The Walter F. Tunks Collection
A Short History of the Dime Novel
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 because of the quality of the writing, but rather because of the flamboyant marketing and pricing strategies used. 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 an elite group of readers. 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 the likes of publishers such as Street and Smith and Frank Tousey.
It should be noted that, to avoid confusion, one usually speaks of the publishers of dime novels more often than one speaks of the authors. This is because authorship is often uncertain. Multiple authors using a single pseudonym wrote many of the titles in a series. Alternately, a single author might also employ different names for different titles or series.
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, but eventually ended up going in the urban direction of the detective, science fiction, and athletic story. The product was aimed chiefly at young males, however there were attempts to create series for young women as well. The dime novel's peak popularity was reached in the last third of the 1800s, as more and more people began to have more and more free 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 undoubtedly more exciting. No longer did audiences have to make the stories come alive themselves; they simply sat and relaxed while the stories were acted out for them on a screen.
No one would claim that dime novels represent high art. They were often hidden in barns or under mattresses, and many thought them immoral and even dangerous to the youth of society. More so than that, the novels were simply poorly written. Like the later radio dramas and Hollywood movies based on them, dime novels used worn, improbable plot formulas and cliché characters ("virgins, villains and violence"). What makes the dime novel interesting is that it mirrors the tastes, values and stereotypes of its era. And, one sees for the first time in dime novels a rejection of traditional European models of literature. Here American authors used American subjects and American settings in their fiction, and they were aimed directly at the American market using homegrown marketing strategy. The dime novel, for better or worse, had an effect on shaping American mass culture and therefore is an important aspect to the study of American arts, letters, and history.
The Walter F. Tunks Collection
Oberlin College Library's Special Collection of dime novels was compiled by Dr. Walter F. Tunks, the Rector of St. Paul's Church in Akron, Ohio for 23 years. Dr. Tunks was a well-respected churchman who helped to turn around St. Paul's in the years he served there. Besides being dedicated in his service to the church, Tunks was an enthusiastic collector of dime novels, and an avid fisherman. Tunks' collection is a valuable asset to the Oberlin College Library, consisting of approximately 4000 items. These are representative of the various genres and styles of dime novels over a publication period of about fifty years. It includes multiple issues from 225 different series, representing every prominent American publisher of dime novels and several British "penny dreadfuls." A few French and German dime novels are included in the collection as well. There are also some additional books, newspaper clippings, articles, bibliographies and correspondence collected by Tunks that may be of interest to scholars. Oberlin College received its collection of dime novels as a gift from friends of Walter Tunks, Mr. and Mrs. Paul G. Frank in 1959. Mr. Frank was also a Trustee of Oberlin College.
Inventory of the Walter F. Tunks Collection, Oberlin College
Alphabetical by Series Title:
Note: Number(s) following publisher indicate DN number(s) which are for Special Collections internal use. Please cite the DN number when requesting a title. (Items marked with * are cross-listed in the heading English dime novels. Items marked with ** are cross-listed in French dime novels. Items marked with are cross-listed in German dime novels.)
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 B 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 F 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 H 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 J 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 K Klondike Kit Street and Smith 842, 843 L 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 N *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 O 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 R 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 T 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 U Union Square Library Norman L. Munro 2089 V Verirrt inder Widniss Drucf und Berlag von 812 U. Weichert Von Sturm verschlagen Drucf und Berlag von 813 U. Weichert W 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 Y 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).
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, .
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, .
Chester, George Randolph. Wallingford in His Prime. Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, .
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., .
Croy, Homer. Jesse James was My Neighbor. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, .
Croy, Homer. Last of the Great Outlaws. New York: Duell, Sloan, and Pearce, .
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, .
Horan, James D. Desperate Women. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, .
James, Jesse Jr. Jesse James, My Father. Cleveland: Arthur J. Westbrook Company, .
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, . (1st Ed.)
Patten, Gilbert (Burt L. Standish). Mr. Frank Merriwell. New York: Alliance Book Corporation, .
Philip Durham, Ed. Seth Jones and Deadwood Dick on Deck. New York: The Odyssey Press, Inc., .
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?].
Dime Novel Links
—Laura Daugherty, 2001