As part of my work publishing old detective thrillers in new editions (Dark Lantern Tales), I was reviewing a tattered 1892 issue of the New York Five Cent Library. In the late 1800s, sensational stories were published in the popular press and usually sold from newsstands to working people. Printed on low grade pulp and formed like large pamphlets, they contained novels or novelettes. A nickel in 1892 had the buying power of about $1.50 today, so this was an entertainment bargain.
I was helped by Research Assistant Tiffany Miller at Syracuse University, and learned that Ernest Avon Young was the author of this story, although it appeared with “By the author of Nat Woods.”
Of the few copies of dime and nickel libraries that survive, many are marked with rubber stamp impressions, usually from a seller, or reseller, or even an owner. These stamps could serve as advertising, and most of those sellers were located in larger northeastern and mid-western cities.
So when I casually read the address on the rubber stamp on this copy, I was surprised to discover that it was from a seller in Charlotte, North Carolina. My purchase of this piece was from a seller in the Northeast, so it is obviously well traveled. And, I live in the bustling city of Charlotte, which is now a substantial banking center. But in 1892, Charlotte was an industrial town of moderate size that relied on the manufacture of textiles for employment, like many other places in the Carolinas.
What I read in the impression of the stamp, was:
NEWS & FRUIT STAND
No. 4 W. Trade St.
Charlotte, N. C.
Trade Street and Tryon Street intersect at the very center of the city, and for many years the corner has had wide sidewalks, big hotels, tall office buildings, and even a small park. Curious about what it may have been like in 1892, and curious about who “Yopp” might have been, I posted these notes and some photos of the New York Five Cent Library issue (with the stamp) in a couple of places on Facebook.
People were intrigued but couldn’t offer much in the way of information.
Then I heard from Vance Pollock. He and I had actually crossed paths through music (my former career field) and he does a great job of finding information about obscure music artists and recordings of the Carolinas. He is also interested in other history of our region and pursued the search for Yopp with such dedication that I could hardly keep up!
And Vance found him. He found Yopp. Beyond that, he found photos, plats, directory listings, and news articles about George Yopp and his News & Fruit Stand. I’ll do my best to assemble all this into a few paragraphs that deserve Vance’s research.
George Yopp was born in 1859 in Wilmington, NC. It is uncertain when he moved to Charlotte and opened his News & Fruit Stand business, but it is not shown on the 1890 plat of the intersection, and is shown as “Confy” (Confectionery) on the 1896 plat. Further, the weekly New York Five Cent Library issue that bears his stamp was published on December 24, 1892, so clearly he was in business before then, perhaps as early as 1891. From the plat, it seems that Mr. Yopp had a sort of newsstand and snack counter in a very small store front next to the drug store on the NW corner of Trade and Tryon.
This photo from 1890 shows the drug store, and next door is a laundry in a tiny store front that was soon to become Yopp’s News & Fruit Stand at “No. 4 W. Trade St.”
An 1897 Charlotte City Directory lists Geo. Yopp with his business and home addresses.
An odd classified ad from 1897 mentions a fight at Yopp’s. I didn’t send in the 2 cents to get the lowdown.
Vance Pollock’s further research indicates that George Yopp continued with the News & Fruit Stand through much of 1897, when he moved to a small attached building up the street at 30 W. Trade St. There he opened a “Five- and Ten-Cent” store, but in about a year he sold the location out to an auction company.
A small bit of news from January of 1899 notes that George Yopp had quit (meaning left) Charlotte at the end of 1898, moving back to Wilmington.
In the 1800s and even to an extent today, there were small businesses that sold a wide variety of items in daily auctions. This little building, clearly marked AUCTION, is visible in this early 1900s colored postcard. That must have been the building where George Yopp’s Five and Ten Cent store previously operated.
Mr. Yopp passed on in 1902 aged 53. If anyone knows people named Yopp around Wilmington, NC, they may want to let them know about this article. Thanks to Vance Pollock for the splendid and thorough research!
The upshot of all this intriguing historical minutia is that we now know clearly just where this particular New York Five Cent Library copy was purchased for a nickel around Christmas of 1892.
I expect they enjoyed the lurid crime story between those flimsy covers and I hope to make it available to mystery readers once more around the summer of 2023!