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Glossary and Character Taxonomy  Breakdown by Country of Origin   Bibliography   Table of Contents    The Best of the Encyclopedia

Swift, Tom. Tom Swift was created by "Victor Appleton," the pseudonym of Howard R. Garis (Tom Cardiff, Larry Dexter, Sherman Ford, Dick Hamilton, Amos Henderson, Professor Jephtha JonkinMotion Picture Chums, Moving Picture Boys, Mystery Boys (I), Nat Ridley, Rocket Riders, Smith Brothers, Don Sturdy, Teddy (II), Venture Boys), and appeared in the thirty-eight book “Tom Swift” series, beginning with Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle; or, Fun and Adventure on the Road (1910) and concluding with Tom Swift and His Planet Stone, or Discovering the Secret of Another World (1935).

Tom Swift is a plucky American lad in his teens who lives with his father, Barton Swift, in the village of Shopton, New York. Barton is an inventor of some note, successful enough that the "syndicates" are trying to steal his ideas and inventions. Tom, who has inherited all of his father’s mechanical genius and inventiveness, tries to help his father, but most often ends up in troubles and adventures of his own, in America and around the world. Tom finds diamond mines, various Lost Races including underground Aztec cities, giant Brazilian natives, hidden Incan cities, lost Mayan cities, and giant vampire bats, among other things.

Tom is upright, moral, clean, and a brilliant inventor. Among the wonders he devised and constructed are a super-fast and efficient turbine engine; a propeller-driven biplane (the Red Cloud) with reserves of gas, so that it works on both powered and unpowered flight principles; a super-powerful cannon; a "picture telephone;” dirigibles, some armed with cannon; super-powerful explosives; "talking pictures" (i.e., television); and a "landrover" (i.e., an armed and armored mobile home)

Tom is accompanied on his adventures by two friends. There is Wakefield Damon, an eccentric adult who becomes a faithful friend of the Swifts after meeting Tom in an accident involving a motorcycle. And there is Eradicate Sampson, the African American odd-job man who becomes the Swifts' de facto valet and servant. (Although Eradicate does have the mangled English of African American stereotypes, the Tom Swift novels treat Eradicate a good deal more fairly and gently than previous dime novel series treated their regular African American characters). Later on Tom is joined by Koku, a ten-foot-tall Brazilian native Tom discovered. Tom's arch enemy is Andy Foger, his opposite number, a red-head about Tom's age who is "a bully...a vicious, degenerate, unscrupulous, conniving wretch," just like his father.

* I'm including the Tom Swift novels in the Best of the Encyclopedia list because of their historical importance. The Tom Swift novels, though negligible as fiction, were some of the most popular science fiction (that's what they were, and there's no avoiding it) published during their lifespan. They conditioned the American reading public to be more accepting of inventors and their inventions, no matter how fantastic. The Tom Swift series was the most commercially successful of the boys' novels series of the 1910s and 1920s. The novels were undoubtedly imaginative. But they perpetuated the Edisonade well into the 20th century, and mindlessly replicated the bigotries of the Edisonade and the exploitive capitalism at the core of the Edisonades. To be avoided. 

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