Also known as:
Beadle & Vanduzee (1851-1853)
Beadle & Brother (1853-1856)
Irwin P. Beadle & Company (1860)
Beadle & Company (1860-1872)
Beadle & Adams (1872-1898)
Beadle & Adams, though not the most significant publisher in terms of women’s dime novel romances, often receives a prominent position in the history of dime novel publishing, and, indeed, the firm is significant for the successful development of the cheap fiction publishing formula. The firm was the first cheap fiction publisher to put out inexpensive mass fiction in a series. The first series, issued in July 1860, was known simply as Beadle’s Dime Novel series. The first title was Malaeska: Indian Wife of the White Hunter by Ann S. Stephens.
Although other publishers had attempted to sell cheap books before, Beadle and Adams revolutionized the field of cheap fiction by drastically lowering the price to a mere ten centers when other books were selling for a dollar or a dollar and half. In order to make a profit selling the books so cheaply, Beadle & Adams used several cost cutting strategies. First, they used the least expensive paper available in conjunction with cheap bindings and cover illustrations. They also standardized the publishing format so that every book was exactly the same in size as every other in the series–setting a standard at 6 and 5/8th inches by 4 and 1/2 inches–the precursor to the modern mass-market paperback. This saved money since press and typesetting specifications were identical for each book published. They also made use of previously published work, either paying the author a small fee to use the work again, as in the case of Ann Stephens whose Malaeska had first appeared in The Ladies Companion in 1839, or outright pirating the work from British authors and publishers and not paying for its use at all.
Once the series took off, bolstered perhaps by bored military men who read them to pass the time in the Civil War, and Beadle & Adams had proven that selling very inexpensive books could be profitable, other publishers were quick to adopt the new cost cutting strategies and Beadle and Adams faced stiff competition. One strategy the firm employed to face this competition was to join forces with an established distributor, Sinclair Tousey’s American News Company. Their marketing strategies also included one of the first attempts to catch the reader’s eye and each new title was issued in a brightly colored wrapper with an illustration depicting an exciting moment in the story. These wrappers where often orange and contributed to the term yellowback to used disparagingly later to describe “trashy fiction.”
Important writers who published with Beadle & Adams included Ann Stephens, Metta Victor, William Frederick Cody (Buffalo Bill). Their key series included the Beadle’s Dime Novel Series, the Dime Library, The Fireside Library patterned after The Lakeside Library, a juvenile series known as the Half-Dime Library in 1877 and in 1879 their first series devoted exclusively to women’s romances, The Waverly Library. In addition to these key series and multiple less successful series, Beadle & Adams also published cookbooks such as Metta Victor’s Dime Cook-Book. A Directory for the Parlor, Nursery, Sick Room, Toilet, Kitchen, Larder, etc. Songbooks, joke books and humorous stories.
Although other publishers in the cheap fiction business would find serialized story papers to be their biggest profit makers, Beadle & Adams stayed primarily with books. Their only long lasting serial was the Saturday Journal. Though the firm did well in the 1860s, they never reached the prominence of other cheap publishers who would move in and dominant the cheap fiction market in the 1870s to 1890s. The year 1891 marked the end of the dominance of all cheap fiction publishers when the International Copyright law put an end to reprinting British material.
For more information about their series for women, such as Girls of Today and the Waverly Library, read about Women’s Dime Novel Romance Series and Story Papers.
Readers interested in detailed information about the firm are directed to Albert Johansson’s The House of Beadle of Adams. This reference work, the result of years of painstaking research by Johanssen is one of the most impressive histories of a publishing firm ever compiled. [A complete version of the book is online by Northern Illinois University Libraries.]
References and Additional Information
“Dzwonkoski, David. “Beadle and Adams.” The Dictionary of Literary Biography, 43-49.
Johannsen, Albert. The House of Beadle and Adams and its Dime and Nickel Novels: The Story of a Vanished Literature. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1950.