Today a Reader; Tomorrow a Leader

Margaret Fuller? W. Fusselman? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: There is a popular motivational quotation that is usually attributed to Margaret Fuller and is displayed on many educational websites:

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.

Wikiquote lists an extensive collection of quotations from Fuller, but I was unable to find this one. Fuller’s opus “Woman in the Nineteenth Century” is in the Google Books database, but I cannot find the quotation within it. Fuller died in 1850 and stylistically the quotation sounds anachronistic for her time period. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: QI was unable to find any substantive support for crediting Margaret Fuller with this motto. The earliest evidence appeared in 1926 in an intriguing report published in a journal called “The Library” from the Newark Public Library in New Jersey. The head of the library had received a collection of 43 slogans constructed by students, and that set included the statement under investigation. The creator of the slogan was a student named W. Fusselman. Here is an excerpt from the journal article: 1

Invented by Vocational School Boys

Max S. Henig, of the Essex County Vocational School for Boys, in Irvington, N.J., sends me a list of 43 “library slogans” and says “these slogans were written by the members of my classes at the West Orange Essex County Vocational School. They were originated and used as part of a campaign planned to arouse interest in the growth and use of a school library which some of the boys had created by generous donations of books.”

The article noted that the books were lent for four days with a fee of one cent. The expressions were created as part of a classroom exercise, and the journal editors were impressed enough that they reprinted eight of them. Here are the first four together with the names of the students who crafted them:

Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.  W. Fusselman.
A library is an education on a shelf.  H. Ohlandt.
If you read to learn you’re bound to earn.  M. Tremper.
A good book read puts you ahead.  Howard Fraebel.

Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Today a Reader; Tomorrow a Leader


  1. 1926 April, The Library, Volume 2, Number 4, Slogans for a Library, Page 56, Column 2,  Newark Public Library, Newark, New Jersey. (Verified with scans; Thanks to Dennis Lien and the University of Minnesota library system)