Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Dick & Fitzgerald’s American Bloods

Lawrence R. Fitzgerald was born in Philadelphia in 1826. He was employed by Burgess and Zieber as a mercantile salesman for two years. In 1842 Burgess moved to New York where he organized the bookseller and publishing firm Burgess, Stringer & Co. Fitzgerald went with him. In 1846 Burgess went into copartnership with Ransom Garrett as Burgess and Garrett. Burgess retired in 1850.

Ransom Garrett next partnered with William B. Dick and Lawrence R. Fitzgerald in the New York based Garrett & Company until November 1, 1856 when the three renewed their partnership as Garrett, Dick & Fitzgerald.  The company was renamed Dick & Fitzgerald on July 8, 1857, when Garrett retired. Fitzgerald died on October 10, 1881.

Garrett & Company were booksellers and publishers whose trade consisted of the United States, Canada and the West Indies. Topping their list were highwaymen penny bloods, sea stories, pirate tales, westerns, city mysteries and comic works like ‘The Adventures of Obadiah Oldbuck’ and ‘The Wonderful Adventures of Bachelor Butterfly’. British novelists Pierce Egan and J.F. Smith were well represented. Frank Beard and John McLenan were among the illustrators.

Dick & Fitzgerald published a Series of 112-page ‘Celebrated Highwaymen and Housebreakers’ novels for a quarter apiece. The covers were printed in colors upon enameled paper,  and each novel was illustrated with a few woodcut engravings. Most of the highwaymen bloods were hundred and twelve page excerpts from James Malcolm Rymer’s ‘Edith the Captive’ and its sequel Edith Heron. One exception is the title ‘Fearless Fred; or, the Highwayman’s Bride’ (c.1863), which was a companion to ‘Claude Duval’.  The title on the title-page was ‘Fearless Fred, the Outlaw.’

Fearless Fred follows the adventures of the titular hero, abandoned as a baby in the corner of a tavern in St. Giles, raised by a transported felon named Botany Bay Nell, in search of a cedar-wood box with clues to his mysterious parentage. The villain, also in search of the box is Peter Bayley, a thief-taker modeled on Jonathan Wild. Going by the “by author of” titles FF was written by Rymer, but I have my doubts. It may even have been an American author since the title never appeared in England, at least not under that name.

Images courtesy of 
Joe Rainone and E.M. Sanchez-Saavedra

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