Frank Merriwell, the much-loved fictional hero of Street and Smith's Tip Top Weekly, was first introduced to readers on April 18, 1896. Merriwell was the creation of writer Gilbert Patten and embodied a new type of dime novel hero, one who relied as much upon mental as physical prowess.
The Yale-educated Merriwell possessed "a body like Tarzan's and a head like Einstein's," wrote one admiring writer, and thus represented "the perfect union of brain and brawn." His academic and athletic exploits formed the subject of many Tip Top Weekly stories, with elements of romance and humor thrown in for good measure, as in this cover illustration from 1900.
The Merriwell series earned a huge fortune for Street and Smith. During the height of Frank Merriwell's popularity, circulation reached an estimated two hundred thousand copies per week. By 1916, when the series' success finally waned due to the rising movie industry, Patten had produced over two hundred full-length novels, making Frank Merriwell the most popular dime novel hero of his day.