How to Win Friends and Influence People


Dale Carnegie

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How to Win Friends and Influence People Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Dale Carnegie

Dale Carnegie, born to James Carnegie and Amanda Harbison, grew up helping his family on their farm. As a teenager, he enjoyed public speaking and joined his high school’s debate team. After high school, he attended State Teacher’s College in Missouri and graduated in 1908. Carnegie then became a successful salesman for Armour & Company in Nebraska; within two years, he was Armour’s top salesman in the state. He then studied acting at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York, but finding no success as an actor, he returned to sales work and also got the idea to teach public speaking. He began a course at the YMCA on public speaking, and over time he evolved the Dale Carnegie Course, shifting his focus to human relations in business practices. He then published a collection of his writings on the subject in 1916 and continued to give lectures around the country and eventually the world, speaking in New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, London, and Paris. He also published several other collections of his lectures, as well as a biography of Abraham Lincoln called Lincoln in the Unknown. Carnegie then married Lolita Baucaire in 1927 before getting divorced in 1931. In 1936, he published How to Win Friends and Influence People, a bestseller at its debut. Later, Carnegie married Dorothy Price Vanderpool and had a daughter, Donna, and continued to give his lecture series. He died of Hodgkin’s disease in 1955 in New York. 
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Historical Context of How to Win Friends and Influence People

The end of the 19th century—the time period in which Carnegie grew up—saw a major shift in the U.S. economy and business. The United States entered a period of rapid economic and industrial growth known as the Gilded Age, which led to a real wage growth of 60 percent. By 1895, the United States jumped ahead of Britain for first place in global manufacturing output. This coincided with major technological advancements like electric lights, telephones, typewriters, machine tools, railroads, and electric street cars. These advancements paved the way for leaders in industry—like Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, and John D. Rockefeller—to achieve great success. With this industrial growth, there was also a huge growth in management and service-related positions. In the first few decades of the 20th century, management education became more and more prominent in universities, particularly during the 1920s—another period of great economic growth. In 1912, Carnegie was leading lectures in public speaking, but gradually he saw the need for giving courses to adults in business because of these shifts. This is how the Dale Carnegie Courses came about, which ultimately provided the foundation for How to Win Friends and Influence People.

Other Books Related to How to Win Friends and Influence People

How to Win Friends and Influence People is credited with popularizing the self-help genre, though there are a few books in this category that were published prior to Carnegie’s. The genre actually takes its name from Self-Help, an 1859 best-seller by Samuel Smiles. As a Man Thinketh, by James Allen, is another early example in this genre—published in 1903, it teaches that people can transform their lives simply by changing their thinking. Other similar books published around the same time as How to Win Friends include Wallace D. Wattles’s The Science of Getting Rich and Napoleon Hill’s The Law of Success and Think and Grow Rich. How to Win Friends is perhaps one of the most famous examples of self-improvement books regarding business. It’s also comparable to other books that revolutionized the way Americans wrote and thought about specific topics, like Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care (about childrearing), Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style (about writing), and The Fannie Farmer Cookbook (about cooking). Carnegie also wrote several other books, including Public Speaking and Influencing Men in Business, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, and Lincoln the Unknown (a biography on Abraham Lincoln, whom Carnegie uses in many case studies in How to Win Friends).
Key Facts about How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • Full Title: How to Win Friends and Influence People
  • When Written: 1934–1936
  • Where Written: New York, New York
  • When Published: October 1936
  • Literary Period: Modernism
  • Genre: Self-Help
  • Point of View: First Person

Extra Credit for How to Win Friends and Influence People

Success Story. American business tycoon Warren Buffett took Dale Carnegie’s business course when he was 20 years old, and he still has the diploma from the course in his office.

Bestseller. How to Win Friends and Influence People has sold over 30 million copies as of 2011, making it one of the best-selling books of all time.