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Showing posts from July, 2018

The Fundamentalist Frank Merriwell

"Of all the bold Americans who have appeared on the sporting scene," Robert Boyle wrote for Sports Illustrated in 1962, "none ever aroused the admiration or left so enduring an impression as one who never really existed: Frank Merriwell of Fardale Academy, Yale College and the world at large."

Frank Merriwell is not a household name today, but for much of the twentieth century he was. The hero of a dime novel series for boys that ran in Tip Top Weekly from 1896 to 1912 (and in other media endeavors into the 1930s), Merriwell became the prototype for the All-American schoolboy athlete. In the eyes of white middle-class Americans, Merriwell represented the best possible version of a young man. As scholar Ryan Anderson put it: "He was handsome but not vain; an Ivy Leaguer with a common touch; an individual but not self-interested; a physical specimen with a sound mind; a talented youth with a solid work ethic; desirable to girls and relatively chaste...He always …