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Frank Luther Mott Collection of American Best Sellers, 1662-1945


Frank Luther Mott Collection of American Best Sellers, 1662-1945


In 1965, shortly after Frank Luther Mott’s death, his family presented his personal library to the University. The private papers, manuscripts, and research notes were given to the Western Historical Manuscript Collection (MU). His 2500 volume library on creative writing, poetry, and journalism was absorbed in the Ellis and Journalism Library collections. Kept intact and given to MU Libraries’ Special Collections was the library of American best sellers collected by Mott when he was writing Golden Multitudes: The Story of Best Sellers in the United States. Dr. Mott endeavored to purchase a copy of each book included in the study, preferring a first edition when one could be located.

Mott (1886-1964) was Dean of the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism from 1942-1951.

Scope and Contents

The earliest book Mott considered for inclusion was Michael Wigglesworth's The Day of Doom (Cambridge: Samuel Green, 1662), and the latest books were Betty McDonald's The Egg and I (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott), Samuel Shellabarger's Captain from Castille (Boston: Little Brown), and Kathleen Windsor's Forever Amber (New York: Macmillan), all published in 1945.

Mott defined best sellers as books known (or believed) to have had total sales equal to one percent of the population of the continental United States (or the English colonies in the years before the revolution) for the decades they were published. Omitted were Bibles, hymnals, textbooks, almanacs, cookbooks, doctor-books, manuals and reference books.

Holdings: 280 volumes


The collection is available to all researchers. Request materials for use in the Special Collections reading room. Some materials in this collection are stored offsite. Please request materials at least 48 hours in advance.

All titles are cataloged and available through the University's online catalog and can be browsed under the author heading Frank Luther Mott Collection (University of Missouri–Columbia. Libraries)


Golden Multitudes: The Story of Best Sellers in the United States (New York: Macmillan, 1947) serves as a guide to the collection, but is also a history of popular literature in America.

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