Dime novels were a format of inexpensive popular fiction produced in the United States between 1860 and 1930. Available for as little as a nickel or as much as a dime, they opened up leisure reading for the masses in a way previously not possible. Originally featuring stories about the American frontier and the West, cowboys eventually gave way to detectives, like Nick Carter, and boy adventurers and entrepreneurs, like Frank Reade Jr. This site contains materials from two major dime novel collections in Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University, the Albert Johannsen and Edward T. LeBlanc Collections. This work has been generously supported by the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Visitors may browse the entire full-text collection, explore a particular series or author, or start at our about pages to learn more about dime novels.

News & Updates

March 28, 2023

NIU Libraries is offering a $2,000 Horatio Alger fellowship to conduct research in our collections. Apply here by April 30, 2023.

April 14, 2022

We are excited to announce that NIU's "Tousey Project" received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities! This project will digitize a total of 4,218 dime novels and story papers published by Frank Tousey with partners at Villanova University, Stanford University, Bowling Green State University, and Oberlin College and Conservatory.

October 28, 2020

Please join us on November 4th and 5th from 6:30-8:30 PM CST for a virtual symposium on the dime novel, marking the complete of the Johannsen Project. More than a dozen dime novel scholars will participate in live discussions. More info, including how to register, here.