Cheap Thrills or, Selections from DePaul’s Pulps Collection Now on Display

DePaul Special Collections and Archives is pleased to announce a new exhibit on the first floor of the John T. Richardson Library. The exhibit Cheap Thrills or, Selections from DePaul’s Pulps Collection explores the formats and themes of two different types of early popular fiction. Dime novels were self-contained pieces of fiction that were inexpensively produced, consistently published in intervals, and cost ten cents each. Pulp magazines sprang up in 1896 and were very similar to dime novels, but were printed on wood pulp paper. Wood pulp paper was extremely cheap to manufacture, making pulp magazines even more affordable. Many dime novel series transitioned to wood pulp paper, thus turning into pulp magazines. These types of inexpensive fiction encouraged the general public, and especially young readers, to read for pleasure.

The books on display, dating from 1885 to 1950, represent some of the most popular genres in fiction at the time: westerns, adventure fiction, detective fiction, and fiction for children. Like readers in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, the exhibit allows visitors to judge the books by their covers. Dime novels and pulp magazines were sold at newsstands, which were often overrun by many different titles of dime novels and pulps competing against each other. To make their titles stand out, dime novels and pulps had splashy, action-filled covers that showed the reader what kind of story they were in for. The stories inside were escapist in nature with themes relating to the changes caused by urbanization and technology in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Visitors to the exhibit can learn more about each genre’s specific tropes and themes and explore how they are manifested on the covers.

All the action and derring-do of Cheap Thrills is on display through June in the wall cases on the first floor of the John T. Richardson Library. For questions or more information on the exhibit or the Pulps Collection, please feel free to contact Nora Gabor (

To learn more about DePaul Special Collections and Archives, visit us in room 314 of the John T. Richardson Library or contact us at

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