Prentice Mulford

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Prentice Mulford, 1877

Prentice Mulford (born April 5, 1834 in Sag Harbor, New York; † May 27, 1891 in Long Island) was a U.S. journalist, philosopher, and writer who is considered one of the most important representatives of the New Spirit movement.

Mulford died at the age of 57, drifting alone in a sailboat off Long Island. He previously stated that he was traveling by boat to Sag Harbor, now part of the “Hamptons region,” more specifically located in the area of the towns of East Hampton and Southampton there.


Prentice Mulford, whose German-born parents were owners of a hotel in Sag Harbor, was born in the town of the same name on April 5, 1834. His grandmother fostered his love of nature. With her he learned the German language. His father died when Mulford was fourteen years old. From then on, he regularly indulged in alcohol. At 17, he left home and signed on as a sailor. In the years that followed, he made his living as a ship’s cook and whaler. He came to the realization that alcohol was destroying his free will (in his opinion the “highest in man”) and decided to stop drinking.

In 1857 Mulford ended his career at sea and went to California, where he spent the next 16 years. There he earned his living as a gold miner. But even this occupation did not fulfill him; in 1863 he settled in Sonora, Tuolumne County. When, encouraged by his companion, he began publishing humorous stories in the Union Democrate under the pseudonym “Dogberry,” he achieved some notoriety among the gold miners there. In time he was active as an educator, petroleum dealer, and sheriff. With the development of the first petroleum wells in Pennsylvania in 1858 and the conflicts that accompanied it, Mulford became acquainted with John D. Rockefeller, whom he deplored and disapproved of because of his materialistic attitudes.

In 1866, Mulford was called to San Francisco by Joseph E. Lawrence, the editor of the Golden Era. He now wrote short stories for the Golden Era, a weekly newspaper with a literary focus, and made his first contacts with representatives of American literature at the time such as Mark Twain, Artemus Ward and Adah Isaacs Menken.

After the sale of the paper, Mulford also left it and from then on wrote occasionally for the Dramatic Chronicle in Stockton, which he headed as editor for a few months in 1868. For reasons of health he had to give up this position. He went to San Francisco to work as a freelance journalist. Here Mulford began his association with the San Francisco Bulletin.

For financial reasons, he tried to distinguish himself as a “propagator” for the merchants of the gold-mining town in 1872. He was eventually sent to England to tell of California’s advantages[1] and to warn against the bad influence of the monopolist Rockefeller.[2]

On a trip to the World’s Fair in Vienna in 1873, where he was able to communicate well thanks to his knowledge of German, he met Maria Berka, who joined him and followed him to San Francisco. However, Maria Berka later married Teddy Burton, a friend of Mulford’s, as she saw no future in her relationship with Mulford. He initially worked as a freelance writer and as a Sunday preacher, but was no longer able to pursue this activity after a confrontation with the church.

In July 1876 Mulford served as correspondent for the San Francisco Bulletin in Philadelphia at the exposition celebrating the 100th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence. In 1877 he obtained a permanent position with the New York Graphic, where he established the daily History of the Day column that was instrumental in the paper’s success. For the San Francisco Bulletin, Mulford traveled to Paris in 1878, where he met the wholesaler J. Morgan, who enlightened him about Rockefeller’s personality. Thus, in Morgan’s view, Rockefeller saw his success as a grace from God. Mulford succeeded in convincing Morgan of his spiritual ideology and won him over as an adept and patron.

He returned to New York and saw his writing censored by the Graphic ‘s editor-in-chief for economic and political criticism. After six years of steady employment, his health became so poor that he emigrated to the swamps of New Jersey to live in a tree house. Still employed by the Graphic, he began one of his best-known works here: a series of essays under the collective title White CrossLibrary. The collection was later published as Your forces and how touse them. It was only with difficulty that he managed to finance the publication of the first 1000 books. Contrary to usual practice, Mulford refrained from distributing through publishers or boosting sales through advertising. Only by word of mouth did his works spread. The series was soon very successful, and three years after the first edition Mulford was able to draw a positive balance: “We are now read in all parts of the world.”

Success urged him to return to New York. Early in 1891, Mulford traveled to the place of his childhood, Sag Harbor. When he tried to travel to Sag Harbor again by sailboat in May of that year, he died on the crossing. He was found, wrapped in blankets, in his sailboat, floating offshore.

German-language editions of works

Selection, free editing and translation of the essays: Bertha Eckstein-Diener

  • 1913 The mischief of life. online
  • 1919 The mischief of dying. online
  • 1925 The end of mischief. online


Sir Galahad: “Prentice Mulford is a saint “full of go,” one of John V. Jensen’s race, a traverser of spiritual oceans, one who sees in spiritual cosmos as bright as day, with such falcon senses as Jensen has on our earth! He is the genius of impiety! His wisdom grows wild as a briar-bush-the burning briar of his wisdom! Never will he have second-hand knowledge. Were our Lord Jesus Christ to engage him in a prolonged revelation, he would perhaps politely, at any rate decidedly, decline, preferring to get his information directly from dear God.”[3]


  • Leonore Bazinek: PrenticeMulford. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Vol. 18, Bautz, Herzberg 2001, ISBN 3-88309-086-7, Sp. 943-951.
  • Prentice Mulford: The Possibility of the Impossible. EP Tal & Co. publishing house, Vienna 1918.
  • Prentice Mulford: Mischief of Living and Dying, reissued by Fischer-Taschenbuch-Verlag (November 14, 2011), ISBN 978-3596218905
  • Prentice Mulford: Thoughts Are Real, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (June 29, 2014), ISBN 978-1500351311
  • Schmidt, Karl O.: Einer, der es wagt : Leben u. Werk d. Prentice Mulford, Pfullingen : Baum-Verl. , 1961, 3rd edition
  • Prentice Mulford: The End of Mischief, Selected Essays by Prentice Mulford, Very freely edited and transcribed from the English by Sir Galahad, Albert Langen Munich, 1st to 10th thousand

Individual references

  1. Mulford, Prentice (1834-1891). In:
  2. Cf. Leonore Bazinek: MULFORD, Prentice. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Vol. 18, Bautz, Herzberg 2001, ISBN 3-88309-086-7, Sp. 943-951.
  3. Sir Galahad: preface. In: Prentice Mulford: mischief of living and dying. Translated from the English and edited by Sir Galahad. Goverts Krüger Stahlberg-Verlag, Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 3-7740-6247, p. 11.

Web links