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Rare Books and Special Collections At Northern Illinois University: American Popular Literature Collection

A brief guide to Rare Books and Special Collections at Northern Illinois University

American Popular Culture Links

American Popular Literature Collection

The American Popular Literature Collection is comprised of mass-appeal publications issued in America from roughly 1840 - 1940. The collection includes first or early editions of best-sellers by both American and British authors of this period, both for juveniles and adults. Among the authors represented in this collection are Victor Appleton(Tom Swift books), Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan books), Stella M. Francis (Campfire Girls series), Oliver Optic (various boys' series), and Helen Louise Thorndyke (Honey Bunch series). Also included are popular history, gift books, poetry, periodicals such as Chatterbox and Frank Leslie's serials, and other publications that were best-sellers or designed for mass audiences. This collection complements the Horatio Alger Collection, the Edward T. LeBlanc and Albert Johannsen Dime Novel Collections, The Merriwell Collection, and The Edward Stratemeyer Collection.

While we are quite strong in boys' series books, we continue to add vigorously to this collection, particularly in the area of books written by women, or for a female audience. If you are interested in helping us add to this collection, or would like to make a suggestion for a purchase, please contact the Curator, Sarah Cain.

Recent additions to the American Popular Literature Collection include first editions of works by Louisa May Alcott, John Greenleaf Whittier, H. Rider Haggard, Elizabeth Stuart Phelps, Ann S. Stephens, Fanny Fern, Constance Fenimore Woolson, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, and the papers of Charley Perlberg, a writer of Westerns in the 1980s and 1990s.

Research in this collection is eligible for financial support through the annual Horatio Alger Fellowship for the Study of American Popular Culture.

Additional purchasing support for this collection is supported through the Gordon W. and Jeanne M. Huber Fund. To donate, please visit the NIU Foundation website, and designate your gift in the memo field for the Gordon W. & Jeanne M. Huber Fund. 

Class Visit Lists Drawn from the American Popular Literature Collections


Horatio Alger Fellowship for the Study of American Popular Culture
Northern Illinois University

The University Libraries, Northern Illinois University, invite applications for the Horatio Alger Fellowship for the Study of American Popular Culture. Funding is available to scholars who will be using materials from the Libraries’ major holdings in American popular culture. These holdings include the Albert Johannsen and Edward T. LeBlanc Collections of more than 50,000 dime novels, and the nation’s preeminent collections related to Horatio Alger, Jr., and Edward Stratemeyer. Eligible collections also include our comic book, science fiction and fantasy literature, and American Popular Literature Collections. Topics which could draw on the collections’ strengths might include the plight of urban children, image of the American West in popular literature, widespread use of pseudonyms, and stereotypical portrayals. Preference will be given to applicants who signify an interest in conducting research related to Horatio Alger, Jr.

The 2018 Fellowship award consists of a $2000 stipend. 

Candidates should submit a letter of interest, a curriculum vitae, a brief proposal for their research, and two letters of recommendation to: Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections, University Libraries, Horatio Alger Fellowship, Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, IL 60115-2868. Electronic applications may be emailed to

The deadline for applications is May 31, 2018, with research taking place between July 1 and December 31, 2018.

Unfortunately, due to state and university regulations, this award is available to US residents only.

Subject Guide

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Sarah Cain