Skip to main content
Select Source:

Dime Novels

DIME NOVELS

DIME NOVELS, inexpensive, sensational fiction published roughly from 1840 to 1900, began as fiction supplements to newspapers, such as Park Benjamin's New World, that could distribute fiction cheaply under the post office's low newspaper rate. Selling for twelve and one-half cents, Benjamin's "shilling novelettes" declined soon after the post office began to apply the higher book rates to fiction supplements in 1843. In 1845 reduced "book rates" revived cheap fiction, which later claimed national as well as local audiences through the distributor American News Company (1864). The most successful publishers of inexpensive literature, Beadle and Adams, released weekly Beadle's Dime Novels beginning in 1860. Competitors included Thomas and Talbot's Ten Cent Novelettes (1863), George Munro's Ten Cent Novels (1864), and Robert DeWitt's Ten Cent Romances (1867). However, dime novels declined in the 1890s due to the panic of 1893; the development of slick, inexpensive magazines; and the copyright agreement of 1891, which curtailed pirating of European fiction. By 1900 the journal Bookman could proclaim confidently "the extinction of the dime novel."

Although widely remembered as male-oriented, frontier adventure tales, dime novels also included detective stories, thrilling accounts of urban life, and romances aimed at a female audience. Their authors—often newspaper journalists—worked swiftly under tight deadlines and creative limitations. Sometimes multiple authors used the same well-known pseudonym or popular character, both of which remained the intellectual property of the publisher. Nevertheless, publishers did pirate many stories from British papers, and authors themselves frequently derived their plots from current theater productions and news stories.

Young working men and women—both Yankee and ethnic—composed the bulk of dime-novel readership, and publishers aimed such series as Ten-Cent Irish Novels and Die Deutsche Library directly at ethnic audiences. Nationwide circulation and popular appeal mark the dime-novel market as a precursor of late-twentieth-century mass culture. Although condemned and even restricted in their day as "immoral" influences on impressionable youth, by the beginning of the twenty-first century dime novels were remembered nostalgically as wholesome and innocent entertainment.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Denning, Michael. Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America. New York: Verso, 1987.

Rae SikulaBielakowski

See alsoLiterature: Popular .

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Dime Novels." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Dime Novels." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/dime-novels

"Dime Novels." Dictionary of American History. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/dime-novels

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.

dime novels

dime novels, swift-moving, thrilling novels, mainly about the American Revolution, the frontier period, and the Civil War. The books were first sold in 1860 for 10 cents by the firm of Beadle and Adams. The earliest was Malaeska: The Indian Wife of the White Hunter (1860), by Anne Stephens, which is said to have sold 300,000 copies in the first year; similar novels sold by the thousands throughout the country and especially in the Civil War camps. Such men as Bruin Adams, Col. Mayne Reid, Col. Prentiss Ingraham, W. F. Cody, and Ned Buntline wrote of their own adventures. Among the most famous series were those about Deadwood Dick, by Edward L. Wheeler, and those about Nick Carter. After 1880, imitators entered the field with lurid stories that dealt in blood and thunder. Their popularity lasted until the 1890s, when they began to be replaced by pulp magazines, comic strips, and series of stories such as those about the Rover Boys and Frank Merriwell.

See E. Pearson, Dime Novels (1929); A. Johannsen, The House of Beadle and Adams and its Dime and Nickel Novels (3 vol., 1962).

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"dime novels." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 24 May. 2018 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"dime novels." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. (May 24, 2018). http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dime-novels

"dime novels." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved May 24, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/dime-novels

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.