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Hike and the Aeroplane by Sinclair Lewis

Updated on February 9, 2014

The Classic First Novel by Sinclair Lewis

This lens is dedicated to Hike and the Aeroplane, the first novel written by the great American author, Sinclair Lewis.  Written under the pen name of Tom Graham, this first work printed only 1,000 copies, and was the inauspicious beginning to an incredible and prolific career.

Sinclair Lewis Works

Various works of the great author.

Hike and the Aeroplane 1912 First Edition

Hike and the Aeroplane was written under the pseudonym, Tom Graham. It was the first book written by Sinclair Lewis, and is the rarest book to find.

Stephen Pastore, a professional Lewis bibliographer, estimates that only 37 copies of this book still exist, and only two of those copies have a dust jacket.

The first edition was printed by Frederick A. Stokes & Co. out of New York. The first edition states August 1912 on the copyright page, and the original price was $1.00.

Copies of this book sell for around $2,000-$4,000 on average, and that's without a dust jacket. It's hard to say what a copy with a dust jacket would be like, but a safe bet is in the $15,000-$20,000 range, but it could possibly be even more because of the extreme rarity.

If somehow you find one in great condition in grandma's attic, this is one to immediately protect, and enjoy your new found wealth!

Hike and the Aeroplane by "Tom Graham"

The extremely rare 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 "potboiler" 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 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.

Link List about Sinclair Lewis and his works - Information links and other useful tools

For all the information on the author and his antique books you could want.

Sinclair Lewis--even first editions

This is a good place to get started

Why Did Sinclair Lewis Use a Pen Name?

The first novel

Like so many writers throughout time, early on in his career Sinclair Lewis was often close to broke. The need to make money often resulted in the creation of books that were referred to as "pot boilers."

The reference was to needing food in the pot to boil, so a pot boiler was usually a very quick, low quality, attempt at creating popular "pulp" fiction for the purpose of getting some desperately needed money. Hike and the Aeroplane is along these same lines.

Sinclair Lewis wanted to be remembered as a serious author, but as a young writer he also faced the practical issues of rent and eating, issues virtually every aspiring writer can appreciate.

Sinclair Lewis wrote Hike and the Aeroplane over a three week period durng the summer of 1911, seeing the children's book as a way to pay rent and make ends meet for a couple more months as he worked on his other, more serious novel, which would become Our Mr. Wrenn.

"Hike" was published in the summer of 1912, and Sinclair Lewis did not want his name attatched to a pot boiler, so he used the pen name "Tom Graham", which is the name all 1,000 printed copies were given.

This is only one of two known novels written by Sinclair Lewis that doesn't have his real name. The other is Tennis As I Play It by Maurice E McLoughlin, was ghost written by Sinclair Lewis. McLoughlin was an American tennis champion, and the writing style confims that Sinclair Lewis was the ghostwriter hired for that project.

Since "Hike" is the rarest of the Sinclair Lewis novels, a copy in good condition will usually go for over $10,000, and one autographed copy is set around $18,000.


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