Not to be confused with The Hardy Boyz, Hard Boyz or The Hardly Boys.
The Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe Hardy, are fictional characters who appear in several mystery series for children and teens. The characters were created by American writer Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of book-packaging firm Stratemeyer Syndicate; the books themselves are written by ghostwriters under the collective pseudonymFranklin W. Dixon.
The Hardy Boys have evolved since their debut in 1927. Beginning in 1959, the books were extensively revised, partially to eliminate racial stereotypes. The books were also written in a simpler style to compete with television. Some critics argue that the Hardy Boys changed in the process, becoming affluent and law-respecting "agents of the adult ruling class". Most lamented the loss of the richer pre-war descriptive style, but saw the updates as an attempt to modernize the stories. Similar complaints were made about the updates to Nancy Drew, the female counterpart of the series.
A new Hardy Boys series, the Hardy Boys Casefiles, was created in 1987, and featured murders, violence, and international espionage. The original "Hardy Boys Mystery Stories" series ended in 2005. A new series, Undercover Brothers, was launched the same year, featuring updated versions of the characters who narrate their adventures in the first person. Undercover Brothers ended in 2012 and was replaced in 2013 by The Hardy Boys Adventures, also narrated in the first person.
Through all these changes, the characters have remained popular; the books sell more than a million copies annually, several new volumes are published each year, and the adventures have been translated into more than 25 languages. The boys have been featured in five television shows and several video games, and have helped promote merchandise such as lunchboxes and jeans. Critics have many explanations for the characters' longevity, suggesting that the Hardy Boys embody simple wish fulfillment, American ideals of boyhood and masculinity, a well-respected father paradoxically argued to be inept, and the possibility of the triumph of good over evil.
Main article: List of The Hardy Boys characters
The Hardy Boys, Frank and Joe Hardy, are fictional teenage brothers and amateur detectives. Frank is eighteen (sixteen in earlier versions), and Joe is seventeen (fifteen in earlier versions). They live in the city of Bayport on Barmet Bay with their father, detective Fenton Hardy; their mother, Laura Hardy;[a] and their Aunt Gertrude. The brothers attend high school in Bayport, where they are in the same grade,[b] but school is rarely mentioned in the books and never hinders their solving of mysteries. In the older stories, the Boys' mysteries are often linked to their father's confidential cases. He sometimes requests their assistance, while at other times they stumble upon relevant villains and incidents. In the Undercover Brothers series (2005-2012), the Hardys are members of and receive cases from American Teens Against Crime. The Hardy Boys are sometimes assisted in solving mysteries by their friends Chet Morton, Phil Cohen, Biff Hooper, Jerry Gilroy, and Tony Prito; and, less frequently, by their platonic girlfriends Callie Shaw and Iola Morton (Chet's sister).
In each novel, the Hardy Boys are constantly involved in adventure and action. Despite frequent danger, the boys "never lose their nerve ... They are hardy boys, luckier and more clever than anyone around them." They live in an atmosphere of mystery and intrigue: "Never were so many assorted felonies committed in a simple American small town. Murder, drug peddling, race horse kidnapping, diamond smuggling, medical malpractice, big-time auto theft, even (in the 1940s) the hijacking of strategic materials and espionage, all were conducted with Bayport as a nucleus." With so much in common, the boys are so little differentiated that one commentator facetiously describes them thus: "The boys' characters basically broke down this way – Frank had dark hair; Joe was blond." In general, however, "Frank was the thinker while Joe was more impulsive, and perhaps a little more athletic." The two boys are infallibly on good terms with each other and never engage in sibling rivalry, except in the New Hardy Boys Casefiles series.
Frank and Joe are somewhat wealthy and often travel to far-away locations, including Mexico in The Mark on the Door (1934), Scotland in The Secret Agent on Flight 101 (1967), Iceland in The Arctic Patrol Mystery (1969), Egypt in The Mummy Case (1980), and Kenya in The Mystery of the Black Rhino (2003). The Hardys also travel across the United States by motorcycle, motor boat, iceboat, train, airplane, and their own car.
Creation of characters
The characters were conceived in 1926 by Edward Stratemeyer, founder of book-packaging firm Stratemeyer Syndicate. Stratemeyer pitched the series to publishers Grosset & Dunlap and suggested that the boys be called the Keene Boys, the Scott Boys, the Hart Boys, or the Bixby Boys. Grosset & Dunlap editors approved the project, but, for reasons unknown, chose the name "The Hardy Boys". The first three titles were published in 1927, and were an immediate success: by mid-1929, more than 115,000 books had been sold. So successful was the series that Stratemeyer created Nancy Drew as a female counterpart to the Hardys.
See also: Leslie McFarlane
Each volume is penned by a ghostwriter under the pseudonym Franklin W. Dixon. In accordance with the customs of Stratemeyer Syndicate series production, ghostwriters for the Syndicate signed contracts that have sometimes been interpreted as requiring authors to sign away all rights to authorship or future royalties. The contracts stated that authors could not use their Stratemeyer Syndicate pseudonyms independently of the Syndicate. In the early days of the Syndicate, ghostwriters were paid a fee of $125, "roughly equivalent to two months' wages for a typical newspaper reporter, the primary day job of the syndicate ghosts." During the Great Depression this fee was lowered, first to $100 and later to $75. All royalties went to the Syndicate; all correspondence with the publisher was handled through a Stratemeyer Syndicate office, and the Syndicate was able to enlist the cooperation of libraries in hiding the ghostwriters' names.
The Syndicate's process for creating the Hardy Boys books consisted of creating a detailed outline, with all elements of plot; drafting a manuscript; and editing the manuscript. Edward Stratemeyer's daughter, Edna Stratemeyer Squier, and possibly Stratemeyer himself, wrote outlines for the first volumes in the series. Beginning in 1934, Stratemeyer's other daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, began contributing plot outlines; she and Andrew Svenson wrote most of the plot outlines for the next several decades. Other plot outliners included Vincent Buranelli, James Duncan Lawrence, and Tom Mulvey.
Most of the early volumes were written by Canadian Leslie McFarlane, who authored nineteen of the first twenty-five titles and co-authored volume 17 The Secret Warning, between 1927 and 1946. Unlike many other Syndicate ghostwriters, McFarlane was regarded highly enough by the Syndicate that he was frequently given advances of $25 or $50, and during the Depression, when fees were lowered, he was paid $85 for each Hardy Boys book when other Syndicate ghostwriters were receiving only $75 for their productions. According to McFarlane's family, he despised the series and its characters.
After co-authoring Volume 17, John Button, with Volume 18, The Twisted Claw (1939), took over the series full-time until 1942; McFarlane resumed with Volume 22, The Flickering Torch Mystery (1943). McFarlane's last contribution was Volume 24, The Short-Wave Mystery (1945); his wife, Amy, authored Volume 26, The Phantom Freighter (1947).[c] Over the next several decades, other volumes were written by Adams, Svenson, Lawrence, Buranelli, William Dougherty, and James Buechler. Beginning in 1959, the series was extensively revised and re-written. Many authors worked on the revised books, writing new manuscripts; some of them also wrote plot outlines and edited the books. Among the authors who worked on the revised versions were Adams, Svenson, Buechler, Lilo Wuenn, Anne Shultes, Alistair Hunter, Tom Mulvey, Patricia Doll, and Priscilla Baker-Carr.
In 1979, the Hardy Boys books began to be published in paperback rather than hardcover. Lawrence and Buranelli continued to write titles; other authors included Karl Harr III and Laurence Swinburne. In 1984, the rights to the series were sold, along with the Stratemeyer Syndicate, to Simon & Schuster. New York book packager Mega-Books subsequently hired authors to write the Hardy Boys Mystery Stories and a new series, the Hardy Boys Casefiles.
In 1980, dissatisfied with the lack of creative control at Grosset & Dunlap and the lack of publicity for the Hardy Boys' 50th anniversary in 1977, Harriet Adams (née Stratemeyer) switched publishers for the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, as well as other series, to Simon & Schuster. Grosset & Dunlap filed suit against the Syndicate and Simon & Schuster, citing "breach of contract, copyright infringement, and unfair competition" and requesting $300 million in damages.
The outcome of the case turned largely on the question of who had written the Nancy Drew series. Adams filed a countersuit, claiming that, as author of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, she retained the rights to her work. Although Adams had written many Nancy Drew titles after 1953 and edited others, she claimed to be the author of all of the early titles. In fact, she had rewritten the older titles, but was not the original author. When Mildred Benson, the author of the early Nancy Drew volumes, was called to testify about her work for the Syndicate, Benson's role in writing the manuscripts of early titles was revealed in court with extensive documentation, contradicting Adams' claims to authorship. The court ruled that Grosset had the rights to publish the original series of both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys as they were in print in 1980, but did not own characters or trademarks. Furthermore, any new publishers chosen by Adams were completely within their rights to print new titles.
Evolution of characters
The Hardy Boys have gone through many permutations over the years. Beginning in 1959, the books were extensively revised, and some commentators find that the Hardys' characters changed in the process. Commentators also sometimes see differences between the Hardy Boys of the original Hardy Boys Mystery Stories and the Hardy Boys of the Hardy Boys Casefiles or the new Undercover Brothers series.
The early volumes, largely written by Leslie McFarlane, have been praised for their atmosphere and writing style, qualities often considered lacking in juvenile series books. McFarlane's writing is clear and filled with specific details, making his works superior to many other Stratemeyer series titles. Such, at least, was McFarlane's intention: "It seemed to me the Hardy Boys deserved something better than the slapdash treatment Dave Fearless[d] had been getting... I opted for Quality." The volumes not written by McFarlane or his wife were penned by John Button, who wrote the series from 1938 to 1942; this period is sometimes referred to as the "Weird Period" as the writing is full of inconsistencies and the Hardy Boys' adventures involve futuristic gadgetry and exotic locations.
"Of course, chief," said Frank smoothly, "if you're afraid to go up to the Polucca place just because it's supposed to be haunted, don't bother. We can tell the newspapers that we believe our father has met with foul play and that you won't bother to look into the matter, but don't let us disturb you at all–" "What's that about the newspapers?" demanded the chief, getting up from his chair so suddenly that he upset the checkerboard.... "Don't let this get into the papers." The chief was constantly afraid of publicity unless it was of the most favorable nature.
In general, the world of these early volumes is a "[dark] and ... divided place." In these early titles, the boys are cynical about human nature, an attitude apparently justified when the police, whom they have repeatedly helped, throw them into jail on slim evidence in The Great Airport Mystery (1930). The police and authority figures in general come off poorly in these books, so much so that at one point Edward Stratemeyer wrote McFarlane to reprimand him for "grievous lack of respect for officers of the law." The Hardys are less affluent than earlier Stratemeyer characters; they eagerly accept cash rewards largely to finance college educations, and, with their parents, strive to please their Aunt Gertrude, because she possesses a small fortune. The rich are portrayed as greedy and selfish. This view of the world reflects McFarlane's relative "lack [of] sympathy with the American power structure." In his autobiography, McFarlane described his rationale for writing the books this way, writing: "I had my own thoughts about teaching youngsters that obedience to authority is somehow sacred.... Would civilization crumble if kids got the notion that the people who ran the world were sometimes stupid, occasionally wrong and even corrupt at times?"
The books' attitudes towards minority characters are a matter of disagreement. These early volumes have been called models of diversity for their day, since among the Hardys' friends are Phil Cohen, who is Jewish, and the Italian immigrant Tony Prito. However, these two friends are rarely involved in the Hardys' adventures, a level of friendship reserved for Biff Hooper and Chet Morton. The books have been extensively criticized for their use of racial and ethnic stereotypes[e] and their xenophobia. Vilnoff, for example, the villain in The Sinister Sign-Post (1936), is described as "swarthy" and "a foreigner", notes critic Steve Burgess.
We sense his untrustworthy nature immediately when he sits down beside the boys at a football game and doesn't understand it, despite the boys' best efforts to explain. When he does grasp something, you know it. "I onnerstand pairfectly," he says. Later he adds genially, "I haf you vhere I vant you now!" Can't quite place the accent? It's foreign. Twenty-five chapters are not enough to solve the mystery of his nationality.
African Americans are the targets of much racism, being depicted as unintelligent, lazy, and superstitious, "bumpkin rescuers" at best and "secretive and conspiratorial villains" at worst. Benjamin Lefebvre notes that Harriet Adams at times rebuked Leslie McFarlane for not sufficiently following her instructions regarding the portrayal of African-American characters; he writes that it is not clear "whether Adams rewrote parts of McFarlane's manuscripts to add [racist] details or to what extent these early texts would now be considered even more notoriously racist had McFarlane followed Adams's instructions more carefully." In Footprints Under the Window (1933),[f] Chinese-American men are portrayed as effeminate threats both to national security and white heteromasculinity.Native Americans received mixed treatment; those living within the continental United States are portrayed as members of once-noble tribes whose greatness has been diminished by the coming of white men, while those living outside the continental U.S. are "portrayed as uneducated, easily manipulated, or semi-savage." However, Hispanics are generally treated as equals; Mexico's history and culture are treated with respect and admiration.
The Hardy Boys volumes were extensively revised beginning in 1959 at the insistence of publishers Grosset & Dunlap, and against the wishes of Harriet Adams. The revision project, which also encompassed the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories, was sparked largely by letters that parents had been writing to Grosset & Dunlap since at least 1948, complaining about the prevalence of racial stereotypes in the books. Volume 14 in the Hardy Boys series, The Hidden Harbor Mystery (1935), was singled out for particular and repeated attention for its portrayal of a black criminal who organizes a gang of black boys and treats whites disrespectfully.[g] As one parent put it, the books were "ingraining the old race-riot type of fear." As such letters became more frequent, Grosset & Dunlap informed the Stratemeyer Syndicate that the books must be revised and such stereotypes excised. The end result, however, was less the removal of stereotypes than the removal of non-white characters altogether and the creation of an "ethnically cleansed Bayport." By the 1970s, however, the series began to re-introduce black characters.
An additional rationale for the revisions was a drop in sales, which became particularly significant by the mid-1960s. Accordingly, the revisions focused on streamlining the texts, as well as eliminating stereotypes. The books were shortened from 25 chapters to 20 and the writing style was made terser. Difficult vocabulary words such as "ostensible" and "presaged" were eliminated, as was slang. As a result of the new, more streamlined writing style, the books focus more on non-stop action than on building atmosphere, and "prolonged suspense [is] evaporated." The books were also aimed at an increasingly younger audience with shorter attention spans. For this reason, many commentators find the new versions nothing less than "eviscerated", foremost among them being the first Hardy Boys ghostwriter, Leslie McFarlane, who agreed with a reporter's statement that the books had been "gutted."
"Are your passports up to date?" his father asked."Sure, we always keep them that way."
In the course of revising and modernizing the series, many plots were completely re-written. The Flickering Torch Mystery (1943), for example, was changed from a plot involving an actual flickering torch used as a signal by a gang to a plot featuring a rock club called "The Flickering Torch." When plots were kept, their more lurid elements were eliminated; Vilnoff, the villain in The Sinister Sign-Post, was changed from a criminal who compulsively sculpts miniature models of his own hands to a car thief without such eccentricities, and another villain, Pedro Vincenzo, who branded his victims no longer does so in the revised version of The Mark on the Door (1934, rev. 1967).
The books became more respectful of law and authority. Even villains no longer smoked or drank, and scenes involving guns and shoot-outs were compressed or eliminated, in favor of criminals simply giving themselves up. The boys, too, become more respectful of rules and of the law; for example, they no longer drive faster than the speed limit even in pursuit of a villain. The Hardys also became more and more wealthy, prompting the criticism that the "major problem in [these volumes] is that the Hardy Boys have risen above any ability to identify with people like the typical boys who read their books. They are members and agents of the adult ruling class, acting on behalf of that ruling class."
"A secret door!" Joe said. "We haven't seen one of these in, oh, several months," Frank said.
The Hardy Boys began to be published in paperback in 1979. The Hardys were also featured in two new series, the Hardy Boys Casefiles and the Clues Brothers. The latter series, modeled on the Nancy Drew Notebooks, was aimed at a younger audience, and ran from 1997 to 2000. In contrast, the Casefiles, begun a decade earlier in 1987, was aimed at an older audience than the Hardy Boys Mystery Stories. In the new series, the Hardys' work with a secret government organization simply called the "Network", with which they collaborate to "infiltrate organized crime, battle terrorists and track down assassins around the world." The Hardys' personalities are portrayed as more separate and distinct, and they sometimes fight; in the first of the series, Dead on Target, for example, the brothers brawl after Frank tries to restrain Joe after Joe's girlfriend, Iola Morton, is killed by a car bomb. In general, the series is more violent, and the Hardy Boys carry various guns; Lines like "Joe! Hand me the Uzi!" are not out of character. Barbara Steiner, a Casefiles ghostwriter, describes a sample plot outline: "I was told that Joe Hardy would get involved with a waitress, a black widow kind of character, and that Joe would get arrested for murder. I was told the emphasis was on high action and suspense and there had to be a cliff-hanger ending to every chapter."[h]
The long-running Hardy Boys Mystery Stories series ended in 2005 and was replaced with a reboot series, The Hardy Boys: Undercover Brothers. In these volumes, the Hardys' adventures are narrated in the first person, each brother alternating chapters. This fresh approach to telling the adventures reveals two boys quite foreign to how they have been portrayed before, egotistical and jealous, and longtime readers will find few connections with the boys' previous personalities. The boys' Aunt Gertrude becomes "Trudy", their mother Laura is given a career as a librarian, and their father is semi-retired. The boys are given their cases by a secret group known as ATAC, an acronym for American Teens Against Crime. In this new series, the Hardy Boys seem "more like regular kids – who have lots of wild adventures – in these books, which also deal with issues that kids today might have thought about. For example, the second book in the series, Running on Fumes, deals with environmentalists who go a little too far to try to save trees." The Hardys are also featured in a new graphic novel series, begun in 2005 and produced by Papercutz, and a new early chapter book series called The Hardy Boys: Secret Files, begun in 2010 by the publisher Simon & Schuster under their Aladdin imprint. The last Undercover Brothers books were released in January 2012 (main series) and July 2012 (Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys Super Mystery'07 series). At the time of cancellation, there was one book that had been announced, but was ultimately shelved (The Case Of The MyFace Kidnapper); it is unknown whether this was going to be the final title of this unpublished book, since many bookstore websites and Simon & Schuster's website always had the letters "W.T." behind the title, meaning that it was a "working title."
February 2013 saw the launch of The Hardy Boys Adventures, a series written in the first-person. For the first time since 1985, the books will be issued in hardcover, along with paperback editions.
Main article: List of Hardy Boys books
The longest-running series of books to feature the Hardy Boys is the Hardy Boys Mystery Stories, sometimes also called the Hardy Boys Mysteries. The series ran from 1927 to 2005 and comprises 190 volumes, although some consider only the first 58 volumes of this series to be part of the Hardy Boys "canon." The Hardy Boys also appeared in 127 volumes of the Casefiles series and 39 volumes of the Undercover Brothers series, and are currently the heroes of the Hardy Boys Adventures series. The brothers were also featured in a few standalone books, such as The Hardy Boys Ghost Stories, and some crossover titles where they teamed up with other characters such as Nancy Drew or Tom Swift.
Hardy Boys books have been extensively reprinted in the United Kingdom, with new illustrations and cover art. The Hardys' adventures have also been translated into over twenty-five languages, including Norwegian, Swedish, Spanish, Icelandic, Hebrew, French, German, Japanese, Russian, Malay, and Italian. The books are widely read in India, and Japan's Kyoto Sangyo University listed twenty-one Hardy Boys books on its reading list for freshmen in the 1990s.
See also: The Hardy Boys (1969 TV series) and The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries
There have been five separate Hardy Boys television adaptations.
In the late 1950s, Disney contracted with the Stratemeyer Syndicate and Grosset & Dunlap to produce two Hardy BoysTV serials, starring Tim Considine and Tommy Kirk. The first of the serials, The Mystery of the Applegate Treasure, was aired on The Mickey Mouse Club in 1956 during the show's second season. To appeal to the show's audience, the Hardy Boys were portrayed as younger than in the books, seeming to be twelve or thirteen years old (Considine was 15 and Kirk was 14 during filming). The script, written by Jackson Gillis, was based on the first Hardy Boys book, The Tower Treasure, and the serial was aired in 19 episodes of fifteen minutes each with production costs of $5,700. A second serial, The Mystery of Ghost Farm, followed in 1957, with an original story by Jackson Gillis. However, for unknown reasons, no more serials were produced.
In the mid-1960s, sales of Hardy Boys books began to drop. The Stratemeyer Syndicate conducted a survey, which revealed that the decline in sales was due to the perceived high cost of the books and to competition from television. As a result, the Syndicate approved an hour-long pilot for a new Hardy Boys television show. The pilot, based on The Mystery of the Chinese Junk, was aired on the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) on September 8, 1967 and starred Tim Matthieson (later Matheson) as Joe Hardy and Rick Gates as Frank. Both actors were twenty at the time of production and portrayed the Hardy Boys as young adults rather than children, as they had been in the Mickey Mouse Club serials. The show did poorly, however, and the series was abandoned.
Two years later, in 1969, the American Broadcasting Company aired a Saturday morning cartoon series based on the Hardy Boys; the series was produced by Filmation and ran from 1969 to 1971. In this series, the Hardys were members of a rock and roll band. A group of professional musicians performed all the songs on the series, and toured across the United States. The animated series produced two bubblegum music albums "of moderate quality with no commercial success." The series was notable for being the first cartoon to include a black character.[i] The show took note of current concerns; although aimed at a young audience, some plot lines dealt with illegal drugs, and the animated Frank and Joe spoke directly to children about not smoking and the importance of wearing seat belts.
ABC aired another series featuring the Hardy Boys, The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, from 1977 to 1979. The prime time series starred Parker Stevenson and Shaun Cassidy as Frank and Joe Hardy; Pamela Sue Martin and later Janet Louise Johnson played Nancy Drew. During the first season, the series alternated between episodes featuring the Hardy Boys one week and Nancy Drew the next. The Hardy Boys were cast as young adults (Stevenson and Cassidy were twenty-four and eighteen respectively during the filming of the first episodes) to appeal to a prime time television audience. The series featured original plots as well as ones based on Hardy Boys books, among them The Clue of the Screeching Owl, The Disappearing Floor and The Flickering Torch Mystery. The series received an Emmy nomination and featured a number of guest stars, including Kim Cattrall, Ray Milland, Howard Duff, and Ricky Nelson. During the second season, the series format changed to focus more on the Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew appearing mostly in crossover episodes with the brothers; midway through production of the second season, Martin quit and was replaced by Johnson. The series returned for a third season, dropping the Nancy Drew character completely and shortening its title to The Hardy Boys.
In 1995, another TV adaptation, simply called The Hardy Boys was produced by Canadian company Nelvana (normally an animation firm), syndicated by New Line Television, and was dubbed in French for airing in Quebec and France as well as in the United States.Colin Gray starred as Frank Hardy and Paul Popowich played Joe. The characters were portrayed as in their early twenties, Frank working as a reporter and Joe still in college. The show lasted for only one season of thirteen episodes due to poor ratings; a series based on Nancy Drew that ran alongside it in syndication suffered the same fate.
Several Hardy Boys video games have been released:
In March, 2017 Dynamite Entertainment released Anthony Del Col’s reboot of classic characters Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys with NANCY DREW & THE HARDY BOYS: THE BIG LIE. Del Col has been a lifelong fan of the characters and was successful in working with Simon & Schuster to secure the comic book rights and then pitch to publishers.
Inspired by Archie Comics’ Afterlife with Archie, Del Col is quoted as saying, “So, then I started to think, 'Huh, I wonder what other characters are out there that are well-known that could be rebooted like that,'" Del Col said. "That's when I started to look around and I looked in some properties, and then I thought, 'Wait a minute. Nancy Drew. Hardy Boys. Oh, that would be really cool to do a hard-boiled noir take on them.' ”
The series, a hardboiled noir take on the characters, finds characters Frank and Joe Hardy accused of murdering their father, Fenton Hardy, and turning to a femme fatale-esque Nancy Drew to clear their names. The series features artwork by Italian artist Werther Dell’Ederra with covers by UK artist Fay Dalton. Del Col credits editors Matt Idelson and Matt Humphreys with helping him shape the direction of the series.
The series debuted to amazing reviews. Comics blog Readingwithaflightring.com declared it, “the best 'modern' approach to updating a franchise like this that I’ve seen. It works on every level and still fully embraces the heart of who they are." Aintitcool.com reviewer Lyz Reblin stated, “The strength of the series thus far is Ms. Drew, who was absent for most of the first issue. She is a pitch-perfect modernized femme fatale, who could hold her own up against any present-day Sam Spade, Philip Marlowe, or the like.”
In other media
- The Hardy Boys have appeared in several titles in the Nancy Drew computer game series produced by Her Interactive. Her Interactive partnered with Sega to release its own series of Hardy Boys games. The first game in the series is titled "Treasure on the Tracks" and was released in 2009 for Nintendo DS.
- JoWood Productions and DreamCatcher Games have released a Hardy Boys computer game called The Hidden Theft. Jesse McCartney and Cody Linley are the voices of Frank and Joe.
- The Hardy Boys have also been used to sell a variety of merchandise over the years, much of it tied to television adaptations. They have appeared in several board games, comic books, coloring books, and activity books, jigsaw puzzles, and lunch boxes; two LP albums, Here Come the Hardy Boys and Wheels; a Viewmaster set, a toy truck, charm bracelets, rings, wristwatches, greeting cards, jeans, and guitars.
- The Hardy Boys have been parodied in the animated series South Park in an episode titled "Mystery of the Urinal Deuce", in which the "Hardly Boys" investigate a 9/11 conspiracy theory.
- In the 1970s, Parker Brothers released The Hardy Boys Mystery Game. In the board game, two to four players take on the role of amateur sleuths and try to solve a mystery.
The Hardy Boys have been called "a cultural touchstone all over the world." Their adventures have been continuously in print since 1927. The series was an instant success: by mid-1929 over 115,000 books had been sold, and as of 2008 the books were selling over a million copies a year (the first Hardy Boys book, The Tower Treasure, alone sells over 100,000 copies a year). Worldwide, over 70 million copies of Hardy Books have been sold. A number of critics have tried to explain the reasons for the characters' longevity.
One explanation for this continuing popularity is that the Hardy Boys are simple wish fulfillment. Their adventures allow readers to vicariously experience an escape from the mundane. At the same time, Frank and Joe live ordinary lives when not solving mysteries, allowing readers to identify with characters who seem realistic and whose parents and authority figures are unfailingly supportive and loving. The Hardy Boys also embody an ideal of masculinity: by their very name they "set the stage for a gentrified version of hardiness and constructed hardiness as an ideal for modern American males", part of the "cultural production of self-control and mastery as the revered ideal for the American man." More controversially, to Meredith Wood, the characters embody not just an ideal of masculinity, but an ideal of white masculinity. She tries to argue that "racist stereotypes are ... fundamental to the success of the Hardy Boys series." In support of this claim, Wood cites what she says is the replacement of one stereotype (evil Chinese) with another (evil Latin Americans) in the original and revised versions of Footprints Under the Window. She further claims that this is the reason for the popularity of the Applewood Books reprints of the original, unrevised texts rather that the widely cited blandness of the rewrites.
Critic Gary Westfahl considers the Hardy Boys to not display any sexuality. The Hardys' ignorance of sex and their increasing respect for the law have led to some negative perceptions and many parodies of the characters. They are "well-scrubbed Boy Scout types" who "fetishized squareness." They have been parodied numerous times, in such works as The Hardy Boys and the Mystery of Where Babies Come From by Christopher Durang, The Secret of the Old Queen: A Hardy Boys Musical by Timothy Cope and Paul Boesing, and Mabel Maney's novel A Ghost in the Closet: A Hardly Boys Mystery. National Lampoon ran an article in 1985 entitled "The Undiscovered Notebooks of Franklin W. Dixon", in which the authors "purport to have stumbled upon some unpublished Hardy Boys manuscripts", including "The Party Boys and the Case of the Missing Scotch" and "The Hardly Boys in the Dark Secret of the Spooky Closet." It should be noted, however, that the original series contained references to the attraction felt by Frank and Joe to the female leads.
Others have pointed to the Hardy Boys' relationship with their father as a key to the success of the series. As Tim Morris notes, while Fenton Hardy is portrayed as a great detective, his sons are usually the ones that solve cases, making Fenton Hardy a paradoxical figure:
He is always there, he knows everything. He is infallible but always failing. When the boys rescue him, he is typically emaciated, dehydrated, semi-conscious, delirious; they must succor him with candy bars and water. He can take on any shape, but reveals his identity within moments of doing so. He never discusses a case except the one he's working on in a given novel, so that his legendary close-mouthedness turns to garrulousness when a Hardy Boys novel begins, which is of course the only time we ever get to see him. All the same, he only discusses the case in enough detail to mislead his sons and put them in mortal danger. He has systems of information and data-gathering that put the FBI to shame, yet he is always losing his case notes, his ciphers, his microfilm, or some other valuable clue, usually by leaving it in his extra pair of pants, meaning that the Boys have to drive to Canada or Florida or somewhere to retrieve it. I suppose he isn't mysterious at all; he simply embodies what many think of their own fathers: utterly powerful, contemptibly inept.
As a result, the Hardy Boys are able both to be superior to their father and to gain the satisfaction of "fearlessly making their dad proud of them."
In the end, many commentators find that the Hardy Boys are largely successful because their adventures represent "a victory over anxiety."[j] The Hardy Boys series teaches readers that "although the world can be an out-of-control place, good can triumph over evil, that the worst problems can be solved if we each do our share and our best to help others."
- ^In The Mystery of the Flying Express, Mrs. Hardy's first name is given as Mildred.
- ^Frank was ill and kept out of school for a year, according to volume nine.
- ^There is some dispute over this, as Leslie McFarlane claimed authorship of the title in his autobiography. However, Stratemeyer Syndicate records list only Amy McFarlane as the author of the volume (Keeline).
- ^"Dave Fearless" was the hero of another, earlier Stratemeyer Syndicate series, published under the name Roy Rockwood.
- ^See, for example, Morris 1997, who rather intemperately calls them "hideously and uncompromisingly racist."
- ^There is some disagreement as to whether this title was penned by McFarlane. See Keeline 2003.
- ^For an extended analysis of the original and revised versions of this title, see Wasylyshyn 1982.
- ^Dumas 1991, 10M. The book in question is Casefiles No. 20, Witness to Murder.
- ^Connelly 2008, p. 208. The introduction of Pete Jones in the series predates the introduction of Valerie Brown from Josie and the Pussycats, who is often credited as the first African American animated character; the Hardy Boys first aired in 1969 while Josie and the Pussycats aired a year later in 1970.
- ^Connelly 2008, p. 14. See also Billman 1986, p. 96 for similar sentiments.
Personal Information: Born October 4, 1862, in Elizabeth, NJ; died of lobar pneumonia, May 10, 1930, in Newark, NJ; son of Henry Julius (a tobacconist and dry goods dealer) and Anna (Siegal) Stratemeyer; married Magdalene Baker Van Camp, March 25, 1891; children: Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, Edna Camilla Stratemeyer Squier. Education: Attended public schools in Elizabeth, NJ. Career: Worked in family's tobacco shop in Elizabeth, N.J., until 1889; briefly owned and managed a stationery store; free-lance writer, 1889-1930. Founder and chief executive of Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate, New York, N.Y., ca. 1906-30.
The following two articles have some factual errors, nevertheless they provide an in-depth look at the man and his work.
Source: Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 42: American Writers for Children Before 1900. A Bruccoli Clark Layman Book. Edited by Glenn E. Estes, University of Tennessee. The Gale Group, 1985. pp. 351-362.
In terms of prolificacy, no author in the history of children's literature can approach the output of Edward Stratemeyer. Added to his own works, there are hundreds of series books whose plots he outlined for a highly secret, constantly changing corps of ghostwriters using house names that still remain the property of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Available documentation attests that between the years of 1886 and 1930, Edward Stratemeyer published 150 titles that were exclusively his own and that he also masterminded a literary machine which produced some 700 titles published under more than sixty-five pseudonyms and translated into a dozen languages. In 1926, the American Library Association sponsored a survey of juvenile reading preferences, querying 36,000 children in thirty-four different cities about their favorite books; ninety-eight percent of these children responded with a Stratemeyer title. Although the syndicate's series list has greatly shrunk since World War II, figures indicate that the Stratemeyer Syndicate still sells about 6,000,000 books each year and that it has well-laid plans to carry on at that rate.
Curiously, little is known about Stratemeyer's private life. He was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, on 4 October 1862. His father, a middle-class German immigrant, migrated to California during the era of the Gold Rush but later returned to New Jersey to settle the estate of a deceased brother. Thus, young Edward Stratemeyer spent his boyhood in Elizabeth where he read with a passion the works of Horatio Alger, Jr., and William Taylor Adams Oliver Optic). The dime novel was in its heyday, and its plots were gloriously compatible with the American dream. Unlike some of the super heroes he would later create, Stratemeyer did not attend preparatory school or college, but quite like all of his leading characters, he grew up indoctrinated with the Alger-Adams dogma which proclaimed that clean living and hard work brought just rewards. He married Magdalene Baker Van Camp, and of that union two daughters were born: Harriet and Edna. Upon Stratemeyer's death, 10 May 1930, his children carried on not only the syndicate he had founded, but also the stern code of secrecy to which he adhered. After a frustrated attempt to find out something about the private life of Stratemeyer, the staff writers for the April 1934 Fortune Magazine reported the daughters were amazed at their efforts to pry. What, the new overseers of the syndicate wanted to know, would their clients think if they discovered that their revered gallery of juvenile authors was nothing but a waxworks invented by Stratemeyer? Furthermore, they felt so strongly about maintaining the illusion that, in spite of their great veneration of him, they refused to authorize any of the attempts that were then being made to write this biography. This position of secrecy was held to so firmly that once, during Stratemeyer's life, when a reader insisted upon some information about May Hollis Barton, a publisher's assistant created an entirely fabulous biography, never letting on that the "she" was in reality a kindly, stocky, nearsighted "he."
In marked contrast to the sketchy information about Stratemeyer's private life, literally reams of information can be amassed about his professional life. His writing career began in 1886 while he was working at his brother Maurice Stratemeyer's tobacco shop in Elizabeth, New Jersey. Reports are that during a slow time at the store, he tore off a sheet of brown wrapping paper and began to write Victor Horton's Idea , an eighteen-thousand-word serial which he sent to the Philadelphia weekly for boys, Golden Days. A letter of acceptance, which included a check for $75.00, encouraged him to write more. His next effort, again for Golden Days, was titled Captain Bob's Secret; or, The Treasures of Bass Island. Under his own name and as Ralph Hamilton, he wrote serials for Golden Days from 1890 to 1895.
The bulk of Stratemeyer's literary apprenticeship was served in writing and editing for periodicals. Contributions to Frank Munsey's Golden Argosy caught the attention of Street and Smith publishers who, in 1893, offered him the editorship of Good News. His stories built the magazine's circulation to more than 200,000. In 1895, he edited Street and Smith's Young Sports of America, later entitled Young People of America, and in 1896 he added the editorship of Bright Days. During this time, he was advancing his penchant for pen names. Many of the dime novels that he wrote for Log Cabin Library were signed Ralph Bonehill or Allan Chapman and he used the female pseudonym Julia Edwards for his women's serials in the New York Weekly. Probably the greatest advantage of his association with Street and Smith, however, was his exposure to the literary idols of the time--Frank Dey, creator of dime novel detective hero Nick Carter; Upton Sinclair, who wrote the True Blue series as Ensign Clark Fitch, USN; prolific dime novelist Edward S. Ellis; William Taylor Adams; and Horatio Alger himself. When Alger and Adams died, Stratemeyer was chosen to complete their unfinished works. He edited two Optic novels and completed An Undivided Union (1899), the final volume in Adams's Blue and Gray--On Land series. From notes and outlines he finished eleven books in the Rise of Life series under Alger's name. Meanwhile, he had not neglected his own creations. By the end of 1897, he had six series and sixteen hardcover books in print, but it was in 1898 that his big breakthrough came.
Stratemeyer had written a book about two boys on a battleship and submitted it to Lothrop, Lee and Shepard. A short time thereafter, the press announced Admiral Dewey's victory at Manila Bay. Almost immediately Stratemeyer received a letter of acceptance from the publishers with the request that he revise the manuscript to parallel Dewey's victory. Thus teenaged Larry Russell and his pals were transferred to the scene of the Pacific Fleet, and Under Dewey at Manila; or, The War Fortunes of a Castaway (1898) became volume one of the Old Glory series. The book went through multiple printings, and its characters were ubiquitous in sequels, charging up SanJuan Hill, serving under Commodore Schley aboard the Brooklyn, returning to the Philippines with General Otis, riding into Santa Cruz with Major General Lawton, and finally serving on General MacArthur's staff in Luzon.
Recognizing the popular appeal of war and patriotism, Stratemeyer dashed off in addition to the six Old Glory titles (1898-1901), two Minute Boys books (1898-1899); four in the Soldiers of Fortune series (1900-1906); three on the Mexican War (1900-1902); and six which formed the Colonial series (1901-1906). These early books are important in two respects: they are crammed with well-researched facts and they make use of some literary techniques that mark virtually all of the author's later works.
From the very beginning of his writing career Stratemeyer had the voice of a storyteller, speaking personally to the reader, and that I-you tone was a note that sounded regardless of title or pen name. He spoke directly to his reader first in the preface of the book and then periodically in the text. Routinely, the preface of volume one carried the good news of more books to come, although two or three volumes were often published simultaneously to see if a series was going to succeed. The preface of all books beyond volume one carried the message that this book was "a complete story in itself"; however, there were others the reader would surely not want to miss. Brief summaries of the other volumes followed. In case a reader skipped the preface, the same message was slipped into the text of the story in several places. For example in On the Trail of Pontiac; or, The Pioneer Boys of the Ohio (volume four of the Colonial series, 1904), the author neatly inserts on page four, "This was at the time that George Washington, the future President of our country, was a young surveyor, and in the first volume of this series, entitled 'With Washington in the West,' I related how Dave fell in with Washington and became his assistant, and how, later on, Dave became a soldier to march under Washington during the disastrous Braddock campaign against Fort Duquesne." Page five mentions volume two, Marching on Niagara (1902), and gives the particulars of volume three, At the Fall of Montreal (1903). In both books the heroes, Dave Morris and his cousin Henry, fight bravely to defeat the French and in the fourth volume are now ready to move with their elders in the peaceful reestablishment of a family trading post. But trouble lurks in the persons of the powerful Indian chief, Pontiac, and a disgruntled Frenchman: "I shall show them that, though France is beaten, Jean Bevoir still lives.... The trading-post on the Kinotah with its beautiful lands, shall be mine--the Morrises shall never possess it!"
Fast-paced battle scenes pepper the historical books, but the scenes are reported in a straight-forward, objective fashion with no attempt to exploit gory details. The works are replete with clichés, and although the following examples are from On the Trail of Pontiac, they can be found again and again in other books. "The Indians are on the warpath and they mean business." No matter how threatening a life-and-death situation, the characters are repeatedly described as "in a pickle." They take to the wilderness as "ducks take to water," but, nevertheless, often find themselves "striking their heads against a stone wall." Still, "no two ways about it," the culprits are bound to be apprehended and will "turn over a new leaf."
Stratemeyer's, and the syndicate's, choices of antagonists offer clues about existing attitudes toward various ethnic groups. Just as feelings toward Jews would filter through later in the Tom Swift series, the Colonial series reflects feelings toward the French and the Indians. Although he includes a token number of good Indians in On the Trail of Pontiac, his general attitude is suggested by young Henry Morris's report that "Sam Barringford says we won't have any real peace until the redskins have had one whipping they won't forget as long as they live." Sam is a man who knows the situation; he has lived among the natives since he was six years old.
Though some of the stylistic devices of the early books may be faulted by the modern reader, it should be noted that at the time of their publication the books received high praise from well-respected sources. But the astute businessman in Stratemeyer did not let the praise mislead him. War stories and even the Alger rags-to-riches themes were becoming dated. He needed fresher ideas with which the new generation of teens could identify. Although he had no such schooling himself, he outlined several series about upper-middle-class students. The fifteen-volume Dave Porter series (1905-1919), the six-title Lakeport series (1904-1912), and the six Putnam Hall books (1901-1911) enjoyed wide readership, but their success was modest compared with Stratemeyer's favorite of all series: the Rover Boys series for Young Americans (1899-1926).
It is believed that the pen name for the Rovers and the Putnam Hall books--Arthur M. Winfield--was suggested by Stratemeyer's mother. The Arthur was simply for author; the M. he hoped would represent the sale of a million copies; and Winfield was literally for winning the field. His hopes were more than fulfilled. Between the publication of the first three volumes late in 1899 and the publication of the last volume in 1926, sales ran somewhere between five and six millions of copies. In all there were thirty volumes in the series. The first twenty dealt with the adventures of the three brothers, Dick, Tom, and Sam and the last ten with their respective children. The tone and the nature of the series is reflected in the introduction, which in volume one reads:
MY DEAR BOYS: "The Rover Boys at School" has been written that those of you who have never put in a term or more at an American military academy for boys may gain some insight into the workings of such an institution.
While Putnam Hall is not the real name of the particular place of learning I had in mind while penning this tale for your amusement and instruction, there is really such a school, and dear Captain Putnam is a living person, as are also the lively, wide-awake, fun-loving Rover brothers, Dick, Tom, and Sam, and their schoolfellows, Larry, Fred, and Frank. The same can be said, to a certain degree, of the bully Dan Baxter, and his today, the sneak commonly known as "Mumps."
The present story is complete in itself, but it is written as the first of a series,. to be followed by "The Rover Boys in the Jungle," in both of which volumes we will again meet many of our former characters.
Trusting that this tale will find as much favor in your hands as have my previous stories, I remain,
Affectionately and sincerely yours,
Arthur M. Winfield
Possibly motivated by his fondness for the Rovers, he began, toward the end of the series, to sign his introductions Edward Stratemeyer instead of Arthur M. Winfield, a revelation which he assiduously forbade the parade of ghostwriters that populated the syndicate he established shortly after his creation of The Bobbsey Twins series.
The popularity of the Bobbsey Twins books, the first of which was published in 1904, probably convinced Stratemeyer that no one writer could keep pace with prodigious literary visions he entertained. In 1906 he established the Stratemeyer Syndicate. His practice was to outline plots and mail these to fledgling writers who were sworn to secrecy and paid from $50.00 to $250.00 per book. Regardless of future sales, all rights to both pen names and book royalties belonged to the syndicate--a condition of considerable significance in view of the fact that the Bobbsey Twins is one of the series that continued publication after World War II and which to date has sold, according to various estimates, from thirty to fifty million copies.
After formation of the syndicate, it becomes more difficult to say which books Stratemeyer actually wrote, but it is reasonably certain that he masterminded and edited all the volumes produced before his death. A parade of series filled the time between the Bobbsey Twins, begun in 1904, and another of his greats--the Tom Swift series. In 1910 Stratemeyer directed his assistant, Howard Garis, to drop other work and begin the scientific research necessary for the Tom Swift series. The first volume, Tom Swift and His Motor-Cycle, appeared later that year. Hero Tom Swift, a virtuous Anglo-Saxon boy who never attended college, is a mechanical genius unhampered by a lack of money and blessed with an imagination that deals easily with motorcycles, airplanes, speedboats, photo telephones, war tanks, and other ingenious devices. He was patterned after Stratemeyer's idol, Henry Ford, and many of his inventions later came into being. In fact, only twice in the thirty-eight-book series did Tom attempt to realize ideas that were not workable then or in the future. These were a process for using lightning to make artificial diamonds and the creation of a silent airplane engine. There is one major invention featured with each book. Always there is a thrilling chase and a villain trying to steal or ruin Tom's work. In fact, this series, published under the pseudonym Victor Appleton, contains a catalogue of some of the most wicked villains ever created for juvenile fiction. In addition to the murderous Jew, Greenbaum, there are, as Arthur Prager puts it in "Bless My Collar Button, If It Isn't Tom Swift!" (1976),
felons of every stamp: arsonists, bushwhackers, kidnappers, bank robbers, and even a molester who tried to force his attentions on Mary. In the first few books, before Tom had hit his stride, the nemesis was bully Andy Foger, a boy about Tom's age. The grownup heavies came later. In the war there were German spies, and afterward there were unscrupulous business competitors.
By manipulating the villains, Stratemeyer was able to work off some of his own prejudices. Tycoons in fancy clothes were usually swindlers. Foreigners were to be avoided or mistrusted.
Other common prejudices of the time are evident in nonvillainous characters. These are usually slapstick, eye-rolling blacks such as Tom's faithful servant, Rad, and Dinah, the Bobbseys' cook. Over the years, these characters were changed in later printings to meet the social demands of the time. Most secondary characters became less ethnically stereotyped; however, the slapstick actions, the low comedy puns, and the cliff-hangers remained. Although some recent critics judge the Tom Swift books to be Stratemeyer's best work, some of his contemporaries took a radically different view.
James E. West, Chief Scout Executive for the Boy Scouts of America, considered the mass-produced series books an exploitation of juvenile taste and a danger to character development. Thus, in moral defense of his young charges, he organized the Library Commission of the Boy Scouts of America. Franklin K. Mathiews, chief librarian of the BSA, presented publishers with an approved Boy Scout list of books which did not include the Stratemeyer Syndicate's Boy Scout series. The mystery, murder, and arson in these books Mathiews considered very unscoutlike, and in 1914 he wrote for the Outlook an emotionally charged diatribe entitled "Blowing Out the Boys' Brains." Stratemeyer's sales dropped, but he countered with his own approved list. With his near monopoly threatened, he altered his approach; future series would tone down danger, thrills, and violence.
It is impossible to say whether the criticism or praise of the series books should be directed specifically toward Stratemeyer or toward his writers. Gradually, more and more material surfaces about the ghostwriters, as they or researchers seek to bypass the old oaths of silence.
John T. Dizer in his Tom Swift & Company, "Boys' Books" by Stratemeyer and Others (1982) says that Stratemeyer usually made a point of writing at least one book in each series. Dizer further reports that "Tom's name came from an 1894 Stratemeyer Serial, Shorthand Tom. Howard Garis ... did much contract writing for Stratemeyer and apparently was involved in about thirty-six of the forty books in the original Tom Swift Series." Dizer deplores the controversy "over who actually wrote the Motor Boys and Tom Swift": "Stratemeyer personally read and edited all his books and then issued them under one of his many house names. There is no question that Howard Garis [and many others] wrote for Stratemeyer.... However, it should be remembered that these books were written under contract to Stratemeyer, based on characters and plots developed by him; the format and even the main situations were his." The National Union Catalog, Pre-1956 Imprints offers no clarification on the problem of authorship. The entry for the Tom Swift series reads "see Victor Appleton, pseudonym" and lists Appleton titles separately. Similarly, the Bobbsey Twins entry refers the reader to "Laura Lee Hope, pseudonym," under which the titles are listed. One point, it seems, can be made with certainty; until his death, Stratemeyer was in firm control of the syndicate and its writers, and he most certainly did not allow negative criticism to erode his empire.
By 1927, Stratemeyer had regained his place as ruling champion of the juvenile audience; however, he was as yet to create two detective series that would outsell all previous listings except the Bobbsey Twins. These were the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys books. Again, in these series it is uncertain who wrote which titles.
In January 1969, Arthur Prager's Saturday Review article "The Secret of Nancy Drew" attributed authorship of the Nancy Drew series to Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, Andrew Svenson, and four anonymous ghostwriters, all writing under the name of Carolyn Keene. The article drew a personal response from Mrs. Adams, as Prager reports in his 1971 book, Rascals at Large: "Mrs. Adams pointed out that my remark about Nancy being written by her, Mr. Svenson, and four anonymous ghostwriters was incorrect. Although the Syndicate uses contract writers for some of its series, she does all the Nancys herself, and has done so since the death of her father, the late Edward Stratemeyer, who was Nancy's creator, and who wrote the first three books of the series." (Editor's Note: Harriet was shown to be a liar when later evidence proved that Mildred Wirt wrote most of the earlier Drew books. RWF)
For the Hardy Boys Stratemeyer received a different sort of credit. All of this series was written by Leslie McFarlane, a shade who wrote and told all in his 1976 autobiography, The Ghost of the Hardy Boys. Under the pen name of Frank W. Dixon, McFarlane had produced other books for the syndicate, but he believed that they were inferior works. He decided that he would give his best to the Hardy Boys. When no notice or praise came for his extra effort, he was disappointed. He rationalized that Stratemeyer considered the books his own and not McFarlane's. McFarlane contented himself with the implied compliment of receiving assignments beyond the first three "breeders," but he had not the slightest notion that by half a century later the series would have run to sixty volumes and he would have written the first twenty. The pay remained at the fixed price--$150.00 per book. Faithfully, McFarlane sent in the manuscripts; he put the finished books on a special shelf and never bothered to reread them. Rather oddly he recalls,
It was not until sometime in the 1940s, as a matter of fact, that I had discovered that Franklin W. Dixon and the Hardy Boys were conjurable names. One day my son had come into the workroom, which had never been exalted into a "study," and pointed to the bookcase with its shelf of Hardy Boys originals. "Why do you keep these books, Dad? Did you read them when you were a kid?" "Read them? I wrote them." And then, because it doesn't do to deceive any youngster, "At least, I wrote the words."
In any evaluation of Stratemeyer's literary contribution, one must admit that ever since the days of the Mathiews attack, verbal battles have raged over the value of syndicated books. In the spring 1974 issue of the Journal of Popular Culture, Peter Soderbergh has detailed the interesting history of opinions which have fluctuated madly from 1914 through 1974. Clearly, no one can claim that the books are great literature, but, equally clearly, no one can deny that they have provided great entertainment and have been among the most popular and enduring contributions to the world of juvenile books. In a 1978 article in Children's Literature, Ken Donelson has presented an impressive list of short writings that give isolated glimpses of Edward Stratemeyer, and in Tom Swift; & Company, John Dizer offers extensive bibliographies of Stratemeyer's works, but a definitive biography of this American pied piper of print remains to be written.
Source: Contemporary Authors Online. The Gale Group, 2000.
"If anyone ever deserved a bronze statue in Central Park, somewhere between Hans Christian Anderson and Alice in Wonderland," declares Arthur Prager in Saturday Review, "it is Edward Stratemeyer, incomparable king of juveniles." Between 1886, when he wrote his first story on wrapping paper in his family's tobacco shop, and his death in 1930, Stratemeyer wrote, outlined, and edited more than 800 books under sixty-five pseudonyms, plus myriad short stories. His beloved creations include Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover (the Rover Boys), Bert, Nan, Freddie, and Flossie Bobbsey (the Bobbsey Twins), Tom Swift, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Frank and Joe Hardy, and Nancy Drew. John T. Dizer, writing in Tom Swift & Company: "Boys' Books" by Stratemeyer and Others, calls the literary syndicate that he founded "the most important single influence in American juvenile literature." "As oil had its Rockefeller, literature had its Stratemeyer," eulogized Fortune magazine shortly after his death.
"The bulk of Stratemeyer's literary apprenticeship was served in writing and editing for periodicals," explains Dictionary of Literary Biography contributor Mary-Agnes Taylor. His initial success--his first story sold to Golden Days, a Philadelphia weekly paper for boys, for $75--encouraged the young author to write more stories. He soon became a regular contributor to Frank Munsey's periodical Golden Argosy and, in 1893, the magazine and dime novel publishers Street & Smith offered him the editorship of their journal Good News. By 1896 he was also editing the Street & Smith periodicals Young Sports of America (which became Young People of America) and Bright Days, as well as contributing women's serials to the New York Weekly under the pseudonym Julia Edwards, and dime novels under the pseudonyms Captain Ralph Bonehill and Allen Chapman, as well as under his own name. "Perhaps the greatest advantage of his association with Street and Smith, however," continues Taylor, "was his exposure to the literary idols of his time," including Frederic Van Rensselaer Dey, "creator of dime novel detective hero Nick Carter; Upton Sinclair, who wrote the True Blue series as Ensign Clark Fitch, USN; prolific dime novelist Edward S. Ellis; William Taylor Adams; and Horatio Alger himself." After the deaths of Adams and Alger, Stratemeyer was chosen to complete some of their unfinished manuscripts, using the pseudonyms Oliver Optic and Horatio Alger, Jr.
Stratemeyer's success as a novelist came in 1898, during the Spanish- American War. "War was glamour in those days. Uniforms were splendid, and battles were glorious," explains Prager. The author had recently submitted a novel about several young men serving on a battleship to Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, a publishing house in Boston, when news of Admiral Dewey's victory over the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay reached the U.S. The publishers wrote the author, inquiring if he could revise his story to reflect Dewey's victory. Stratemeyer did, and Under Dewey at Manila; or, The War Fortunes of a Castaway, featuring Larry and Ben Russell and their chum Gilbert Pennington, became "the financial hit of the juvenile publishing industry in 1899," according to Prager. Popular demand brought the boys back for many more adventures in the "Old Glory" and the "Soldiers of Fortune" series, and Stratemeyer further exploited the market for war stories with books featuring boys in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution, and the Mexican War. Many were well-received by critics, including parents, teachers, and churchmen as well as the readers themselves.
"These early books are important in two respects," declares Taylor. "They are crammed with well-researched facts and they make use of some literary techniques that mark virtually all of the author's later works." Stratemeyer directly addressed the reader in the introductions of his books, and his voice often interrupted the text. Frequently the story's action paused near the beginning of the volume to allow the narrator to recap the hero's previous adventures, and each account included an advertisement for the next volume in the series. Stratemeyer's prose was also rather stilted, reflecting his early association with Alger and Adams at Street & Smith, and he often relied on stereotyped views of various ethnic groups. "Except for Alger himself," declares Russel B. Nye in The Unembarrassed Muse: The Popular Arts in America, "no writer of juvenile fiction had a more unerring sense of the hackneyed."
Whatever the drawbacks of Stratemeyer's prose, his work became highly popular with young readers. Late in 1899, realizing that the attraction of contemporary war stories was likely to be temporary, he introduced the "Rover Boys Series for Young Americans" under the pen name Arthur M. Winfield. These books chronicled the adventures of three brothers--Dick, Tom, and Sam Rover--at Putnam Hall, a military boarding school, and later at midwestern Brill College, and they captured the imaginations of turn-of-the- century adolescent Americans in a way no other series heroes had before. "Between the publication of the first three volumes late in 1899 and the publication of the last volume in 1926," reports Taylor, "sales ran somewhere between five and six millions of copies." The brothers, described as "lively, wide-awake American boys" by the author, were supported by a memorable cast of characters, including Dora Stanhope, and Grace and Nellie Laning, their sweethearts, their chums John "Songbird" Powell and William Philander Tubbs, and assorted bullies and other villains: Josiah Crabtree, Tad Sobber, Jesse Pelter, and Dan Baxter, among others.
Stratemeyer originally conceived the "Rover Boys" series in the vein of Tom Brown's Schooldays, depicting youthful adventures, games and hijinks, but he also featured elements of melodrama and detective fiction, claims Carol Billman in The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Million Dollar Fiction Factory. Many volumes featured searches for missing people or buried treasure; The Rover Boys in the Jungle, for instance, took our heroes to Africa in search of their father. The Rovers and their friends "faced unprecedented dangers," explains the Literary Digest. "As the fun-loving Tom expressed it, on the historic occasion when an avalanche was rolling down on them from above, their cabin was in flames, Dan Baxter and his cronies were taking pot-shots at them from across the canyon, Dora Stanhope was clinging to the edge of the cliff, and the battle-ship Oregon was still ten miles away, `Well, we're in a pretty pickle, and no mistake!"' "But always, to our immense surprise," the Digest concludes, "they would emerge unscathed, restore the missing fortune, and be rewarded by three rousing cheers and--a sop to the feminine trade--an arch look from Dora and Nellie and Grace; while the discomfited bullies, outwitted again, began plotting at once their future conspiracies, to be related in the next volume of the Rover Boys Series for Young Americans."
Eventually Stratemeyer permitted Dick, Tom and Sam to graduate and to start a business together, pooling their resources to form the Rover Company. They married their girls and settled down to raise families in adjoining houses on New York's Riverside Drive. Stratemeyer went on to chronicle their children's adventures in the "Second Rover Boys Series for Young Americans," which lasted for ten volumes. However, the younger Rovers never achieved the success their fathers had, explains Prager, writing in Rascals at Large; or, The Clue in the Old Nostalgia. "The generation that had loved the Rover Boys moved on to new things. Did the Crash wipe out the Rover Company? Did their Riverside Drive houses succumb to high taxes and urban blight? We never found out."
The Rover's success encouraged Stratemeyer to create other series. "Almost as soon as the first sales figures came in," reports Prager in Saturday Review, "he was designing a dozen similar series and concocting pseudonyms. He took his basic Rover figures, changed the names, associated them with some kind of speedy vehicle or popular scientific device, and slipped them into his formula." Stratemeyer soon found that his ideas outstripped his writing capacity and began to hire independent writers to fill in his outlines. Working with "Uncle Wiggily" creator Howard R. Garis under the pseudonym Clarence Young, Stratemeyer created the "Motor Boys" series; as Allen Chapman, he devised the adventures of the "Radio Boys" and "Ralph of the Railroad" series; as Victor Appleton, the "Motion Picture Boys" and "Tom Swift" series; as Franklin W. Dixon, the "Hardy Boys" and "Ted Scott Flying Stories" series, and many others. For sports enthusiasts he produced the "Baseball Joe" books under the pseudonym Lester Chadwick, and as Roy Rockwood he created Bomba the Jungle Boy, a teen-aged Tarzan. For girls and younger readers, he introduced the "Moving Picture Girls," the "Outdoor Girls," and the "Bobbsey Twins" series, using the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope; as Alice B. Emerson he developed the "Betty Gordon" and "Ruth Fielding" series, and as Carolyn Keene he invented Nancy Drew.
Stratemeyer engaged in innovative publishing strategies in order to get his many series published. "Using the kind of reasoning that would later make Henry Ford a billionaire," Prager declares in Saturday Review, "he talked his publishers into slashing the prices of the `Rover' and `Motor Boys' series from a dollar to 50 cents, relying on volume sales to make up and exceed lost profit. The plan was a smashing success. At half a dollar, kids could buy the books without going through the parent-middleman." By around 1906 demand had increased so much that Stratemeyer had to systematize his production by setting up the Stratemeyer Syndicate, "a kind of literary assembly line," Prager calls it, resembling in some ways the syndicate devised by the French writer Alexandre Dumas half a century before. Stratemeyer created plot outlines for series titles and sent to contract writers, who wrote the actual stories. They then returned the manuscript to Stratemeyer, who edited it and had it put on electrotype plates, which were then leased to the publishers. Stratemeyer retained all rights to the stories, paying his contract writers an average of one hundred dollars a book. "The whole process," Prager explains, "took a month to six weeks."
Stratemeyer's success and his factory-like writing process made enemies among those who considered themselves guardians of the juvenile mind. A few years after the Boy Scouts of America were established Franklin K. Mathiews, the Chief Scout Librarian, and James E. West, the Chief Scout Executive, contacted Grosset & Dunlap, one of Stratemeyer's chief publishers, and proposed a mass reprinting of a list of Boy Scouts Approved Books in inexpensive editions. Somewhat later, Mathiews published an article in Outlook magazine savagely denouncing juvenile fiction that did not meet his standards, although he never mentioned the Stratemeyer Syndicate by name. "Mathiews began by noting that in most surveys of children's reading, inferior books, (defined as those not found in libraries), were widely read and probably as influential as the better books," reports Ken Donelson in Children's Literature. Mathiews suggested that the poor quality of Syndicate-type fiction, revealed in the lack of moral purpose and uncontrolled excitement of the stories, could cripple a young reader's imagination "as though by some material explosion they had lost a hand or foot." "I wish I could label each one of these books: `Explosives! Guaranteed to Blow Your Boy's Brains Out,"' he declared. The Chief Scout Librarian backed up his accusations with statements from other librarians testifying to the poor quality of series books and encouraged other authors, especially Percy Keese Fitzhugh, to write series fiction, but Stratemeyer's sales remained high. He had, however, learned something from the encounter: future Syndicate series "toned down danger, thrills, and violence in favor of well-researched instruction," says Prager in Saturday Review.
One measure of Stratemeyer's success lies in the fact that now, more than half a century after his death, new volumes are added yearly to series he created. The "Bobbsey Twins," "Hardy Boys" and "Nancy Drew" books continue to captivate readers, and sales are as high as ever. Despite critic's misgivings, states Prager in Rascals at Large, the books "are well worth a reappraisal in the light of current taste, and like most items handcrafted in those days, they wear like iron and last for years." "Stratemeyer's legacy--respectable or not--is read on," declares Billman, "night after night, reader after reader, generation after generation."
Upon Stratemeyer's death in 1930, the Syndicate was administered by his daughters, Harriet Adams and Edna Squier. Adams remained in control of the Syndicate until her death in 1982.