Hike And The Aeroplane – Sinclair Lewis’s First Novel

Hike and the Aeroplane was the first novel written by Sinclair Lewis. Published in 1912, only 1,000 copies were printed. This novel was published under the pseudonym Tom Graham, because it was a “pot boiler” novel, which was a term for a poorly and quickly written novel just to pay bills, or out of necessity.

This story is of 16 year-old Gerald “Hike” Griffin and his chubby but good natured side kick, Torrington “Poodle” Darby, as they help an inventor named Martin Priest land a million dollar contract with the U.S. Army Signal Corps to purchase his “amazing tetrahedral flying machine.” (Remember, this was published only 9 years after the Wright Brothers flight).

With the help of Lieutenant Jack Adeler they contend with evil Captain Willoughby Welch. In the process of the plot, the two boys make the greatest flight in the history of aviation. Prophetically, Hike foresaw the day when his plane, “Hike’s Hustle,” would fight a battleship.

Even the name “Hike,” which is a nickname, reflects a different time that makes an interesting dating of the book, since “hike” was a football term. Westerners especially, would yell “Hike, hike, hike!” during a long football run.

The novel isn’t a great work, and is definitely a beginning jumping off point for the author. There are a few themes on pacifism by the end, but otherwise there are few actual themes worth noting. This was written by Sinclair Lewis, though passed under the pen name of Tom Graham.

This is a very rare book, and while some guides have the price around $2,000-$3,000, the market place right now says a true first edition is worth well over $10,000. If you find one with a dust jacket (as far as anyone knows, there may only be 25 of these or less left) then it doubles, though every surviving copy is thought to be known.

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