2018 A to Z: A… All About Nancy Drew
In 2016 I learned of the first annual April A to Z… it immediately intrigued me and I began racking my brain for a theme. After much reading, and thinking… I finally came up with the theme of A to Z: 2016 Southern Foods and Memories… it said to write what you know! When April of 2017 rolled around, I decided to share A to Z: 2017 Conversations with Mama to the world… the best of my on-going blog post that has generated from nightly talks to my mother. It’s now 2018 and as Nancy Drew has been on my mind… since I began re-building my collection back… well, I hope you will join me in celebrating All about Nancy Drew during the A to Z Blog Hop!
A is for… All About Me and Nancy Drew, Artwork, and Automobiles
All About Me and Nancy Drew…
My A to Z of “All About Me and Nancy Drew” came about last year when I “first”… note, I said first… began searching for Nancy books for my seven-year-old granddaughter Ella. She had just completed 1st grade and was becoming quite the reader… so who better to encourage to become a Nancy Drew reader than she; I have four more granddaughters to begin working on next!
Me as a young “Nancy Drew” reader with a few of my remembered favorite yellow spines!
Nancy Drew was my “first” all-time favorite book as a young girl… didn’t everyone love Nancy? Sadly though, I can’t remember what happened to my collection of books I treasured. I can only surmise, that I outgrew them and Mama disposed of my treasures, but neither she nor I can remember; I often try to think, at night when I’m supposed to be…. well, trying to sleep… hoping somewhere in my dreams, that those memories will return to me.
If you haven’t figured it out yet… I’ve also begun collecting a set of Nancy Drew’s for myself as well as a set for Ella. After finding a mixture of the new flashlight books and the vintage ones I remembered… I soon decided to collect the “flashlight” series for Ella and the vintage ones, I read as a young girl, for myself! As I began finding those vintage covers I loved and read… I knew I wouldn’t be able to part with them! The artwork on the covers I so remembered, well they just drew me back in! Secretly I began rereading Nancy Drew once again… they’ve always been in the back of my mind. Thank You, Ella, for bringing the little girl inside of me… back into the world!
Nancy Drew arrived in the publishing world and in every young girl’s book collections in 1930. Before Nancy appeared, there weren’t many girl-series books, but afterward, titles like The Dana Girls, Cherry Aimes, Judy Bolton, Penny Parker, The Bobbsey Twins, The Lennon Sisters, and Trixie Belden, all popped up to keep Nancy company! They all were written, in hopes of becoming just as popular as Nancy Drew, but their popularity never lasted like Nancy’s has. Mildred Wirt Benson, the original Carolyn Keene ghostwriter, also wrote several of those other books; even the artwork on the covers of the Dana girls look very similar to the Nancy Drew books. I’ll be keeping my eyes out for a few of them to read and compare. All this reading is not getting my house cleaned or that decluttering I planned upon retirement… but this is much more fun!
Nancy continued to remain popular, even when I became an adult… when my daughter became of age to read Nancy Drew, I began searching tag sales for Nancy Drew! Either she wasn’t a reader or they just didn’t grab her, as sadly she didn’t become a Nancy fan. Through the years I wondered where her books went… and recently as my husband and I have been “trying” to declutter our home… he came up from the basement with a box… marked Melissa’s, Nancy Drew! I couldn’t wait to open that box and take possession of those books… I was like a kid in a candy store!
While it would have been more “exciting” to have my original books from my childhood… having my daughters was the next best thing. But what memories it would have been to have held my books in my hands… to see my name written in them… to see if I put check marks on the ones I read… or to see how many books I had? If you’re wondering… if my daughter wrote her name in those books… yes… but only in “one” book… No. 1, The Mystery of The Old Clock… I guess that was as far as she read! As it was a “revised text”… maybe the text was too outdated for her in the late 80’s, and didn’t hold her interest; even though she wasn’t interested in Nancy, she has two young girls that I hope to introduce to the eight-year-old Nancy in the Clue’s Crews books… there’s always hope for them!
How can you “not” resist loving the artwork!!!
As a young girl of around 9 years old, I never gave a second thought as to who drew the artwork that covered my favorite books, but in a way I did. Whenever I stood among the latest book titles on the shelves, and I can almost see those yellow spines standing on the shelves in the book section in K-Mart… it actually was the artwork that drew me in. No matter what you read of the story between the pages, it’s often the book cover, that well-designed art cover, which attracts you to chose that book! Before you even open to the first page, you’ve already formed an opinion as to the storyline.
Through the years, there were only three illustrators who designed the first 56 art-covers of my well-loved Nancy Drew books, and they truly were art. I’d so love to have a wall of all those book covers, but that wall would have to be very big, as there are often more than one art-cover for each book title. I never even knew of all those covers, until, as an adult, reading and discovering again… All About Nancy!
The first commercial illustrator for Nancy Drew was Russel H. Tandy, a friend of Edward Stratemeyer… the creator of Nancy Drew. Don’t you always choose people close to you, whose work you’ve known and valued… when looking for someone to portray your ideas and values? Stratemeyer certainly chose wisely! Tandy’s work won over the Nancy Drew fans quickly and he continued to illustrate the first 26 volumes of dust jackets. Who doesn’t love a book wrapped with illustrations that draw you in immediately to read! Tandy’s illustrations portrayed our blonde-titan sleuth in the Nancy Drew series from the very beginning in 1930, until 1949; he didn’t illustrate no. 11 though. Maybe someone reading, can tell me why?
The first Nancy Drew’s were sold with wrap-a-round lavish art covers!
Photos from the nancydrewsleuth.com
Not only did Tandy illustrate the lavish art cover, he also designed the inside art illustrations that tell the story. I have not discovered yet if he designed the Nancy Drew silhouette that appeared on the “tweeds” under the dust jackets… appearing first as the silhouette in orange and later in the dark silhouette, which we mostly remember and love. The early nancy is pictured with a scarf flowing around her neck as the head is bent looking through her “famous” magnifying glass. The style and length of the dress and heels, also give you a glimpse of the time frame… and in later years, you’ll find Nancy with no scarf, a different dress, and shoes… Nancy’s in a new time period.
The final “Tweeds”
Photos from the nancydrewsleuth.com
Photos from the nancydrewsleuth.com
It’s these artsy “covers” that I so remember and love!
Photos from the nancydrewsleuth.com
Different editions of The Secret of the Old Clock show how the physical appearance of the Nancy Drew art “book covers” changed over the years from 1930 – 1959.
The “flashlight” edition of The Secret of the Old Clock
Photo from nancydrewsleuth.com
I don’t remember reading my books under the covers with a flashlight – Do You? I think it’s pretty clever how they renamed these new glossy cover books as such!
I love the look of the original 1930 book of Nancy with her hair tucked slightly under the cloche hat, with just a few curls hanging down… just enough to give you a glimpse of her blonde hair color. Could there ever have been a question of whether Nancy’s hair should be brown or blonde? Maybe there weren’t distinctions made toward “blondes” at that time like there is today with the blonde jokes!
Nancy’s 1930’s outfit on the cover of The Secret of The Old Clock reminds me of the clothing my mother described that belonged to her mother. It sounded similar to Nancy’s dress and hat… which she also wore pulled down on one side. Mama loved to play dress-up, after discovering it in the back hall wardrobe. Even today, if I mention Nancy Drew to mama… she remembers that outfit and begins describing that polka dot dress and hat… how she’d put it on and pull the hat down to one side. Maybe she was pretending to be Nancy Drew! Whenever I see the art cover on that first book, I visualize her wearing that dress… reminding me that grandmamma had been a flapper and maybe even danced the Charleston while wearing that polka dot dress and hat… there goes my mind again writing a story… or just wandering!
Mama loved reading Nancy’s adventures and often wished she and her best friend, Willie Mae, could be detectives and traipse around the countryside solving cases. I’m sure she did a lot of day-dreaming back in those days… a young girl growing up in the country, but secretly being whisked away to other places. Mama often stops in the local consignment shop today looking for them and even bought me a few… reading them herself again… returning to the young girl she once was. I often call her Nancy, as she was also born in April of 1930. In as many stories my mother has told me, I could easily write a story of her in Nancy’s shoes!
Tandy portrayed his book covers so aptly in the era of time… always depicting a scene of the mystery between the book covers. Often it was the cover art that intrigued me to read and usually that was the final decision in me finally choosing one book over another. My mind always returns to the art of books like The Hidden Staircase and The Secret in The Attic… secretly I guess I’ve always enjoyed exploring places, and who doesn’t want to find a hidden staircase inside your house or explore an attic filled with treasures! Maybe that’s why I write… there are stories in my mind, stories that come from wanting to discover things that are hidden… the sleuth inside of me yearning to come out!
Just like today, times change… clothing and language go in different directions and in keeping “with the times“, the art on Tandy’s tenth book, “The Password to Larkspur Lane” made Nancy’s first wardrobe change. She packed away her famous “cloche” hat, changed her heels and dress style to a more modern look, and “no” hat covered those blonde curls any longer. The dress changed to a more modest look, just below the knees… although it now portrayed a newer style. I’m sure the girls of those times reading… were thrilled to see Nancy’s new look and probably were quick to imitate her.
Although I never discovered why Tandy didn’t continue designing the dust jackets, I might assume that in needing a new look, what better than a new designer to tackle that process! Volume 27 brought designer, Bill Gillies, another friend of Stratemeyer… who also was already working and designing for the Syndicate. While he actually only painted and designed book jackets 27 through 29… he re-designed new covers again from the very beginning. Why that change… was it something also being done in other series? My thoughts… it was done to continue drawing in “new” Nancy Drew readers. While I’m not a fan of change… many young girls coming of reading age might relate to the look of the girls wearing their “now” clothes. In as much as I love the look of the vintage dust jackets now, and I’d love to have every one of them in my bookcase… I might not have bought them then! Today they are the “classic” look of Nancy Drew… and the coveted find! At this point, I have a few dust jackets and hope to close that gap as I hunt bookstores, flea markets and online. I think I’m going to need another bookcase soon! The day I open a cover of The Secret of The Old Clock and see no artwork on the endpapers and no silhouette under the dust jacket… well, I will be doing the “happy dance” all the way to the car!
While I love all the covers and would so love to have every one, it’s the yellow spine matte art covers by Gillies and Nappi that I grew up reading… never even knowing how often they actually changed cover designs. In researching history for my A to Z… I’ve learned so much that it often makes my head spin… and there’s even much more to the history of Nancy Drew than I can ever touch on; the authorities today on Nancy Drew are Jennifer Fisher and Jennifer White. They have assembled tremendous websites on the history of Nancy Drew… and if you want your head to spin… go check out their vast knowledge… and if you’re reading my posts on Nancy Drew… you know you love Nancy!
Both Jenn’s have covered the history of Nancy Drew completely and have followed all the art book covers even into the continued varieties of Nancy Drew books… the books have branched out into many varieties since the end of the first 56 Nancy Drew Mysteries. The original Nancy Drew stories still remain in print today… but in the yellow glossy flashlight editions.
Volume 30 began with a completely new illustrator by the name of Rudy Nappi, and he remained through the end of the mystery series with volume 56; once again the next artist redesigned the complete series of book covers… once again from the beginning. By this time, dust jackets were not being reproduced as much and the art was also now designed directly on the hard book cover… the yellow matte books… the ones I remember and love!
I asked my mother if she remembered any of the books changing art covers… “most times I never studied the dust jackets as I borrowed the books from a friend who lived in town; I only took the book, not the jacket. I was a poor farm girl, my father would never have bought me books. If I wanted to read, I took out books from the bookmobile that traveled throughout from farm to farm, or borrowed from a friend.”
I began reading Nancy around 1960, during the years of the Nappi and the Gillies yellow matte art… they are what I remember the most, but now I’m also partial to many of the earlier Tandy covers. Who doesn’t want one of each… of all the book covers? You must know better than to ask me that question!
Nancy Drew was famous in the 1930’s for driving her famous blue roadster. Roadsters usually only accommodated two people… sometimes three, depending on the type of roadster; only if it had a rumble seat did it seat three. I can just picture George and Bess flipping to see who rode in the rumble seat, or running to the car while yelling “shotgun”!
Nancy’s early “blue” roadster!
The first mention of Nancy’s roadster was the blue one her father gave her as a birthday gift in the very first book… The Secret of the Old Clock. Lucky Nancy! This one was noted as having a trunk… so where did our Bess ride… as you know George liked to call shotgun and jump in with Nancy! (I guess they left that part out about how a trunk-style roadster only seated two)
During the years of 1930 – 1935 Nancy had several colored cars of blue, maroon, green and even a black, but it will always be the blue roadster that’s most associated with her!
Nancy’s roadster changed to maroon by the hands of Walter Karig; he penned three volumes (1932-33)… Nancy’s Mysterious Letter, The Sign of The Twisted Candles and Password of Larkspur Lane. He also had Nancy trade in her maroon one for a green roadster and later she even received a black Packlin (a fictional make of car)… another birthday present from dad. Carson Drew must have done well in the stock market!
I”m ready to play!… Nancy’s blue car is mine!
By 1941, Nancy’s car was referred to now as a coupe… terminology was changing for the readers. During the war years, Nancy’s car wasn’t even mentioned… it was left out in reference to the war effort to conserve driving, as non-essential trips were frowned upon; you were asked to do your part for your country and conserve. The Federal Government imposed mandatory gas rationing. I have my grandfathers “gas ration” booklets that he was given during WWII; he didn’t even use all allowed him! You were asked to only use gas to go and come from work. Maybe they should have mentioned that in the books and show how Nancy conserved her gas and found other means of transportation to solve her mysteries. After the war, by around 1944, Nancy was once again riding, but now in the black (fictional) roadster… which would have been a much older car. What message were they sending… or did they forget to change her car?
By 1947, in The Clue in the Old Album, Nancy was now driving a convertible… times were changing and Nancy was finally stepping up. Newer car… much faster speeds! In the later books, they refer to her car as only a Mustang! My first car when I was sixteen was a Mustang… if only it had been a convertible!
Hubby built me my own blue coupe roadster! Can’t you just picture “Miss Nancy Drew” painted on the side? I must work on that!
The Society of Automobile Engineers defines a roadster as “an open car seating two or three.” Additional seating in the rear was referred to as a rumble seat. Early roadsters had only basic bodies, no doors or even windshields. I don’t think our Nancy was driving an early roadster with no doors or windshields, but we know her roadster was open… remember the time when she had to drive into a barn to get out of the rain as she couldn’t stop to put her top up.
Courtesy of James D. Keeline: James noted… This telegram was sent by the president of Grosset & Dunlap to Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, of the Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1963. The cumulative sales, including original and revised texts, of volume one, had exceeded 1 million copies.
Well… as this only covers Letter A, I hope you’ll come along and join me on my journey of A to Z: All About Nancy Drew. I hope to hear from you… to hear all about your Nancy Drew stories, your thoughts, your favorite book titles, and anything in regards to Nancy!
I hope I’ve encouraged you to grab your magnifying glass and join me on my A to Z daily writings of “All About Nancy Drew“!
I’m feeling very “Nancy Drewish” today…
Want to read more, click…. 2018: A to Z – All About Nancy Drew
© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved