A Message to Garcia is an inspirational essay written by Elbert Hubbard that has been made into two motion pictures. It was originally published as a filler without a title in the March, 1899 issue of the Philistine magazine which he edited, but was quickly reprinted as a pamphlet and a book. It was wildly popular, selling over 40 million copies, and being translated into 37 languages. It also became a well-known allusion in American popular and business culture until the middle of the twentieth century.
The essay celebrates the initiative of a soldier who is assigned and accomplishes a daunting mission. He asks no questions, makes no objections, requests no help, but accomplishes the mission. The essay exhorts the reader to apply this attitude to his own life as an avenue to success. Its wide popularity reflected the general appeal of self-reliance and energetic problem solving in American culture. Its "don't ask questions, get the job done" message was often used by business leaders as a motivational message to their employees.
It was given to every U.S. Navy enlistee and U.S. Marine in both world wars, and often memorized by schoolchildren. It is studied by plebes at the U.S. Military Academy and U.S. Naval Academy. A copy of it is often given to Marine Non-Commissioned Officers upon their promotion. It is estimated to be one of the highest-selling books in history, essentially due to American employers purchasing copies in bulk to distribute to their employees.
The historical setting of the essay was the onset of the Spanish-American War in 1898. As the American army prepared to invade the Spanish colony of Cuba, they wished to contact the leader of the Cuban insurgents who controlled the plains of the Cauto to coordinate or at least prevent conflicting strategies. This was Calixto García e Iñiguez, who had been fighting the Spanish for Cuban independence since the Ten Years' War of 1868–78, and sought the help of the United States. He was then residing in the city of Bayamo. The American officer was Andrew Summers Rowan, a West Point graduate of 1881.
Elbert Hubbard died with the sinking of the RMS Lusitania in 1915, en route with his wife to England and Berlin on a mission to encourage an end of war. He was optimistic in this endeavor, despite a notice in the New York Times warning that vessels flying the flag of Great Britain, or any of her allies, could be sunk.
Major Andrew Rowan died obscurely in the Presidio of San Francisco. It was 22 years before the Army decorated him for this mission.
A Message to Garcia was first made into a motion picture in 1916 by Thomas A. Edison Inc. The silent film was directed by Richard Ridgely and starred Mabel Trunnelle, Robert Conness, and Charles Sutton as Garcia.
A 1936 talkie was made by Twentieth Century Fox that was directed by George Marshall and featured Wallace Beery, Barbara Stanwyck, John Boles, Alan Hale, Herbert Mundin, Mona Barrie, and Enrique Acosta as Garcia.