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.
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
Examples of Dime Novels
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)
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.
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.