Charles F. Haanel Advertisements

It’s no secret that Napoleon Hill thought the world of what Charles F. Haanel was selling with his Master Key System. Let me repeat his worshipful letter to Haanel from a prior post:


I was asked if Haanel spread himself around in publications as Hill did.

Well, it doesn’t seem so. Haanel knew he was onto a gold mine and he expected people to pay pay pay for what he was selling. While I haven’t yet come across any freebie bylined pieces by Haanel, I sure have evidence of his high-powered selling of his Master Key System!

From 1920 issues of The Forum (front matter, pages 128, 256, 383), click to enlarge:





From a 1919 issue of The Independent:


From a 1920 issue of Popular Science:


From 1919 issues of Everybody’s Magazine (front matter, pages 71, 73, 105):


Blame Google ScanOps for that trimmed text.




The above were all full-page ads.

From 1919 and 1920 issues of Association Men, a publication of the YMCA (pages 2, 66, 138, 202, 274, 338), Haanel took ads that were two-thirds of a page but were placed on the masthead page. I’ve trimmed these down to just the ads:







From 1919 and 1920 issues of the The Western Journal of Education, Haanel repeated one ad four times (here, here, here, and here) and it took up about a quarter of a page, which I’ve trimmed down to the ad itself:


From an 1893 issue of American Printer and Lithographer, we learn this about the beginnings of Haanel:


I’m not even sure how to translate that into our modern dollar. Ten million dollars, maybe? At any rate, he spent a lot of it on ads!

The concept of a “master key” to life was a rage back then. It’s unclear to me if the New Thought permutation of it originated with Haanel. A sketchy fellow named L. W. de Laurence published a book in 1916 called The Master Key too — and he went full-blast with design:






He didn’t seem to have the advertising budget of Haanel, but he sure was prolific when it came to ad copy:

De Laurence wrote a lot of his own material in addition to his habit of “borrowing”, and what he wrote best was ad copy. He managed to fill over 500 pages in his 1931 catalog, and it stands to this day as a monument to bombast. Long before David Ogilvy wrote his famous book on advertising, L. W. de Laurence had already determined that “the more you tell the more you sell”. The ad for his book The Master Key fills 26 pages and the ad for the book Great Magical Art goes on for 22 pages. Sworn testimonials, price reductions, free offers – these ads are masterpieces of salesmanship. De Laurence’s techniques are used to this day, particularly in direct mail advertising.


Filed under Napoleon Hill

5 responses to “Charles F. Haanel Advertisements

  1. Well done for finding and posting all this. Haanel was brilliant. I took in every page of his Master Key and instructed my subconscious to work with it and come back to me when the job was done. DeLaurence is an interesting figure for different reasons. He became a scary cult in Jamaica – really. Scarier than Jamaican bongo sorcery!

  2. JB Hill

    My grandfather got much of his metaphysical thinking from Haanel and was right to credit him. Gladstone’s new book, Tapping the Source, is an updated version of Haane’ls Master Key System. Both are must READS for anyone new to Haanel. JB Hill

  3. Haanel also added 8 unnumbered pages of Testimonials to my 1919 Edition of “THE MASTER KEY SYSTEM” It was the Second Printing of the ‘1919 First Edition’ in 1923. The Testimonials were for his then new Book…”THE NEW PSYCHOLOGY”. The Testimonials are dated January of 1923.

    Cloth covered hardcover ….$3.60 and the ‘Flexible Binding, Gilt Edges, De Luxe’, $5.00, Postage Paid.

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