Go ahead and ask your students if they know the name Horatio Alger. They won't. Now ask if they know Andrew Carnegie. They will. Alger's stories were very popular in the mid 19th century.
We tend to still appreciate rags to riches stories and root for the underdog, but the Horatio Alger story is all but gone. This assignment is simple: read a story, fill out a form, discuss. Works with English as a one-day lesson about something different or in social studies.