Years Wrinkle the Skin, But To Give Up Enthusiasm Wrinkles the Soul

Frank Crane? Douglas MacArthur? Watterson Lowe? Ann Landers? Jay B. Nash? L. F. Phelan? Samuel Ullman?

Dear Quote Investigator: According to a popular essay about youth the primary cause of aging is the desertion of one’s ideals. Also, years may wrinkle the skin, but losing enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. This essay has been attributed to U.S. General Douglas MacArthur and others. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: The earliest match located by QI appeared in a Carlsbad, New Mexico newspaper in April 1914. Prominent columnist and minister Dr. Frank Crane penned the essay which began with the following paragraphs. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. It is not a matter of ripe cheeks, red lips, and supple knees; it is a tempter of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions. It is the freshness of the deep springs of life.

Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty more than in a boy of twenty.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals.

Years wrinkle the skin; but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.

Below are additional selected citations and comments.

Dr. Frank Crane’s 1914 essay continued with the following paragraphs:

Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear, and despair—these are the long, long years that bow the heart and turn the greening spirit back to dust.

Whether sixty or sixteen, there is in every human being’s heart the lure of wonder, the sweet amazement at the stars and at starlike things and thoughts, the undaunted challenge of events, the unfailing, childlike appetite for what next, and the joy of the game of living.

You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope, as old as your despair.

In the central place of your heart is an evergreen tree; its name is Love. So long as it flourishes you are young. When it dies you are old.

In the central place of your heart there is a wireless station. So long as it receives messages of beauty, hope, cheer, grandeur, courage and power from the earth, from men, and from the Infinite, so long are you young. When the wires are down, and all the central place of your heart is covered with the snows of cynicism and the ice of pessimism. then you are grown old, even at twenty, and may God have mercy on your soul.

In May 1914 the essay “Youth” with credit to Dr. Frank Crane was reprinted in “Cosmopolitan” magazine of New York. 2

In 1916 the essay appeared under the title “Youth—What Is It?” within the pages of the “Los Angeles Times” of California. The “Consistory Bulletin” was acknowledged, but the author was not specified. 3

In 1920 the essay appeared in the periodical “Home and Progress” from The First National Bank of Champaign, Illinois coupled with an acknowledgment to “Hollows”. 4

In 1930 a sharply condensed version of the essay appeared in “The Reader’s Digest” together with an acknowledgment to “Normal Instructor and Primary Plans”. The ellipsis below occurred within the text from “The Reader’s Digest”: 5

Youth is not a time of life — it is a state of mind. . . . It is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions. It is a freshness of the deep springs of life. Youth means a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite of adventure over the love of ease. This often exists in a man of fifty more than in a boy of twenty. Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals.
— Normal Instructor and Primary Plans.

In 1933 “The Improvement Era” published an article by Jay B. Nash who was a Professor of Education at New York University. The article included excerpts from the Crane’s 1914 “Youth” essay. Also, the piece began with two sentences used as an epigraph. An acknowledgement was not provided: 6

“Youth means a temperamental predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the life of ease. * * * Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old by deserting their ideals,” says J. B. Nash—and then tells why.

In 1937 B. C. Forbes who co-founded “Forbes” magazine published the quotation collection called “Thoughts on the Business of Life”. A condensed version of the essay was credited to Dr. L. F. Phelan: 7

Youth is not a time of life; it is a state of mind. People grow old only by deserting their ideals and by outgrowing the consciousness of youth. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. . . . You are as old as your doubt, your fear, your despair. The way to keep young is to keep your faith young. Keep your self-confidence young. Keep your hope young. — Dr. L. F. Phelan

In 1945 “The Reader’s Digest” reprinted an article from “The Week Magazine” which discussed three items hanging on the wall in the office of General Douglas MacArthur. One of the items was a version of the “Youth” essay which the article attributed to Samuel Ullman. To reduce redundancy the essay has been truncated: 8

Over General MacArthur’s desk there hangs a message. It will bring you courage and faith.

Famed War Correspondent Col. Frederick Palmer called on Douglas MacArthur at his Manila Headquarters. His most vivid memory: three frames over the General’s desk. One, a portrait of Washington. One, a portrait of Lincoln. One, the framed message which you will read in part below. The General has had it in sight ever since it was given to him some years ago by John W. Lewis. It is based on a poem written by the late Samuel Ullman of Birmingham, Ala.

YOUTH is not a time of life—it is a state of mind; it is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over love of ease.

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair — these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust. . . .

In 1946 “The Boston Globe” printed an advertisement which included the piece from 1945 issue of “The Reader’s Digest”. 9

In 1950 an excerpt from the essay appeared as a filler in a Monrovia, California newspaper. The words were attributed to Watterson Lowe: 10

Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years. People grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the face, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-interest, fear, despair—these are the long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust. — Watterson Lowe.

In 1955 “The Washington Post” printed a piece by George Sokolsky which explored the provenance of the essay. 11

Sokolsky found an instance in the 1934 collection “The Silver Treasury” compiled by Jane Manner, and the essay was credited to Samuel Ullman. Sokolsky also determined that a version of the essay had appeared earlier in a privately printed compilation titled “From a Summit of Years Four Score”. The material had been collected by family members in 1920 when Ullman was eighty years old. Yet, as noted at the beginning of this article, the essay by Frank Crane was circulating by 1914.

In 1968 “The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life” included an entry for the paragraph ascribed to L. F. Phelan in 1937. 12 The compilation also included an entry for the paragraph ascribed to Watterson Lowe in 1950. 13

In 1977 the famous advice columnist Ann Landers printed a version of the essay together with assertions from two correspondents. Here was the first claim:
14

May I throw a little light on the subject? That essay was written by Gen. Douglas MacArthur — in case you want to set the record straight.

The second correspondent credited Ullman:

The “Essay on Youth” was written by my grandfather, the late Samuel Ullman of Birmingham, Ala.

In conclusion, based on current evidence QI believes that Frank Crane originated this essay by 1914. It appeared in several periodicals during the ensuing years. In 1920 family members of Samuel Ullman compiled a privately printed book that included the essay. Yet, the citations for Crane have precedence. The linkage to Douglas MacArthur occurred because he posted the essay on the wall of his office.

Jay B. Nash included essay in an article he wrote in 1933 after it was already in circulation. Paragraphs from the essay were attributed to L. F. Phelan and Watterson Lowe many years after the first citation in 1914.

Image Notes: Depiction of “Fountain of Youth” from the May 1914 issue of “Cosmopolitan” published by International Magazine Company, New York. Image has been resized and cropped.

(Great thanks to Richard Daugherty whose inquiry led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Daugherty mentioned that an excerpt from the essay had been ascribed to Watterson Lowe, Samuel Ullman, Douglas MacArthur, and James E. Faust.)

Notes:

  1. 1914 April 17, The Carlsbad Argus, Society: Youth by Dr. Frank Crane, Quote Page 8, Column 1, Carlsbad, New Mexico. (Newspapers_com)
  2. 1914 May, Cosmopolitan, Volume 56, Number 6, Youth by Dr. Frank Crane (Acknowledgement to “Consistory Bulletin”), Quote Page 721, International Magazine Company, New York. (HathiTrust Full View) link
  3. 1916 July 29, Los Angeles Times, Youth—What Is It?, Section: II, Quote Page 4, Column 5, Los Angeles, California. (ProQuest)
  4. 1920 March, Home and Progress, Volume 5, Number 1, Youth (Acknowledgement to “Hollows”), Quote Page 15, Column 1, Published Quarterly by The First National Bank of Champaign, Illinois. (Internet Archive archive.org) link
  5. 1930 May, The Reader’s Digest, Volume 17, Section: The Art of Living, What Hath Age to do With Years? (Acknowledgement to Normal Instructor and Primary Plans), Quote Page 90, Column 2, The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York.(Verified on paper)
  6. 1933 February, The Improvement Era, Volume 36, Number 4, What Will You Do With Your Leisure? by Jay B. Nash (Professor of Education, New York University), Start Page 195, Quote Page 195 and 221, Published Monthly by the General Boards of the Mutual Improvement Associations, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Internet Archive archive.org) link
  7. 1937 Copyright, Thoughts on the Business of Life, Edited by B. C. Forbes, Quote Page 98, B.C. Forbes Publishing Company, New York. (Verified with scans)
  8. 1945 December, The Reader’s Digest, Volume 47, How to Stay Young, (Acknowledgement to This Week Magazine), Quote Page 81, The Reader’s Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York. (Verified on paper)
  9. 1946 January 1, The Boston Daily Globe, Advertisement Title: How to Stay Young, Advertisement Company: Rogers Peet Company of Boson, Massachusetts, Quote Page 36, Column 1, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest)
  10. 1950 August 2, Monrovia Daily News-Post, (Filler item), Quote Page 6, Column 1, Monrovia, California. (Newspapers_com)
  11. 1955 March 10, The Washington Post, These Days: An Ode to Youth by George Sokolsky, Quote Page 17, Column 1 and 2, Washington, D.C. (ProQuest)
  12. 1968, The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life by Forbes Magazine, Quote Page 495, Published by Forbes, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)
  13. 1968, The Forbes Scrapbook of Thoughts on the Business of Life by Forbes Magazine, Quote Page 344, Published by Forbes, Inc., New York. (Verified on paper)
  14. 1977 February 15, The Boston Globe, Story behind ‘Essay on Youth’ by Ann Landers, Quote Page 14, Boston, Massachusetts. (ProQuest)