Some history: Gilbert Patten created Frank Merriwell in 1896 for Street & Smith publishers under the pseudonym Burt L. Standish (misprinted here on the first issue shown at right as "Burr"). Patten had no way of knowing then that he would spend the next 16 years (and probably more than 13 million words) writing Frank Merriwell's adventures (25-30 thousand words every single week!).
As a commodity, Frank Merriwell was both popular and lucrative! Even as the era of the nickel weekly waned, Frank found audiences in radio and other media. He remained popular into the 1930s when cinema and comic books killed him once and for all.
Frank as a character is pretty flat, I think: he's plucky, cheerful, and athletic with no vices whatsoever. Hard to believe this goody-two-shoes could interest young readers, but he was the "it" entertainment of his day (and remember this is prior to the movies, so everything is relative). Still, he was something entirely new in a medium where characters like Buffalo Bill and Jesse James had dominated for decades. Most likely his super-human athletic ability attracted an audience (there was no sport at which he could be fairly bested ~ definitely a precursor to the ideal all-American superheroes who would dominate comic books later), but maybe even more than that, he was someone that young readers could actually relate to. He went to school, he got into fights, and sure, he had crazy globe-trotting adventures (and was attacked by too many wild animals to enumerate [see cover above]), but at the end of the day he was just a nice all-American fella.
Anyway, enough with the lesson.
He's wearing a pair of wrestling "shorts". Typically worn with tights, but not always (and probably more of a 20th century thing).
I've limited his clothing to items he wears on the covers of Tip Top Weekly (one of the first nickel weeklies to go full color on the "wraps" ~ a big deal in 1896). Also, I limited his wardrobe (aside from the wrestling shorts) to items depicted between 1896 and 1900 in order to keep him within the scope of this blog.
Lastly, I used the logo from the weekly as his name on the base of the doll. Issues were titled "Frank Merriwell's [something or other]; or, (and then an alternate, more descriptive title)". So I adopted that format for the titles of these blog posts.
Click to download a printable version. I will be adding all of Frank Merriwell's plates to the Gallery once he's been posted in his entirety.