The Nineteenth-Century Dime Western, Boyhood, and Empowered Adolescence

in Boyhood Studies
Restricted access

ABSTRACT

The nineteenth-century dime novel was a significant component of adolescent culture. Dime novel Westerns prefigured emerging ideas of adolescence to inform cultural constructions of American boyhood. These texts articulated and responded to prevailing notions of proper and improper boyhood by imagining the frontier as a space of and for youth. Scholars have addressed many subversive elements of the dime novel, while largely ignoring how this literature interrogated hierarchies and categories of age. The present analysis explores that gap, highlighting the Western dime novel as a critical site for negotiating ideas of American boyhood in the late nineteenth century.

Contributor Notes

Martin Woodside earned his doctorate (2015) in childhood studies from Rutgers University–Camden. His dissertation, “Growing West: American Boyhood and the Frontier Narrative,” examines how discourses of boyhood and frontier mythology helped shaped each other and broader ideas of American cultural identity in the second half of the nineteenth century. His research interests include children’s literature and the cultural history of nineteenth-century America, with emphasis on gender, material culture, and performance studies. Email: mlwoodside@gmail.com

Boyhood Studies

An Interdisciplinary Journal

  • AndersonRyan. 2015. Frank Merriwell and the Fiction of All-American Boyhood. Fayettville: University of Arkansas Press.

  • BedermanGail. 1995. Manliness and Civilization: A Cultural History of Gender and Race in the United States 1880–1917. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • BoldChristine. 2013. The Frontier Club: Popular Western and Cultural Power 1880–1924. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  • BraceCharles Loring. 1872. The Dangerous Classes of New York and Twenty Years’ Work among Them. New York: Wynkoop & Hallenbeck.

  • BrumbergJoan Jacobs. 2003. Kansas Charley: The Story of a Nineteenth-Century Boy Murderer. New York: Penguin.

  • ChamberlainKathleen. 1992. “‘Wise Censorship’: Cultural Authority and the Scorning of Juvenile Series Books, 1890–1940.” Pp. 187211 in Scorned Literature: Essays on the History and Criticism of Popular Mass-Produced Fiction in America ed. Lydia Cushman Schurman and Deidre Johnson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChinSarah. 2008. Inventing Modern Adolescence: The Children of Immigrants in Turn-of-the-Century America. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • ChudacoffHoward. 1989. How Old Are You? Age Consciousness in American Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

  • CohoonLorinda. 2006. Serialized Citizenships: Periodical Books and American Boys 1840–1911. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press.

  • DeanJanet. 1992. “Calamities of Convention in a Dime Novel Western.” Pp. 3750 in Scorned Literature: Essays on the History and Criticism of Popular Mass-Produced Fiction in America ed. Lydia Cushman Schurman and Deidre Johnson. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • DeluzioCrista. 2007. Female Adolescence in American Scientific Thought 1830–1930. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.

  • DenningMichael. 1987. Mechanic Accents: Dime Novels and Working-Class Culture in America. London: Verso.

  • Fields Annie Adams. [1881] 1971. James T. Fields: Biographical Notes and Personal Sketches. Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press.

  • HallwasJohn. 2009. Dime Store Desperadoes: The Notorious Maxwell Brothers. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.

  • HarbaughT.C. 1880. Judge Lynch Jr.; or the Boy Vigilante. Beadle’s Half Dime Library vol. 6 no. 139. New York: Beadle and Adams.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • HofstadterRichard. 1968. The Progressive Historians: Turner Beard Parrington. New York: Alfred A. Knopf.

  • HoltMarilyn. 1992. The Orphan Trains: Placing Out in America. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

  • JohannsenAlbert. 1950. The House of Beadle and Adams and Its Dime and Nickel Novels: The Story of a Vanished Literature. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • JonesDaryl. 1978. The Dime Novel Western. Bowling Green, OH: The Popular Press.

  • Kansas City Times. 1890. “He Bought the Pistol Here: Young Miller, the Boy Murderer of Cheyenne, Was Here in August.” Kansas City Times3 December: 6.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KeetleyDawn. 2013. “The Injuries of Reading: Jesse Pomeroy and the Dire Effects of Dime Novels.” Journal of American Studies 47 no. 3: 673697.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • KettJoseph F. 1977. Rites of Passage: Adolescence in America 1790 to the Present. New York: Basic Books.

  • KettJoseph F. 2003. “Reflections on the History of Adolescence in America.” The History of the Family 8 no. 3: 355373.

  • KiddKenneth. 2004. Making American Boys: Boyology and the Feral Tale. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

  • KolodnyAnnette. 1975. The Lay of the Land: Metaphor as Experience and History in American Life and Letters. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • LearsJackson. 2009. Rebirth of a Nation: The Making of Modern America 1877–1920. New York: Harper Collins.

  • MacleodDavid I. 1983. Building Character in the American Boy: The Boy Scouts YMCA and Their Forerunners 1870–1920. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • MaillouxSteven. 1989. Rhetorical Power. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

  • MintzSteven. 2004. Huck’s Raft: A History of American Childhood. Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press of Harvard University.

  • MooreJacqueline M. 2010. Cow Boys and Cattle Men: Class and Masculinities on the Texas Frontier 1865–1900. New York: New York University Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • O’Connor. Stephen. 2003. Orphan Trains: The Story of Charles Loring Brace and the Children He Saved and Failed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PaineThomas. 1819. The American Crisis. London: R. Carlile.

  • ParilleKen. 2009. Boys at Home: Discipline Masculinity and the “Boy-Problem” in Nineteenth-Century American Literature. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • PeissKathy. 1986. Cheap Amusements: Working Women and Leisure in Turn-of-the-Century New York. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

  • RingelPaul. 2015. Commercializing Childhood: Children’s Magazines Urban Gentility and the Ideal of the American Child 1823–1918. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • SavageJon. 2007. Teenage: The Creation of Youth Culture. New York: Viking.

  • SmithHenry Nash. 1957. Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth. New York: Vintage Books.

  • StoneAlbert E. 1970. The Innocent Eye: Childhood in Mark Twain’s Imagination. Hamden, CT: Archon Books.

  • SumnerWilliam Graham. 1878. “What Our Boys Are Reading.” Scribner’s Monthly1 March.

  • TurnerFrederick Jackson. 1894. “The Significance of the Frontier in American History.” Proceedings of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin 41: 79112.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WheelerEdward. 1884. Wild Ivan the Boy Claude Duval; or the Brotherhood of Death. Beadle’s Half Dime Library vol. 35 no. 14. New York: Beadle and Adams.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WheelerEdward. 1884. The Double Daggers; or Deadwood Dick’s Defiance. Beadle’s Half Dime Library vol. 20 no. 4. New York: Beadle and Adams Half Dime Library.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WheelerEdward. [1877] 1997. “Deadwood Dick, the Prince of the Road; or, The Black Rider of the Black Hills.” Pp. 272358 in Reading the West: An Anthology of Dime Westerns ed. Bill Brown. Boston and New York: Bedford Books.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WhiteRichard. 1994. “Frederick Jackson Turner and Buffalo Bill.” Pp. 767 in The Frontier in American Culture: An Exhibition at the Newberry Library August 26 1994–January 7 1995 ed. James R. Grossman. Berkeley: University of California Press.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • WordenDaniel. 2011. Masculine Style: The American West and Literary Modernism. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Metrics

All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 1 1 1
Full Text Views 9 9 9
PDF Downloads 2 2 2