his room. This two person’s self-improvement society is perfect for both; Dick gets an education and Falls Dick a place out of the cold. Though they must live through a series of adventures, the boys find a way to succeed. Dick’s delights in a few things, like a new suite of clothes, opening a bank account and eating a piece of steak. Dick is very likable, he has pluck and whet to balance his ernest strivings to be spectable and despite firsthand experience of the best roads and swindlers the city has to offer, he is a perennial optimist.
Make your own luck
Dick’s big break comes on a ferry crossing into Brooklyn, he sees a child fall over the side into the water and wastes no time before jumping in somehow managing to pull the child to safety, the panicked father who could not swim is amazed to have his child alive and promises Dick and reward. Later the man offers Dick a job in a counting house at 10 dollars a week, many times his current earnings, a great stroke of luck? Not really, for Dick’s selflessness was the cause for this good fortune, and his diligence in self-education every night meant that he could be hired without the slightest weft of charity. Luck happens to those who greatly increase the chances of its occurrence.
Whatever you do, do it to your outmost
Life seems to require that even if we do not seem to like what we are doing, we must do it to the best of our ability before we can move on to the next thing, Raged Dick is only a boot black but he uses his profession to save money, meet a higher class of people and generally better himself.
Become a reader
Dick meets the son of a wealthy man and shows him around the city for a day, later the boy’s father tells Dick that in this country poverty is no bar to achievement and relates to his own rise from an apprentice printer to successful businessman. He note that there was one thing he took away from the printing office which I value more than money, when Dick asks what it was, the man replies, a taste for reading and study, during my leisure hours I improved myself by study, and acquired the large part of knowledge which I now possess. Indeed it was one of my books that first put me on the track of the invention, which I afterwards made, so you see my Lord that my studious habits paid me in money and as well as in another way.
Be a saver but be generous
When Dick receives unexpected sum of 5 dollars, he opens a bank account. The amount that builds gives him a great source of security and pride, as he no longer has to live hand to mouth, while delighted that he is now a capitalist, he is quick to help a friend in need, Falls Dick the boy with whom he shares his lodging wants to get an office job, instead of shining shoes, so Dick purchases’ a suite of proper clothes for him. On another occasion, he helps a friend whose mother is ill.
Never cheat steal or lie
Though temptation to do otherwise are often great, Dick has a personal code that stealing is mean, his sense of honor and fair play which appears naïve to some type finally proves to be the source of his success. For someone who lives from day to day his believe in doing right is remarkably far sited. The character Mr. Whitney tells Dick that remember your future depends upon yourself and that it will be high or low as you choose to make it. Honesty which seems old fashion to the first crowd is the basis of all enduring success, since it brings with it knowledge of the self.
Don’t drink or smoke
Long before a medical evidence of its harm was available, Alger was calling smoking a filthy habit that gave no dignity to the smoker drinking off course was even worse, it was the enemy of frugality because you could blow your weeks savings in a night on the grog and the enemy of industry because the inevitable hangovers affected your working day. The temperance movement seems okayed today but scores of life would be better without even a moderate intake of alcohol, it sacked dried, pickled the independent mind and eroded good character.