Stratemeyer Syndicate

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The Stratemeyer Syndicate was the producer of a number of mystery series for children, including Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the various Tom Swift series, the Bobbsey Twins, the Rover Boys, and others.

History[edit]

Created by Edward Stratemeyer, the Stratemeyer Syndicate was the first book packager to have its books aimed at children, rather than adults. The Syndicate was wildly successful; at one time it was believed that the overwhelming majority of the books children read in the USA were Stratemeyer Syndicate books, based on a 1922 study of over 36,000 children country-wide.[1]

Stratemeyer's business acumen was in realizing that there was a huge, untapped market for children's books. At a time when most children's books were aimed at moral instruction, the Stratemeyer Syndicate specialized in producing books that were meant primarily to be entertaining. In Stratemeyer's view, it was not the promise of sex or violence that made such reading attractive to children; it was the thrill of feeling grown-up and the desire for a series of stories. This desire for a series of stories could, Stratemeyer believed, be harnessed for profit. In founding the Stratemeyer Syndicate, Edward Stratemeyer aimed to produce books in an efficient, assembly-line fashion and to write them in such a way as to maximize their popularity.

The first series that Stratemeyer created was the Rover Boys, published under the pseudonym Arthur M. Winfield. The Rover Boys books were a roaring success - a total of 30 volumes was published between 1899 and 1926, selling over five million copies.[2] Stratemeyer began writing other series books: The Bobbsey Twins first appeared in 1904, under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope, and Tom Swift in 1910, under the pseudonym Victor Appleton.[3]

Stratemeyer also published a number of books under his own name; however, the books published under pseudonyms sold better. Stratemeyer realized that "he could offer more books each year if he dealt with several publishers and had the books published under a number of pseudonyms which he controlled."[4] Stratemeyer explained his strategy to a publisher, writing that "[a] book brought out under another name would, I feel satisfied, do better than another Stratemeyer book. If this was brought out under my own name, the trade on new Stratemeyer books would simply be cut into four parts instead of three."[5]

Some time in the first decade of the twentieth century Stratemeyer realized that he could no longer juggle multiple volumes of multiple series, and he began hiring ghostwriters, such as Howard Garis[3] and Leslie McFarlane.[6] Stratemeyer continued to write some books, while writing plot outlines for others.

While mystery elements were occasionally present in these early series, the Syndicate was later to specialize in children's series mysteries. This trend was begun in 1911, when, under the pseudonym Chester K. Steele, Stratemeyer published The Mansion of Mystery (which he had written himself). Five more books were published in that mystery series, with the last being printed in 1928. These books were aimed at a somewhat older audience than his previous series. After that, the Syndicate focused on mystery series aimed again at its younger base: the Hardy Boys, which first appeared in 1927, ghostwritten by Leslie McFarlane and others, and Nancy Drew, which first appeared in 1930, ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson, Walter Karig, and others. Both series were immediate financial successes, prompting the Syndicate's continuing focus on children's mysteries.[6]

In 1930, Stratemeyer died, and the Syndicate was inherited by his two daughters, Harriet Stratemeyer and Edna Stratemeyer Squier. Stratemeyer Squier sold her share to her sister Harriet within a few years. Harriet Stratemeyer introduced such series as The Dana Girls (1934), Tom Swift, Jr., The Happy Hollisters, and many others. In the 1950s, Harriet (by now Harriet Stratemeyer Adams) began substantially revising old volumes in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, updating them by removing references to "roadster" and the like. Racial slurs and stereotypes were also removed, and in some cases (such as The Secret of Shadow Ranch and The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion) entire plots were cast off and replaced with new ones. In part, these changes were motivated by a desire to make the books more up-to-date; however, Grosset & Dunlap, the primary publisher of Stratemeyer Syndicate books, requested that the books' racism be excised, a project that Adams felt was unnecessary.[7] Grosset & Dunlap, however, held firm; they had received an increasing number of letters from parents who were offended by the stereotypes present in the books, particularly the Hardy Boys.[7]

In the late 1970s, Adams decided it was time for Nancy and the Hardys to go into paperback, as the hardcover market was no longer what it had been. However, Grosset & Dunlap sued, citing "breach of contract, copyright infringement, and unfair competition".[8] The ensuing case let the world know, for the first time, that the Syndicate existed; the Syndicate had always gone to great lengths to hide its existence from the public and ghostwriters were contractually obliged never to reveal their authorship.

Grosset & Dunlap was awarded the rights to the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys volumes that they had published, but the Syndicate was judged free to take subsequent volumes elsewhere.[9] Subsequent volumes were published by Simon and Schuster.

Adams died in 1982. In 1987, Simon and Schuster purchased the syndicate from its partners - Edward Stratemeyer Adams, Camilla Adams McClave, Patricia Adams Harr, Nancy Axelrod and Lilo Wuenn - and turned to Mega-Books, a book packager, to handle the writing process for new volumes.[10]

Writing guidelines[edit]

"They don't have hippies in them," [Adams] said... "And none of the characters have love affairs or get pregnant or take dope."[11]

All Stratemeyer Syndicate books were written under certain guidelines, based on practices Stratemeyer began with his first series, the Rover Boys.[3]

  • All books would be part of a series.
  • To establish more quickly if a series was likely to be successful, the first several volumes would be published at once. These first volumes are often referred to as "breeders." [12]
  • The books would be written under a pseudonym. This would provide for seeming continuity of authorship, even when an author died, and would disguise the fact that series were written by multiple ghostwriters and plot-outliners.
  • The books would look as much like contemporary adult books as possible, with similar bindings and type-faces.[12]
  • The books would be of a predictable length.
  • Chapters and pages should end mid-situation, to increase the reader's desire to keep reading.[12]
  • Each book would begin with a quick recap of all previous books in that series, in order to promote those books.[12]
  • Books might also end with a preview of the next volume in the series: "Nancy ... could not help but wonder when she might encounter as strange a mystery as the recent one. Such a case was to confront her soon, The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes."[13]
  • The books would be priced at 50 cents, rather than the more common 75 cents, $1.00, or $1.25.[14]
  • Characters should not age or marry. Protagonists of early series such as the Rover Boys, Tom Swift, and Ruth Fielding did grow up and marry, but sales dropped afterwards, prompting the Syndicate to make a rule that characters never marry.[15]

Criticism of Syndicate books[edit]

For decades, libraries refused to carry any Syndicate books, notoriously considering them to be unworthy trash.[6] Series books were considered to "cause 'mental laziness,' induce a 'fatal sluggishness,' and 'intellectual torpor."[16] Series books were considered to ruin a child's chances for gaining an appreciation of good literature (subsequent studies have proven this not to be the case[17]), and to undermine respect for authority: "much of the contempt for social conventions … is due to the reading of this poisonous sort of fiction."[18]

Franklin K. Mathiews, chief librarian for the Boy Scouts of America, wrote that series books were a method, according to the title of one of his articles, for "Blowing Out the Boys' Brains,"[19] and psychologist G. Stanley Hall articulated one of the most common concerns by asserting that series books would ruin girls in particular by giving them "false views of [life]… which will cloud her life with discontent in the future."[20]

None of this hurt sales, however; Stratemeyer was unperturbed, even when his books were banned from the Newark Public Library as early as 1901, writing to a publisher: "Personally it does not matter much to me. … Taking them out of the Library has more than tripled the sales in Newark."[21]

Series[edit]

Foreign Publications[edit]

Some syndicate series' were also reprinted in foreign countries. The first appearance seems to be the first Ted Scott Flying Stories book, published in Germany in the early 1930s as Ted Scott Der Ozeanflieger. The artwork was always changed when reprinted in other countries, and sometimes character names were as well. Other series reprinted outside the States include Nancy Drew (Britain, Australia, Sweden, France), The Dana Girls, The Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins. These other series first appeared around the 1950s outside the States.

The second Stratemeyer Syndicate series to be re-printed outside the United States appears to have been the first 2 books in the Don Sturdy series. Although an exact date of printing is unknown, the book [not] pictured to the right is hand-inscribed "X-Mas 1939". Only 2 Don Sturdy books were printed in Britain (the other being The Desert of Mystery). Two British forms of The Big Snake Hunters are known to exist, both printed by The Children's Press, one from the 1930s and another with different cover art from the 1950s.

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Romalov (1995), 118.
  2. ^ Rehak (2006), 8.
  3. ^ a b c Billman.
  4. ^ Keeline, "Stratemeyer Syndicate."
  5. ^ Rehak, (2006), 25.
  6. ^ a b c Andrews, Dale (2013-08-27). "The Hardy Boys Mystery". Children's books. Washington: SleuthSayers. 
  7. ^ a b Rehak (2006), 243.
  8. ^ Johnson, Deirdre. Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Page 16.
  9. ^ Johnson, 17.
  10. ^ Plunkett-Powell (1993), 29.
  11. ^ Klemesrud (1968).
  12. ^ a b c d Billman, Carol. The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate.
  13. ^ Keene, Carolyn. The Moonstone Castle Mystery. Page 178.
  14. ^ Plunkett-Powell, Karen. The Nancy Drew Scrapbook. Page 16.
  15. ^ Kismaric and Heiferman (2007), 20.
  16. ^ Romalov (1995), 115.
  17. ^ Ross (1997).
  18. ^ Rehak (2006), 97.
  19. ^ Romalov (1995), 117.
  20. ^ Romalov, Nancy Tillman. "Children's Series Books and the Rhetoric of Guidance: A Historical Overview." In Rediscovering Nancy Drew. Dyer, Carolyn Stewart, and Nancy Tillman Romalov, eds. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1995. Page 116.
  21. ^ Rehak, Melanie. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. NY: Harcourt, 2005. Page 97-98.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  • Billman, Carol (1986). The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Ungar. ISBN 0-8044-2055-6. 
  • Johnson, Deirdre (1993). Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Twayne. ISBN 0-8057-4006-6. 
  • Keeline, James D (2008). Cornelius, Michael G; Gregg, Melanie E, eds. "The Nancy Drew Mythtery Stories" in Nancy Drew and Her Sister Sleuths. McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-3995-9. 
  • Keeline, James D. "Stratemeyer Syndicate". Retrieved 19 April 2009. 
  • Kismaric, Carole; Marvin Heiferman (2007). The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. Fireside. ISBN 1-4165-4945-5. 
  • Klemesrud, Judy (4 April 1968). "100 Books - and Not a Hippie in Them." The New York Times, p. 52. Accessed through ProQuest Historical Newspapers on 22 May 2009.
  • Plunkett-Powell, Karen (1993). The Nancy Drew Scrapbook: 60 years of America's favorite teenage sleuth. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 0-312-09881-2. 
  • Rehak, Melanie (2006). Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. Harvest. ISBN 0-15-603056-X. 
  • Romalov, Nancy Tillman (1995). Dyer, Carolyn Stewart; Romalov, Nancy Tillman, eds. "Children's Series Books and the Rhetoric of Guidance: A Historical Overview" in Rediscovering Nancy Drew. University of Iowa Press. ISBN 0-87745-501-5. 
  • Ross, Catherine (May 1997). "Reading the Covers Off Nancy Drew: What Readers Say About Series Books". Emergency Librarian 24 (5). 


External links[edit]