Today is the 158th anniversary of Edward Stratemeyer’s birth on October 4, 1862. Over his lifetime his birthday was remembered by family and fans. Like many of his readers, his own birthdays were celebrated with the gift of books.
Upon learning about the death of Horatio Alger, Jr., Edward wrote to Alger’s sister, Olive Augusta Cheney, to express his condolences. In it he mentioned receiving Alger’s books as gifts for Christmas or a birthday. One title named was Paul the Peddler, a story first published by A.K. Loring in 1871 when Edward was about nine years of age. If he got a first printing, it would look like this copy. (Cheaper reprints would be issued in later decades).
Edward is known to have read books by Alger, “Oliver Optic” (William T. Adams), and “Harry Castlemon” (Charles Austin Fosdick), and others.
In 1878 he borrowed a chapter from That Good Old Time; or, Our Fresh and Salt Tutors (Hurd & Houghton, 1867) by “Vieux Moustache” (Clarence Gordon) called “Mr. Clare’s Story” to publish a chapbook called The Tale of a Lumberman: As Told By Himself.
There is also an indication that Edward may have received books by these authors from his older brothers, perhaps when they outgrew them. A copy of an “Oliver Optic” book has been seen which was owned by his older brother, Henry Julius Stratemeyer, Jr., as an example.
As an adult he typically received a letter of well wishes from his family. For his birthday in 1898, Edward received a letter from his mother, Anna Siegal Stratemeyer.
The letter was sent on Oct. 3 per the Elizabeth, New Jersey, postmark on the front of the envelope. On the back of the envelope is an Oct. 4 postmark from Newark to show that it arrived on his birthday.
As previously noted, Edward’s mother was important to his nascent career by encouraging his writing when perhaps his father thought he could make better use of his time. She even helped him to coin his most famous pen name, “Arthur M. Winfield,” in a story he repeated in a few interviews.
As Edward Stratemeyer’s fame grew, his fans began to learn of his birthdate and took the occasion to send him greetings.
Edward was 55 on this birthday. The typist of the letter, “HOS,” is Harriet Otis Smith, his able assistant who joined him in November 1914 when he opened his first office in Manhattan in the Pullman Building, 17 Madison Avenue. The original postcard received is not part of the Stratemeyer Syndicate Records collection at NYPL. Perhaps it was not retained after the reply was made.
The well-wisher was Walter Lloyd Jackson (1903-1986) so Edward’s wish for a long life seems to have been met. Lloyd was 15 when he sent to postcard to Edward.
Another young fan wrote to Edward Stratemeyer for his birthday in 1929.
Wallace Palmer (1910-2000) was an enthusiastic collector of Stratemeyer’s books. He wrote to Edward several times and visited New York City and met with Edward on a couple occasions.
He continued to correspond with Harriet Stratemeyer Adams and Edna Stratemeyer after Edward died. He expressed an interest to purchase the Syndicate and continue it but there were doubts expressed whether he had the resources to do so.
He also wanted to write a book-length biography of Stratemeyer. He did write some articles that were published anonymously or pseudonymously. Indeed, he even used a pen name on occasion when writing to the sisters. This was likely because the offer to buy the Syndicate was not entertained. The Stratemeyer sisters preferred to write their own biography of their father and did not help or encourage Palmer in his efforts.
Throughout his writing career, Edward Stratemeyer recognized the importance of birthdays to his young readers. Dozens of his personally-written stories include mentions of the birthdays of the protagonists and the people around them in the books and periodical stories so it seems fitting to remember and celebrate his birthday on October 4.