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A Message to Garcia 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 20th century. According to language expert Charles Earle Funk, "to take a message to Garcia" was for years a popular American slang expression for taking initiative and is still used by many members of the military.
With tensions growing between the United States and Spain (which then ruled Cuba), President William McKinley saw value in establishing contact with the Cuban rebels, who could prove a valuable ally in case of war with Spain. McKinley asked Colonel Arthur L. Wagner to suggest an officer to make contact with Calixto García, one of the leaders of the rebels. Wagner suggested Andrew Rowan, a Captain by this time, who traveled to Cuba via Jamaica. Rowan met Garcia in the Oriente Mountains and established a rapport. Rowan garnered information from Garcia, who was eager to cooperate with the Americans in fighting the Spanish. Rowan returned to the US and was given command of a force of "Immunes"—African-American troops assumed to be immune to the tropical diseases found in Cuba. He received the Distinguished Service Cross.
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. Later A Message to Garcia (1936 film) 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.
Seattle based band Visqueen released an album in 2009 titled "Message to Garcia".
Now included in a 2011 novel, A Message to Garcia, written by Otto Oldenburg, the theme is taken to heart and Elbert Hubbard is quoted and credited.
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