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De Witt Wallace
1889 - 1981

He and His Wife Founded the Reader's Digest

On his death March 30, 1981, the Reader's Digest, founded in 1922 by DeWitt Wallace and his wife Lila, was the most widely read periodical in the world with 100 million readers. ■ The Wallaces were married in 1921. Shortly afterward, they decided to print a magazine that would contain the best of previously published material. It would be condensed and pocket-sized. They rented a basement in Greenwich Village, New York City, dummied up the first issue, and ordered 5,000 copies. It was a remarkable success. ■ Corresponding with Mr. Wallace shortly before his death, we found him modest and amiable. His father was a Presbyterian minister. The Wallaces originated in the Scottish Lowlands, moved to Ulster in the early 18th century, and came to America in 1810. His mother's maiden name was Bruce. ■ Wallace was born November 12, 1889, in St. Paul. He attended Macalester College where his father was successively professor, dean and president. Young Wallace dropped out of Macalester, took a job in a Colorado bank, and later entered the University of California at Berkeley. After graduation he returned to St. Paul to work and joined the army shortly after the outbreak of World War I. ■ While in a military hospital recuperating from war wounds, he got the idea for the Reader's Digest. As the publication became more successful, husband and wife decided it should have as its focus the Presbyterian ethic on which both were nurtured. They took a strong policy position for God, country and home with a splash of humor. ■ Wallace died at Mt. Kisco, New York, where he and his wife had built a castle-like home and devoted their later years to charity.

Wayne Rethford, President Emeritus
Illinois Saint Andrew Society
Scottish-American History Club
2800 Des Plaines Avenue
North Riverside, IL 60546