Ab is a Stone Age boy who grows to young manhood amid the many dangers of his times. With his friend, Oak, he digs a pit and catches a baby rhinoceros, participates in a mammoth hunt with the tribe to prove himself a man, and courts the young women from a neighboring tribe. One girl in particular, Lightfoot, holds the attention of both men, and Ab is forced to kill his friend in a savage fight. He wins Lightfoot for his mate, but is haunted by guilt for his murdered companion. As Ab grows older, he helps the tribe kill a marauding sabre-tooth tiger, leads his people in a great battle against an invading tribe, and eventually becomes the leader of the cave men, and the patriarch of a large personal family. Ab is used by the author to support his contention that there was no sharp division between the Paleolithic and Neolithic periods, that man learned to make fine, polished tools and weapons gradually and naturally, as Ab does. During his life Ab invents and perfects the bow and arrow, and is the first of the primitives to domesticate wolves as pets.
Noted critic Thomas Clareson called this novel the prototype for all later prehistoric romances. And, in fact, the most famous of the cave man books, Jack London's Before Adam (1907), caused an international stir because of its obvious similarities to the Waterloo book.
1897. Chicago: Way & Williams. 1st edition, without list of plates added as insert in later copies; pictorial black cloth, stamped in red and yellow; cover design by Will Bradley. (title misspelled on the front cover, repeated on covers of 2nd edition, 1897) 8vo, 351pp. 1897. Chicago: Way & Williams. 2nd edition. 1897. Chicago: Way & Williams. 3rd edition. 1897. Chicago: Way & Williams. 4th edition. 1897. London: Adam & Charles Black; gilded edges. 1st English. 1898. London: Adam & Charles Black; gilded edges. 1899. Chicago: Herbert S. Stone & Co. colorfully-printed black cloth. 5th printing; title page design by Will Bradley; iIllustrated 1900. NY: Doubleday & McClure Co. 1901. NY: Doubleday & McClure Co. 1903. NY: Doubleday, Page reprint edition. full bound in red cloth with black lettering. frontispiece and 9 glossy illustrations. 1905. NY: Doubleday, Page & Co. 1912. NY: Doubleday, Page & Co. brick color boards with decorative black title and author. 1914. NY: Doubleday. maroon cloth, decorated in black. (binding like Way & Williams by Bradley). 1922. NY: Doubleday, Page; black print on brown. 1925. NY: Doubleday Doran; yellow pictorial cloth (shown) 1933. NY: Doubleday Doran, embossed cloth, (pictorial dust-jacket by Charles R. Knight, shown)