The Secret of the Old Clock
Original cover by Russell H. Tandy
|Illustrator||Russell H. Tandy|
|Cover artist||Russell H. Tandy|
|Series||Nancy Drew Mystery Stories|
|Publisher||Grosset & Dunlap|
|Media type||Print (Hardback & Paperback)|
|Pages||210 (1930-1959); 180|
|Followed by||The Hidden Staircase|
The Secret of the Old Clock is the first volume in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories series written under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. It was first published on April 28, 1930 and revised in 1959 by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams.
Nancy Drew is an eighteen-year-old high school graduate. Her father, Carson Drew, is a well-known criminal defense lawyer. The Drews reside in River Heights and employ a housekeeper, Hannah Gruen. In early editions, she is depicted as a mere servant; later in the series she becomes more of a family member.
On January 1, 2033 the Revised Text of The Secret Of The Old Clock will pass into the Canadian Public Domain, due to Harriet Stratmeyer Adams having died in 1982. However, the original text, as written by Mildred Wirt Benson (who died in 2002), and the character of Nancy Drew, will not enter the Canadian Public Domain until January 1, 2053, due to Canada's life plus 50 years copyright policy. (Canadian Copyright Act, Sections 6.1 & 6.2) But in the United States, the original text will enter the American Public Domain in 2025 (95 years after it was first published), while the revised text will not enter until 2054.
Sixteen-year-old Nancy Drew wishes to help the Turners, who are struggling relatives of the recently deceased Josiah Crowley. Aided along the way by chum Helen Corning, she becomes interested in the case because she dislikes his snobbish "nouveau-riche" social-climbing heirs presumptive, the Tophams.
A nasty encounter at a department store allows Nancy to discredit the Topham sisters when they break an expensive imported vase. Interviewing various Crowley relatives and friends, Nancy learns from an injured old lady that Crowley hinted that the clue to his will would be found in the family clock. When Helen gives Nancy charity tickets to sell, she sells them to the Tophams to gain entry to their home and quiz them about the clock.
Nancy then joins Helen at summer camp to investigate the Topham summer-home nearby. There she is overpowered by the burglars who stole the Crowley Clock and the rest of the Topham furniture. She is imprisoned in the vacant house while the caretaker is locked in a shed nearby. She is able to obtain the titular clock while the burglars drink heavily (and illegally) at a wayside inn. (Prohibition in the United States was in force in 1930.)
Nancy is depicted as intentionally hiding stolen evidence (the clock) from the police and gunfire is involved in the police-robber chase. A climactic scene, inserted before the denouement and epilogue, sees Nancy delighted to take the money from the Tophams and see it distributed to destitute family and friends.
Nancy comes across as very strong-willed, but also competitive with the Tophams. Although charitable and altruistic to the poor heirs, she enjoys seeing others in River Heights society lose their status earned by new money rather than character.
In the Harriet Adams rewrite, Nancy is depicted as a less impulsive, less headstrong girl of Stratemeyer’s and Mildred’s vision, to a milder, more sedate and refined girl— "more sugar and less spice", with an extensive wardrobe and a more charitable outlook. Helen now appears older, perhaps in preparation for her eventual "write-out" after Volume 4 of the revised series (no explanation is made in the original series) to introduce Bess and her cousin George. Readers have noted two figures illustrated in the same vein as the cousins appear in a 1959 illustration at a girls' camp). Perceived racial stereotypes are omitted. Action is increased significantly and is faster-paced. Greater detail is given to develop Nancy and her home.
Relatives of Josiah Crowley are concerned that the selfish "nouveau-riche" social-climbing heirs presumptive, the snobbish Tophams, have taken him into their home and don't let him visit other family members including the Turner and Hoover sisters. When Crowley dies, promises of being included in his will appear moot as the will, held by the Tophams, will everything to them. Eighteen-year-old Nancy Drew is prompted to help the Crowley kin by her affection for Crowley's distant niece, little Judy, who's being raised by the elderly Turner sisters.
While looking for the Hoover sisters, Nancy happens upon their farm during a downpour and shelters with them to dry off because her convertible top malfunctioned. In the original version the sisters wanted to improve their hatchery and dressmaking skills; here, Allison Hoover wants to take singing lessons.
Nancy's encounter with the undeserving Topham sisters now centers around a torn evening dress instead of a broken vase, as in the original story. Nancy catches up with the thieves when they stop to dine, instead of drinking illegal-era alcohol.
The final scene, the reading of the will that disinherits the Tophams, focuses on the delight of rewarding the deserving Crowley kin, instead of Nancy's desire to down-class the snobbish Topham family.
The 1930s edition was published with the white-spine dust jacket, with artwork by Russell H. Tandy, and four glossy black-and-white interior illustrations, also by Tandy. The first edition is readily distinguished from later editions by its lack of a silhouette on the front cover, and blank end pages. However, a few printings occurred (through 1932) before these trademarks were added to the series.
In 1937, three of the illustrations were eliminated, leaving only a frontispiece, and additional information and illustration was added to the dust jacket. In 1943, the interior frontispiece art was updated to conform to current 1940s style. In 1950, the dust jacket was revamped as a wraparound jacket, with the picture continuing onto the spine of the book, and with cover art by Bill Gillies that was more in keeping with 1950s style. Gillies' Nancy, modeled after his wife, looks more mature than sixteen (her age in the text at the time). She wears a 1950s version of her early trademark blue suit, and is kneeling so that the length, width, and general style are indeterminate, leaving the art less dated. The scene doesn't exactly match the text in the story.
In 1965, artist Rudy Nappi created new artwork for this title which is currently in-print.
When the text was revised in 1959, five illustrations were added. The text revision described the cover scene in detail. In 1960, this volume was given entirely new artwork, including eight ink drawings and a color frontispiece, which served as the jacket illustration, all by Polly Bolian, for the Reader's Club (Cameo) edition.
In 1962, the publisher eliminated dust jackets and the books were issued with the art directly on the cover with yellow spines and backs using Bill Gillies artwork.
In 1965, the cover art was updated with an illustration by Rudy Nappi, featuring the same dress Nancy wears on Gillies' cover for The Secret of the Wooden Lady. The internal illustrations remained intact and unchanged. While binding and spine designs have changed, the book's cover, all art (except endpapers), and internal text remain unchanged.
- Lundin, Leigh (1 June 2014). "Secrets of the Girl Sleuth". SleuthSayers.org. Orlando: SleuthSayers. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
- Roback, Diane; Britton, Jason; Turvey, Debbie Hochman (December 17, 2001). "All-Time Bestselling Children's Books". Publishers Weekly 248 (51). Retrieved 24 August 2013.
- Lundin, Leigh (28 May 2014). "The Secret of the Ageless Girl". New York: Ellery Queen. Retrieved 24 June 2014.