Horatio Dresser

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Horatio W. Dresser
Horatio Dresser pre-1900.jpg
Born(1866-01-15)January 15, 1866
Yarmouth, Maine, United States
DiedMarch 30, 1954(1954-03-30) (aged 88)
Boston, Massachusetts, United States
OccupationMinister, author
Known forAuthor of New Thought
Parent(s)Julius A. Dresser and Annetta Seabury Dresser
Signature of Horatio Willis Dresser.png

Horatio Willis Dresser (1866–1954) was a New Thought religious leader and author in the United States. In 1919 he became a minister of General Convention of the Church of the New Jerusalem, and served briefly at a Swedenborgian church in Portland, Maine.

In addition to his writings on New Thought, Dresser is known for having edited two books of selected papers by Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. Both of Dresser's parents had studied with the mesmerist, who influenced the New Thought movement.

Early life[edit]

Dresser was born January 15, 1866 in Yarmouth, Maine to Julius and Annetta Seabury Dresser. His parents were involved in the early New Thought movement through their being treated by and then studying with Phineas Parkhurst Quimby. They became his early disciples, as did Mary Baker Eddy.[1]

When Dresser was a youth, his father was embroiled in a controversy with Eddy, the founder of Christian Science. His father accused Eddy of stealing Quimby's concepts and using them as a basis for her system of Christian Science.[2] But other scholars have noted the differences between the systems, as Eddy's was religiously based.

Yet there are enough similarities to support Dresser's claims. Careful examination of The Quimby Manuscripts shows the strong connections between Quimby's ideas and those of Eddy, who originally acknowledged Quimby's influence, then denied it and claimed all the ideas were her original revalation (and the final revelation.)

After attending local schools, Horatio Dresser was admitted to Harvard in 1891. He dropped out in 1893 upon the death of his father. Ten years later he returned to Harvard, completing his Ph.D. in 1907.[2]

New Thought[edit]

In 1895, Dresser became involved with the Metaphysical Club of Boston, a group which he later referred to as the "first permanent New Thought club".[3] That same year, Dresser published his first book, The Power of Silence. In 1896, Dresser founded the Journal of Practical Metaphysics. Two years later, this journal was merged into The Arena, for which Dresser was subsequently an associate editor. The following year, 1899, Dresser founded another New Thought magazine, The Higher Law. He was a past president of the International New Thought Alliance.

He started lecturing about New Thought, speaking to audiences in major cities throughout the country. In 1900 the Atlanta Constitution described him in the following terms:

Tall and slender, with a finely modeled head, which is poised on a magnificent pair of shoulders; his general athletic appearance indicates something more than mere student ... His delivery is plain, straightforward, and unadorned with the flowers of rhetoric.[4]

Dresser taught at Ursinus College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from 1911-1913. In 1919, he became a minister of the General Convention of the Church of the New Jerusalem, a denomination built around the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg, briefly serving as a pastor of a Swedenborgian church in Portland, Maine.


In 1921, after the Library of Congress made Quimby's papers publicly available, Dresser compiled and edited a selection of Quimby's works, The Quimby Manuscripts (1921). In this work, Dresser re-opened the controversy concerning Quimby and Mary Baker Eddy, and her sources for developing Christian Science. He attacked Eddy in a chapter as well as in the appendix of the book; saying, for example:

1885. Mrs. Eddy collects her "facts" in "Historical Sketch of Metaphysical Healing" ... tries to show that Quimby was a mere mesmerist: alleges that she left [manuscripts] with him in 1862.[5]

Personal life[edit]

Dresser married Alice Mae Reed in 1898.

He died March 30, 1954 in Boston, Massachusetts.[2]



  1. ^ Robert D. Richardson, William James: In the Maelstrom of American Modernism, Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006, 275-276.
  2. ^ a b c "Horatio Willis Dresser." Religious Leaders of America, 2nd ed. Gale Group, 1999. Reproduced in Biography Resource Center. Farmington Hills, Mich.: Gale, 2010. http://galenet.galegroup.com/servlet/BioRC. Document Number: K1627500347.
  3. ^ Dresser, Horatio (1919) A History of the New Thought Movement, Thomas Y. Crowell, p. 183.
  4. ^ "Horatio Dresser Lectures to a Large Audience", Atlanta Constitution, April 17, 1900, p. 6.
  5. ^ Dresser, Horatio W. (1921) The Quimby Manuscripts, Kessinger Publishing edition, 2003, ISBN 978-0-7661-4052-3, p. 434.