Published in June of 1860, "Malaeska; the Indian Wife of the White Hunter" is considered the first dime novel. Written by the domestic novelist Mrs. Ann S. Stephens and published by Erastus and Irwin Beadle (Beadle's Dime Novels), "Malaeska" tells the tragic tale of an Indian maiden who marries a white settler. The novelšs romantic sensationalism proved enormously popular, and over 65,000 copies sold within the first few months.
The first edition of "Malaeska" was published without a cover illustration. In an early reprint of the story, however, a dark-skinned Malaeska appears on the cover in a feathered headdress holding her dying husband as he reaches out for their young (very light-skinned) son. Such illustrations rendered the sensationalism of the text in bold pictorial form and quickly became an indispensible means of attracting readers and increasing dime novel sales.