Return of the Dime Novels!

 

Young Wild West-ADJ

A few years back, we foisted upon you several examples of our dime novel collection from our Rare Books unit here at the Southwest Collection. Now we’re back, and ready to share some more! These selections date from the 1890s and early 1900s, and range from tales of college hijinks and old-timey baseball to two-fisted, gunslinging adventures in the Old West. Behold!

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Take for example this unquestionably true and correct and creepy chronicle of Frank Merriwell’s experiences at Yale, where he was pitted “Freshman against Freshman.” It is nigh impossible to tell what’s really going on here, but with a slew of masked devils, masked apron-wearers, and a guillotine, it’s probably not good. But it might be a one-of-a-kind read!

Liberty Boys of 76-ADJ

Of course, no set of dime novels would be complete without stories from the American Revolution. These here Liberty Boys enjoyed a half-wave from George Washington that the caption proclaims a “salute,” but honestly looks like a case of “who are these guys?” Either way, for 5 cents in 1901 or a visit to our archives today, you could find out what exactly was up.

Muldoon's Baseball Club-2ADJ

Sports were a popular plot vehicle in dime novels. And what turn-of-the-century depiction of baseball would fail to contain a bevy of amazing mustaches? And if sports didn’t do it for you, there were always about one hundred stories of the Old West per square inch of shelf space in the local five and dime. Young Wild West, the fellow that headed up this blog, or stories of Pawnee Bill (below), were but two among a zillion characters gracing their pages.

Pawnee Bill-ADJ

This is all good stuff. Great stuff, even. But we have a whole lot more of it to show off to interested researchers. Need a peek? Then contact our ever-watchful Reference Staff and they’ll see what they can do to get it into your hands.

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Wonders from the World of the Astounding and Fantastical Dime Novels

air rocketThere was a time not so long ago when adjective-slathered tales of steam-fueled engineering and two-fisted, crack-shot cowboys filled the pages of cheaply printed dime novels. We love those stories, and today, for you, we have a whole passel of some of the finest covers of the dime novels from our modest collection of them.

Now, normally we would try to provide some context or commentary on them, but this week we feel that these really speak for themselves. So enjoy the B’hoys of Yale, Thomas Edison, Jr., and the incredible Steam Man, and if you want to read them through, stop on by and visit with our Reference Staff who will boldly venture to our stacks and plunder them for you!

boys of yaleWhat hard-knock lessons await these scrappy boys of Yale University?

calamity janeCrack shot and queen of Whoop-Up. A maiden with which men dare not trifle!

electric sea spiderTom Edison, Jr., famed inventor’s son and Wizard of the Submarine world. Journey with him into the dark depths that not even Jules Verne could imagine!

deadwood dickDeadwood Dick strode the pages of many a dime novel, and you’d be the most villainous of rogues not to follow him in his adventures.

electricsubmarineYou saw Thomas Edison, Jr., above, but his era was filled with nautical ingenuity and perilous adventure. Frank Reader, Jr., son of the inventor of the Amazing Steam Man (below) left the trackless expanses of his father’s prairies for another boundless world: the briny deep!

steam manBehold! The impossible made possible! Perpetual motion across the vast hinterlands of these United States.

unknown planetAnd lastly, two boys who would not be denied, who sought the final frontier, the dark void that lies between we denizens of Earth and the unimaginable Unknown Planet!

Buffalo Bill and the Saga of His Dime Novels

BuffaloBillsDeterminationOCR-1

The SWC has a lot of books. Some of them are rare, some not so rare, and some incredibly entertaining. And as you may know by now, we love to share the latter most of all. These dime novels about Buffalo Bill are a prime example. According to the preliminary pages of the books, “they depict actual adventures…interwoven with fiction; historically the books are correct.” Is that true? Well, head on over to browse amongst them in our digital collections and find out. You could start with Buffalo Bill’s Determination, above, which having been published in 1910 is one of the earliest ones we possess.

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The Buffalo Bill dime novels were written by Prentiss Ingraham, a Mississippi-born author who served in the Confederate Army in 1861 where he was wounded twice working for the Texas cavalry. By 1884 he had met Buffalo Bill Cody, worked for his Wild West Show, and penned over six hundred dime novels, many of which concerned his employer. He swore up and down that they were based on actual events. Perhaps the above tale of Buffalo Bill’s Bold Play, or Tiger of the Hills–the story of Juniper Joe’s carefully guarded mine and the tragedies that befell him, the nearby town, and those who sought his fortune–was the truth. Who’s to say?

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But let’s back this story up for a second. What is a dime novel? Glad you asked. Typically published as pamphlets of about 100 pages, dime novels often spun yarns of the Wild West and figures such as Buffalo Bill (of course,) Kit Carson, Billy the Kid, and Wyatt Earp. These heroes were cool customers, quick-drawing cowboys who were always on the lookout for maidens needing rescue from outlaws and Indians. Prentiss’ stories were among some of the most popular, and of course they only cost a dime (or, on a lucky day, a nickel.) By the 1920s, most of these publications were replaced by pulp magazines and, a little later, western novels of the Louis L’Amour variety. But in their day, audiences couldn’t get enough of them.

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Curious to read more about Buffalo Bill’s exploits? Then head on over to our digital collection of Ingraham’s stories. And if you’re interested in other rare books or our many archival holdings, browse around that site and see what you find. Finally, and as always, if you need to see something live and in person, our ever-diligent Reference Staff will get on top of that for you.