This recorded section of Russell Conwell’s popular lecture “Acres of Diamonds” comes from a 1916 record. To modern listeners, Conwell’s monotone might seem considerably less compelling than it apparently was to his own contemporaries. Still, his message that it was easy to get rich quick remains a familiar one. (Click here for a text excerpt of another portion of this lecture.)Listen to Audio:
In 1870 when making a circuit of the earth as the correspondent of the New York Tribune, I visited Baghdad and there we hired a guide to show us down the Euphrates and the Tigris Rivers. He was full of ancient traditions and on the first day down the river, he told me their tradition concerning acres of diamonds, which I have used in my lecture six thousand times.
He said that there once lived, in, near the river Indus an ancient Persian by the name of Al Haphid. He said that Al Haphid owned a large farm, that he had orchards and grain fields and gardens—money at interest—and was counted as a wealthy and a happy man. Happy because he was wealthy and wealthy because he was contented. One day there visited him one of the ancient Buddhist priests—a wise man of the East—who told him about the discovery of diamonds in Europe. He said that the diamonds are so very valuable that if Al Haphid had a handful he could purchase the whole country, and with a mine of diamonds, he could place his children upon thrones, through the influence of their great wealth. Al Haphid heard all about diamonds, and determined to seek for them.
He sold his farm the next day and with the money departed, traveling up and down the whole of Europe. He sought in every place where he had heard of any indication of such gems but finding none, he spent all his money and became very poor, in rags, in poverty, and in hunger. And at last, in despair, he flung himself into the sea—on the shore of the Thames—and sank from sight, never to rise in this life again.
When the old guide had told me this half of his story, he left me to go back and fix the baggage. I had an opportunity to meditate upon that story, and wonder what the wise point of it could be, for the old guide never told a story but to illustrate some great principle or to fasten upon the mind some especial tradition. Therefore, when he was gone, I said to myself, “That story must mean that it is foolish for a man to move away from his own home.”
And very soon afterwards, the guide returned and took up the halter of my camel again and went into the second chapter of his story. When the old guide returned to my camel and took up the halter again he went right on with the same story as though there had been no break. He entered into the second chapter by saying that Al Haphid’s successor—the man who bought his farm in India—one day led his camel out into the garden to drink. And as that animal put his nose down into the shallow water of that garden brook, Al Haphid’s successor noticed a curious flash of light from the white sands of the stream, and reaching in, he pulled out a black stone having an eye of light which reflected all the hues of the rainbow.
And he took that pebble into the house, and put it on the mantle—which covers the central fires in an Eastern house—and then went his way, and forgot all about it. A few days after that, this same old priest came in to visit Al Haphid’s successor and the moment he entered the drawing room door he saw that flash of light from the mantle and he rushed up to it and shouted, “Here’s a diamond! Here’s a diamond! Has Al Haphid returned?” The old farmer said that Al Haphid had not returned and also said, “That is not a diamond. It is nothing but a stone. We found it right out here in our garden.” Said the old priest, “I know a diamond when I see it. That is a diamond.”
Then together they rushed out into that garden and they stirred up the white sands with their fingers, and 'lo there came up other more beautiful, more valuable gems than the first. “And, thus,” said the guide to me, “was discovered the great diamond mines of Galconda, the most magnificent diamond mine in all the history of the world. The Koohinor of England, and the Orlov of Russia, the greatest crown jewels on earth came from Galconda’s diamond mines.”
When the old guide had finished his second chapter, he then took his precious cap off his head and swung it around in the air to get my attention to his moral. Those Arab guides have morals to their stories though they’re not always moral! And as he swung his hat over his head, he shouted to me: "Had Al Haphid remained at home and dug in his own cellar, or underneath his own wheat fields, or in his own garden, instead of wretchedness, starvation, poverty, and suicide in a strange land, he would have had acres of diamonds!"
Source: Courtesy of the Michigan State University Voice Library.