Skip to main content

Skip navigation

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

Subject Guide