What are Dime Novels and Story Papers?
Dime novels, 1860-1915
Dime novels were paper-covered books published in the late 19th century and encompassed a variety of subjects. Early volumes favored light romance and were marketed to adults. By the 1870s and 1880s the novels were produced for youth and their subject matter expanded to include tales of the wild west, mysteries, adventures, inventors, war, science fiction, and sports.
Utilizing the affordable printing processes of the later 19th century and cheap, low-quality paper, dime novels were published as weekly or monthly serials. The offered convenient and affordable reading to millions of Americans. Popular publishers included Street & Smith and Beadle and Adams.
Story Papers, 1850-1910
Considered by many to be the soap operas of the late 19th century, story papers were published weekly in serial form. Each issue simultaneously ran five or more romances, adventures, or mysteries in various stages of completion. Story papers were marketed to both children and adults and featured serialized stories by authors such as Horatio Alger and Edward S. Ellis.
Several story papers were published in a large-format, newspaper style and featured illustrated covers. Boys of New York contained the first appearance of Frank Reade and his steam machines and published science fiction/action stories designed to rival Jules Verne and to provide escape to a pre-radio/television culture.
Children's series books began in the early 19th century but became increasingly popular in the early 20th century. The series book's golden age ranged from 1910 to 1940 when publishers began issuing the adventures of The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and Tom Swift. Even in the present, the series book is a mainstay of the young adult genre.
Pulps continued the dime novel tradition but many were printed in a magazine format. Published for both adolescents and adults, they were gradually replaced by digest-sized magazines (a format that continues to this day). They were nicknamed "pulps" because they were printed on inexpensive paper made of wood pulp. These magazines contained hard-boiled detective stories, adventure stories, westerns, and science fiction.
Many notable authors were published in this format. The list includes Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, Isaac Asimov, and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
- American Dime Novels, 1860-1915Offers additional basic background on dime novels in the United States.
The majority of dime novels, story papers, and pulp novels in our collections can be found by searching the Libraries catalog. Since these types of works do not generally have a distinct subject heading indicating that they are pulps or dime novels, they are best searched either directly by book or periodical title, publisher, or author. Resources and books listed in this guide may offer some direction if you are just starting in your research, and many universities have digitized large numbers of items, which can be browsed.
A small number of pulp novels from the Tretter Collection in GLBT Studies are listed in collection guides rather than the Libraries catalog. These include:
- Lisa Vecoli Book Collection (Lesbian Pulp and Contemporary Fiction)
- "Trans" pulps from the Marlene Sommers Collection
Links to digitized items at the UMN, as well as collection guides for primary source materials, can be found below.
Archival Collections and Digitized Materials
Story Papers and Periodicals
- Old Cap. Collier LibraryOld Cap. Collier was an American weekly focusing on detective stories involving various crimes and criminals. The digitized issued,from the University of Minnesota's Children's Literature Research Collections, contains issues dating between 1883 and 1899.
- Beadle's WeeklyBeadle's Weekly featured serialized stories from numerous authors presented in a story paper format. Marketed to both children and adults alike, this publication ran from 1882-1885
- The Illustrated Police NewsThe Illustrated Police News was an American weekly focusing on stories of crime, criminals, and trials. The digitized collection, from the University of Minnesota's Children's Literature Research Collections, contains issues dating between 1876 and 1896.
Examples of Dime Novels
- Treasure of the Golden CraterAdventure Library, No. 94, Street and Smith, 1928.
- The Young MaroonerBrave and Bold Weekly, Street and Smith, 1908.
- Frank Merriwell in Gorilla LandTip Top Library 1(28), October 24, 1896
Frank Reade Library (1892-1898)
No. 1 (September 24, 1892)
No. 15 (December 31, 1892)
No. 19 (January 28, 1893)
Liberty Boys of 76 (1901-1925)
No. 424 (February 12, 1909)
No. 427 (March 5, 1909)
No. 429 (March 19, 1909)
Log Cabin Library (1889-1897)
No. 108 (April 9, 1891)
Nick Carter Stories (1891-1915)
No. 126 (February 6, 1915)
No. 129 (February 27, 1915)
No. 136 (April 17, 1915)
Wild West Weekly (1902-1927)
No. 536 (January 24, 1913)
No. 539 (February 14, 1913)
Archival Collections at the University of Minnesota
- The Denis R. Rogers Papers on Edward S. EllisThe collection relates to Denis R. Rogers's efforts to collect and document the complete works of American dime novel author Edward S. Ellis. It includes correspondence related to his collecting efforts; typescripts and material related to Rogers's "A Guide to Edward S. Ellis;" as well as various articles, notes, bibliographies and checklists.
- George Munro CorrespondenceSeveral pieces of correspondence written by publisher George Munro.
- William J. Benners CorrespondenceLetters addressed to Benners, as well as a small amount of carbon copies of his own letters, primarily regarding his professional dealings, including the sale and purchasing of stories and publication rights.
- Stanley Pachon CorrespondenceTwo folders of correspondence to and from dime novel researcher and collector Stanley Pachon.
- George Hess CollectionA small collection of memorabilia, clippings, photographs, and other material related to dime novel collector George Hess.
Bibliographies, indexes, and related resources
See the (incomplete) list of items below for resources on the history of pulps, as well as bibliographies and indexes compiling dime novel and pulp magazine titles.
- The Dime Novel Companion byISBN: 0313256748Publication Date: 2000-05-30This guide to the American dime novel contains over 1,200 entries on serial publications, major writers and editors, publishers, and major characters, fiction genres, themes, and locales.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs byISBN: 0786401834Publication Date: 1996-11-01This reference work details all United States versions of the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs published through 1995.
- The House of Beadle and Adams and its dime and nickel novels ; the story of a vanished literature byPublication Date: 1950Two-volume set that contains a complete history and bibliography of the Beadle and Adams publishing empire. Also contains author biographies and several indexes.
- Dime Novel Roundup byISBN: 0879722274Publication Date: 1983-06-15This book includes a chronological listing of issues of the "Dime Novel Roundup," a periodical for dime novel collectors. It also features an index to the contents of the "Dime Novel Roundup."
- Eight Dime Novels byISBN: 0486229750Publication Date: 1973-12-01Contains eight complete dime novels, focusing on several of the better known titles and characters including Nick Carter, Buffalo Bill, and Frank Merriwell.
- The Age of Dimes and Pulps byISBN: 9781476669489Publication Date: 2018-07-17Covering the history of pulp literature from 1850 through 1960, the author describes how sensational tales filled a public need and flowered during the evolving social conditions of the Industrial Revolution.
- Cheap Thrills byISBN: 0870001728Publication Date: 1972-01-01An examination of pulps from 1920-1940.
- Dime Novels and the Roots of American Detective Fiction byISBN: 9781137288646Publication Date: 2013-11-06This book discusses representations of gender, race and class in detective dime novels (1860-1915).
- Danger Is My Business: an illustrated history of the Fabulous Pulp Magazines byISBN: 0811803554Publication Date: 1993-03-01Illustrated overview of the history of pulp magazines.
- The Adventure House Guide to the Pulps byISBN: 1886937451Publication Date: 2000-08-21Checklist of pulp magazine issues.
- Pulp Magazine Index byISBN: 1557421110Publication Date: 1989-01-01Multi-volume reference index for pulp magazines.
- FictionMags IndexAn online index compiling various magazines containing popular fiction, including pulps magazines from various genres.
Other Dime Novel Collections and Resources in the United States
The resources below contain links to other organizations, primarily universities, with significant dime novel and historical popular literature collections. Many of the them have digitized significant amounts of material.
- American Women's Dime Novel Project at George Mason UniversityA project through the Cultural Studies Department at George Mason University which includes an extensive list of dime novel collections in the United States.
- Northern Illinois UniversityA large collection, many of which are available online, focusing primarily on Beadle and Adams publications. The site contains materials from the Albert Johannsen and Edward T. LeBlanc Collections, housed at NIU.
- Stanford UniversityStanford's Dime Novel and Story Paper collection contains full-text versions of several dime novels and many cover scans.
- Syracuse UniversitySyracuse holds a large collection of dime novels and popular literature, including the archives for Street and Smith publishers.
- University of South FloridaA collection of dime novels and related literature, much of which has been digitized.