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.