1860 One Hundred And Twenty-five Years Ago

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“A dollar book for a Dime!!” ran the June 7 advertisement in the New York Tribune . “128 pages complete, only Ten Cents!!! BEADLE’S DIME NOVELS NO. 1, MALAESKA : Indian Wife of the White Hunter, By Mrs. Ann S. Stephens.” With this inauguration of their dime novel series, Irwin P. Beadle & Co. became the first book publishers to tap the American mass market—a market only recently made possible by a paperback revolution in 1842 and the advent of cheaper printing processes. They made a fortune. Turning out one title after another, their novels soon developed recognizable characteristics: high suspense and rip-roaring action, often marked by bloodshed but never by immoral behavior; characters who used bold language but refrained from profanity, never drank, and were utterly asexual; and plots in which virtue prevailed and the forces of evil were inevitably overcome.

Other publishers began selling dime novels too, and until 1900 these paperbacks remained popular fare. Newsprint and pulp-paper magazines took the lead in mass-market publishing by 1910, however, and dime novels disappeared —but the kind of fiction they fostered never did.

June 23: The federal Secret Service is authorized to go into operation.

June 30: The Excelsiors of Brooklyn, New York, formerly known as the Jolly Young Bachelors’ Base Ball Club, become the first baseball team to tour.