|Flossie and Freddy Bobbsey in an illustration from editions with a dust jacket.|
In 1906, he created the Stratemeyer Syndicate and produced reading material for kids and teens throughout his lifetime. Some of the series were The Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew mysteries. Using the name Arthur Winfield, Stratemeyer wrote twenty books from 1899-1917 under the title of The Rover Boys, and forty books about a young inventor Tom Swift.
Edward Stratemeyer, born in Elizabeth, New Jersey, was the youngest of six children. His father was a German tobacconist. He loved to read and after high school he went to work in his father's store. He had his own printing press and wrote short stories distributing them to friends and family finally selling a story to the popular children's paper Golden Days for seventy-five dollars. Stratemeyer was a savvy businessman and his introduction of fifty-cent novels sent book sales skyrocketing creating a lucrative market for writers and buyers. Stratemeyer busied himself with the introduction of new plot lines, delegating work to writers and illustrators, editing proofs, and negotiating with publishers until he died on May 10, 1930.
An early illustration from
'The Bobbsey Twins in The Great City'
In the original editions, the first books in the series took place in a clear chronology, with the characters aging as time passed. The Bobbsey Twins: Merry Days Indoors and Out took place over the course of a school year, with Nan and Bert described as eight years old and Freddie and Flossie four; the second book, The Bobbsey Twins in the Country is set the following summer. The second part of the summer is chronicled in The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore, which is written as a direct sequel to the previous book, tying up some plot threads. The fourth book, The Bobbsey Twins at School, begins the next autumn, with Nan and Bert "nearly nine years old" and Freddie and Flossie "almost five." Editors at the Stratemeyer Syndicate quickly realized that at this rate their young heroes would quickly age beyond their readership, and so the later books in the series and in all revised editions, have the older twins perpetually 12 years old and the younger twins 6.
An illustration from
'The Bobbsey Twins at Plymouth Rock'
I guess it took a village to make the Bobbsey clan come to life and bring untold amounts of adventure, mystery and travel to millions of kids like myself, my sisters and my daughters as we were growing up. To refresh your memory the cast of characters were: Mr. Richard Bobbsey, the owner of a lumber yard in Lakeport; his wife and the twins mother, Mary; Nan and Bert, their elder twins, Freddie and Flossie, their younger twins; Dinah and Sam Johnson, an African-American couple who were the Bobbseys' cook, and handyman respectively (hmm, didn't every middle class family have live-in help back in the day?); Snoop, the Bobbseys' cat and Snap, the Bobbseys' dog. Of course there was the proverbial 'bad boy' by name of Danny Rugg, always the source of endless trouble for the Bobbsey clan. We seriously hated Danny! The books came with us on every vacation and a volume or two was always on our Christmas or birthday list. By high school, I think we had read every book published to date and I admit to reading some of the newer ones that my daughter had in her collection.
|Edition from 1950s|
The look of the series also changed over the years from dust jackets to picture covers, no dust jackets, a lavender spine and back cover that replaced the green bindings that had been used before. Only 20 of the books were were completely rewritten, most of them were given modern titles and 16 were never re-released being thought that they were too dated to be fixed up. Most of the rewrites were needed because of changing technology (yes there were horses and buggies in the early editions!) or changing social mores, with respect to how Sam and Dinah were portrayed. One book, The Bobbsey Twins and Baby May received the most extreme rewrite because it was a story about the Bobbsey family's adventures trying to find the parents of a foundling baby. By the 1960s, modern social services had rendered the original story unrealistic so a new novel was written about the twins' adventures with a baseball-playing baby elephant (The Bobbsey Twins' Adventures with Baby May). This, however, had a ripple effect, as the original The Bobbsey Twins at Cherry Corners had been a sequel to the original Baby May. Thus, a second book, The Bobbsey Twins: The Mystery at Cherry Corners, was written. It incorporated only a very little bit of material from its original version.