The Brady Mysteries: Casual Racism For Fun

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:

Old King Brady
Public Domain Super Heroes: Old King Brady

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:

18990421WhiteChinese2

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:

18990630White2

And here are the Bradys assisting African-Americans:

18990929Black2

But along the way, things really began to change and the Chinese make up most of the villains in the sample I have:

19010201Opium2

19010510Chinese2

And African-Americans get in on the villainy too:

19010614Black2

And if you think there’s no racism here, just click to enlarge the cover below to read the caption:

19010809BlackC2

And enlarge and read this one, with a Mexican slur:

19050224IndianMexican2

And this one, with a Chinese slur:

19050421WhiteChinese2

They even created Chinese Freemasons for villains:

19050707Chinese2

Because what could be worse than Freemasons who are also Chinese?

And here’s some racist dialogue in the caption:

19050901Chinese2

And look at the outrage — no caption needed — of a Mexican touching a white woman:

19050908Mexican2

Monstrous racism in this cover:

19051110Black2

The Chinese are villains even in Montana:

19051215Chinese2

And in San Francisco:

19060615Chinese2

Of course the white men aren’t afraid of this:

19060928Black2

Nah, a skeleton bolting in from a dark doorway is something white people see every damn day. WTF!

Another caption with a Chinese slur:

19061106Chinese2

Even on the sea the Chinese are a menace, again with racism in the caption:

19070125Chinese2

And let’s just put that slur in big letters in the title too:

19070405Chinese2

And the racist slur for Mexicans in this sub-title:

19070412Mexican2

And let’s again have some racism against Chinese in a caption:

19070510Chinese2

And another:

19071025Chinese2

And again:

19071206Chinese2

And most of all, while outnumbered:

19101111Chinese2

And wait, they neglected to use the earlier slur in this caption:

19080306Black2

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:

19070517Hindoo2

19081009Hindu2

19090910HinduSikh2

19091029Hindu2

And here we have someone with a fez in the background, for good measure:

19101007Hindu2

19110217Hindu2

But let’s return to some domestic racism:

19101230Black2

19111124BlackD2

And throw in a “gigantic negro” — because “they” come in only one size:

19120209Black2

And an “infuriated black”:

19120621BlackB2

And oh, wait, they also threw in dwarves to hate!

19000427Opium2

19070705Chinese2

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.

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3 Comments

Filed under Books: General

3 responses to “The Brady Mysteries: Casual Racism For Fun

  1. Why are you surprised? This is the same country that had a movie where the Klan were the heroes of the day.

    • mikecane

      Yes, Birth of a Nation.

      Edited to add: I guess I’m doubly surprised because this stuff was for kids, basically.

      • I’m not surprised at the target audience either. These were the dominant attitudes of the time, and the way you keep that ball rolling is to get the youngsters on board.
        The representations of race and class displayed in these books are blatant from our perspective, but is actually subtle for that time period.

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