Sunday, May 10, 2020

What If Edward Stratemeyer Had Lived Longer?

This post is not as well written and complete as I would like, but I do want to publish it today.  So, here it is.

A couple weeks ago fans celebrated the 90th anniversary of the debut of the Nancy Drew series on April 28, 1930.  Nancy Drew's birthday is always a day to celebrate and reflect upon Nancy Drew's legacy.

But what about May 10, 1930?  That date is certainly no cause for celebration, but it is of great note.  90 years ago today, Nancy Drew's creator, Edward Stratemeyer died.  Stratemeyer founded the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a book packager responsible for dozens of juvenile series, most notably Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, Tom Swift, and the Bobbsey Twins.  Those series have survived into modern times.  Both the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew series have remained in print continuously since inception in 1927 and 1930 respectively.

How would events have played out if Edward Stratemeyer had lived longer?  Much would be different if Statemeyer had lived.  Would his legacy have been more or less significant?  This will remain unknown, but we can make a few assumptions regarding some of the properties owned by the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

The Statemeyer Syndicate was run by Edward's daughters, Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier, after his death.  If Edward had lived, his daughters would not have taken over the company, at least they certainly would not have done so in 1930.

Assuming that Edward had lived, I feel confident that the Dana Girls and Kay Tracey series never would have existed.  Those series were created by his daughters.  I love the Kay Tracey series and the first 12 Dana Girls books.  I would hate to have missed out on those.

In 2016, I wrote the following regarding the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series.
The Hardy Boys series is more uneven than Nancy Drew in the years after Stratemeyer died.  My conjecture is that Harriet Adams took a greater interest in the Syndicate's girls' series offerings.  In fact, two new girls' series, Dana Girls and Kay Tracey, were created soon after Adams took over running the Syndicate.  We do know that years later that Harriet Adams was very protective of Nancy Drew and had taken sole responsibility of the series.  Not only that, Harriet Adams fancied herself as Nancy Drew.

For that reason, I feel that more effort was made to keep the Nancy Drew series even and that the Hardy Boys series floundered a bit in the years after Stratemeyer died.  Nancy Drew seems more consistent.
If Edward had lived, the Hardy Boys series likely would have been much more consistent.  But would it have been better?  Would it have lasted?

In 2011, I shared a theory about what I thought had happened with Nancy Drew.
Edward Stratemeyer died as the first three Nancy Drew books were published.  Harriet Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier had to scramble to get their father's business under control in the months after he died.  During the first few months, Edward Stratemeyer's secretary, Harriet Otis Smith, was responsible for keeping the business going.  Lilac Inn was the first Nancy Drew book published after Stratemeyer's death, but that book had already been written by Mildred Wirt, and Otis Smith edited it.

Grosset and Dunlap wanted the next book in the series, the one that was to become Shadow Ranch.  The trouble was that Shadow Ranch had no outline, and nobody knew what story Stratemeyer had wished to tell.  On page 133 of Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her, Melanie Rehak gives Stratemeyer's description of Shadow Ranch:  "A thrilling tale of mysterious doings at various places in the valley and around the ranch.  It remained for Nancy Drew to solve some perplexing situations."

Otis Smith wrote up an outline based on that vague description.  Since Shadow Ranch reads so much like an Outdoor Girls book, I wonder whether Otis Smith could have gotten some ideas from an outline for an Outdoor Girls book and changed it up for Nancy Drew.  She also could have used an outline for Billie Bradley or Betty Gordon, which were still in print during the early 1930s but soon ended.  It would be reasonable to assume that some outlines for those series were never used for books in those series. They could have been used for Nancy Drew.  This is pure speculation on my part, but I see such a strong similarity in tone between the original text Shadow Ranch and early Stratemeyer books that I feel this to be a possibility.
The Secret at Shadow Ranch is the book that introduces Nancy's friends, cousins Bess and George.  Nancy's two primary chums might never have existed if not for the death of Edward.  Dumping Helen Corning for Bess Marvin and George Fayne was a significant change that has endured to the present day.  That might not have happened if Edward had lived.  What would the Nancy Drew series have been like if Nancy's erstwhile chum Helen had remained Nancy's friend across the decades?  Would the stories have been as good?  Would the series have lasted?

On the other hand, what would Edward have created if he had lived?  We can guess which series never would have existed, but which ones would have been created by Edward?  We will never know.

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