Stratemeyer Syndicate

The Stratemeyer Syndicate was the producer of a number of series for children and adults including the Nancy Drew mysteries, the Hardy Boys, the various Tom Swift series, the Bobbsey Twins and others.


The Stratemeyer Syndicate was the creation of Edward Stratemeyer, whose ambition was to be a writer à la Horatio Alger. He succeeded in this ambition (eventually even writing eleven books under the pseudonym "Horatio Alger"), turning out inspirational, up-by-the-bootstraps tales. Stratemeyer's business acumen, however, was in realizing that there was a huge, untapped market for children's books.In Stratemeyer's view, it was not the promise of sex or violence that made such reading attractive to boys; it was the thrill of feeling "grown-up" and the desire for a series of stories, an "I want some more" syndrome.

Accordingly, Stratemeyer began writing a series called The Rover Boys, in which he established some key practices:

  • The books would, of course, be in a series; and to more quickly see if the series was likely to be successful, Stratemeyer had several volumes published at once, referred to as "breeders" (turning out multiple books posed him no problems).
  • The books would be written under a pseudonym. Edward Stratemeyer might die, but "Arthur M. Winfield" didn't have to -- and "Carolyn Keene" and "Franklin W. Dixon" were then still alive.
  • The books would look as much like contemporary adult books as possible -- same bindings, same type-faces.
  • The books would be of a predictable length.
  • Chapters should end mid-situation, as should pages in as much as it is possible, to increase the reader's desire to turn pages -- and thus his reading speed. Of course, one volume finished, the reader would want to turn to the next, and be assured it would be the same type of story.
  • Each book would begin with a quick recap of all previous books in that series.

The Rover Boys was a roaring success, and Stratemeyer began writing other series books -- The Bobbsey Twins appeared in 1904 and Tom Swift in 1910. Some time in the first decade of the twentieth century Stratemeyer realized that he could no longer juggle multiple volumes of multiple series, and he began hiring ghostwriters, such as Howard Garis.

In 1911, under the pseudonym Chester K. Steele, Stratemeyer published The Mansion of Mystery (which he'd written himself). Five more books were published in that mystery series, with the last being printed in 1928. These books were aimed at a somewhat older audience than his previous series.

After that, the Syndicate focused on mystery series aimed again at its younger base: The Hardy Boys, which had first appeared in 1927, ghostwritten by Leslie McFarlane and others, and Nancy Drew, which appeared in 1930, ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson and others.

In 1930 Stratemeyer died and the Syndicate was inherited by his two daughters, Harriet and Edna. Edna showed little interest and sold her share to Harriet within a few years. Harriet introduced such series as The Dana Girls (1934), and Tom Swift, Jr., as well as The Happy Hollisters and many others. In the 1950s, Harriet (by now Harriet Stratemeyer Adams) began a project of substantially revising old volumes in the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys series, mainly to bring them up-to-date by removing references to "roadsters" and the like; racial slurs and stereotypes were also removed, and in some cases (such as The Secret of Shadow Ranch and The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion) entire plots were cast off and replaced with new ones.

In the late 1970s, Adams decided it was time for Nancy and the Hardys to go into paperback. The hardcover market was no longer what it had been. Grosset & Dunlap, however, loath to lose massive profits, sued, and the ensuing case let the world know, for the first time, that the Syndicate existed. The Syndicate had always gone to great lengths to hide its existence from the public. Ghostwriters were contractually obliged never to reveal their authorship. Grosset & Dunlap lost the suit, and new titles were subsequently published from 1979 by Simon & Schuster. In 1987, after the death of Adams (in 1982), Simon & Schuster purchased the syndicate from its partners - Edward Stratemeyer Adams, Camilla Adams McClave, Patricia Adams Harr, Nancy Axelrod and Lilo Wuenn.

Some syndicate series' were also reprinted in foreign countries. The first appearance seems to be one Ted Scott Flying Stories book published in Germany in the early 1930s as Ted Scott Der Ozeanflieger. The artwork was always changed when reprinted in other countries, and sometimes character names were as well. Other series reprinted outside the States include Nancy Drew (Britain, Australia, Sweden, France), The Dana Girls, The Hardy Boys and the Bobbsey Twins. These other series first appeared around the 1950s outside the States.


Some of the series produced by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. All authors' names are pseudonyms.


  • Carol Billman. The Secret of the Stratemeyer Syndicate: Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Million Dollar Fiction Factory, New York, Ungar, 1986, ISBN 0-8044-2055-6
  • Ilana Nash and David Farah. Series Books & the Media: Or This Isn't All, SynSine Press, 1996, hardcover, 404 pages, ISBN 0-9639949-7-2
  • Book Safari

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