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 sleuths@ndsleuths.com 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!

Thursday, February 10, 2022

Nancy Drew 1970s TV Show Watch Variant

Another Nancy Drew TV Show Watch Variant? Read on for more clues...

First, a little background information, then variant information. It wasn't until January 2009 when I realized there was a collectible that no one in the collecting circles had ever heard of or mentioned before. A Nancy Drew Watch based on the 1970s TV show starring Pamela Sue Martin as Nancy Drew. The watch I saw on eBay didn't feature the red band pictured above and below, it had this sort of flower girl hippy style band instead pictured right below. At first, I wasn't too sure about the band being original and then saw an equivalent Hardy Boys watch and realized it was likely not original based on the style/color of the Hardy Boys watch. 

So, what did the original look like? Fast forward to 2019 when around March of that year another watch - this one complete with the original box/packaging and warranty slip came up on eBay. I missed it, but a fellow collector, Victoria Broadhurst won it and has shared a couple of photos that are below of the watch with its packaging and a close up. In this 2nd auction, we discovered the original band was red - matches her outfit shown on the watch face. My red band is the same texture/appearance as Vicki's band.

Last year, I stumbled upon an auction (the third known watch to be sold we're aware of) at eBay for the watch itself, no packaging, but the original red band. Mine was always one to upgrade since it didn't have the original band. My original watch was donated with my collection back in 2019 to the Toledo Public Library. I was successful at winning the 3rd auction with the red band and stowed it away. Recently I dug it out to photograph and realized something I hadn't noticed before. The watch hands are all black. I checked the photo I had up at my Nancy Drew Collection Pinterest Boards and noted that the first watch I purchased had gold hands and a red seconds hand. I then checked the image I had pulled from the complete watch/box set auction and noted that Vicki's appeared to be the same. I verified it with her that they are the same as the first one I acquired.

The above image is the 2nd watch I purchased on eBay. 
Below are images Vicki shared with me of hers:


I also noticed that in addition the hands being a different color in the one I recently acquired, the image varies in cropping. If you look at the faces of the 3 pictured here, you'll see that on my first watch, the copyright line of 1977 Universal City Studios is visible under "Swiss Made" which is right under "Nancy Drew."  On Vicki's watch and then my newly acquired one, you can't see the copyright line. Some of the faces have the numbers much closer to the edges and some of the footprints at top are more visible on the left of the "12" number and others not so much, so there was variation in the cropping of the image inside the watch. The image itself is always the same of Nancy holding a magnifying glass looking at footprints. My band is missing the little, small overlay band to tuck the end of the watch band into.

I don't consider the cropping to be a variant, but the color of the hands is very interesting and definitely a variant. Perhaps as they were made if they ran out of one color, they used another. I wonder if there are any other variants with the hands/etc. that will crop up as hopefully more of these watches turn up on the market. Time will tell. What I'd love, is to hear from someone who originally owned one of these watches and learn where you purchased it - was it purchased at Universal in a gift shop or was this possibly available via mail order? If there was any advertising material that shows the watches, I'd love to see it.  Any further clues you might have, e-mail me at nancydrewsleuth@aol.com

Monday, January 31, 2022

Donating to the Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection at Toledo Public Library Part 2

When you visit the main branch of the Toledo Public Library downtown, one exceptional feature is the gallery of original children's book cover art - they have an amazing collection of so many different covers and styles including the original Russell H. Tandy painting for The Secret at Shadow Ranch which now hangs with my Nancy Drew Collection in the mystery room. 

I have been highlighting donations to the library since I donated my Nancy Drew collection and most recently highlighted the donation by my friend Jim McNamara of an original UK cover art painting for The Mystery of the Tolling Bell

In this update, I want to showcase talented artist Laura Ruby, whose Nancy Drew Series of prints based on the various classic Nancy Drew books has been enjoyed by Nancy Drew fans throughout the last several decades. She has donated a set of prints of her Nancy Drew Series to Toledo Public Library and you can view these at the library and at our upcoming Nancy Drew celebration in July 2022. You can view the series online at Laura's website here and here.

Ruby notes on her website, "My 'Nancy Drew Series' takes as its primary reference the fictional detective, Nancy Drew, the subject of an extremely popular series of books in American culture. The character Nancy Drew represents the independence and problem-solving intelligence of the detective figure, while also alluding to the independence, creativity and determination of the artist. The first obvious punning relationship is in the name, Drew, but the series employs both playful and serious multiple visual and verbal interactions in its concept and design."

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Donating to the Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection at Toledo Public Library

One of the fantastical things about the Toledo Public Library - downtown main library - is the children's library. It's so innovative and creative. It features so many interactive elements that just bring so many of the children's books and beloved characters to life. The mystery room housing my Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection has had one beautiful piece of Nancy Drew original artwork hanging thus far - The Secret at Shadow Ranch - illustrated by Russell H. Tandy. It was one of many original children's book cover art paintings that the library has in their amazing gallery of paintings spanning vintage and modern book art until it was moved into the Nancy Drew collection. 

New to the collection has just arrived this beautiful original art cover for The Mystery of the Tolling Bell, thanks to my good friend and collector Jim McNamara! He is a prolific collector of not only children's series books but also original children's series artwork including many Nancy Drew covers spanning the classic series to modern Nancy Drew spin-off series. His collection is amazing. I was so honored that he wanted to donate one of his paintings to the library and to the collection. This particular cover is a UK cover used on the UK publisher Armada's edition shown below. Tolling Bell was written by original Nancy Drew Ghostwriter, Mildred Wirt Benson, who lived in Toledo and wrote this mystery while living there. You can see Jim's Nancy Drew painting along with all the other neat Nancy Drew books and collectibles at the grand opening celebration at the Nancy Drew Mystery convention in Toledo this July 14-16, 2022.



While my Nancy Drew collection is pretty complete overall, there are still items I do not have in the collection. The whole collector community and Nancy Drew fans can help out if you have an item that isn't currently in the collection - you can contact me or them to donate it and they'd love to have it. Until the collection is fully digitized, you can check out all the various Pinterest boards including the ones that got away at my Nancy Drew Pinterest to see if you have something I do not or you can just follow up with me at nancydrewsleuth@aol.com to see about it. Thanks for your help and interest in the collection!

Saturday, January 15, 2022

Nancy Drew Library of Congress Surplus Stamped Hidden Staircase

I spotted this Nancy Drew book - The Hidden Staircase - recently on eBay and noticed the stamp inside on the front right endpaper about it being Library of Congress surplus. I thought that was neat, so I decided to purchase it. It’s a printing from 1942 and also has the “wartime conditions” notice inside, meaning it was printed during the war when they were conserving paper and the stamp reflects that. It has markings inside the back on the back endpapers (both sides) where it appears something was removed from the library and then also a spot on the lower spine where some kind of sticker was removed. I searched online and found several sites or message boards including one at eBay discussing these stamps. The Library of Congress also has a page on their website about surplus books. I have seen several more modern stamps with dates and other notations, but this is more vintage. Someone on the eBay thread notes that two copies are sent to the library to secure copyright. Obviously, this book was not sent to secure copyright for The Hidden Staircase since this printing is from 12 years after it was first published, but I am curious about how it ended up there - that will forever be a mystery.  Eventually the book ended up - perhaps through a surplus sale - in the hands of someone named Robin Alexander whose name is professionally printed on a bookplate inside. Do you have any surplus stamped books in your collection? These do not appear to be scarce stamps - many books have been surplus over the years, but I'm curious how many series books have turned up with these over the years?


Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #133


 The Clue in the Crumbling...book... PS: It's book #22!

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #132


 Me thinks the twisted candles were a bit sooty...

The Nancy Drew Donation Dilemma - The Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection

As we've all rung in 2022 and are enjoying the new year, I find myself feeling a bit...perplexed. Just like our favorite heroine, Nancy Drew, I've spent the last couple of years finding myself putting on a "wan smile" at times and somehow keeping my chin up, because frankly the alternative is much worse. It's amazing how doing something so very selfless can result in the most selfish and unbecoming behavior in others.

I’ll let that sink in a little… Doing something selfless resulting in selfish behavior. It’s the stuff of Nancy Drew mysteries but in reality, human nature 101 to a degree I suppose. It’s a conundrum that I never ever – EVER – imagined when I agreed to donate my 20-year-old Nancy Drew collection to The Toledo Public Library nearly 3 years ago. What should be and thankfully mostly has been a really nice occasion for the collector community to come together and support such a collection and its value and historical purpose to the collector community, the community of Toledo and beyond, was temporarily tarnished just a little by the actions of hopefully just a few. And for some I know in the community, the radio silence has been deafening. I see you. I hear you. It’s a very deflating and disheartening thing to even speak of and I’ve held off even bringing it up, but it’s time. I’m not going to at times feel abnormally modest or oddly apologetic or out of sorts anymore about having either donated my collection or that I’m still collecting Nancy Drew. Once a collector, always a collector. I have literally done nothing wrong and it’s time I stop feeling, for lack of a better phrase, slightly bullied or shamed into thinking I have. It’s time for the reverse. Magnifying glasses out, roadsters ready!

Like most things in life, grapevines tend to twine back toward the origin. Since I donated most of my collection, behind the scenes theories have percolated about why I was really doing it. Even though I expressly told people why I was doing it. Did I secretly sell it?  As if it was unthinkable to some that someone could actually do something that selfless without expecting something (money/whatever) in return. Or maybe there was a less than acceptable or sad reason behind me doing it. Was it that dastardly villain I was seeing at the time? Could he have been the culprit? Hypers, no! It’s literally just simply a case of Ockham’s Razor. I was asked if I’d be interested in donating it, the library was being renovated right then, and the opportunity arose to donate when the library could carve out a space for what became The Jennifer Fisher Nancy Drew Collection, many years before I ever intended to donate it. It was just random timing that occurred in 2019. Nothing secretive or nefarious. Just simply a nice opportunity to do something good and pay it forward. Or so I thought. Most people seem to have understood that, but not everyone unfortunately. I know you’re probably wondering who I may be referring to. Was it Isabel or Ada Topham? Mary Mason? Stumpy Dowd? Mrs. Judson? Bushy Trott? Spike Doty? Someone in ill-fitting clothes? Did I receive a threatening note to stay away from the library or else? A flat tire to prevent me from mailing any more collectibles to them? Probably all of the above. But that’s neither here nor there at this point.


Truly and in all seriousness, I just simply wanted my collection to have a bigger purpose and serve generations of fans and future generations and when the opportunity presented itself, I knew it was the right thing to do. A historical collection to be preserved and to keep inspiring new fans. A collection that people could visit and see some of these Nancy Drew books and collectibles in person, that you can’t see in many other places. Keeping history alive is a wonderful thing and the Toledo Public Library has been so supportive of that goal. 

If the library ever changes their mind and wishes to no longer host it, it reverts back to me or my heirs, so I still have an inherent interest in the collection if that ever happens. However, I don’t see that ever happening as it has a very welcome and tangible home in Toledo. I had the chance too, to help give my input on the space and how the collection would be handled by those visiting which is all set-in stone in my gift agreement and I also had a hand in what we would do in the future with it including plans for digitizing, historical displays, and they plan to have me back from time to time for programs and other promotion. 

Further, it’s been visited by so many who have been so excited to make a road trip to see it, kids enjoy seeing the books and collectibles when they visit the library and there was even a marriage proposal to a Nancy Drew fan in the collection room. It’s inspiring to see such heartwarming responses. These kinds of things do warm my heart and help to lessen the effects of some of the apparent negative behavior that this collection donation has resulted in. It just seems mind boggling that I’m even compelled to write about all this right now, but it's a long time coming and very cathartic to do so.

Am I still collecting? Yes, I do still collect for the collection. Why? Because it’s not a complete collection.  It’s not fully complete and will never be as new merchandise and books are created and published every year – a wonderful thing in itself to see Nancy Drew living on and still relevant. And there are vintage items I’m still seeking – some are even quite scarce or rare – that I might still yet seek out to add to the collection. The library isn’t buying these items, I am, within my budget and you win some, you lose some. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Nothing wrong with my wanting to still make it as complete as possible. Some of you may wonder, why? Remember, I donated it rather early in my collecting – rather than down the road when I’m retired and living the senior life when my collection might have been more complete in the future. Therefore, I still collect for it, so that it is as complete as possible for people to see when they visit or make a study of it. Having most everything in one place enhances its value to the library and its usefulness for study and research. And if I add some rare or scarce item to it, it means that many people get to enjoy it, not just a few who might randomly visit my home. 

I still sleuth around in bookstores, antique malls or on the internet at sites like eBay. I was collecting before and I’m still collecting now, so nothing’s really changed, when you put it in perspective, just differing purposes depending on which collection I’m adding to on any given day. I’m not even actively looking every day like the old days, so I know I miss things sometimes. That means it’s all relative. Other ways to enhance and complete the collection that the community can do is that collectors and fans can help by donating items to the collection over time that they may wish to help make it complete and several collectors have done so. It’s all about the collecting and fan community and should be about making this collection extra special and worthy. However, I have learned that for some collectors, they can’t see the bigger picture for they are also collecting for their own personal collections and somehow, even though before when I was collecting privately, it’s now some sort of an abomination to collect for the library. (Sigh.)

The Toledo Public Library – any library for that matter – is a wonderful place! It is 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. Mildred Wirt Benson, original Carolyn Keene, who wrote 23 of the original Nancy Drew books, wrote about libraries in her last published column before she passed away. She often used the library to research for her books. She spent a lot of time at the Cleveland Public Library researching while writing volume #5, The Secret at 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. There are collectors in the community who have done this too. It’s so inspiring to me. And it’s inspiring for so many deserving others too. Once upon a time decades ago, and even some rare instances now, some people tried to keep Nancy Drew out of libraries -- so really, let's avoid that kind of dastardly behavior! Libraries are all amazing and worthy of any donation such as my Nancy Drew collection. 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.

So, what’s my secondary private collection like? I have mentioned before that I still have items in my collection that did not get donated right away such as very sentimental items including handcrafted items given to me as gifts, signed books and collectibles, childhood books, original cover and internal illustrations and some duplicative collectibles and paper ephemera plus research materials and some historical documents I am still using for research. Eventually down the road, some of these items will be added over time and in doing so, will enhance and expand the collection for the community. Plus, I’m still collecting to build this much smaller secondary private collection of things I want in my writing room and to make my life a little happier and to have on hand for writing and research projects. One of every story written - 675 books and counting - and each cover art for classics and Wanderers/Minstrels. And whatever strikes my fancy. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that either. Though, for some collectors I should just apparently…have hopped in my roadster, tossed my magnifying glass out, and rode out of good old River Heights into the proverbial sunset? Sorry. I’m unapologetically always going to be a Nancy Drew Collector. “Golly Gee Nancy, what a cliffhanger this has been,” lamented Bess. “Can we stop for a stress-relieving snack or two or 100 please?!”

The thing is, no one is more deserving than another to collect something. We all have a right and the freedom to collect Nancy Drew and make our lives a little fuller and happier. And that will never change. We’re all in this individually, but we’re also all in this together too when we have friends among the community. I would never expect another collector to step aside or bow out if the situation were reversed. I’d support and be excited about a donation or a secondary collection, but that’s how I am. I have learned, it’s not how everyone in this community would act, however.  Real life isn’t the fictionalized sappy chummery of Nancy and her best friends being supportive and solving fun mysteries. The cliffhanger of real life does include a darker more mysterious and frankly puzzling side.

Real life does mean that there are some collectors who are very aggressive and who seek things at all costs, friendships or avoidance of stepping on toes be damned. We’ve all run into a few of those people in the community. I’ve never approached collecting like that. In fact, back when you could see who was bidding on something, if it was a friend I wouldn’t bid, out of respect. For a long time now though on eBay it is hard to tell with disguised ids and most people bidding at the last minute, so you just never know what’s going to happen in the final few seconds as an auction closes. Sometimes you bid against someone you know in the last 10 seconds and don’t realize it until the auction is over. A friend and I did that on a Nancy Drew t-shirt once. One of those last-minute bidders is going to get it or some other random last-minute bidder. That’s life. 

For most of us, we accept that and keep on the hunt. Unless something is one-of-a-kind, the hunt is always fun and there’s always more to eventually find even if it takes a few years. So, I try to be positive like that and carry on in that manner. The green-eyed monsters that walk amongst us can put a damper on things for sure, but there’s just no need for that behavior, life’s too short for drama. I realize, though, that not everyone can rationalize it like that and I can’t make people play nice – but I can avoid that drama by letting it go and moving ahead with grace and positivity. It’s the Nancy way!

For those of you out there with collections who are wondering what you’ll do with them someday and face various dilemmas trying to figure it out, I’ve always encouraged people to find a place for it to live on if this issue of what to do with things concerns you. Check with your libraries and other museums, institutions and archives. Your family and heirs may not be interested, so maybe give away special things to other friends that are collectors. Think about the Toledo Public Library and my collection if there’s something you have that’s missing there. And if you get the opportunity to donate it somewhere, sell it, or whatever you do, while you still can be involved in the process and have your wishes fulfilled, I recommend you do it, as hard as it is to part with things. There are so many possibilities, but whatever you choose, be positive and happy in your choice. After some of the temporarily deflating effects of donating this collection, would I still recommend someone do that? Would I still donate it if I had to do it over again? Of course I would! I wouldn’t change a thing. Maybe my situation is unique and there are always those who seek to work against you rather than support you, but in the long run, it is worth so much to so many people in donating and giving it new life. I do miss my collection at times, but I have my secondary personal collection here to keep me happy and occupied. I’m completely happy about my actions and my choice in donating. And most of all I’m very honored that I got the opportunity to make the donation thanks to the Toledo Public Library. 

To wrap up this mystery, I’ll be very pointed in stating that I never in a million years expected anyone to roll out the red carpet and break out the awards ceremony in donating it, that’s not my style at all. However, I would like the collection to be more supported by the community as a whole. It’s such a worthwhile endeavor to preserve the collection in the annals of children’s publishing, Stratemeyer Syndicate and Nancy Drew history. There’s so much advertising and ephemera and historical documents behind the scenes that tell the story from creation to marketing to promotions to the actual book or collectible that I’ve pieced together in collecting for over 20 years which help greatly tell the story. All the puzzle pieces that make the puzzle. There’s so much more than just books and collectibles in the collection and that makes it a little more unique for the library and for those wanting to study it for research and fit all these puzzle pieces together. This is where digitizing will be really wonderful for so many to experience the full story. There are even a few collectors among the community who have donated to it so far like my good friend and collector Jim McNamara, and I’ll be sharing more about that soon. 

I hope that you all get a chance to go see the Nancy Drew Collection in Toledo sometime. We hope to have the grand opening party and corresponding Nancy Drew convention mystery event this July 14-16, 2022, which had to be postponed in 2020 due to the pandemic. For those who cannot visit, when it's digitized, it will make the collection so much more accessible to everyone and I look forward to that next phase! Hope you all have a marvelous 2022. Happy New “Drew” Year to you all and most of all Happy Sleuthing Collectors! Collecting and the hunt are always a good thing! And don’t ever let anyone tell you otherwise or make you feel less than for doing so. 


 

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Nancy Drew Books: Scary Things Kids (& Adults) Do #131


Well Hypers! After all that traipsing around Hawaii, the poison leis, fighting sharks and flitting around in the Golden Pavilion playing hula ghost, Nancy finally finds the Golden Pavilion's hidden treasure! And it was a.....lousy scratch n' sniff sticker! That doesn't even smell anymore! 

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Celebrating 91 Years of Nancy Drew

91 YEARS OF NANCY DREW

HOW DO YOU NANCY DREW?

As we pass the 91st Anniversary of Nancy Drew, I often wonder how we're all celebrating the milestones that keep coming. Are we collectively celebrating or are we individually doing our own Nancy thing in our own Nancy way as we Sleuths often do. What do you do to celebrate Nancy Drew? What do you know about the series and how it began and those who created it? Are you interested in the history or are you more into the collecting aspect? What level of a collector are you and how do you collect? These are some questions that intrigue me as I meet new collectors and interact with many of you online.

It's often said, that if we don't learn from history we'll be doomed to repeat it. But what of Nancy Drew's intricate history over the years? What is the history there, lessons to be learned, things one should know about? What's that mysterious Stratemeyer Syndicate and who was Edward Stratemeyer?

If you think about the mystery behind Stratemeyer, his businesslike demeanor, his ability to create and put out a lot of stories through ghostwriters employed by his Stratemeyer Syndicate, even with what we know, he still has an air of mystery about him. One can picture Stratemeyer commuting to NYC to his office, stories running through his head, characters all around him in the lively streets of New York. His days at work spent churning out story ideas capturing the latest adventures in the world and capitalizing on popular themes and farming out manuscripts to publishers around such beloved characters as the Bobbsey Twins, The Hardy Boys, Tom Swift and Nancy Drew. After whipping up adventures with the stroke of a pen, off he went back to New Jersey to his storybook home and family, most unassuming in his manner and what he did and all those amazing ideas on his mind. His was certainly a storybook life. I think he's quite fascinating. To many, he's a mystery of sorts. One which you can get a sense of by picking away at the puzzle pieces throughout the Syndicate's business files at the New York Public Library. Letters, plots, manuscripts, and news clippings all tell part of the tale there.

What about his untimely death nearly two weeks after Nancy Drew debuted in May 1930? The fate of the Syndicate in the hands of his daughters, Harriet and Edna. It was a cliffhanger that Stratemeyer might never have imagined. One that would engage the publishing world for over 50 more years until the Syndicate closed its doors and sold to Simon & Schuster in 1984.

And what of the ghostwriters who have churned out over 600 Nancy Drew books since 1930? Most have vanished into the literary netherworld, without a trace. Some more infamous, we know about today. Including the original Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson, who I'm writing a biography about.

There have been so many real life characters involved in creating Nancy Drew and in ensuring her enduring appeal over the many generations of loyal fans. It's a very fascinating history and it's a very important history to study and not sweep under the annals of history rug.

There are websites dedicated to Nancy Drew, like mine at nancydrewsleuth.com and other similar series and Stratemeyer. Numerous essays, articles and books have been published over the years that touch on various aspects of this literary history. Many were published before the Stratemeyer Syndicate records were available for research and those records have cleared up a lot of mysteries and some misconceptions in print over the years like some of the more slanted versions of facts put out by the Syndicate in later years in an effort to keep some of its history a mystery. Who wants to think Carolyn Keene is a "dour-looking naval captain," after all, ghostwriter Walter Karig once joked. Nancy's history though, is full of some of Nancy's best mysteries waiting to be fully solved and revealed. There's missing pieces of the puzzle, real life ghosts, real life Nancy Drews, conspiracies, legal threats to "stay off the case or else," even court room drama. Nancy's journey over the last 91 years has included some real cliffhanger moments just like in a Nancy Drew mystery. Some you've read about, some you've no clue about, but that will soon change.

The gist of this history, who the creators behind Nancy Drew were, and highlights of her history along the past 91 years are subjects I focus on in a nice overview in Nancy Drew History & Collecting Zoom talks I've been giving - mostly for libraries - about Nancy Drew for fans who want to learn a little more about their favorite sleuth. Growing up with these wonderful mysteries we solved along with Nancy Drew, for some of us, we're intrigued about the real life mysteries behind America's favorite teenage sleuth. I like to keep that history alive and give fans something more to think about and perhaps intrigue them enough to go sleuth a bit and learn even more. Donating my Nancy Drew collection to the Toledo Public Library is another way to enhance everyone's knowledge of the history behind Nancy Drew but also to showcase another aspect of my Zoom talks - Collecting Nancy Drew 101. With over 600 books to collect since 1930, many of which went through numerous formats, cover art changes, some with text changes, plus various types of editions from library to book club to foreign editions, there's a lot to learn and I like to give a nice overview of it all. Visiting my collection in Toledo is a great way to visually see it all and be inspired about what you can sleuth for out there to add to your collections. In addition to beloved books, there's a whole other category of Nancy Drew collectibles and paper ephemera one can collect. One can view the many hundreds of known items at my Nancy Drew Pinterest in various collectible board categories.

However you celebrate Nancy Drew's anniversary today and whatever your connection is to this intrepid  heroine, take a moment today to reflect on what you love about this character and these books. How did a fictional sleuth like Nancy Drew inspire so many of us in all walks of life even all the way on up to our lady justices on the US Supreme Court? Read  a Nancy Drew book. Stop by your favorite local book haunt and sleuth for something fun to add to your collections. Join us at our Facebook group "Nancy Drew Book Fans" and meet other fans. Ultimately, it's the fans and their loyalty and love of this character and her timeless history that will keep Nancy Drew alive for generations to come.

Monday, September 07, 2020

Rediscovering Nancy Drew - A Tribute to Carolyn Stewart Dyer

The world is a much less richer place today, with the loss of someone beloved in our community, former Univ. of Iowa Journalism Professor, Carolyn Stewart Dyer. I am so sad to share this news. But I want to say a few things about Carolyn, who was friend and mentor in my journey to write and write about Mildred "Millie" Wirt Benson. I first became aware of Carolyn and the amazing Nancy Drew Conference that took place in Iowa City, IA back in the late 1990s. I had missed out on the 1993 conference, but I was so happy to hear about it and get Carolyn and Nancy Romalov's book, Rediscovering Nancy Drew, so I could read all about it. And I enjoyed the book and hearing all the memories from other fans who had attended.

Carolyn & Nancy (also above) at the Nancy Drew Sleuths 2015 Nancy Drew Mini Anniversary 
Convention in Iowa City at the University of Iowa Library and Women's Archive


Carolyn along with Millie's family and members of 
Nancy Drew Sleuths at Millie's childhood home

For those of you new to the never ending series and celebration that is Nancy Drew, it was discovered back several years before the conference, that one of their famous alumni had written Nancy Drew books when staff were going through alumni files. Years before, Millie had corresponded with the university about her writing, they had been putting together a list of all her books and acquiring them for their collection. And not only was she famous for that small aspect of her life, she was also the first person to graduate with a Masters in Journalism in 1927, so they wanted to recognize her and out of that grew the idea to host a conference. It's all chronicled in Rediscovering Nancy Drew, and I recommend it highly to everyone who hasn't read it.  And if you have read it,  pick it up again and refresh, because it was this conference that really put Millie on the nationwide radar as having been the first Carolyn Keene. She wasn't the only one recognized there, it was all about Nancy Drew and her history and Simon & Schuster even had one of the modern "Carolyn Keenes" there for a day to talk about ghosting the series. Many aspects of Nancy Drew from fan based to academic were all touched on.

At the time, it became such a phenomenon that I don't think anyone at first in the planning, even Carolyn, realized what it would snowball into. Over 500 attended from all over, the news media covered it from far and wide and even ABC recognized Millie as their person of the week. It was overwhelming to all,  but in a good way, for so many women and men had so many stories to tell about how Nancy Drew had influenced them and made their lives better. So  many fans, collectors and enthusiasts came together thanks to Carolyn and Nancy and all those who worked hard to make the conference a success. We were all better for it and it's such a legacy for Carolyn, among a lifelong career in journalism, teaching and writing that Carolyn will always be remembered for.

Millie's copy of Rediscovering Nancy Drew 
She signed it to her daughter Peggy as "The 'Real' Nancy Drew" 
And noted that it was a fine account of her identity as Carolyn Keene

After meeting Millie in person in 2001 when she was in her 90s still working at the Toledo Blade on a weekly column, it was inspiring. Our online discussion group, Nancy Drew Sleuths, decided that each year we'd get together and we wanted to go to Iowa the next year to see Millie's childhood home and research at the Iowa Women's Archive where Millie had donated a lot of her papers. We also wanted to meet Carolyn and Nancy and they were both so gracious to host us along with Kären Mason, curator of the archive. We held a small event at the university and several of us gave presentations, Nancy and Carolyn included. We enjoyed hearing their memories of the event and how it all came to be. It was wonderful to meet them both.

Soon after, Millie passed away and I was asked to write an OP-Ed about Millie. Carolyn stepped in to help me with it and give me advice. I always appreciated that. Over the years on numerous visits to research in Iowa and future convention events we held there, she and her partner Wendy were always there for me and always encouraging. Dinners and catching up were something I always looked forward to. Traveling around with her to Ladora and surrounding areas to research was always an adventure. It has meant a lot to me over the years. I feel such a loss today as does everyone who got to know Carolyn.

So I say let's all celebrate Carolyn's life and her contributions to Nancy Drew by Rediscovering Nancy Drew today in some aspect of your day! Pick up a favorite book, read Rediscovering Nancy Drew, or reflect on what Nancy Drew means to you. I think that would mean a lot to Carolyn.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Happy 90th to Nancy Drew & Real Life Nancy Drew Mildred Wirt Benson


2020 has been an unusual year to say the least. No matter what's going on in the world though, we all have those things that comfort us in times that are rough. Things we turn to, to escape. Our happy places. For Nancy Drew fans and collectors, that's Nancy Drew. This year is the 90th anniversary of Nancy Drew, the series being published beginning April 28, 1930 with the first three books. Plans were made to celebrate among fans - there were conventions and activities, but due to the pandemic, plans had to be changed. We'll all belatedly celebrate together in 2021. We've held celebrations online and in groups at sites like Facebook, chat rooms like Zoom and through podcasts and written zines like The Sleuth.

I would be remiss to let the 10th of July go by without dwelling on that infamous Carolyn Keene, Mildred Wirt Benson, whose biography I'm currently still plugging away on. Writing her biography has been much like solving a Nancy Drew mystery in some ways. Lots of puzzle pieces to be uncovered. I wanted to give an update and chat about some of the interesting things that have happened along the way in researching this biography. I am hoping to get it finished by the year's end. I was delayed for several months away from my research, unable to travel back to get to it - like a Nancy Drew mystery foible of sorts.
 

She was one of the most interesting women I have come to know in my research, highly intelligent, very tenacious, and a very good writer. She was born July 10, 1905 in Ladora, IA. She lived most of her life in Toledo, OH. She had many adventures, much like her legacy heroine Nancy Drew. Some wonder if everything that has to be said about Millie has been said in numerous articles or even in previously published books. But there is a lot more to Millie than just being the first woman to graduate the University of Iowa with the first Masters in Journalism degree. There's a lot more than just her legacy of having written some of the original Nancy Drew books for the Stratemeyer Syndicate. And her life is much richer than just being a journalist from Toledo, OH. There's a lot of interesting layers in there that haven't ever really been spoken about in regard to her life - early and later - in which she went on many adventures around the country and the world, much like Nancy Drew. There's a kidnapping that has never been fully revealed and told about. There's a mysterious hunt for her autobiography that ensued for over a decade - was it found? And what did she have to say in it? I have the answers.

My research has taken me to the rolling hills of Iowa farmland, a historic family home in Ladora filled with sentiments and memories of Millie from decades ago. Friendships with her family who continue to honor her and her legacy and memory. The Iowa Women's Archive where Kären Mason, curator, and her staff have kindly helped me research into Millie's archive of donated papers there on numerous visits. Former University of Iowa Journalism Professor Carolyn Stewart Dyer (Rediscovering Nancy Drew) has so willingly helped me and encouraged me on visits discussing Millie and the 1993 Nancy Drew Conference that brought Millie back to be honored and recognized. I've been to Toledo and welcomed into The Blade into the library to view their boxes of papers and articles on Benson. I've been to two of the airports where Millie flew and have spoken to those who flew with her when she was flying. I've been to her grave, which bears the original silhouette of Nancy Drew, a memorial her daughter Peggy had added to the stone, from a card that my Nancy Drew Sleuths members sent her years ago. I've researched at the Toledo Public Library downtown branch, in the Rare Book Room looking at flight logs from Millie's flying days and spent time going through microfilm looking up many of Millie's Blade and Toledo Times columns. My extensive collection of a few thousand Nancy Drew books, collectibles and related ephemera was recently donated to the library there. Everyone around Toledo seems to have a Millie story and I've spoken to so many people about her. Online research has led to many articles over the years, articles about her early writing and much more to fill in blanks. There was even an underground cave in Kansas that houses an archive of court materials where I poured over depositions, transcripts and court documents from the infamous 1980 trial between Grosset & Dunlap and the Stratemeyer Syndicate and Simon & Schuster. There's even a tale to be told about a map drawn by someone on the location of her missing autobiography, hidden away in her historic Old Orchard home in Toledo.  Not to mention my sleuthing around Millie's attic just like Nancy Drew in The Secret in the Old Attic looking for further clues...
 

The Stratemeyer Syndicate records in New York at the 5th avenue branch have been an amazing collection to research from - over 300 boxes. I'm still going through research I've amassed there since trips to the library back as far as 2003 and there's records in Yale's Beinecke Library as well. Collectors who knew her have been wonderful and those who have purchased original letters of Millie's over the years have been willing to share what they have with me, some letters I currently look for remain elusive. Another piece of the puzzle I hope to find one day. Her daughter's passing in 2013 led to a lot of research material being uncovered by her family in the Toledo home and I have been given access in the last several years to that material - none of this has been seen before by other researchers or writers. Millie's personal letters with her husbands, numerous letters to her daughter Peggy, and lots of other personal items -- all of which show that she was even more clever of a woman - very Nancy Drew like - that we even realized. Over the years, various fans and researchers contacted Millie. Fans hounded her at The Blade wanting autographs. It was often overwhelming. Letters to her daughter reveal interesting insight she had toward certain people who may have tried to take advantage of her and the Nancy Drew notoriety. She was no slouch, she had people's number, for sure. Her birthright to Nancy Drew, was achieved later in life, another intriguing aspect people don't know much about. Her friendship with collector and writer Geoffrey S. Lapin is one that I intend to focus on in the biography. Geoff Lapin discovered her in the late 1960s and spent decades helping her get recognition for her work on the Nancy Drew series. He was instrumental in her becoming well known as the first Carolyn Keene and that's a legacy he can be proud of today.

Like any good Nancy Drew mystery, there's the plot. There's some sort of mystery to be solved. There's the infamous sleuthing that goes hand in hand. Searching for clues, uncovering puzzle pieces, putting it all together. There's the usual suspects - villains who try to threaten you to stay off the case or else, who put up roadblocks and detours to throw you off track, use subterfuge to distract you, and outright lie and cover up their misdeeds. There's the overcoming of those obstacles and threats and rounding up the crooks and resolving the case and saving the day. In Nancy Drew's world, it's mostly always all tied up in a nice little bow at the end and order is restored. Mystery solved. Writing this biography has run the gamut of all of those things. I feel a little like Nancy Drew trying to piece it all together. And it's all finally coming together. My adventure - and misadventures - in writing this biography will be in the bio as well in small part. The main focus of course is Millie's fascinating life.

I spoke to Millie on the phone a month or two before she passed away back in 2002. I'd met her the year before she died when our Nancy Drew Sleuths group members came to meet her in Toledo. We'd interviewed each other for articles we were writing about each other. She'd signed my books. I'd told her I was so inspired to meet her. That it was an honor and that Nancy Drew had inspired so many women - and men - to do more in their lives. That was a legacy she was proud of, even if sometimes she didn't get what all the fuss was about. She asked for ideas for columns - she'd written so many for decades she was running out of ideas. She knew I'd recently earned a  law degree, but she encouraged me to write. She said maybe you'll become a writer instead. Little did she know...


As I sit here looking at images taken from a small notebook, with thankfully some of the most legible handwriting I've seen from Millie (that's another story!) - I feel relieved and more assured. This notebook, which I held in my hand several years ago, was full of notes from a trip to Guatemala in the early 1960s. It was the final piece of the puzzle I needed to tell a rich tale indeed, detailing Millie's infamous experience there in the 1960s. One that led to many follow up trips back to try and uncover what had happened to her and why she had been kidnapped. It's a story right out of Nancy Drew and she used her Nancy Drew-like wits to get herself out of the situation. It's something out of a Hollywood movie, really. I can't wait to tell you all about it and so much more. Stay tuned and Happy Sleuthing!