The Untold Stories of Mormonism Exposed: Material Culture, Dime Novels, and Mormonism in American Society

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This paper is an object biography of the dime novel Mormonism Exposed, considering the book in relation to dime novels and American Mormonism. Published in 1896 by the genre fiction publisher J. Regan & Co., Mormonism Exposed embodies common nineteenth-century traditions of dime novel publishing and salacious anti-Mormon rhetoric. By studying this dime novel in detail, it is possible to better understand the economics of dime novel publishing at the turn of the twentieth century, the intended class and age demographics of genre fiction readers, art in popular fiction, and the nuances of anti-Mormon thought in the United States. This paper therefore contributes to the burgeoning historical subfield of material culture studies. Ultimately, I argue that this particular edition of Mormonism Exposed, published right as the market for dime novels began to collapse and Mormons slowly moved toward the cultural mainstream, shows how quickly a book can be rendered obsolete and irrelevant by historical change.

Updated 11/24/2020: Minor update to correct the misidentification of a mule in an illustration.

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