31 Days of Nancy Drew Topic #26
1930s Nancy Drew Books
1930s Nancy Drew Books
As I wind down on my 31 days of Nancy Drew postings, I hope they've been fun and helpful to a lot of you who are new here and new to collecting as well as enjoyable to those more seasoned collectors. I thought we might take a look at Nancy Drew through the decades. Keep in mind that all of my 31 days postings here are taken in part from info on my website and they have all been posted at my Nancy Drew Blog so you can handily find them at anytime at this link.
Briefly I want to focus on the 1930s Nancy Drew books - which are books 1-16 published from 1930 to 1939. I'll include some of my favorite covers and illustrations too with this posting.
Some collectors consider Nancy's heyday to be the 1930s books and that continues into the 1940s. It's the 2 decades she became popular as a series and was in her element, a time when girls were striving for more, debuting just 10 years after women got the right to vote. By the mid-30s as I noted in a previous posting on the history of Nancy Drew, she was a best seller as highlighted in the 1934 Fortune magazine article on Edward Stratemeyer by Ayers Brinser. By the end of the 1930s, sixteen books into the series that debuted with a powerhouse breeder set, the formula and foundation for this series was clearly set in stone for what was to follow.
1930s Nancy Drew faced lots of suspenseful and often dramatic mysteries - very Gothic in some parts. The writing was very sophisticated and well done, very descriptive and colorful between Ghostwriters Mildred Wirt Benson (books 1-7, 11-16) and Walter Karig (books 8-10). The mysteries involved lost wills, "haunted" mansions, spooky mystery trappings like secret passageways, swindlers and frauds, thieves, kidnappers, and counterfeiters. Locations ran the gamut from River Heights and surrounding towns to Shadow Ranch out in the Southwest in Arizona to the wilds of Canada. Nancy's frocks were fashionable and so tastefully illustrated by commercial illustrator Russell H. Tandy. Nancy's roadster gave her the freedom to explore. Being motherless helped her avoid being tied down to home by a fretful mother. A doting father, Carson Drew, treated her as an equal and his legal work allowed her to help him on cases and receive help from him with her cases.
Chum Helen Corning gave way to chums Bess and George. Nancy found a beau in Ned Nickerson, though romance was always subtle and not as important as mystery solving. Buck Rodman got around ;-) Oh that name! Yes, I had to throw in a Buck Rodman reference! Villains were easy to spot due to a shifty disposition, flashy clothes and poor manners. Nancy strove to right wrongs and help those in need and no matter how baffling the case, she saw it through to the end, often putting herself in peril. Perilous situations like being locked in a closet and left to starve in an isolated lake home, being tied up in the basement of a bungalow, left dangling from a ladder in the clutches of a villain, being threatened to stay of the case or else, and more villain foibles were never enough to stop Nancy from solving a case.
Nancy was more brash and forward, speaking her mind and standing up to others with less diplomacy than she espoused in later years. She didn't always have a high opinion of law enforcement at first, seeing them as more bungling and difficult to work and they saw her as less of an equal even though she was solving all their cases. Things didn't always come immediately or easily to Nancy in the 1930s, like they did later on. 1930s Nancy was probably more relatable overall than the more demure sleuth I read growing up. 1930s Nancy didn't think twice about punching a villain (Shadow Ranch, OT) or concealing evidence (Old Clock, OT/etc.) from the police or carrying a gun for protection and using it. She was quite ballsy for a mere slip of a girl as some villains were want to call her. Villains were more cruel and harsh like the evil and hateful Mary Mason who left Nancy bound/gagged to die on a boat that was on fire and soon to be sunk in Lilac Inn (OT).
Here's but a few of the many things we learned about Nancy from the 30s books:
1. We learn that Nancy has a few mechanical skills--she can change a flat tire and work over a boat's motor.
2. She has 2 enemies--The Topham Sisters (Ada and Isabel).
3. She doesn't believe in ghosts.
4. Nancy's an excellent swimmer.
5. She won't take money as a reward.
6. She's not above slashing tires and draining fuel to block the villain's escape.
7. Praise embarrasses her.
8. Nancy can speak French.
9. Nancy has taken a life saving course.
10. She would go to the very ends of the earth to find another mystery!
Here's some fun lessons we Learned from Nancy:
When sleuthing in isolated locations, be sure to tell someone where you're going in case you get locked in a closet and left to starve.
When someone's trying to buy a house and it suddenly becomes haunted, they're probably the one playing "ghost."
Sometimes you get a tickle out of showing up smug local law enforcement officers!
If you can't beat a villain the legal way, you can always try a stick of dynamite.
In the comments, let us know if you've ready any of the 1930s versions of books 1-16 (they all have 25 chapters,remember that tip!). Do you have a favorite among these books? A favorite among the ghosts of Millie or Walter Karig? Were there any particular mysteries in the 1-16 that you preferred over the others? Who do you prefer - Helen Corning - a single sidekick - or Bess and George the foil chums?