William Roy DeWitt Wallace was born November 12, 1889 in St.Paul, Minnesota.
His father was a minister, college professor and later president of Macalester College.
After high school, DeWitt worked for a bank and began keeping an index-card file of his favorite magazine articles.
Then DeWitt attended Macalester College from 1907 to 1909 but transferred to the University of California, Berkely after two years.
While visiting with friends in Oregon, DeWitt met the sister of a college friend, Lila Bell Acheson and was smitten.
Upon graduation, DeWitt returned to St.Paul in 1912 and went to work for a publishing firm specializing in farming literature to earn enough income to court Lila Bell.
World War I
When World War I broke out, DeWitt enlisted in the U.S. Army.
He was wounded in battle and spent four months in a French hospital recovering from his injuries, passing time by reading American magazines.
After returning to the United States, DeWitt spent every day at the Minneapolis Public Library researching and condensing magazine articles.
His goal was to create a magazine with articles on a wide variety of subjects, abridged so that each could be easily read in one sitting.
After about 6 months, DeWitt showed his sample magazine to Lila Bell Acheson, who responded enthusiastically.
DeWitt finally proposed to her on October 15, 1921, and they were married soon after in Pleasanton, New York.
The newly wed couple then decided to publish DeWitt’s magazine themselves and market it via direct mail.
They worked out of a basement in Manhattan before publishing the first 1,500 copies of Reader’s Digest on February 5, 1922.
By 1929, circulation of Reader’s Digest had reached 200,000 and continued to grow.
In 1933, the magazine began publishing original articles, and the following year began to condense books.
The magazine continued growing rapidly and by the end of the 20th century had the largest circulation of any publication in the world, with more than 17 million readers in dozens of countries and some 20 languages.
The Wallace’s donated much of their resulting wealth to philanthropic causes. They also purchased an impressive art collection, which they hung in the offices of their employees in the Pleasanton, NY headquarters.
On January 28, 1972, DeWitt Wallace was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Richard Nixon.
He was inducted into the Junior Achievement U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 1980.
DeWitt set aside funding for the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum before passing away on March 30, 1981 in Mount Kisco, New York.
His Decorative Arts Museum opened in 1985 at Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.
Now WE know em