In 1855, when Francis Scott Street and Francis Shubael Smith bought The New York Weekly Dispatch, Street & Smith embarked on a publishing mission that remained remarkably prolific and profitable for over one hundred years. Street & Smith rapidly became a "fiction factory," producing a wide variety of popular literature, including dime novels, pulp magazines, books in series for juveniles, fashion and homemaking magazines, comics, and adventure stories. The company viewed fiction as a commodity, with Street & Smith editors dictating plots, character types, and other conventions to the firm's stable of writers. As a result, Street & Smith authors, including such literary figures as Horatio Alger, Theodore Dreiser, Upton Sinclair, and Jack London were often disguised by house pseudonyms and wrote to carefully calculated formulae, with their respective products subject to extensive rewriting by Street & Smith editors.
Street & Smith illustrators worked under the same editorial constraints as did the writers. If an editor received unacceptable illustrations, the illustrator was told to "get busy and change them then and there." Nevertheless, Street & Smith eventually became "an incubator where the greatest illustrators in the country were professionally born." These included Harvey Dunn, Joseph Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell, Winfield Scott, Tom Lovell, Anton Otto Fisher, Amos Sewell, and N.C. Wyeth.
Scanned images of all dime novel, and a selection of serial, covers which were microfilmed as part of the original NEH project. The collection of images can be accessed via the Library's CONTENTdm server and can be browsed as well as being fully searchable by keyword, title, series title, and author.
In this gallery of cover images we have selected what we feel is a representative sampling of the great variety of art to be found in the Street & Smith Collection. For a more complete collection of images, please see the dime novel holding list.
Images of the "one and only" Yellow Kid, original standard bearer of Street & Smith.
See the inner workings of the Street & Smith company.
Inventory to the editorial records of the Street & Smith company.
There are many other web sites devoted to pulp fiction. Here are just a few of them: