Dedicated to the legacy of Edward Stratemeyer, author & founder of the Stratemeyer Syndicate

Nancy Drew 50th Anniversary Gala

Charles Osgood of CBS News on April 17, 1980.

Walter Cronkite introduced the Charles Osgood piece on CBS News on April 17, 1980.

This 1980 video with Charles Osgood from CBS News reported on the gala hosted by Simon & Schuster shortly after they began to publish the new Stratemeyer Syndicate volumes.

For many years Harriet Stratemeyer Adams had noticed that while the royalty check amounts from Grosset & Dunlap had increased, the sales per volume had been going down. The larger payments were related to increased retail prices and more volumes in the major series.

Edward Stratemeyer had negotiated contracts with his publishers that gave a smaller royalty (4%) on the first 10,000 copies sold to allow the publisher some latitude to make back their manufacturing costs for artwork and plates. Afterward the rate rose to the 5% that was paid to the publisher’s independent authors.

Part of a 1929 contract that refers to the reduced rate (2¢ on 50¢ -- 4%) for the initial copies and later the regular rate (2.5¢ on 50¢ -- 5%).

Part of a 1929 contract that refers to the reduced rate (2¢ on 50¢ — 4%) for the initial copies and later the regular rate (2.5¢ on 50¢ — 5%).

The result of this was that G&D made a higher profit on the 50¢ books from the Stratemeyer Syndicate than they did the books by independent writers. The salesmen pushed these books a bit harder and they were also among the more popular series in the line.

While this practice led to bitter feelings from the independent writers, it was largely outside the control of the Syndicate and they were not to blame for the publisher favoring the Syndicate books over their own efforts. Indeed, the Syndicate was just as frustrated with G&D’s inability to promote their books and get the kinds of sales seen in the boom years (e.g. 1956-1962).

Harriet repeatedly tried to renegotiate the contracts for the popular Nancy Drew, Hardy Boys, and Bobbsey Twins series but G&D would not budge. They knew they had a good thing and stuck to the contracts stubbornly. They also claimed that it took even more volumes to make back their expenses even after they had adopted more efficient and mechanized methods.

In 1979 the Bobbsey Twins turned 75 and there was nothing done by G&D to commemorate this. Harriet felt that this was a missed opportunity. When she asked what they had planned for Nancy Drew’s 50th anniversary the next year and they hesitated, that told her that they had nothing planned.

Simon & Schuster had approached the Syndicate to get series produced for them but nothing came of it. They apparently made some overtures to the Syndicate and succeeded in getting contracts to publish the new titles in the series.

One of the first things they did was publish a commemorative set of the first three Bobbsey Twins books as a boxed set.

bobbseytwinsanniversary-box

Next they organized an elaborate party in New York City to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Nancy Drew series. This video which was broadcast on April 17, 1980 includes some interview statements with Harriet Stratemeyer Adams. There were people dressed up as characters from the books. There was a searchlight and a blue roadster outside and a roadster-shaped cake inside.

 

Charles Osgood reported on the Nancy Drew 50th Anniversary Gala.

Charles Osgood reported on the Nancy Drew 50th Anniversary Gala.

Harriet Stratemeyer Adams seated in the 1920s blue roadster outside the Gala.

Harriet Stratemeyer Adams seated in the 1920s blue roadster outside the Gala.

1980-04-17-cbsnews-charlesosgood-nancydrew-harrietstratemeyeradams-gala-4

Harriet Stratemeyer Adams with the blue roadster-shaped cake at the Gala.

Harriet Stratemeyer Adams was interviewed for this segment.

Harriet Stratemeyer Adams was interviewed for this segment.

Of course, Grosset & Dunlap did not appreciate the Stratemeyer Syndicate changing its publisher so they initiated a lawsuit against the Syndicate and Simon & Schuster.  The trial included testimony by Mildred Wirt Benson as a witness for the plaintiff, Grosset & Dunlap and their parent company.  

The decision of the judge was that the Syndicate could chose any publisher they wanted for new stories but that the existing contracts allowed Grosset & Dunlap to continue printing the titles they had done thus far.

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Keeline

James D. Keeline has been researching Edward Stratemeyer and the Stratemeyer Syndicate since 1988. He has written many dozens of articles and conference presentations on these topics and has several books in progress, including a Series Book Encyclopedia, a full biography of Edward Stratemeyer, and Stratemeyer Syndicate Ghostwriters. He has also edited and published several Stratemeyer texts in illustrated and annotated editions under the 24 Palmer Street Press imprint at Lulu.com.

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