Edward Stratemeyer formed The Stratemeyer Syndicate in 1905.
Edward Stratemeyer hired ghostwriters to write many of his series. He paid them a flat fee and they signed a release. The release—many of which are on file at the
New York Public Library—in it’s basic form, required that the ghostwriter sign over the rights to the story and the pen name to The Stratemeyer Syndicate. There
was no secrecy clause as is often reported in the media. Here is the text of the 1929 release that Nancy Drew ghostwriter, Mildred Wirt Benson, signed for writing
the first book in the series, The Secret of the Old Clock to give you an idea:
“Nov. 8, 1929
For and in consideration of the sum of One Hundred Twenty-Five Dollars ($125.00) the receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, I hereby sell, transfer and set
aside to Edward Stratemeyer, Literary Agent, of Newark, N.J., his heirs and assigns, all my right, title and interest in a certain story written by me on a title and
complete working outline furnished by said Edward Stratemeyer and named The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew Stories).
In making this transfer I hereby affirm that my work on the story is absolutely new, and I hereby grant to Edward Stratemeyer full permission to print the story under
any trade-mark pen name that may be his business property, and I further agree that I will not use such pen name in any manner whatsoever.
Edward Stratemeyer created Nancy Drew—beginning somewhat earlier but culminating in a full series/character development by 1929.
The first three Nancy Drew stories were published on April 28, 1930.
Edward Stratemeyer died on May 10, 1930.
Mildred Wirt Benson was the first ghostwriter for the Nancy Drew series. She wrote 23 of the first 30 original text Nancy Drew books. Volumes 1-7, 11-25, and
30 to be exact.
The second ghostwriter was a man, Walter Karig, who wrote the original texts for volumes 8-10.
Volumes 26, 27, 28, 29, and 32 were ghostwritten by these ghostwriters respectively: George Waller, Margaret Scherf, Wilhelmina Rankin, Alma Sasse, and
Volumes 31 and 33-56 in the classic series were ghosted by Edward Stratemeyer’s daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams.
In total there were 8 ghostwriters for the classic series.
The first 34 volumes were revised beginning in 1959 through 1977. There were some ghostwriters who helped revise the original texts including Harriet
Stratemeyer Adams. They appear to be: Pricilla Baker-Carr, Ann Schultes, June Dunn, Grace Grote, Patricia Doll, and Mary Fisher.
In 1979, The Stratemeyer Syndicate switched publishers from Grosset & Dunlap to Simon & Schuster. This switch resulted in a lawsuit between all three
Mildred Wirt Benson was called to testify in the 1980 publisher trial; however though her ghostwriting was on public record, her presence there did not get widely
reported on. It was not until 1993, that Mildred Wirt Benson became a national figure for having ghostwritten the early Nancy Drew books, when she was honored
at the University of Iowa at their Nancy Drew Conference. In local articles in her hometowns over the years and in some author bios, Mildred stated which pen
names she had written under.
The Stratemeyer Syndicate was sold to current publisher Simon & Schuster in 1984.
The Nancy Drew classic series consisted of hardcover books 1-56 from 1930 to 1979 - published by Grosset & Dunlap (a division now of Penguin-Random House) this is the set of books that most fans remember and collect the most.
However, the classic series did continue on in paperback, volumes 57-175, ending in 2003, by publisher Simon & Schuster.
Since 1930 there have been over 600 Nancy Drew books written—classic series, spin-offs, and other special volumes over the years.
Nancy Drew on television and at the movies. 6 actresses have played Nancy Drew: Bonita Granville in 4 1930s movies, Pamela Sue Martin and Janet Louise
Johnson in the 1970s TV show, Tracy Ryan in the 1995 TV show, Maggie Lawson in the 2002 TV pilot, and Emma Roberts in the 2007 Warner Brothers movie.
Nancy Drew is still in print and has been since 1930. The current Nancy Drew series in print that still has new stories written for it is the Nancy Drew Diaries series. There is also a series for younger kids, Nancy Drew Clue Book.
Nancy's hair color has changed over the years. It was blonde at first. Then in 1957, a printing error on the cover of The Haunted Showboat caused her hair
to be titian. Soon after, the books referred to her as titian-haired. It has been described as strawberry blonde too over the years. It has never been brunette in the
Nancy was 16 in the original books. It wasn’t until the 1950s that her age changed to 18 to accommodate driving laws in all states. Nancy has never been in
school in the classic books.
Nancy Drew has been a collaborative effort of many over the years, but she owes her strong foundation and source of popularity to Edward Stratemeyer, Harriet
Stratemeyer Adams, Edna Stratemeyer Squier, and Mildred Wirt Benson. These four individuals impacted Nancy’s character the most over the years and set her
so strongly on the path to popularity, still going strong 85+ years after Nancy Drew was created.