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What were kids reading in 1919?

Some are still popular today!

With no TV, cell phones, or video games, kids often spent more time reading. Check out some of their favorites!

Tom Swift

Tom Swift. Maybe you’ve heard of him, or maybe you’ve heard of the show on the CW network? But did you know that the Tom Swift books were like the Harry Potter books of Dutty’s time? From 1910 to 1941 there were around 40 written and since then the total is closer to 100.

Tom was a teenage science geek and inventor. He lived with his father and housekeeper, Mrs. Baggert. (Dutty named his cow after her.) Tom was “Swift by name and swift by nature.” His inventions were so good that lots of people wanted to steal them, which led Tom on chases, and detective journeys to solve these crimes.


Tom’s inventions were way ahead of his time, but many are things we take for granted today. In the time when Dutty’s story takes place, only 1 out of 3 houses had telephones. You couldn’t make a call without first talking to an operator! And when the Spanish flu came, calls were almost impossible to make because operators couldn’t work in the same rooms together. But Tom Swift invented a photo phone in 1910! We all use our phones now to take pictures, but did you know the first cell phone photo wasn’t taken until 1997?

Tom Swift also made diamonds using electricity, he invented a portable movie camera, an electric locomotive, and a house trailer.

In Dutty, The Un-Invisible Boy, Dutty is inspired by Tom Swift. But in real life, many famous writers and scientists through the years have also been inspired by the fictional Tom Swift. Isaac Asimov; Stephen King; Bill Nye, the Science Guy; Microsoft co-founders, Bill Gates and Paul Allen; and Apple co-founder, Steve Wozniak. He said the books made him believe “that engineers can save the world from all sorts of conflict and evil.”

Maybe you think so too. What cool inventions are you imagining?

Explore these other great books kids read in 1919!

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