Molly Elliot Seawell (1860-1916) was a popular author at the turn of the nineteenth-century. She wrote short stories, historical romances, and juvenile literature. In 1890, her short story “Little Jarvis,” about a patriotic midshipman, was selected out of 2,000 entries to win the prize of $500 in a contest sponsored by the Youth’s Companion. She wrote several naval tales, a number of which were titles in the Young Heroes of Our Navy series.
In Paul Jones, Seawell created two characters to accompany the naval hero. According to the January 8, 1894 review of the book in the New York Times, "the author’s style is fascinating because it is admirably adapted to the understanding of the little ones whom she particularly addresses. They will not find elsewhere a history of Paul Jones which unites as happily enthusiasm and realization, adequate praise of the officer, and familiar descriptions of the man."
The New York publishing house D. Appleton and Company, in business since 1831, issued the Young Heroes of Our Navy series. Two artists provided the illustrations for Paul Jones. Marine artist Julian Oliver Davidson (1853-1894) illustrated the battle scenes. During the Civil War, Davidson depicted many naval actions for The Century magazine. Over his career, he produced commissioned paintings, authored and illustrated children’s books, and supplied illustrations to popular magazines. Massachusetts native Hermann Dudley Murphy (1867-1945) was best known for his landscapes and still lifes. Like so many artists in the late nineteenth century, he provided illustrations for newspapers, magazines, and books during the 1880s and 1890s.