And coming events cast their shadows before.
Campbell, Lochiel's Warning
THE YEAR 1860 was perhaps the most momentous in the history of the firm. It embraced the beginning of the Dime Novels and the rapid rise of Irwin P. Beadle & Co. from small beginnings to great importance. The year began with the publication of many ten-cent booklets. Before the first of June there had appeared the "Dime Letter Writer," "Dime Book of Dreams," "Dime Farriers' Guide," "Dime Cattle Doctor," "Dime Ball Room Companion," "Dime Base-Ball Player," "Dime Guide to Swimming," "Dime Book of Cricket," and "Dime Book of Fun." Among miscellaneous publications there was also "Victor Hugo's Letter to John Brown with Mrs. Ann S. Stephens' Reply."
The great increase in the number of booklets led to a decision to drop The Home, which perhaps was not as profitable as desired, and in the June number, which appeared some time in May, there appeared this "Publisher's Announcement."
With the present issue the connection of the undersigned with this magazine ceases. The enormous increase in the business of the "Dime Publications," together with my failing health, renders it necessary that I should dispose of the Home Monthly.
It is needless to say this disposition of the magazine is made with regret. I have so long made it the care of my best time—have given it so much of my means and labor—that it has, as it were, become like one of my own offspring,—to part with which seems, indeed, a real source of grief. But my engagements with Irwin P. Beadle & Co., publishers of the "Dime Books," gives them a rightful claim upon my time, while failing health, from over application, warns me that the responsibility of carrying on the magazine energetically, is too great to be thought of in addition to my other duties.
I have, therefore, turned over my whole list to Rev. S. H. Platt, who will consolidate the Home Monthly with his Household Magazine. . . . This disposition, we hope, will not fail to please our readers, even though it should excite their regret at parting with the Home, and the editor and contributors who have so successfully catered for their readers.
May the Home Monthly, with its new auspices, continue to make glad the hearts and homes of our beloved country!
E. F. Beadle.
The firm of Irwin P. Beadle & Co. had moved, on the first of May, 1860, from 137 to 141 William Street.(1) This was at the corner of Fulton Street and over Sands' drug store,(2) and here they remained for nearly three years. Wilson's Copartnership Directory(3) for 1860-61, which is dated May, 1860, indicates that the firm of Irwin P. Beadle & Co., consisted only of Irwin Beadle and Robert Adams, but Erastus' statement in the "Publisher's Announcement" shows that he also had some interest in the firm. Irwin is still listed in the Buffalo Directory(4) although we know that he had gone to New York. Irwin and Erastus Beadle and Robert Adams are all listed in New York,(5) and all lived together at 286 Fulton Avenue, Brooklyn. On the seventh of June, 1860, there appeared this advertisement in the New York Tribune:
BOOKS FOR THE MILLION!(6)
A DOLLAR BOOK FOR A DIME ! !
128 pages complete, only Ten Cents!!! BEADLE'S DIME NOVELS NO. 1
Indian Wife of the White Hunter. By Mrs. Ann S. Stephens
128 pages, 12 mo., Ready SATURDAY MORNING, June 9.
IRWIN P. BEADLE & Co., Publishers.
No. 141 William-st, New-York
Ross & Tousey, General Agents.
Thus was introduced to the public the famous —or infamous, according to the schoolma'ams of the 1870's and 1880's—Dime Novels. Then, on June 9,(7) the Tribune carried the announcement:
"Beadle's Dime Novels, No. 1. Ready this morning. The Best Story of the Day, by the star of American authors. 'Malaeska; the Indian Wife of the White Hunter," by Mrs. Ann S. Stephens. 128 pages, 12 mo., Complete, only Ten Cents! Irwin P. Beadle & Co., Publishers. No. 141 William-st., New York. For sale at all news depots."
Before the appearance of "Malaeska," the Beadle booklets had been enclosed in buff or gray wrappers. The first Dime Novel (Fig. 8), however, came out with the orange wrappers which later were so characteristic of the series. The earlier numbers were approximately 6 5/8 by 4 1/2 inches in size but later issues were trimmed and slightly smaller. The number of pages ranged from 96 to 128, in some cases with additional pages listing Beadle publications exclusively. The original covers of the first 28 numbers were plain (Figs. 8, 16, 17), but after the publishers adopted a cover with an illustration, all reprints were also so supplied (Fig. 9). Usually this cut was repeated as a frontispiece.
Fig. 9. "Malaeska" as reissued with a woodcut on the front cover.
"Malaeska," a story of the type intended to be used exclusively in this series, was not written originally for Beadle, but was simply a reprint of a serial which had appeared in The Ladies' Companion(8) in 1839. For the privilege of reprinting it, Beadle paid Mrs. Stephens $250. Like all of the original Dime Novels, "Malaeska" was highly moral. In it the strongest language is "Great God," and that occurs but once. As for mentioning a girl's legs † (9), such things were not done, for, like the Queen of Spain, they were not supposed to have legs.
"Malaeska" was followed three weeks later by "The Privateer's Cruise," a sea tale by an unknown writer who used the name "Harry Cavendish." On July 14 came another story by Mrs. Stephens, then one by Mrs. Metta V. Victor, the editor of The Home and the wife of the man who was later to become the editor of the Beadle publications. Then came a story by Colin A. Barker (Henry J. Thomas), one by Mrs. Mary A. Denison,(10) and another by "Cavendish."
Exactly what success the Dime Novels had during the first three months is now unknown, but in a story written by a twenty-year-old New Jersey school teacher, the firm believed it had a winner— and they believed in advertising. On the 29th of September there appeared in the New York Tribune, the cryptic question:(11)
This question was repeated nine times on the front page of the paper—the front page, in those days, being devoted entirely to advertisements, an obsolete system still followed, at least until recently, by some London papers.
Memory of man is short unless one is a George Watson,(12) and personal recollections are in many cases very faulty. Stories grow with repetition, and even the teller of a tale may believe that he is absolutely veracious. Newspaper stories are retailed at second hand through reporters, some of whom are more concerned with an interesting story than with the exact truth. And so with "Seth Jones." We give Ellis' reminiscences, a few other stories, and the true story of as much as can be reconstructed from existing evidence.
I will tell you about "Seth Jones." ... It was in 1859 that it was published. ... I had had no previous arrangement with them [Beadle and Adams]. I just wrote the story when I was 19 years old and teaching school down in Red Bank [N. J.] and sent in the manuscript.(14) I wont say anything about how I held my breath while I waited the issue of this tremendous venture. And it is not necessary to tell you on what gold-fringed clouds I soared when I received a letter from them asking me to come to see them in the city. . . .
Well, it seemed that Seth Jones was exactly what they wanted. It was not about its acceptance they wanted to see me. That was already settled. It was about making an arrangement with me to write four books a year for them and we very quickly struck a bargain. I have forgotten just what they paid me for Seth Jones(15) . . .
But it was with "Seth Jones" that the fame and fortune of the Beadle series began. It was not the merit of the book, so pray don't think I am blowing my own horn. It was the ingenious way in which it was advertised. The book happened just to suit them. It was exactly the kind of story they had in mind when they planned the series. So they had a solemn conference— the two Beadles and Adams—as to how they should advertise it. And the plan they hit upon was a brilliant success.
All of a sudden all over the country there broke out a rush of posters, dodgers and painted inscriptions demanding to know "Who is Seth Jones?" Everywhere you went this query met you. It glared at you in staring letters on the sidewalks. It came fluttering in to you on little dodgers thrust by the handful into the Broadway stages, which ran in those days. In the country, the trees and rocks and the sides and roofs of barns all clamored with stentorian demands to know who Seth Jones was. It got to be a catchword and a joke of the day. The theatres and the travelling shows took it up and billed announcements that the identity of the mysterious Seth would be revealed to all the favored ones who attended their entertainments. . . . And just when it had begun to be a weariness and one of the burdens of life, when the reaction set in and people began to say "Damn Seth Jones," then it was that a new rush of decorations broke out all over the country. This was in the form of big and little posters bearing a lithographic portrait of a stalwart, heroic-looking hunter of the Fenimore Cooper type, coon-skin cap, rifle and all. And above or below this imposing figure in large type were the words:
"I am Seth Jones."
That advertisement was the making of the Beadles. And, dear me, how Seth Jones did sell! I saw bales of thousands upon thousands of copies of the book made up for shipment to all parts of the country. And then came the war and the demand for light reading from our soldiers in the field, and the Beadles shipped off their novels to the armies by the tens of thousands. The firm made a great fortune and Irwin P. Beadle retired and went back to Cooperstown to live. He ran for Congress up there, but failed to be elected. . . .
The Beadles were at 141 William Street, over Sands' drug store, when they began publishing the dime novels, but they afterwards moved to 52 John, which last place was always associated with their name and the home of the dime novel.
Mr. Ellis, however, or the reporter, makes numerous errors in this interview. "Seth Jones" was published October 2, 1860, when Ellis was twenty years of age, and not in 1859. The Beadles' fortune was not so "great," and Irwin did not retire to Cooperstown or run for Congress and fail to be elected.(16) That was 'Rastus. When the Dime Novel was first published, the office was at 141 William Street, as Ellis said. They had moved there on the first of May, but afterwards removed, first to 118 William and then to 98 William, but not to 52 John.(17) That the countryside was "plastered" with signs reading "Who is Seth Jones?" is confirmed by an interview of Erastus Beadle,(18) but the interval between the first newspaper question and the answer was only three days.
Apparently Ellis' article was the inspiration for a story by Harvey.(19) He said:
Believing that this tale (Seth Jones) could be made a "best seller," the counting-room rose to the occasion with Nepoleonic audacity. One morning the residents of most of the big towns of the United States found staring at them from gutters and dead walls the words, "Seth Jones," which were followed a week afterwards by "Who's Seth Jones?" The book's appearance on the news-stands in immense stacks a few days later answered the query. This booming and the plaudits of its readers quickly exhausted several editions, and sent the sales ultimately up to more than 600,000 copies, in half a dozen languages.(20)
Pearson(21) similarly said that barns, fences, and stone walls in the vicinity of New York were covered with signs inscribed "Who is Seth Jones?" and a little later posters bearing a picture of a hunter in buckskin and a coonskin cap announced "I'm Seth Jones."
I wonder whether Pearson's version is not based on Harvey's, and Harvey's on the report in the New York Sun and the Boston Evening Transcript. Undoubtedly there were placards posted, but Harvey, in his article, has a number of errors; for example, he made O. J. Victor Beadle's editor in June, 1860. Pearson's book was written more for entertainment than for accuracy. (This would undoubtedly please a critic who objected [Saturday Review of Literature, XXXII, Feb. 26, 1949, 37] to Knapp's "Tobias Smollett" because it "sacrificed art to accuracy.")
However that may be, in the New York newspapers the first advertisement carrying the question: "Who is Seth Jones?" was followed only two days later, on October 1, 1860,(22) by an advertisement, without name of publisher, composed of a series of statements, each boxed separately, but following one another in one advertisement, as following one another as follows:
And then, in the same newspaper, October 2:
"Seth Jones; or, The Captives of the Frontier. For sale at all the news depots." This advertisement was repeated six times on that date, but no Beadle address was given, although another advertisement announced Dime Novel No. 8 (Seth Jones) as "Ready this morning," and gave the publishers as Irwin P. Beadle & Co.
The actual number of copies of Seth Jones sold is unknown, the account books, unpublished manuscripts, etc., of the firm having been used for fuel by the caretaker of the warehouse of Ivers & Co., after the failure of that firm.(23) E. S. Ellis(24) made the statement some years later that 400,000 copies had been sold, while Beadle himself said:(25) "We sold 60,000 copies of that story right off." Adimari(26) thought that the number disposed of in the first few weeks may have been around 40,000 copies, which in those days was a great accomplishment and meant a large profit to the firm. Reviews of the book were uniformly good even in the high-brow magazines, for it was published before the dime novel was looked down upon. Said William Everett:(27)
Mr. E. S. Ellis's "Seth Jones" and "Trail Hunters" are good, very good. Mr. Ellis's novels are favorites, and deserve to be. He shows variety and originality in his characters; and his Indians are human beings, and not fancy pieces.
Some time between October 4(28) and November 3,(29) 1860, probably on the first of November,(30) the firm name was changed from Irwin P. Beadle & Co., to Beadle & Co. The principal partners, however, remained Irwin P. Beadle and Robert Adams, as may be seen by the Copartnership Directory for 1861-62, although undoubtedly Erastus was interested, as previously indicated. The firm remained at 141 William Street.
Frederick Brady, Robert DeWitt, and others had been publishing paper-covered novels at twenty-five cents for some time, but apparently the success of Beadle with "Seth Jones" set the other publishers thinking, for on October 8, less than a week after the appearance of Ellis' novel, W. J. Bunce, of 69 Bowery, New York, came out with No. 1 of a series of novels called Bunce's Ten-Cent Novels. It was written by Harry G. Plunkett, and was entitled "The Stranger's Grave."(31) No. 2 of this series, "Jennie, the Work Girl; or, A Mother's Love," appeared November 10, and No. 3, "The Broken Vow; or, The Forced Marriage," appeared December 27, and ended the series. Another competitor was Everet D. Long & Co.,(32) who also attempted a ten-cent series which continued for only three numbers. No. 1, Lieut. Murray's "Fanny Campbell," appeared November 15, 1860; No. 2, his "The Naval Officer; or, The Pirate's Cave," appeared December 14; and No. 3, "Lynch Law, the Hunter's Revenge," appeared in January, 1861. These attempts apparently made no impression on Beadle & Co., and they went placidly on. They were, however, due for a shock, for on November 26, 1860, Okie, Dayton & Jones, of 20 Ann Street, New York, announced(33) that on "Thursday, November 29th. will be published No. 1 of Five-Cent Novelettes, 'The Rebel Quakeress; or, The Tory Guardian'." The novel, however, was not issued until the 30th, the publishers announcing(34) that "Owing to the immense number of orders received, [it] will not issue till tomorrow," and the next day announced it as "Issued today, November 30." A cut in the price of paper-covered novels from ten to five cents was likely to bring a reduction in profits, so Beadle & Co. got busy. On December 5 they announced:(35)
A Novel Feature for the Times. The extraordinary success of Beadle's Dime Novels in placing the choicest novels from the choicest pens before the public at the nominal price of ten cents each, has induced the publishers to elaborate their enterprise by engrafting upon their series The Half-Dime Novelettes! To embrace the most unique, attractive and agreeable Stories, produced by the best writers of American fiction, gotten up in beautiful style, on clear paper, with expressly prepared type, each issue to embrace a Complete Story. To be comprised in 64 pages, 12mo., and to be furnished to the reading public by News Dealers throughout the entire Union at the extremely small sum of Five Cents each. Ready Saturday, December 8.
Beadle's Half Dime Novels [sic] No. 1, Myrtle, the Child of the Prairie, by Rose Kennedy.
Beadle & Company, 141 William Street, N. Y.
It was, however, not the "extraordinary success" of the Dime Novels that induced Beadle to offer this series at five cents, but the new competition. It is a curious thing that the first Dime Novel and the first and only Half-Dime Novelette were written by women. The manuscript of the story "Myrtle," by "Rose Kennedy" (Mrs. Victor), was apparently on hand for publication as a Dime Novel. A comparison of this booklet with its republication as Dime Novel No. 54, shows that it had been cut down to fill 64 instead of the 100 pages of a Dime Novel. There are additional chapters in the later printing, and several chapters are somewhat different.
Apparently Beadle had become needlessly alarmed, for the sales of the Dime Novels were not affected by the competition of Okie, Dayton & Jones, and after the issue of the one novelette "Myrtle," the series ended. Only a few copies of it are in existence, and it is worth from fifty dollars up—depending upon how much a copy is needed in a collection! In appearance, the Half-Dime Novelette (Fig. 26) very closely resembles the early issues of the Dime Novels, although instead of having a cut of a dime on the cover, there are cuts of five half dimes. A curious mistake was made by the engraver. The central half dime is exactly the size of the full-sized dime of the Dime Novels.
The Beadle booklets published before the appearance of the first Dime Novel were listed in Chapters V and VI. During the remainder of the year, there were issued thirteen Dime Novels, three Dime Song Books, one Dialogue, "Dime Dress-Maker," "Dime Guide to Chess," two Dime Speakers, the Half-Dime Novelette, the "School Melodist," and another Book of Fun.
The following notice appeared in the Tribune, December 1, 1860:(36)
The publishers of the dime novels have the pleasure of announcing a special engagement with Edward S. Ellis, the author of "Seth Jones," by which he will devote his best labors exclusively to their service, and will write for no other publishers whatever. A series of splendid romances of frontier, Indian and trapper's life has been arranged for, . . . The resources of our early history, of our frontier settlements and experiences of Indian life and character, offer a field of inexhaustable richness to the writer whose knowledge of that field is accurate and thorough, and whose talent is especially adapted for that exciting yet historical narrative. Such writers—at whose head must be placed Cooper—are very rare. Mr. Ellis is one of them.
The appearance of "Seth Jones" marked the advent of a brilliant and charming writer in the almost untrodden field. Such a success has rarely been witnessed in the history of our literature. Everybody heard of it, talked of it, and read it, and everybody was thoroughly satisfied with its unique interest, humor, and happy characterizations. A new mine has been opened; and to render it exclusively available to the readers of this series of National and American Romances, the engagement above referred to has been made.
Beadle & Co., Publishers.
No. 141 William-st., New-York.
Ross & Tousey, General Wholesale Agents.
It is to Mr. Ellis' credit, at that time a boy of twenty, that his head was not turned!
Beadle & Co. indicated the character of the novels they desired by an advertisement, December 12, 1860:(37)
To AUTHORS. The publishers of the dime novels are constantly applied to by letters and otherwise, to know if new novels are wanted, what is paid, &c. They, therefore, take this occasion to say: Good novels, of the proper length (124 letter-press pages), are always examined and carefully considered; and, if used, are paid for at such rates as make an object for fiction writers to furnish their BEST work for the series.
Common-place stories, or serials, of the character of those published in the "Blood-and-thunder" newspapers of the day, are NOT wanted; only CHOICE, ORIGINAL MATTER is used in this series of PURELY AMERICAN NOVELS.
Beadle & Co., 141 William-street.
|1||Irwin P. Beadle & Co. had an advertisement with the address 137 William St., in the New York. Tribune of April 19, 1860, and on May 8 an advertisement in the same paper with the 141 William St. address. There was also an advertisement with the latter address in Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, May 26, 1860.|
|2||Statement by Edward S. Ellis, in the New York Sun, June 24, 1900, in an article entitled, "Ellis, Beadle Novel Man." The New York City Directories from about 1855 to 1875 give A. B. & D. Sands & Co., drugs, 141 William Street.|
|3||Wilson's Copartnership Directory, New York., 1860-61 (May, 1860).|
|Irwin P. Beadle & Co. (Robert Adams). 137 William St. (Erastus Beadle is not listed.)|
|4||Commercial Advertiser Directory, Buffalo, 1860.|
|Irwin P. Beadle. News Dealer. 227 Main. h. same.|
|Martha M. Adams. Variety store. 407 East Seneca.|
|5||Trow's New York City Directory, 1860-61 (June, 1860).|
|Erastus F. Beadle, pub. 141 William St. h. 286 Fulton Ave., Brooklyn.|
|Irwin P. Beadle, books. 141 William St. h. 286 Fulton Av., Brooklyn.|
|Robert Adams, books. 141 William St. h. 286 Fulton Av., Brooklyn.|
|Brooklyn Directory, 1860-61.|
|E. F. Beadle, 141 William St., New York.|
|6||"Books for the Million" was not a new slogan invented by (the Beadles, for "Clothing for the Million," had appeared in the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser, January 4, 1849 and at other times; "Coffee for the Millions" was advertised in the same paper May 4, 1849, etc.; "Dry Goods for the Million" in the Buffalo Daily Courier, July 6, 1853, etc.|
|7||Harper's Weekly, IV, No. 183, June 23, 1860, carried a similar advertisement.|
|8||For more details, see under "Malaeska," Dime Novel No. 1, in the Numerical List in this book.|
|9†||This story appeared in a Spanish book which I saw years ago, but whose title I have forgotten. It reappeared in 'A Line o' Type or Two' in the Chicago Tribune, May 20, 1949.|
|10||"Chip, the Cave Child." This was a reprint of a story that had previously appeared as a serial in the Saturday Evening Post, beginning June 6, 1857.|
|11||The question about Jones was supposed to awaken speculation, but it was not a new idea in advertising, for similar catches had been published in other papers not so long before. Perhaps Irwin Beadle or Robert Adams got the idea from an advertisement published daily in the New York Tribune from September 1 to September 9, 1860:
"Maids, Wives and Bachelors!
And then, on the 10th, "Maids, Wives and Bachelors! Remember that on Friday, the 21st of September, you can present your Sweethearts, Husbands, and Children, the Household Journal." Another advertisement of the same type appeared December 20, 21, 24 and 28, 1860: "All snowed up on the 3d of January, 1861," and on the 29th., "All snowed up; or, All around the Stove, a New Year's story will appear in the Household Journal, on the 3d of January."
Much later, the Chicago Daily News followed in the footsteps of these old advertisers. When I was a boy, in the late 1880's, I remember that many persons in our town were mystified by receiving post cards with only the words "One a day" on them. Later came a card, "After (date forgotten) one a day will do it," and finally a third with the solution to the mystery, stating that after the set date, one cent a day would buy the Daily News.
|12||George Watson, the Sussex Calculator, was born in 1785. He could recall the events of every day of his life from a child up. Wm. Hone: Table Book., London, 1838, III, part 2, 576, with portrait.|
|13||Anon., "Ellis, Beadle Novel Man," New York Sun, Sunday, June 24, 1900. See also the Introduction to the Dillingham edition of "Seth Jones," New York, 1907, 14-15.|
|14||Harvey said, incorrectly, that Ellis carried the manuscript to the publishers' office. A. J.|
|15||He received $75. Beadle's Weekly, II, No. 77, May 3, 1884. A. J.|
|16||This was corrected in the introduction to the Dillingham edition of "Seth Jones."|
|17||52 John Street was the address of Nathaniel Orr, the engraver.|
|18||Beadle's Weekly, II, No. 77, May 3, 1884. This is a reprint of an interview reported in the Boston Evening Transcript, with a date line March 26, 1884.|
|19||Charles M. Harvey, "The Dime Novel in American Life," Atlantic Monthly, C, July, 1907, 40.|
|20||Beadle himself said: "We sold sixty thousand copies of that story right off." Beadle's Weekly, II, No. 77, May 3, 1884.|
|21||Edmund Pearson, Dime Novels, Boston, 1929, 32.|
|22||New York Tribune.|
|23||Personal statement to me by Dr. Frank P. O'Brien.|
|24||Introduction to the Dillingham edition of "Seth Jones," p. 15.|
|25||"The Dime Novel." An item from the Boston Evening Transcript, with the New York date line March 26, 1884, reprinted in Beadle's Weekly, II, No. 77, May 3, 1884.|
|26||Ralph Adimari, "The House that Beadle Built," American Book Collector, IV, 1933, 22-23.|
|27||William Everett, "Critical Notices." North American Review. No. 204, July, 1864.|
|28||New York. Tribune, advertisement by Irwin P. Beadle & Co., October 4, 1860.|
|29||Ibid., advertisement by Beadle & Co., November 3, 1860.|
|30||Although Dime Novel No. 11, issued November 15, 1860, still has the Irwin P. Beadle & Co. imprint on the title page, it only indicates that it was printed before the firm decided to move.|
|31||Advertised in the New York Tribune. It was filed for copyright November 10, 1860, according to a letter from V. Valta Parma. Nos. 2 and 3 were advertised in the Tribune on November 10 and December 27.|
|32||New York Tribune, November 15, 1860 and December 14, 1860.|
|33||New York Tribune, November 26, 1860.|
|34||New York Tribune, November 29, 1860.|
|35||Ibid., December 5, 1860.|
|36||New York Tribune, December 1, 1860, p. 1, col. 2.|
|37||New York Tribune, December 12, 1860.|
† Correction made as per Volume 3.