Childhood & Early Life
Napoleon Hill was born Oliver Napoleon Hill on October 26, 1883. When he was ten years old, his mother passed away.
His father re-married, and his step-mother Martha encouraged him to give up his six-shooter for a type writing machine, and inspired him to write. At fifteen, he began working as a freelance reporter.
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Career & Later Life
Hill entered law school, but withdrew for financial reasons. He landed a job with Bob Taylor’s Magazine that offered advice on achieving power and wealth. He interviewed Andrew Carnegie in 1908, a steel magnate.
Carnegie challenged Hill to interview the wealthiest and most successful men of the time, and compile the philosophy of achievement behind their success, which he believed was the same for all achievers.
Carnegie offered to introduce him to the most successful men of the time. Hill jumped at the opportunity, and the next two decades saw him work on this mission without compensation.
Hill interviewed the most famous people of the time, including Thomas Edison, Alexander Graham Bell, George Eastman, Henry Ford, Elmer Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Charles M. Schwab, F.W. Woolworth, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.
In 1912, he left for Chicago. He worked in various fields. When World War I began, he wrote to President Woodrow Wilson offering his services. Wilson put him to work on propaganda materials.
From 1919 to 1920, he brought out “Hill’s Golden Rule”, a magazine dedicated to the philosophy of success blended with biblical psalms and gospel teachings. Printed by George Williams, it was an instant hit.
In 1920, he began a nationwide tour. Rifts between him and Williams, who seized control of the magazine, prompted Hill to move to New York. He started a magazine which became a bigger success.
He established himself as philosopher-laureate of success and ethics. However, his colleagues’ action led to the newspaper’s closure. He moved to Ohio, and operated a college offering courses in journalism, advertising and public speaking.
He met Don Mellet, and when Mellet exposed gangsters in his Canton Daily News, Hill approached the Governor for an investigation. In 1926, Mellet was gunned down. Hill luckily escaped to West Virginia.
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The Great Depression left him devoid of all that he had earned including his home and the dream school. However, the passion did not fade. In 1930 he published “The Magic Ladder to Success”.
When President Roosevelt asked Hill to join the National Recovery Administration to help inspire public confidence, he accepted. He worked as an unpaid advisor to the president from 1933 to 1936.
He went to South Carolina to create a self-improvement course at William Plumer Jacobs’ request in 1941. Production of the 16-volume set, “Mental Dynamite”, was halted due to paper rationing during World War II.
While lecturing in Chicago, he met W. Clement Stone. In 1952, they entered into a partnership to produce books and courses. He taught his Philosophy of Personal Achievement, and lectured on “Science of Success”.
The period of his association with Stone saw him publish “How to Raise Your Own Salary”, “Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude”, and “Grow Rich With Peace of Mind”.
In 1970, his book “Succeed and Grow Rich Through Persuasion” was published. After his death, his wife Annie Lou appointed Stone as the executive director of the Napoleon Hill Foundation.
Personal Life & Legacy
In 1910, Hill married Florence Elizabeth Hornor. They had three sons: James, Napoleon Blair, and David. The ups and downs of his career had him move from place to place, leaving his family behind. In 1935, his marriage to Hornor was terminated.
Two years later, he met 29-year-old Rosa Lee Beeland in Atlanta whom he married. She helped him complete “Think and Grow Rich!”. A widening gulf between Rosa and Hill ended in divorce. He was bankrupt after a prenuptial agreement gave Rosa virtually all royalties for “Think and Grow Rich!”.
He became friends with Annie Lou Norman. She was working for Jacobs Press, and both were staying in the same building. They married in 1943, and moved to California where he took up lecturing.