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American Tales

On the 12th of November, 1863, there appeared on the market the first number of a new series of novels entitled American Tales. No publisher's name is given on the wrapper, title, or in the advertisements, but in its place appear the words "Sinclair Tousey, Publishers' Agent, 121 Nassau Street." This imprint continued for two more numbers, issued in December and January. On the first of February, 1864, the American News Company was formed as a combination of Sinclair Tousey and Dexter, Hamilton & Co., and Nos. 4 and 5 of the American Tales bear the imprint of the new company on the wrapper but of Sinclair Tousey on the title page, the booklets having been printed, apparently, before the combination of the two firms. Thereafter, the American News Co.'s imprint appears as Publishers' Agent, but Sinclair Tousey continued to take out the copyrights until the first series ended.

In No. 44, the last of the first series, issued April 30, 1867, appeared the announcement of Beadle & Co., that "Having assumed the publication of this very popular series, we shall change the issues to large 12mo., 100 pages." No. 1 of the new series (No. 45 of the old) was announced for June 1, 1867, but actually did not appear until about November 1, 1868.

For whom Tousey and the American News Co. were acting as Publishers' Agents is unknown. It is probable that Beadle was the actual publisher from the first. This is suggested by the fact that in later years (1867 et seq.) acknowledgments of titles of this series deposited for copyright by Sinclair Tousey were sent to Beadle & Co.; for example, American Tales, No. 42, "Mike the Guide," was deposited for copyright February 16, 1867, by Sinclair Tousey, but the acknowledgment was addressed to Beadle & Co. from Washington, and dated April 10, 1867.(1) Both of these dates antedate the change of address on the American Tales from Sinclair Tousey to Beadle & Co. Furthermore, besides announcements of new issues of the American Tales by the American News Co., the only book advertisements2 on these novels are those of Beadle & Co.

The first number of the American Tales differs entirely in appearance from all succeeding numbers (Fig. 32). It has a cut in black line on an orange-yellow wrapper, which is blank inside. On the outside back are blurbs of this and the two succeeding numbers, which were announced as "In Press." The novel is 9 1/2 by 6 1/4 inches in size, with uncut edges and 62 pages of double column text. It is without a frontispiece. The price, "Ten Cents," is indicated at the top of the front cover.

Fig 32.  American Tales, No. 1.

Fig 32. American Tales, No. 1
This first number differed in appearance from all others of the first series,
which consisted of 44 numbers issued between 1863 and 1867

Beginning with No. 2, the paper of the wrappers is deep orange (or, in a few cases, deep red) on the outside but white within. The illustrations on the covers are very attractive (Fig. 33), being printed in black and one or more colors—in some cases red, gray, or blue, or a combination of these or of red and green. While these were actually the first covers done in colors by Beadle, they were not of the type which later were called "chromo" or "illuminated" covers, and which first appeared March 3, 1874, on Frank Starr's American Novels, No. 138. The number of pages varies from 40 to 48, and often there are a few additional pages of advertisements of other numbers of the series, and, in the earlier numbers, advertisements of other Beadle publications. Beginning with No. 10, the edges were trimmed, and the novels are approximately 9 ¼ by 5 7/8 inches in size, or a trifle less, varying in different numbers. No. 5 has an overprint of the figures "15" on the price, and in the succeeding numbers until the end, the price is given as 15 cents.

Fig 33.  American Tales, first series, Nos. 2 to 44.

Fig 33. American Tales, first series, Nos. 2 to 44, 1863 to 1867
The illustrated wrappers were printed in various colors

The first number of the second series (complete series No. 45), which appeared about November 1, 1868, after an interval of eighteen months, is different in every way (Fig. 34). The novels were now approximately 8 ¼ by 4 7/8 inches in size (although later printings were in some cases as small as 7 3/8 by 4 7/8 inches), with covers ranging from light brown to orange-brown or red-brown. They are much less attractive in appearance than the first series. There are approximately 100 pages to a novel (generally skimped by beginning on page 7 or 9), and either one or two columns of text to the page. Inside the front cover there is always an advertisement of the forthcoming number, just as in the early Dime Novels, and on both sides of the back wrapper there are advertisements of other Beadle publications. All numbers bear the imprint of Beadle & Co., 98 William Street.

Fig 34.  American Tales, second series.  Forty-eight numbers were issued.

Fig 34. American Tales, second series. Forty-eight numbers were issued
between 1867 and 1872, making Nos. 45 to 92 of the complete series

With No. 92 (No. 48, new series), April 13, 1872, the series ended, although another number had been announced for May 15, but apparently never appeared. The announced dates and the dates of actual appearance of the novels, as shown by newspaper advertisements ("Out today"), differ in some cases by as much as two weeks. In the following list the newspaper dates are given the preference.

1 In the Manuscript room, New York Public Library.
2 There were a few other advertisements; Pyle's Saleratus and Soap, and Hubbel's Golden Bitters, but these appeared in only three or four numbers.

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