Dale Carnegie

December 12, 2015

Dale Carnegie was born into poverty on November 24, 1888, in Maryville, Missouri. His parents were farmers and despite getting up at 4 A. M. each morning to milk the cows Dale finished his schooling in 1906 and went on to graduate from the State Teacher’s College in Warrensburg, Missouri in 1908. Unable to afford the $1 fee for room and board while obtaining his college education, Dale lived at home while studying.  As he rode his horse to and from classes, he used the time to practice his oratory style, emulating a speaker he had admired at an adult public education lecture.

His speaking skills were put to good use in his early working career.  Dale initially sold correspondence learning courses to farmers before being employed as a salesman for Armour & Company.  He quit being a salesman to studying acting and, after realising this was not his calling, there was a short stint in the army.

In 1912, unemployed and with the savings from his time working as a salesman almost depleted, Dale began lecturing on public speaking at the Young Men’s Christian Association hostel. Despite improvising his first class and running out of material, the lecture was a great success. The material was specifically aimed at businessmen, teaching interviewing, presentation and relationship building skills. After just two years, the course became so popular that he founded the Dale Carnegie Institute to meet the demand from an increasing number of students. His first book, How to Develop Self-Confidence And Influence People By Public Speaking was published in 1913 and was used as supporting material for the courses.

During the following 20 years, Carnegie improved the lectures to ensure that businesspeople had the social and communication skills that they would need to become successful in their areas of expertise.  Intensely studying how other great men had achieved success in their lives, he published Lincoln the Unknown, a biography of Abraham Lincoln in 1932, Little known facts about well known people, (1934), Five Minute Biographies (1937).

As part of this research to refine the course, Carnegie wrote a textbook for his students.  Anticipating a modest demand, the first print run of How to Win Friends & Influence People (1937) was only 5,000 copies.  In a few months, the book was in its 17th printing. Five million copies were sold of the book were sold during Carnegie’s lifetime and to date, more than 50 million copies have been sold worldwide in English and 31 languages.

At around the time Carnegie was writing his bestseller, his marriage was filing and in 1931 he was divorced from his first wife.  In 1944, her remarried and Dorothy Vanderpool proved to be a key asset in assisting him to expand the Institute by providing programs aimed at a new class of professional working women.

The popularity of How to Win Friends & Influence People, combined with Dorothy’s influence, heralded the beginning of a massive increase in the popularity of the Dale Carnegie Institute.  At the time Carnegie died, it was believed that more than 450,000 across the world had studies his course in 750 American cities and 15 foreign countries. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, anther extremely popular self-transformation book, was published in 1945.

Dale Carnegie passed away in 1955 from Hodgkin’s disease.  He is remembered as the ‘grandfather’ of self-development and adult education.  Carnegie’s books and courses have arguably spawned a generation of personal transformation literature.  How to Win Friends and Influence People remains a bestseller to this day and the Dale Carnegie Institute provides business training across the world.

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