Deficit omne quod nascitur
THE DECISION against Beadle and Adams mentioned at the end of the preceding chapter, was, in itself, a small thing, but it ushered in the nineties with ill omen. More was to come. There had been much agitation in Congress against continuing to allow second-class postal rates to "Libraries," which were not considered periodicals although they came out periodically. The great majority of the copies were sold on newsstands, and there were few bona-fide subscribers. On February 19, 1890, a bill had been introduced by Philetus Sawyer, of Wisconsin, to make "Libraries" third-class matter at one cent per two ounces, instead of second class at one cent a pound,(1) and while it did not pass at this time, it was a portent of what was to come. The bill was passed November 2, 1901.(2)
A final effort was made by the house to put life into its decaying publications. On the First of April (alas! inauspicious day), 1891, a new thin quarto, much like the Half-Dime Library in appearance and, like it, selling for five cents, was put on the market under the name of Beadle's Popular Library. It was advertised in Dime Library, No. 662, as follows:
This New Library will give only the Best Work of the Best Writers in popular american romance.
Each and every issue will be a bright, strong, markedly original work, produced expressly for the series by special order, and wrought up to the highest standard of popular story excellence.
Its field will cover the wide scope of Wild West, Border, Mining, Ranching, Detective, Secret Service, City and Sea Life, and thus maintain, as a Library, an interest at once varied and commanding.
As no inferior or amateur production is admitted to the schedules, so everything of a questionable or vitiating nature is studiously excluded. Therefore, with the trade as well as with readers, beadle's popular library is certain to win a wide popularity, and become one of the standards in the literature for the people.
But it was of no use. With No. 48, February 24, 1892, it too went to the limbo of departed nickel novels. Evil days were upon the House. On December 18, 1894, Erastus Flavel Beadle departed this life at his home on Lake Street, Cooperstown, New York, after an illness of several weeks.(3) He had for some years been a sufferer from asthma, and this was given as the cause of his death. His biography,(4) up to the time of his retirement, is given in the preceding pages, for his activities were closely tied up with the firm. The closing years of his life were spent in Cooperstown, where he had made his summer home for a number of years, even before his retirement. At first he lived in the stone house about one mile south of Cooperstown, on the Oneonta Road, known later as Marcy Hall, which, some years after he had occupied it, was destroyed by fire during a meeting of the Otsego Daughters of the American Revolution.(5) In 1880, he bought an old house, east of 0-te-sa-ga, which he enlarged and improved and named "Glimmerview."
Beadle began to handle large amounts of real estate. He erected a number of fine dwellings and purchased and improved others, some of which he subsequently sold. At his death he owned eight houses in the village. Originally a Democrat (old style), he became an Abolitionist and, when Birney ran for president, voted for him. When the Republican party was organized, he united with it and in 1892 was the Republican candidate for Congress from his home district, but was defeated.
He was married, April 22, 1846, to Mary Ann Pennington, of Cooperstown, and had three children, Irwin F., Walter H., and Sophie. His wife died May 13, 1889, at which time Walter also was no more. Sophie was married first to John Babcock, and later to E. L. Raymond, of Denver.
This is, perhaps, as good a place as any to lay the ghost of the immense fortune said to have been left by Erastus.(6) Speaking of the estate of George Munro, Pearson(7) said that it was not a modest fortune like Beadle's, merely two or three millions, but the princely sum of ten millions.
A paper filed by Erastus Beadle's attorney in the Surrogate's office gave the estimated total value of the real estate as $60,000, subject to about $14,000 in mortgages, and personal property estimated at $12,000.(8)
And thus another reputed great fortune was only smoke. That Beadle's estate was no larger seems plausible since that of his partner, William Adams, was only $88,165.64 in 1898, according to the list filed in the Surrogate Court.(9)
New "libraries" of other publishers were coming out thick and fast during the 1890's. In 1891 the famous "Nick Carter," who had made his debut in Street and Smith's New York Weekly, appeared in the Nick Carter Library, the first number of which was issued August 8. In the same year the Gem Library appeared. In 1892 came Tousey's Comic Library, Young Sleuth, and Frank Reade Library, and in 1893 Bob Brooks Library
The year 1896 was portentous of things to come, for in that year appeared a "library" which was destined to change the outward appearance of many subsequent publications. On April 18 was issued the first Tip Top Library, the initial number of the thousand or so "Merriwell" stories. Its covers were done in raw, gaudy colors, and it was the forerunner of innumerable other publications similarly bedecked.(10) However, the showy pictures evidently caught the eye of the young readers, for by this time the "libraries" were almost wholly written for boys. The Diamond Dick Library came in 1896, and in 1897 the New Nick Carter Library appeared, resplendent in covers of four colors. Tousey's Pluck and Luck came in 1898, and his Secret Service in 1899. As a change from detective tales came the James Boys Weekly in 1900, closing the century badly with tales of the doings of the notorious Jesse and Frank James. But even the colored covers could not save the nickel novels. Came 1904 and the movies, and tales of murder and bloodshed could be obtained without even the exertion of reading. A few years more and the "libraries" were done.
For the House of Beadle, also, the good years had gone, and business was dwindling. The firm, now composed solely of William Adams,(11) reduced expenses somewhat by moving from the building at the corner of William and Platt streets, which it had occupied for twenty-eight years, to the less commodious quarters at 92 William Street, on the first day of May, 1896.(12) This was very shortly after the appearance of the first colored-cover quartos of another publisher (Tip Top L.ibrary, No. 1, April 18, 1896), although that may have had nothing to do with their moving. It was probably the general decline in business in the black-and-whites that induced the removal and likewise suggested the colored covers to Street & Smith as a means of enlivening sales.
Beadle and Adams were not destined to remain at the new address very long. On the 4th of December, 1896, William F. Adams (Fig. 14), the last surviving member of the firm, was stricken with paralysis at his office in New York, and although he lingered on until December 19th, he did not regain consciousness. While all biographical notices state that he was born in New York City, October 17, 1838,(13) the place is certainly incorrect, for at that time his parents had not yet emigrated to America from Londonderry, in the extreme north of Ireland. He was probably about eight years of age when this migration took place and the family settled in Buffalo. He attended the schools of that city, and in 1860 came to Brooklyn with his mother and brothers, his older brother Robert having gone there previously with Erastus and Irwin Beadle. On the death of Robert, he and his younger brother David became members of the firm, where he had previously been working as superintendent.(14) Shortly after coming to Brooklyn, although a Congregationalist, he became interested in a Methodist mission Sunday school which was established in Gates Avenue, near his home, and he began teaching a class. When the school became part of the Nostrand Avenue Methodist Church, he continued teaching the same class of girls, which he called his "Olive Branch." After the girls grew up and married, he still retained his interest in them and they assembled in his home for years on the day before or the day after the New Year. He was also superintendent of the Sunday school, and at the time of his death was engaged in preparing a new Sunday school manual. Every summer, during the last twenty years of his life, he went to Europe, and descriptive letters of his travels were published in the Banner Weekly and the Brooklyn Eagle, and, after his death, by a bequest of $2,000, in book form.(15) This, however, was not his first attempt at authorship. In The Home, December, 1856, there is a two-page article by him, entitled "An Allegory." It is signed "William E. Adams," but the middle initial was never used in later years. William Adams never married. Of his immediate family, only his brother Harry,(16) ex-county treasurer of Kings County, and a sister, Margaret (Mrs. Charles Muns), survived him.
What a remarkable part the years ending in "6" played in the lives of the Beadles and the Adamses! Irwin P. Beadle was born in 1826; Robert Adams was born in 1836; David Adams was born in 1846; James Beadle was murdered in 1856; Robert Adams died in 1866; David Adams died in 1886; Margaret, wife of Irwin Beadle, died in 1886; and William Adams died in 1896.
Up to the last, the firm was still buying some new manuscripts, although most of the later Dime and Half-Dime Libraries were reprints. During the final year there were first printings of novels by ten different writers, some of whose manuscripts may possibly have been on hand for some time. The numerous stories by Prentiss Ingraham, Jesse Cowdrick, Joseph Badger, T. C. Harbaugh, and William R. Eyster, indicate, however, that they were still active.
Under the imprint of Beadle and Adams, between January 1, 1890, and February 23, 1898, there were issued Dialogues Nos. 37 to 41, Dime Library Nos. 584 to 1009 (February 23, 1898),(17) Half-Dime Library Nos. 650 to 1074 (February 22, 1898),(18) Boy's Library, octavo edition, No. 299 to the end of the series No. 319 (May 24, 1890), and Pocket Library No. 312 to the end of the series No. 492 (June 14, 1893). The Banner Weekly, after January 1, 1890, issued No. 373 to No. 758, containing 199 serials. Victor resigned in April, 1897,(19) and the weekly ceased publication May 22, 1897. It ran twenty-eight years, under various names, and contained a total of 673 serials. In the final number appeared this
The executors of the Estate of William Adams, deceased, have thought best to withdraw the banner weekly from the trade list, and the paper, therefore, will be discontinued—at least temporarily—with this number. Unfinished serials will be reproduced in the "Dime" and "Half-Dime" Libraries, and all subscribers to the paper will be served with such library issue, when it is ready for publication.
The Dime Library and the Half-Dime Library, the only remaining Beadle publications, bore the name of Beadle and Adams until the end of F'ebruary, 1898, when Nos. 1009 and 1074 appeared. The executors of the estate of William Adams then sold the assets of the firm to M. J. Ivers & Co.(20) (James Sullivan, proprietor), 379 Pearl Street, New York, and with the March, 1898, number these two publications became monthlies instead of weeklies and carried Ivers' imprint.
Adams, Victor & Co. also passed out of existence about the same time as Beadle and Adams. It disappeared from the Directory with the parent firm, although the latter was still listed in the 1899 Directory as owned by James Sullivan (M. J. Ivers & Co.).
The old House of Beadle and Adams was no more!
Pearson(21) makes the statement that "The business faltered until 1897-98, when it failed, and was purchased by M. J. Ivers and Company, who continued to use the name of Beadle and Adams for some years thereafter." The "failure," however, is disproved by the "Commercial Ratings"(22) for the House, which were always good.
The Bookseller and Newsman(23) ironically remarked in 1898, concerning the sale of the "stock, books, plates and copyrights" of Beadle and Adams, that the business belonged to the past, and Sullivan probably bought it because if the plates and stock were sold for junk, he would realize on the investment. In December of the same year, the Dike Book Co., of New York, advertised(24) Half-Dime Libraries at $1.25 per 100 and Dime Libraries at $2.75 per 100, to close out.
Where are those novels now?
M. J. Ivers & Co. continued publishing the Dime and Half-Dime Libraries until December, 1905, when they too quit, and the last of the series begun by the House was ended. The same firm reprinted 64 numbers of Beadle's Boy's Library and 64 of Edward L. Wheeler's novels, the latter in 12mo pamphlets under the heading The Deadwood Dick Library. They also printed one hundred other tales, including seven of Beadle's and many of Munro's, under the title Frontier Library. Some years later, the well-worn plates and stock of Ivers were bought by the Arthur Westbrook Co., of † Cleveland, who reissued the Deadwood Dick and Frontier Libraries, as well as some of the tales of Aiken and a few other authors, in thick 12mos. Then, in 1937, they too folded up.
|1||Publishers' Weekly XXXVII, 1890; ibid., XXXVIII, 1890, 126-27.|
|2||Ibid., LX, November 9, 1901, 999.|
|3||Freeman's Journal, Cooperstown, Thursday, December 20, 1894; New York Tribune, December 20, 1894.|
|For other biographical sketches see: Publishers' Weekly, XLVI, 1894, 1119; Otsego County Biographical Review, Boston, 1893; Banner Weekly, VIII, No. 368, November 30, 1889, with portrait; ibid., XIII, No. 636, January 19, 1895; Nat. Cycl. Amer. Biog., XIX, 1926, 125-26, with portrait; Ralph Adimari, "The House that Beadle Built," Amer. Book Collector, IV, 1933, 221-26, 288-91; ibid., V, 1934, 22-26, 60-63, 92-95, 147-49, 215-16; Gertrude A. Barber, A Compilation of Marriages, Deaths and Births from Various Cooperstown Newspapers, typed manuscript in the New York Public Library; Erastus Beadle, "To Nebraska in '57," a diary, Bull. New York Public Library, February and March, 1923; Edmund Pearson, Dime Novels, Boston, 1929, 49-55.|
|4||Summarizing the biography of Erastus Beadle as given in the preceding pages, we find that he was born in Pierstown, New York, September 11, 1821. He was apprenticed to H. & E. Phinney, in Cooperstown, and there learned stereotyping and printing. In 1846 he was married to Mary Ann Pennington, and the next year went to Buffalo to become stereotyper for Jewett, Thomas and Co., the publishers of the Commercial Advertiser. In 1850, Erastus and his brother Irwin set up their own streotype foundry in Buffalo, and continued it until 1855. Late in December, 1851, Erastus decided to go into the publishing business, and began to issue a juvenile magazine, The Youth's Casket, and in 1856 began a monthly magazine for adults, entitled The Home. The next year Erastus withdrew from both magazines and ventured into the real-estate business in Omaha, Nebraska, but returned to Buffalo in the autumn. At the end of that year The Youth's Casket was suspended. Late in 1858 Erastus, who again had charge of The Home, removed the office to New York City, but discontinued this magazine with the June, 1860, number. In the meantime, his brother Irwin had been publishing songbooks and handbooks with great success and, wiith the great increase in business, Erastus joined the firm of Irwin P. Beadle & Co. In 1862, Irwin's share in the business was bought out by Erastus and Robert Adams. The latter died in 1866, and his two younger brothers, William and David, entered the firm. In †1889, Mrs. Beadle (1822-1889) died, and Erastus retired from the firm and went to Cooperstown to live. He died there December 18, 1894. He had three children:
Walter Hamilton, born † May 11, 1850 in Cooperstown, married to Juliet Allen (1859-1931) in 1876, divorced in 1884, and died in † July 29, 1888. He was a member of the stationery firm of Beadle and Brown of 55 Exchange Place, New York City, and had three children: Stanley Allen, born in Brooklyn, 1877, Maxwell Allen, born in 1879 and died in 1900, and (Erastus) Pennington, born in 1880.
Irwin Flavel, born ca. † 1847, in Buffalo (?), married Ella ———, and died in 1918 or 1919. He was a typesetter for Beadle & Adams, and had one daughter who died in 1883, aged 15 months.
† Sophia, born in † 1849 and died ca. 1932, in Cooperstown. She was twice married; first to John Babcock, and second to E. L. Raymond. She had no children.
|5||In litteris, Mrs. Jane T. Joy, Cooperstown, N. Y., July 8 and 24, 1941.|
|The New York Tribune, May 28, 1923, confused the house which was destroyed by fire with his later residence, "Glimmerview." Ralph Birdsall (The Story of Cooperstown, Cooperstown, 1920, 314-15) stated that Beadle bought "Glimmerview" in 1889, after his retirement.|
|See also Della T. Lutes, "Erastus F. Beadle, Dime Novel King," New York Historical Association, Cooperstown, XXII, April, 1941. 154.|
|6||The myth of a two million dollar fortune has often appeared in the newspapers in articles dealing with "dime novels." It reappeared as recently as 1941 in Percy Waxman's "I Learned about America from Deadwood Dick," Rotarian, March, 1941.|
|7||Edmund E. Pearson, Dime Novels, (Boston, 1929), 86.|
|8||Record of wills, Book 43, Cooperstown, N. Y. The property went to his son, Irwin F., his daughter, Sophie, and the children of his deceased son, Walter H., namely, Stanley Allen, Maxwell Allen, and Erastus Pennington.|
|9||Bookseller, Newsdealer and Stationer, August 15, 1898; Brooklyn Eagle, February 25, 1897.|
|10||The quality of the illustrations also deteriorated. Said the Saturday Journal, No. 397, October 20, 1877, in reference to earlier colored wrappers: "The mills of the gods grind slowly but the grist is sure. One of America's chrome artists has been inveigled into a position in the Turkish army. Of course it is only one, but that is something."|
|11||New York Copartnership Directory, 1890.|
|Beadle & Adams (William Adams)|
|Adams, Victor & Co. (Orville J. Victor)|
|The firm seems to have published nothing after 1875, although there may still have been some demand for their cloth-bound books.|
|12||Dime Library No. 915, dated May 6, 1896, still has the 98 William Street address, but No. 916 and thereafter has 92 William Street. That No. 915 still bears the old address is probably explainable by its having been printed some time in advance of the date of issue.|
|13||New York Tribune, December 20, 1896. Funeral notice December 21; Brooklyn Eagle, December 20, 1896; Banner Weekly, XV, No. 741, January 23, 1897, with portrait; Publishers' Weekly, L, 1896, 1233; his tombstone in Greenwood Cemetery, Brooklyn, gives the same date.|
|14||Brooklyn City Directory, 1864-65.|
|15||William Adams, Over the Ocean Ferry; or, Europe to American Eyes (New York, J. S. Ogilvie, n.d., 196 pp.).|
|16||Various items relating to Harry Adams may be found in the Brooklyn Eagle for the months of October, 1896, to March, 1897. A long obituary notice appeared in the Eagle, December 10, 1897.|
|17||Beginning with No. 1010, the Dime Library was published by M. J. Ivers & Co., and it was continued to December, 1905, with a total of 1103 numbers from the beginning in 1877.|
|18||The Half-Dime Library, beginning with No. 1075, was published by M. J. Ivers & Co., who issued it until December, 1905, when it, too, ended, with 1168 as the final number.|
|19||Date shown by testimonial letters written to Mr. Victor by Beadle authors, on his resignation. Letters now in the possession of Dr. Frank P. O'Brien.|
|20||Book and Newsdealers, San Francisco, X, July, 1898, 25. See also advertisement Ibid., X, August, 1898, 47. A write-up of M. J. Ivers & Co. may be found in Bookseller and Newsman, February, 1898.|
|21||Edmund Pearson, Dime Novels (Boston, 1929), 55.|
|22||Brock's Commercial Agency Credit Guide, various years.|
|23||Bookseller and Newsman, February, 1898.|
|24||Ibid., December, 1898.|
† Correction made as per Volume 3.