Since 1910, when the first Tom Swift book was published under the Victor Appleton name, there have been six series about the boy inventor. A product of the Stratemeyer Syndicate, it was a popular series that is continued today by Simon and Schuster.
The first three series were under the Syndicate and then it continued after the Syndicate was purchased.
Tom Swift (Sr) (1910-1941)
The inventions of Tom Swift are meant to be ones that you could imagine a boy of the time (circa 1910) inventing. Tom starts off slow and small, making improvements to already existing items like a motorcycle and motorboat. The submarine of volume three isn’t his invention but his father’s.
With Tom Swift, the invention is often not the focus as much as the adventure which the invention will be needed for. Tom goes on adventures in a variety of airships, goes under the sea in submarines, and helps rescue a friend from a kidnapping by inventing a photo telephone. Common issues are protecting patents from thieves, dealing with unfriendly nations, and difficulties caused by the jealousy of the town bully (Andy Foger).
Tom is often helped in his adventures by his father Barton and his friend Ned Newton. Mr. Wakefield Damon, Eradicate “Rad” Sampson & his mule Boomerang, and the Patagonian giant Koku are frequently involved in the stories and add humor to the stories.
By the end of the series, Tom marries his long-time sweetheart, Mary Nestor. It is this marriage that becomes the setup for the 1954 relaunch of the series that focuses on their son.
Tom Swift Jr (1954-1971)
Set in the sort of atomic rocket future often envisioned in the 1950s, Tom Swift starts by building rockets and spends a great deal of time in various space stations and rocket ships.
The original Tom Swift is still there, now as a father figure much like his own father Barton’s role in the original books. Tom’s best friend is Bud Barclay. The stories also feature Tom Sr, Mary Nestor, Ned Newton & his daughter Phyllis, Tom’s sister Sandra, and Charles “Chow” Winkler.
Tom Swift III (Wanderer) (1981-1984)
Set in the far future, this series follows Tom Swift in space adventures. Written by a number of science fiction authors, this series is well regarded by many readers but it definitely a different tone from earlier Tom Swift incarnations with invention being less of a plot element.
While this Tom Swift is a junior, it is unclear what connection this has to previous versions. Is he a son, grandson, or otherwise a descendant of Tom Swift, jr.? More of a reboot set in the future than a continuation. Aristotle the robot is one of the supporting cast along with co-pilot Benjamin Franklin Walking Eagle and technician Anita Thorwald.
Tom Swift IV (Archway) (1991-1993)
Tom Swift, once again the son of Tom Swift Sr and Mary Nestor (making this a reboot of Tom Swift, Jr), is inventing again. The stories take place mostly on Earth and appear to be set in the present or very near future.
This is the first non-Syndicate production of Tom Swift. Some volumes took off of themes common in popular culture, including a “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids” moment when Tom is shrunk to the size of an ant.
Tom also joins forces with the Hardy Boys in a two-volume ultra-thriller adventure. For some reason, Tom Swift Enterprises is in California in this series instead of the more usual Shopton, New York.
Tom Swift V (Boy Inventor) (2006-2007)
This version of Tom Swift is in first-person (as were the Nancy Drew and Hardy Boys of the time) and his inventions are often more on par with what a real boy could do–competing in robot competitions, using drones, etc.
Tom Swift is once again the son of Tom Swift, Sr. and Mary Nestor, making this series another reboot of Tom Swift, Jr. His friends include Bud Barclay and Yolanda “Yo” Aponte.
Tom Swift VI (Inventor’s Academy) (2019-today)
Tom Swift is younger in this series (around 13) and in a school for inventors and scientists funded by his father. With his best friends, he goes on adventures where technology is involved. As with the fifth series, these stories are told in first person narration.
More on Tom Swift
Blog Posts About Tom Swift
The last week in September is considered to be Banned Book Week. In 2019 this is Sept. 22-28. While you will see lists of many books that have been “challenged” or “censored” over the years, most of the time our juvenile series books are not listed. Yet, the librarians who wanted to impress fellow librarians, […]
Celebrating the life and career of Edward Stratemeyer on the 155th anniversary of his birthday.
It is April 1 again and time for each amazing claim placed before you to be treated with more scrutiny than usual. Some series book fans like to play the April Fool’s Day game and have submitted articles to series book magazines that have misled some collectors to look for books that do not exist. […]
Although there is no known connection with the books, Tom Swift Shoes were offered for sale at the same time as the Tom Swift Jr. books.
Photographs and articles in popular science publications influenced the Syndicate stories. The Santos-Dumont No. 14bis seems to have made an impression on Stratemeyer, Garis, and their artists.
With all of its secrets, more is known about the Stratemeyer Syndicate than is known about the book packager that followed them, Mega-Books, after Simon & Schuster bought the Syndicate.
To the modern reader used to visualizing the frail pioneering aircraft of the Wright brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and others, the Red Cloud from the Tom Swift series seems utterly fantastic — the stuff of science fiction. However, as was often the case, the descriptions were not pure fantasy but rather extensions of concepts and inventions described in magazines and newspapers. […]
Tom Swift invented many remarkable vehicles that carried him and his friends on their adventures. The Red Cloud was used in many of the early stories of the Tom Swift Sr. series.