In September of 1915, Napoleon Hill started his unaccredited George Washington Institute, to teach the “principles of success” and self-confidence.
Some students of the George Washington Institute would accuse Hill’s school of fraud, and it too had a very short life.
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Napoleon Hill was said to be an advisor to two presidents: Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
In fact, there’s no evidence whatsoever outside of Hill’s own writings that Hill met President Wilson or President Roosevelt, let alone acted as a trusted advisor to both.
Napoleon Hill’s most infamous claim was that he met and interviewed at length the industrialist Andrew Carnegie in 1908.
Andrew Carnegie's biographer David Nasaw found no evidence of any sort that Carnegie and Hill ever met.
Napoleon Hill tried his hand at a number of businesses. But at every turn, there was some kind of shady dealing that would cause his business ventures to crumble.
Promoters of Hill claim that it was all a matter of bad luck, and Hill's naivety. However, there are only so many times that a man can be arrested for the sale of unlicensed stock, altering checks, and outright theft, before you have to question the official history.
Napoleon Hill starts the Automobile College of Washington as president in 1909. He promised 6 weeks of training to be sufficient to become an expert in assembling cars.
Hill’s college was actually a way to get free labor for building cars.
The Federal Trade Commission charged Hill on October 1919 with using his magazine for fraudulent advertising. The charges state, “numerous false and misleading statements, known by the respondents to be false and misleading, and published by them for the purpose of furthering their plans and purposes.”
Napoleon Hill learned early on that an easy and cost-effective way to get your name in the press was to present people with awards for their demonstration of the Golden Rule.
His award-giving tactic would later let him gain access to some of the famous people he so dearly wanted to meet.
The charity would provide educational materials for prisoners in Ohio so that they could lead productive lives once they left prison.
Roughly $1,000 were also collected by Napoleon Hill through various sources, to be devoted to giving men in prison a chance, but the prison warden for the Ohio Penitentiary where Hill was supposed to be sending this money, told the local newspaper that they never saw a dime.
The photo of Napoleon Hill standing awkwardly with Thomas Edison is the only photo of Hill with any of the famous businessmen (let alone Presidents) he claimed to have interviewed over the course of his decades-long career in studying the secrets of success.
The real story behind the photo: Hill figured on how he could have a picture made with Thomas A. Edison, so he could give him a medal. He sent a press agent over to announce that “Mr. Hill, one of the leading magazine writers, wished to attend the Edison Convention of Dealers.” Of course, he was welcome. He asked Mr. Edison to pose with him, a request he could hardly refuse.
Born into poverty in rural Virginia at the end of the 19th century, Hill went on to write one of the most successful self-help books of the 20th century: Think and Grow Rich.
“Only by working harmoniously in co-operation with other individuals or groups of individuals and thus creating value and benefit for them will one create sustainable achievement for oneself.”