Elbert Hubbard has left behind one of the richest collection of quotations in English literature. Example:
A friend is one who knows all about you and loves you all the same.
Lie is a sad substitute for truth, but it is the only one discovered by man to date.
Truly the most successful written work of Elbert Hubbard, "A message for Garcia", was spontaneously written on 22nd February 1899 in one single hour after supper. The essay appeared in the March issue of Hubbards magazine "The Philistine". Shortly after its release, unexpected volumes of extra copies of the magazine were ordered. Then came a telegram from the New York Central Railway, asking to have 100,000 copies printed.
Since this fully overstretched Hubbards production capacity, he permitted the NYCR to print one million copies.
Shortly thereafter, Prince Hilakoff, Director of the Russian Railroad Establishment visited the NYCR, saw the essay, had it translated into Russian and gave one copy each to staffs of his establishment. One copy each was handed over to every Russian soldier during the Russian-Japanese war. The Japanese found the booklet with Russian soldiers, had it translated into Japanese and the Mikado ordered every staff of the Japanese government (military or civilian) to get a copy thereof.
And here is the essay, which caused so many furores over 100 years ago and which, even today, is still part of the classics of business literature.
A message for Garcia
by Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915), American Essayist and Humorist
In all this Cuban business there is one man stands out on the horizon of my memory like Mars at perihelion. When war broke out between Spain and the United States, it was very necessary to communicate quickly with the leader of the Insurgents. Garcia was somewhere in the mountain fastnesses of Cuba - no one knew where. No mail or telegraph could reach him. The President must secure his co-operation, and quickly.
What to do!
Someone said to the President, "ThereÂ´s a fellow by the name of Rowan will find Garcia for you, if anybody can."
Rowan was sent for and given a letter to be delivered to Garcia. How "the fellow by name of Rowan" took the letter, sealed it up in an oil-skin pouch, strapped it over his heart, in four days landed by night off the coast of Cuba from an open boat, disappeared into the jungle, and in three weeks came out on the other side of the island, having traversed a hostile country on foot, and having delivered his letter to Garcia, are things I have no special desire now to tell in detail.
The point I wish to make is this: McKinley gave Rowan a letter to be delivered to Garcia; Rowan took the letter and did not ask, "Where is he at?" By the Eternal! There is a man whose form should be cast in deathless bronze and the statue placed in every college in the land. It is not book-learning young men need, nor instruction about this or that, but a stiffening of the vertebrae which will cause them to be loyal to a trust, to act promptly, concentrate their energies; do the thing - "carry a message to Garcia!"
General Garcia is dead now, but there are other Garcias.
No man, who has endeavoured to carry out an enterprise where many hands were needed, but has been well-nigh appalled at times by the imbecility of the average man - the inability or unwillingness to concentrate on a thing and do it. Slipshod assistance, foolish inattention, dowdy indifference, and half-hearted work seem the rule; and no man succeeds, unless by hook or crook, or threat, he forces or bribes other men to assist him; or mayhap, God in His goodness performs a miracle, and sends him an Angel of Light for an assistant. You, reader, put this matter to a test: You are sitting now in your office -six clerks are within your call. Summon any one and make this request: "Please look in the encyclopedia and make a brief memorandum for me concerning the life of Corregio."
Will the clerk quietly say, "Yes, sir," and go do the task?
On your life, he will not. He will look at you out of a fishy eye, and ask one or more of the following questions:
- Who was he?
- Which encyclopedia?
- Where is the encyclopedia?
- Was I hired for that?
- DonÂ´t you mean Bismarck?
- WhatÂ´s the matter with Charlie doing it?
- Is he dead?
- Is there any hurry?
- ShanÂ´t I bring you the book and let you look it up yourself?
- What do you want to know for?
And I will lay you ten to one that after you have answered the questions, and explained how to find the information, and why you want it, the clerk will go off and get one of the other clerks to help him find Garcia - and then come back and tell you there is no such man. Of course I may lose my bet, but according to the Law of Average, I will not.
Excerpt from: "A message for Garcia" by Elbert Hubbard (1856 - 1915),
American Essayist and Humorist