It was on this day in 1860 that the first dime novel was published. It was called Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter, by Ann S. Stephens (books by this author), and it was the first of 321 novels published by Beadle & Adams in their series Beadle’s Dime Novels. The early dime novels were wrapped in a salmon-colored cover, and they actually cost 10 cents. Before long, the phrase “dime novel” was used to mean any cheap, melodramatic pulp fiction, some of which actually cost 15 cents.
Many authors of dime novels wrote nothing else, but there were some established writers who tried their hands at writing pulp fiction. Theodore Dreiser may have helped write the Diamond Dick dime novels. Louisa May Alcott published more than 30 dime novels under the pseudonym A.M. Barnard. She wrote to her friend Alfred Whitman: “I intend to illuminate the Ledger with a blood and thunder tale as they are easy to ‘compoze’ and are better paid than moral and elaborate works of Shakespeare, so don’t be shocked if I send you a paper containing a picture of Indians, pirates, wolves, bears and distressed damsels in a grand tableau over a title like this: ‘The Maniac Bride’ or ‘The Bath of blood, A Thrilling Tale of Passion.'” Upton Sinclair wrote boys’ adventure novels; he would dictate about 6,000-8,000 words a day to a stenographer.