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Ragged Dick; Or, Street Life in New York (Ragged Dick #1)

3.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,500 Ratings  ·  155 Reviews
"Ragged Dick is a well-told story of street-life in New York, that will, we should judge, be well received by the boy-readers, for whom it is intended. The Hero is a boot-black, who, by sharpness, industry, and honesty, makes his way in the world, and is, perhaps, somewhat more immaculate in character and manners than could naturally have been expected from his origin and ...more
Paperback, 92 pages
Published January 1st 2008 by (first published 1868)
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Dec 20, 2015 7jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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.
"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
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
Mar 26, 2015 Mister rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: five-star
Wow. Just wow.

This book is probably meant for a younger audience and I certainly wish I had read it when I was younger. But it has been a long time since I read a book that made me feel so inspired when I was finished.

In brief, Ragged Dick begins his short tale as a young vagabond in New York City. He keeps a nearly perpetual jovial air about him despite his harsh day-to-day living as a shoeshiner. Unlike many boys in his circumstances, he is decidedly virtuous as he abhors dishonesty and theft.
Catherine ♡
Mar 30, 2016 Catherine ♡ rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 :)
Laura Verret
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
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
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
Feb 10, 2014 Jeff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read (actually listened to) this book as an example of prose by an all-time top-selling author (according to Amazon).
Although the social conventions, and to a degree, the writing style are outmoded, the simplicity of the style still makes it very readable.
There was little in the way of dramatic tension, other than two anecdotes which involved a theft and a rescue. It was mostly about how a very laudable little boy raises himself up by his bootstraps by being an ideal person.

What was interest
Nov 27, 2014 ☯Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☯Emily by: Teacher at Bergen Community College
This 3 1/2 star children's book is almost unknown today. Horatio Alger, Jr. was a prolific and popular author in the 19th century. He wrote many books in the same formulaic style, which is "poor boy" becomes respectable through hard work. However, this was the first book I read and I quite enjoyed it.

Ragged Dick is an orphan who lives on the streets of New York. He makes money by shining shoes. He sleeps wherever he can. Because he is a hard worker and honest, he begins to attract the attention
Sep 23, 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
Alethea A
May 24, 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
The book is from the 1920s. For years I knew about Horatio Alger and his series of rags to riches stories, but this is the first one I ever read. This book was required reading for a class about the American Dream and it fit well with the theme. The hero of the book is a poor, hungry orphan in the first chapter but as the chapters proceed he works hard, stays honest and things improve. Of course he encounters a few benefactors that help him gain clothing, a job and cash. It has a positive outloo ...more
Nhi Nguyen
Sep 19, 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
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
Jul 04, 2009 Jeremy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: students of american culture
As the introduction to the book says this is mostly "bilge" as far as literary quality goes. But the ideals espoused by Algiers are woven into the fabric of our country so deeply that his works cannot be dismissed out of hand. What I wonder when reading it, though, is why the aspect of luck and help from more fortunate strangers is so often left out of the idea of the "Horatio Algiers Success Story" as we know it today? Dick was helped all along the way, and yes, he is hard working, and yes, he ...more
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
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
Apr 21, 2013 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
“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 22, 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
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
Dec 25, 2014 Emily rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: for-school
What it lacks in character development and plot, it makes up for in American history. It's a quick read, and it's cute, but I wouldn't read it for the story itself. Ragged Dick is an excellent example of the "American Dream" myth (Alger's specialty). It literally teems with passages that read "if you work hard, you are of a good character, and you educate yourself, you can be respectable in the world". Not the most entertaining, but somewhat enlightening, when read with a lens.
Jessica White
Jul 09, 2015 Jessica White rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: school-reading

Ragged Dick has been described as a "rags to riches" type of novel. But personally, I'd say it feels similar to Catcher in the Rye. A young boot-black, Ragged Dick, is trying to make a living in this world. He shines shoes and makes enough money for breakfast and maybe a show at the Old Bowery. Until one day he overhears a nephew and his uncle talking about New York and offers to show the boy, Frank, around the city. They spend the
Apr 24, 2009 Marcus rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book because I kept hearing liberals criticize the "Horatio Alger stories" that conservatives like to tell about America. According to these reputable sources, such rags to riches tales are no longer realistic for most of the nation's poor.

Ragged Dick is a charismatic bootblack who, through hard work and frequent displays of moral fiber, manages to pull himself up in the world. The story isn't particularly compelling, but it's far from being Pollyanna or outlandish. It doesn't imply
Thom Swennes
Feb 19, 2013 Thom Swennes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ragged Dick (published in 1868) is the first of a series of six books written for adolescent readers. The message of honesty and virtue gush from every page but despite this the story catches the reader and puts them squarely on the rough streets of New York. Ragged Dick (Richard Hunter) is an orphaned boy that is making a hand-to-mouth living as a shoeshine boy on the streets of New York. His positive attitude and quick wit soon endears him to the reader. His basic honesty and sweetness raise q ...more
Robert Hyman
I saw Ragged Dick while watching Boardwalk Empire. It was Nucky Thompson’s favourite book given to him by his mother, which he passed on to a nephew. That aroused my curiosity. When I saw that it was by Horatio Alger I was even more curious. It is meant to teenage boys in the 1870s, and so is very dated but it was amusing to read of New York City back then and of the idealism of the age.
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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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