Charles Haanel

Charles Francis Haanel (1866 – 1949) was a noted American author and businessman. He is best known for his contributions to New Thought through his book The Master Key System.

Personal Life and Business Career

The Haanel family was of Swedish descent, but had lived in Prussia before emigrating to Canada and then to the United States. Charles was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the son of Hugo and Emeline (Fox) Haanel. He was the fourth of six children.

The family moved to St. Louis, Missouri when Charles was a child. His first job was as an office boy for the National Enameling & Stamping Company in St. Louis. He worked there in varying capacities for fifteen years before striking out on his own as a writer and businessman.

In 1885, he married Esther Smith. They had one son and two daughters. His wife died in 1891. In 1908, he was re-married to Margaret Nicholson of St. Louis, whose father was W. A. Nicholson.

He was a member of the Republican Party, a Freemason and Shriner affiliated with St. Louis Keystone Lodge No.243 and a supporter of the Missouri Athletic Club. He was a member of Pi Gamma Mu Fraternity, a Fellow of the London College of Psychotherapy, a member of the Authors League of America, a member of the American Society of Psychical Research, a member of the Society of Rosicrucians, a member of the American Suggestive Therapeutical Association and a member of the Science League of America.

Haanel earned and received several honorary academic degrees, including hon. Ph.D., College National Electronic Institute; Metaphysics, Psy. D., College of Divine Metaphysics; and M.D., Universal College of Dupleix, India.

When Haanel died on November 27, 1949, he was 83 years old. His ashes were buried in Bellefontaine Cemetery, St. Louis.

Career as Financial Success Writer

The Master Key System was published in 1912. It was heavily promoted in Elizabeth Towne’s New Thought magazine The Nautilus. By 1933, it had sold over 200,000 copies worldwide.

Haanel practiced the financial principles he preached and was a self made success who owned several major companies. He was president of the Continental Commercial Company, president of the Sacramento Valley Improvement Company and president of the Mexico Gold & Silver Mining Company.

The original Master Key System contained 24 parts or modules. The “lost” chapters found in some editions, chapters 25-28, are not original, but have been copied from the chapters 11-14 of A Book About You.

Among the key points of Haanel’s system are what he refers to as the laws of concentration, attraction, and harmonious thinking and action. Unique to the Master Key System is a set of exercises that accompany each chapter. They systematically build upon each other and are what makes The Master Key System a system.

Influence on Other Writers

In 1919, Napoleon Hill wrote Haanel a letter thanking him for The Master Key System. In the letter Hill stated, “My present success and the success which has followed my work as President of the Napoleon Hill Institute is due largely to the principles laid down in The Master Key.”

Haanel was quoted in the best-selling self-help book The Secret by Rhonda Byrne, published in 2007.


Original titles

  • The Master Key System. 1912 (mail order course)
  • The Master Key System. 1917 (book format)
  • Mental Chemistry. 1922
  • The New Psychology. 1924
  • A Book About You. 1928 (also printed with the shortened title You)
  • The Amazing Secrets of the Yogi 1937

Variant editions of The Master Key System

  • The Master Key System in 24 Parts. by Charles F. Haanel, edited by Anthony R. Michalski
  • The Master Key System: 28 Part Complete Deluxe Edition. by Charles F. Haanel. Isthar Publishing (July 2007)
  • The Master Key System Large Font Edition. by Charles F. Haanel, edited by Andras M. Nagy

Posthumous compilations with written contributions by other authors

  • Master Key Arcana. (the 28-chapter version of The Master Key plus pieces by authors who influenced Haanel; illustrated with pictures of original Haanel books, pamphlets, and courses.) 2004
  • How to Master Abundance and Prosperity: The Master Key System Decoded: An Executive Summary. by Prof. C. W. Haanel Mentz
  • The Master Key System in 24 Parts: Workbook Edition. by Charles F. Haanel and Donald Gordon Carty