When I was a little girl and my great-grandfather Charles Mulder and his wife Margaret sold the farm and moved to a different house, I was given my great grandfather’s old books. These were books which dated back to his childhood and youth. One of the books was signed with the date December 25, 1903; I shared that on a recent post and will re-post a thumbnail here. However, I think these books date to the late 19th century. Great Grandpa was born in 1885.
The most beautiful set were little bone colored books with light blue and gilt, and I read every one of them. My favorites were the one which were rags to riches stories with strong morals. These were similar to Horatio Alger stories in that the riches were not truly great wealth, but the ability to have self-respect within our society and to do good for others. My least favorites were the ones which sounded too much like prayers.
These were published by The American Tract Society, which is still in business. According to Wikipedia:
The American Tract Society (ATS) is a nonprofit, nonsectarian but evangelical organization founded on May 11, 1825 in New York City for the purpose of publishing and disseminating Christian literature. ATS traces its lineage back through the New York Tract Society (1812) and the New England Tract Society (1814) to the Religious Tract Society of London, begun in 1799. Over the years, ATS has produced and distributed many millions of pieces of literature.
I wish the books were in better shape, but in the nearly 50 years I have owned them, they have really started to show their age. They are spotting, and the bindings are getting loose. Before too long, I will have owned them for half their lifetime.
In case you would like to start reading one: