Arthur Frederick Sheldon was born and educated in Michigan, but by 1900 he was making his presence known in the Chicago business community. An up-and-coming businessman, Sheldon joined the fledgling Chicago Rotary organization and was responsible for coining its motto, “He Profits Most Who Serves Best.”
Building on his past experience as a sales manager, Sheldon developed a theory of salesmanship combining scientific method and ethical behavior. He formed the Sheldon Publishing Company, wrote several books including “The Science of Successful Salesmanship,” and also published a magazine titled “The Business Philosopher.”
Sheldon believed in a higher quality of salesmanship than the cutthroat “buyer beware” methods of the 19th century. Seeking to further his sales philosophy, Sheldon opened a correspondence business school in Chicago in 1902. His program followed a strict mathematical formula and could be applied to selling ideas or services as well as merchandise. Sheldon’s aim was to develop his students mentally, morally, and physically in addition to improving their salesmanship.
Sheldon’s methods must have struck a chord with the business community because by 1904, students were enrolling at the rate of 150 students per month. In 1915, at the height of his school’s popularity, over 10,000 students from around the world were enrolled in The Sheldon School.
As his school became more successful, Sheldon moved his printing facilities from Chicago to the upper floor of the Schanck building in Libertyville, pictured above. He must have been taken by the beauty of the area; around 1908 he bought 600 acres in the small town of Rockefeller, now Mundelein. To improve the land, he dammed up a small stream to create a mile-long lake and started construction on school buildings and a home for his family.
The Sheldon School became a thriving part of the local communities. As its success grew, the school employed up to 195 local residents. Sheldon and his school grounds provided many opportunities for recreation and education for local residents. Evening classes offered shorthand, typing, and bookkeeping instruction. The upper floor of the main building had a large hall which was used for lectures, meetings, summer classes, and dancing. The grounds were available year round for swimming, picnicking, canoeing, ice skating and sleigh riding.
Because of the abundance of mail generated by Sheldon’s correspondence school, the local Rockefeller post office was upgraded from a fourth class to a first class operation. In 1909 the town’s name was changed to an acronym of the Sheldon School’s motto: Ability-Reliability-Endurance-Action.
World War I took many of Sheldon’s students away and his school fell into a gradual decline. He sold his property to the Catholic Diocese in 1921which used the land to build St. Mary of the Lake Seminary. Sheldon continued to speak to Rotary clubs and other service clubs throughout the world. He died at his ranch in Mission, Texas, in 1935.