Knockabout Club

This nine title series was published by Estes and Lauriat and the Dana Estes and Company firms. In the wake of Hezekiah Butterworth's massively successful Zig-Zag Series, this publisher decided that another boy's travelogue series could only be a good thing. Charles Asbury Stephens was an associate of Butterworth's on the Youth Companion magazine and he wrote the first three books in this series.

Dana Estes and Company succeeded Estes and Lauriat in 1898. The Dana Estes Knockabout books are similar to the earlier books. The Estes and Lauriat publisher name remained on the pictorial cover. The later books however only have a pictorial front cover format and not the wraparound picture on the covers.

Stephens was no stranger to boys' adventure books. He had previously written the Young Yachters Series and the Camping Out Series (which contains the three volume Young Yachters Series). These series were published by James Osgood and later by Porter and Coates. His Knockabout books (Volumes #1-3 in the series) took the boys to Maine, Labrador, Mexico and Central America. The boys were enrolled in a "Steamship College" as opposed to a stationary one. Thus, the idea was to see the world and combine local adventures with didactic instruction. Whether it be by bicycle, train or steamship, these stories were geographical treasure troves of information.

Frederick Ober wrote volumes #4-9 in the series. The Professor and his companion see the world. Ober (1849-1913) was a native of Beverly, Massachusetts who left college because of money issues. His passion was ornithology and he was self taught. He travelled about in Florida and Mexico where he made several ornithological survey trips. His writings were based on his personal travels.

The illustrations for this series appear to come from stock photos which corresponded to the narrative. They are the products of numerous illustrators and were not specifically done for the stories they are found within

The books were published in two formats. Cloth with extra gilt cost $2.00 while the illuminated board cover books cost $1.50. Interestingly this pattern of printing books in these two formats held true for some of the other very popular travelogue series that Estes and Lauriat also published: Zig-Zag Series and the Vassar Girls.

Here is an 1881 trade card that advertises Book #1 in the series.

1. Knockabout Club in the Woods 1881
2. Knockabout Club Alongshore 1882
3. Knockabout Club in the Tropics 1883
4. Knockabout Club in the Everglades 1887
5. Knockabout Club in the Antilles 1888 (this book was also released in 1888 as "A Boy's Adventures in the West Indies")
6. Knockabout Club in Spain 1889 (also published as "Rambles in Sunny Spain")
7. Knockabout Club in North Africa 1890
8. Knockabout Club on the Spanish Main 1891 (also published as "Adventures on the Spanish Main")
9. Knockabout Club in Search of Treasure 1892

These books were reprinted by Dana Estes and Company only in board covers for $1.25 each.

Dean and Son, a London Publisher, printed The Adventures of Six Young Men in the Wilds of Maine and Canada; or The Knock-about Club. This is a reprint of the "in the Woods" book.

The first three books were written by C. A. Stephens. The last six by Frederick Ober. Note the four year hiatus between the groupings. Interestingly the 1887 Everglades book is noted in an 1884 "Tropics" edition. The reason for the delay is not known.

The books were generally released at Christmas time. The Stephens' (Volumes 1-3 ) first editions have the year after the copyright date (which is noted above) at the base of the title page. Many later printings are undated. Occasionally there are ads for books in the series in the front of the book which is a dating help. Otherwise each title is the same from year to year.

I have not seen a date on the title page of any Ober book. Many of the books have ads listing other titles in the series. Presumably if the last title listed is the book in hand, the book is a first edition.

The title pages from "Alongshore" and "Tropics" shown below are first editions.

The cloth books all have the same cover format. The illuminated board cover books all have book appropriate wraparound illustrations. The books are 8.5 x 7.

Each book has numerous maps and illustrations on the endpapers which are book appropriate. A couple of examples are shown below.

"Spanish Main"

"In the Woods"

Cloth format books:

Note in these examples that all of the cloth covers from earliest to latest in the series are the same. Brown, blue and green have been noted.

Here are the pictures of the illuminated board covers














As noted above some of the Ober books were released in a different format. The other title for this book which was published by Estes and Lauriat is The Knockabout Club in the Antilles.

This book was also published by Estes and Lauriat. The original title was "Knockabout Club in Spain". Note that this book was published later (1896-1900) by H. M. Caldwell in the exact format.

This book was published by H. M. Caldwell Co. Its original title is the Knockabout Club in Spain. The exact date of publication is unknown but estimated to be between 1896-1900.

H. M. Caldwell also published A Boy's Adventures in the West Indies. This book was originally titled the Knockabout Club in the Antilles. It was published between 1896-1900.