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HOMER, Iliad, 6, 146

Chapter II

Authors, Artists, and Readers

Beadle authors among the best of the minor writers of the time. Louisa M. Alcott
wrote some thrillers. Compensation paid. Pseudonyms. Illustrations
show action. George G. White one of Beadle's most prolific
artists. Woodcuts engraved by John Karst. Familiar
titles. Albert W. Aiken and Mark Twain.

THE, AUTHORS of the original Dime Novels were among the best of the minor writers of the times. Mrs. Ann Stephens, whose "Malaeska" introduced the series, was at that time already well known as a writer of novels which were published as serials in such magazines as The Ladies' Companion, Graham's Magazine, Peterson's Magazine, Godey's Lady's Book, and so on. She herself was assistant editor of the first three, and founded The Ladies' World and Mrs. Stephens' Illustrated Monthly. Mrs. Metta V. Victor was the wife of Beadle's editor. She was a poet and novelist at fifteen, and later was editor of The Home. She also wrote numerous humorous books, among which "Miss Slimmens' Window," "The Bad Boy's Diary," and "Blunders of a Bashful Man," had wide circulation. Mrs. Mary A. Denison was a well-known novelist who had several plays and some sixty novels to her credit. Edward S. Ellis made his first bow to the public with No. 8 of the Dime Novels. He was a school-teacher, a school principal, and later associate editor of Golden Days and editor of The Boys' Holiday. Still later he became a well-known historian, and wrote some fifty large quarto volumes of history containing tens of thousands of pages. A. J. H. Duganne was a novelist, poet, and journalist on the New York Tribune and Sunday Dispatch. He wrote a book on his experiences as a prisoner for thirteen months in a Confederate prison. N. Colchester Iron was a local historian; John Neal was a famous New England writer; Mrs. Barritt was a poet and later a collaborator with H. H. Bancroft on his "History of the Western States"; C. Dunning Clark was an editor and a local historian; Augustus Comstock ("Roger Starbuck") had been a printer, law student, and sailor. James L. Bowen was a journalist and a celebrated temperance lecturer. Mrs. Ann Emerson Porter, a second cousin of Ralph Waldo Emerson, was a poet and principal of a school for girls. Edward Willett was a lawyer and later a journalist in Chicago, St. Louis, New York, and Brooklyn. He was also editor of the New York Sunday Dispatch. Mayne Reid was a famous Irish novelist, and editor and owner of the short-lived magazine Onward. Bushnell, Ewing, Eyster, Griswold, and several others were journalists. Mrs. Elizabeth Oakes-Smith was a poet and novelist, and for a time was pastor of the Independent Church at Canastota, New York. Albert W. Aiken, his brother George, Frank S. Finn, Dennis O'Sullivan, Bartley Campbell, and Frank Dumont were actors, playwrights, and novelists. George Aiken was the first to dramatize Mrs. Stowe's "Uncle Tom's Cabin," and his version of Mrs. Stephens' "The Old Homestead" ran on the stage for years. Dr. William Mason Turner was a well-known Philadelphia physician; Frederick Whittaker was an editor, poet, and novelist; and John H. Whitson was an ordained minister. The majority of the earlier Beadle writers were already well known before they began to write for him. Later, he had perhaps a score of authors who spent most of their time writing for his journals or "libraries," although some of them also wrote occasionally for other publishers.

It may be of interest to know that Louisa M. Alcott(1) wrote dime novels for Loring's Tales of the Day, and for Elliott, Thomes and Talbot's Ten Cent Novelettes, but she did not write for Beadle. Her own experience was similar to that of "Jo" in "Little Women."

The compensation received by authors for Dime Novels and Half-Dime Libraries was usually from $75 to $150, and for the Dime Libraries about double that amount. In some cases much more was paid. Mrs. Stephens received $250 simply for the right to reprint "Malaeska," which had appeared twenty years earlier in The Ladies' Companion. Mayne Reid received $700 for "The White Squaw" and the advertising value of his name, and never less than $600 for his other novels.(2) For serial rights an author usually received more than for "libraries."

In Part IV of this book, where the Beadle publications are grouped by authors, it will be seen that many of the writers used one or more pseudonyms,(3) but not all of the true names have been found. The object, of course, in using pen names was to avoid the repetition of the same name too often. Such repetitions might lead readers to believe that the novels were hastily written! In some cases when a novel, originally published under a pseudonym, was reprinted, the true name was used. Conversely, if the novel had appeared under the true name, for example in the Saturday Journal or the Banner Weekly, and later came out as a "library," it was often put under a pen name if it immediately followed another story by the same author. By comparing novels, it has been possible, in many cases, to identify pseudonyms. Some names are anagrams, e.g., Malcolm J. Merry, Malcolm J. Errym, J. Malcolm Rymer. Dictionaries of pseudonyms identify a few—occasionally incorrectly—but the dime-novel authors were usually considered too low-brow to qualify for inclusion in these books. Some authors acted as "ghost writers" for certain popular men; thus Prentiss Ingraham wrote the Frank Powell novels and the later novels of Buffalo Bill. Thirty or forty years ago it would have been possible to have traced all of the pseudonyms. It is unfortunate that Orville J. Victor did not write his "Reminiscences." I can name many persons whose "Reminiscences" I would gladly trade for his!

The cover illustrations of the Beadle novels were required to show action. The cuts were relied upon, as much as were the titles, to sell the novels as they were displayed in the newsdealers' windows. This was especially true of the later "libraries." Many of the illustrations were well drawn, especially for the early publications. In the majority of cases, the illustration represents action taking place in the first chapter or two of the story, suggesting that the picture was drawn after reading a minimum of the text—a short-cut method used by the artists of many cloth-covered novels as well. The earlier novels had illustrations drawn especially for the story, and often, when the tale was reprinted in a new edition, a new illustration was made (e.g. Seth Jones in New and Old Friends). Later, to cut down expense, an earlier cut was used for an entirely different story,(4) the author writing up to the picture and not always successfully. Occasionally a cut was altered, as was Dime Library 361, where a bearded stage driver was given a partial shave to metamorphose his face into that of Buffalo Bill in Dime Library No. 1000. Doubling in the use of cuts was a trick practiced by many other publishers also, and was not confined to cheap publications. For example, twenty of Hablot K. Browne's etchings for G. P. R. James's "The Commissioner" were used in "Samuel Sowerby," † (5)and the text was written to match the illustrations. Also, some of the cuts in Mark Twain's "Roughing It" had been used previously in Albert Richardson's "Beyond the Mississippi."

For each serial which appeared in the Saturday Journal and the Banner Weekly, there were usually three or more cuts, but when the novel was reprinted in one of the "libraries," generally only one was used. In some cases it had to be engraved in smaller size to fit these broadleaves; in others it was altered by the addition or omission of the words of the title as part of the cut itself, or by cutting down the sides of the picture.

Among the illustrators were J. H. Goater, Henry L. Stephens †(6), Penfield, Arthur Lumley, John R. Chapin, and H. Fenn. Most of the drawings, however, were made by George G. White,(7) a prolific artist, who also drew for J. T. Trowbridge's magazine Our Young Folks, New York Weekly, the Christian Herald and the Police Gazette. It is difficult to identify the artists because most of the illustrations in the novels are unsigned.(8) The engraving of the cuts for the earlier novels was done by the firm of Nathaniel Orr (N. Orr or N. Orr Co.), at 52 John Street, New York, but the cuts for the Saturday Journal and Banner Weekly and the "libraries" were made by John Karst,(9) the engraver of many of the illustrations in the McGuffey readers.

John Karst (1836 - 1922)

John Karst (1836 - 1922)

It has often been asked in these later days, "Who read these dime novels?" That would have been an unnecessary question sixty years ago. We ourselves read them, hidden in the back of the doghouse, with the big Newfoundland, Ponto, sitting in the entryway as a screen. But we were in good company, for they were also read by bankers and bootblacks, clergymen and clerks, lawyers and lawbreakers, workmen and tramps, work girls and girls of leisure, soldiers and sailors, President Lincoln and President Wilson, Soapy Sam and Slippery Frank, men and boys, drummers and other train travelers, Henry Ward Beecher, Chief Justice Fuller, and a host of others; in fact by almost everyone except schoolma'ams, pedants, and the illiterate. I presume Mark Twain read them. Said Tom Sawyer:(10)

"Who goes there?"

"Tom Sawyer, the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main. Name your names."

"Huck Finn, the Red-Handed, and Joe Harper, the Terror of the Seas."

Tom had furnished these titles from his favorite literature.

The titles are familiar. Ned Buntline wrote "The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main; or. The Fiend of Blood," in 1847, and "The Terror of the Coast" in 1872. These, however, were not printed by Beadle. For evidence that Mark knew the Beadle novels, compare the following excerpt from a novel by Albert W. Aiken, published in 1880, with one from "Huckleberry Finn," published in 1884.(11)

From Albert W. Aiken's "Richard Talbot of Cinnabar; or, The Brothers of the Red Hand." Begun in the Saturday Journal, No. 530, August 14, 1880.

"He's cracked, sure!" Molly muttered, as she glanced at the handbill which he gave her. It was a fearful and wonderful production, that read as follows:


NOTE. The Theatre Royal on this occasion will be in the large hall over Joe Smith's store, where can be found the best assortment of goods at popular live and let live prices, north of Frisco.

N. B. The best whisky in town—warranted pure bug-juice and no water.

"I had to put that in," interrupted the comedian at this point, "for Smith was a man with no soul and wanted to charge me five dollars for the use of the room, but I fixed him off with that; the poetry caught him heavy, you know, and the 'ball' did the boys, too; for to take a 'ball' is to have a drink, you know. You can't imagine how it runs Smith's business up."

Molly nodded and proceeded:

The eminent son of genius—the rising star that from the broad plains of the South-west has emerged to astonish all the world—the gifted son of Momus, whose performances for 100 nights at the Drury Lane Theatre, London, England, were witnessed, and applauded to the echo, which did applaud again, by all the crowned heads of Europe—the world-famous, world-conquering


In his wonderful performance entitled LAUGH AND BE HAPPY


Scene from Hamlet.

Hamlet . . . . . . . . Mr. J. Lysander Tubbs.
Ghost . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. J. L. Tubbs.
The Queen Mother . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.

Trick Violin Solo:


Violinist . . . . . . . . . . Mr. J. L. Tubbs.



Frenchman . . . . . . . . Mr. Jack L. Tubbs.
The Rats . . . . . . Mr. Jacky Lysander Tubbs.

Violin Solo:


Ole Bull . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.

Moving Tableau:


Edgar A. Poe . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.
The Raven . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.
Lost Lenore . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.
Nevermore . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.

To conclude with the great quarrel scene from Shakespeare's masterpiece,


Cassius . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.
Brutus . . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.
Mark Antony . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.
The Ghost from Philippi . . . . . Mr. Tubbs.


N. B. No produce taken at the door, but Mr. Joe Smith will be happy to negotiate down-stairs in the store; highest prices always paid.

"Oh, I see, it's a show," Molly observed, after she had finished the perusal of the bill wherein, by means of a little juggling with words, a single man managed to give the impression that there was going to be a "heap" of entertainment.


"And you are going to give it hyer?"


"It won't pay; I don't believe that ten people will come."

"Ten! Ye gods and little fishes! I only had five in Yreka! Ten! If they give ten ducats into this manly hand then will I rise up and call this Camp blessed!" he cried, in the theatrical style that had become a second nature to him.

The night of the entertainment came, and about twenty-five people passed by Molly, who stood at the door, and deposited a dollar in her hands, much to her astonishment, for she had not believed that any one would come .... quite a large party of the boys had come for the express purpose of having some "fun" with the crazy loon, as she considered Mr. Tubbs, and they had provided themselves with sundry articles which were destined to be brought into active use .... As there were no eggs to be had in the Camp, either good, bad, or indifferent, the gang was obliged to content itself with potatoes.

From S. L. Clemens, "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," New York, 1884, first edition, pp. 180-181, 194.

The duke he hired the court house, and we went around and stuck up our bills. They read like this:



For One Night Only!

The World Renowned tragedians,
David Garrick the younger, of Drury Lane Theatre, London,


Edmund Kean the elder, of the Royal Haymarket
Theatre, Whitechapel, Pudding Lane, Piccadilly,
London, and the Royal Continental Theaters,
in their sublime Shakesperean
Spectacle entitled

The Balcony Scene in Romeo and Juliet ! ! !

Romeo . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Garrick.

Juliet . . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Kean.

Assisted by the whole strength of the company!

New costumes, new scenery, new appointments!


The thrilling, masterly, and blood-curdling
Broad-sword conflict In Richard III. ! ! !

Richard III . . . . . . . . Mr. Garrick.

Richmond . . . . . . . . . . Mr. Kean.


(by special request)
Hamlet's Immortal Soliloquy ! !
By the illustrious Kean! Done by him 300 consecutive nights in Paris!

For One Night Only, On account of imperative European engagements!

Admission 25 cents; Children and servants, 10 cents.

Well, that night we had our show; but there warn't only about twelve people there; just enough to pay expenses. And they laughed all the time, and that made the duke mad; and everybody left, anyway, before the show was over, but one boy which was asleep.

However, the play bill was changed, and for two nights the house was crowded:

The third night the house was crammed again—and they warn't newcomers, this time, but people that was at the show the other two nights. I stood by the duke at the door, and I see that every man that went in had his pockets bulging, or something muffled up under his coat—and I see it warn't no perfumery neither, not by a long sight. I smelt sickly eggs by the barrel, and rotten cabbages, and such things, and if I know the signs of a dead cat being around, and I bet I do, there was sixty-four of them went in. I shoved in there for a minute, but it was too various for me, I couldn't stand it.


1 Ednah D. Cheney, Louisa May Alcott, Her Life, Letters, and Journals, Boston, 1890, 105-107, 131.
  Leona Rostenberg, "Some Anonymous and Pseudonymous Thrillers of Louisa M. Alcott," Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, XXXVII, 1943, Second Quarter, 1-10. † Madeleine B. Stern, Louisa May Alcott, Norman, 1950.

2 "The Dime Novel," Banner Weekly, II, No. 77, May 3, 1884.
3 Curiously enough, in spite of the many pseudonyms used in the Beadle publications, the Saturday Journal, No. 88, page 4, says:
  "Editors always prefer the true name. They abominate the nom de plume and are afraid of it.
4 Examples of cuts re-used for different stories are 546 ½DL and 902-DL; 494-½DL and 941-½DL; 660-½DL and 861-DL, etc.
5 Author Unknown. Published in London, 1843.
6 Henry L. Stephans had an advertisement in Punchinello during the entire year 1870, reading, 'Artist, 160 Fulton St., New York.'
7 George G. White died at his home in Albany, February 24, 1898, at the age of 68. He came to New York from his native Philadelphia in 1863 to work for Frank Leslie's Magazine. Later he illustrated various other periodicals and many school books and novels. He drew at least one illustration for each number of the Saturday Journal. White had little comic talent, and was inclined to make use of other men's ideas in his drawings. He had a very large file of drawings clipped from various periodicals from which he could get any costume, animal, plant, or other form. He made no secret of his copying, and other artists were welcome to make use of his material. He usually had with him in his studios two or three fellow artists, among whom was Paul Dixon, whose specialty was landscape. White was so accustomed to have his drawings artistically interpreted on wood by the engraver, that when the first few numbers of Beadle's Weekly made use of zinc etchings directly from the drawings, they appeared very crude. (See Banner Weekly, No. 29; Saturday Journal, No. 260; E. Van Every, Sins of New York. New York, 1930, 157.)
8 A cut on the front page of Banner Weekly, No. 508, is signed by White, as is also the cut on the first page of Belles and Beaux, No. 1 (Fig. 163), but signatures are exceedingly rare.
9 In the Banner Weekly, No. 221, February 5, 1887, George White is mentioned as artist and John Karst as engraver for the Beadle publications. Karst was a very skillful engraver and one who could make White's rather crude drawings into spirited pictures. He was one of the eighteen children of Francis Karst and his wife Madelaine Karst, and was born in Nauheim, Germany, November 1, 1836. He came to America with his parents in a sailing vessel when he was two months old. The family first settled at West Point, New York, where they remained a few years, then removed to New York. Here John, when he was about fifteen years of age, worked as an office boy for Judge Truax. He had a habit of decorating the margins of law papers with sketches, and the ]udge suggested, mildly, that he might make a better artist than a lawyer. Karst then apprenticed himself to an engraver for three years. For a time he worked in Milwaukee, then returned to New York, at the outbreak of the Civil War, to work for Frank Leslie, and was superintendent of the engraving department. After a time he set up his own establishment and had many engravers working for him. Karst is well known as the engraver of the cuts for Mc-Guffey's Readers, but these were but a minor part of his activities.
  He also illustrated the Munro Readers, the Appleton edition of the London Art Journal, made many of the engravings for Harper's, Scribner's, and other periodicals, and many book illustrations. Among the latter were those in Longfellow's Poems, published by Houghton, Mifflin and Company in 1882, and some of those in William Cullen Bryant's Picturesque America. For the Blue Book of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, he and the artist Thomas Moran were provided with a special coach to make a trip to California preparatory to work on the illustrations. With the introduction of halftones and zinc etchings, wood-engraving became less in demand and Karst retired in 1907 to Debruce, in Sullivan County, New York, purchased an old house, built in 1804, and a wooded preserve of 1,150 acres, where he could indulge in his love for fishing, hunting, and grafting apple trees.
  Karst was married in 1872 to Rebecca Squires and had two children. He died at his home June 3, 1922, at the age of eighty-six. Since then his daughter Esther has made the old home in Debruce a museum, where are exhibited many treasures gathered by her father during his long life. John Karst had two brothers, Joseph and Henry, both engravers. Joseph did some of the engraving for Frank Tousey's publications.
10 The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Chapter XIII, 115, first edition.
11 Dime Library, No. 107, 7-8, 9. Huckleberry Finn, original edition, 180-81, 194.
† Correction made as per Volume 3.

Go to Part II and Chapter 3