Nancy Drew and You!
Millions of young readers have grown up reading Nancy Drew mysteries. Although depictions of the young sleuth have changed dramatically, over the years, Nancy Lives on!
Nancy Drew first came to the canvas in 1930 when the series, created by publisher Edward Stratemeyer, was written by a number of authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene.
Over the years, Nancy Drew has appeared in at least five feature films, a couple of television shows and a number of popular computer games. She has her own merchandising line and a number of book series spin-offs on her list of credits.
The Secret of the Old Clock is the first title in the series.
The character of Nancy Drew was originally written as a 16-year-old high school graduate but as the series evolved, the young sleuth's age became 18. She lived in the fictional town of River Heights with her widowed father, attorney Carson Drew, and their longtime housekeeper Hannah Gruen.
In early stories, Nancy was 10-years-old when she lost her mother; later publications have the child’s age as 3. As a teenager, Nancy would come upon and solve a number of mysteries -- often joined in adventure by friends Helen Corning or Bess Marvin and Miss George Fayne (who are cousins).
Nancy’s boyfriend Ned Nickerson, when not in school at Emerson College, also lends a hand from time to time. Nancy does not attend college nor does she have a paying job but the young woman never seems to run out of spending cash. In early versions of the series, Nancy drives a smart blue roadster … later, a convertible.
Note: Decades later, in a Nancy Drew story featuring Bess and George; it is revealed that “George” is short for “Georgia.”
In 1926, Stratemeyer Syndicate founder Edward Stratemeyer created the Hardy Boys series -- later published in 1927. The series, geared for young male readers, was so successful that Stratemeyer decided to produce something similar for girls that would have an amateur sleuth as the heroine. Stratemeyer sent the series, originally called Stella Strong Stories, to publishers Grosset & Dunlap (who also handled the Hardy Boys). Other names considered for the girls’ line were: Nan Nelson Stories, Diana Drew Stories, Diana Dare Stories and Helen Hale Stories.
The publishing house preferred Nan Drew but lengthened it to “Nancy.” Stratemeyer wrote a number of basic plot outlines for the series and then hired ghostwriters, under the pseudonym of Carolyn Keene, to fulfill the initial volumes. The first four titles, published in 1930, were very popular amongst their young female readers.
As with other Stratemeyer Syndicate creations, Nancy Drew stories were written by a number of authors under one pen name. Ghostwriters were paid a flat fee and required to sign contracts stipulating that they had no rights to royalties or to use the pen name for other ventures. All royalties went to the syndicate.
In the days before the Great Depression, $125 was a lot of money for writers, and even during the economic troubles of the 1930s, writers were happy to accept $100 or even $75 for the chance to have paying employment.
In the beginning, Edward Stratemeyer and daughters Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier would create most of the story outlines for each Nancy Drew title (Edna Stratemeyer Squier’s last outline was written in 1979). The writers took over from there; drafting the actual manuscript.
The first three volumes of the series were edited by Edward Stratemeyer, and then the task went to his daughter, Harriet Adams. (Beginning in 1959, Adams also revised the earlier titles and wrote some of the later manuscripts). After Adams died (1982), the rights to the Nancy Drew character were sold to publisher Simon & Schuster (1984).
The Original Writers
Mildred Wirt (Benson): (1905-2002). Born in Ladora, Iowa, newspaper columnist Mildred Augustine Wirt Benson was the first author to be known as “Carolyn Keene;” she penned 23 Nancy Drew mysteries. Benson also wrote a number of books under her own name and other pseudonyms.
Mildred Wirt Benson crafted Nancy Drew volumes #1 through #7 (1929-1932), #11 through #25 (1934-1948) and #30 in 1953. Currently, because she was considered to be "the first" Carolyn Keene, an agreement between original publisher Grosset & Dunlap and series owners Simon & Schuster allows Mildred Wirt Benson to be credited on future printings of her written volumes.
Walter Karig: (1898-1956). Walter Karig wrote three of the Nancy Drew titles (volumes #8, #9 and #10). In an attempt to get financial or personal credit for his work, Karig told the Library of Congress that he was the author of those books, under the pen name Carolyn Keene. The Stratemeyer Syndicate fought to keep that information private and subsequently fired Karig in lieu of probable legal action against him.
In the original versions, other Nancy Drew mystery writers (under the pen name Carolyn Keene) were: George Waller, Jr. (volume #26, 1949); Margaret Scherf (volume #27, 1950); Wilhelmina Rankin (volume #28, 1951); Alma Sasse (volume #29, 1952); Harriet S. Adams (volumes #31 in 1953; #33 in 1955; #34 in 1956 (with Patricia Doll); #35 in 1957; #36 in 1959; #37 to #56 from 1960 to 1973) and Charles S. Strong (volume # 32; 1954).
Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and a stable of editors (including Grace Grote, Patricia Doll, Lynn Ealer, June Dunne, Mary Fisher, Priscilla Baker-Carr, Nancy Axelrad and Jocelyn Starzyke) rewrote many of the titles to keep up with the times and acceptance of social and generational change.
Commercial illustrator Russell H. Tandy created most of the artwork for the early Nancy Drew editions. Tandy produced the dust jacket covers and inside pages for volumes #1 through #10, and #12 through #26. He did not create the dust jacket illustration on volume #11 (The Clue of the Broken Locket) but he did draw the inside pictures.
In 1950, magazine illustrator Bill Gillies produced covers for volumes #27, #28 and #29. He also revised the covers for volumes #1 through #9 and #11.
Many Nancy Drew story drawings came from detective magazine illustrator Rudy Nappi (volumes #30 through #56). Nappi also revised the artwork for volumes #1 through #5 and #8 through #34.
Movies and Merchandising: “Nancy” Extras in the Early Years
1957: Parker Brothers created the Nancy Drew Mystery Game. Clues helped game players determine Nancy's whereabouts; the first person to know the young sleuth's exact location (based on various mysteries in the series) was the winner. Game pieces included the board, 40 mystery cards, 4 metal cars, 4 sets of colored playing pieces and dice.
1967: The Madame Alexander Doll Company released several versions of a 12-inch-tall “Nancy Drew” doll. The dolls came with sunglasses, a purse and camera. Outfits included hair ribbons, scarves and boots.
1973: Girls could develop their culinary sides with their very own Nancy Drew Cookbook: Clues to Good Cooking (Grosset & Dunlap; publishers).
A number of activity and coloring books featuring our favorite sleuth were released in the late 1970s, including The Nancy Drew Sleuth Book: Clues to Good Sleuthing. The book gave tips on how to look at things like fingerprints and codes.
- My Nancy Drew Private Eye Diary (in red or white)
- Record and book sets (released by Kidstuff Records & Tapes)
- Cereal box promotions (for both Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys)
- Various Nancy Drew fan club promotions
In 1977, television viewers saw a teaming up of Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys in the Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries starring Shaun Cassidy, Parker Stevenson and Pamela Sue Martin. The series lasted for three seasons.
In Later Years
In 1979, Grosset & Dunlap published the final hardcover volume of Nancy Drew --The Thirteenth Pearl (#56). Later that year, the Stratemeyer Syndicate changed publishers to Simon & Schuster, which later purchased the syndicate (1984). In 1980, Grosset & Dunlap sued the Stratemeyer Syndicate, as well as the parent company of Simon and Schuster (Gulf & Western Corp.), over breach of contract issues. The result was that Grosset & Dunlap could continue to print the first 56 volumes even though Simon & Schuster has the publishing rights to the original series and related Nancy Drew "spin-off” items.
Nancy in the 1980s …
- Simon & Schuster produced new titles under "The Wanderer" logo imprint (volumes #57 to #77, 1979-1985).
- The search for Nancy Drew memories and nostalgia led to the printing of Farah’s Guide to Nancy Drew Books and Collectibles.
- 1986 (through 1997) was the beginning of The Nancy Drew Files series.
- In 1988 (through 1998), Nancy teamed up with the Hardy Boys for the Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Super Mysteries.
- In 1989 (through 1992), The River Heights Series (written under the Nancy Drew author pen name Carolyn Keene and spun off from the Nancy Drew Files) featured the drama, romance and friendships of various young people. Although the 16-volume series was set in Nancy Drew’s hometown of River Heights, she was not a main character in the books.
In the 1990s …
Applewood Books begins reproducing the original Nancy Drew stories (in the look of their first publications). In 1994, the Nancy Drew Notebooks series began its run and in 1995, there was a short-lived television show featuring Nancy Drew (attending college) and the Hardy Boys. Our young sleuth became “interactive” with the final volume of the Nancy Drew Files series (#124; Crime at the Chat Café) as it yielded her first computer game: Secrets Can Kill.
After the Millennium …
- In 2002, there was a pilot for a third TV series, which aired on ABC, but it was not picked up for a season. The final volume of the Nancy Drew Mystery Series, (#175; Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland), was published in 2003. Although the original series has been in print since 1930, the commercial viability of Nancy Drew and friends was still going strong.
- The Nancy Drew: Girl Detective series ran from 2004 to 2012 that included 47 titles and a few extras, such as the Girl Detective Super Mysteries and Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys crossovers.
- In 2005, with the character's 75th anniversary, the new Nancy Drew: Girl Detective Super Mystery series came to bookstore shelves. That year also saw the introduction of Nancy Drew Graphic Novels as well as an assortment of stationery items, ornaments and a board game.
- In 2006, The Nancy Drew Notebooks series returned with a “junior detectives” club.
- It was in 2007 when movie-going audiences saw Nancy Drew: the Mystery in Hollywood Hills starring Emma Roberts.
- In 2011, Nancy lovers could play with paper dolls and in 2013, the Nancy Drew Diaries, complete with illustrated covers, replaced the Girl Detective series. It includes new titles and interactive games.
- In 2015, with Nancy’s 85th anniversary, the Nancy Drew & the Clue series saw its final title; Butterfly Blues. The Nancy Drew Clue Book series is on shelves now.
Grosset & Dunlap; #1 to #56
- #1: The Secret of the Old Clock (1930)
- # 2: The Hidden Staircase (1930)
- # 3: The Bungalow Mystery (1930)
- # 4: The Mystery at Lilac Inn (1930)
- # 5: The Secret of Shadow Ranch (1931)
- # 6: The Secret of Red Gate Farm (1931)
- # 7: The Clue in the Diary (1932)
- # 8: Nancy’s Mysterious Letter (1932)
- # 9: The Sign of the Twisted Candles (1933)
- #10: The Password to Larkspur Lane (1933)
- #11: The Clue of the Broken Locket (1934)
- #12: The Message in the Hollow Oak (1935)
- #13: The Mystery of the Ivory Charm (1936)
- #14: The Whispering Statue (1937)
- #15: The Haunted Bridge (1937)
- #16: The Clue of the Tapping Heals (1939)
- #17: The Mystery of the Brass-Bound Trunk (1940)
- #18: The Mystery at the Moss-Covered Mansion (1941)
- #19: The Quest of the Missing Map (1942)
- #20: The Clue in the Jewel Box (1943)
- #21: The Secret in the Old Attic (1944)
- #22: The Clue in the Crumbling Wall (1945)
- #23: The Mystery of the Tolling Bell (1946)
- #24: The Clue in the Old Album (1947)
- #25: The Ghost of Blackwood Hall (1948)
- #26: The Clue of the Leaning Chimney (1949)
The Original Nancy Drew Catalog
- #27: The Secret of the Wooden Lady (1950)
- #28: The Clue of the Black Keys (1951)
- #29: The Mystery at the Ski Jump (1952)
- #30: The Clue of the Velvet Mask (1953)
- #31: The Ringmaster’s Secret (1953)
- #32: The Scarlet Slipper Mystery (1954)
- #33: The Witch Tree Symbol (1955)
- #34: The Hidden Window Mystery (1956)
- #35: The Haunted Showboat (1957)
- #36: The Secret of the Golden Pavilion (1959)
- #37: The Clue in the Old Stagecoach (1960)
- #38: The Mystery of the Fire Dragon (1961)
- #39: The Clue of the Dancing Puppet (1962)
- #40: The Moonstone Castle Mystery (1963)
- #41: The Clue of the Whistling Bagpipes (1964)
- #42: The Phantom of Pine Hill (1965)
- #43: The Mystery of the 99 Steps (1966)
- #44: The Clue in the Crossword Cipher (1967)
- #45: The Spider Sapphire Mystery (1968)
- #46: The Invisible Intruder (1969)
- #47: The Mysterious Mannequin (1970)
- #48: The Crooked Banister (1971)
- #49: The Secret of Mirror Bay (1972)
- #50: The Double Jinx Mystery (1973)
- #51: The Mystery of the Glowing Eye (1974)
- #52: The Secret of the Forgotten City (1975)
- #53: The Sky Phantom (1976)
- #54: The Strange Message in the Parchment (1977)
- #55: The Mystery of Crocodile Island (1978)
- #56: The Thirteenth Pearl (1979)
Simon & Schuster #57 to #64
- #57: The triple Hoax (1979)
- #58: The Flying Saucer Mystery (1980)
- #59: The Secret in the Old Lace (1980)
- #60: The Greek Symbol Mystery (1980)
- #61: The Swami’s Ring (1981)
- #62: The Kachina Doll Mystery (1981)
- #63: The Twin Dilemma (1981)
- #64: Captive Witness (1981)
Wanderer Books (Simon & Schuster): #65 to #78
- #65: The Mystery of the Winged Lion (1982)
- #66: Race Against Time (1982)
- #67: The Sinister Omen (1982)
- #68: The Elusive Heiress (1982)
- #69: The Clue in the Ancient Disguise (1982)
- #70: The Broken Anchor (1983)
- #71: The Silver Cobweb (1983)
- #72: The Haunted Carousel (1983)
- #73: Enemy Match (1984)
- #74: The Mysterious Image (1984)
- #75: The Emerald-Eyed Cat Mystery (1985)
- #76: The Eskimo’s Secret (1985)
- #77: The Bluebeard Room (1985)
- #78: The Phantom of Venice (1985)
Minstrel Editions: #79 to #159
The writing style for Nancy Drew stories changed somewhat after the sale of the Stratemeyer Syndicate to Simon & Schuster. Publishing of the series resumed in 1987.
- #79: The Double Horror of Fenley Place (1987)
- #80: The Case of the Disappearing Diamonds (1987)
- #81: The Mardi Gras Mystery (1988)
- #82: The Clue in the Camera (1988)
- #83: The Case of the Vanishing Veil (1988)
- #84: The Joker’s Revenge (1988)
- #85: The Secret of Shady Glen (1988)
- #86: The Mystery of Misty Canyon (1988)
- #87: The Case of the Rising Stars (1988)
- #88: The Search for Cindy Austin (1988)
- #89: The Case of the Disappearing Deejay (1989)
- #90: The Puzzle at Pineview School (1989)
- #91: The Girl Who Couldn’t Remember (1989)
- #92: The Ghost of Craven Cove (1989)
- #93: The Case of the Safecracker’s Secret (1990)
- #94: The Picture-Perfect Mystery (1990)
- #95: The Silent Suspect (1990)
- #96: The Case of the Photo Finish (1990)
- #97: The Mystery of Magnolia Mansion (1990)
- #98: The Haunting of Horse Island (1990)
- #99: The Secret at Seven Rocks (1991)
- #100: A Secret in Time (1991)
- #101: The Mystery of the Missing Millionairess (1991)
- #102: The Secret in the Dark (1991)
- #103: The Stranger in the Shadows (1991)
- #104: The Mystery of the Jade Tiger (1991)
- #105: The Clue in the Antique Trunk (1992)
- #106: The Case of the Artful Crime (1992)
- #107: The Legend of Miner’s Creek (1992)
- #108: The Secret of the Tibetan Treasure (1992)
- #109: The Mystery of the Masked Rider (1992)
- #110: The Nutcracker Ballet Mystery (1992)
- #111: The Secret at Solaire (1993)
- #112: Crime in the Queen’s Court (1993)
- #113: The Secret Lost at Sea (1993)
- #114: The Search for the Silver Persian (1993)
- #115: The Suspect in the Smoke (1993)
- #116: The Case of the Twin Teddy Bears (1993)
- #117: Mystery on the Menu (1994)
- #118: Trouble at Lake Tahoe (1994)
- #119: The Mystery of the Missing Mascot (1994)
- #120: The Case of the Floating Crime (1994)
- #121: The Fortune Teller’s Secret (1994)
- #122: The Message in the Haunted Mansion (1994)
- #123: The Clue on the Silver Screen (1995)
- #124: The Secret of the Scarlet Hand (1995)
- #125: The Teen Model Mystery (1995)
- #126: The Riddle in the Rare Book (1995)
- #127: The Case of the Dangerous Solution (1995)
- #128: The Treasure in the Royal Tower (1995)
- #129: The Baby-Sitter Burglaries (1996)
- #130: The Sign of the Falcon (1996)
- #131: The Hidden Inheritance (1996)
- #132: The Fox Hunt Mystery (1996)
- #133: The Mystery at the Crystal Palace (1996)
- #134: The Secret of the Forgotten Cave (1996)
- #135: The Riddle of the Ruby Gazelle (1997)
- #136: The Wedding Day Mystery (1997)
- #137: In Search of the Black Rose (1997)
- #138: The Legend of the Lost Gold (1997)
- #139: The Secret of Candlelight Inn (1997)
- #140: Door-to-Door Deception (1997)
- #141: The Wild Cat Crime (1998)
- #142: The Case of Capital Intrigue (1998)
- #143: Mystery on Maui (1998)
- #144: The E-mail Mystery (1998)
- #145: The Missing Horse Mystery (1998)
- #146: The Ghost of the Lantern Lady (1998)
- #147: The Case of the Captured Queen (1999)
- #148: On the Trail of Trouble (1999)
- #149: The Clue of the Gold Doubloons (1999)
- #150: Mystery at Moorsea Manor (1999)
- #151: The Chocolate-covered Contest (1999)
- #152: The Key in the Satin Pocket (2000)
- #153: Whispers in the Fog (2000)
- #154: The Legend of the Emerald Lady (2000)
- #155: The Mystery in Tornado Alley (2000)
- #156: The Secret in the Stars (2000)
- #157: The Music Festival Mystery (2000)
- #158: The Curse of the Black Cat (2001)
- #159: The Secret of the Fiery Chamber (2001)
Aladdin Editions: #160 to #175
Simon & Schuster’s subdivision, “Aladdin,” began publishing Nancy Drew stories in 2001. Because of declining sales, the original series, after 73 years, ceased publication in 2003.
- #160: The Clue on the Crystal Dove (2001)
- #161: Lost in the Everglades (2001)
- #162: The Case of the Lost Song (2001)
- #163: The Clues Challenge (2001)
- #164: The Mystery of the Mother Wolf (2002)
- #165: The Crime Lab Case (2002)
- #166: The Case of the Creative Crime (2002)
- #167: Mystery By Moonlight (2002)
- #168: The Bike Tour Mystery (2002)
- #169: The Mistletoe Mystery (2002)
- #170: No Strings Attached (2003)
- #171: Intrigue at the Grand Opera (2003)
- #172: The Riding Club Crime (2003)
- #174: Danger in the Great Lakes (2003)
- #175: A Taste of Danger (2003)
- #176: Werewolf in a Winter Wonderland (2003)
Other Series Titles
More books and more series -- Nancy lives on!
- Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Super Sleuths (two titles; 1981-1984)
- Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Be a Detective Mystery Stories (six titles; 1984-1985)
- River Heights (16 titles; 1989-1992)
- Nancy Drew Notebooks (69 titles; 1994-2005)
- Nancy Drew on Campus (25 titles; 1995-1998). This series, for an older audience, focused on Nancy and her friends in college. Stories centered more on romance and safety issues, rather than mysteries and adventure.
- Nancy Drew, Girl Detective (47 titles; 2004-2012)
- Girl Detective Super Mysteries (four titles; 2005-2008)
- Papercutz Nancy Drew Girl Detective graphic novels and Nancy Drew New Case Files (21 titles; 2005-2010)
- Nancy Drew and the Clue Crew (40 titles; 2006-2015). The series has Nancy and her friends as eight-year-old girls finding adventure and solving mysteries on the elementary school level.
- Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys Super Mystery (six titles; 2007-2012)
- Nancy Drew Diaries (more than 13 titles; 2013 plus). This recreation of the Nancy Drew Girl Detective series, described as “a classic Nancy Drew with a modern twist,” is available in hardback, paperback and eBooks.
- Nancy Drew New Case Files (three titles, 2010). This is a reissue of the graphic novel series with interest in “vampire” books.
- Nancy Drew Diaries Graphic Novels (more than seven titles; 2014 plus)
- Nancy Drew Files (2014). This is a re-released of the 1986 series, now for eBooks.
- Nancy Drew Clue Book Series (more than six titles; 2015 plus)
- Campfire Stories (one title; 1984)
- Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys SuperMystery Series (36 titles; 1988-1998)
For True-Drew Fans! Everything you want to know about Nancy Drew, and more.
And Even More Nancy Drew Merchandising …
- The Nancy Drew Sleuth Book: Clues to Good Sleuthing (1979)
- Nancy Drew’s Guide to Life (2001)
- Nancy Drew Mad Libs (2005)
- The Clues to Real Life: The Wit and Wisdom of Nancy Drew (2007)
- Nancy Drew Ghost Stories (2008)
- Nancy Drew Classic paper Dolls (2011)
- Nancy Drew & Her Friends Paper Dolls (2012)
Yes, each year, Nancy Drew’s legions of fans enjoy their own conventions in locations around the United States. Learn more about Nancy Drew “cons” HERE. Scroll the page for current, future and past convention information.
Nancy Lives On!
Nancy Drew continues to inspire little girls, young women and even those of us who grew up with her! She has changed over the years -- earlier versions of Nancy reflected the mores of the time; today’s stories also center on what are considered “social norms.” If you’re reading this now, you’ve read your share of Nancy Drew stories … it’s a “constant” that will remain with us throughout our lives!