R.M. Alden, born in New Hartford, New York in 1873, was the only child of the Reverend Gustavus R. Alden and Isabella Macdonald Alden (editor of a juvenile publication and author of numerous Sunday school books and fiction for adult readers). He began his college career at Rollins College in Florida, a school which would award him an honorary doctorate in 1910. Alden eventually completed his A.B. in English at the University of Pennsylvania, graduating in 1894.