"Ben the Luggage Boy" has many features that are classic Horatio Alger: a stalwart lad thrown upon his own resources in New York City, the requisite book-blacks and newspaper vendors, the ubiquitous Mr. O'Conner of the Newsboys Lodging House, and the sudden transformation of new clothing as a bridge to respectability. However, in many ways, this story is different. Our hero, Ben Brandon, is not an orphan. He has two living parents and a comfortable home. Upon arriving in New York Ben smokes cigars, is caught stealing meat pies, and even sips a single glass of lager. Alger goes so far in his departure from tee-totaling as to recognize that the German Americans were able to enjoy their beer without any drunkenness or lewd conduct. Amazing! Ben has the pride and determination not to submit to unjust authority, but at the end of the story, he is hardly better off than he was at the beginning, except that he has gained the rather grudging approval of his emotionless father. Still, "Ben the Luggage Boy" is a great read for the flavor of the period. Enjoy!--Submitted by Robert Cox
In presenting "Ben, the Luggage Boy," to the public, as the fifth of the Ragged Dick Series, the author desires to say that it is in all essential points a true history; the particulars of the story having been communicated to him, by Ben himself, nearly two years since. In particular, the circumstances attending the boy's running away from home, and adopting the life of a street boy, are in strict accordance with Ben's own statement. While some of the street incidents are borrowed from the writer's own observation, those who are really familiar with the different phases which street life assumes in New York, will readily recognize their fidelity. The chapter entitled "The Room under the Wharf" will recall to many readers of the daily journals a paragraph which made its appearance within two years. The writer cannot close without expressing anew his thanks for the large share of favor which has been accorded to the volumes of the present series, and takes this opportunity of saying that, in their preparation, invention has played but a subordinate part. For his delineations of character and choice of incidents, he has been mainly indebted to his own observation, aided by valuable communications and suggestions from those who have been brought into familiar acquaintance with the class whose mode of life he has sought to describe. New York, April 5, 1876.
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