Childhood & Early Life
Dale Carnagey was born on November 24, 1888, to John William Carnagey and Amanda Elizabeth Carnagey. He was his parents’ second son.
The family was very poor and young Dale had to help out by getting up at four in the morning to milk the family cows before going to school. He attended Rose Hill and then Harmony, both one-room schools.
He, along with his family, moved to a farm in Warrensburg in 1904. In the couple of years that he spent in high school there, he realized that he was not athletically gifted but was above-average in public speaking.
He became a member of the school debating team though initially, he was not the success he aspired to be. Due to his shabby appearance and ill-fitting clothes, he was shunned by his classmates. The friends he made was because of his way with words.
After passing out from high school, he enrolled at the State Teacher's College in Warrensburg. However, in the two years before he graduated in 1908, he continued to stay at home as he was unable to afford room and board that cost $1 per day.
Much impressed with a ‘Chautauqua’ lecture speaker’s style, he made up his mind to emulate him. He became a champion speaker winning most of the intercollege public speaking contests that he participated in.
His proficiency in Latin, unfortunately, did not match his oratory prowess; he failed in the subject and left college in 1908 without obtaining the bachelor’s degree.
In his first job, he sold ranchers correspondence courses conducted by an Alliance, Nebraska-based company, ‘International Correspondence Schools’. However, he soon progressed to selling soap, lard, and bacon for ‘Armour & Company’. With his ability for salesmanship, he was immensely successful and drove his sales territory to the top.
Having saved a princely $500, in 1911, he quit his sales career to pursue his dream of teaching adult education courses in Chautauqua, near Jamestown, New York that were then very popular. However, he ended up enrolling at the ‘American Academy of Dramatic Arts’ in New York City.
After a brief stint with a touring troupe, he returned to New York City unemployed and almost broke and took up residence at the 125th Street ‘YMCA’ to try writing, which, however, proved to be unfruitful too.
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Recalling his popularity with fellow students for tips on public speaking and realizing that it was his way with words that made him a successful salesman, in 1912, Dale Carnagey persuaded the manager of the ‘YMCA’ hostel to allow him to teach public speaking there.
His classes proved to be an immediate hit. Concentrating on the daily needs of people in business, Carnagey taught the participants the tenets of successful interviewing, making compelling presentations, and establishing fruitful relationships.
In 1913, he published ‘Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business’, the first of his many best-selling books.
His unique approach to public speaking capitalized on the desire of the average American for more self-confidence and made his classes so popular that Carnegie moved out of the ‘YMCA’ in 1914 to establish his own ‘Dale Carnegie Institute’ to accommodate the steadily rising number of students. His monthly income at this time was a handsome $500, the same as a factory-fresh Ford Model T.
With his stars on the ascendancy, Dale, in 1916, even rented New York’s iconic ‘Carnegie Hall’ for his lectures that had become wildly popular by that time.
In 1919, Carnagey changed the spelling of his surname to Carnegie; the astute but perhaps disingenuous move resulted in the public associating him, his courses, and books with the celebrated ‘Carnegie’ family with which, he had no connection.
In 1926, ‘Public Speaking: A Practical Course for Business Men’, a collection of his lectures was published. The bestseller made him richer but Carnegie was wiped out in 1929 stock market crash. In 1932, the title of the book was changed to ‘Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business’.
In 1936, the book that made Dale Carnegie a global star author, ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ was published. The overwhelming response to the book that analyzed the reasons for the success of a few hundred great leaders of the world took everyone including ‘Simon & Schuster’, the publisher, by surprise.
The first print run of 5,000 copies was exhausted quickly and ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ had to be reprinted 17 times within the first few months of its release. By the time Carnegie passed away, it had sold nearly 5 million copies and was translated into 31 languages.
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With the mega success of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’, there was an explosion in the popularity of the ‘Dale Carnegie Institute’, which set up centers in 750 cities in the U.S. and in 15 other countries during Carnegie’s lifetime. By that time more than 450,000 people had participated in his self-improvement, salesmanship, interpersonal skills development, and public speaking skills development courses besides corporate training programs worldwide.
Firm in the belief that the secrets of success could be learnt from studying the biographies of successful people, Carnegie wrote a succession of books; ‘Lincoln the Unknown’ (1932), ‘Little Known Facts about Well Known People’ (1934), ‘Five Minute Biographies’ (1937), and ‘Biographical Roundup’ (1944).
‘How to Stop Worrying and Start Living’, a self-improvement book was published in 1948.
In 1953, the headquarters of ‘Dale Carnegie Institute’ was moved to a converted warehouse in Manhattan.
In 1954, Carnegie converted his ‘Dale Carnegie Institute’ to a company, ‘Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc.’ with its headquarters in Garden City, New York. After his death in the following year, his wife, Dorothy, became its chairperson.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1927, Carnegie got married to Lolita Baucaire but the marriage proved to be unsuccessful and they were divorced in 1937. The couple had a daughter, Rosemary.
On November 5, 1944, he remarried; this time to Dorothy Price Vanderpool; he had first met Dorothy three years earlier at Oklahoma School of Business, the first of the many business schools that offered his courses. In 1951, a daughter, Donna, was born to them; Dale was 63 years old then.
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Dale Carnegie died on November 1, 1955; initially, there were a variety of reasons attributed, however, a ‘Dale Carnegie & Associates, Inc.’ official statement gave the reason as being Hodgkin's lymphoma. He is buried in the family plot in Belton cemetery, Cass County, Missouri.
Dale Carnegie’s lasting legacy is ‘The Dale Carnegie Course’ empowering people with skills required for self-development, public speaking, personal salesmanship, method acting and corporate training courses that are popular even today. His books are inspirational and dedicated to giving the ordinary public self-confidence to overcome adversities and change their future.
While his 15-million copy ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’ remains the gold standard of self-development books, his courses remain relevant and continue to be used widely for self-help, effectiveness training, popular psychology, and realization of human potential.
Dale Carnegie took to public speaking to overcome his sense of inferiority of not being a good athlete.
Dale would practice his oratory skills while riding horseback to and from school.
In college, he became such a good public speaker that other students would pay him to train them.
He took up acting as a career and briefly played the role of ‘Dr. Hartley’ in a travelling show, ‘Polly of the Circus’.
Nearly bankrupt, he agreed to give 80% of his training fees for a classroom at the ‘YMCA’ in lieu of rent.
Short on speaker notes, he encouraged his students to speak about "something that made them angry”; the tactic made them overcome their fear of speaking in public.
During the First World War, he served in the U.S. Army at Long Island’s Camp Upton for more than a year.
After his discharge from the army, Dale found employment in traveling lecture course conducted by Lowell Thomas, broadcaster and writer famous for his reporting on Lawrence of Arabia.