Girls’ and Boys’ Series Books

photoThe 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. It now 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 – that 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.

Featured Author: H. Irving Hancock

Harry Irving Hancock (1866-1922), a chemist by training and profession, is better remembered for his boys’ series books that were enormously popular in the first two decades of the twentieth century. This video explores some of the highlights of Hancock’s writings, including the nine different series about the boys from Gridley and their exploits first as children and later as young professionals. More unusual, however, was Hancock’s 1916 series The Conquest of the United States, which was set in 1920 and chronicled a German invasion of the United States, culminating in the plucky American soldiers’ triumph over Germany. A curiousity today for its almost prescient depiction of modern warfare, including submarines and helicopteresque airplanes, and its early exploration of the alternate history genre, the series was remarkably unpopular when it was first published on account of the nationalistic fervor that gripped young Americans as the defeat of Germany became ever more probable.

Bibliographic Resources in the USF Tampa Library

Girls Series Books: A Checklist of Hardback Books Published 1900-1975 – University of Minnesota Children’s Research Collections
PN1009.A1 M56 1978

A Bibliography of Hard-Cover, Series Type Boys’ Books – Harry K. Hudson
Z1037 .H8 1977

American Boys Series, 1900-1980 – Barbara Bishop
Z1037 .A45 1987

Tom Swift, the Bobbsey Twins, and Other Heroes of American Junevile Literature – John T. Dizer, Jr.
PS374.C454 D59 1997

Children of the Series and How They Grew, or, A Century of Heroines and Heroes, Romantic, Comic, Moral – Faye Riter Kensinger
PS374.C454 K46 1987

Girl Sleuth: Nancy Drew and the Women Who Created Her – Melanie Rehak
PS3545.I774 Z874 2005

Rediscovering Nancy Drew – edited by Carolyn Stewart Dyer and nancy Tillman Romalov
PS3545.I774 Z87 1995

The Secret of the Hardy Boys: Leslie McFarlane and the Stratemeyer Syndicate – Marilyn S. Greenwald
PR9199.3.M3148 Z67 2004

Series Book Companion: A Bio-Bibliographical Dictionary of Twentieth Century Series Fiction for Boys and Grils with Special Emphasis on the Stratemeyer Syndicate Series and Those Most Collected Today – edited by James D. Keeline
PN1009.A1 S375 1996

Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate – Deidre Johnson
PS3537.T817 Z72 1993

Stratemeyer Pseudonyms and Series Books: An Annotated Checklist of Stratemeyer and Stratemeyer Syndicate Publications – compiled by Deirdre Johnson
PS3537.T817 Z7 1982

Online Resources

The Stratemeyer Syndicate Records at the New York Public Library include original manuscripts, editorial notes and correspondence, business and administrative files, promotional material, photographs, musical scores and artwork.

The Stratemeyer Syndicate Records at University of Oregon Libraries include manuscripts by both Stratemeyer and Adams, and fan letters. There are also publications that include work by Stratemeyer.

Vintage Series Books for Girls is an online exhibit based on a personal collection. It covers some of the more obscure series titles along with the “big names” in series fiction (like Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden). The site includes cover art, summaries, and bibliographical information on individual titles in the series.

Nancy Drew Sleuth is a compendium of resources compiled by Jennifer Fisher, a Nancy afficianado. The site includes a history of Nancy Drew, bibliographic information on different types of Nancy Drew publications, and a large list of Nancy-related links.

Girls’ Series Books Rediscovered: Nancy Drew and Friends is an online exhibit at the University of Maryland’s Special Collections. The exhibit includes historical overviews, illustrative examples.

Keeline.com is the personal site of James D. Keeline, a private scholar sleuth who devotes his website to early twentieth century children’s fiction. His information on the Stratemeyer Syndicate is particularly exhaustive and contains numerous resources for further study.

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