A small history on The Big Little Books

The “Big Little Books” were first published in 1932.  The first of the series was The Adventures of Dick Tracy which was released shortly before Christmas with monumental success. At a time when the effects of a depression were weighing heavily on our nation, these books offered a big punch for very little bang to your wallet. They were small compact books typically on 4.5 inches tall and 4 inches wide and approximately 1.5 inches thick.  They normally featured text on the left page and full page black and white illustrations on the right page, and later full color variations.

Odd Little Hippo and Dick Tracy Adventures

Initially published by Whitman Publishing Company out of Racine, Wisconsin, The Big Little Books sold for a whopping ten cents apiece at the original retail giant Woolworth’s.  The series changed its name to Better Little Books in 1938 and continued selling the popular tiny books into the 1960’s.

Woolworth Store in 1932

The Big Little books featured stories that were often related to the popular radio programs and comic strips of the day.  Those programs included:

The Shadow Knows!

The Shadow- A show about a crime-fighting vigilante with psychic powers first premiered in the summer of 1930.  The Shadow was a mysterious narrator of the Street and Smith radio program Detective Story Hour and has an unmistakable place in American history with the ever popular narration; “Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows!” Followed by an ominous laugh.  The conclusion of every episode featured The Shadow reminding listeners, “The weed of crime bears bitter fruit. Crime does not pay…. The Shadow knows!”

Jack Armstrong– An adventure series that was first played in the summer of 1933 in Chicago. The story line centered around a globe-trotting boy named Armstrong who would accompany his uncle to exotic parts of the world in connection with his business. Many of the adventures provided listeners with the a travelogue, providing facts about the lands they were visiting.

Click here to see our Dick Tracy and Jack Armstrong books

Dick Tracy– A long running comic strip first published in 1931 by the Detroit Mirror and distributed to Chicago Tribune and the New York Times, created by Chester Gould. Gould would continue to write and illustrate the comic strip until he died in 1977.

The comic was the first to introduce this never before seen violence to the comic strip industry, reflecting the mob violence of Chicago in the 1930’s.  The comic featured Dick Tracy, a hard-hitting, fast talking, intelligent police detective, who often ended every case in a shootout. He used his wits, forensic science and advanced gadgetry to track the bad guy down.

Chick here to see our collection of these rare Big Little Books

These rare books are super fun to collect!


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