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Larry Dingman Collection

Documents the rise of American Western fiction and the cowboy novel.

The Dingman Western Collection was acquired by the Division in 2012. Larry Dingman, owner of the Dinkytown Antiquarian Book Store in Minneapolis, was known as the “King of Western Fiction.” Over several decades he amassed an important collection that documented the origins and rise of the literature of the American West. It covers the genre from its earliest manifestation in explorers’ journals, letters, and diaries, to the present day in all its diverse representations and subgenres. The collection consists of about six thousand hardcover western fiction novels, four hundred paperback western fiction novels, and about one hundred reference works. It also contains numerous anthologies of Western short stories and poetry, many of which were compiled by famous Western writers.

In 1860, with the birth of the Dime Novel, Americans were able to purchase a wealth of popular fiction at a fixed, inexpensive price. The stories were patriotic, often nationalistic tales of encounters between Native Americans and settlers. Many times, the tales were fictionalized stories based on real people such as Buffalo Bill, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid. By the 1890s, Dime Novels and their younger siblings, the Pulp Magazines were being devoured by the American public. The bold color covers depicting scenes of courage and bloodshed appealed to a mostly adolescent audience, though sales were not limited to this group. Pulp magazines eventually overtook the dime novels and retained their popularity well into the 1950s. The Dingman Western Collection contains a colorful selection of these beautifully illustrated magazines which touch upon nearly all the aspects of Western literature that have become so familiar to us all. 

In 1902, Owen Wister published what is considered to be the first “real” Western, The Virginian. This novel exposed the genre to a wider, more sophisticated audience, and established classic features of the Western genre (like the six-shooter showdown) that would endure for decades to come. From Owen Wister and Zane Gray in the early 20th century, to Sherman Alexie and Leslie Marmon Silko in the 20th, the Dingman Western Collection shows how really remarkably varied this body of literature is, and how important it is to American history and identity.

Also see: The Pulp Fiction Collection


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  June 23, 2020
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