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Walter F. Tunks Collection of Dime Novels

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Scope and Content 

The Walter F. Tunks Collection of Dime Novels contains approximately 4000 items representing a wide variety of genres and styles of dime novels over a publication period beginning in the 1860s until about 1920. It includes issues from 225 different series, representing every prominent American publisher of dime novels. In addition the collection has several examples of British penny dreadfuls and a small number of French and German dime novels. There are additional books, newspaper clippings, articles, bibliographies and correspondence collected by Tunks that may be of interest to scholars using the collection.

History of the Collection | About the Donor | Inventory | Historical Context | Additional Resources

History of the Collection

Oberlin College Library received the Walter F. Tunks Collection of Dime Novels in 1959 as a gift from friends of Walter F. Tunks, Mr. and Mrs. Paul G. Frank. Mr. Frank was a Trustee of Oberlin College.

About the Donor

Dr. Walter F. Tunks served for 23 years as the Rector of St. Paul's Church in Akron, Ohio.  In addition to his service to St. Paul's Church, Tunks was an enthusiastic collector of dime novels and an avid fisherman.


Alphabetical by Series Title:

Notes: Please provide the number in the column on the right when requesting a title.
(*)  cross-listed in the heading English dime novels
(**) cross-listed in French dime novels

A (title, publisher, DN#)
A No. 1 Series A No. 1 Publishing Co 1-3
Adventure Series Arthur J. Westbrook Co. 1-45
Adventure Weekly Street and Smith 45A
*Aldine Boxing Novels Aldine Publishing Co. 531
*Aldine Invention, Travel and Adventure Library Aldine Publishing Co. 532-539
*Aldine Robin Hood Library Aldine Publishing Co. 540-542
*Aldine Tip Top Tales Aldine Publishing Co. 543
Alger Series Street and Smith 46
All Around Frank Tousey 47-49
All Sports Library Winner Library Co. 50-53
American Detective Series Arthur J. Westbrook Co. 54-56
American Tales Beadle and Co. 58
Arm Chair Library F.M. Lupton 59
Army and Navy Howard, Ainslee and Co. 60
Banner Weekly Beadle and Adams 57
Beadle and Adams' 20 Cent Novels Beadle and Adams 78A, 79
Beadle's Boy's Library Beadle and Adams 61-64
Beadle's Boy's Library M.J. Ivers and Co. 65, 66
Beadle's Dime Novels Beadle and Co. 67-78
Beadle's Dime Novels, Vol. I Beadle and Co. 247
Beadle's Dime Biographical Library Beadle and Co. 238-240
Beadle's Dime Dialogues M.J. Ivers and Co. 241, 242
Beadle's Dime Drillbook Beadle and Co. 243
Beadle's Dime Series Beadle and Co. 248
Beadle's Dime Songbook Beadle and Co. 249
Beadle's Dime Tales Beadle and Co. 245, 246
Beadle's Frontier Series M.J. Ivers and Co. 79A-94
Beadle's 1/2 Dime Library Beadle and Adams 95-154
Beadle's 1/2 Dime Singer's Library Beadle and Adams 251
Beadle's Library of Choice Fiction Beadle and Co. 244
Beadle's Monthly Beadle and Co. 155
Beadle's New Dime Novels Beadle and Adams 156-162
Beadle's New York Dime Library Beadle and Adams 163-237
Beadle's Pocket Library Beadle and Adams 252-253A
Beadle's Pocket Novels Beadle and Adams 254-258
Beadle's Popular Library Beadle and Adams 259, 260
Beadle's Serio-Comic Speaker Beadle and Adams 262
Beadle's Union Songbook Beadle and Co. 250
Billy the Kid Atomic Books 2344
Blake's Western Stories Herbert Cody Blake 2341
Blood and Thunder Story Paper Frank T. Fries 2342
Blue and Gray Weekly Frank Tousey 263
*Black Bess Harrison (?) 544-546
Bob Brooks Library A.E. Ottendorf 264
Bowery Boys Library Winner Library Co. 264A-269
Boy's Best Weekly Arthur J. Westbrook 270-300
*Boys' First Rate Pocket Aldine Publishing Co. 547
*Boys' Friend Amalgamated Press 548-550
*Boy's 1/2d Leader H.W. Jackson 551
Boys of New York Pocket Library Frank Tousey 301
Boys' Star Library Frank Tousey 302-307
Brave and Bold Weekly Street and Smith 308-316
British dime novels: see English dime novels
*Buffalo Bill Library Aldine Publishing Co. 552-563
*Buffalo Bill Novels Aldine Publishing Co. 564-567
Buffalo Bill's Border Stories Street and Smith 317-321
Buffalo Bill Stories Street and Smith 322-332
Campfire Library Campfire Library Co. 333, 334
Champion Library Champion Publishing Co. 334A
Cheerful Adventure Library Aldine Publishing Co. 335
Christian Herald ??? 335A
Circling the Globe Series Arthur J. Westbrook 336, 337
Claude Duval Series Robert M. DeWitt 338
Comrades Street and Smith 339. 340
Cricket Library Novelist Publishing Co. 341
Fame and Fortune Magazine Street and Smith 626-629
Fame and Fortune Weekly Frank Tousey 630-641
Famous American Scouts J. Regan and Co. 2346
Fashions Syndicate Trading Co. 642-645
Fireside Companion George Munro 646
Five Cent Comic Library Frank Tousey 647-650
Five Cent Weekly Library Frank Tousey 651
Five Cent Wide Awake Library Frank Tousey 652-678
Fortune Story Magazine Street and Smith 679
Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours Frank Leslie's Pub. House 679A
Frank Manley's Weekly Frank Tousey 680-708
Frank Reade Library Frank Tousey 709-742
Frank Reade Weekly Frank Tousey 742A-806
Frank Starr's American Novels Frank Starr and Co. 807, 808
French dime novels
Sitting Bull La Nouvelle Populaire 809
Texas Jack La Nouvelle Populaire 810
German dime novels
Reiter ohne Kopf, Der Drucf und Berlag von 811
U. Weichert Verirrt inder Widniss Drucf und Berlag von 812
U. Weichert Von Sturm verschlagen Drucf und Berlag von 813
U. Weichert Golden Weekly Frank Tousey 814
Good Reading A.D. Porter Co. 815
Great Western Library Street and Smith 816
Half Dime Library Beadle and Adams 817
Handsome Harry Frank Tousey 818
Happy Days Frank Tousey 818A
Harper's Weekly Harper and Bros. 819
Hart Series Arthur J. Westbrook 824, 825
*Hogarth House Library Hogarth House Publications 575-578 I
*Invention Library Aldine Publishing Co. 579-585
Jack Hazard and His Fortunes F.M. Lupton 2348
Jack Lockwill NEA Service, Inc.? 863-866
James Boys, The ???? 2345
James Boys Weekly Frank Tousey 826-837
Jesse James Stories Street and Smith 838, 839
Judge's Library Judge Publishing Co. 840
Klondike Kit Street and Smith 842, 843
Lakeside Library Donnelly, Loyd, and Co. 844
*Land of Mystery, The
with Submarine Privateer, The
Harkaway House 625
Leisure Hour Library F.M. Lupton 845
Liberty Boys of "76" Frank Tousey 846-860
Library of Choice Fiction Laird and Lee 861
Little Blue Books Haldeman-Julius Co. 862
Log Cabin Library Street and Smith 867-875
Log Cabin Series Log Cabin Press 876
Lovell's Library John W. Lovell Co. 878
"Magnet" Handbooks Hurst and Co. 879
Medal Library Street and Smith 880, 881
Merriwell Series Street and Smith 882-1007
Might and Main Library Winner Library Co. 1008
Morrison's Sensational Series John W. Morrison 1009, 1010
Motor Stories Street and Smith 1011, 1019
Munro's Library Norman L. Munro 1020
My Queen Street and Smith 1021-1050
*National Library, The ???? 586
National Police Gazette Richard K. Fox Publishing Co. 1050A
*Nelson Lee Library Amalgamated Press 587-590
*New Black Bess Library, The Aldine Publishing Co. 591
New Magnet Library Street and Smith 1056-1121
*Newne's Adventure Library George Newnes 592
*Newne's "Black Bess" Library George Newnes 593-595
*Newne's Reskin Library George Newnes 596, 597
New Nick Carter Weekly Street and Smith 1122-1210
New Tip Top Weekly Street and Smith 1211-1287
New York Detective Library Frank Tousey 1288-1305
New York Saturday Journal Beadle and Adams 1305A
*Nick Carter George Newnes 598-604
Nick Carter Detective Library Street and Smith 1306
Nick Carter Library Street and Smith 1307-1312
Nick Carter Stories Street and Smith 1313-1321
Nick Carter Weekly Street and Smith 1322-1326
Nickel Library Nickel Library Co. 1327, 1328
Nightshade Series Robert M. DeWitt 1329, 1330
Novelette Library G.W. Studley 1331, 1332
Nugget Library Street and Smith 1333-1341
Old Broadbrim Weekly Street and Smith 1342
Old Cap Collier Library Munro's Publishing House 1343-1351
Old Log Cabin Street and Smith 877
Old Sleuth Library George Munro's Sons 1352-1364
Old Sleuth Weekly Arthur J. Westbrook 1365-1368
Old Sleuth's Own J.S. Ogilvie Publishing Co. 1369-1378
Oliver Optic's Magazine Lee and Shephard 1379
Ottenheimer Tracy the Outlaw I & M Ottenheimer 1380
Paul Jones Weekly Winner Library Co. 1381-1383
People's Handbook Series F.M. Lupton 1384
Peterson's National Ladies Magazine Charles J. Peterson 1385
Physical Culture Physical Culture Pub. Co.? 1386
Pirate Story Series Arthur J. Westbrook 1387-1391
Pluck and Luck Frank Tousey 1392-1512
Puck's Library Keppler and Schwartzman 1513
Railroad Series J.S Oglivie and Co. 1514
Red Raven Library Winner Library Co. 1515-1517
Red White and Blue Weekly Street and Smith 1518-1520
Reiter ohne Kopf, Der Drucf und Berlag von 811
U. Weichert Richmond's Novels Richmond and Co. 1521, 1522
*Robin Hood Library Aldine Publishing Co. 620
*Robin Hood Library Amalgamated Press 621
Rough Rider Weekly Street and Smith 1523-1524
Round the World Library Street and Smith 1525-1527
Saturday Library Saturday Library Co. 1528
Secret Service Frank Tousey 1529-1617
Select Library Street and Smith 1618
Shaw's Novels Elmer Shaw 1619
Shield Weekly Street and Smith 1620, 1621
**Sitting Bull La Nouvelle Populaire 810
Snaps Frank Tousey 1623-1648?
Sport Story Magazine Chelsea House 1648
Star Journal Beadle and Adams 1649
Star-Spangled Banner Hunter and Co. 1650
Starry Flag Weekly Street and Smith 1651
Steam Man, The Frank T. Fries 2347
Student and Schoolmate J.H. Allen 1652
Sunday Library, The J.S. Ogilvie and Co. 1653-1656
Sunday Mercury ???? 1657
*Submarine Privateer, The
with Land of Mystery, The
Harkaway House 625
Temperence Library Albert Sibley 2077A
**Texas Jack La Nouvelle Populaire 809
Three Chums Weekly Frank Tousey 1658-1665
Tip Top Quarterly Street and Smith 1666-1670
Tip Top Semi Monthly Street and Smith 1671
*Tip Top Tales Aldine Publishing Co. 622-624
Tip-Top Weekly Street and Smith 1672-2077
Top Notch Magazine Street and Smith 2078
True Blue Weekly Street and Smith 2079-2087
True Flag Moulton and Lincoln 2087A
Twentieth Century Handbooks Street and Smith 2088
Union Square Library Norman L. Munro 2089
Verirrt inder Widniss Drucf und Berlag von 812
U. Weichert Von Sturm verschlagen Drucf und Berlag von 813
U. Weichert
War Libary Novelist's Publishing Co. 2090-2092
Western Story Library Street and Smith 2093
Western Weekly Arthur Westbrook Co. 2094-2097
Wide Awake Magazine Street and Smith 2098
Wide Awake Weekly Frank Tousey 2099-2123
'Wild Bill' Hickok Atomic Books 2343
Wild West Weekly Frank Tousey 2124-2212
Work and Win Frank Tousey 2213-2309
Yankee Blade Potter and Potter 2310
Yankee Doodle Frank Tousey 2311-2318
Yankee 5 Cent Library Atlantic News Co. 2319
Young Athlete's Weekly Frank Tousey 2320, 2321
Young Broadbrim Weekly Street and Smith 2322, 2323
Young Glory Weekly Frank Tousey 2324, 2325
Young Klondike Frank Tousey 2326-2333
Young Rough Riders Weekly Street and Smith 2334, 2335
Young Sleuth Library Frank Tousey 2336-2338
Younger Brothers I & M Ottenheimer 2339
Youth's Companion Lee and Shepard 2340

Alphabetical by Publisher:

Note: Number(s) following series title indicate DN number(s).

A (title, DN#)
Aldine Publishing Co.
Aldine Boxing Novels 531
Aldine Invention, Travel, and Adventure Library 532-539
Aldine Robin Hood Library 540-542
Aldine Tip Top Tales 543
Boys' First Rate Pocket Library 547
Buffalo Bill Library 552-563
Buffalo Bill Novels 564-567
Cheerful Adventure Library 335
Dixon Brett Detective Library 574
Invention Library 579-585
New Black Bess Library, The 591
Robin Hood Library 620
Tip Top Tales 622-624
Amalgamated Press
Boys' Friend, The 348-350
Nelson Lee Library, The 587-590
Robin Hood Library 621
Allen, J.H.
Student and Schoolmate 1652
A No. 1 Publishing Co.
A No. 1 Series 1-3
Atlantic News Co.
Yankee 5 Cent Library 2319
Atomic Books
Billy the Kid 2344
'Wild Bill' Hickok 2343
Beadle and Adams
Banner Weekly 57
Beadle and Adams' 20 Cent Novels 78A-79
Beadle's Boy's Library 61-64
Beadle's Half-Dime Library 95-154
Beadle's Half-Dime Singer's Library 251
Beadle's New Dime Novels 156-162
Beadle's New York Dime Library 163-237
Beadle's Pocket Library 252-253A
Beadle's Pocket Novels 254-258
Beadle's Popular Library 259, 260
Beadle's Serio-Comic Speaker 262
Half-Dime Library 817
New York Saturday Journal 1305A
Star Journal 1649
Beadle and Co.
American Tales 58
Beadle's Dime Biographical Library 238-240
Beadle's Dime Drillbook 243
Beadle's Dime Novels 67-78
Beadle's Dime Novels, Vol. I 247
Beadle's Dime Series 248
Beadle's Dime Songbook 249
Beadle's Dime Tales 245, 246
Beadle's Library of Choice Fiction 244
Beadle's Monthly 155
Beadle's Union Songbook 250
Blake, Herbert Cody
Blake's Western Stories 2341
Campfire Library Co.
Campfire Library 333-334
Champion Publishing Co.
Champion Library 334A
Chelsea House
Sport Story Magazine 1648
Daisy Bank Publishing Co.
Daisy Bank Publications 568-569
DeWitt, Robert M.
Claude Duval Series 338
DeWitt's Jonathan Wild Series 495
Nightshade Series 1329-1330
Donnelley, Loyd, and Co.
Lakeside Library 844
Drucf und Berlag von U. Weichert
Der Reiter ohne Kopf 811
Verirrt inder Widniss 812
Von Sturm verschlagen 813
Fox, Richard K.
National Police Gazette 1050A
Fries, Frank T.
Blood and Thunder Story Paper 2342)
Steam Man, The 2347
Garden City Publishing Co.
Devil's Payday, The 2349
Graphic Co.
Daily Graphic, The 342-343
Haldeman-Julius Co.
Little Blue Books 862
Harkaway House
Land of Mystery, The
with Submarine Privateer, The
Harper and Bros.
Harper's Weekly 819
Black Bess 544-546
Hogarth House Publications
Hogarth House Library 575-578
Howard, Ainslee and Co.
Army and Navy 60
Hunter and Co.
Star-Spangled Banner 1650
Hurst and Co.
"Magnet" Handbooks 879
Ivers, M.J.
Beadle's Boy's Library 65, 66
Beadle's Dime Dialogues 241, 242
Beadle's Frontier Series 79A-94
Jackson, Henry Wells
Boys' 1/2d Leader 551
Judge Publishing Co.
Judge's Library 840
Keppler and Schwartzman
Puck's Library 1513
Laird and Lee
Library of Choice Fiction 861
Lee and Shepard
Oliver Optic's Magazine 1379
Youth's Companion 2340
Leslie, Frank
Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours 679A
Log Cabin Press
Log Cabin Series 876
Lovell, John W.
Lovell's Library 878
Lupton, F.M.
Arm Chair Library 59
Jack Hazard and His Fortunes 2348
Leisure Hour Library 845
People's Handbook Series 1384
Marsh, George
Dick Dobbs Detective Weekly 520-522
Morrison, John W.
Morrison's Sensational Series 1009-1010
Moulton and Lincoln
True Flag 2087A
Munro, George
Fireside Companion 646
Old Sleuth Library 1352-1364
Munro, Norman L.
Munro's Library 1020
Union Square Library 2089
Munro's Publishing House
Old Cap Collier Library 1343-1351
NEA Service, Inc.
Jack Lockwill 863-866
Newnes, George Deadwood
Dick Library 570-573
Dick Turpin Library 605-619
Newnes' Adventure Library 592
Newnes' "Black Bess" Library 593-595
Newnes' New Redskin Library 596, 597
Nick Carter 598-604
Nickel Library Co.
Nickel Library 1327-1328
Nouvelle Populaire, La
Sitting Bull 810
Texas Jack 809
Novelist Publishing Co.
Cricket Library 341
War Library 2090-2092
Ogilvie, J.S.
Old Sleuth's Own 1369-1378
Railroad Series 1514
Sunday Library, The 1653-1656
Ostendorf, A.E.
Bob Brooks Library 264
Ottenheimer, I & M
Tracy the Outlaw 1380
Younger Brothers 2339
Patten, Gilbert
Dime Novel, The 408
Peterson, Charles J.
Peterson's National Ladies Magazine 1305
Physical Culture Publishing Co.
Physical Culture 1386
Porter, A.D.
Good Reading 815
Potter and Potter
Yankee Blade 2310
Regan, J.
Famous American Scouts 2346
Richmond and Co.
Richmond's Novels 1521-1522
Saturday Library Co.
Saturday Library 1528
Shaw, Elmer
Shaw's Novels 1619
Sibley, Albert
Temperence Library 2077A
Starr, Frank
Frank Starr's American Novels 807-808
Street and Smith
Adventure Weekly 45A
Alger Series 46
Brave and Bold Weekly 308-316
Buffalo Bill Border Stories 317-321
Buffalo Bill Stories, The 322-332
Comrades 339, 340
Diamond Dick Jr. Weekly 496-516
Diamond Dick Library 517-519
Do and Dare Weekly 523-529
Fame and Fortune Weekly 626-629
Fortune Story Magazine 679
Great Western Library 816
Jesse James Stories 838-839
Klondike Kit 842-843
Log Cabin Library 867-875
Medal Library 880, 881
Merriwell Series 882-1007
Motor Stories 1011-1019
My Queen 1021-1050
New Buffalo Bill Library 1051-1055
New Magnet Library 1056-1121
New Nick Carter Weekly 1122-1210
New Tip Top Weekly 1211-1287
Nick Carter Detective Library 1306
Nick Carter Library 1307-1312
Nick Carter Stories 1313-1321
Nick Carter Weekly 1322-1326
Nugget Library 1333-1341
Old Broadbrim Weekly 1342
Old Log Cabin 877
Red White and Blue Weekly 1518-1520
Rough Rider Weekly 1523-1524
Round the World Library 1525-1527
Select Library 1618
Shield Weekly 1620-1621
Starry Flag Weekly 1651
Tip Top Quarterly 1666-1670
Tip Top Semi-Monthly 1671
Tip Top Weekly 1672-2077
Top Notch Magazine 2078
True Blue Weekly 2079-2087
Twentieth Century Handbooks 2088
Western Story Library 2093
Wide Awake Magazine 2098
Young Broadbrim Weekly 2322-2323
Young Rough Riders Weekly 2334-2335
Studley, G.W.
Novelette Library 1331-1332
Syndicate Trading Co.
Fashions 642-645
Tousey, Frank
All Around 47-49
Blue and Gray Weekly 263
Boys of New York Pocket Library 301
Boys' Star Library 302-307
Detective Library 409-494
Fame and Fortune Weekly 630-641
Five Cent Comic Library 647-650
Five Cent Weekly Library 651
Five Cent Wide Awake Library 652-678
Frank Manley's Weekly 680-708
Frank Reade Library 709-742
Frank Reade Weekly 742A-806
Golden Weekly 814
Handsome Harry 818
Happy Days 818A
James Boys Weekly 826-837
Liberty Boys of "76" 846-860
New York Detective Library 1288-1305
Pluck and Luck 1392-1512
Secret Service 1529-1617
Snaps 1623-1648
Three Chums Weekly 1658-1665
Wide Awake Weekly 2099-2123
Wild West Weekly 2124-2212
Work and Win 2213-2309
Yankee Doodle 2311-2318
Young Athlete's Weekly 2320,2321
Young Glory Weekly 2324, 2325
Young Klondike 2326-2333
Young Sleuth Library 2336-2338
Westbrook, Arthur
Adventure Series 4-45
American Detective Series 54-56
Boy's Best Weekly 270-300
Circling the Globe Series 336-337
Deadwood Dick Library 344-407
Early Western Life Series 530
Hart Series 824, 825
Old Sleuth Weekly 1365-1368
Pirate Story Series 1387-1391
Western Weekly 2094-2097
Winner Library Co.
All Sports Library 50-53
Bowery Boy Library 264A-269
Might and Main Library 1008
Paul Jones Weekly 1381-1383
Red Raven Library 1515-1517

Additional Material in the Walter Tunks Collection:

Boxed Items:

BOX #1: 113 items total
75 items Bibliographies, catalogues, etc.
5 items Dime novel covers
32 items Dime Novel Club materials
BOX #2: 40 items total
16 items Tunks correspondence, etc.
7 items Tunks Collection information
2 items Frank T. Fries correspondence
15 items Library correspondence
BOX #3: 43 items total
1 item Honors thesis
12 items Misc. dime novel articles
20 items Misc. newspaper clippings
10 tems Jesse James material


Appler, Augustus C. Guerrillas of the West. St. Louis: Eureka Publishing Company, 1876.

Boggs, S.S. Eighteen Months a Prisoner Under the Rebel Flag. Lovington, IL: Published by the author, 1887.

Bruce, Robert and Albert Baiseley, Col. George W. Stokes. Three Old Plainsmen and Three Other Western Stories. New York: Robert Bruce, [1923].

Carter, Nicholas (John R. Coryell). Secret Agents of Brazil. Racine, WI: Whitman Publishing Company, [n.d.].

Chester, George Randolph. Get-Rich-Quick Wallingford. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, [1908].

Chester, George Randolph. Wallingford in His Prime. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, [1913].

Connelley, William Elsey. Quantrill and The Border Wars. New York: Pageant Book Company, 1956.

Connors, Chuck. Bowery Life. New York: Richard K. Fox Pub. Co., [1904].

Croy, Homer. Jesse James was My Neighbor. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, [1949].

Croy, Homer. Last of the Great Outlaws. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, [1956].

DeWolff, J.H. Pawnee Bill. Pawnee Bill's Historic Wild West Company, 1902.

Horan, James D. Desperate Men. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, [1949].

Horan, James D. Desperate Women. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, [1952].

James, Jesse Jr. Jesse James, My Father. Cleveland: Arthur J. Westbrook Company, [1906].

The Lives of the Felons. New York: M. Long and Brother, 1848.

Love, Robertus. The Rise and Fall of Jesse James. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1926.

Martin, Douglas D. Tombstone's Epitaph. University of New Mexico Press, 1951.

McKenney, Ruth. Industrial Valley. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and Company, [1939]. (1st Ed.)

Patten, Gilbert (Burt L. Standish). Mr. Frank Merriwell. New York: Alliance Book Corporation, [1941].

Philip Durham, Ed. Seth Jones and Deadwood Dick on Deck. New York: The Odyssey Press, Inc., [1966].

Rascoe, Burton. Belle Starr the Bandit Queen. New York: Random House, 1941.

Ray, Clarence E. Rube Barrow. Chicago: J. Regan and Co., Publishers, [n.d.].

Rhoads, Thomas Y. The Battlefields of the Revolution. Philadelphia: John E. Potter and Company, [n.d.].

Roberts, Theodore Goodridge. Musket House. Garden City, NY: Garden City Publishing Co., Inc., 1923.

Vincent, W.D. My Book Life. Spokane, WA: Spokane Study Club, 1935.

The War Library. New York: Novelist Publishing Company, [1882?].

Historical Context

The book that is considered the first American dime novel was created in June of 1860 when Irwin Beadle and his brother Erastus published a story called "Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter." The story was an instant success - not due to the quality of the writing, but due to flashy marketing and a low price. The Beadles' comic book-like creations were aimed at a less literate and poorer mass audience, in contrast with the typical novels of the time which were aimed at a more educated class. The Beadles were able to offer titles for a dime, and in some cases even five cents, because the books were made of the newly available cheap wood pulp paper (the original "pulp fiction"), using flimsy paper covers. The Beadles' company (later to become Beadle and Adams) soon faced competition from publishers such as Street and Smith and Frank Tousey.

It should be noted that, scholars usually refer to the publishers of dime novels more than authors because in many cases authorship is often undeterminable. Publishers would typically employ multiple authors under a single pseudonym for titles in a series. Similarly, single authors also wrote using many pseudonyms.

The dime novel industry churned out series after series, title after title, creating some memorable characters such as "Deadwood Dick," "Nick Carter" (see image above) and "Buffalo Bill." The subjects of the early dime novels mostly dealt with sensational adventures on the western frontier, owing much to the themes of James Fenimore Cooper. Later dime novels tended toward urban settings and genres of detective, science fiction, and stories of athletic prowess. The target readership was young men, however there were a few series aimed at young women. The dime novel reached peak popularity during the last third of the 1800s, correlating with a time when more Americans of all classes had leisure time. The success was not to last, however. Few new dime novels were published after World War I, and no new material was produced after 1920. Standing out among the various reasons from the dime novel's downfall was the advent of the motion picture, which cost less than a dime novel, and was a more sensational experience.

Dime novels were never considered a form of art, and some people found them to promote immorality and were dangerous to the youth of society. They were not typically well-crafted, lacking originality, base on plot formulas and character tropes, and the prose itself tended to be predictable and unoriginal.  What makes the dime novel interesting is that it mirrors the tastes, values and stereotypes of its era. The dime novel represents a rejection of traditional European models of literature. American authors used American subjects, settings, and characters, and they reached a broad popular audience. The dime novel helped create and shape American popular culture.

Additional Resources

Dime Novel Collection, Stanford University

American Women's Dime Novel Project, George Mason University


Last updated:
March 2, 2017