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Beadle and Adams archives

Identifier: MSS 0354

Scope and Content Note

The material in the Beadle Archives collection spans the dates 1848–1920. The collections consists of .3 linear feet of letters, photographs, bills, and documents relating to Erastus F. Beadle and the dime booklet publishing house in which he was a partner. The publishing house went through several names during their existence; the last was Beadle and Adams, and since the material in this collection dates from the company’s last years, that name will be used to refer to Erastus Beadle’s firm throughout this finding aid. The collection is organized in three series: Series I contains letters and papers related to Erastus F. Beadle, one of the firm’s founders; Series II contains letters written in tribute to Orville J. Victor, longtime editor for Beadle and Adams; and Series III contains letters written to Dr. Frank P. O’Brien, a collector of Beadle memorabilia.

Series I contains two folders of letters that Erastus Beadle solicited when he was compiling a genealogy of the Beadle family. The dates span 1857–1866, with the bulk of the material dating from 1864–1865. Although the finished project is not extant, these letters, grouped by correspondent, contain a multitude of information from various Beadles, as well as families whose names might have derived from “Beadle,” such as Bedell and Bidell. Erastus Beadle also contacted numerous town clerks who provided him information from birth and death records. Information about the Beadle history goes back as far as the seventeenth century, and the correspondents draw from oral and written history, offering to send wills, records, transcriptions from family bibles, photographs, and letters. The second folder also contains a rough genealogical chart of the Beadle family, along with a transcription of a deposition from a witch trial, taken in 1692, in Salem, Massachusetts, which took place in the house of a Thomas Beadle.

There are also seven letters to Erastus Beadle written by his cousin Benjamin G. Beadle, which span the dates 1848–1864. Most of the letters were written from Memphis, Tennessee, where Benjamin was engaged in various businesses endeavors, primarily farming. The bulk of the letters were written in 1857, when Erastus had temporarily abandoned his publishing attempts in Buffalo, New York and was trying his luck with real estate during the land boom in Omaha, Nebraska. Benjamin encourages Erastus several times to try his luck with printing in Memphis, even going so far as to suggest his cousin to a company who needed a printer. These letters provide a detailed record of a mid nineteenth-century printing business, including specifics on wages and needed skills. Benjamin Beadle’s 1864 letter from Vicksburg, Mississippi, where he is attempting to raise cotton, gives an account of plantation life during the Civil War. Included in the folder is an 1848 letter that is probably to an E.R. Beadle, a New Orleans minster. E.R. Beadle is mentioned in a July 25, 1964 letter, located in Folder 2, written to Erastus Beadle by Henry Wheattam, one of his genealogical correspondents.

Also included is a folder of letters that relate either to Erastus Beadle or to the Beadle and Adams firm. These documents contain both personal and business information. In a letter to his daughter Sophia, Beadle writes about the memories that arose when he visited his birthplace, Pierstown, which is located close to Cooperstown, his chosen place of retirement. There is also a draft of a letter to a William Benson, a customs collector, in which Beadle vigorously defends the novels he publishes from charges of indecency, stating that his house had never published “an immoral or impure book.” Dime novels had acquired the reputation of being a corrupting influence on the youth that so eagerly consumed them; perhaps to combat this image, the writing of Beadle authors was guided by a list of instructions that prohibited any “moral taint” in their work. Other letters include an 1886 letter by William Adams, by now the only other partner in the firm, a letter of condolence from an unknown correspondent to Sophia B. Raymond, Beadle’s daughter, on her father’s death, and two letters that probably relate to Beadle’s genealogical efforts.

Last in the series is a collection of bills from Cooperstown businesses and three checks written by Erastus Beadle; these materials date from the last years of his life. There is also a copy of Erastus Beadle’s will, along with a certificate granting letters testamentary to Sophia Raymond.

When Beadle editor Orville J. Victor retired from his twenty-eight year stint with the firm in 1897, several of the regular Beadle writers composed letters of tribute to him. Section II contains eight original letters and four photostatic copies from several Beadle authors, including T.C. Harbaugh, Prentiss Ingraham, Gilbert Patten, Charles Morris, George C. Jenks, William Eyster, J.H. Whitson, and Edward S. Ellis, whose novel Seth Jones; or The Captives of the Frontier (1860) was perhaps the most successful Beadle Dime novel. Each writer praises Victor’s skill, fairness, and competence, many of them asserting that the editor guided their writing from the beginning of their career. Some letters also acknowledge the deaths of Erastus Beadle and David and William Adams; the latter had died the previous year.

Series III contains letters written to Dr. Frank P. O’Brien, a New York dentist and a prominent collector of dime novels. Most of the letters, all of which were written between 1914–1920, come from writer T.C. Harbaugh (1849–1924), who composed poetry and prose for the Beadle firm and for other publishers. Harbaugh provides O’Brien with anecdotes about various Beadle authors, discussing their personalities, pseudonyms, and lives after the cessation of Beadle and Adams. His letters also contain references to Orville Victor, who, he claimed, was a great editor who “know what the ’boys’ wanted,” as well as to Erastus Beadle and to the Adams brothers. Although he published a great deal during the nineteenth century, Harbaugh eventually would die in poverty, and he writes to O’Brien that he has suffered a collapse after forty-four years of writing, and that he can not even afford a turkey for Thanksgiving. He looks back with nostalgia on the former triumph of the Beadle house, urging O’Brien to bring about a revival of the old dime novels. Also included are a 1921 poem, “A Christmas Sentiment,” that Harbaugh wrote about the Beadle, a 1907 cyanotype portrait of Harbaugh, and a photograph of the birthplace of Anne S. Stephens, author of the first Beadle Dime Novel, Maeleska (1860). The series also contains a postcard and an envelope from Oll Coomes (1845–1921), another Beadle writer, as well as a letter from Roland D. Sawyer, a Massachusetts politician and clergyman.


  • Creation: 1848–1921


Language of Materials

Materials entirely in English.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Terms Governing Use and Reproduction

Use of materials from this collection beyond the exceptions provided for in the Fair Use and Educational Use clauses of the U.S. Copyright Law may violate federal law. Permission to publish or reproduce is required from the copyright holder. Please contact Special Collections, University of Delaware Library,

Biographical and Historical Note

The Beadle Dime Novels, together with numerous other publications issued by the firms Beadle and Co., Irwin P. Beadle and Co., and Beadle and Adams, were a tremendously successful foray in cheap literature for the mass public. Dime novels, like the story papers that had preceded them and the pulp magazines that would replace them in the twentieth century, delivered adventurous or sensational stories in inexpensive, paper-bound editions. Although the Beadle brothers, Erastus and Irwin, were not the first publishers to exploit this medium, they were the first to do so in a continuous, serial form. This innovation, combined with their large number of publications and sales, makes their firm an integral part of the history of the dime novel.

Erastus Flavel Beadle was born in Oswego County, New York, on September 9, 1821. His brother, Irwin Pedro Beadle, was born in 1826. They were the grandsons of Benjamin Beadle, a Revolutionary War solider. After a brief move to Michigan, the Beadles returned to New York, settling in Chataqua County. There, Erastus worked for a miller named Hayes, where he supposedly began his printing career when he cut wooden letters to label bags of grain. In 1838, he was apprenticed to H & E Phinny, a publishing firm in Cooperstown, New York, where he learned typesetting, stereotyping, binding, and some engraving. He married Mary Ann Pennington in 1846, and the next year the couple moved to Buffalo, where Erastus worked as a stereotyper. In 1849, Irwin followed his brother to Buffalo and found a job as a bookbinder. The next year, the brothers set up a stereotype foundry of their own, although Irwin would leave the company in 1856.

In December of 1851, Erastus Beadle, together with engraver Benjamin Vanduzee, began publishing a magazine for young children entitled The Youth’s Casket. Vanduzee dropped out of the partnership in 1853, but the magazine continued publication until 1856. Erastus’ next project, in 1855, was the monthly magazine, The Home: A Fireside Companion and Guide for the Wife, the Mother, the Sister, and the Daughter. In 1856, Erastus briefly abandoned publishing and moved to Omaha in an attempt to capitalize on the Kansas and Nebraska land boom. During his absence, Robert Adams, a former apprentice in Beadle’s stereotyping foundry who would become the Beadles’ future partner in the dime book trade, probably took over publication of the two serials at this time.

After failing to make his fortune out west, Erastus returned to Buffalo in 1857. The next year, he, Irwin, and Robert Adams moved to New York City, where Erastus and Adams continued to publish The Home. The December issue of the magazine had a new editor, Mrs. Metta Victoria Victor (1831–1885), who would write several novels for Beadle and Adams, including the popular slave story Maum Guinea, which was reportedly praised by Lincoln. Her husband, Orville J. Victor (1827–1910), would work as the main editor for the Beadle house from 1861 to 1897.

While his brother worked in magazines, Irwin began the dime booklet business that would make the Beadle name famous, although Erastus would eventually receive most of the profits and the credit for its creation. In 1859, he published the Dime Song Book, a paper-bound collection of popular ballads that had previously been issued singly. It sold well, and encouraged by its success, Irwin began publishing a series of dime booklets on such varied subjects as cooking, etiquette, speeches, and baseball. At the end of this year, Irwin and Adams formed the publishing firm Irwin P. Beadle and Co.

1860 saw the inception of the first Beadle novel series; the Beadle Dime Novel, with its distinct orange cover, would include 631 numbers and run until 1885. Its first publication, Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, was a 128 page story by Ann S. Stephens and was promoted as “a dollar book for a dime.” Although the majority of Beadle publications were written expressly for the firm, Stephen’s story was, like many others to follow, a reprint from an earlier publication, in this case, from a 1839 issue of The Ladies’ Companion. The novel sold well, with some estimates at 300,000 the first year. The eighth novel, Seth Jones by Stanley Ellis, reportedly sold twice as many, according to a possibly exaggerated estimate by Erastus Beadle. The preferred subjects in the firm’s early days were pioneer and revolutionary war stories, with titles like The Backwood Bride; a Romance of Squatter Life (1860) and The Shawnee Scout; or The Death Trail (1870). Other adventure genres, such as pirate tales and trapper adventures, also appeared frequently. After the civil war, the focus of the novels turned to the wild west and the detective genres.

Later in 1860, after The Home ceased publication, Erastus became a partner in his brother’s firm, and the name changed to Beadle and Co. The next year, the firm created Beadle’s American Library in London, reprinting several Beadle’s Dime Novel stories for the British public, an endeavor that lasted for five years. Back in the United States, the Civil War had begun; its effects initially slowed the formerly bi-monthly publication rate of the dime novels, but their popularity with the union troops eventually greatly increased their publication numbers.

In 1862, Erastus Beadle and Robert Adams bought out Irwin’s share of Beadle and Co. The firm would become known as Beadle and Adams in 1870, and it would also issue publications under the subsidiary names of Frank Starr and Co., Adams, Victor and Co., and Adams and Co. Even though Robert Adams died early in 1866, the Adams name would remain in the firm. His two brothers, David and William, became partners in the company after Robert’s death. Irwin would continue to attempt to publish dime novels, but his efforts never came anywhere close to rivaling his brother’s, and he abandoned any publishing efforts altogether in 1868. The house of Beadle and Adams went on to publish thirty-one more novel series, many of them reprints of earlier publication. The longest running series, Beadle’s New York Dime Library, outlived all of the firm’s members, appearing from 1878 to 1905. Most of the stories remained true to the adventure formulas, although some series, like the Waverley Library, tried to appeal to a different audience with stories of romance, society, and intrigue, many of them reprints of British authors like George Eliot, Antony Trollope, and Sheridan Le Fanu. Other series, like The Sunnyside Library and The Fireside Library, reprinted popular and literary British fiction.

Beadle and Adams also continued to publish periodicals, and two of their magazines achieved some measure of success. The Saturday Journal, a biweekly magazine, ran from 1870 to 1882; it was replaced in 1882 by Beadle’s Weekly, later known as Banner Weekly, which appeared until 1897. These magazines were primarily story papers, although they also included advice columns and hunting, fishing, and trapping sections. Under his different firms, Erastus Beadle also continued to publish dime books on various non-fictional subjects, including biographies, joke books, civil war information, and many topics of the sort that Irwin Beadle published in the 1860s.

Erastus Beadle did not outlive his firm. With the house’s publication rate declining and his health failing, he withdrew from the company completely and retired to Cooperstown in 1889 for good, where he remained until his death on December 18, 1894. David Adams had died in 1886, and his brother William would die in 1897. That same year, Orville J. Victor retired from his twenty-eight year position as Beadle editor, and William Adams’ executors disposed of the remaining publications: the Beadle Dime and Half Dime Novels were sold to another publisher, and the Banner Weekly was discontinued.

Johannsen, Albert. The House of Beadle and Adams and its Nickel and Dime Novels. 3 vols. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950; 1962.


.3 linear foot


The Beadle and Adams archives contains materials relating to American publisher Erastus F. Beadle (1821–1894) and the dime booklet publishing house in which he was a partner, Beadle and Adams.


Purchase, August 1997.

Shelving Summary

  1. Box 1: Shelved in SPEC MSS manuscript boxes
  2. Removals: Shelved in SPEC MSS oversize boxes (32 inches)


Processed by Shanon Lawson, November 1997. Encoded by Natalie Baur, March 2010. Futher encoding by Lauren Connolly, January 2015, and Tiffany Saulter, May 2016.

Finding aid for Beadle and Adams archives
University of Delaware Library, Special Collections
2010 March 11
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the University of Delaware Library Special Collections Repository

181 South College Avenue
Newark DE 19717-5267 USA