An 1884 dime novel in the "Deadwood Dick" series. Haverford College Special Collections.
New Digital Exhibit Illuminates Dime Novel Collection
The Second Generation: Boy Heroes in American Dime Novels, 1860–1910 is the title of a new digital exhibit created by Swarthmore junior Rachel Berger. Rachel spent this past summer working in Haverford's Special Collections, reading, researching, and analyzing the College's sizable collection of dime novels from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Her work was funded by a Tri-Co Digital Humanities summer internship.
As Rachel writes in the exhibit introduction,
In dime novels of the American West from the 1860s to the 1880s, boy characters evolved from hapless sidekicks to the heroes of their own stories. And in American detective serials from the early 1900s, young prodigies replaced their older mentors as protagonists. This rise of the boy hero in U.S. popular fiction coincided with the emergence of an adolescent male demographic; but it also occurred at a turbulent historical period when the frontier was closing and young Americans were turning a critical eye towards their own society.
This exhibit focuses on American dime fiction from 1860-1910 - and particularly the development of the boy hero - as a way to understand how America’s emerging mass culture acted both as an outlet for popular frustrations and a reinscription of the status quo.