Tuesday, April 28, 2020

The Enduring Legacy of Nancy Drew—90 Years of Sleuthing

The first three Nancy Drew books, The Secret of the Old ClockThe Hidden Staircase, and The Bungalow Mystery, were published on April 28, 1930, which was 90 years ago today.  The plot outlines for the first three books were written by Edward Stratemeyer, and the three books were ghostwritten by Mildred A. Wirt under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, which was the author name chosen by the Stratemeyer Syndicate for the series.

First printing book and jacket, 1930A-1 in Farah's Guide, from April 28, 1930 (from my collection)

Prior to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, most Stratemeyer series books centered around a group of boys and girls who would participate in activities such as camping, fishing, sailing, and traveling the country in their automobiles.  The young people would almost always have a chaperone, who was an older adult such as a favorite teacher or a relative.  The books contained exciting events interspersed with ordinary activities and lots of joking around by the young people.

First printing book and jacket, 1930A-1 in Farah's Guide, from April 28, 1930 (from my collection)

The Stratemeyer Syndicate was hugely successful, and it was the dominating force in series books both before and after the release of the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.  The Hardy Boys series was first published in 1927, and it had the basic formula of the earlier Stratemeyer books, but with a new twist:  the Hardy Boys solved mysteries, often for their father, a famous detective.

First printing book and jacket, 1930A-1 in Farah's Guide, from April 28, 1930 (from my collection)

The Nancy Drew series also focused on solving mysteries but with a big difference:  Nancy Drew often worked alone, especially during the first few books.  Nancy Drew had a level of autonomy that was unmatched in other series books.  Even the Hardy Boys had to answer to their Aunt Gertrude.  Nancy Drew answered to nobody.

Early 1930s advertising card (image from old eBay auction)  

Nancy's father, Carson Drew, worried about her, but he never prevented Nancy from doing whatever she wanted to do.  In volume 5, Nancy's best friends, quarreling cousins Bess and George, began to join Nancy in her adventures, yet Nancy was still in total control.

Advertising card from the middle 1960s (from my collection)

Nancy seemed to be a kind of superwoman who bounced back instantly from all injuries.  It is little wonder that Nancy Drew's success surpassed all of Edward Stratemeyer's previous creations.  Unfortunately, Edward Stratemeyer did not live to see the tremendous success that Nancy Drew became; he passed away on May 10, 1930, less than two weeks after Nancy Drew was first published.

Nancy Drew Girl Detective poster from 2005 (from my collection)

It is a continuing testimony to Edward Stratemeyer's legacy that Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys have never been out of print since creation and are still published to the present day.

2010 promotional folder (from my collection)

1 comment:

Albert Alioto said...

I did not see this post until 90 years plus one day. The anniversary is worth celebrating for a lot more than a day. Whatever arguments will always be made over the literary quality and value of the books, the world is a happier and better place because Edward Stratemeyer was a part of it.