Inside Spencer: The KSRL Blog

The Liberty Boys of “76”: Dime Novel Set During the American Revolution

July 3rd, 2018

Cover of Issue of the Liberty Boys featuring the story "The Liberty Boys Saving the Colors OR Dick Slater's Bravest Deed" (July 28, 1911)

Harry Judson bore the colors, and was the proudest boy in all the troop as he advanced, waving them over the heads of the brave boys who followed…. Suddenly a shot struck Harry and he was seen to fall, the flag trailing upon the ground…. Dick flew across the open space toward Harry, who was beginning to revive, not having been killed, but only wounded…. It was Dick Slater’s bravest deed, and now both redcoats and Liberty Boys cheered as he ran toward the wall, bearing Harry across his shoulders and waving the colors triumphantly. 

Quotation from The Liberty Boys of “76,”  No. 552 (July 28, 1911), page 19.
Call Number: Children 6112. Cover of that issue pictured above. Click image to enlarge.

The term “dime novel” began as a serial title. Beadle’s Dime Novels (1860-1874) were small paper books, published in a series and sold for ten cents each. They laid the groundwork for what would come to be known as the dime novel. Every Beadle’s edition contained a fast-paced, fictional story with an exaggerated, melodramatic plot, and included a beautifully illustrated cover. Rival publishers soon began to produce their own versions of dime novels, resulting in an explosion of cheaply produced fiction in the latter half of the nineteenth century, and into the twentieth century, most of it aimed at young, male readers. Among them was The Liberty Boys of “76.”

From 1901 to 1925, young readers could follow the adventures of the Liberty Boys. Published every week by Frank Tousey, this dime novel told the stories of a fictional group of young Patriots that consisted of up to 100 members, all doing their part in the war for American independence. Their leader in every issue was Captain Dick Slater. The stories were ghost written by Cecil Burleigh and Stephen Angus Douglas Cox, under the pen name of Harry Moore. The authors drew heavily on Benson John Lossing’s Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution for their research, and as a result, many historical figures appear in the stories, and most of the stories take place during actual battles and events of the Revolution. Thomas Worth, who also was an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, produced many of the illustrated covers. Ironically, and sadly, as popular as the covers of dime novels became, the identity of most of the cover artists is unknown.

Passage describing the Battle of White Marsh in Lossing's Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution Vol. 2, p.115   Cover of the issue of The Liberty Boys of "76" treating the Battle of White March (August 30, 1912)

Left: A page from Lossing’s book, Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, describing events of the
Battle of White Marsh, part of the Philadelphia campaign of 1777 from a copy contributed to the
Internet Archive
by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (Vol. 2, p. 115).
Right: The fictional account of the Liberty Boys’ participation at
White Marsh, No. 609 (August 30, 1912). Call Number: Children 6112. Click images to enlarge.

Cover of Issue of the Liberty Boys featuring the story "The Liberty Boys and Widow Moore OR the Fight at Creek Bridge" (July 21, 1911)    Cover of the issue of The Liberty Boys containing "The Liberty Boys and Emily Geiger; or, After the Tory Scouts" (November 30, 1917)

While most of the stories were about the Liberty boys, a lot of them were about girls and women.
The novel on the right is based on the story of Emily Geiger, an actual Patriot hero.
Call Number: Children 6112. Click images to enlarge.

Cover of Issue of the Liberty Boys featuring the story "The Liberty Boys' Greatest Battle; Or Foiling the Read Coats" (July 12, 1912)    Cover of Issue of the Liberty Boys featuring the story "The Liberty Boys' Setback; Or Defeated but not Disgraced" (June 27, 1913)

Additional examples of The Liberty Boys of “76.” Call Number: Children 6112. Click images to enlarge.

The Liberty Boys of “76” provided children with entertaining reading material, but also slipped in a history lesson at the same time. This approach is still used in today’s historical fiction for children.

The publishers liked to keep their audiences coming back for more tales of adventure.  The July 28th, 1911 issue whose cover is featured at the top of this post ended with the following teaser:  “Next week’s issue will contain “THE LIBERTY BOYS’ SWAMP ANGELS; OR, OUT WITH MARION AND HIS MEN.” 

Kathy Lafferty
Public Services

SOURCES CONSULTED:

Anderson, Vicki. The Dime Novel in Children’s Literature. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2005.

Cox, J. Randolph. The Dime Novel Companion: A Source Book. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 2000.

Lossing, Benson J. The Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution. New York:  Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1860.

Moore, Harry. The Liberty Boys of “76.” New York, New York: Frank Tousey, Publisher, 1901-1925. Kenneth Spencer Research Library, Call Number: Children 6112.

“Happy Christmas to All and to All a Good Night”

December 19th, 2017

To help celebrate the holidays, we’re sharing Clement Clarke Moore’s poem The Night Before Christmas (originally published in 1823 as A Visit from St. Nicholas) as illustrated by two copies of the text in Spencer’s collections – one from 1896 and the other from the early 1900s. The version of the poem used here comes from a 1920 edition, also in the library’s holdings.

Image of The Night Before Christmas, cover, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, or, A Visit of St. Nicholas
by Clement Clarke Moore, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be there;

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And Mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore,
undated, circa early 1900s. Call Number: Children E40.
Click image to enlarge.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of midday to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky,
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St Nicholas too.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St Nicholas came with a bound

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a pedlar just opening his pack.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

His eyes – how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was white as snow;

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and twist of head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, circa early 1900s

The Night Before Christmas, undated, circa early 1900s.
Call Number: Children E40. Click image to enlarge.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team he gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
HAPPY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD NIGHT

Illustration from The Night Before Christmas, 1896

The Night Before Christmas, 1896.
Call Number: Children E39. Click image to enlarge.

Meredith Huff
Public Services

Sweet and Saur

October 17th, 2016

Many a 20th century herpetologist credits his or her early interest in herpetology to the books of Raymond Ditmars. He published eight books on amphibians and reptiles for children and adults alike and, although many professionals consider him merely a popularizer and a showman, his scientific and public contributions to herpetology were substantial. When he was hired as Assistant Curator in charge of reptiles at the Bronx Zoo in 1899, his personal collection of reptiles formed the nucleus of the zoo’s collection. Later on in his career, he was active in developing techniques for curing reptile diseases, produced nature movies, created a clearing house for distribution of antivenins produced in Brazil, and co-founded an American antivenin institute. He was a popular lecturer as well.

Raymond Lee Ditmars. The Book of Prehistoric Animals, 1935. Call number Ellis Omnia D50, Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries

Raymond Lee Ditmars. The Book of Prehistoric Animals, 1935. Ellis Omnia D50

Although this volume (and several others authored by Ditmars) is from the Ellis Collection of natural history, the Department of Special Collections also has a collection of children’s literature, more than 7,000 volumes from the late 18th to early 20th century, including lots of natural history. In fact, books for children, from a 16th-century gardening manual to 20th-century science fiction, turn up in almost all of our collections, and in them, herps abound.

Sally Haines
Rare Book Cataloger

Adapted from her Spencer Research Library exhibit and catalog, Slithy Toves: Illustrated Classic Herpetological Books at the University of Kansas in Pictures and Conversations

Happy 150th Birthday, Beatrix Potter!

July 29th, 2016

In celebration of the 150th birthday of the beloved children’s author and illustrator, Beatrix Potter, I am featuring a few examples of her beautiful work found in our Special Collections here at Spencer Research Library. Please enjoy the selections below along with a short biography introducing you to one of the most influential figures in children’s literature from the twentieth century.

Beatrix Potter was born on July 28, 1866 in London, England. Although she was a lonely child, she was able to find joy in drawing and painting things from the natural world, recording the plants and animals of the English countryside in stunning detail. As an adult she continued to illustrate, even drawing in the margins of letters sent to the children of her former governess, Annie Moore. Her first book, The Tale of Peter Rabbit came about from the drawings on one of these very letters from September 4, 1893!

Front cover of Beatrix Potter’s "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" published in Philadelphia by H. Altemus in 1904.Pages 34-35 ofFront cover of Beatrix Potter’s "The Tale of Peter Rabbit" published in Philadelphia by H. Altemus in 1904.

Front cover and pages 34-35 of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit published in Philadelphia
by H. Altemus in 1904. Special Collections. Call Number: Children 5159. Click images to enlarge.

After partnering with the publishers of Frederick Warne & Co., twenty-two ‘little books’ with lovely color illustrations were produced. Some of these stories even featured her own pets, like the hedgehog Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle.

Front cover of Beatrix Potter’s The tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle published in New York by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1905.

Front cover of Beatrix Potter’s The tale of Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle published
in New York by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1905. Special Collections.
Call Number: Children 2972. Click image to enlarge.

Because of her skill with writing exciting stories, painting detailed and colorful pictures, and using clear language, Potter’s works quickly became children’s classics.

Pages 52 & 53 of Beatrix Potter’s The Roly-Poly Pudding published in New York by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1908.

Here is an excellent example of Potter’s ability to capture humor and action in both the text
and accompanying illustration from pages 52 & 53 of Beatrix Potter’s The Roly-Poly Pudding
published in New York by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1908. Special Collections.
Call Number: Children C606. Click image to enlarge.

She eventually married William Heelis, a solicitor, in 1913 and retired to her farm, Hill Top, to become a prize-winning breeder of Herdwick sheep and a champion for local land conservation. After her death on December 22, 1943 she left 15 farms, several cottages, and over 4,000 acres of land to her husband and on his death to the National Trust, a conservation organization for the United Kingdom.

Page 56 of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher published in New York by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1906.

Potter’s fascination with nature is evident in the loving detail of both plants and animals
found in this example from page 56 of Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Mr. Jeremy Fisher published
in New York by Frederick Warne & Co. in 1906. Call Number: Children 2983. Click image to enlarge.

To learn more about Beatrix Potter and view her delightful books, come visit us at Spencer Research Library and check out a few of these items:

  • Peter Rabbit & other tales : Art from the world of Beatrix Potter. New York: New York University, [c1977]. Shelved at Spencer Research Library. Call Number: C18290.
  • Potter, Beatrix. Beatrix Potter’s letters. London: Warne, 1989. Shelved at Watson Library. Call Number: O72 Z48 1989.
  • Potter, Beatrix. Transcribed from her code writing by Leslie Linder. The journal of Beatrix Potter, 1881-1897. London; New York: F. Warne, 1989. Shelved at Watson Library. Call Number: O72 Z52 1989.
  • Potter, Beatrix. The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin. New York: Frederick Warne, [c1903]. Shelved at Spencer Research Library. Call Number: Children A78.

Mindy Babarskis
Reference Specialist
Public Services

Hidden Treasure Found in the Stacks

April 15th, 2015

Working at Spencer for the past two years, I’ve discovered many amazing manuscripts and old novels that I never dreamed of getting the chance to actually work with. An even more far-fetched idea, however, was finding books that I read when I was a kid and had completely forgotten about.

Yet I did.

It started off as any other day: reshelving books within the stacks. I pushed my book cart, complete with its squeaky wheels, down the rows as I returned the books back to their homes on the shelves. Walking around the perimeter of the stacks, I found a section of books that I hadn’t noticed before. They stood out amongst the old, leather bound covers of books published before the 1700s. Instead, these spines were cloth and colorful, rich in design and detail.

And they looked eerily familiar.

Image of the cover of In the Reign of Terror by G. A. Henty, 1888

The cover of In the Reign of Terror by G. A. Henty.
Illustrated by J. Schönberb. London: Blackie, 1888.
Call Number: O’Hegarty B805. Click image to enlarge.

Leaving my book cart behind me, I walked up to take a closer look, disbelief forming in the back of my mind. No, these couldn’t be the same books I read in middle school, I thought. There was no chance. Upon closer inspection, my gut was proven to be right: I had discovered a treasure trove of books by British author George Alfred (G. A.) Henty. Shelves upon shelves were lined by his masterpieces, a series of adventure books that I’d barely scratched the surface of, reading them in my youth.

Instantly, I was transported back home, as an eleven-year-old, acne-riddled, glasses wearing middle-schooler, standing in my public library. I discovered a book by accident: it had a simple red cover that was torn on the sides. The title read In the Reign of Terror: The Adventures of a Westminster Boy by G. A. Henty. I have never heard of him before, but I decided to take the book home with me and give it a try.

I finished it within the week.

Henty was a mastermind of writing stories threaded within historical events. In the Reign of Terror was about a boy named Harry Sandwith, who was sent to live with the Marquis de St. Caux during the French Revolution, in a time when political stresses tore the country apart during the reign of King Louis XVI. Even though his novels were written in the late nineteenth century and intended for a young male audience (he always started off his tales with a letter to his audience, addressed to his “Dear Lads…”), I still found them to be enlightening, enjoyable and one heck of a political and historical ride.

And I had completely forgotten about Henty and his tales.

Image of the cover of St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894

The cover of St. Bartholomew’s Eve by G. A. Henty.
Illustrated by H. J. Draper. London: Blackie, 1894.
Call Number: O’Hegarty B818. Click image to enlarge.

Since being reunited, I have been reminded of the books that I raided when I was a kid. After reading Reign, I quickly went through our library’s collection back home, which consisted of six titles. My favorite I’ve read is St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre, which is a tale of the Huguenot Wars.

Illustration in St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894

An illustration in St. Bartholomew’s Eve by G. A. Henty.
Illustrated by H. J. Draper. London: Blackie, 1894.
Call Number: O’Hegarty B818. Click image to enlarge.

Image of preface in St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894 Image of preface in St. Bartholomew's Eve, G. A. Henty, 1894

The preface of St. Bartholomew’s Eve by G. A. Henty, addressed to “my dead lads.” Illustrated by H. J. Draper.
London: Blackie, 1894. Call Number: O’Hegarty B818. Click image to enlarge.

Now that I have rediscovered Henty, I’ve been looking into him again and trying to decide which book to read next in order to get back into reading him. Yet I also realized that there are plenty of controversies surrounding the author I’d accidentally discovered. While these stories are advertised as stories of adventures for young boys, they were also criticized – both during the time of publication and especially since then – as being xenophobic towards anything that wasn’t part of British culture and nationalism. His books were also labeled as strong propaganda towards British imperialism, raising the question of if there was another purpose behind Henty’s agenda for writing these novels.

None of this political scandal was noticed by me as a young reader, but recognizing it now, I think it would be interesting to go back and reread some of his stories, or pick up a brand new one. Rediscovering one of my favorite childhood authors was something I definitely didn’t expect to happen while working within the stacks. It was an experience that made me feel like I went back in time, while at the same time, opened a door to learning more about this controversial, yet very popular, late-nineteenth-century author.

It just goes to show that no matter what you’re doing in a library – working, researching or just simply browsing – the treasures waiting to be discovered are endless.

Nicole Evans
Public Services Student Assistant