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Risen From the Ranks; or, the Story of Harry Walton's Success: Plot Summary

Risen From the Ranks; or, The Story of Harry Walton's Success, New York: A.L. Burt Company, 1909

          Hero Harry Walton leaves Professor Henderson to enter the Centerville Gazette as a printer's apprentice, also known as a "printer's devil," in his continued attempt to mirror the life of Benjamin Franklin, his hero. Although this means that he will take a loss in pay, he sees it as a favorable investment for the future. The editor, Jotham Anderson, who is willing to act as a patron to the young man, hires him. Harry works with two other men, John Clapp, a spendthrift who associates with Luke Harrison, and Mr. Ferguson, who has a family and behaves very respectably.
Risen from the Ranks cover image is borrowed from the Dime Novels Collection of the Department of Rare Books and Special Collections at the University of Rochester          Settled into town, Harry makes the acquaintance of a young gentleman Oscar Vincent of Boston, in Centerville attending the local academy, who recognizes the good nature of Harry and is willing to associate with him regardless of rank. He agrees to help Harry learn French and Latin. Although they are both wealthy, Oscar is very much unlike fop Fitzgerald Fletcher, also from Boston, who looks down at Harry and is baffled by Oscar's interest in him. He is further confounded when Oscar invites Harry to join the Clionian Society, a debate club organized by students from the academy, and questions the matter: "I don't believe in being too democratic. I am not in favor of admitting anybody and everybody into the society" (80). However, Fitzgerald stands alone, and the boys work to embarrass him publicly, by locating a tin merchant related to the boy and having him claim kinship to Fitz on the school grounds. Fitz, although he realizes that they are indeed related, ignores the matter as easily as he does the fact that his own father was once poor.
          Fitz attempts to take out his frustrations at the next debate meeting by calling on Harry, who is unprepared to deliver a recitation; however, because of Harry's natural ability, he performs better than any would have imagined, securing his new position and eventually rising to the offices of secretary and president, actions which humiliate Fitz to the extent that he leaves the academy and takes on a tutor in Boston. In addition, Harry begins to compose essays and short comedic pieces to various newspapers anonymously to develop a reputation. Although his writing shows some sign of immaturity, it is nonetheless well received and encourages Harry to even greater heights.
          On a trip to Boston, he submits a piece personally, and receives high praise from the editor of a well-circulated literary paper. While in Boston, Harry meets Oscar's sister, Maud, whom he takes a mutual interest, and Oscar's father, who is a very well-respected publisher who also encourages Harry to follow his dream. Meanwhile, Luke and John fall in with a villainous con man from New York, who is in town to defraud a local miser, Deborah Kensington. Posing as her nephew, he endears himself to her and then offers her a (false) diamond ring as security on a loan to get him to a promising job in San Francisco. She agrees and he leaves town, taking John and Luke with him but dumping them penniless in St. Louis when he tires of their company. Although they write for money to both Herbert and Jotham, they are denied. Soon after, Jotham takes ill, and it is recommended that he take a trip out West to recover.
          Harry and Mr. Ferguson agree to run the paper alone, with Harry acting as editor at a very young age. However, he performs even better than Jotham, and the Centerville Gazette becomes very popular. When Jotham writes to say that he would prefer to remain out West, Harry and Ferguson agree to buy out the newspaper and run it as partners. Although they do not have enough money to make such an investment, the sudden return of Professor Henderson as an interested lender solves this problem. Harry does wonderfully well, despite his eventual need to hire on his brother for his earlier role, and maintains correspondence with Oscar, who is attending Harvard with Fitz (who is doing quite poorly). His position gives him a popularity that he eventually leverages into a Congressional seat, where he finds himself able to hire Fitz, now destitute following his father's business failure, as a clerk, forgiving Fitz for his poor behavior years earlier. Harry marries Maud and remains close friends with Oscar.