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Today, we romanticize the gangster era of Chicago in the s and 30s. But as in Chicago, the big cities and small towns of Ohio and Indiana could be dangerous places in the s. Unlike the movies, very real blood was being spilled over political power struggles, illegal booze, and virulent racism. And Napoleon Hill would get caught up in the middle of it all as he toured Illinois, Ohio, and Indiana, making friends and enemies with journalists, politicians, and the Ku Klux Klan.

But the Klan had a surprisingly strong presence in northern states as well, like Oregon, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana. Donald Mellett was a respected newspaper publisher in Canton, Ohio in He reported on both mob and police corruption in the Canton Daily News and courted controversy through his muckraking. Mellett came from a family of journalists and struggled for years at tiny newspapers in his home state of Indiana and then Ohio. When he was brought on as editor of the Canton Daily News , the paper initially gained readers through an emphasis on subscription sales over street sales—a long-term, unconventional model for the newspaper industry at the time.

Not a huge city by any means, Canton was simply one of many cities across the US that was experiencing an explosion in organized crime. And it counted amongst its ranks plenty of police officers who were being paid to look the other way—whether it was booze, sex, or sometimes murder. Mellett had been editor of the Canton Daily News merely a year before he was murdered. He was gunned down outside his own garage on July 16, —assassinated by either underworld figures, corrupt police, or most likely a conspiracy involving a mixture of the two.

There was immediate outrage in the journalism community. One of their own had been assassinated, making it a national story for months. Hill later claimed that Mellett also wanted to help Hill publish an eight-volume book on the subject of success and how to achieve it. But that story contradicts itself even in his own biography, because by all accounts he spent the next few months trying to get a lecture tour started in the Midwest.

In the August 27, issue of the Courier-Crescent in Orrville, Ohio just 25 miles outside Canton Hill is noted as giving public lectures and touting his association with the slain newspaperman.

Even people who disagreed with Mellett on any number of issues including perhaps most fervently his advocacy of alcohol prohibition , saw his murder as a direct assault on the First Amendment. To get at the source of the criminal operations and the inefficiency in the police department, he found that the civil service commission must be removed.

Immediately a conspiracy against Mellett was organized in the police department, which derives its authority from the civil service commission. And he was probably right. He even had the Canton Police Chief, S. Lengel, ousted by the Democratic mayor before the Republican-controlled city council reinstated him. By October of Hill was still roaming around Ohio and Indiana.

He appears in court in Indianapolis testifying about political corruption in Indiana, but it had nothing to do with Mellett. Efforts were made also to find Harvey Bedford and George Elliott, both of whom formerly were active in the Klan here. Napoleon Hill, a lecturer who was said to have a contract with Bedford and Elliott was in the grand jury room during the afternoon.

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Judging from the newspaper records of the time, this appears to be true. But who he was hiding from is still unclear. Had he pissed off the Klan? Mobsters of Ohio who were bootlegging and allegedly selling drugs to children? Was it the police or politicians after him? All of this is still a mystery as far as I can tell. Sometime in late or early , Hill emerged from hiding, ready to embark on yet another publishing venture.

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Hill moved to Philadelphia and his alleged plans with Mellett would not go to waste. Hill would see his eight-volume work, now titled Law of Success , published one way or another. Pelton was a true believer in the prosperity self-help movement. As with any religion or religious philosophy, there are plenty of disagreements about what the proper way to practice might be, but the fundamental idea running through all of New Thought is that ideas and thoughts have very direct and material actions upon the world.

Hill was completely broke in Philadelphia and had to appear to his potential publisher as a man of success and grace. So he borrowed money from his brother-in-law, rented an enormous suite in a swanky Philadelphia hotel, and played the role of the successful businessman for Pelton. And it seemed to work, despite the fact that Law of Success was mangled garbage as far as any literary merits were concerned. Pelton agreed to publish the book anyway and by mid the royalties begin to come in, however small.

Napoleon would bank on his supposed association with powerful men time and again. I am cured of that forever. By early the money indeed started to flow. Always having to previously pretend that he was wealthy, Hill had his first legitimate success that allowed him to flaunt his money. He quickly bought a Rolls-Royce two Rolls-Royces by his own account in a book years later , and an enormous house in the Catskill Mountains of New York sitting on six-hundred acres. Hill bought his gigantic estate, named Shagbark, with a number of investors.

By July, Florence and their three boys had moved into the luxurious estate and Napoleon was hard at work getting his elite utopian community off the ground. It was the first time that all five members of the Hill family were living under the same roof. Napoleon, always the man on the run, was bored with their idyllic home in the middle of nowhere. By autumn of Hill had set up an office in New York City, an inauspicious time for the American economy at large.

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The stock market dipped and dove wildly throughout September and October of , culminating in the great Wall Street Crash of October 24, By the following week, the stock market had been decimated. It was the unofficial start of the s and the decade-long Great Depression.


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At first Napoleon seemed unaffected by the crippling downturn in the economy. Or so he claimed. Napoleon, hard at work on his next book from his office in New York, wrote lovingly to Florence, assuring her that everything would be okay once his next book hit the shelves. Napoleon and his family were once again broke, and Florence kept their kids fed and clothed through the continued generosity of her family.

If I do not I might go to jail. The idea is that every contestant would need the Law of Success textbooks in order to get ideas from them for the contest. The ellipses in that quote are that of the biographers. If Hill is referring to the idea of starting a contest only as a ruse for selling his book as a textbook, then yes, that would probably have been illegal in some way or another. Hill was always dancing the thin line that separated brilliant marketing technique and outright fraud, often escaping the law because Hill would claim it was always the former and never the latter.

Law of Success would never be made into a motion picture, but Hill was very interested in the movie business by In fact, he helped produce the first Mormon feature film ever. The production was not without its hiccups, however, as the state of New York had to step in and halt the financing scheme dreamed up by Napoleon. Flora B. But the film, Corianton: A Story of Unholy Love, an epic tale from the Book of Mormon, was ultimately produced, despite being a box office flop outside of Utah.

Hill spent the early part of the s devising different magazines and constantly seeking investors. It lasted two issues before he moved to Washington, D.

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All the while Hill was jumping from city to city—Philadelphia, Baltimore, among others—to seek investors in all kinds of dummy corporations and stock-selling schemes. Once he made Washington his home base he turned the International Success Society into the International Success University, a correspondence course that yet again was little more than a way to extract gobs of money from people around the country.

But it was in that Hill would supposedly have yet another brush with political power. Years later, he would claim that he was approached by the Roosevelt administration to help instill confidence in the American economy. Much like his alleged work for the Wilson administration in , Hill supposedly demanded that he not be paid for his contributions to his country.