Nancy Drew and Friends: Girls Series Books Rediscovered

Collecting Nancy Drew

Once scorned literature rejected by many, the classic Nancy Drew books have now become prized collector’s items. This case exemplifies the many physical differences in covers, endpapers, spines, dust jackets, and other characteristics between the various editions and printings.

In most cases, the Nancy Drew dust jackets are worth far more than the actual book. The dust jacket on a first edition of the first Nancy Drew book is now worth approximately seven times that of the book.

Nancy Drew Endpaper

Farah’s Guide

Farah’s Guide

David Farah’s Farah’s Guide is the “Nancy Drew Bible” to determine the printing and value of Nancy Drew books. Farah has created a classification system to determine the print run and printing of each of the original 56 volumes.

Farah’s classification for the 1933C print run designation

Classifications

Pictured is Farah’s classification for the 1933C print run designation of The Secret at Shadow Ranch. The many different abbreviations and numbers, and the order in which they are in, are what classify each book. For example, the Farah number 1933C-10 indicates this was the third print run in 1933 and the tenth printing the book has been through. ND#1-10 indicates that the first ten Nancy Drew titles are listed on the front flap of the dust jacket.

Cover Stock

Cover Stock

Today, many readers still associate Nancy Drew with the color blue, and this may be in part because many of her earlier editions were printed on blue cover stock. The varying degrees of color, as well as the different patterns that construct the cover stock, help define the edition. Interesting to note here is the change in Nancy Drew from the “30’s figure” silhouette to the “40’s figure”.

The Mystery of the Ivory Charm

Series Lists

Anyone who has read a Nancy Drew book probably remembers the many book lists printed on the dust jacket. This advertising tactic used by the publishers has become one of the most important ways a collector can identify a book’s publication. The number of books on each list, and which girl series were included on the dust jacket all aid in the identification process.

Nancy Drew Endpapers

Endpapers

The endpapers for each book are another important way to determine the printing of a Nancy Drew mystery. Here, you can see the great variety of endpapers developed by different artists through the years.

Nancy Drew Spines

Spines

Organized on bookshelves by girls all around the world, the spines of the books may be the most recognizable feature for each book. The spines of these mystery books have transformed greatly throughout the years and the later Nancy Drew editions are known especially for their “yellow spines”.

 

Fans, Collectors, and Scholars

Exhibit tour

 

Fans, Collectors, and Scholars

The continuing power of girls’ series books is demonstrated in the increasing interest in collecting books and memorabilia, and in joining fan clubs and attending conferences. An increasing amount of scholarly and popular publications are appearing on girls’ series books with many of them concentrating on Nancy Drew.

The Hollow Land

 

Fans

Girls’ series books have been popular for over a century and have generated many fans including organized fan groups. The Nancy Drew Sleuths organization is a current group that welcomes fans and scholars.

Nancy Drew Sleuths sponsors an extensive Web site, The Sleuth magazine, an online members’ forum, and an annual convention.

Displayed is the program from the Nancy Drew 75th/Stratemeyer 100th Conference held in New York City on June 17-18, 2005.

Nancy Drew Club Rules

 

The Phantom Friends

The Phantom Friends is a fan group for girls’ series books and other girls’ novels from the 1930s through the 60s; they publish The Whispered Watchword magazine.

Susabella Passengers and Friends is another fan group which publishes Susabella Passengers and Friends: A Nostalgia Publication for Collectors and Readers of All Children’s Series Books.

Rules for a Nancy Drew Fan Club created by Warner Brothers to promote the Nancy Drew movies of 1938-39. Reprinted from The Mysterious Case of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys by Carole Kismaric and Marvin Heiferman.

Nancy Drew TV show

 

Spin-offs and Tie-ins

In addition to the new Nancy Drew book series that are currently appearing, the popular Nancy Drew computer games are now a firmly established spin-off of the original series. Parodies of Nancy Drew such as Chelsea Cain’s Confessions of a Teen Sleuth (New York: Bloomsbury, 2005) have recently been published. Another recent Nancy Drew themed book is a mystery set at a Nancy Drew Convention: Susan Kandel’s Not a Girl Detective (New York: William Morrow, 2005).

Shown is the DVD of the 1977 season of the TV show starring Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson, and Pamela Sue Martin.

The Hardy Boys Nancy Drew Mysteries, Season One (1977). Universal Studios, 2005.

Nancy Drew Mad Libs

 

Games

Another spin-off is Nancy Drew Mad Libs by Roger Price and Leonard Stern. New York: Price Stern Sloan/Penguin Young Readers Group, 2005.

The Mystery of Nancy Drew

 

Scholars

Scholarly research on Nancy Drew and other Girls’ Series books has been increasing since the 1993 Nancy Drew Conference at the University of Iowa. Girls’ series books can be looked at through several differing perspectives: psychology, biography, social history, gender studies, or as children’s literature.

Betsy Caprio explores Jungian themes in the Nancy Drew stories. She created maps of River Heights and the surrounding Nancy Drew Land and a chart to depict Nancy Drew’s mythic importance.

Caprio, Betsy. The Mystery of Nancy Drew: Girl Sleuth on the Couch. Source Books,1992.

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew

 

Ghostwriters Revealed

For all the people who have asked the question: “Who was Carolyn Keene?” this book tells the unknown story behind the creation of Nancy Drew concentrating on Mildred Wirt Benson, the original ghostwriter of the series, and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, daughter of Edward Stratemeyer, who carried on the series and the Stratemeyer Syndicate after his death.

Rehak, Melanie. Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her. Harcourt, 2005.

Memories of Reading Nancy Drew

Millions of women (and some men) have memories of reading Nancy Drew when they were children. Hornbake Library created a record of such memories on the blog "Memories of Reading Nancy Drew." Below are a few selected contributions to the blog.

Memories: Doris

Oh, you youngsters in your 50s, Nancy Drew was a favorite of mine when I was about 10 or so! There was a girl, using her brains and daring to solve problems, full of energy and loved by everyone too!

Now don't you kids (I mean you 8-16-year-olds of today) bother to read the revised versions. Just read the originals. My Nancy did not simplify her vocabulary, or modernize her slang. The society she lived in is not ours today; and knowledge of that may give you kids an unintended but valuable perspective of the generation gap, and familiarize you with "the olden times." --Grandma Doris

Doris, age 81

Memories: Linda

I have been avid reader for as long as I can remember, and I think I may have started reading Nancy Drew as early as eight years old. I liked reading mysteries and action stories, but I was missing something in a lot of the books of the time--few even had girls in the books. And when they did have girls, often she was wallpaper; the hero got all the excitement while the girl stood by and acted helpless.

But Nancy Drew made it cool for girls to do the same thing as guys--but in a way that stayed true to being a girl. Without Nancy Drew, we probably wouldn't have had other mystery series like Trixie Belden or Kim Aldrich--or books today where girls and women are doing a lot of the things Nancy introduced the world to first.

Linda, age 42

Memories: Bonnie

I discovered Nancy Drew in 5th grade in my Grandmother's attic. When we would visit, I would dig out books from the attic and read at least one or two a day. Once my grandmother found out my reading interest in Nancy Drew, they became much-awaited presents at birthday's and holidays. I credit my love for reading (and pretty good speed reading skills) to those expeditions to the attic. My love for mysteries has never dimmed. Oh, and I'm a librarian too.

Bonnie, age 35

Memories: Urmila

I have been reading Nancy Drew from the very day I saw it in my school library.That was when I was in 7th standard.I was always a great lover of mysteries and it was like love at first sight.Since that day I have been dedicated to reading intrigueing and adventurous Nancy Drews.I still read them and I have read a total of 52 till now.I am a great fan of Nancy Drew.I become really thrilled at the very thought of reading Nancy.Many of my friends,like me,love Nancy.She is so cool.She is the greatest amateur detective I have ever seen and I believe I am one of the greatest fans of that 18 year old red head.

Urmila, age 13

Memories: Kim

I spent a few summers reading Nancy in our makeshift "fortress" which we created in the woods near our home. We were always pretending to be Nancy, Bess, and George hot on a case, and of course we needed the spooky woods as our setting.

A few years ago I wandered into a used bookstore and found Larkspur Lane with it's colorful dust jacket staring out at me from one of the shelves. One glance at it and I was back in those woods with my old friends--where life was simple and happy.

I picked it up, started leafing through the pages, and decided that I had to have it. Me, at 40. Buying a kid's book. What was I thinking?

Now I'm a homeschool mom with an entire collection of jacketed Nancy Drews. My daughter and I are writing our own mystery story which stars the famous trio and is set in Historical Harpers Ferry. It'll probably never leave our private bookshelf, but that's okay. The story will be something tangible that she and I can treasure even if memories fade.

That's one real benefit of the enduring Nancy Drew. She brings generations together.

Kim, age 44

Memories: Richard

My first experience with Nancy Drew occurred when I was on summer vacation with my family in Corinth, Mississippi in 1976. I was 9 years old. I was with my mother at her cousin's house (across the street from the Confederate cemetery) and I came across a copy of The Haunted Showboat.

My mother's cousin said I could have the book and, from that time on, I was hooked. I read most of the "yellow cover" books as a teenager. I gave all of my Nancy Drew books to my sister who read them all too. She still has The Haunted Showboat.

I was recently married and my wife has a few of the originals and most of the "yellow covers". While we were dating, I would take a few from her library read them and return them a few weeks later. This was the first time I had read any of the originals. I never knew that the originals had been revised and rewritten in the '50's and '60's. Now I am ordering the facsimile editions of the originals from Applewood Books. I'm reading The Quest of The Missing Map now and can't wait to get my next two. As a history major, the old books are a way of looking back in time to get an idea of what the roles of men and women were and how people in general viewed minorities. They truly are a piece of American culture.

Richard, age 38

Memories: Sally

My memories of reading Nancy Drew in the '50s are all mixed up with BRIBERY. In those days, there were no department stores in Silver Spring, where I grew up, and when the time came for shopping trips, there was a long streetcar ride to downtown Washington, DC for my mother, sister and me. When our shopping at "Woodies" was finished, we would always descend to the first floor bookstore, and I was allowed to pick out a Nancy Drew mystery to read on the long ride back to the suburbs. I think each book then cost $1, and I'm sure it was money well spent for my mother as it kept me quiet all the way home.

I learned to love books in a series because they were "safe". There was never any question about not liking the latest one because you "knew" the heroine, and you could count on an exciting plot. It was also fun to look back over the titles (and it STILL gives me a little thrill) and remember each book and what fun it had been to read.

Although I no longer read Nancy Drew, I really attribute my lifelong love of reading, and mysteries in particular, to her. Thanks, Nancy!

Sally, age 62

Memories: Liz

Actually, my first memories of Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys, was in the serials that ran on the Mickey Mouse Club when I was a kid. As soon as I was able, I started reading the books. I had a few, mostly used copies, but did have trouble finding them, especially since they weren't really a library item. But to my great envy, a friend, whose mother & mine were best friends, got all of them from her grandmother. She wasn't big on loaning them out, but whenever Mom & I stopped by, if Cathy wasn't home, I could go curl up on her bed & read one. I remember what a treat that was. Once I got through the Nancy Drews, I was able to start on her brother's Hardy Boys. I didn't read as many of those, but I did enjoy them. I also enjoyed introducing my son to them. At 21, he still enjoys picking one up once in awhile to read....takes him about 2-3 hrs, I think.

Liz, age 55

Memories: Judith

I began reading Nancy Drew in the second grade. The first book I read was The Message in the Hollow Oak. I became an avid reader and collector for the next few years. I'd save my allowance for two weeks and then head to the five & dime for a new "fix." I think I read all of the books that were published at this time. Probably 40+ books.

I read them at home, at school, wherever!

I also read other series books, such as Cherry Ames, a little Judy Bolton, some Dana Girls, and, most especially, Trixie Belden.

Somewhere, about the fifth or sixth grade, Trixie replaced Nancy Drew as my favorite girl sleuth and series. But, I am glad I had all of these books to read as a child. They gave me hours and hours of enjoyment and entertainment.

Judith, age 45

Memories: Karen

I recently visited the Nancy Drew exhibit in Hornbake Library at the University of Maryland. My comments here partially repeat what I wrote in the exhibit visitors' journal.

I went out of my way to view the exhibit because reading series books, Nancy Drew in particular was such an important part of my childhood, and a major factor in my development into a life-long avid reader, and lover of books with sequels. My two sisters also read Nancy Drew, as did our mother before us. I guess I was in the fourth grade or thereabouts when I started reading them. I do not remember them being in our local library, but it was a very small branch and the children's section was tiny. My mother gave us her originals that she had kept, and when we had worked our way through them, we starting acquiring the newer titles, which of course had the more updated images on the covers and updated descriptions inside. Mom never minding buying us books since she bought herself so many (and still does!)

I still carry mental images in my head from lines and situations in those books. I smile whenever I think of Nancy in her "speedy roadster" with her "titian" hair. I loved the fact that although she had a boyfriend, equally important to her were her two friends, one of whom was a bit of a tomboy.

Nancy Drew served as an introduction for me to three types of literature: series fiction, mystery, and historical fiction. The latter I say because many of the oldest titles I read in the original, not an "updated" version. They were a window into decades past in terms of styles, attitudes, and use of language.

As a mother I thought the way to get my oldest son into reading was both to read to him aloud, and when he was ready, introduce him to the Nancy Drew equilalent: The Hardy Boys. I was right on both counts. He devoured every one he could get his hands on and amassed his own collection of mostly original HB hardcovers from antique shops and secondhand stores. At age twenty-one he still devours series like The Wheel of Time.

It irks me when I hear people criticize series fiction for young people as not being serious literature. Who says all literature has to be serious? I firmly believe if reading is established early on as a habitual means of entertainment for a child (alternative to computer and TV), eventually they will branch out into other, more "serious" types of books. They never will if they don't already like to read. I believe we as a culture would retain more teenagers as readers if we didn't force them into reading such heavy material at the expense of all else. In addition, are series books not the basis of series television? You never hear anyone criticizing that. It is just another form of episodic storytelling. It does my heart good in my job in a high school media center to see that spike-haired soccer player come in to get "the next one" in a series he's gotten hooked on. Thanks for the memory jogger and the opportunity to share my thoughts!

Karen, age 45

Memories: Ene

When I was seven years old, I discovered the joy of reading Nancy Drew mysteries. A lone copy of THE CLUE OF THE TAPPING HEELS was circulating at the summer camp I was attending. The book was a hot commodity for those of us in the same age category who were interested in reading. The high level of adventure and mystery were elements not present in anything I had previously read. I felt that I was reading "grownup" material because Nancy Drew and her entourage were much more sophisticated characters than the "kiddie", "cutesy" types in most children's books. I was completely hooked on Nancy Drew after reading one story.

As soon as I returned home from summer camp, I became obsessed with finding more Mancy Drew stories. I sought them out in local libraries, pestered my mother to buy copies that I could not find in the libraries and made a general nuisance of myself by borrowing Nancy Drew books from acquaintances who owned them.

The Nancy Drew stories became excellent material for playacting with friends. We enjoyed pretending that we were characters in the stories. We took turns playing various characters. At times,we invented our own story lines.

I made sure that I read every story in the series. Upon exhausting the series after re-reading each one as often as I could, I yearned for more Nancy Drew adventures but had to placate myself by reading Trixie Belden mysteries. I must say that Trixie did not measure up to Nancy. Although Nancy was eventually put aside for more advanced reading pursuits, Nancy Drew remains my heroine.

I owe a lifetime interest in reading to Carolyn Keene because her Nancy inspired me, as a young girl to open my mind to the love of reading.

Ene, age 56

Memories: Riya

Ever since I came to Canada (which was like when I was 7 or something) I have just read Nacy Drew Books. My friends called my "Nancy Drew Crazy", and I just ignored them.I love how the characters explain their thoughts in the books, and how all these cool techniques are used to tackle the thiefs and crooks.I've read more than 45 books this school year already.I like how Nancy thinks and how she comes up with all strategies to catch her thug red handed.Once I get my hands on a Nancy Drew Book i cannot get mu nose out of it.I CAN AMAZINGLY FINISH A WHOLE BOOK OF NANCY DREW IN ONE DAY. The latest book I read is called "Anything For Love". I specially love how Nancy solves the mystery remebring the photo on the desk of a worker in the studio. I LOVE NANCY DREW BOOKS. THEY ROCK. I WISH I CAN READ ALL THE NANCY DREW BOOKS THERE ARE SO FAR AND FINSH ALL THE ONES I SPECIALLY WANT TO READ.

Riya, age 12

Memories: Samantha

I love Nancy Drew books. But my favorite one is Mystery of the Hollow Oak. Nancy Drew books taught me that it's ok to have adventure, but you have to be careful because there are some bad guys in the World and there are some good guys.

Nancy Drew books taught me many new words, which I did not know before.

Nancy Drew is a great mystery, and the best part is that everyone can read Nancy Drew: kids, teens and adults, girls and boys. The whole world can read Nancy Drew books, just for a very exciting adventure, kind of scary, good, good book. If you have not read them yet, you should read Nancy Drew books now.

Samantha, age 8

Memories: Tess

About six months ago, my grandmother was in the hospital. She had had a couple of strokes, which made it so that she could not speak or read. But she still loved mysteries. I happened to have the Nancy Drew mystery, The Password to Larkspur Lane, with me. My Aunt Lisa asked my grandmother if she would like me to read her a Nancy Drew mystery. She lifted the arm that moved and brightened up. We took that as a YES!

So, I started reading the mystery to her. We only got through two chapters, but my grandmother would try to show me how she appreciated my reading with a laugh. Nancy Drew was the last mystery she heard.

Tess, age 9

Memories: Ann

Oddly, I think my strongest memory of reading Nancy Drew was that the Nancy Drew mysteries weren't available at my public library! I was an avid reader and relied on the library for my reading material almost exclusively. I remember being upset that the library wouldn't carry the Nancy Drews (my other gripe was that they wouldn't let me check out books from the adult section). I'm surprised I went on to become a librarian myself.

Another memory is trading the blue tweed Nancy Drew books with friends. I do remember liking the mysterious atmosphere of the books, Nancy's remarkable abilities, and the solving of the mystery.

Ann, age 58

Memories: Florence

I loved reading Nancy Drew Books! She was such a wonderful role model for young girls. Nancy was brave, independent, smart, pretty, and she had her own "roadster" and two best girlfriends, George and Bess. There was no better way to spend a summer afternoon than trying to help Nancy Drew solve "The Mystery of the Winding Staircase" or "The Secret of the Old Clock".

Florence, age 55

Memories: Anonymous

Because my mother was afraid of my intellectual tendencies, she did not support my reading habit (her brother had 'gone crazy' because he 'read too much' she thought) except for Little Lulu comic books (which she subscribed to for me) and Nancy Drew! I inherited the original edition NDs from her and her younger sister, who had both read them (and had not 'gone crazy') and I passed them on to my younger sister and cousins in turn. I was allowed to buy new editions with allowance money (they were certainly not in the library) and I recall trading them with friends. Because I shared a bedroom with my younger sister, reading ND was often a 'flashlight under the covers' experience for me. I read them from about age 8 to 11, and I did recognize that they were not great literature. But what fun, reading about the adventures of such a nice, clever older girl who could outsmart every bad guy and never had to do the dishes! I enjoyed the suspense of reading just a few chapters at a time. (BTW, I finally got a year's subscription to Gene Autry comics after leaving Little Lulu go unread too many months, thus learning about the dangers of anthrax and quicksand, and how wet rawhide strips used to tie people up become painfully tight as they dry.) Perhaps my career as a librarian was a rebellion against a childhood with not enough books. Only recently did I recognize where the word my husband and I used for each other for so long, 'Chum,' must have originated!

Anonymous, age 63

Memories: Theresa

Loved Nancy, but I loved Judy Bolton even more. Judy matured throughout the series and actually got married and had children! I bought my last Judy Bolton book (the last one published) on my honeymoon, and it's worth quite a lot today.

I read the Drew books and others by published by Grosset & Dunlap constantly as a young girl. I collected them, buying most of them used at a little bookstore near our public local library. The library did not keep many of these girls books in its collection, but the bookstore frequently got in new ones: Dana Girls, Cherry Ames, etc., as well as Nancy and Judy. Mostly they were 50 to 75 cents, about a week's allowance for me. I often traded reading copies with friends as well.

Usually I read them through as quickly as possible, "gobbling" up the new adventure, looking for clues myself as to how these teen sleuths coped with growing up. When I had exhausted any new girls' adventures, I would read of the Hardy Boys or Tom Swift.

I must confess I tried to write my own as a teen, but soon gave up and reread my collection.

Theresa, age 58

Memories: Ellen

I have many memories as a girl growing up in the 50's. Our school library had Nancy Drew and Hardy Boy books and once a week, we were allowed to visit the library and take out a book. (The public library did not carry them. They were considered little better than comic books, I guess.

What the school didnt have, we students exchanged with one another. Every girl, it seemed, in my 5-6th grade class was a nancy Drew fan. These were all the blue volumes. Some thick, some tweed, but all delivisouly exciting stories.

I had 2 volumes of my own (that had belonged to my older sister) Tolling Bell which was falling apart by my adult hood.) I read it 20 times. I used to mark each time in an endpaper.

And Old Locket--which when I borrowed out, I never got back. What treasures these were to me.

In 1975, I ran into a man selling a collection of Nancys, Danas, Judy Bolton and melody lanes in dust jackets with glossy internals, original thick volumes.(The first 12 or so of each series) Inititally he wanted $3 each so I picked out the 6 Nancy's I had to have. Later he called and offered me the rest for $1 each so I grabbed them all. My allowance for the 2 months gone with the wind. But I still have them and they are the pride of a very extensive book collection.

I still read the Nancy Drews and other gals. Including Penny parker and Kay Tracey which I have since collected. They give me a homey, comfortable feeling each time I re-read one.

Ellen, age 55