Twenty-five cents, or, The grateful Irish boy
This is an interesting and relatively early example, from the NLI’s holdings, of material published by the American Sunday School Union that features an Irish character in an almost wholly positive manner. Earlier books published by the American Sunday School Union and held in the NLI feature stories about Ireland and Irish characters with an emphasis on the danger and folly of Catholicism, and which promoted conversion from Catholicism. In contrast, Twenty Five Cents, focuses on ideas of industry, honesty, usefulness, and the upholding of a general moral code through the character of ‘the grateful Irish boy’, Bernard. With the help of an upper-class American woman, Bernard rises from begging on the street to co-managing a large business. The book can be noted as an important precursor to works published by Horatio Alger and others, which featured Irish characters in a secular context. The ‘twenty-five cents’ of the title refers to the capital Mrs Gardiner gives to Bernard in order to start his own business and to deter him from begging. This twenty-five cents is returned to throughout the narrative and becomes the guiding source of Bernard’s fortunes, saving him on various occasions. Though published by the American Sunday School Union, the focus on religion is muted throughout and arises on few occasions. Mrs Gardiner is at first ‘anxious that Bernard should have some religious instruction’ (24), but the issue of religion is usually only invoked in terms of advancing Bernard’s education. Significantly, Bernard’s mother is praised for having introduced her children to the Bible. Furthermore, her knowledge of the Bible is cited as having comforted her in her trials of adjusting to the difficulties of life in America. Both incidents serve to subtly underline the value of a Christian religion focused on the Bible for immigrant communities in America. The book incorporates elements of adventure with some imperial connotations as Bernard learns from Mr Gardiner, ‘an east India merchant’ (41). Bernard later travels the world making his name in the importing business, and he comes to be associated with a beneficial, benign form of capitalism based on ideas of truth. In the closing part of the narrative, Bernard arrives back to Mr Gardiner’s firm just in time to save it from ruin. The conclusion signals Bernard’s inclusion within an emerging new generation. He co-manages the Gardiner’s business, which becomes ‘Gardiner and Bryan’, after his own name, with Mr Gardiner’s son, following the retirement of Mr Gardiner.
Emma N. Janvier
Place of Publication:
Philadelphia and New York
American Sunday School Union
Date of Publication:
[between 1869 and 1894?]; Copyright statement on book date 1868: “Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1868, by the AMERICAN SUNDAY-SCHOOL UNION, in the Clerk’s Office of the District Court of the United States for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania
, 5-126 p.,  leaf of plates : ill. ; 16 cm.
Copy Specific Notes:
Bookplate: Stephen Griffin Collection. Ms note: Cedric D. Gully […] Book […] A present from his father […] June 30th 1869
Literature and Education
Literature and Education
Ireland, Gender, Genre, Moral, Religion, Death, Immigrant, America, Irish-American, Adventure, Business, Capitalism, Boys, Sunday School
General Catalogue (Children’s Books) - NLI