The Girls’ and Boys’ Series Books Collection at USF is one of the most extensive collections of twentieth century American juvenile series books in existence. Since its inception as a personal collection curated by Harry K. Hudson, a noted bibliographer of twentieth century boys’ series fiction, the collection has grown by leaps and bounds. The collection now includes the personal library of Dr. John T. Dizer, a noted collector of children’s literature and series books.
The collection includes 6,000 boys’ series books and over 2,000 girls’ series volumes. Ranging in date from 1890 to 1970, the collection includes volumes featuring iconic characters like Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey Twins, Five Little Peppers, and the Hardy Boys. It also provides a window into less well-known worlds such as those of the Blue Grass Seminary Girls, Grace Harlowe, and the Campfire Girls. In the boys’ and girls’ series alike, the juvenile protagonists solve mysteries, explore the known reaches of the world, serve in the first World War, attend boarding school, and create homes for themselves and their families.
The collection includes a large number of materials published by the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Devised in 1905 by writer Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930), the Stratemeyer Syndicate capitalized on the largely unexplored market for entertaining series books for children. Unlike the McLoughlin Brothers publishing house that produced lavishly illustrated and relatively costly volumes, the Stratemeyer Syndicate was a mass-market, for-profit enterprise.
Growing out of Stratemeyer’s own series The Rover Boys, the Syndicate’s innovations were two-fold: it sought to publish juvenile books that mimicked the format of adult series, and it streamlined production, ultimately employing numerous ghost writers to pen installments in popular series, including Nancy Drew, the Bobbsey twins, and the Hardy boys. All were published under “house names” such as Carolyn Keene, Laura Lee Hope, and Franklin W. Dixon. Enormously popular, the publishing scheme also proved enormously successful for Stratemeyer since, like Peter Pan, Stratemeyer Syndicate characters did not grow up. Instead, their adventures could continue indefinitely. Since Stratemeyer retained editorial control over the series and the characters, the series did not end when a single ghostwriter stopped writing. The collection includes hundreds of Stratemeyer titles.
Now available online: Children’s Literature Collection (Digital Collection)
We have recently begun digitizing select titles from the Children’s Literature Collection, focusing on girls’ and boys’ series books published before 1923; complete books are freely available online.
Many more titles and series have not been digitized yet; to view full print holdings, click here.