Popular Children’s Book Series a Hundred Years Ago

16-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today:

Saturday, March 16, 1912:  Ruth went to Milton this morning. I made an apron today. Started to read a book this evening. The sequel of which I read about three years ago.

Source: Wikipedia

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

Hmm. . . what was Grandma reading?  She probably was reading adult books—but since she said that she’d read the other book in the series three years previously maybe they were children’s stories.

I don’t know which adult series were popular a hundred years ago—but I can think of several children’s series.

Little Women, Little Men and other books in the series by Louisa May Alcott are classics that have retained their appeal over the years. The series was published between 1868 and 1886.

The Bobbsey Twin series of adventure stories by Laura Lee Hope were published between 1904 and 1979. Laura Lee Hope is a pseudonym used by several different authors over the years.

The Elsie Dinsmore series by Martha Finley were published between 1967 and 1905. Elsie’s mother was dead, and Elsie faced many moral conflicts (and seemed to constantly feel guilty for one minor offense or another) as she grew up in her grandparent’s home.

An aside–Grandma WAS NOT reading the Nancy Drew series (first book published in 1930) , the Hardy Boys (first book published in 1927), or the Betsy and Tacy series (first book published in 1940).

9 thoughts on “Popular Children’s Book Series a Hundred Years Ago

  1. I love how much research you do to shed light on your grandma’s diary entries! I was a huge *Bobbsey Twins* fan when I was little. Didn’t know that there were several different authors in the series using the same pseudonym, or that it was possible my grandmother could have read some of the first volumes in the series when she was little, too.

    1. Thanks for the nice note. I have a lot of fun researching the posts, and it is wonderful to hear when someone enjoys reading something I’ve researched.

  2. She could also have been reading one of the Anne of Green Gables books. They were written toward the end of the 1800s and at the beginning of the 1900s. I am surprised to learn that the Bobbsey Twins was written so long ago. When I was little I had one or two of the books which my mother read to me. I don’t remember enjoying them too much.

    I’m so behind in reading your posts. I’ll have to come some afternoon soon and catch up.

    1. Anne of Green Gables would make sense. It seems like the sort of thing that a teen-aged girl would like.

      When I was researching this post, I’d thought that The Bobbsey Twins would fall into the same time period as Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys, and was surprised to discover that it began earlier. The early books in the series were later rewritten to “modernize” them. The Bobbsey Twins was written in 1904. The Bobbsey Twins in the Country and The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore were written in 1907.

      Here’s another website with information about them:


  3. I second “Anne of Green Gables” as a possibility. The original was written in 1908, the first sequel was in 1909, enough time to have been read three years prior.

    1. Thanks for the information. Anne of Green Gables seems like something that a teen-aged girl would enjoy reading–and the publication timeline sounds right for the books to have been popular in 1912.

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