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DeWitt Wallace (1889-1981) Founder of Reader's Digest

DeWitt Wallace was born on November 12 (today!), 1889 in St. Paul (in the American state Minnesota). His father was a minister. After high school, Wallace got a job as a bank employee and studied at Berkeley’s University of California, but more importantly, in his free time he kept a huge collection of his favourite magazine articles.

Wallace got his luminous idea for the later Reader's Digest after compressing some government brochures into booklets. He became convinced that he could create a popular periodical by condensing other readings. He joined the US army in World War I. While recovering after getting wounded in the war, he began to investigate his brainchild. But his sample issue was rejected again and again by the publishers he sent it to.

At some time in these years he proposed to his girlfriend Lila Acheson, also the child of a minister, after which the pair married in 1922 in Pleasantville (New York). This would also be the later home of Reader's Digest, which they decided to start themselves as publishers continued to deny Wallace’s ideas. DeWitt and Lila founded Reader's Digest Association and proudly published their first issue – 1,500 copies - in February 1922 with US$ 5,000 in borrowed money.

Having reached a circulation of 200,000 by 1929, the Reader’s Digest magazine began publishing original articles in 1933, followed by the condensing of books the year after, for which the magazine earned its fame through the decades to come.

More than seventeen million readers in twenty languages caused the magazine to be the largest publication in the world by the end of the 20th century. DeWitt Wallace had expanded his company into a global publisher of magazines, home entertainment products and books. Being a rich man, he also pursued many philanthropic events and collected an impressive amount of art. The foundations of DeWitt Wallace now total nearly US $2.000.000.000. He died in 1981.

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