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Stratemeyer Syndicate records

Call Number: GEN MSS 107

Scope and Contents

The Stratemeyer Syndicate Records contain legal and financial documents, letters, printed materials, photographs, notebooks, and realia which trace the workings of the publishing concern up to the point at which it was sold to Simon & Schuster in 1984. The Records span the dates 1895-1987, with the majority of materials created in 1984.

The collection is housed in 13 boxes and consists of six series: Legal Documents, Financial Documents, Correspondence, Other Papers, Printed Materials, and Notebooks. Boxes 11-13 contain Oversize material.

Series I, Legal Documents spans the years 1895-1985. The first subseries holds General material from individuals and organizations having legal dealings with the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Extant in the Universal and Walt Disney files are contracts for the development of television shows based on Stratemeyer characters (Box 1, folders 15-18 and folder 19). Writers' agreements files contain examples of contracts executed between the Syndicate and contributing ghostwriters 1895-1984 (Box 1, folders 21-38). The second subseries, Simon & Schuster, which forms the bulk of the entire collection, documents the 1984 sale of partnership interests and rights to Simon Schuster. The first item in this subseries is the final volume of papers detailing the arrangements of the purchase (Box 2, folders 39-44). An index is found in folder 39. Following this final version of the sale document are drafts of most of its individual sections, arranged in the order in which they appear in the final volume. For certain documents which have several drafts, attempts have been made to place them in probable order of their creation. Unique descriptions have been made where possible, though certain items (e.g. Box 3, folders 75 and 76) are distinguished only by folder order. These drafts are followed by assorted items related to Simon & Schuster's purchase of the Stratemeyer Syndicate. Among these are lists of subcontracting licenses, trademark assignments, and internal memos from the law firm which handled the sale.

Series II, Financial Documents , contains items such as billing statements and financial worksheets spanning the dates 1975-85. A number of items relate to the sale to Simon & Schuster, such as financial statements from the Stratemeyer Syndicate (Box 6, folder 176) and lists of the distribution of proceeds from the sale (Box 6, folder 258). Financial documents from agreements with Grosset & Dunlap and billed audit trails for services provide by the law firm of Finley, Kunble, Wagner, Heine, Underberg, Manley & Casey are also included.

Series III, Correspondence , consists of a small number of letters to and from the Stratemeyer Syndicate together with a bound volume of closing correspondence relating to the sale to Simon and Schuster. (Box 7, folder 188).

Series IV, Other Papers , contains various materials related to the operation of the Stratemeyer Syndicate prior to the 1984 purchase by Simon & Schuster. The manuscripts section includes speeches by Harriet Adams (Folders 204-06), an outline of a play concerning Nancy Drew by Steven Angel (Folder 207) and a typescript history of the Stratemeyer Syndicate (Folder 208). Authorship lists (Folder 259) for the Bobbsey Twins, the Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew series provide information on who wrote the plots and the texts for many of these books. Also included are photographs of Harriet Adams and two dictation machines used by Adams to record Nancy Drew stories.

Series V, Printed Materials , consists of newspaper and magazine clippings and copies of magazines on various subjects, such as Nancy Drew (Box 9, folder 238) and the history of the Stratemeyer Syndicate (Box 9, folders 247-48) dating between 1923-86.

Series VI, Notebooks , contains notebooks compiled by Nancy Axelrad.

Oversize materials from Series II, IV and V are housed in Boxes 11-13.

Received with the materials listed above were 31 audiocassettes which have been transferred to Historical Sound Recordings in Sterling Memorial Library.

This collection complements other Stratemeyer Syndicate materials located in the Betsy Beinecke Shirley Collection of American Children's Literature.


  • 1895-1987


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Stratemeyer Syndicate Records are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary Rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs or assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Stratemeyer Syndicate Records were donated to the Beinecke Library in 1992 by Nancy S. Axelrad.


9.25 Linear Feet (13 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The Stratemeyer Syndicate Records consist of legal and financial documents, letters, and notebooks which record the operations of some aspects of the syndicate from the 1960s to 1984, and the sale of the publishing concern in 1984.


The Stratemeyer Syndicate, a publishing concern that generated several well-known series of children's fiction books during the 20th century, was incorporated by Edward Stratemeyer in 1910. Stratemeyer, born in 1862 in Elizabeth, New Jersey, began writing stories for magazines while working in his own stationery store in the 1880s. He married in 1891, and in 1892, the year his daughter Harriet was born, he sold fourteen dime novels and five magazine stories. He continued his work by contributing to the Nick Carter series of stories and eventually had a popular boys' novel, Under Dewey at Manila, published in 1898. After completing several manuscripts left by the late authors William T. Adams and Horatio Alger, Stratemeyer began his own first series of novels for boys. His Rover Boys adventures, which began to appear in 1899, were brisk sellers. In 1906, he started the Bobbsey Twins series using the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope. He followed this success with several more series, including the immensely popular Tom Swift in 1910, the year he incorporated his business officially as the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

As Stratemeyer began to capture much of the new market for boys' and girls' fiction at the turn of the century, he started to contract out most of his stories to ghostwriters who filled out general plot outlines he had scripted. In 1927, the Hardy Boys made their first appearance and shortly before his death in 1930, Edward Stratemeyer sketched a new heroine named Nancy Drew. Stratemeyer's daughter, Harriet Adams, completed work on the first Nancy Drew adventure and eventually wrote so many of the Nancy Drew mysteries that she became closely identified with the pseudonymous Carolyn Keene, the "author" of the series. Adams headed the Syndicate, which became a limited partnership with three or four active contributing partners at any one time.

The popularity of various Syndicate characters grew. Nancy Drew films appeared in the 1930s; the Hardy Boys appeared in the 1950s in serialized adventures on Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse Club; both Nancy Drew and Joe and Frank Hardy were featured in a mid-1970s television series produced by Universal Television. During the 1960s and 1970s, efforts were made to update several of the older, dated volumes in the Stratemeyer series. Together with the introduction of more modern dress and situations, Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, and the Happy Hollisters retained an uncomplicated demeanor while appealing to a new generation of juvenile readers.

Harriet Adams was feted in 1980 for her success as the writer of Nancy Drew. She died two years later, on March 27, 1982, leaving three partners to carry on the work of the Syndicate. In 1984, the rights to all creations of the Stratemeyer Syndicate were purchased by Simon & Schuster, which has continued to produce series such as Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins.

Guide to the Stratemeyer Syndicate Records
Under Revision
by Timothy G. Young
August 1992
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

The Beinecke Library is open to all Yale University students and faculty, and visiting researchers whose work requires use of its special collections. You will need to bring appropriate photo ID the first time you register. Beinecke is a non-circulating, closed stack library. Paging is done by library staff during business hours. You can request collection material online at least two business days in advance of your visit, using the request links in Archives at Yale. For more information, please see Planning Your Research Visit and consult the Reading Room Policies prior to visiting the library.