For the past few years, we have occasionally worked with Distributed Proofreaders to create Project Gutenberg eBooks of titles from Frank Tousey‘s Ten Cent Hand Book line, a series of inexpensive booklets covering a wide variety of topics from taxidermy to detective work. The most recent addition to this collection of electronic texts is How to Make Candy, which doesn’t serve so well as a contemporary recipe book but is quite fascinating for what it reveals about historical candy-making, which apparently involved such disturbing and dangerous ingredients as tea-cups full of bullock’s blood and the occasional “half a grain” of mercury.
While you obviously should not try this at home, you can find the full text online at Project Gutenberg.
The illustration from the first installment of An Old Man’s Darling in the New York Family Story Paper.
Our latest Project Gutenberg eBook, produced with the help of Distributed Proofreaders, is An Old Man’s Darling by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, another of the author’s early efforts for The New York Family Story Paper, published later in the same year as The Bride of the Tomb and Queenie’s Terrible Secret. In this story, the young heroine receives a dire warning from a seaside fortune teller while visiting Cape May; unfortunately for her, it proves to be all too accurate, and she experiences more than her fair share of murder, deception and heartache before the inevitable happy conclusion.
The full text of the story can be downloaded or read online through Project Gutenberg. Readers might also be interested in looking at the original story paper installments from July 25 and August 1, 1881 to see some illustrations not found in later reprints of the tale.
Our latest eBook release, produced with the help of Distributed Proofreaders, is the final volume of the Dreadnought Boys series of early 20th-century naval adventures, following our earlier releases of The Dreadnought Boys on Battle Practice and The Dreadnought Boys on Aero Service. This time around, in The Dreadnought Boys in Home Waters, heroes Ned Strong and Herc Taylor are temporarily promoted so that they can command a small ship during a war simulation, but they soon find themselves embroiled in a plot forged by traitors and foreign spies. As usual for the series, there is plenty of action and not a lot of subtlety. To a greater degree than in earlier volumes discussed here, the period’s racism is visible through the book’s decidedly unflattering portrayal of the Japanese. While the book is unlikely to bring much joy to the contemporary reader on its own merits, it does serve as another interesting document of how military themes were being presented to young readers just before the start of World War I.
As usual, the full text of the book may be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.
As mentioned in our recent post about The Senator’s Bride, that novel was Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller’s only work to spawn a direct sequel. We are now ready to bring the sequel, The Senator’s Favorite, to wider availability in eBook form. By volunteering at the Distributed Proofreaders project, you can help expedite this process and perhaps have some fun in the process. Please read our earlier Proofreading the Digital Library post to learn how it works, then join in the work at the project page.
Our latest Project Gutenberg / Distributed Proofreaders eBook release is Leonie, the Typewriter, a self-described “thrilling romance of actual life” about the startling adventures of a young woman who operates a typewriter. First serialized in the New York Family Story Paper in 1890, and later reprinted as a stand-alone pamphlet, this is a good example of the period’s story paper melodrama, mashing together romance, crime drama and tragedy in an effort to appeal to a broad range of readers.
It is often commented that disguise was a significant trope of this period, and that these stories may have helped to break down traditional cultural barriers. Leonie nicely exemplifies this trend, with its female protagonist disguised as a boy for a good portion of the story, and students of gender studies will likely find the portrayal and some of the plot consequences quite interesting. The story is also remarkably fast-paced, wasting no time in getting to the melodramatic twists and turns, and featuring a few memorably horrific moments before reaching its inevitable happy conclusion.
The entire text of the novel may be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.
Our latest Project Gutenberg release, produced with the help of Distributed Proofreaders, is an early novel by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, The Senator’s Bride.
Written before she achieved widespread popularity with The Bride of the Tomb, but published later, this shows what sort of novels she might have written if financial needs had not led her to pursue a career writing sensational melodramas. It is also one of her most personal works — a story about losing a spouse and child, written not too long after illness had claimed the lives of her first husband and baby.
That historical context should not lead the reader to believe that this novel is completely without sensation or melodrama, or that it gives a particular deep insight into its author’s psyche; Mrs. Miller was clearly stronger at creating convoluted and surprising plots than she was at conveying emotional depth. However, there are obvious echoes of her life to be observed if you are familiar with her biography, like an interesting tribute to another popular story paper novelist, Mrs. E.D.E.N. Southworth, who Mrs. Miller visited early in her career, and whose home is pointed out as a significant landmark by a character in the novel. The book also shows — through an overtly racist subplot involving an unfailingly loyal ex-slave, and through its portrayals of former Confederate soldiers — some of the ways in which Mrs. Miller, and presumably many other Southerners of the time, tried to conceptualize the aftermath of the Civil War.
The Senator’s Bride is also noteworthy as Mrs. Miller’s only novel to have a direct sequel — The Senator’s Favorite — written many years later, and likely to be presented here in a few months. Stay tuned! In the meantime, the first novel can be read in its entirety or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.
Our latest eBook release, produced with the help of Distributed Proofreaders and published through Project Gutenberg, is the New Sabbath Library edition of The Prince of the House of David by Rev. J. H. Ingraham. This novel tells of the events leading up to and immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion, as described by the letters of a young woman named Adina. Its author, who first became well-known by writing sensational adventure serials, is now probably best remembered for the fact that another of his epistolary novels, The Pillar of Fire, helped inspire the iconic film, The Ten Commandments.
It is important to note that this edition of the novel is not the author’s original version; instead, it has been (as the editors put it) “thoroughly revised and in parts rewritten, all unnecessary repetition appearing in the original edition of the book being omitted.” This opens up some potentially interesting avenues for study. The very successful original version of the novel likely reflected and informed popular views of Christianity in the mid nineteenth century. The changes made in this later “cheap” edition (designed for use in Sunday schools, and taking advantage of some of the publishing practices of contemporary dime novels) may also reveal some interesting things about the culture of the time.
If you want to investigate further, the entire New Sabbath Library edition of the book may be downloaded or read online through Project Gutenberg. The original version can be found in the Making of America collection if you are interested in comparing the differences.
The illustration from the first installment of An Old Man’s Darling in the New York Family Story Paper.
If you’re looking for something fun yet productive to work on over the holiday break, why not volunteer to help create a new eBook edition of a long-forgotten novel? We produce quite a few of these in collaboration with Distributed Proofreaders, as described in this earlier post. Our latest title to become available is An Old Man’s Darling, an early novel by Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, author of the local favorite, The Bride of the Tomb. It was first serialized in The New York Family Story Paper (starting in issue #407) before being reprinted in book form. If you want to join in and help out, just pay a visit to the project page and get started!
Our latest eBook release, courtesy of Distributed Proofreaders and Project Gutenberg, is our first title from the prolific Laura Jean Libbey, a writer best-known for her frequent contributions to story papers such as The Fireside Companion. Like Mrs. Alex. McVeigh Miller, whose work has been mentioned fairly frequently in this blog, Libbey specialized in melodramatic serial romances full of plot twists and over-the-top situations.
The new release is A Dangerous Flirtation; or, Did Ida May Sin?, in which a poor, young telegraph operator endures all sorts of abuse and tragedy on her way to the inevitable happy ending. The pacing is extremely fast, with one dramatic situation after another occurring with little time for reflection, presumably to keep the cliffhanger-hungry audience buying papers week after week. Logic and consistent character motivations are left by the wayside, but readers looking for sensational material typical of the period — betrayals, deaths, accidental marriages, illegal misuse of sanitariums, frequent swooning, and multiple bouts of brain fever — will get a hefty dose.
As always, the full text of the story may be read online or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.
Today’s new Project Gutenberg / Distributed Proofreaders eBook release is something of a milestone: the thirty-fourth and final Motor Matt adventure, A Hoodoo Machine; or, The Motor Boys’ Runabout No. 1313. We released an eBook of the very first story in June of 2014, so it has actually taken more than twice as long to produce digital versions of these stories than it did to write and publish them in the first place; the entire sequence of adventures was first printed between February and December of 1909, and according to the author’s autobiography, they were written quite swiftly (and for only $75 each).
This final adventure sees Motor Matt acquiring a seemingly cursed car (which he cannot resist trying to fix). Predictably enough, it leads him and Joe McGlory into a new round of trouble related to Joe’s potential gold mine claim. In the end, a couple of brief paragraphs bring the whole series to a happy conclusion, though many loose ends — especially Motor Matt’s mysterious background — remain unresolved. It is not particularly surprising that the series ended when it did — the author had just about run out of new motor vehicles for Matt to aspire to run — but at the same time, he had clearly allowed himself plenty of contingencies for new plots had the publisher demanded more.
As a body of work, the Motor Matt adventures have to be viewed for what they are: hastily-written juvenile fiction reflecting the commercial demands (and many of the prejudices) of the early 20th century. Within these constraints, however, the author has delivered significantly more variety in action, plotting and characterization than the formula strictly demanded, also capturing some of the spirit of a time of rapid change in the process. The books also offer a fascinatingly conflicted blend of broad, offensive stereotyping with messages of tolerance and cooperation. It is hard to say just how much cultural impact these stories had — given its brief existence, it is certainly far from being one of the best-remembered dime novel series — but it nonetheless serves as a time capsule worthy of study. With the completion of this eBook conversion project, such study is now easier than it ever was in the past!
The final story, along with all the rest, can be read or downloaded through Project Gutenberg.