Wallace Wattles (1860–1911) was an American New Thought author. His personal life remains somewhat obscure, but his writing has been widely quoted and remains in print to this day. His most famous work is the 1910 book The Science of Getting Rich in which he explains how to become wealthy.
Life and Career
According to the 1880 U.S. Census, Wallace lived with his parents on a farm in Nunda Township of McHenry County, Illinois and worked as a farm laborer. His father was a farmer and his mother was a housekeeper. No other siblings were recorded as living with the family.
According to the 1910 census, Wattles had changed the spelling of his last name from Walters to Wattles. He was married to Abbie Walters and they had 3 children. It also shows that Wallace’s mother was living with the family.
His Daughter’s Letter
Wattles’ daughter, Florence, described her father’s life in a “Letter” that was published shortly after his death in The Nautilus, a New Thought magazine edited by Elizabeth Towne. The Nautilus had carried articles by Wattles in almost every issue and Towne was also Wattles’s book publisher.
Florence Wattles wrote that her father was born in the United States in 1860, received little formal education, and found himself excluded from the world of commerce and wealth. She said “he made lots of money and had good health, except for his extreme frailty” in the final three years of his life.
She said his death at age 51 was “untimely.” In the year before he died, he had not only published two books (The Science of Being Well and The Science of Getting Rich), but had also run for public office.
In 1896, Wattles attended “a convention of reformers” in Chicago and met George Davis Herron,a Congregational Church minister and professor of Applied Christianity at Grinnell College. At that time, Herron was beginning to attract national attention by preaching a form of Christian Socialism.
After meeting Herron, Wattles became a social visionary and began to expound upon what Florence called “the wonderful, social message of Jesus.” He held a position in the Methodist Church, but was ejected for his “heresy”. Two of his books (A New Christ and Jesus: The Man and His Work) dealt with Christianity from a Socialist perspective.
In the 1908, Wattles ran as a Socialist Party of America candidate in the Eighth Congressional District. In 1910 he again ran as a Socialist candidate, for Prosecuting Attorney for the Madison County, Indiana 50th court district. He lost both elections.
New Thought Movement
Wattles often travelled to Chicago, where several leading New Thought leaders were located, among them Emma Curtis Hopkins and William Walker Atkinson. He gave “Sunday night lectures” in Indiana, but his primary publisher was Massachusetts-based Elizabeth Towne.
Wattles studied the writings of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and Ralph Waldo Emerson and recommended that his readers study their books in order to understand what he called “the monistic theory of the cosmos.”
Through his personal study and experimentation, Wattles said he had discovered the truth of New Thought and put the principles into practice in his own life. He also advocated the then-popular health theories of “The Great Masticator” Horace Fletcher as well as the “No-Breakfast Plan” of Edward Hooker Dewey. He wrote books outlining these principles and practices.
A practical author, Wattles encouraged his readers to test his theories rather than take his word as an authority. He claimed to have tested his methods on himself and others before publishing them.
Wattles practiced the technique of creative visualization. In his daughter Florence’s words, he “formed a mental picture” or visual image, and then “worked toward the realization of this vision”
“He wrote almost constantly. It was then that he formed his mental picture. He saw himself as a successful writer, a personality of power, an advancing man, and he began to work toward the realization of this vision. He lived every page … His life was truly the powerful life.”
- The Constructive Use of Foods (pamphlet)
- Health Through New Thought and Fasting
- Hellfire Harrison (his only novel)
- Jesus: The Man and His Work
- Letters to a Woman’s Husband (pamphlet)
- Making of the Man Who Can
- A New Christ
- New Science of Living and Healing
- The Science of Being Great
- “Perpetual Youth” (1909, in The Cavalier), an early science fiction story.
- The Science of Being Well (Elizabeth Towne, 1910)
- The Science of Getting Rich (Elizabeth Towne, 1910)
- Scientific Marriage
- What Is Truth? (serialized in The Nautilus Magazine, Elizabeth Towne, 1909)
- Financial Success Through Creative Thought (published posthumously in 1915)