I came across this extraordinary collection of dime novels (actually they cost a nickel, but let’s not quibble) on Google Books, called Secret Service, featuring the exploits of Old and Young King Brady.
Here’s some information first from two sites:
According to this site, it was published from 1899 to 1925 — 1,374 issues in all! — which has to be some sort of record.
Out of that huge run, Google Books has one hundred issues. Of course I grabbed all of them.
What no site really mentions is just how absolutely racist this publication was.
It was basically these two white guys beating the shit out of Chinese, Blacks, “Hindoos,” dwarves(!), and Mexicans — with the stray white guy here and there.
I’d never seen anything like this before in my life. Cover after cover with non-whites as the villains. And this was considered mainstream entertainment!
After the break, some of the jaw-dropping covers.
It actually started out well, with crooks just being crooks:
There’s someone who’s white also being a villain along with someone who’s Chinese. That’s the earliest issue I have.
Another white villain:
And here are the Bradys assisting African-Americans:
But along the way, things really began to change and the Chinese make up most of the villains in the sample I have:
And African-Americans get in on the villainy too:
And if you think there’s no racism here, just click to enlarge the cover below to read the caption:
And enlarge and read this one, with a Mexican slur:
And this one, with a Chinese slur:
They even created Chinese Freemasons for villains:
Because what could be worse than Freemasons who are also Chinese?
And here’s some racist dialogue in the caption:
And look at the outrage — no caption needed — of a Mexican touching a white woman:
Monstrous racism in this cover:
The Chinese are villains even in Montana:
And in San Francisco:
Of course the white men aren’t afraid of this:
Nah, a skeleton bolting in from a dark doorway is something white people see every damn day. WTF!
Another caption with a Chinese slur:
Even on the sea the Chinese are a menace, again with racism in the caption:
And let’s just put that slur in big letters in the title too:
And the racist slur for Mexicans in this sub-title:
And let’s again have some racism against Chinese in a caption:
And most of all, while outnumbered:
And wait, they neglected to use the earlier slur in this caption:
But I think, back then, saying “the black” was racist.
At some point, someone must have told the writer(s) about people in India because they star as a racist threat too in several issues:
And here we have someone with a fez in the background, for good measure:
But let’s return to some domestic racism:
And throw in a “gigantic negro” — because “they” come in only one size:
And an “infuriated black”:
And oh, wait, they also threw in dwarves to hate!
Sure, you can say they were Chinese dwarves — but should there be any difference?
All of this was done so matter-of-factly, as if nothing was wrong in doing it. That’s what’s so astonishing to me.
And that all of it was published from 1899 to 1925 — in one-thousand three-hundred and seventy-four issues!
I don’t know why it seemed to get uglier as the years went on. I have no idea why the Chinese were seen as such villains. Or Mexicans. Or people from India (Hindus — or were they Sikhs? did it even matter to the writer(s)?) Or poor African-Americans. Or even, WTF, dwarves?
That they were, that whites were the villains so rarely, throws light upon an aspect of popular culture I’ve rarely seen. This stuff was not hate literature — and yet it was.
All of that stuff was considered just fine for children to read. But what was the accumulated effect of a child reading that over and over, of seeing non-whites as villains again and again and again? It couldn’t have done anything good.
I downloaded all of these from Google Books just last night. So I haven’t even peeked inside them. If the covers are that bad, just how bad does it get inside? I’m not in any hurry to find out.