Scope and arrangement
The Stratemeyer Syndicate records document the literary and business activity of Edward Stratemeyer, his family, and his colleagues from 1832 until the sale of the Stratemeyer Syndicate to Simon & Schuster, Inc. in 1984. The records include original manuscripts, editorial notes and correspondence, business and administrative files, promotional material, photographs, musical scores and artwork. The bulk of this material dates from the period 1905-1984, and documents the rise of one of America's largest producers of children's books. The collection is an important resource for the study of American popular culture, children's literature and the history of publishing.
The origins and early history of the Stratemeyer Syndicate are best documented in the correspondence files of Edward Stratemeyer dating from the 1890s and 1900s. Incoming and outgoing letters trace Stratemeyer's development as a literary professional, and show how he expanded a one-man operation for the marketing of his own pseudonymous writings into a veritable factory of children's literature. These early letters are complemented by manuscripts of several of Stratemeyer's first stories and books, including "Victor Horton's Idea." Edward Stratemeyer's Literary Account Books provide a chronological listing of Stratemeyer's earliest publication credits, together with the sale price of each story and book.
As the Syndicate grew and prospered during the 1910s and '20s, Edward Stratemeyer developed a complex network of professional relationships. His personal supervision of the creative collaborations that produced such immensely popular titles as The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew and Tom Swift is thoroughly documented in editorial records included in the Book Series files, which form the bulk of the collection. Included here are story outlines, manuscripts, and promotional ideas for the most popular Syndicate titles. There are also letters, memos and screenplays related to Syndicate efforts to market books for radio, television and film production. Similar editorial materials included in the Minor Series and Other Works files document the creative process behind lesser known Syndicate titles, and show that the Stratemeyer formula did not inevitably result in commercial success.
While correspondence and editorial files form the bulk the Stratemeyer Syndicate records, there is also a wealth of information on Syndicate business practices, legal affairs and promotional campaigns. The Administrative Files series includes author and publisher contracts, author payment records, financial statements, licensing agreements and copyright information. The evolution of Stratemeyer Syndicate packaging and advertising is traced in newspaper clippings, scrapbooks, and drawings included in the Promotional Material and Artwork series.
The efforts of Edward Stratemeyer's daughters, Harriet and Edna, to maintain the enterprise after their father's death are documented in several areas of the collection. The correspondence files of Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier show how the sisters maintained and modified the business practices of their father in order to expand the marketing of Syndicate properties. Editorial and administrative files compiled from the 1930s through the 1970s trace their success at revamping old book series, creating new titles, distributing books overseas, and selling television and film rights to popular Syndicate characters.
The personalities and private lives of the Stratemeyer family and their colleagues are revealed in the records. Holograph and published musical scores penned by Edward Stratemeyer's brothers Heinrich J. Stratemeyer and Louis C. Stratemeyer evidence a family tradition of involvement in the arts dating from 1832. There are small suggestions of the personal character of Edward Stratemeyer among his financial papers, including bills for Harriet Stratemeyer's 1915 wedding, receipts for gifts to friends and family, and records of charitable contributions. Numerous bills and receipts related to the upkeep of the several automobiles Edward owned during his lifetime attest to his passion for driving. Letters exchanged by Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and Edna Stratemeyer Squier after the latter's 1942 move to Florida show how the sisters mingled their personal affairs, professional responsibilities and financial interests.
The Stratemeyer Syndicate records testify to the talent and dedication of the Stratemeyer family's many friends, colleagues and employees. There is new information on the career of Horatio Alger included in Edward Stratemeyer's incoming correspondence dating from the late 1890s, as well as in an Alger scrapbook containing Alger stories clipped from newspapers and magazines between 1854 and 1899. The files of Andrew E. Svenson, Liselotte Wuenn, Lorraine S. Rickle, and Nancy S. Axelrad chronicle the essential editorial and administrative functions performed by these valued Stratemeyer employees and partners. This material also fills in the picture of the last years of the Syndicate as an independent business, leading up to its 1984 sale to Simon & Schuster, Inc.
In addition to providing a chronicle of a remarkable business enterprise and the family that ran it, the Stratemeyer Syndicate records provide a measure of the impact of the firm's books on American culture. News clipping scrapbooks offer a cross-section of the popular and critical response to Stratemeyer volumes. Dozens of fan letters from young readers testify to the broad appeal of Syndicate publications, while business correspondence and screenplays reveal how Stratemeyer characters achieved even greater popularity by their portrayal in television programs and in movies.
There are several significant gaps in the Stratemeyer Syndicate records held by The New York Public Library. The records include just a few pages of Edward Stratemeyer's outgoing correspondence prior to 1905. Also missing are contracts and documents related to important Syndicate writers Howard R. Garis and Lillian Garis. Book Series files for several popular Syndicate titles, including Nancy Drew, lack original manuscripts for early versions of books; there is an emphasis instead on later editions and revisions. Likewise, the Book Series files for the early volumes of several major series, including The Rover Boys, Tom Swift, Hardy Boys, and Nancy Drew, do not contain story outlines. The Syndicate's "character cards" reference file, which records details about individual book characters in order to insure consistency as new volumes are produced, have been retained by Simon & Schuster, Inc. Simon & Schuster also holds the original, signed copies of author release forms.