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Dale Carnegie (1888 - 1955)

Birthplace of Dale Carnegie Birthplace of Dale Carnegie Birthplace of Dale Carnegie.

This two-story clapboard house was home to Dale Carnegie and his family outside of Maryville, Missouri.

[The State Historical Society of Missouri, Photograph Collection]

Dale Carnegie was a best-selling author who became a pioneer in the field of self-improvement.

Born Dale Carnagey on November 24, 1888, in Maryville, Missouri, he grew up on his family’s farm outside of town. He enjoyed public speaking events and participated on the high school debate team. When Carnegie was sixteen, his family moved to a farm outside of Warrensburg, Missouri.

Maryville, Missouri    Maryville, Missouri Maryville, Missouri.

A view of Maryville, Missouri, circa 1900. Dale Carnegie spent his youth on a farm outside of Maryville before his family moved to Warrensburg, Missouri.

[The State Historical Society of Missouri, Photograph Collection (028623-1)]

He enrolled at the local college, Missouri State Normal School (now the University of Central Missouri). An ambitious student, Carnegie was not athletically gifted, but realized “that I could at least stand up and speak with a little more vitality and enthusiasm than the average speaker.” He joined the school’s debate team but was initially unsuccessful. The son of a poor farmer, Carnegie was shunned by fellow students because of his shabby, ill-fitting clothes.

After watching a Chautauqua
Founded in Chautauqua, New York, in 1873, the Chautauqua movement was an adult education movement that featured both secular and religious courses. The courses became extremely popular. Traveling Chautauqua shows stopped in towns and cities across the country allowing the public to hear lectures on a wide variety of religious, literary, and scientific topics.
speaker give a lecture in Warrensburg, Carnegie adopted the man’s speaking style and mannerisms with great success. He became a popular student and gave public speaking lessons to his fellow students. But when he failed Latin, Carnegie left college in 1908 without finishing his bachelor’s degree.
Carnegie worked a series of jobs as a salesman, but quit to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1911. He had a brief stint as an actor before realizing he could use his speaking skills to launch a new career. He began teaching public speaking classes at a YMCA
The Young Men's Christian Association was a global organization founded on June 6, 1844, with the purpose of instilling Christian values in young men. In the United States, the YMCA's greatest period of growth occurred between the end of the Civil War in 1865 and the beginning of the Great Depression in 1929. Although it is perhaps best known in America for its community sports and fitness programs, the YMCA has a number of other programs that provide resources for the poor, academic support, Christian counseling and leadership, child care, and employment training.
in New York City. Carnegie’s classes were very popular, leading him to establish public speaking classes at YMCAs in other major cities.

In 1915 he and J. Berg Esenwein wrote The Art of Public Speaking. The following year, after speaking to a sold-out crowd at Carnegie Hall in New York City, he changed the spelling of his name to “Carnegie” after the famous businessman and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie, who had donated the funds to build Carnegie Hall.

During World War I, Carnegie served in the U.S. Army. After he was discharged from the military he continued his speaking career. While on a lecture tour in London, Carnegie visited the city’s famed Speaker’s Corner in Hyde Park where lively orators voice their opinions and speak on a wide variety of topics. After Carnegie observed that the most enthusiastic speakers drew the largest audiences, he made enthusiasm an integral part of his professional philosophy and incorporated it into his popular “Dale Carnegie Course.” Numerous corporations, including General Motors and IBM, sent employees to take Carnegie courses to help them become more confident, successful individuals.

While in Europe, Carnegie met and married Lolita Baucaire in 1921. The childless marriage was an unhappy one and the couple divorced in 1931.

Missouri State Normal School Missouri State Normal School Missouri State Normal School.

This is how the campus looked when Dale Carnegie attended Missouri State Normal School in Warrensburg, Missouri. He did not graduate, but he did learn how to become an effective speaker and used his skill to launch a career in the field of self-improvement.

[Biennial Report of the Board of Regents of the State Normal School, Second District, Warrensburg, Missouri, 1907-1908, frontispiece. SHS REF 378.778C3 B4 1889-1920]

In the midst of the Great Depression Carnegie published How to Win Friends and Influence People. It was an instant success and remained on the best-seller lists for a decade. The book’s popularity made Carnegie an internationally known author and a financial success.

The message of the book was simple: be considerate, show sincere interest in others, be a good listener, consider other points of view, cooperate with others, be positive, and avoid criticizing others. Carnegie used examples of famous, successful people to illustrate his points. Following up on his success, Carnegie wrote an additional best-seller, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, first published in 1948.

On November 5, 1944, Carnegie married Dorothy Vanderpool, his former secretary. In 1951 the couple’s only child, Donna Dale Carnegie, was born.

In light of his achievements, Carnegie was honored by his alma mater and the state of Missouri. In 1955 Central Missouri State College (now the University of Central Missouri) gave Carnegie an honorary doctorate. In 2006, a bust of Dale Carnegie was installed in the Hall of Famous Missourians in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City.

Dale Carnegie died of Hodgkin's disease
Hodgkin's disease, also known as Hodgkin lymphoma, is a rare type of cancer that affects the lymphatic system, a part of the circulatory system that plays an important role in the body's immune response to sicknesses and infections.
and kidney failure on November 1, 1955, in Forest Hills, New York. He is buried in Belton Cemetery in Belton, Missouri.
Text and Research by Kimberly Harper


References and Resources

For more information about Dale Carnegie's life and career, see the following resources:

Society Resources

The following is a selected list of books, articles, and manuscripts about Dale Carnegie in the research centers of The State Historical Society of Missouri. The Society’s call numbers follow the citations in brackets. All links will open in a new tab.

  • Articles from the Newspaper Collection
    • “Dale Carnegie Dies After Short Illness.” Maryville Daily Forum. November 1, 1955. p. 1.
  • Books & Articles
    • Carnegie, Dale. How to Win Friends and Influence People. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1937. [REF 158.1 C215]
    • ____. How to Stop Worrying and Start Living. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1948. [REF 131.33 C215]
    • ____. Little Known Facts about Well Known People. New York: Greenberg, 1934. [REF 920 C215]
    • Christensen, Lawrence O., William E. Foley, Gary R. Kremer, and Kenneth H. Winn, eds. Dictionary of Missouri Biography. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1999.  pp. 150-152. [REF F508 D561]
    • Watts, Steven. Self-Help Messiah: Dale Carnegie and Success in Modern America. New York: Other Press, 2013. [REF F508.1 C215]
    • Young Men’s Christian Associations. Public Speaking: The Standard Course of the United Y.M.C.A. Schools. New York: Association Press, 1920. [REF I C215p]
  • Manuscript Collection
    • Croy, Homer (1883-1965), Papers, 1905-1965 (C2534)
      Homer Croy, a Missouri native, was the author of numerous books, short stories, plays, and articles. The collection contains research and manuscripts for published and unpublished work, business and personal correspondence, financial records, contracts, photographs, and scrapbooks. Folders 621, 624, 642, 650-652, 661, 664, 667, and 670 contain references to Croy’s friend Dale Carnegie.

Historic Missourians: Dale Carnegie
Dale CarnegieDale Carnegie.

[Courtesy of]

Dale Carnegie

Born: November 24, 1888
Died: November 1, 1955 (age 66)
Category: Writers
Region of Missouri: Northwest
Missouri Hometown or County: Johnson County, Nodaway County