2018 A to Z: P… All About Nancy Drew

2018 A to Z: P… All About Nancy Drew

P glassIn 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 Southern Foods and Memories… it said to write what you know! When April of 2017 rolled around, I decided to share 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 April A to Z Blog Hop!


P is for… Publisher, Plots, Places and Planning a Nancy Drew Party


It was Edward Stratemeyer  (1862-1930) who wrote the first manuscripts for the Nancy Drew Mystery books… he formed the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a company formed in 1905, which published his early books. He seemed to be way ahead of everyone in his thinking process of how to create “many” children series, in a short period of time.

Stratemeyer was considered a genius by many in his creation of an assembly-type line of producing children series books. The stories were his ideas… but by hiring multiple ghostwriters, he was able to churn out several volumes a year, versus him actually writing each manuscript himself. He’d often deliver a manuscript to a selected writer and within 30 days, they turned it into a volume for his edit and approval. They also signed away their rights to royalties and by-lines for a flat one-time fee. Imagine if they had received royalties all these years!

It was Grosset & Dunlap who he turned to, to publish those various series books. Most children, including me, never even knew that Carolyn Keene was simply a “ghost” name. Several ghostwriters wrote under that pen name through the years… both men and women wrote as Carolyn Keene.

Nancy Drew was created by Stratemeyer after he began The Hardy Boys series in 1926. He felt that as the Hardy Boys were so popular with girl readers, that those same girls would most likely be drawn to a strong female heroine. His mind poured out the first three manuscripts of plot outlines and he hired Mildred Wirt Benson to ghostwriter under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene… a name he also created. It was Mildred Wirt Benson who first breathed life and character into the early Nancy Drew!

Stratemeyer never wanted his daughters to work for the Stratemeyer Syndicate… for years they were discouraged to not be involved… he felt that women should be home raising the families. Finally, after pressure from them, he relented to let his daughters work on editing manuscripts in the privacy of their homes. He had even expressed upon his death, that they should actually sell the Syndicate.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate almost ceased to continue after the stock market crash of 1929. Edward quickly made changes, and moved the Syndicate offices from Manhattan to his home state of New Jersey; that move saved the Syndicate.

Another strategic move of Stratemeyer was how he entered into a contract with Grosset & Dunlap for the low royalty rate of 2-cents per copy for the first 10,000 copies… which at that time were only selling for 50 cents a copy.

The first few books printed in 1930 were an immediate hit! Macy’s ordered 6000 copies of Nancy Drew books for their 1933 Christmas Season and sold out in one day! I can’t imagine parents buying many books at that time, but most likely they were only bought by the affluent, not the average young girl growing up on a farm… a girl like my mother who had to borrow books to read… she was that average girl living on a farm! Wouldn’t you like to see how they advertised Nancy Drew at Macy’s… I can just picture in my mind an entire Nancy Drew window dressed up as a theme from one of the books… hopefully, it was The Secret of the Old Clock! Maybe they’ll do a “children’s series” book for a Christmas theme one year… and I’d be right there waiting in line! I love Macy’s decorated windows at Christmas!

Edward Stratemeyer died (May 10, 1930) a few short weeks after the Nancy Drew books premiered; he died at the family home after suffering from pneumonia for over two weeks. The family was shaken as they struggled to save the Stratemeyer Syndicate, a company their father loved dearly. His two daughters, Harriet S. Adams (1892-1982) and Edna C. Squires (1895-1974) quickly stepped up to run their father’s company, even though they knew nothing about editing and writing… they quickly took over to create plots, edit and publish the final outlines.

Stratemeyer only lived to see three Nancy Drew books published… Nancy was the last character he created… saving the best for last!

It was Harriet, the oldest daughter, who mostly took over the day-to-day running of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, even eventually writing 72 volumes of children series books… beginning with The Bobbsey Twins volumes in 1943. Harriet’s first Nancy Drew volume wasn’t published until 1953… which was the beginning of her taking over the writing of the Nancy Drew stories… later in 1959 she brought Mildred W. Benson onboard to help in the rewrites of the first 34 volumes. Edna published one volume in the Kay Tracey stories, but it was mostly Harriet who took over and ran the Syndicate.

Grosset & Dunlap were the publishers of the original and revision of the Nancy Drew books, but in 1979, after the Stratemeyer Syndicate was sold to Simon & Schuster, there was a lawsuit. G & D fought hard against the new company, but they eventually lost the right to publish new Nancy Drew stories. What they did win was… to retain the rights to continue publishing the first original 56 books and they continue to publish them today… they are known as the “flashlight series.” The new books became so named as such because of the flashlight on the top banner.

Simon & Schuster added new lines of Nancy Drew books, which gave our Nancy a new look, and naturally a new car; she also sports a new attitude. It was their way of introducing our beloved Nancy to a new generation. Hmmm… do you think the new readers will one day search out the vintage Nancy Drews? Hopefully, my granddaughter’s will, and I’ll have them waiting… in my collection.

In 1991 – 2005, Applewood Book publishers reprinted the Nancy Drew volumes 1 – 21 in their original format. They didn’t continue to reprint all the original 25-chapter volumes… they weren’t selling as they thought they would. These books are another set of Nancy Drew’s that a collector wants in their collection… me included!

The owner of Applewood Books was first concerned that his company might be viewed as racist by reissuing them in their original format, but he wanted the new readers to understand where we once had been in this country… in order to see where we were now as a country. In talking to people today, and asking them about the early original books, I’ve found that many never even knew there were “before” books… me included!

Foreign publisher Harold Hill & Son Limited, a family-owned publishing company in the United Kingdom published Nancy Drew books there during the years of 1954-1955. What made them distinguishable from the American books was the artwork on the covers. They only published the first 6 titles in the Nancy Drew line and used their own original artwork… signing Varty on the bottom, or either the left or right side; the art was believed to be the work of a Frank Varty.

Book photo from nancydrewworld

All Harold Hill dust jackets had spines of blue… totally different from the American yellow spines by Grosset & Dunlap. They kept the Nancy Drew symbol circle, but the picture of Nancy is slightly different, and where Grosset & Dunlap would be on the bottom, they have their HH logo. While these books are not written in a foreign language, they are written in what’s called “Queens English.” I hope to add a couple of these to my collection… just to read how they translated Nancy’s words into sounding more English!

The Sampson Low publishing company took over the series after no. 6 was published by Harold Hill & Son Limited… their first Nancy Drew began with no. 7. They redesigned the book jacket to wrap over onto the spine, and continued using the same HH Nancy Drew symbol logo but added the book no. inside the logo circle; their name of Sampson Low was added on the bottom of the spine.

Book photo from nancydrewworld

I like how the spine wrap spills over from the front cover. This specific cover art was quite different as Nancy exposed much more leg than our American covers… where she was more covered.

Upon reading more on this specific artwork, I learned it was only released in the UK by Sampson Low. Many have speculated that it was actually painted by Bill Gillies, who painted the dust jacket wraps for Grosset & Dunlap for volumes 1-9 and no. 11 during the 1950’s. It’s also speculated that this specific one might possibly be the one rejected due to Nancy’s left thigh being exposed. What’s more of a mystery is not why it was rejected, but how did Sampson & Low end up with it. That mystery may never be solved, as everyone has their own idea of how it might have happened.


Writing all those manuscripts… twisting and turning plots throughout the books, still amazes me. The continual writing of one story after another with the same characters… must have been hard in not repeating previous storylines.

Even though there weren’t ghosts in all the books, several “would-be” ghosts seemed to always be around… trying hard to scare Nancy away… to keep her from solving the mystery. The villains just never learned though… the more they intrigued her… the more she became determined to solve the mystery. Nancy Drew never gives up… always getting her man!

nancy octopus

Burt and Ned battling an octopus in The Invisible Intruder! (my coloring art)

There have been several ghosts of all shapes and sizes throughout the books… ghosts even in the shape of animals… ghosts operating canoes, octopus in freshwater lakes, circles of fire, whispering statues, haunted bridges, passwords that open gates, hidden staircases that help to reveal secrets, and clocks holding secrets.


While there are some real name places used in the Nancy Drew stories… for the most part I’ve found them to be fictitious. Was there a reason? Maybe to keep you guessing where the real Nancy Drew lived? We all know that her hometown of River Heights is not real, but they did keep the name real when she visited  New York City.


Nancy Drew Land (My Coloring Art)

At least when Nancy traveled abroad, the names weren’t made up, she really did travel to countries like Canada, Scotland, England, India, Japan, Turkey, Argentina, and China. I’m sure there are more, but I haven’t read as of yet.

When it comes to colleges though, they didn’t seem to want to use a real place name. I believe Hale College was really meant to insinuate Yale… funny when they use a similar-sounding name… like we couldn’t put two and two together; but maybe, the young readers didn’t in years past!

What were the highlights of places near River Heights? You could always enjoy a scenic drive down Larkspur Lane… it must have been an awesome drive when the Larkspurs were in bloom. Who wouldn’t enjoy a romantic weekend at the Lilac Inn? Be sure and store your valuables in their in-room safe though, as it’s known that lurking jewelry thieves frequent there. If you’re a ghost chaser, you’re sure to enjoy hunting the ghostly apparitions that have been known to frequent the grounds.

Don’t bypass a trip to Red Gate Farm as their cider is awesome… but don’t feed the animals while there! You’re sure to leave with a car packed with home-grown veggies, so be prepared to cook a big dinner when returning home!

I could easily spend a day clamming with “Mehearty” along the Muskoka River… searching for a pearl or enjoy a leisurely crawl down the river along its narrow and winding banks. Can’t you just hear ol’ Mehearty singing that little tune he sang as he peddled his clams along the streets of River Heights?

Nancy and Gypsy1

Madam Tarantella threatens Nancy, but a threat never intimidates our Nancy… it only encourages her! (my coloring art)

What fun you could have at Misty Lake, especially if you partake in a little late night ghost hunt when the lake is shrouded in a foggy mist… isn’t that the time the ghost canoe appears? If someone told me about that, I know I’d be right out there looking for it!

Planning a Nancy Drew Party:

What fun it would be to plan a Nancy Drew party… and I hope I’ll get the chance for one of my granddaughters birthday parties.

In planning my daughter’s parties, from the bridal shower to the baby showers, I’ve always designed the invites, crafted all the centerpieces and made all the goodie bags. For a Nancy Drew party, what would be better than using original, or look-alike library cards… for the invitations? You’re invited to the party of……. where the name of the book would be, and the Due Date, naturally would be the date of the party. Can’t you picture it in your head? A special size envelope could be folded for it to fit snuggly inside! Maybe even stamp Nancy’s trademark “magnifying glass” on the card… and definitely again on the envelope letting them know it’s a mystery sleuthing party!

magnyfing glass cookiesFix

Photo from Country Living Magazine

If you’re inclined to make the cookies, here is the recipe from Country Living. They sure look good!


2 1/4 c. cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for working
3/4 tsp. Kosher salt
3/4 c. (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. pure almond extract
1 large egg, beaten
1 c. finely crushed pineapple Lifesavers candy
1/2 c. finely crushed green apple Lifesavers candy
  1. Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl. Beat butter, sugar, and extracts on medium-high speed with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, 1 to 2 minutes. Beat in egg until blended. Reduce mixer speed to low, and gradually add flour mixture to butter mixture, beating just until flour is incorporated.
  2. Divide dough in half, and flatten into 2 disks. Wrap in plastic wrap, and chill at least 2 hours or up to 3 days.
  3. Preheat oven to 325°F. Line three baking sheets with parchment paper. Working with one disk at a time, on a lightly floured work surface, roll dough to 1/4-inch thickness. Use a 5 3/4-inch-long magnifying glass-shaped cookie cutter to cut as many cookies as possible; place on prepared baking sheets. Use a 2-inch round cutter to remove the center from each cookie; reroll scraps, and repeat the process. Freeze 10 minutes. Stir together candies in a bowl.
  4. Bake until golden brown around edges, 10 to 12 minutes. Cool 3 minutes. Sprinkle crushed candies in center of each cookie, dividing evenly. Bake until candies melt, 2 to 3 minutes; swirl with a toothpick to mix colors. Cool completely on baking sheets on a wire rack. (I’m hungry after reading through the recipe)

Naturally, there would be a table set up with the famous detective Nancy silhouette standing in the rear, with trays of magnifying cookies… just like the ones shown in the Country Living Magazine. There must be a punch bowl for the kiddies… I’d serve my famous birthday punch I always served at my children’s birthday parties; a punchbowl filled with a mixture of punch soda, sprinkled with dollops of sherbet, frozen strawberries (helps to keep cold), orange juice and ginger-ale poured over all. That’s the secret ingredient which gives it that foamy look…. oh so good!

As it’s a “Nancy Drew” mystery birthday…. there must be some goodies to get the detectives started as junior sleuthers! Depending on how large a mystery they’re solving as what might be needed… from flashlights to search for clues with, a magnifying glass to better read clues, and maps to lead them to the evidence! I’ve made maps before from crinkled up brown paper torn into shapes; it could even be a quieter table mystery where they gather and learn all about fingerprints, even discovering how to lift them off their own glass!

And what better to go in the goodie bag… than a Nancy Drew book (flashlight edition) and maybe even a few Hardy Boys thrown in for good measure… Who knows, you just might be forming the next generation of Nancy Drew readers… and collectors! I’m hoping my granddaughters will want a sleuthing party one day…. and I’ll be right there helping to plan! I better bone up on my print lifting skills!

magnificator ThanksForReading

Want to read more, click below….

2018: A to Z – All About Nancy Drew

© 2018, copyright Jeanne Bryan Insalaco; all rights reserved

About Jeanne Bryan Insalaco

My blog is at: https://everyonehasafamilystorytotell.wordpress.com/
This entry was posted in 2018: A to Z - All About Nancy Drew, Daily Writings and funnies... and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to 2018 A to Z: P… All About Nancy Drew

  1. scr4pl80 says:

    I’d love to go to your Nancy Drew party. I planned a mystery party for my kids one year and it was quite fun. Not Nancy Drew, but still a mystery.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anne Young says:

    The party sounds fun.
    Why did it help to relocate to New Jersey in the crash?
    Fellow AtoZ-er

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I think a Nancy Drew party would be fabulous! I love themed parties and always threw them for my daughter’s birthdays. My favorite was a Scooby Doo one for my youngest. The kids had to solve a mystery when the birthday phantom stole all the presents. I think something like that might translate well to a Nancy Drew party too. Weekends In Maine

    Liked by 2 people

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