Born in Bowersville, Ohio, Norman Vincent Peale was the oldest of three brothers. His father, Charles Clifford Peale, was a physician, a Methodist minsister and a major influence on his son, who went on to earn degrees at Ohio Wesleyan University and Boston University School of Theology.
Like his father, Dr. Peale was first ordained as a Methodist minister before changing his affiliation to the Reformed Church in America in 1932, so that he might serve as pastor of Marble Collegiate Church in New York City. Peale was affiliated with Marble Colleagiate for 52 years, growing the church's membership from 600 to over 5,000 over that span. Founded in 1628, Marble Collegiate is one of the oldest continuous Protestant congregations in North America.
On May 31, 1998, Marble Collegiate marked the 100th anniversary of Dr. Peale's birth by erecting a life-sized bronze statue of him, sculpted by John M. Soderberg, outside the church.
Debuting in 1935, Dr. Peale's radio program, The Art of Living, was on the air for a record-setting 54 years.
In 1945, Peale, his wife Ruth Stafford Peale and businessman Raymond Thornburg founded Guideposts magazine. Among those who helped to fund the magazine's launch were Frank Gannett, founder of the Gannett newspaper chain and Branch Rickey, general manager of the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Dr. Peale's first book was The Art of Living, published in 1937, but it is The Power of Positive Thinking for which he is perhaps best remembered today. Published in 1952, it remains in print, having sold millions of copies and been translated into more than a dozen languages.
From 1952-1968, Dr. Peale and Ruth hosted a television program called What's Your Trouble? where the Peales read letters from viewers and offered advice and encouragement.
On St. Patrick's Day, 1957, Dr. Peale appeared as a Mystery Guest on the popular television show What's My Line. Panelist Arlene Francis, who later contributed a story to Guideposts magazine, guessed Dr. Peale's identity in relatively short order.
In 1964, Dr. Peale's life story was depicted in the motion picture One Man's Way. Dr. Peale was portrayed by actor Don Murray, who six years earlier had contributed a story to Guideposts; actress Diana Hyland played Ruth.
In 1968, at Marble Collegiate Church Dr. Peale officiated the wedding of Julie Nixon and David Eisenhower.
On March 26, 1984, President Ronald Reagan awarded Dr. Peale the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.