Uncle Tom's Serialization: The National Era Text

1 January 1852
Images from Barrett Collection,
Small Special Collections Library, UVA
  At least 50,000 people read Uncle Tom's Cabin in its first published form, the 41 weekly installments that appeared between 5 June 1851 and 1 April 1852 in the National Era, a Washington, D.C., anti-slavery paper with a national readership. This means that Stowe's story would have been one of the most widely read 19th century American novels even if it had never been published in book form.

  In March, 1851, when Stowe first wrote Gamaliel Bailey, the Era's publisher and editor, to offer him a story that she thought would last for three or four installments, the paper had about 15,000 subscribers. When she sent in the final installment, almost a year later, the paper had 19,000 subscribers — many of whom had written Bailey to say how much they looked forward to Friday, when the mail brought the new Era and the whole family would gather together to hear the latest chapter in the story read aloud. (You can read letters from Era readers in the NOTICES section, where you can also see how staunch a publicist for the novel Bailey was for over two years.)

  There are significant differences between the Era text of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the book version first published by Jewett on 18 March 1852. For more on that and other issues raised by the fact that Stowe originally wrote the novel for newspaper publication, see the Historical and Critical Introduction, linked below, by Wesley Raabe, the scholar who prepared this electronic edition.
  • Uncle Tom's Cabin: the Era Installments
  • An Historical & Textual Introduction to the Era Text

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