Saturday, May 13, 2023

4 Days To Get Nancy Drew Action Figures & Special Novella


If you haven't made your pledge yet - this is your last chance to get the Nancy Drew Action Figures - and guarantee you get what you want - plus the super cool silhouette figure, t-shirt and Nancy Drew Novella illustrated by Ruth Sanderson which are only available with this Kickstarter Nancy Drew Action Figures campaign! 

40 years ago - early 1980s - I can remember one Christmas Eve at my paternal grandparents' house. I had been playing on my Uncle Jerry's snazzy Apple computer - back when you had the old school spiffy black screen and not much in the way of graphics - and was playing some kind of mystery game. There were all the holiday feels. And I got to open some of my gifts that I wasn't opening the next day at my maternal grandparents' house. One was some of my favorite Star Wars action figures. And boy did my Mom have to hunt those down! That was an adventure in and of itself as they were all the rage for Christmas gifts that year. She had taken them out of the packaging, and they were all in this cool metal tin. Of course, hindsight, if they were still in package and minty...but back then we didn't do that, and she was probably saving space with the travel over to Texas and room for going back home with gifts. 

But most wonderfully in that experience was that I got to be a kid and enjoy playing with them and the tactile energy in being able to handle them and also the freedom in not worrying about collecting and keeping things minty which I was oblivious to at that age. I'll always remember fondly growing up in the 80s when action figures were so popular in the early years of this toy phenomenon. There's something very tangible about an action figure that just brings that nostalgia right back to the surface and those fun memories. I still have my Star Wars action figures in their neat Star Wars case. 

Now we get to be kids again with Nancy Drew Action Figures and ready for your shelf Nancy Drew book style packaging. For some of us that means ripping them out of the packages and taking ourselves right back to childhood and playing Nancy Drew! For some of us, they'll sit mint in package on a shelf looking pristine and very collectible. For me, it will be the best of both worlds! A set to keep mint and a set to sleuth with! In another 40 years, I know I'll look back very fondly on the memories that these Nancy Drew action figures evoke and the fun Nancy Drew mysteries they represent that I always treasured reading as a kid and still do as an adult. Thank you again Doc and Gavin at Wandering Planet Toys for letting me fangirl all the way through this process!

Friday, April 28, 2023

Happy 93rd to Nancy Drew - Mystery's IT Girl

Happy 93rd, Nancy Drew!

A brief look back at 1930s Nancy Drew and how her early success shaped a successful Sleuthing career for over 93 years…

She's been knocked unconscious numerous times. Chloroformed. Kidnapped. Threatened. Strangled. Tortured. Impersonated. Yet, nothing stops Nancy Drew. She always got back in the proverbial saddle, her infamous blue roadster, and eventually solved the case and rounded up all the crooks and saved the day. To some, this might seem like perfection, but to most, we wouldn't have it any other way. She’s Mystery’s IT Girl for the ages, after all.

When Nancy Drew debuted on April 28, 1930, she truly was in many respects a trailblazer of series heroines and by the end of the year, sales were going very well and steadily grew. Considering the time period was during the Great Depression when many series went out of print and faltered, Nancy was a hit and girls were insatiable for the daring sleuths’ exploits. It was a time when girls were dreaming of more and aspiring to be more like Nancy and have the same freedom and respect and ability to use their wits to save themselves and conquer the world. As melodramatic as that may seem, Nancy Drew was hope, one mystery at a time, delivered in beautiful blue book bindings, wrapped up with colorfully illustrated dust jackets depicting scenes of Nancy Drew in peril or sleuthing for clues. 

Before she became Mystery's IT Girl, there was the "Dream Team" or "Drew Team" who guaranteed her success in life, as she morphed from "Stella Strong" to "Nan Drew" to "Nancy Drew" and then got right down to business solving mysteries in her first case, The Secret of the Old Clock

Let’s remember today on her anniversary some of the interesting creators behind the famous amateur sleuth who helped make her such a rousing success by the end of the 1930s. The "Drew" Team, who helped create and produce Nancy Drew and who made her the success she would become, is who we owe a hearty thanks to, for without them, I don't think Nancy Drew would be the pop culture icon that she is today.

Have you ever heard of The Stratemeyer Syndicate? Let’s get to the bottom of this mysterious sounding syndicate. It consisted of a literary giant who is often forgotten to history or overlooked. His name was Edward Stratemeyer. Heralded as “Father of the Fifty-center” – in 1934, Fortune Magazine compared him to Rockefeller – “"As oil had its Rockefeller, literature had its Stratemeyer." He invented Nancy Drew and what an invention! Such a breakout character for someone who was rather Victorian in nature. Victorian or not, Stratemeyer had a very savvy ability to capitalize on current events, trends and culture in creating the many books and series he either wrote himself or employed ghostwriters to do the writing for. He formed The Stratemeyer Syndicate around 1905 and went on to produce such popular series including The Bobbsey Twins, The Rover Boys, Tom Swift, The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew. Ghostwriters signed away rights to the series, character and pen names and Stratemeyer farmed the manuscripts out to various publishers for publication. As simple as that sounds, it would become the stuff of mystery decades later, when scholars and fans of the books began wondering just who was writing their favorite books. Who was Nancy Drew’s author, Carolyn Keene, really? Stay tuned for more clues…

Nearly two weeks after Nancy Drew debuted, Stratemeyer passed away from pneumonia and never got to see one of his biggest legacies become such an amazing success. By the mid-1930s, Nancy Drew was outselling the boys’ series. Stratemeyer’s assistant, Harriet Otis Smith, would help his daughters Edna Stratemeyer Squier and Harriet Stratemeyer Adams continue on in the business after they could not find a buyer suitable during the Great Depression. Both women would go on to run their father’s company for many years, Harriet for many more after her sister Edna mostly retired from day-to-day business. Both would weather the Great Depression and the resulting loss of some series, World War 2 and paper shortages among more challenges to come their way. Both were getting a foothold in a very male-dominated publishing industry and thanks to Stratemeyer’s business model, thrived and made it a continued success overall. Without the sisters and their dedication, many of these popular series might just be a footnote in series literature history.

An aspiring writer, native Iowan, and first person to graduate from the University of Iowa with a master's in journalism would go on to write the first three Nancy Drew mysteries at the age of 24 and continue to write 20 more of the first 30 volumes in the series. She breathed a most feisty life into Nancy Drew, whose personality and character in the 1930s especially was much more ballsy and brash than the Nancy Drew of later books. Her Nancy Drew spoke up to authority, often snooped and helped herself to evidence she needed to solve mysteries and sped like the wind in her sporty roadster often leaving villains in her dust. She wasn’t afraid to pack heat or sucker punch a villain. She was Sleuth-tacular. And she was very much like her real-life ghost, Mildred Wirt Benson.

Benson, in addition to the 23 Nancy Drew books she wrote, also wrote other books in various series for The Stratemeyer Syndicate and many of her own books and series – 135 published books in all by the end of her juvenile series writing career. She spent decades as a journalist in Toledo, OH and having real life Nancy Drew adventures which I am chronicling as I am currently writing a biography about Benson. If you’re wondering why she didn’t write all the volumes in the first 30 books, that’s a mystery that has interesting roots. Did you know a Navy man ghosted some of the Nancy Drew books? Who was this other 1930s ghost behind Nancy Drew? He was Walter Karig, and he stepped in to write volumes 8-10 when, as a letter in the New York Public Library’s Stratemeyer Syndicate Archives reveals, Benson didn’t want to take a pay cut during the Depression. His writing style, on par with Benson’s and often more humorous in nature, was a near seamless transition, fans most likely didn’t realize someone new was writing several of the books and that’s how the Syndicate liked it. A pseudonym provided stability and continuity, no matter what was going on behind the scenes of Mysteryville.

Working rather closely with Benson in the 1930s was Edna, who wrote most of the 1930s outlines for Nancy Drew books that Benson ghosted after Stratemeyer passed away. Harriet became much more heavily involved with Nancy Drew when Edna moved to Florida and left the day to day running of the Syndicate to her. Harriet would begin to tone down Nancy Drew’s more blunt character and by the 1950s, ghostwrite many of the books herself until her death in 1982.

Commercial illustrator and reported drinking companion on occasion to Salvador Dali and Ernest Hemmingway, Russell H. Tandy was the first to bring Nancy Drew to life and illustrated covers through the late 1940s as well as internal illustrations. His sophisticated style and fashionable covers were a hit with fans and are highly collectible and beloved still today. Between his depiction of Nancy and Benson’s excellent writing style, Nancy Drew was disappearing off the shelves into eager hands. Forget the fact that libraries often snubbed children’s literature like Nancy Drew! Fans of the books created their own libraries and shared them around to friends in the neighborhood and at school. Over the decades, generations of fans from moms to grandmothers lovingly passed down their books to their kids and grandkids, ensuring that Nancy Drew would endure through the ages.

Though no one knew it at the time by the close of the 1930s when Nancy Drew was an established success, looking back on this long running and very popular series still in print and new books, it’s phenomenal that books are still being reprinted and new ones published. Over 600 mysteries have been solved and counting. Numerous movies and TV shows have been made about her. We now have a company, Wandering Planet Toys, who is about to produce for the first time ever, Nancy Drew Action Figures! Get yours now while you can by May 17! The Nancy Drew Sleuths fan group holds annual conventions and publishes a zine, The Sleuth, about her. Nancy Drew has resonated with millions of fans over the generations and has inspired some of the most powerful women in America, including most of the female justices on the US Supreme Court. I think Stratemeyer would be most proud of that legacy and that his own daughters continued the business for many years after his death and made such a success of so many series books and characters we hold near and dear like Nancy Drew. 

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Nancy Drew Action Figures at Kickstarter LIVE - 30 Days to get Nancy Drew!

NANCY FANS - NANCY DREW ACTION FIGURES KICKSTARTER LIVE! - Your mission if you choose to accept it is to head on over to Doc and Gavin's Wandering Planet Toys Nancy Drew Kickstarter page and you've got only 30 days to help fund this awesome venture! As a kid in the late 70s/80s, I was a huge Star Wars fan and loved my action figures - still have them! - and to see these awesome retro Nancy Drew action figures come to life from all the hard work that's gone into pre-production on these, is so beyond cool! This year is the 70th anniversary of the late Nancy Drew artist, Rudy Nappi's ND cover art career which began in 1953 and these figures pay homage to some of your favorite and festive 60s and 70s Nappi covers! Nancy's iconic and so are these illustrations of her and Wandering Planet Toys has done a fantastic job of styling them, with accessories from the cover scenes and even adding in extra figures in two sets - Nancy's doppelganger - the villainess - from Lilac Inn and the creepy Robby the Robot from Crooked Banister. Figures are based on Old Clock, Hidden Staircase, Lilac Inn, Old Attic, Dancing Puppet, and Crooked Banister

The packaging is fantastic - card backs for the simple collector and book style cases for the book collector - check out the internal illustrations used and the cool endpaper scenes. The packaging is collectible in and of itself! Buy a set to keep mint in package and a set to sleuth around with! I'll be doing that and getting a set to send to Toledo Public Library for my Nancy Drew Collection there. PLUS! There are neat incentives - don't even get me started on how much I am thrilled with those. The silhouette figure complete with tweed book background. The cool silhouette stand to keep your figures posed on your shelves. And so super-beyond-cool is the 5-chapter Nancy Drew Novella, The Case of the Curious Collection, written in the classic Nancy Drew mystery style AND ILLUSTRATED BY RUTH SANDERSON!!!!! One day a few months ago, Doc asked me who would be a good person to illustrate the Novella and my immediate answer was Ruth Sanderson - besides her wonderful history as a classic paperbacks Nancy Drew illustrator, she's fantastic and her style is perfect for this, so I'm beyond thrilled she was excited to do it and I love the cover scene she's illustrating based on a general outline and synopsis I wrote up. It's so cool to see that come to life. 

As the pledging goes and the goals are being reached at Kickstarter, that will unlock even more super cool things! You've got to help make this happen, so Nancy fans, head on over to the Nancy Drew Kickstarter campaign and support this awesome indie toy company run by Doc and Gavin! Making this a success ensures a second wave of more figures to come in the future! I'm so happy they brought me on board to consult on this line of action figures and am thrilled to see it all come to life in such a nostalgic way! They have gone above and beyond the Call of Drewty on this one :) 

See the rest of the figures below plus the cool Novella with Ruth's art, click on the images to view larger ones.

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

NANCY DREW ACTION FIGURES - For the First time Ever!


For the first time ever, you'll have the opportunity to collect classic and vintage style Nancy Drew action figures based on the classic Nancy Drew books everyone loves. Screenrant has a few more details about the launch to come shortly - you can see the Nancy Drew Old Clock figure and the awesome Crowley Clock featured on the book cover plus the screwdriver Nancy used to open the clock in the photos in this blog.

For some time, I have been consultant on this amazing project to bring to the fans action figures of classic Nancy Drew! I'm so - so - so excited about the launch that's to come soon on Kickstarter!

To clue you in, back in 2008, when we held our Nancy Drew Convention that year in Bird-in-Hand, PA for our "Witch Tree Symbol" theme, a family joined us which included Doc Wyatt whose wife Laura was a Nancy Drew fan. Together with his friend Gavin Hignight, they formed a toy company in recent years called Wandering Planet Toys and recently did a very successful launch of action figures based on the old TV series, The Prisoner. When deciding to do another launch, they settled on Nancy Drew and reached out to me to consult as they chose books to base the figures on, how to get Nancy's look just right, what accessories from those books to use, etc.

The figures are fantastic, and the packaging is just as Sleuthtacular too! They officially licensed with Simon and Schuster and got the ball rolling on the creation and production side. Now months later they are ready to launch the line and so I wanted to share the news and get you all very excited for the coming official launch! Right now, if you're interested, you can sign up with your e-mail so they can let you know when it officially launches and when pre-orders through Kickstarter begin. There will be some pretty rad incentives too!

Sunday, March 05, 2023

The Mysterious Zephyr - The Legend of the lost "Tandy" - Nancy Drew

The Mysterious Zephyr - The Legend of the Lost "Tandy"

This article was originally run in the Summer 2020 issue of The Sleuth

You've often heard of Nancy Drew illustrator, Russell H. Tandy's muse for Nancy Drew, the model Grace Horton, whose curly blond locks and sophisticated looks graced the covers of some of the Nancy Drew books. The curiosity in those covers lies in which ones did Grace influence and pose for? We've heard about Grace for years and Tandy using her as a model, but it was only recently that I sat down to think about Nancy Drew and her image on the covers and try to piece it all together. From my research and newly uncovered evidence, Grace did not model for the original Nancy Drew covers that Tandy painted. Grace would have been only 10 in 1930, too young to have been the original Nancy Drew. 

Grace Horton, born Grace Evelyn Horton on April 21, 1920, was the daughter of a commercial artist. Her family - the Hortons - were of the Horton Ice Cream fame. She began modeling around 1937 and was hired by the Harry Conover Model Agency. An article I discovered from 1941 featured her and described her as such, " Grace Horton, a practically perfectly formed and featured slightly smallish blond girl who is one of the most active models today. She's 21, the daughter of a commercial artist, graduated from high school in New York City, and studied fashion design for a year. Her first job, four years ago, was modeling in a wholesale house a regular eight-hour-a-day job at $15 a week. In her first year she had sixteen jobs and worked up to $35 a week. Then she went into advertising modeling." 

Whether Tandy knew Grace's father, both being commercial illustrators, or whether he hired her from the agency she worked for, at one point it was rumored she was dating one of Tandy's sons - Russell Jr. This may have been an exaggeration and he may have just taken her for ice cream, notes Tandy's granddaughter Pam. Either way she began modeling circa 1937 according to this article and it's around that time in the series of Nancy Drew covers that Nancy begins to look a lot like Grace.  Possibly as early as the fourteenth book, The Whispering Statue, and definitely by the seventeenth book, The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk

Grace Horton

So who in the world inspired Tandy when he set out to portray the plucky heroine who has become America's daring teenage sleuth for over 90 years now? There's another muse entirely that likely influenced the style of Russell H. Tandy when it came to painting the original covers for the first three Nancy Drew books - and beyond. And possibly his work before Nancy Drew. The infamous French artist, Maurice Millière.

Born in 1871, Millière was a successful artist whose talents ran the gamut from drawings to illustrations to sculpture. His "little doll women," the "petite femmes de Paris" were great novelties in Paris from illustrations to dolls to little statuettes at around 14" to 16" tall on average, featuring charming little French women, often blond with curly hair. These sophisticated mademoiselles were illustrated pinups during the Great War, or as we call it, World War I. American soldiers brought pictures home as souvenirs. They were featured in magazines and sold in shops. In the 1920s Millière produced the statuettes.  Even in America there were replicas by artists and novelty houses.  

Millière Portrait

I was contacted by a fan who had seen one of Millière's statuettes - specifically the Zephyr - which is shown here with this article. Created in the 1920s in both painted Plaster of Paris and a brass version, the Zephyr looks strikingly like Nancy Drew from the cover of The Secret of the Old Clock. Too strikingly similar. My research into this artist and this statuette led me to Millière collector Nannette Rod who published an informative article in the June 2014 issue of Antique Doll Collector on Millière. I reached out to Ms. Rod and asked her about the likely coincidence or perhaps flattering similarities between Old Clock and Millière's Zephyr and she sent me this reply:

"I do think it's possible that Tandy was influenced by Millière's statue. Millière was an influential artist and widely copied. He was the father of the Boudoir Art genre, being the first to represent a "modern" woman--one who is confident, playful, adventurous, yet sexy. Millière's women could be found in most of the mildly erotic men's magazines of the time, but also in fashion catalogs, and advertisements for women's beauty products. Tandy could have encountered Millière's work any number of ways.

Possibly he studied in Paris (many artists did) or served in WW1 or had friends who served. Returning US soldiers brought back magazines, books, and even statuettes of Millière's art. Since Tandy was a fashion illustrator, he must have seen Millière's work in French fashion catalogs and American magazines."

Tandy was a commercial illustrator doing fashion layouts and even sewing pattern covers and would have been aware of Millière's famous work - and like many illustrators, likely inspired by these styles. While we can't say for sure, it's certainly interesting to speculate and note the similarities. While Nancy Drew is not a copy per se and has her own sophisticated and mysterious style - a Tandy signature - there's certainly some influence in the clothing and the color and especially in the windblown pose of Nancy Drew on the cover of Old Clock. Her scarf is also blowing in the wind on the cover of The Bungalow Mystery. This was a famous style of Millière's - the windblown pose - and often featured a scarf or stole, a cloche hat and featured the girl's arms clutching something - like Nancy does with the clock on the cover. Ms. Rod noted, "His poses were widely copied by rival boudoir artists and even by artists in America."

If you'd like to see more of Millière's work, Ms. Rod has a Pinterest Board which features a lot of his work and his influence on the flapper generation and the boudoir style.

Uncovering the history behind Nancy Drew and finding intriguing pieces of the puzzle like the Millière Zephyr, just adds more layers to the mystery that is Nancy Drew. 

Special thanks to Sleuth Jackie Fry for helping me uncover some genealogy on Grace Horton and her family, to collector and fan Ann Bergin who pointed me to the Zephyr and to Nanette Rod for her information on Millière and images of the Zephyr. 

Thursday, October 27, 2022

New Nancy Drew Mysteries Board Game from Outset Media

There's a new Nancy Drew game on the market from Outset Media, the same maker who has done the Nancy Drew Puzzles (Cobble Hill) and the Nancy Drew Collector Game several years ago. You can order it at Barnes & Noble right now - order 2+ and get free shipping. It looks Clue-like in how it's played with logic/deduction which is cool. I really love the graphics and how they've colorized internal illustrations of Nancy! Nancy in the car with the map peering over it is so fun. I would even possibly get a third game to just frame some if it like the board/etc. I think it makes a nice statement piece just on the graphics alone. Let me know if you get it and how you like playing the game! Thanks to collector Jim McNamara for the images I used to make the collage - shots of the inside/board/pieces/game sheets/etc. Click on the images to see larger  pictures.

Sunday, July 24, 2022

Mysterious Life of a Nancy Drew Collector - The Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection - Toledo Library

The clicking of keys on the typewriter, a ghostly author tapping away, churning out mysterious yarn after yarn, bringing to life many characters including the most famous teenage sleuth of the 20th Century. Mildred Wirt Benson’s Nancy Drew was something of a force to be reckoned with - a plucky girl with a zeal for adventure and daring escapades. And many had no clue early on that Benson’s Carolyn Keene, ghostwriter of the original Nancy Drew books for The Stratemeyer Syndicate, was writing some of these nostalgic mysteries in Toledo’s Old Orchard, ensconced in her two-story home, often locked away in her writer’s room and library. The tale of Nancy Drew and her dauntless ghostwriter is one that has overlapped over the decades, many pondering who the real Nancy Drew was. Real living history in Toledo, OH, the perfect location for a large collection of thousands of Nancy Drew books and memorabilia that I’d collected for many years, donated to the Toledo Public Library in 2019.

How does one come to collect a voluminous collection surrounding Mystery’s IT Girl, Nancy Drew? To clue you in, it begins in childhood with a spooky mystery. A tale of woe. Dastardly villains. The hunt by intrepid sleuth Nancy Drew for answers. Foibles and baffling events segue to righting wrongs and saving the day and wrapping things up nicely at the end of the mystery with justice served and order restored. And then comes the teaser - the promise of another even more exciting adventure and more mysteries to solve soon. Those were the trappings of the many Nancy Drew books we devoured as kids and continue to as adults.

At some point we transition from childhood reader to adulthood. From fan to collector, revisiting our childhood days of getting lost in a good yarn to the exclusion of life and homework for something more exciting and present. It was a time to grow and learn and figure things out and with a pal like Nancy Drew, we were inspired with that can-do-anything attitude. As adults looking back, we get a thrill remembering the good times we had solving mysteries with Nancy. For collectors like myself, collecting is a way of reclaiming that nostalgia and holding onto it indefinitely.

After over 20 years of collecting since the late 1990s, I’d amassed over 4000 items and it had served a great purpose to me but was really destined for more. It wasn’t just what I collected, but the way I collected. To tell that story about Nancy Drew and those that created her. To put together a collection of the many puzzle pieces that make up the story behind Nancy Drew. To have something that fans and scholars can learn from and study. To inspire others to collect and revisit their childhood. To help solidify Nancy’s legacy as not only an entertaining sleuth but her empowerment of kids – and adults – to go out and conquer and never give up. It’s been more about bringing history alive and telling the stories behind the scenes, so they live on and inspire new generations. It’s about preserving Nancy Drew’s legacy as not only a phenomenal children’s book series but as Pop Culture icon who has inspired and challenged so many from kids on up to most of our ladies on the US Supreme Court. That a fictional character can resonate with so many for over 90 years and be such a driving force amongst fans of the series, is pretty amazing. These are the things that drove me in my collecting in addition to nostalgia. And it was the history behind the scenes and Nancy’s first ghostwriter, Benson, who drove me to research and write about that history and collect it as well.

With over 600 books published since 1930, there’s a lot out there to collect. You may wonder how one goes from 600 to a few thousand and you can find all the intriguing answers at the Toledo Public Library. But here’s a few things you can find when you sleuth there for more details - from the regular classic series to various spin-off series to series for older teens and younger kids there’s something for everyone and each new generation has had their Nancy Drew to aspire to. From the regular books and all the neat printing formats over the years to library editions, book club editions and even foreign editions, there’s a lot of books to be found at the library.

And then there’s the gamut of Nancy Drew collectibles related to books, movies and television. Always intriguing, there’s even ephemera ranging from historical documents to advertising items that help tell the story from concept to creation to marketing to distribution to the actual book or collectible. The history behind Nancy Drew is often as fascinating as Nancy Drew’s cases, sometimes even more dramatic and suspenseful. It’s what inspired me to go beyond collecting to researching and writing about Nancy Drew since 1997. Between collecting and writing, it led to consulting on a wide variety of merchandise, books and productions like the 2007 Nancy Drew movie which gave me the opportunity to acquire some unique things for the collection.

The classic Nancy Drew in cloche hats from the 1930s, to a 1950s Bobby-Soxer and then mod 1960s sleuth with her titian-haired flip meets modern Nancy Drew from the 1980s to present day, every decade reflecting that generation's style.  Shelves hold books filled with vintage and modern tales of a very daring and intelligent sleuth and there are many exciting tales to be had in Nancy Drew's world of lost wills, haunted houses, lost treasures, and musty old attics full of secrets and sinister suspects. There are also many stories to tell behind the scenes of Nancy Drew and her creators and writers like Benson and this collection can provide the clues to unravel all these mysteries - real and fictional.

So, when the Toledo Public Library reached out to me in 2019 during its renovation of the main library about donating my collection, I was thrilled at the opportunity to let Nancy Drew shine and let so many get to see the collection and learn and grow from it. They were able to carve out a space for it just perfect for Nancy Drew fans to visit in The Mystery Room. Located at the downtown main library in the children’s section, the collection has been seen by many fans making visits locally and from afar. There was even a marriage proposal to a Nancy Drew fan in the room.

The choice of Toledo for the donation is due in large part to Benson, having been a long-term resident and also having written some of the original Nancy Drew books there after moving from Cleveland where some of the earlier Nancy Drews were written. I’ve always been fascinated with the ghostwriters behind the pen name and Benson was in many ways a real-life Nancy Drew which inspired me to write about her life and legacy including an upcoming biography about her life that I’m currently writing. The library also has some very neat historical items in relation to Benson including one of each of the 135 books she published, photos, awards and even her NASA application to be a journalist in space. There’s a Literary Landmark dedicated to her writing career which hangs outside The Mystery Room that houses my collection. They also own the original Russell H. Tandy painting for the 1931 edition of volume #5, The Secret at Shadow Ranch.

The Toledo Public Library – any library for that matter – is a wonderful place. Libraries are a foundation for literacy, especially among those that can’t afford to read otherwise or have the kind of resources to open up the world of reading to them. It’s a place to lose yourself in adventures and learn about so much and grow as a person. It’s a place I loved to read Nancy Drew books as a kid – in my school library. And for some, libraries are a place to visit a collection like this and open up the world of Nancy Drew and her mysterious history. Benson wrote about libraries in her last published Toledo Blade column before she passed away in 2002. Benson often used the library to research for her books. She spent a lot of time at the Cleveland Public Library researching while writing Shadow Ranch,  among others and then later in Toledo at the Toledo Public Library. I love libraries and have such fond affection for them. Every year at our Nancy Drew Conventions we donate a full set of Nancy Drew books to the local library for people of all ages to enjoy, especially the new generation of kids. Once upon a time decades ago, and even some rare instances now, some people tried to keep Nancy Drew and similar series literature out of libraries. Libraries are all amazing and worthy of any donation such as my Nancy Drew collection, and I hope this inspires other collectors to consider donating their collections to their libraries. And that’s one reason why I felt like the Toledo Public Library would be a wonderful home for the collection in addition to Toledo’s historic connections to Nancy Drew.

21 years ago, members of the Nancy Drew Sleuths including myself visited Toledo and met with Benson at the Toledo Blade where she’d been working as a journalist for over 50 years. It was then that I became inspired with her back story and being a real-life Nancy Drew. Numerous research trips and Nancy Drew events have brought me to Toledo many times over the years, I even followed in Nancy Drew’s footsteps sleuthing around Benson’s old attic for clues. Having my collection there for the community and visitors to enjoy makes it feel like a second home.

Keeping history alive is a wonderful thing and the Toledo Public Library has been so supportive of that goal. Every generation has had their Nancy Drew - and they are all there at the library just waiting to be rediscovered and for young fans to discover and be inspired by. That’s the most rewarding thing to this longtime Nancy Drew Collector. 

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Happy Birthday Millie Benson!

Happy Birthday to Millie Benson aka Mildred Wirt Benson – first Carolyn Keene, author of over 130 published books, among other fine feats. I sit here fondly thinking about her legacy – and she wore so many hats! From author to journalist to aviatrix to Mayan temple adventurer and many other things in between. She’s most famously known as being the original Carolyn Keene and a real-life Nancy Drew in many respects and we’re going to celebrate her most famous literary character – Nancy Drew – in Toledo, OH this week at a series of events at the Toledo Public Library. The dedication of my Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection and all the other mystery fanfare at the library over two days will be an amazing event for the Nancy Drew Fans attending, many members of the Nancy Drew Sleuths, plus local Toledoans looking to solve the mystery of what’s in…The Mystery Room…and rediscover Nancy Drew.  Millie wrote most of the Nancy Drew books in Ohio after moving there in the late 1920s to the Cleveland area. In 1938, she moved to Toledo and spent the rest of her life there writing and working as a longtime journalist for The Toledo Times and The Toledo Blade. She wrote Nancy Drew books #17-25 and #30 in Toledo.


Of her legacy, she once said, “Now so much later in my life, women still tell me how they identified with Nancy Drew and that Nancy Drew gave them confidence to be whatever they wanted to be. That’s been the most rewarding aspect.” That Nancy Drew has been empowering her fans for over 90 years – is a great legacy indeed!

Monday, May 16, 2022

Nancy Drew Fan Gathering & Collection Dedication - Toledo, OH July 2022

CALLING ALL NANCY DREW FANS! Join your fellow Nancy Drew fans and Sleuths in Toledo, OH in July (14th-16th) for the Nancy Drew Collection & Mystery Activities at the Toledo Public Library (TPL). E-mail to be on the e-mail list and to RSVP for events! 

Schedule of Nancy Drew Events: 

Thurs. July 14 - Nancy Drew Fans Party at the TPL 6pm-8pm - Dedication of the Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection in the Mystery Room, charcuterie bar and goodies, escape room challenge, photo booth. On display is Jim McNamara's donation of UK art for The Mystery of the Tolling Bell. A special display on loan by collector Michael Gauwitz of the Russell H. Tandy Painting for The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion plus Rudy Nappi paintings of The Message in the Hollow Oak, The Secret of the Wooden Lady and The Haunted Showboat. See the Tandy painting for The Secret at Shadow Ranch in the Mystery Room. And artist Laura Ruby's Nancy Drew series of prints donated to the collection will be on display around the library. You won't want to miss out on seeing this amazing array of books, collectibles and art!

Fri. July 15 - Nancy Drew Mystery Day at the Library - Nancy Drew scavenger hunt for prizes, sleuth kits to the first several hundred, strolling magician, CSI Sleuth activities from Imagination Station, photo booth. Special Nancy Drew art, collecting and history presentations from authors Jennifer Fisher and Julie Rubini and artist Laura Ruby whose prints will be part of the fun scavenger hunt.

Sat. July 16 - free time and scavenger style hunt involving Mildred Wirt Benson locations around Toledo w/ prizes awarded at the Nancy Drew Fans dinner that night.

The library boasts an amazing Children's floor with so many neat interactive elements, a gallery of original children's book cover art, a mystery wall to solve, the Nancy Drew collection in the Mystery Room, items on display throughout the library and in local History/Rare Book Room, a life-size diorama of Nancy Drew from the Tandy Secret of the Old Clock, and so much more! It's a children's book and Nancy Drew nostalgia playground for fans of all ages!