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

On This Date — Sept. 16

On any given date of the year there are dozens of letters that were composed by the Stratemeyer Syndicate or by correspondents and sent in.  This is an interesting and revealing letter from this date to a young fan.

Sept. 16, 1919 letter from Edward Stratemeyer to a young fan, Richard A. Bird

My Dear Young Friend:

When writing replies to fan mail, Stratemeyer routinely addressed them in this manner.

Your letter of September 9th came to hand while I was away on a brief vacation.

Letters composed by Edward Stratemeyer on this date, September 16, frequently mention his returning from a summer trip.  Stratemeyer often took trips to cooler areas of New York, New Jersey, or Massachusetts during the summer when it was too warm to work effectively in Manhattan or at his home in Newark, New Jersey.  He saw these trips and time away from work as “A Great Mental Tonic.”  Often his letters to friends would identify the locations of his travels.  However, the extant letters do not mention where he made his September summer trip in 1919.

I thank you for all the nice things you say about my books, and especially the “Rover Boys Series.”

A sentence like this is very common in Stratemeyer’s replies to his young fans.

I am sorry you don’t like the second series quite so well as the first, and perhaps your criticism is correct and there may be too many brothers and sisters; but you would not like to have me kill some of them off, would you?

Two Generations of Rover Boys.

The original generation of Rover Boys were named Sam, Tom, and Dick.  Each married and had a total of four sons and two daughters:

  • Dick Rover and Dora Stanhope
    • John “Jack” Rover
    • Martha Rover
  • Tom Rover and Nellie Laning
    • Andrew “Andy” Rover (twin)
    • Randolph “Randy” Rover (twin)
  • Sam Rover and Grace Laning
    • Mary Rover
    • Fred Rover

Now perhaps you will allow me to do a little criticizing. For a boy who is going to become a sophomore in the high school, your letter shows quite a number of errors in grammar and capitalization.

The correspondent is actually Richard Henry Bird Jr. (1904-1974) of Arlington, Middlesex county, Massachusetts.  By 1940 he was listed as a minister.

Edward Stratemeyer graduated from his high school at the age of 16 in June 1879.  He received additional instruction in writing and rhetoric from Public School No. 3 of Elizabeth’s principal, William David Heyer.

Edward Stratemeyer graduated from high school in June 1879 when he was 16.

It would not be necessary for you to take Latin in order to become a short story writer, but Latin is very useful, as it is one of the root languages.

You ask when I first wanted to become an author. I think I must have been about six years old then I attempted to write my first story.

This story does not seem to have survived but at least one story from when he was 14 (1876) was later published and some other early fragments of stories were printed.

As to how long it takes to write a book, that depends upon circumstances. The average writer of juveniles can turn out a volume in two months or less.

Most of Stratemeyer’s ghostwriters completed stories from his outlines in four weeks or fewer.

I enclose the autograph which you desire.

Yours truly, Edward Stratemeyer — a typical signature on a letter from the 1910s.

Thank you again for your interest in my books, and wishing you every success in school and in later years, I remain,

Yours truly,

HOS

HOS indicated that this letter from 1919 was taken down in dictation and later typed by Edward’s assistant from 1914 to 1930, Harriet Otis Smith.

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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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