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Ragged Dick (Ragged Dick #1)

3.26  ·  Rating Details ·  1,685 Ratings  ·  173 Reviews
“[Alger] was an utterly American artist . . . and the truth of his books is the truth of the power of the wish. . . . Alger was perhaps American capitalism’s greatest and most effective propagandist.”
–Richard Wright

Introduction by David K. Shipler

Written to inspire schoolboys to strive for “honesty, industry, frugality, and a worthy ambition,” the novels of Horatio Alger (
Paperback, 192 pages
Published September 13th 2005 by Modern Library (first published 1868)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Jun 30, 2014 7jane rated it really liked it
This is a story of a 14-year-old boot-black finding a way to rise to a better life (though still way below what his end goal must be, but it's not part of this book - the next book "Fame And Fortune" has that, though reading it at Project Gutenberg is to me preferable to owning it). It's set around the time when Central Park is still not quite finished, which points us to the time point of circa 1873ish. The book's covers the time of about a year.

Ragged Dick manages to progress partly because of
Catherine ♡
I actually read this when I was in elementary school, and I love it even now! It's funny, engaging, and inspiring, as it follows the story of Dick Hunter from his position as a lowly bootblack to an honorable member of society. One of my favorite childhood stories :)
Horatio Alger was the inventor, or at least the popularizer, of the "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" ethos in America. I heard his name many times growing up, but no one reads his books anymore. This is partly because they're not very good: "There is no doubt that what he wrote was bilge, but it was inspired," says one critic* who's being as nice as he can.

Another reason is that his books are wicked ephebophilic. They all feature a poor but good-hearted teenage boy who betters his lot under
Karen Chung
I was looking for a bedtime audio book and this one came up on the Librivox site. "A Horatio Alger rags-to-riches story" is so often referenced in our culture and language that I thought I really should find out firsthand what they were like, and picked this one. It's the first in a series, and probably the best, judging from the comments of other readers. It was in later works that the plotlines became repetitive and stale - and Alger was very prolific.

Frankly, I enjoyed the book, quite a bit.
Sep 29, 2015 Kim rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
"Ragged Dick"; or," Street Life in New York with the Boot Blacks" is a novel by Horatio Alger, Jr. It was first serialized in "The Student and Schoolmate" in 1867, and released as a full length novel in May 1868. It was the first volume in the six volume Ragged Dick Series, and became Alger's all-time bestseller. When I first read this I of course, had to find out what "The Student and Schoolmate" was and here it is:

"The Student and Schoolmate" was a 19th-century monthly American children's maga
Laura Verret
Jul 03, 2010 Laura Verret rated it liked it
Horatio Alger, Jr.'s style is rather like G. A. Henty's in that, once you’ve read three or four of his novels, you’ve practically read all of them because he repeats the same plots over and over. But those first four stories are quite enjoyable. =)

The Story.

Ragged Dick’s life as a bootblack is straightforward. He scrambles himself up real early each mornin’ – ‘cause that’s when the best customers is up and movin’ – and racks up some business. Then, for the rest of the day, he spends his money bu
This was not nearly as satisfying a read as four stars suggests. We have our protagonist, Dick Hunter who behaves well and fortune smiles upon him. He doesn't become a savvy businessman, instead people give him opportunities and he betters himself.

I wish it was longer but I understand there is a second novel to follow up on his adventures.

I'm too tired to suggest any homoerotic undertones. Perhaps the general lack of women is due to the perspective of masculine society at the time?

Be nice to o
Sort of hilariously preachy! Listen, kids, if you just work hard and work hard some more, your life will be totally wonderful! Presumably this book is famous more for its rags-to-riches propagandist importance to Being A Good American rather than for its awesome writing. But I still thought it was a pretty fast and not-annoying read, as long as I was willing to roll my eyes at the more didactic passages. Also, I apparently forgot to take off my slash goggles while reading, because the Force was ...more
What I really liked about this book was the description of life in NY city in the late 1800s. The actual story is a bit different from the Horatio Alger mythology of going from rags to riches, it's more like going from crushing poverty to middle class. While our plucky little protagonist Ragged Dick does have a sense of integrity, is personable, and is quite the hard-worker, but he also relies on good fortune for opportunities that he wouldn't otherwise be offered. It is quite cliched, but it is ...more
Alethea A
Apr 26, 2013 Alethea A rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Proto-YA, orphan story, rags to riches, and quite a hoot. I also now really really want some beefsteak and coffee.

Read for YABC May 2013
Jun 13, 2017 Maria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An amazing story about a boy named Ragged Dick, who, through respect and honesty, rises up from the life of a boot-black, to that of an educated man. It was interesting to read about how Dick managed to live on New York's streets, while keeping his dreams alive of being a respectable man. I really enjoyed reading about Dick's progress, and loved the encounters he had along the way. An overall enjoyable read!
RAGGED DICK. (1867). Horatio Alger. ***.
Most of us know about or have heard of Alger. It’s a common expression: “Like a Horatio Alger story.” It typically refers to a phenomenal success story, or one that involves a “rags-to-riches” occasion. I’ve never read any of Alger’s books, because I’ve always heard that they were so bad, but coming across one at a library sale I managed to part with $1 for the experience. The book actually contained two of Alger’s novels, both this one and the succeeding

This takes a lot of suspension-of-belief but I enjoyed it nonetheless. I ended up rooting for Dick Hunter.
This turn of the century formula for righteous living is charming. Dick is a homeless child who has taken care of himself as long as he can remember. He is very street smart. But he aches to be rich and refined and when he meets a younger version of himself he stives to protect him. Through good deeds he meets his "salvation" and is provided with a job and gets off the streets. Alger Jr. wrote a series followning Dick through his exploits.
May 30, 2017 Roberta rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I just love this book. Loaned it to a few friends and they loved it too :)
Pearse Anderson
A real cute read, especially now that I know it's a children's tale. It reads quick and easy that way with a fair dose of comedy that works so many decades removed from its original publication. Ragged Dick is a fine character with a noble cause, and although taken as a guide or propaganda piece this book really falls apart, I enjoyed reading it through the lens of a video game playthrough: the world is fleshed out by missing elements if you look too hard, the difficulty is scaleable and full of ...more
Nhi Nguyen
Sep 18, 2009 Nhi Nguyen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Question 15: (the whole book)
Ragged Dick is the name of a poor boy that his parents are dead when he was seven years old. He shines shoes to earn money for his living. He sleeps in boxes every night. He had a frank, straightforward manner that made him appealing. He always read to joke with customers. One day, he was fortunate enough to get four customers in the morning. Now, he began to think about breakfast with Johnny Nolan who is a boy of fourteen years old like Ragged Dick, a bootblack. I
Sep 25, 2016 Matt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved the writing style and loved the characters (especially Ragged Dick). Definitely want to read the rest of the series now!
Oct 29, 2012 Marla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Okay, to be truthful, I'm not sure I can remember enough to distinguish between Ragged Dick and every other Alger hero, but suffice it to say that Dick is a bold, strong boy with excellent moral character, a clear voice and good handwriting.

(spoilers ahead)

Nearly every Horatio Alger story has the same characters and plot elements with slight rearrangements, which is not to say that I don't love them! There's something about the obvious moralizing and unmistakeable good vs bad theme that is very
Feb 23, 2017 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the story of a poor boy becoming a wealthy man. The dialogue is genius, and the plot is original. You stay with the protagonist throughout the book feeling his emotions as if you were him. A great story.
Feb 24, 2017 stefan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pleasant tale! This encouraged me to continue to work hard and be responsible.
D.M. Dutcher
This book is the myth of America in its purest form, and even granting modern cynicism makes for something you can't help but wish is true.

Dick Hunter is a boot-black in 19th century New York City. He lives day-to-day shining shoes and sleeping in whatever box he can find, squandering his earnings on entertainment and cheap comforts. One day a series of fortunate events enables him to hope for a better life. Can he better himself?

It's surprisingly readable even today. It's not a masterpiece of p
“Gamin Overcoming Adversity in the City”

Set on the callous streets of post Civil War New York this 130-page novelette introduces readers to a new genre by presenting a cocky street lad dubbed Ragged Dick. This new type protagonist, commonly referred to as “Our Hero,” is one of a lose army of boot blacks, fending for themselves virtually friendless in a hostile city. Possessing street smarts beyond his years, as well as a generous nature, Dick proves instantly likeable--for his good looks (when
Mar 19, 2013 Gale rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Urchin Overcoming Adversity in the City”

Set on the callous streets of post Civil War New York this 130-page novelette introduces readers to a new genre by presenting a cocky street lad dubbed Ragged Dick. This new type protagonist, commonly referred to as “Our Hero,” is one of a lose army of boot blacks, fending for themselves virtually friendless in a hostile city. Possessing street smarts beyond his years, as well as a generous nature, Dick proves instantly likeable--for his good
Amanda Childs
Nov 28, 2012 Amanda Childs rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition

Ragged Dick tells the story of a young street wise shoeshine in new york city who works his way to success and stability through his honest nature and fortunate chance encounters with people who are willing to help him on his way. Throughout the story, he and his companions have many adventures, nearly all of which serve to emphasize some social point or build up the boy's character. By the end, Dick has become a new creature, but chooses to hold onto his shoeshin
Oct 08, 2016 Marley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
OK. Laugh at me, but I loved this book. I'm a huge fan of Boardwalk Empire and since Ragged Dick is one of Nucky Thompson's great childhood influences I decided to try it. (I'd read Horatio Alger in an American Lit class in college and was all found it quite hysterical). That Nucky would be an Alger fan I found curious--especially since I doubt Alger was trying to drive young boys to be political bosses and killers. But the truth is Nucky took the lessons of hard work, diligence, education,and r ...more
This was such a fun read! I was surprised at how smoothly it flowed, since a lot of older fiction I find harder to read since it is generally much slower-paced than modern fiction. It is undoubtedly written with teenage boys in mind. It was filled with the slang of the day and a spunky hero that was equal parts punk and saint--what I feel most people sort of wish they were. It tells the story of how Ragged Dick, the hand-to-mouth boot-black on the streets, turns int
Joshlin Manning
Dec 07, 2016 Joshlin Manning rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: 10+
Shelves: english-420
I had studied about Horatio Alger Jr. in my history classes and how they are the embodiment of the "rags to riches" story so I was very curious to read the novel. I thought it was adorable! It was definitely selling the "American Dream." Ragged Dick, as the hero of our story is called, is a bootblack, meaning that he shines shoes for a living. He is witty, kind, and upbeat, so is successful in his business in New York. Because he enjoys spending his money at the theatre
Sep 17, 2015 Craig rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have often heard of Horatio Alger but have never read one of his books. Then I picked up perhaps his most famous book: Ragged Dick. What a terrific read (I read the first volume and I understand there are several more). A great read for boys as they approach their teenage years. I had always thought of Horatio Alger in terms of a "rags to riches" stories. Ragged Dick is that, but so much more. The author also teaches the importance of developing a highly moral character, and it is doing right ...more
Dec 10, 2013 Jayne rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english-420

Alright, so I've been hearing about Horatio Alger and his hand in creating a youth culture through his books, and I must say my first interaction with his books has been pleasurable and predictable. Stemming from the time in history when melodrama's were popular, not to mention the rags to riches American dream aspect, this book delivers some nineteenth century cheese in high form. It follows 14 year old Dick, a boot black, who for some reason is good at everything, has unreas
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Horatio Alger, Jr. (January 13, 1832 – July 18, 1899) was a prolific 19th-century American author, most famous for his novels following the adventures of bootblacks, newsboys, peddlers, buskers, and other impoverished children in their rise from humble backgrounds to lives of respectable middle-class security and comfort. His novels about boys who succeed under the tutelage of older mentors were h ...more
More about Horatio Alger Jr....

Other Books in the Series

Ragged Dick (6 books)
  • Fame and Fortune
  • Mark, The Match Boy, Or, Richard Hunter's Ward
  • Rough and Ready or Life Among the New York Newsboys
  • Ben, the Luggage Boy: Or Among the Wharves
  • Rufus and Rose, Or, the Fortunes of Rough and Ready

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