Financial History 25th Anniversary Special Edition (104, Fall 2012) | Page 14

THE TICKER  FROM THE COLLEC TION Adventures on Wall Street: Finance and Industry in American Dime Novels By Franklin Sammons and Sarah Buonacore “Dime novel” is a catch-all term for late 19th century and early 20th century American popular fiction. Providing Americans with a consistent output of popular fiction at a fixed, inexpensive price, these weeklies are the antecedents of modern day mass market paperbacks, comic books and even television series. The term itself is thought to have originated with the first book in Beadle & Adam’s Beadle’s Dime Novel series, Maleaska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, by Ann S. Stephens, published in 1860. First printed in orange wrapper papers, the early dime novels focused on encounters between Native Americans and backwoods settlers. By the 1890s, however, their themes broadened and their covers transformed into one of the defining characteristics of dime novels: the dramatic, often lurid, colored cover illustrations depicting a hero in action. The Museum’s collection consists of more than 80 dime novels with financial and industrial themes and includes issues from Fame and Fortune Weekly, Pluck and Luck, Work and Win, Secret Service, New Nick Carter Weekly and Tip Top Weekly. Many of these dime novels chronicle the “rags to riches” journeys of honest and hardworking boys who often acquire their “fame and fortune” by outwitting avaricious and unscrupulous characters or by fighting against financial corruption. NOV 17 1999 Dime novels were aimed primarily at urban, working class adolescents and were distributed at newsstands and dry goods stores. Their popularity both benefitted from and reflected an American mass culture developing at the turn of the 20th century due to the expanded mechanization of printing, the increased efficiency of railroad and canal shipping, and the growing literacy of working class Americans. While the most popular dime novel stories were those of adventures set in the Wild West, the genre also included tales of urban outlaws and self-made men, of crime fighting detectives and even costume romances. The physical nature of dime novels made them easily disposable commodities, and they are now relatively rare. Averaging 64 pages with typical dimensions that were pocket-sized, the novels were small and cheap, so the typical reader did not save them. The books also were made of pulp-wood paper, which has a high acidity level and disintegrates quickly. As a consequence, only a fraction of the millions of issues printed by dime novel publishers remain today. The collection of financial and industrial themed dime novels affords researchers an opportunity to explore representations of Wall Street, finance and industry in early 20th century American popular culture. Scholars have plumbed the social and cultural significance of dime novels broadly, but very little — if any — attention has been given to dime novels with For the first time, more than 1.5 billion shares change hands on the Nasdaq in a single day, as the day’s total volume hits 1.646 billion. 12    FINANCIAL HISTORY  |  Fall 2012  | www.MoAF.