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

Dorothy Chester

Dorothy Chester covers

The two volumes in the Dorothy Chester series. The copy on the left is a Chatterton-Peck original. The other is a reprint by A.L. Burt after Grosset & Dunlap’s interest in the series ceased.

The Dorothy Chester series.

As the Stratemeyer Syndicate was developing, the publishers that Stratemeyer was using were interested in having him provide stories with girl protagonists as well. In one letter he noted the difficulty of getting good reliable writers for girls. He approached a number of established writers, in an effort to get them to write for the Syndicate. Most were unwilling to write for him at the rates he cared to pay.

Lilian C. Garis started writing for Stratemeyer in 1907 for the second and third Bobbsey Twins books (Country and Seashore). She did not prove to be especially reliable so she wrote fewer than 1.5 dozen books for him.

Evelyn Raymond was another established writer who wrote two volumes in the Dorothy Chester series for Stratemeyer from his outlines. These were published by Chatterton-Peck. The book on the left in the image is one of these scarce examples.

The first decade of the 20th Century was marked by a great deal of transition and turmoil. Many of the 19th Century publishers either went out of business or merged and/or changed names. Some of the publishers that Stratemeyer tried to use for his and the Syndicate books were not able to sell many copies.

In this case, the Mershon Company was established in 1873 and was primarily responsible for printing and binding books for other publishers. Eventually they began to take on the role of publisher with the added responsibility of taking in and editing manuscripts, selling books to the trade, and providing reports and payments to authors and owners of material. William Livingston Mershon was the head of the company around 1900.

The Mershon Company imprint was used on Stratemeyer books from 1899 to 1904 and again in 1906. In 1905, the traveling salesman for Mershon, William M. Stitt, Jr., decided to start a company and take over the “publishing” part of the business that William L. Mershon found to be too tedious. Mershon was still involved at a secondary level. Before 1905 was ended, books were again being published under the Mershon name. In October of 1906, Mershon sold his publishing rights to Chatterton-Peck and his printing/binding plant to a new firm, Quinn & Boden.

Chatterton-Peck agreed to let Stratemeyer provide them with some 17 book manuscripts, along with the old ones previously handled by Mershon or Stitt. They didn’t do very well with these, selling few copies of the ones they did publish and failing to issue all of the books for which Stratemeyer provided the manuscripts he produced and paid for.

This poor showing on their part caused Stratemeyer to work to get the publishing rights from Chatterton-Peck and buy the printing plates. There were a series of about four lawsuits, two each in New York and New Jersey, to establish ownership rights for these. Ultimately Stratemeyer was able to take the plates for these books to Grosset & Dunlap which began his (and the Syndicate’s) long-term relationship with that firm.

As Stratemeyer was pulling several series from the Chatterton-Peck catalog, they sought to replace the lines with books they produced. They contacted three of Stratemeyer’s writers they could identify, Howard Garis, Lilian Garis, and Evelyn Raymond, and asked them if they would continue their series for them direct, removing Stratemeyer from the equation.

The Garis family contacted Stratemeyer about this offer and sent along the letters they had received. Raymond, however, did accept and wrote more “Dorothy” books for Chatterton-Peck, against Stratemeyer’s wishes. He did manage to get them to change the name of the character to merely “Dorothy” and he retained rights for the first two books for several years.

After some years of poor sales with Grosset & Dunlap, Stratemeyer sold the plates for these Dorothy books to one of the Chatterton-Peck successors, Platt & Peck, in 1914.

Evelyn Hunt Raymond died in 1910 and yet several more volumes were published under her name. A.L. Chatterton, a successor to Chatterton-Peck, asked one of their writers to continue the series and the books were published under Evelyn Raymond’s name as a pseudonym.

These are the two stories outlined and owned by Stratemeyer until they were sold. The copy in the right is a reprint from after the time when the series and plates were sold.

1. Dorothy Chester: the Haps and Mishaps of a Foundling (1907)
2. Dorothy Chester at Skyrie (1907)

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