Biography

Tom Swift Book Series (1910-1935) Collector’s Guide

Tom Swift - Sky Train
Tom Swift and his Sky Train (#34) – Victor Appleton

Tom Swift is one of Edward Stratemeyer’s most famous inventions. The series lasted essentially from 1910 until the mid-1990s, rivaling the Bobbsey Twins for longevity. There are five distinct sets of Tom Swift books.

Tom Swift of the first series (1910 to 1941) was a teenage boy who had a tremendous knowledge of scientif­ic development and invention based on personal observa­tion and experimentation. He lived in upstate New York. (The Bobbsey Twins books seemed to be set here also.) Dave Porter and the Rover Boys did get as far away from home as the South Seas and Africa but Tom went under the land, under the seas, and info the skies. Tom Swift had many interesting adventures. He had his share of problems also, but with invention and wit escaped from peril and disaster, whether it was a quick save with his motorcycle, his adeptness at handling a motorboat, or his expertise with flying machines.

Edward Stratemeyer’s book-writing syndicate was firmly in place by the time he developed the series about a boy inventor. It is believed that the actual writer of the original thirty-eight volumes in the series was Howard R. Garis. Victor Appleton, the Stratemeyer name for the author of the books, used more and more “Tom Swifties” as the series progressed. These are sentence constructions in which new adverbs were formed from verbs, such as “Tom said soothingly” and other clever wording such as “Tom Swift® quickly hurried to the engine room.” (Undersea Search) Garis had fun creating these witticisms, as well as the hair-raising situations in which Tom found himself.

Tom Swift Book Formats (First edition identification)

I. 1910-1917

  • Volumes #1 – #20, including first printings #1 – #20
    • Finely woven tan cloth binding; front and spine in black and red; front has oval with title and four pictures at each comer, called “The Four Square” or “Quad” design
    • Plain eps; glossy frontis
  • Volumes #1 – #5 have unvarnished tan dust jacket with red lettering and artwork#6 – #10 and reprints have unvarnished tan DJ with red lettering and red and green artwork
  • Volumes #11- #20 and reprints have varnished dust jacket with red lettering and red and green artwork

II. 1918 – 1933, including first printings #21 -#35

  • Volumes #1 – #35
    • Coarsely woven light tan cloth binding with design as in Format I (#34 and #35 can be gray-tan)
    • Plain eps; glossy frontis
  • Volumes 21 – #26 and reprints have orange and gray picture on dust jacket, a “duotone” version of frontis
  • Volumes 27 – #35 and reprints have full color dust jacket; spine logo picture of Tom is modernized

III. 1933 — 1935, Including first printings #36 – #38

  • Volumes#1 – #38, including first editions of #36 – #38
    • Plain orange cloth with black lettering
    • Orange illustrated eps; glossy frontis
  • Volumes #1 – #36 have full color dust jackets with another new spine logo of Tom Swift, showing him smiling
  • Volumes #37-#38 have cartoon-like dust jacket pictures

Tom Swift Series Book List

YearVolume/TitleIllustrator
1910 1. Tom Swift and His Motor Cycle or, Fun and Adventure on the Road H. Rudolph Mencl
1910 2. Tom Swift and His Motor Boat or, The Rivals of Lake Carlopa H. Rudolph Mencl
1910 3. Tom Swift and His Air Ship or, The Stirring Cruise of the Red Cloud H. Rudolph Mencl
1910 4. Tom Swift and His Submarine or, Under the Ocean for Sunken Treasure H. Rudolph Mencl
1910 5. Tom Swift and His Electric Runabout or, The Speediest Car on the Road H. Rudolph Mencl
1911 6. Tom Swift and His Wireless Message or, The Castaways of Earthquake Island H. Richard Boehm
1911 7. Tom Swift Among the Diamond Makers or, The Secret of Phantom Mountain H. Richard Boehm
1911 8. Tom Swift in the Caves of Ice or, The Wreck of the Airship H. Richard Boehm
1911 9. Tom Swift and His Sky Racer or, The Quickest Flight on Record H. Richard Boehm
1911 10. Tom Swift and His Electric Rifle or, Daring Adventures in Elephant Land H. Richard Boehm
1912 11. Tom Swift in the City of Gold or, Marvelous Adventures Underground H. Richard Boehm
1912 12. Tom Swift and His Air Glider or, Seeking the Platinum Treasure H. Richard Boehm
1912 13. Tom Swift in Captivity or, A Daring Escape by Airship H. Richard Boehm
1912 14. Tom Swift and His Wizard Camera or, Thrilling Adventures While Taking Moving Pictures H. Richard Boehm
1912 15. Tom Swift and His Great Searchlight or, On the Border for Uncle Sam H. Richard Boehm
1913 16. Tom Swift and His Giant Cannon or, The Longest Shots on Record H. Richard Boehm
1914 17. Tom Swift and His Photo Telephone or, The Picture That Saved a Fortune Walter S. Rogers
1915 18. Tom Swift and His Aerial Warship or, The Naval Terror of the Seas Walter S. Rogers
1916 19. Tom Swift and His Big Tunnel or, The Hidden City of the Andes Walter S. Rogers
1917 20. Tom Swift in the Land of Wonders or, The Search for the Idol of Gold Walter S. Rogers
1918 21. Tom Swift and His War Tank or, Doing His Bit for Uncle Sam R. Emmett Owen
1919 22. Tom Swift and His Air Scout or, Uncle Sam’s Mastery of the Sky R. Emmett Owen
1920 23. Tom Swift and His Undersea Search or, The Treasure on the Floor of the Atlantic R. Emmett Owen
1921 24. Tom Swift Among the Fire Fighters or, Battling with Flames From the Air Walter S. Rogers
1922 25. Tom Swift and His Electric Locomotive or, Two Miles a Minute on the Rails Walter S. Rogers
1923 26. Tom Swift and His Flying Boat or, The Castaways of the Giant Iceberg Walter S. Rogers
1924 27. Tom Swift and His Great Oil Gusher or, The Treasure of Goby Farm Walter S. Rogers
1925 28. Tom Swift and His Chest of Secrets or, Tracing the Stolen Inventions Walter S. Rogers
1926 29. Tom Swift and His Airline Express or, From Ocean to Ocean by Daylight Walter S. Rogers
1927 30. om Swift Circling the Globe or, The Daring Cruise of the Air Monarch Walter S. Rogers
1928 31. Tom Swift and His Talking Pictures or, The Greatest Invention on Record Walter S. Rogers
1929 32. Tom Swift and His House on Wheels or, A Trip to the Mountain of Mystery Walter S. Rogers
1930 33. Tom Swift and His Big Dirigible or, Adventures Over the Forest of Fire Walter S. Rogers
1931 34. Tom Swift and His Sky Train or, Overland Through the Clouds Walter S. Rogers
1932 35. Tom Swift and His Giant Magnet or, Bringing Up the Lost Submarine Nat Falk
1933 36. Tom Swift and His Television Detector or, Trailing the Secret Plotters Nat Falk
1934 37. Tom Swift and His Ocean Airport or, Foiling the Haargolanders Nat Falk
1935 38. Tom Swift and His Planet Stone or, Discovering the Secret of Another World Nat Falk

Source: All About Collecting Boys’ Series Books. John Axe, 2002.

BOOKSTORE: Rare, Antiquarian, First editions, Illustrated Children's Books

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