Dime novels, 1860-1915

Dime novels were paper-covered books published in the late 19th century and encompassed a variety of subjects. Early volumes favored light romance and were marketed to adults. By the 1870s and 1880s the novels were produced for youth and their subject matter expanded to include tales of the wild west, mysteries, adventures, inventors and their amazing creations, war, science fiction, and sports.

Utilizing the affordable printing processes of the later 19th century and cheap, low-quality paper, dime novels were published as weekly or monthly serials. The offered convenient and affordable reading to millions of Americans.

The Hess Collection contains both American and British Dime Novels, including examples from nearly all the well-known series. The core of the American collection dates 1860-1915 and the British collection dates 1895-1935. The Hess houses over 65,000 individual dime novels. Several thousand have been microfilmed and there are 13 digital issues available for download. Most of the dime novels are cataloged in MNCAT.

Story Papers, 1850-1910

Considered by many to be the soap operas of the late 19th century, story papers were published weekly in serial form. Each issue simultaneously ran five or more romances, adventures, or mysteries in various stages of completion. Story papers were marketed to both children and adults and featured serialized stories by authors such as Horatio Alger and Edward S. Ellis.

Several story papers were published in a large-format, newspaper style and featured action-packed illustrated coveres. Boys of New York contained the first appearance of Frank Reade and his steam machines and published science fiction/action stories designed to rival Jules Verne and to provide escape to a pre-radio/television culture.

Series Books

Children's series books began in the early 19th century but the popular series did not appear until 1900. The series book's golden age ranged from 1910 to 1940 when publisher's began issuing the adventures of The Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, Judy Bolton, and Tom Swift. Even in the present, the series book is a mainstay of the young adult genre. Many contemporary examples are held in the Kerlan Collection of the CLRC. Please search the Libraries catalog, MNCAT, for titles.

The CLRC maintains a checklist of Girls Series Books, 1840-1991 that contains a listing of titles, authors, and publishers spanning 150 years.


Pulps continued the dime novel tradition but were printed in a magazine format. Published for both adolescents and adults, they were gradually replaced by digest-sized magazines (a format that continues to this day). They were nicknamed "pulps" because they were printed on inexpensive paper made of wood pulp. These magazines contained hard-boiled detective stories, adventure stories, westerns, and science fiction.

Many notable authors were published in this format. The list includes Raymond Chandler, Dashiel Hammett, Isaac Asimov, and Edgar Rice Burroughs. The Hess collection holds a wide selection of titles ranging from early detective stories to Edgar Rice Burroughs classics to well-known science fiction.

Pulp magazines available from the Hess Collection are listed in the Libraries MNCAT catalog or in the Pulps Collection Guide.


 (Munro's Publishing House, 1891)
Old Cap Collier Library: (Munro's Publishing House, 1891)

 (Street and Smith, 1896)
Tip Top Library: (Street and Smith, 1896)

 (Street and Smith, 1915)
Nick Carter Stories: (Street and Smith, 1915)