The very first census of the population of the United States of America took place in 1790. It gave the population of the United States as 3,929,326. About half of today’s population of New York City. One hundred and ten years later, the Census reported 76,212,168.
That was the year 1900, the first year of the 20th Century. Thanks to a long era of general peace after our Civil war, and a better educational system (including the Sunday School movement) a huge portion of this population was literate. And you know what? They didn’t have TV in 1900! They didn’t have radio! When you wanted to listen to music you either played it yourself or went to a concert. (unless you were wealthy and had one of those new-fangled phonographs!)
Not that culture was starved. You had your theater and fairs and goodness knows what else! And lots of family books and a better library system.
Plus magazines and news papers. But the general populace had an appetite for slightly more sophisticated material than dime novels provided. Did I say slightly? Much more sophisicated in style, but still with a high quota of thrills, be they from adventure or romance.
Concurrently the great age of American illustration boomed.
Fantastic illustrators started schools and before you knew it there were plenty of really remarkable illustrators. Sure many worked with the hugely successful advertising industry. But many also illustrated stories.
What with new developments in printing and paper, suddenly a new form of cheap entainment emerged.
The Pulp Magazine.
In 1910 the population of the US was 92,228,496.
A hardcover fiction book cost a lot.
A copy of ARGOSY MAGAZINE, with illustrated entertainment for all, cost 10 cents.