The Rover Boys, or The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans, was a popular juvenile series written by Arthur M. Winfield, a pseudonym for Edward Stratemeyer. Thirty titles were published between 1899 and 1926 and the books remained in print for years afterward.
The original Rover Boys were brothers Tom, Sam, and Dick Rover, the sons of wealthy widower Anderson Rover, who entrusted his brother and sister-in-law, Randolph and Martha, with the rearing of the boys. As the series progressed the brothers became smitten with Dora Stanhope and Nellie and Grace Laning, the daughter and nieces of a wealthy widow.
The Rover boys' children (Fred, son of Sam Rover; Jack, son of Dick; Andy and Randy, twin sons of Tom) became the main characters of the "second series" that began with Volume 21, The Rover Boys at Colby Hall, published in 1917. The elder Rovers continued making appearances in the second series.
Additionally, there was a related Putnam Hall series of six books that featured other characters from the first Rovers series, although the Rovers themselves do not appear.
The Rovers were students at a military boarding school: adventurous, prank-playing, flirtatious, and often unchaperoned adolescents who were frequently causing mischief for authorities, as well as for criminals. The series often incorporated modern technology of the era, such as the automobile, airplanes (The Rover Boys in the Air) and news events, such as World War I.
The earliest volumes focused on the boys' travel adventures, but later stories were filled with mystery and suspense.
From 1899 to 1906 The Mershon Co. published volumes 1 through 11; from 1906 to 1907 Chatterton-Peck Co. published volumes 1 through 11. Starting in 1907 Grosset & Dunlap began publishing the Rover Boys, eventually printing all 30 volumes. They published the series through at least the 1930s. Starting in the 1940s Whitman Publishing reprinted volumes 1, 2, 7, 8, 10, 11, 13 and 14.
More than a million Rover Boys books were sold, and the titles remained in print by Grosset & Dunlap and later Whitman for years after the final title was published. The most commonly encountered are the green and brown cover editions published by Grosset & Dunlap during the 1910s and 1920s. While there are better-known and longer-running juvenile series such as The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift, the Rovers were very successful and influential. They established the template for all later Stratemeyer Syndicate series. It was Stratemeyer's first series, and one of his favorites. Stratemeyer did all of the writing himself, rather than hiring ghostwriters.
- The Rover Boys were parodied in a 1942 Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies cartoon as The Dover Boys, subtitled "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" (as opposed to Colby, both terms being cheeses). The cartoon was directed by Chuck Jones. The characters from this Rovers parody would later appear in two episodes of Animaniacs (Frontier Slappy and Magic Time) and its 1999 series finale Wakko's Wish, as well as the 1996 movie Space Jam.
- In the 1951 detective novel The Way Some People Die by Ross MacDonald, a police lieutenant accuses protagonist Lew Archer of running “a murder investigation as a one-man show.” He mocks Archer by asking if he has been “[r]eading The Rover Boys at Hollywood and Vine.”
- In the 1952 movie Macao starring Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell, the Mitchum character, Nick Cochran asks “are the Rover Boys still here” referring to 2 thugs sent to find him.
- The 18th episode of the first season (1953) of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is titled "Rover Boys" and features a narrative driven by a disagreement between Ozzie and his neighbor Thorny concerning the plot of a Rover Boys story.
- In the 1955 MGM musical It's Always Fair Weather, there are two references to The Rover Boys. The first is in the beginning of the movie when a bartender exclaims, "Well if it isn't the Rover Boys" as the three main characters walk into his bar. The second is toward the end of the movie. While trying to evade thugs, the character named Ted borrows a jacket which has "The Rover Boys" embroidered on the back.
- In 1956 a Canadian vocal group named after the Rover Boys had a Top 20 single with the school-themed "Graduation Day".
- The names Tom, Sam, and Dick Rover are mentioned by Scout in Harper Lee's 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird in reference to a game of pretend in which Dill, Jem, and Scout all had good parts.
- In a 1965 episode of I Spy called "Carry Me Back To Old Tsing-Tao", Scotty referred to the three money-hungry sons-in-law of an aged Chinese criminal mastermind as "The Rover Boys" by saying, "...Now can the Rover Boys be far behind?"
- The Rover Boys books were mentioned in the 1966 supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows (episode 38) where the governess Victoria Winters was searching for the books in the basement of the old mansion for her charge David Collins.
- In the eighth season of The Andy Griffith Show, in a 1967 episode titled "The Tape Recorder," the bank robber character Eddie Blake complains that his luck was he had to run into the "Rover Boys" when Opie and Arnold ask him to confess his crime because they secretly recorded him in his cell revealing the location of the stolen money.
Some of these books are available for download free at Project Gutenberg.
- Andrews, Dale (2013-08-27). "The Hardy Boys Mystery". Children's books. Washington: SleuthSayers.
- Ackworth, William, Horse and Buggy Stuff, The Iola Register (Iola, Kansas), October 13, 1947, page 4
- Axe, John, All About Collecting Boys’ Series Books, pages 18-20, Hobby House Press, Inc., 2002