On this day in 1860, the first “Dime Novel” in U.S. history was published. It had the jaw-breaking title – – “Malaeska, the Indian Wife of the White Hunter”. Its author was listed as one Ann S. Stephens. Somehow its images of the frontier life caught the American psyche. It was the launching of a phenomenon.
Over the next 40 years, the Dime Novel and its portrayal of the American Frontier combined to make national legends of nobodies. Without them a 5′ 7″, 21 year-old named Henry McCarty might have just been a Brooklyn Kid who was gunned down, broke, in Fort Sumner N.M. Instead the “Dimes” recorded a youth who had, at 14, changed his name to William Bonney. They changed it again to Billy the Kid and claimed he had gunned down 21 men before his 21st birthday. (The real number was probably lower than 5.)
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