Friday, October 30, 2009

Edward Sylvester Ellis

In the field of series books Edward Sylvester Ellis (1840-1916) was certainly one of the most prolific authors I have encountered. Besides writing more than 150 books for juveniles-most of which were in series form- he wrote several hundred other works -historical, nonfiction, dime novels etc.

Denis R. Rogers assembled a several hundred page manuscript years ago which to the best of my knowledge was never published. It includes sections on his dime novels , pseudonyms, works (both major and minor) and other pertinent items about Edward Ellis. I have yet to see a more comprehensive work on any juvenile author from this ear (mid-19th-mid-20th century).

Here are some details about Ellis' life. These come from Rogers' work. He was born in 1840 in Geneva, Ohio. Clearly his family moved during his youth since he graduated from New Jersey Normal School in Trenton in about 1860. He began his career as a school teacher in Red bank, New Jersey. After early success, in particular as a dime novel writer, he gave up teaching to become a full time writer. This was in 1874.

In addition to the books Ellis wrote for motion pictures and also penned several musicals.

HIs juvenile books were published by a virtual who's who of publishing houses. Although Porter and Coates was a mainstay, numerous others published his first and later editions-Price-McGill, Merriam, Cassell, Dana Estes,Hurst, George M. Hill and many many more.

I will be reviewing some of his series as time goes on.


  1. Interesting post on Ellis. I have a few of his books in my collection. I didn't know Ellis wrote for motion pictures. Since much of the early film industry in the US was centered in New York City and New Jersey (Fort Lee), it makes sense he could have written film scenarios. I wonder which film companies? Kind of pity that it's highly likely the films don't survive.

  2. Edward Sylvester Ellis was an American author who was born in Ohio, and died at Cliff Island, Maine. He served as editor of Public Opinion (a daily newspaper), Golden Days and Holiday (both children's magazines). He specialized in boys' stories, inspirational biography, and history for both children and adults. He was a major author during the era of inexpensive fiction of the nineteenth century (dime novels). Because he wrote under dozens of pseudonyms, as well as under his own name, it is virtually impossible to know exactly how many books he wrote, but it is believed to be in the hundreds.