The Webster Series.
Edward Stratemeyer read the writings of Horatio Alger, Jr. as a youth and later went on to write stories in his style and even 11 books as Alger with approval first by Alger himself and later Alger’s sister and executor.
In the early 20th Century the book marketplace was flooded with cheap Alger editions where the copyrights had expired. These were printed on cheap pulp paper and were often severely abridged. It made it hard for Stratemeyer’s own Alger completions to sell well.
However, he felt that the themes in the Alger stories with virtuous yet vigorous characters making their way in the world and starting out in business would be of interest. The Boys of Business series (1906-1911) for Cupples & Leon was one example of this kind of writing. The Webster Series (1909-1915) was another.
Each of these stories are independent but the intent to liken the stories to Alger was not left as a subtext. This 1911 C&L ad copy was probably written by Stratemeyer himself per the practice of the time:
We have made a distinct find in Mr. Frank V. Webster, who is under contract to write exclusively for us. We are his sole publishers, and all of the books he has written are listed on this page and the next. Mr. Webster’s style is much like that of the late lamented Horatio Alger, Jr., but his tales are all up to date. In fact, Frank V. Webster is known as the new Alger, and he certainly deserves the title, for these are the cleanest, cleverest boys’ stories obtainable to-day, and they are rapidly taking first place in point of sales and popularity.
The books started out very inexpensively, 35¢, and each cover had an illustration that reflected the individual story. The jackets matched these line drawing covers. Interior illustrations were pen and ink style on plain paper. By 1921 the publisher had adopted full-color jackets.
Some of the titles were reprinted by Saalfield in the 1930s for the cheap dime store market.
Most of the Webster series, including the unprecedented 10 volumes in the initial year (called a “breeder set” by the collectors) were ghostwritten by Howard R. Garis. Other Syndicate writers also worked on the volumes.
1. Only a Farm Boy (1909)
2. Tom the Telephone Boy (1909)
3. The Boy from the Ranch (1909)
4. The Young Treasure Hunter (1909)
5. Bob the Castaway (1909)
6. The Young Firemen of Lakeville (1909)
7. The Newsboy Partners (1909)
8. The Boy Pilot of the Lakes (1909)
9. Two Boy Gold Miners (1909)
10. Jack the Runaway (1909)
11. Comrades of the Saddle (1910)
12. The Boys of Bellwood School (1910)
13. Bob Chester’s Grit (1911)
14. Airship Andy (1911)
15. The High School Rivals (1911)
16. Darry the Life Saver (1911)
17. Dick the Bank Boy (1911)
18. Ben Hardy’s Flying Machine (1911)
19. The Boys of the Wireless (1912)
20. Harry Watson’s High School Days (1912)
21. The Boy Scouts of Lennox (1915)
22. Tom Taylor at West Point (1915)
23. Cowboy Dave (1915)
24. Two Boys of the Battleship (1915)
25. Jack of the Pony Express (1915)