Monday, February 16, 2009

Old Boys' Book Collectors Part Five

Frank Jay returned to the columns of Notes and Queries (12 S. X. 18 Mar 1922) with a query on “Early Victorian Literature” dealing with the penny dreadfuls of Edward Lloyd. Replies were submitted by W. Roberts, Albert Hall, J.B., M.I.M.C., Aleck Abrahams, Andrew de Ternant, Archibald Sparke, and H., finishing in N&Q 12 S. X. 10 June 1922. Running concurrently was another Frank Jay contribution, “John Frederick Smith, Novelist” (12 S. X. 8 April 1922,) continued with contributions from P. J. Anderson, (20 May 1922) and W. B. H. (20 May 1922). From here on I only know of the activities of the old boys book collectors in Collectors Miscellany up to March 1935. *(Update: I have since found a copy of CM dated Sept 1951, still published by Joseph Parks, Saltburn-by-the-sea, Yorkshire.)

Frank Jay and Barry Ono (“King of the Penny Dreadfuls”) had a falling out when Jay sold his vast collection and referred to such penny dreadfuls as “Blueskin” as trash. Most of the collectors took Barry Ono’s side on the matter. Frank Jay seems to have resented Barry Ono’s constant references to “bloods” and “fierce boys journals.” Frank Jay died in 1934 and Barry Ono in 1941.

Across the channel the collectors of dime novels and dime novel story papers had their own small press. The best account of early dime novel fandom is Michael L. Cook's introduction to “Dime Novel Roundup: Annotated Index 1931-1981” published in 1983. The earliest small press dime novel publication was Ralph F. Cummings (Reckless Ralph‘s) “Novel Hunter's Yearbook” published in Farnumnsville, Massachusetts and sold for a dime. “At home, and over the sea, we are hunting for novels, you and me.” This ran irregularly from 1926 to 1931, when it became “Reckless Ralph's Dime Novel Roundup” still published today under the title, “Dime Novel Roundup.”

In 1931 Frank T. Fries of Orrville, Ohio put together “Midget Monthly Magazine” which continued as “Midget Story Paper” in 1932. In November, 1932, the paper was renamed “Blood and Thunder Story Paper” and ran to 1935. Issues often include reprints from other Dime Novel series such as “Work and Win” and “Boys of New York.”

Reckless Ralph had a new venture in 1932, “Novel World,” featuring articles for the dime novel collector and advertisements for the sale and trade of dime novels. It was published six times per year in Grafton, Massachusetts and ran to1933.

“The Collector’s Journal.” I don’t have dates for this publication but New Series No. 5 was dated August-September 1933. The publisher was James Madison, 465 South Detroit St, Los Angeles, Cal., U.S.A. Madison advertised his publication in the UK “Collector’s Miscellany.”

1935 brought forth the monthly “Reckless Ralph's Twenty-Five Cent Novel Library” from Ralph F. Cummings, Grafton and Fisherville, Massachusetts. “The Great Romances. Their influence on Minor Sensational Literature and the Dime Novel,” by G. H. Cordier was title story in the first issue. In 1936 Reckless Ralph was at it again with “Pioneers and Scouts of the Old West,” published from Grafton, Massachusetts. This was a four-page newsletter published by The Ezra Meeker Ox-Trail Association. Ezra Meeker was a frontiersman who traveled from Indiana to the Pacific Coast in 1852.

“The House of Beadle and Adams and its dime and nickel novels; the story of a vanished literature” by Albert Johannsen in three massive volumes,1950, University of Oklahoma Press. You can find the text entire HERE.

In Volume 21 of “The American Book Collector,” Arlington Heights, Illinois (1950 to - ?) appeared a long series of articles by J. Edward Leithead, of Philadelphia. Leithead was a “thorough researcher of the West and wrote many novels and novelettes for the Western magazines during the “Golding Era” of the pulps. He was a regular contributor to Edward Leblanc’s Dime Novel Round-Up --”

The Eleven articles in the series between 1968 and 1973 are:

"Legendary Heros and the Dime Novels."
"The Saga of Young Wild West."
"The Revolutionary War In Dime Novels."
"Tanbark And Spangles In Dime Novels."
"Buffalo Bill Multi-Storied Scout and Plainsman."
"The Outlaws Rode Hard In Dime Novel Days."
"The Diamond Dicks :Frontier Lawmen."
"The Great Detective Team : Old And Young King Brady."
"The Matchless Nick Carter."
“The Civil War in Dime Novels”
“The Klondike Stampede in Dime Novels.”

Everything is covered from the Liberty Boys of '76 to Jesse James.

At the end of the tenth article it is reported that Leithead died of a heart attack leaving one article of his left to be published. The article appeared in the next issue titled “The Klondike Stampede in Dime Novels.” Further Leithead dime-novel articles appeared in the “Dime Novel Roundup.”

In Canada William Henry Gander (1898-1966), a news-agent in Transcona, Manitoba, published The Story Paper Collector, “printed and issued occasionally,” Vol. 1 No. 1, Jan-Mar 1941. No. 1 was reprinted in Mar 1943 in an edition of 104 copies. “I must here express gratitude to Ralph Cummings “Dime Novel Round-Up,” and the now-suspended “Collector's Miscellany,” long published in England by Joseph Parks, for the inspiration necessary to attempt this modest endeavor.” It lasted for at least fifty issues. William Gander died 8/4/66.

“Children’s Periodicals of the Nineteenth Century a Survey and Bibliography” by Sheila Egoff, a native of Ontario. London: Library Association Pamphlet Number Eight., 1951.

“The Dime Novel Western” by Daryl Jones, Bowling Green State University, 1978.

Books on dime novels continue to be published. Randolph J. Cox, who took over the editing chores on “Dime Novel Roundup” from Edward T. Leblanc in 1994, (Leblanc took the reins from Ralph Cummings in 1952) published “Dime Novel Companion” in 2000 for Greenwood Press.

In 2005 Joe Rainone published “Art and History of American Popular Fiction” (NY: Almond Press) in two lavishly illustrated volumes. Vol. IA The Five cent Wide Awake Library, Vol. I The Frank Reade Weekly and Early Science Fiction in the Dime Novels and Story Papers.

“The Continental Dime Novel” was published in 2006 by by Rimmer Sterk (Dutch) and Jim Conkright (American).

Meanwhile back in England, in 1941, Montague Summers (1880-1948) wrote “A Gothic Bibliography” published in a limited edition of 750 numbered copies by The Fortune Press. His information on penny bloods and penny dreadfuls is full of falsehoods and errors and all information should be absorbed with skepticism. This is followed by “A Bibliography of Bloods” by John Medcraft privately printed in Dundee in 1945.

Herbert Leckenby (b.1889) founded the Collector’s Digest in 1946. The co-founder was Robert Charles Blythe (b. 1913.) It was edited by Eric Fayne, and is published today by Mary Cadogan. Collector's Digest Christmas Annuals began publishing in 1947 and was edited by Herbert Leckenby & H. Maurice Bond.

[Image courtesy Norman Wright]

Story paper enthusiasts from the Collector's Digest founded The London Old Boys' Book Club, still active today, in 1948 and the Northern Old Boys' Book Club followed in 1950. In Australia they have the Sydney Old Boys' Book Club otherwise known as the Golden Hours Club. “The Golden Hours Magazine” was published in Sydney by Syd Smith. It lasted seven issues produced over four years Mar1960 to Feb 1964.

In October, 1948 “Boys will be Boys the story of Sweeney Todd, Deadwood Dick, Sexton Blake, Billy Bunter, Dick Barton, et al” by E. S. Turner, was published in London by Michael Joseph Ltd. A new revised edition followed in 1957 and a further new revised edition in 1975.

“Popular Fiction 100 Years ago; an unexplored tract of literary history” by Margaret Dalziel came out in 1957 from London publishers Cohen and West.

The Autobiography of Frank Richards,” Memorial Edition, came out in 1962 from C. Skilton and “Greyfriars School: a prospectus” compiled from the records of the late Frank Richards (pseud.) by J. S. Butcher reached its second edition in 1965. The publisher was Cassell. “Together with some notes and comments on the teaching staff, scholars and domestic staff, and on the environs, history and sporting achievements of the school.”

“Fiction for the Working Man, 1830-50: a study of the literature produced for the working classes in early Victorian urban England” by Louis James published in 1963 by Oxford University Press has some interesting stories about eccentric collectors of penny bloods.

The first issue of “Book and Magazine Collector,” a monthly, still in publication, was published in March 1984. The magazine was closely linked with authors from the London Old Boys Book Club. The publisher is John Dean. [Thanks to Huib van Opstal for the date.]

In 1970 William Oliver Guillemont Lofts (b.1923) and Derek John Adley (b.1927) offered “The Men Behind Boys’ Fiction” published by Howard Baker. “The Saint and Leslie Charteris” by Lofts and Adley came out in 1971 from Hutchinson Library Services. In 1975 the two authors published “The World of Frank Richards” published by Howard Baker.

Mary Cadogan and Patricia Craig published “You’re a Brick, Angela! A new look at girl’s fiction from 1839-1975” (V. Gollancz 1976), “Women and Children First: the fiction of the two world wars” (Gollancz 1978) and “Frank Richards, the chap behind the chums” (Viking 1988).

“The Durable Desperadoes” by William Vivian Butler was published by Macmillan in 1973. A past President of the London Old Boys Book Club, John Wernham, published a number of books under the Museum Press imprint including a series of “Charles Hamilton Companions.” He also published “Sexton Blake a Celebration of the Great Detective,” and “Lightning Swords & Smoking Pistols: the swashbucker in story-papers and comics,” co-written by Norman Wright and David Ashford.

In 1988 Kirsten Drotner wrote “English Children and their Magazines 1751-1945.” Publisher was Yale University Press.

“Bullies, Beaks, and Flannelled Fools: an Annotated Bibliography of Boys’ School Fiction 1742-1990” by Robert J. Kirkpatrick, 1990. “The Encyclopaedia of Boys’ School Stories” by Robert J. Kirkpatrick, Ashgate Publishing Company, January 2000. “The Encyclopaedia of Girls’ School Stories” by Sue Sims and Hilary Clare, Ashgate Publishing Company, January 2000.

In 2002 Steve Holland published the Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature v.2.1 (EoCL) in CD format from Underworld Studios. Among the many, many contributors were Norman Wright, Jess Nevins, William H. P. Crewsdon, Jim Mackenzie, Eric Bates, Dennis L. Bird, and Steve Holland.

Joseph Parks “Collector's Miscellany” and Herbert Leckenby's “Collector's Digest” were both being published simultaneously in 1951 so it seems there was no direct connection between the two Old Boys' Book Clubs. The first collected Victorian story papers and penny dreadfuls, the second mostly post-Victorian story papers. There were, however, meetings between some of the second OBCC members and penny dreadful collector's Barry Ono and A. Lawson.

Not every person mentioned in these posts belonged to the official clubs. Bill Lofts, for instance was a member of the London Club, but his co-writer Derek Adley never was. There are many different avenues to collecting, pulps run up against dime novels, and penny dreadfuls opposite story papers like “The Magnet,” while academics are fond of G.W.M. Reynolds, J. F. Smith, and the “London Journal.” A book length study could even include such pulp fanzines as “Xenophile,” and “Blood 'n' Thunder” which often cross over into dime novel territory.


  1. Hello: I am a resident of Transcona Manitoba Canada and I would like any information you might be willing to share on William Gander who died in 1966 and published the Story Paper Collector.

    Thank you:

    Bryan Shore

  2. See Part Seven for more>