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Beadle's Half-Dime Library

FIVE MONTHS after Beadle & Adams published the first number of the Dime Library, a series intended primarily for grownups, they began a new Library, written chiefly for boys. In those good old days, dimes were not very plentiful with the average boy, but he could occasionally scrape up five coppers, perhaps earn them by selling old rags or old iron. To him the new Half-Dime Library (Fig. 73) appealed, and its success is shown by the fact that next to the Dime Library, it had the longest life of any of the Beadle novelettes. That its period of existence was not as long as the Dime Library was entirely owing to its later beginning, for it, as well as the Dime Library, ran until the failure of M. J. Ivers & Co. put a termination to both series. The Half-Dime Library lasted for twenty-eight years and two months.

The first number of this Library probably appeared on Monday, October 15, 1877. The New York Tribune advertised on that day that the Half-Dime Library was "Soon to come," and since at first there were two issues a week, on Mondays and Fridays, it must have come out on that day or on the 19th. It is probable that the advertisement had been sent to the newspaper the previous weekend, consequently the first number of the Library may have appeared the same day as the advertisement. The subsequent dates of appearance make it almost certain that this is so. Munro, at this time, was issuing the Seaside Library at the rate of one a day, and Beadle was evidently getting nervous.

The Half-Dime Library was issued semi-weekly until Monday, December 31, when No. 23 appeared. Beginning with the New Year, the novels appeared only every Monday until January 28, 1878. Eight days elapsed before the next number (No. 28) appeared on Tuesday, February 5, and subsequent numbers were issued regularly on Tuesdays as long as Beadle was the publisher. No. 1074, issued February 22, 1898, was the last of the weekly numbers and the last to be issued by Beadle. No. 1075, the first number issued by M. J. Ivers & Co., was dated March, 1898, and thereafter the issues were monthly until the final number (No. 1168) appeared in December, 1905. All numbers after No. 89, April 8, 1879, were dated.

The Half-Dime Library is a 16-page quarto, 11 3/4 by 8 3/8 inches in size, uncut, with no wrappers but with the title of the series and a woodcut illustration on the front page. Some of the early numbers have several illustrations, but after the series was well started, a single cut on the front page was the rule. There are three columns of very fine type to the page, usually with ten or twelve lines to the inch, very rarely as few as nine. Beadle evidently figured that a boy's eyesight was good, and that he would prefer having a lot of reading matter for a nickel than to have less in more readable type.

In the beginning, the stories were of Indians, pioneers, backwoodsmen, or the sea. Later, detective stories became the rule; very rarely were there any of the "from poor boy to riches" type. Many of the tales ran in series, as for example the Deadwood Dick, Broadway Billy, and Joe Phenix novels, the first continuing for well over a hundred numbers.

The title of the series, Beadle's Half-Dime Library, was placed, in large letters, at the top of the front page (Type I-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 73 & Fig. 74). At the upper left there is shown the obverse of a half dime with the date 1877, indicating the year the series was begun. Several changes were made in the heading during the twenty-eight years of the Library's existence. From No. 1 to No. 894 (September 11, 1894), inclusive, the original design remained, and the only change necessary to note is that the volume number, which was at the left side of the page, was transposed to the right, and the series number from the right to the left with and after No. 584 (Type II-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 75), October 2, 1888. In September came the ruling of the Treasury Department that illustrations of coins were illegal, and in Nos. 895, 896, and 897, the half dime was routed out,(1) leaving a circular blank space (Type III-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 76). The upper left corner was re-engraved in No. 898, and a large black disk containing the numeral "5" took its place (Type IV-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 77). Apparently this was not considered artistic, for it lasted only three numbers, and from No. 901 to No. 1036 the same disk was made less dark by having parallel lines engraved across it (Type V-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 78). On No. 1037, June 8, 1897, a new heading (Type VI-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 79) appeared. The name Beadle(2) was discarded, and the title became The Half-Dime Library. There was no other change except that a border was tried around the heading of No. 1038 only, until, with No. 1067, January 4, 1898, pink paper was used, and at the same time a border of highly conventionalized acanthus leaves was placed around the heading and the text of the first page (Type VII-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 80). Only eight numbers were printed as "pink 'uns." The ninth number (No. 1075, March, 1898) was again white, and the publishers' imprint became "M. J. Ivers & Co. (James Sullivan, Proprietor), 379 Pearl Street, New York," Sullivan having bought the stock, books, plates, and copyrights at this time.

For some reason, beginning with number 1077 there was a return to the old Beadle heading (Type VIII-Beadle's Half-Dime Library, Fig. 81), differing only from the original in having a double line box around the heading and text, and in having the words "New York," in plain Roman type, at the top. This form continued to and including No. 1120, December, 1901, after which the double line border was removed but the words "New York" left in. This style was continued until the series ended with No. 1168, December, 1905.

Only one of several slighter changes need be mentioned. The address of Beadle & Adams at first was 98 William Street. This was still given on No. 980, which appeared May 5, 1896, although the firm had moved on May 1 to 92 William Street. Number 981, issued May 12, 1896, carries the new address.

The titles in the following list were taken from the novels themselves. If they are compared with the advertising lists given on the back pages of some of the novels, it may be found that a few numbers give the term "sleuth" in the title while the lists may show the word "detective" or something similar. The substitution in the lists was made after an injunction had been obtained by Munro against the use of the word "sleuth" as applied to a detective. This has been mentioned above, in Part II.

As in other series issued by Beadle, the advertised titles, in a few cases, differ entirely from the published titles, the manuscripts, apparently, not having been ready when the titles were announced.

Fig 73

Fig. 73. Beadle's Half-Dime Library


Fig. 74. Type I- Half-Dime Library.
Used on Nos. 1 to 583.


Fig. 75. Type II- Half-Dime Library.
Used on Nos. 57 to 63.

fig. 76

Fig. 76. Type III- Half-Dime Library.
Used on Nos. 895 to 897.

fig. 77

Fig. 77. Type IV- Half-Dime Library.
Nos. 898 to 900

Figs. 74 to 77. Variations in the heading of Beadles's Half-Dime Library. See also Figs. 78 to 81. REDUCED

fig. 78

Fig. 78. Type V- Half-Dime Library.
Used on Nos. 901 to 1036.

fig. 79

Fig. 79. Type VI-Half-Dime Library.
Nos. 1037 to 1066.

fig. 70

Fig. 80. Type VII-Half-Dime Library.
Nos. 1067 to 1076

fig. 81

Fig. 81. Type VIII-Half-Dime Library.
Nos. 1077 to 1168 (the end).

Figs. 78 to 81. Variations in the heading of Beadle's Half-Dime Library. See also Figs. 74 to 77.

1. Reprints of some of the early numbers also have the half-dime routed out. I have such altered copies with a number as low as 104, and it is likely that even lower numbers thus altered exist. Some reprints of numbers lower than 584 have the series numbers at the left.
2. Erastus Beadle had been dead for two and a half years at this time.

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