Max Ehrmann (1872 – 1945), a poet
and lawyer from Terre Haute, Indiana, is its author.
It has been reported[by whom?] that Desiderata
was inspired by an urge that Ehrmann wrote about
in his diary: "I should like, if I could,
to leave a humble gift -- a bit of chaste prose
that had caught up some noble moods."
Around 1959, the Rev. Frederick
Kates, rector of Saint Paul's Church in Baltimore,
Maryland, used the poem in a collection of devotional
materials he compiled for his congregation. At
the top of the handout was the notation: "Old
Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore A.D. 1692."
In the 1960s, it was widely circulated without
attribution to Ehrmann, sometimes with the claim
that it was found in Saint Paul's Church, Baltimore,
Maryland, and that it had been written in 1692
(the year of the founding of Saint Paul's).
When Adlai Stevenson died
in 1965, a guest in his home found a copy of Desiderata
near his bedside and discovered that Stevenson
had planned to use it in his Christmas cards.
The publicity that followed gave widespread fame
to the poem, as well as the mistaken relationship
to Saint Paul's Church.