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Russell Conwell : biography

February 15, 1843 - December 6, 1925

Russell Herman Conwell (February 15, 1843 – December 6, 1925) was an American Baptist minister, orator, philanthropist, lawyer, and writer. He is best remembered as the founder and first president of Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, as the Pastor of The Baptist Temple, and for his inspirational lecture, Acres of Diamonds. He was born in South Worthington, Massachusetts, and was buried in the Founder's Garden at Temple University. A middle school was also dedicated to him in Philadelphia, PA. This middle school is called Russel Conwell Middle Magnet School.

Acres of Diamonds

"Acres of Diamonds" originated as a speech which Conwell delivered over 5,000 times around the world. It was first published in 1890 by the John Y. Huber Company of Philadelphia.

The central idea of the work is that one need not look elsewhere for opportunity, achievement, or fortune—the resources to achieve all good things are present in one's own community. This theme is developed by an introductory anecdote, told to Conwell by an Arab guide, about a man who wanted to find diamonds so badly that he sold his property and went off in futile search for them. The new owner of his home discovered that a rich diamond mine was located right there on the property. Conwell elaborates on the theme through examples of success, genius, service, or other virtues involving ordinary Americans contemporary to his audience: "dig in your own backyard!".

In A People's History of the United States, historian Howard Zinn comments that the message was that anyone could get rich if they tried hard enough, while implying that Conwell held elitist attitudes by quoting the following from his speech:

Conwell's capacity to establish Temple University and his other civic projects largely derived from the income that he earned from this speech. The book has been regarded as a classic of New Thought literature since the 1870s.Ellwood, R.S. (1997) The fifties spiritual marketplace: American religion in a decade of conflict. Rutgers University Press, . p 225.


Conwell's name lives on in the present-day Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (with campuses in South Hamilton and Boston, Massachusetts and Charlotte, North Carolina), an interdenominational evangelical theological seminary formed in 1969 by the merging of two former divinity schools, Conwell School of Theology of Temple University in Philadelphia and Gordon Divinity School in Wenham, Massachusetts.

The author Russell Conwell Hoban was named for him. A magnet middle school in Philadelphia bears his name as well. The school yearbook is titled "Acres of Diamonds," and has also been known to reference its students by the title, "Acres of Diamonds". Temple University's football team also wear diamond decals on their helmets and diamond trim on their collars to reference Conwell's "Acre of Diamonds" speech.

Early life

The son of Massachusetts farmers, Conwell left home to attend the Wilbraham Wesleyan Academy and later Yale University. In 1862, before graduating from Yale, he enlisted in the Union Army during the American Civil War. From 1862–1864, Conwell served as a captain of a volunteer regiment. He was dismissed from the military after being charged with deserting his post at Newport Barracks, North Carolina. While Conwell claimed that he was later reinstated by General James B. McPherson, no military records confirm his statement.John Wimmers, "Conwell, Russell Herman," American National Biography Online, Accessed September 2008 After the Civil War, Conwell studied law at the Albany Law School. Over the next several years, he worked as an attorney, journalist, and lecturer first in Minneapolis, then in Boston. Additionally, during this period, he published about ten books—including campaign biographies of Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, and James A. Garfield. In 1880, he was ordained as a Baptist minister and took over a congregation in Lexington, Massachusetts.

Living octopus

Living octopus

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