As we grow, we learn the concept of right and wrong from several different places. In most cases, this starts very early when our parents tell us what we can't do, and we learn easily the consequences of transgressing their rules. While this teaches us how not to act, learning how to act is usually a trial-and-error process. However equipped we are for day to day existence within the household where the parent is the authority figure, we are ill-prepared in regards to the outside world at this point.
We are, though, still learning, and if our parent is mindful of this fact, they take us into the story-telling stage of our development. In most cases, the impart to us the traditional fairy tales, and through them we learn of human behaviour'for example, the miserly greed of the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk, the wickedness of the witch in
Hansel and Gretel, and the jealousy of the stepmother and stepsisters toward Cinderella. The concept we are to grasp is a simple one not all people "out there" are nice, and we can't be guaranteed that we won't run into some that display some of these traits. In this way, fairy tales serve as a warning to us.
It is also in fairy tales that we are introduced to other authority figures; often they are in the guise of royalty, and they can be good or evil such as the generous king in Puss in Boots, or the wicked queen in Snow White but they have one thing in common: their word is law, even if they are tyrants, and while the idea isn't mentioned specifically to us, the concept is easy to grasp despite the seeming injustice of it.
Stories for older children suggest that oppression can be challenged or at least answered to, and that even people in authority who are not royalty can be wicked too. Thus, Robin Hood robs from the rich and gives to the poor, and generally causes problems for the Sheriff of Nottingham, and The Pied Piper of Hamelin takes the village's children away with him after the mayor and council have reneged on paying his fee for ridding the town of rats.
In most cases, our parents compliment the concepts of authority figures that we are exposed to and our concepts of right and wrong by introducing to our consciousness the most visible embodiment of the justice system in our society, the police officer. There is a positive way to do this ("If you're ever in trouble, go tell a policeman, and he'll help you.") and a negative way ("If you're not going to be good, that policeman over there will take you to jail."). How the police officer is first presented to us may well colour our concept of them and of the law.1
Police officers may also show up in our readings as well at this age, such as in Enid Blyton's Noddy series or Curious George,2 as well in our grade-school readers. In fact, our concept of the helpful police officer is complimented by such things as traffic safety information sessions, in which officers participate, as well as classroom visits regarding such subjects as drug awareness, and street proofing programs, such as Operation Aware, which in Ontario, deals with the negative effects of peer pressure.
This positive picture of the police continues to be augmented in our reading as we grow from early childhood to the pre-teen years. The storylines become more sophisticated as our ability to understand increases. Many of those growing up in the "Baby Boom" generation between 1945 and 1969 had their sense of what the law was and their perception of the role of the police in society reinforced by the "detective" series books put out by the New York publishing house of Grosset & Dunlap, which specialized in juvenile literature.3 These series were gender-oriented. For female readers, G&D published two different series, The Nancy Drew Mystery Stories and The Dana Girls Series, both written by Carolyn Keene; the male counterpart to these were The Hardy Boys series, which documented the adventures of brothers Frank and Joe Hardy and their friends, while they solved both mysteries and crimes. This series was authored by Franklin W. Dixon.4
However, what may surprise most people is that neither of these author ever existed, nor did any of the other authors in the G&D stable, and that the books themselves were the results of what could only be termed "assembly line writing out of a fiction factory."
Despite this fact, though, it cannot be denied that these books qualify as legal literature (albeit on a junior scale) due to their subject matter. Many of those in today's legal community of lawyers, judges, and police officers, of both sexes, at one time or another during their youth have read at least one of these books, so large was their popularity. The Hardy Boys series (which originated in 1927), and Nancy Drew (developed three years later) both remain in print even today, and have outlasted all of the other series published by G&D, save for The Bobbsey Twins. New volumes continue to appear at the astounding rate of about ten per series per year.5
I will leave it to another to discuss the Nancy Drew series, for at this time I have little in-depth knowledge of it. My experience begins with an incident that occurred on a long-ago summer day outside of the fictional town of Bayport, when two brothers conversed (while they rode their motorcycles) about their dreams to become private detectives just like their father...
The focus of this paper will be on the first thirty-eight volumes of the series which were rewritten starting in 19596 known to Hardyphiles as "The Lost Hardys." The fact that there were originals under the same titles that are still in print today is news to a lot of people, including not only the most casual readers, but also those who were avid readers of the series in the two different time frames concerned, being 1927-1958 and 1959-present.7 This is a pity, especially for those who grew up in the late '60s and beyond, because the original versions were
a far better read, both in terms of complexity of plot and in their higher degree of literateness. Further details in regard to this situation will be dealt with later in this paper, for to do it now would be to put the cart before the horse. It only makes sense to this writer to first explain the origins of the series, as well as the circumstances regarding the nonexistence of the author, Franklin W. Dixon. To do this, we must first be introduced to another man, whose name was Edward Stratemeyer.
Stratemeyer The Man, The Syndicate
When Edward Stratemeyer (1862-1930) was a boy, childhood was almost a non-existent phase of life for many. Life was tough, and education was rudimentary at best. When a child had mastered the basics in mathematics and reading, they were considered to be equipped enough for life, and were then expected to work. Horror stories are quite common regarding children working in coal mines or in sweatshops at the age of eight, but this was the reality for the majority of the population. Education past the grade three or four level was thought to be excessive by many, and was usually the exclusive domain of the middle and upper classes' those with enough money didn't need to force their children to work and add to the family's income. Even with the money working children were bringing in, most families still lived at a subsistence level, at best.
Life was especially brutal in the post-Civil War United States. The economic situation was in a depressed condition due to the costs of Reconstruction in the aftermath of the war, not to mention the costs of the continued expansion of the country westward. It was a time of laissez-faire capitalism and robber barons. A great bulk of the
money in circulation was controlled by a great few men. Times were tough.
It was this point in history that formed the backdrop to Edward Stratemeyer's childhood. Unfortunately,
the details of that childhood are shrouded in mystery, as no definitive biography was ever written about his life, but Stratemeyer did mention his juvenile reading habits in a rare interview: "As a boy... I had quite a library, including many of Optic's and Alger's books...[a]t seven or eight when I was reading them I said: 'If only I could write books like that I'd be the happiest person on earth. "8
This time frame also coincided with a juvenile book market that was awash with what was known as the dime novel; practitioners of this format were Horatio Alger jr. (sic) and Oliver Optic, whose basic plotlines can be summarized thus: "ordinary boy of great virtue overcomes the poverty he has been born into by a combination of a Puritan work ethic and sheer luck at a pivotal moment that he decides to take advantage of in order to rise to dizzying heights of success". They were the typical rags-to-riches story, and the juvenile public devoured every word, Stratemeyer included.
The son of a German immigrant who had tried his luck in the California gold rush, Stratemeyer, born in Elizabeth, NJ, never got past the eighth grade. Despite this, he "read as many dime novels as he had dimes."9 One day in 1889, the story goes, while working in his brother's tobacco shop, he tore a piece of wrapping paper from the roll behind the counter, and began to write a story. His father told him not to waste his time writing,10 but Stratemeyer persevered, sending "Victor Horton's Idea" to Golden Days, a boys' weekly in Philadelphia. They published it, and sent the new author $75. Having proved his father wrong, Stratemeyer continued writing stories on the Alger and Optic models. In the next three years, he sold dozens more of them, and in 1892 he was hired as an editor by Street & Smith. There, he worked with Upton Sinclair, and was able to publish 16 dime novels by 1895. And then fate fortuitously intervened.
He had just completed an adventure story about two boys on a battleship when the Spanish-American War broke out. The publisher, deciding to capitalize on the event asked Stratemeyer to change the setting and some elements of the plot of the novel, which was then retitled Under Dewey at Manila. The book was an instant success, going through four printings in a short time, but more importantly, there was a demand for more of the same. Stratemeyer delivered, placing the same protagonists in other newsworthy settings of the war, such as charging up San Juan Hill with Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders and fighting in the Philippine jungles. Before long, The Old Glory Series was selling in the millions at a time when dime novel writers were measuring their success in thousands of copies.11
Stratemeyer was now fully in the right place at the right time. Because of a combination of social consciousness and the prosperity of the 1890s, childhood became exactly that, and was even extended into a new stage never before seen adolescence. In the thirty years that followed, child labour laws came into force in most jurisdictions, as well as compulsory school attendance to the age of 16. The period of growing up was lengthened considerably. Children
and the new adolescents had a luxury they had been previously denied, free time. Many would use it to read for enjoyment, thus ensuring the success of any author who could capture their imaginations.
Stratemeyer would be successful in doing so by weaving into his stories the technological marvels of
the age which were capturing the public imagination (cars, airplanes, radio, movies); as well, the idea of series of books that he had touched on briefly would be expanded. Rags-to-riches stories were now passe children no longer needed to work hard in order to achieve. Possibilities that were previously undreamed of were now in existence even if they were not totally possible for most. American achievements were occurring fast and furiously in the areas of inventions, athletics, politics, and exploration, and youth dreamed about being apart of this latter-day American Revolution, as well as being able to travel to the far-off lands Statemeyer would utilize as settings. In order to foster these dreams, Stratemeyer provided The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans, penned under the pseudonym of Arthur M. Winfield,12 launched
in 1899 and eventually comprising 30 volumes until 1925.
However, Stratemeyer was now on the horns of a dilemma: he had a fruitful imagination as far as plotlines were concerned, but somehow they had to be transferred to paper and become a finished product, and there just weren't enough
hours in a day to do both, so how could he maximize the time available? The answer would be a simple one. He would sketch each story line onto a detailed three-page outline and let other writers fashion them into complete novels. Aspiring authors would be lured through the classifieds and do the actual writing of each novel in a month or less, for which they would be paid between $50 and $250 for each finished book. The actual author would sign away all rights to his work and would never divulge their true identity. Stratemeyer would edit the manuscript, check it for consistency with other books in the series, and then send it off to the publisher. The results were astounding, and Stratemeyer's syndicate, founded in 1906, would capture the bulk of the juvenile book market with series such as The Dave Porter Series, The Lakeport Series, The Pan-American Series, The Boy Hunters Series, The Putnam Hall Series, The Dave Fearless Series,
The Nat Ridley Series, Bomba the Jungle Boy, Tom Swift, and many historical fiction books (over 400 titles in all) by such authors as Harrison Adams, Capt. Ralph Bonehill, Allen Chapman, Louis Charles, James A. Cooper, Robert W. Hamilton, Chester K. Steele, E. Ward Strayer, Roy Rockwood, Victor Appleton, and others. Of course, the fertile mind
of Stratemeyer was behind every book and pseudonym.
Of course, with every success, there are bound to be detractors. Stratemeyer's came in the person of Franklin K. Mathiews, Chief Scout Librarian of the Boy Scouts of America, who wrote an article on the dangers of reading Stratemeyer-type books, "Blowing Out the Boy's Brains" (sic), which appeared in The Outlook magazine.13 In it, Mr. Matthews was only too glad to inform the public at large that:
...most of the books that sell from twenty-five to fifty cents are, not written, but manufactured. There
is usually one man who is as resourceful as a Balzac sofar (sic) as ideas and plots for stories are concerned. He cannot, though, develop them all, so he employs a number of men who write for him. I know of one man who has a contract to furnish
his publisher each year with twenty-five books manufactured in this way. Another author manufactured last year more than fifty. By such methods year to year the popular-priced series are kept going, the manager of the writing syndicate being able to furnish the publisher upon demand any kind of a story that may be needed.
It is said that Mathiews was speaking of Stratemeyer; the description is too uncanny to have been anyone else. The result of reading a steady diet of this type of book instead of reading the classics was, in Mathiews' estimation, a tragic one:
The difference between a "Treasure Island" and a modern "thriller" in its
many editions is not a difference in the elements so much as the use each author makes of them. A Stevenson
works with combustibles, but, as in the case of using the gasoline, he confines them, directs them with care and caution, always thinking of how he may use them in a way that will be of advantage to the boy. In the case of the modern "thriller" the author works with the same materials, but with no moral purpose, with no real intelligence. No effort is made to control these highly explosive elements. The result is that, as some boys read such books, their imaginations are literally "blown out," and they go into life as terribly crippled as though by some material
explosion they had lost a hand or foot. For not only will the boy be greatly handicapped in business, but the whole world of art in its every form almost is closed to him...
There is nothing on record that shows if Stratemeyer was bothered by this type of criticism. It is unlikely that he would have been, for this was only the flip side of the coin. The side that he was more familiar with said something quite the opposite, namely that Tom Swift and The Rover Boys were numbers one and two respectively, according to "The Winnetka Survey," which was taken for the American Library Association in 1914, by the head of the Winnetka (Illinois) public school system. In the Survey, nearly 40,000 pupils in thirty-four U.S. cities were asked about their reading preferences.14 It is rather obvious that Stratemeyer must have struck a chord in the
reading needs of juvenile America.
To keep at the top of his game, Stratemeyer continued to launch new series' as the need arose in order to gain even more of the juvenile market, which was constantly renewing itself with the birthrate. He kept track of trends and the interests of children in order to capitalize on any fads that may manifest themselves. It must have worked; by 1930, he and his syndicate had published over 700 books, with Tom Swift and The Bobbsey Twins being the most popular, of which sales on each had reached over 6,000,000 copies.15
Some time in 1926, Stratemeyer wrote to one of the authors in his stable that it had come to his attention
...that detective stories had become very popular in the world of adult fiction. He instanced the
works of S.S. Van Dine, which were selling in prodigious numbers...[i]t had recently occurred to him that the growing boys of America might welcome similar fare...[and] what he had in mind was a series of detective stories on the juvenile
level, involving two brothers of high-school age who would solve such mysteries as came their way. To lend credibility to their talents, they would be the sons of a professional private investigator, so big in his field that he had become
a sleuth of international fame. His name Fenton Hardy. His sons, Frank and Joe, would therefore be known as...The Hardy Boys[.]16
Having now defined the premise of the series, Stratemeyer now needed someone to write the words,
and for this, he pitched the idea at one of the authors who had been working on The Dave Fearless Series, a twenty-something former newspaper reporter for the Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, now living in northern Ontario. His name was Leslie McFarlane, and he would go on to write the majority of the first twenty-five books of the series.
Enter Leslie McFarlane (and a host of others),
AKA Franklin W. Dixon
There is not much else that can be said about Leslie McFarlane that he himself in his excellent autobiography,
Ghost of the Hardy Boys, or others have said already.
When McFarlane was given the writing assignment that would launch the new series, he already had been working on Dave Fearless for the Syndicate. While he attached no particular importance to this new assignment he looked at it simply as work there was some desire to elevate The Hardy Boys to a much higher level than he had previously done for Stratemeyer:
It seemed to me that the Hardy boys (sic) deserved something better than the slapdash treatment
Dave Fearless had been getting. It was still hack work, no doubt, but did the new series have to be all that hack? There was, after all, the chance to contribute a little style, occasional words of more than two syllables, maybe a little sensory stimuli.
Although this seems to not have come without some misgiving:
But why go to all this trouble? If The Tower Treasure was a little better written than the usual fifty-cent juvenile, who would get the credit? The nonexistent Franklin W. Dixon. If better writing and a little humor helped make the series a success, who would benefit financially? The Stratemeyer Syndicate and the publishers. The writer who brought the skeleton outline to life wouldn't get a penny even if the books sold a million which, of course, seemed impossible at the time. So what? I decided against the course of common sense. I opted for Quality.17
Despite the quality, it would be a long time before McFarlane would see the series as anything other than work, and only after being told by others of the importance of the series to many, would he see it as anything other than that. While he could only marvel about the commercial ramifications his words wrought, these views on The Hardy Boys
were always under protest because these assignments were only a minor part of his output, were not all that serious in tone, and were not even under his own name; there were other things he had done that he wanted to be remembered for, such as the short stories he had written that were published, his work with The National Film Board of Canada, where he spent fourteen years (he wrote the scripts for Herring Hunt, which was nominated for an Academy Award, and Royal Journey, winner of the British Film Academy Award for best documentary feature), or his heading of the drama script department of the CBC, where he spent three years. Nevertheless, it was for The Hardy Boys that Leslie McFarlane is best remembered, despite his often repeated wishes.
McFarlane was only the first in a long line of Franklin W. Dixons18; however, he was the most important one, because he was the first. Granted, he didn't "invent" The Hardy Boys Stratemeyer did but he did create them, by defining them, by fleshing them out; he didn't found the the city of Bayport and its environs, but he did build the area, populate it, and determine its flavour, its atmosphere. He took Stratemeyer's bare-boned outlines and breathed life into them with verbiage, embellishing them, so that they turned into something real, something memorable, so much so that they continue to live today in the minds of anyone fortunate enough to have read them.
McFarlane did more than that though; he set a standard against which all other Franklin W. Dixons would have to aspire to, and one with which they would all be measured against, as they still are. Those that worked on the "Lost Hardy" volumes in McFarlane's wake tried to capture his flavour, but were not all that successful in doing so; the reader can easily discern their product from his.19
The latter-day Dixons, charged with the revisionist policy of The Syndicate, have been decried as "Blasphemers of The Word" by Hardyphiles, and even those who worked on original product (from volume 39,
The Mystery of the Chinese Junk, published in 1960), were not nearly as expert in stringing together the words that comprised the
rich-sounding texture of the phraseology of those early texts. As an example, a man whom McFarlane had described in
The Missing Chums (1928) as "an unsavory looking fellow, unshaven, surly of expression...and bare-headed, revealing a scant thatch of carrroty hair so close-cropped that it seemed to stick out at all angles to his cranium," becomes, in the revised version of the
book (1962) simply, "a huge man with a bald head."
Not much is known about those other Franklin W. Dixons: the majority of them were involved with the series for one or two books only; they treated the assignments more like work than McFarlane did, preferring only to expand the Syndicate outline as much as necessary, before moving on to other things. None of them ever wrote about their experiences (it's quite possible that they took the "code of silence" very seriously), and so little is known about them. Obviously, none were as identifiable with the series as McFarlane was, and so they remain just a list of names, all but forgotten. Were it not for the records held by the Syndicate, we would not even know their names, and in some cases, perhaps they would prefer it that way, so dreadful was the product they put out.20
Regardless of who the Franklin W. Dixon was that authored a particular volume of the series, one thing is certain: they wrote in the temperament of their times. The books were, at the time they were published, current in every way, including technology, speech, lifestyle, and attitudes, not only toward those of foreign descent, but also toward the public perception of the police. While they were for that time, to borrow a modern term "cutting-edge," this would, unfortunately, by 1959, make them dated.
Collig, Riley, and Smuff, et al Bayport's Finest
In The Tower Treasure, we are introduced to Bayport's Police Chief:
They went at once to Chief Ezra Collig, head of the Bayport police force. He was a tall, husky man,
well known to Fenton Hardy and his two sons. The chief had often turned to the private detective for help in solving particularly difficult cases.21
In this short introduction, what can the reader discern in regard to the parties discussed? A large
degree of respect is highly noticable. Obviously, Frank and Joe Hardy respect Collig; they have arrived at his office in order to report the theft of a car belonging to their friend, Chet Morton. As well, there is a high degree of respect on Collig's part for the boys and their father, so much so that there has even been consultation on matters that have stymied the police.
It wasn't always that way, though. In the beginning things were very different...
Chief Ezra Collig, of the Bayport police force, was a burly, red-faced individual, much given to telling
long-winded stories. Usually, Collig was to be found reclining in a swivel chair in his office, with his feet on the desk,
reading the comic papers or polishing up his numerous badges, but this day something
had happened to shake him out of his customary calm.22
The original version mentions none of the respect that would be found in the same place thirty-two years later; in fact one gets the idea that respect is the last thing anyone (let alone the Hardys) would have for the Police Chief. But this is only the tip of the iceberg, and none of the other members of the force escape ridicule. At one point in the book, Fenton Hardy, working on a case that he has brought his sons in to help out with, must make a train trip to interview a dying man thought to be the person responsible for the theft of Herd Applegate's jewels and securities. The problem? A reward posted by Applegate has made the situation very competitive; the Bayport Police are also trying to solve the mystery, and they have heard rumour about the fact that the suspect is dying in hospital. To try to confirm the situation, Chief Collig pays a visit to Fenton Hardy:
"Detective Smuff and me was thinkin' of goin' over to the hospital where this
man Jackley is and givin' him the third degree about the Tower case."
Fenton Hardy's lips narrowed into a straight line.
"You can't do that. The doctor won't let you see him."
"We're going to try, anyway. There's a train at seven o'clock, and we aim to
have a talk with this fellow Jackley to-night."
Mr. Hardy shrugged his shoulders.
"Go ahead. It means nothing to me. But if you take my advice you'll stay away.
You'll just spoil everything. Jackley will talk when the time comes."
"Oh. ho!" said Detective Smuff triumphantly. "Then there is something to it,
"I knew there was," said Chief Collig. "Come on Smuff. We'll make this man
Jackley talk yet. We're officers of the law, we are, and I'd like to see any doctor
keep us from doin' our duty."
He mopped his brow again, put on his hat, nodded to Fenton Hardy, and clumped
out of the room. Detective Smuff, putting his notebook into his pocket, followed. The
door closed behind them.
Mr. Hardy sat back with a gesture of despair.
"They'll spoil everything," he said. "They're just so clumsy that Red Jackley will
close up like a clam if they try to make him talk."
"Perhaps," remarked Frank significantly, "they'll miss their train."23
To ensure that they do miss their train, the boys and their friends concoct an elaborate bomb threat. They bring it to the attention of the police by confronting them with a ticking box, which they have planted at Rocco's fruit stand:24
"You say it goes 'tick-tock'?"
"Just lika da clock."
"Must be a bomb, all right," said Smuff. "They run by clockwork."
"Might go off any minute," observed the chief. "I hate to go near it. Smuff, you
go and pour a pail of water over it."
"Yes, you. You're not afraid, are you?"
"No I'm not afraid," muttered Smuff, mopping his brow. "But I got to think of
my wife and family."
"Coward!" said the chief. "I'd do it myself, only it wouldn't be right, seein' I'm
your superior officer. Bad for discipline."
The worthy officers stared at the package on the fruit stand counter, while Rocco
danced with impatience. Neither Collig nor Smuff dared approach closer, but they
realized something must be done.
"Where's Riley?" asked the chief at last.
"Out on his beat, around the corner."
Smuff departed hastily, glad of the chance to get away from the vicinity of the
bomb. He was some time in locating Con Riley, and when at last that minion of the
law was escorted back to the chief, seven o'clock had come and gone. So had the
"Riley!" ordered the chief, "see that package on the counter of the fruit stand. Go
and get it and pour a pail of water over it."
"Huh?" exclaimed Riley, gaping.
"Pour a pail of water over it."
Riley took off his helmet and scratched his head. He began to wonder if his chief's
brain had been affected by the heat.
"Don't stand there staring at me!" snapped Collig. "Hurry up and obey orders."
"This is the meanest job I ever got," observed Con Riley. But he ambled across
the street, wondering why a crowd of people had collected'for word had quickly
spread that a bomb had been found under Rocco's fruit stand and when he reached
the package he inspected it wonderingly.
"Mebbe she blowa him all to da bits!" suggested Rocco fearfully.
"He has insurance," consoled the chief.
"We'll give him a good funeral," observed Smuff.25
There seems to be little reason to be in awe of any of the members of the Bayport Police; in fact, their conduct seems similar to anything ever thought up by Mack Sennett as a plot for his Keystone Kops. Collig is portrayed as officious and bullying, and is little more than a martinet; he is hardly the model of a Police Chief. Detective Smuff, as well as Collig, is cowardly and deceitful. There is little wonder that such a vicious rivalry exists, which is so intense that the boys would break the law in order to prevent police progress in regard to the investigation.
Although they are hardly models of good citizenship and co-operation with the authorities, the standard is much higher for public officials in any event, and Collig and Smuff fail miserably this high standard.
Another incidence of this can be seen in The House on the Cliff, when the boys debate visiting the Chief's office, regarding the sudden disappearance of their father, whom they feel has been kidnapped while investigating a house that was previously abandoned. It is suddenly found by them to be occupied, and while there to look for him, Frank notices his father's cap in the kitchen. It bears ominous bloodstains, and he gains possession of it:
"We ought to turn it over to Chief Collig," suggested Phil.
The boys looked at one another doubtfully. Chief of Police Collig was a fat, pompous
official who had never been blessed by a super-abundance of brains. His chief satellite
and aide-de-camp was Oscar Smuff, a detective of the Bayport police force. As Chet was
fond of remarking, "if you put both their brains together, you'd have enough for a half-wit."
"I don't think it would do much good," said Frank. "But it wouldn't do any harm either.
Collig might be able to throw a scare into [the occupants], anyway, if he went up to that
house and began asking questions."
The boys, therefore, trooped down to the police station and, after stating their business to
the desk sergeant, were admitted to the chief's private office. They found Chief Collig and Detective Smuff deep in a game of checkers.
"It's your move, Smuff," said the chief. "What is it, boys?" he demanded, looking up.
Frank, producing the bloodstained cap, explained how and where it had been found. Smuff,
in the meantime, scratched his head diligently for a while, then captured one of his opponent's
Chief Collig grunted, whether in disappointment at the loss of his king or in acknowledg-
ment of the information about the cap, the boys could not say.
"So it's Fenton Hardy's cap, eh?" asked the chief.
"It's his, all right."
"And what do you think has happened to him?"
"We don't know. That's what we want you to help find out. But, by the look of this cap,
we're afraid there's been foul play."
"Just a minute, Smuff, just a minute." The chief contemplated the checkerboard for a few
minutes, then made a move. He settled back in his chair. "Now try and beat that!" he said,
and looked up at the boys again. "What do you want me to do?" he inquired.
"Help us find him."
The chief regarded them benevolently.
"Mebbe he'll show up in a day or so."
When Collig shows signs of outright refusal to investigate, blackmail has to be resorted to in order to secure his compliance:
"Of course, chief," said Frank smoothly, "if you're afraid to go up to the Polucca place
just because it's supposed to be haunted, don't bother. We can tell the newspapers that we
believe our father has met with foul play and that you won't bother to look into the matter,
but don't let us disturb you at all "
"What's that about the newspapers?" demanded the chief, getting up from his chair so
suddenly that he upset the checkerboard over Smuff's lap. "Don't let this get into the papers."
The chief was constantly afraid of publicity unless it was of the most favorable nature.
"The taxpayers mightn't like it," suggested Joe. "They pay you to enforce the law and if
they know you're afraid to go up to the Polucca place "
"Now, now," said the chief nervously. "Who said anythin' about being afraid of the
Polucca place? Can't you take a joke? Of course I'll go up and investigate this at least I'll
send Smuff up "
"Who, me?" demanded Smuff, in alarm.
"Smuff and me, we'll go up together."
"I'm doggone sure I won't go up alone," declared Smuff.
"Well, as long as we're sure you'll investigate, we won't say anything to the newspapers,"
said Frank, and Chief Collig breathed a sigh of relief.
"That's fine. That's fine," he said. "Smuff and me, we'll go up there first thing to-morrow
morning and if we find out anything we'll let you know."26
In the matter of Con Riley, a whole chapter in The Secret of the Old Mill27 is devoted to a prank played on him by Chet Morton. It opens with Riley a happy man:
Officer Con Riley was at peace with the world.
His heart was full of contentment and his stomach was full of pie. The sun was shining
and one of the aldermen had just given him a fairly good cigar. His beat had been free of
crime for a week. His wife had gone to the country for a visit and she had taken the children
with her. Hence, Con Riley's feeling of deep and lasting satisfaction with the world.
But this frame of mind changes when he notices Frank and Joe Hardy:
He spied the Hardy boys with their companions, and his frown deepened. Too smart,
altogether, those Hardy lads. They weren't mischievous, he had to admit that, but they were
meddling in the work of the police a little too much. Already they had been credited with
solving a couple of mysteries that he, Con Riley, would certainly have solved alone if he had
been given a little more time.
Despite this sudden surge of enmity, Riley talks to the Hardys and Chet, in a conversation in which Chet pulls out all the stops in flattering Riley, constantly referring to him as "lieutenant" instead of "officer," before ascertaining that Riley will be around the general area for the next ten minutes or so, and then asking him if he would take care of a package a gentleman by the name of Muggins is going to be around to pick up. By this time, Riley has revised his opinion of the boys, and sees them in totally the opposite light. Of course, Chet has lured him into a false sense of security and set him up for one of his practical jokes:
The late afternoon was warm and as Con Riley leaned against the post and indulged
in these pleasant meditations, permitting himself to speculate on what the boys had said
about his fitness for promotion, allowing himself to remember how pleasant it had sounded
to hear Chet refer to him as "Lieutenant," he became a bit drowsy. He was naturally a
sleepy man, and he had long since schooled himself in the art of appearing to be wide awake
while on duty while indulging in covert naps of a few minute's duration. The hurrying
crowds of people behind him, because it was the five o'clock rush hour, gradually became
a blurred impression of tramping feet and chattering voices.
Suddenly the shrill jangle of an alarm clock sounded.
Not knowing what else to do, Riley flees the scene for the relative security of the Bayport police station, but not before being chided by several people who have witnessed the scene. In addition, his progress to the office becomes a "triumphal procession," in which:
the crowd of small boys following him swelled to the proportions of a parade. The bell
rang on. Con Riley was the center of interest. He did not know what to do. If he threw
away the package now it would be an admission that he had been the victim ofa practical
joke; the longer he kept the package the more the crowd laughed and the louder the bell
seemed to ring.
Why is it, one must ask at this juncture, did McFarlane treat the members of the Bayport police in such a hostile manner? Despite the competition that exists between Fenton Hardy and sons and the Bayport police in solving mysteries, should they not, as good citizens, if not outrightly respect, at least be civil to them? They are, after all, the police. And why is it that none of the other police who appear in these first three volumes are subjected to the same type of criticism and ridicule that Collig and crew are? The differences are readily apparent in this description of the three State Troopers and two Secret Service men that the Hardys accompany on a raid on the hideout of a counterfeiting ring:
They clambered into the automobile. The other men were broad-shouldered, keen-eyed
fellows with determined faces. The moonlight glinted on rifle barrels and revolvers.28
It would seem that to McFarlane (and the Hardys) that State Troopers and Feds are men cut of much different cloth, and the reason for this is clear when one thinks of the timeframe in which these books were written. The main clue as to how the public perceives the police comes in The Missing Chums, when Fenton Hardy makes the observation that "In any case, Chicago is a thieves' paradise, so it seems logical that Baldy Turk would make for there."29 And in those years, Chicago was indeed a "thieves' paradise", for at this time, this was the Chicago of gangsters like Al Capone and Dion O'Bannion, the city that was the centre of bootlegging operations during the time of Prohibiton, the city of crooked cops, and crime running rampant, the city of the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. It wasn't for nothing that the Thompson submachine gun was known in underworld parlance as
a "Chicago typewriter" for the staccato sound it made when the trigger was pulled. Municipal police forces were seen as corrupt and crooked, and in many cases, they were, especially in small towns where they could be a law unto themselves30. State police and Federal officers, on the other hand, had to report to their superiors, and as a result they were expected to behave beyond reproach, and so were seen by the general public as more honourable.
The same situation was true with regard to "foreign" (i.e., non-American) police officers, as is evidenced in the following excerpt:
...Returning to their room, they held a further conference and decided that for their kind
of errand, the wisest move would be to call on the Canadian Mounted Police (sic) for
assistance. Accordingly, they rode some miles out of town to the nearby headquarters.
"Good morning, boys," said an officer at a desk. "Can I help you? I'm Sergeant John-
In a jiffy, the boys had introduced themselves and told their story, adding that although
they were not certain of their suspicions, they had reason to believe their father was being
held prisoner at the camp. At mention of Fenton Hardy's name, the officer looked at them
"Fenton Hardy, the American detective?" he queried. "You say he's your father?"
"He is," Frank replied. "And we're positive that he's in trouble, Officer!"
The sergeant's face hardened. "We all know about Fenton Hardy up here," he said
crisply. "If he's in trouble around these parts you can be sure he won't be for long!
The Bayport lads were thrilled at the prospect of riding with a Canadian Mounted Police
Officer, although Joe was inclined to be apologetic lest their search turn out to be a wild
"Never mind about that, Joe," consoled the friendly sergeant. "Twin Spruce was closed
down four years ago, and nobody's supposed to be there, whether your suspicions are correct
They flew on at a gallop with the officer in the lead riding a shiny black stallion...31
As well, there is evidence that the whole situation vis-a-vis the Bayport police were the results of a misunderstanding by McFarlane of what Stratemeyer was looking for in the outlines he furnished; this became apparent when the outline of The Missing Chums (volume four) was accompanied by a letter from Stratemeyer himself:
Stratemeyer felt that the volumes already written suggested a grievous lack of respect for
officers of the law! He regretted that I seemed to regard Messrs. Collig, Smuff and Riley
as figures of fun. He did not think this was wise. The effect on growing boys must be con-
sidered. In future volumes it would be well to treat the Bayport constabulary with the respect
to which they were entitled.
I couldn't believe it. There was something wrong with this drastic change of attitude.
Why, for example, had Stratemeyer bestowed the name of Smuff on that defective detective
in the first place if he wanted the fellow to be held in respect? How could any lad with a
scrap of intelligence stand in awe of a cop called Smuff?
And why, if Stratemeyer felt so strongly about the matter, hadn't he done a little editing
on the scripts? The cops were already on the printed record as being bumbling imbeciles.
Five minutes with a blue pencil could have sanctified them, made them grave enforcers of
the law, devoted to their trade...32
Faced with this editorial criticism, McFarlane had to ensure that he made the changes that Stratemeyer desired. Stratemeyer was, after all, the boss; the characters, outlines, and finished product belonged to him. As a result,
Chief Collig suddenly became the sagacious head of an efficient police department. Detective
Smuff miraculously acquired wisdom in spite of his name. Constable Riley was strangely
transformed into a lovable cop on the beat and a friend to all.33
And so it was that the Bayport police henceforward became trusted friends of Fenton Hardy and his sons, there not only to protect, but to serve.
The Criminal Element
Out of the 38 books in the original canon, the majority have to do with the commission of various crimes34, the solving of which are done by the Hardys. These crimes include theft of both personal property (jewelery and
securities in The Tower Treasure, automobiles in The Shore Road Mystery, truck hijackings in The Clue of the Broken Blade, construction materials in The Flickering Torch Mystery, radio parts in The Short-Wave Mystery, train robbery in The Secret of Wildcat Swamp) and public property (mail in The Great Airport Mystery, bank robbery in The Disappearing Floor, water from Bayport's resevoir in The Secret of Skull Mountain, a plot to steal a national treasure from the government of Guatemala in The Clue in the Embers). As well, there are crimes against society, such as smuggling (drugs in The House on the Cliff, jewels in What Happened at Midnight, illegal Chinese aliens in Footprints Under the Window, various items including furs and jewels in The Twisted Claw, historic original documents in The Phantom Freighter, gunrunning in The Wailing Siren Mystery, illegal Indian aliens in The Hooded Hawk Mystery), counterfeiting (currency in The Secret of the Old Mill, rare coins in The Melted Coins), and national security issues, including espionage (the manufacture of "inventions of warfare" in The Sinister Sign Post, a spy training school in The Mystery of the Flying Express, sabotage in The Crisscross Shadow, a plot to build an atomic weapon in The Ghost at Skeleton Rock, and a plot to seal a lost US moon rocket in The Mystery at Devil's Paw). Crimes against persons appear at an alarming rate: there are kidnappings (Chet and Biff in The Missing Chums, Joe in What Happened at Midnight, Fenton Hardy in The House on the Cliff and The Twisted Claw, a nurse and her young charge, the heir to a fortune in The Secret Panel), a wave of muggings, both on land (The Sign of the Crooked Arrow) and on a river (While the Clock Ticked), confidence schemes (fake eye surgeons in A Figure in Hiding, and numerous threats against the boys, their friends, or their family in nearly every book in the "cliffhanger" chapter endings.
Nobody ever gets murdered. There are times when characters are beaten up, shot at, set adrift in rowboats, taken prisoner, are bound and gagged, deprived of food, drugged, almost drowned, or in general, not treated very nicely, but there is never a fatality as a result of these actions, although, supposedly any of these could be seen as attempted murder. The only time murder is ever mentioned in the original canon is very early on in the series (in volume two, The House on the Cliff), and then only in the past tense (although in great detail for a book of this type), in relation to the history of an abandoned dwelling:
The lane leading into the Polucca grounds, never kept in good repair during the owner's
lifetime, was now almost indiscernible and was overgrown with weeds and bushes. The
house itself was hidden from the roadway by trees. Most people gave the place a wide
berth, whether they believed in ghosts or not, for the stories that had been told of the ram-
bling stone building since the murder of Felix Polucca two years before were sufficient to
indicate that there had been strange happenings in the old house. Whether or not they were
of supernatural origin was a matter of debate.
The murder of Felix Polucca had been particularly brutal. He was an old Italian, sus-
pected, as Frank said, of being a miser. He was very eccentric in his ways and most people
considered that he was not quite sound mentally.
Be that as it may, Bayport was shocked one morning to learn that the old man had been
found dead in the kitchen of his house, his body riddled with bullets. The motive, apparently,
was robbery, for although it was popularly believed that the old man possessed a great deal
of money that he kept with him in the house, it was never found, in spite of the most diligent
There are times when the boys themselves run afoul of the law and are suspected of doing wrong, such as in The Hidden Harbor Mystery, when they and Chet are arrested for the theft of $6000 from Mr. Blackstone, an elderly gentleman they have met on board a coastliner. The ship, before long, encounters a violent storm, and runs aground on a reef, and during the ensuing confusion while it sinks, Blackstone is found by them unconscious. Frank jumps overboard with the injured man and manages to get him to shore. While Blackstone is recuperating in a hospital, he realizes that his money is missing, assumes it was the boys that robbed him, and has them arrested, and charged with robbery. Later on in the same book, they almost meet their end at the hands of a lynch mob. In the latter situation, the mistake regarding identity that was made is pointed out to the hostile crowd; in the former, the real thief is found before the book ends, which puts "paid" to what was, in the absence of witnesses, purely circumstantial evidence. Another incident regarding circumstantial evidence occurs thusly:
The airport building was thronged with passengers. Frank and Joe headed across the
floor toward the telephone booths. As they skirted the magazine stand, the boys noticed
a man seated alone in a corner. Olive-skinned, with long shiny black hair, he looked to
the Hardys like a Latin-American. He slouched on the bench, chin in hand, listening to
music which apparently issued fron a small portable radio on his lap.
Joe grinned at the catchy words and music. "Boy, I go for that stuff," he confided to
his brother, snapping his fingers in rhythm.
"What stuff?" said Frank.
Joe's reply seemed to electrify the man on the bench. Jumping to his feet, he darted
toward the boy and hissed in his ear, "Where are your gloves, you fool? Want to leave
Joe blinked and stared. But the man's next move was even more astounding. He pulled
a pair of gloves out of his pocket and stuffed them into Joe's hand!
The boy was taken completely by surprise, but his detective instinct warned him not to
betray this. The stranger watched him closely, apparently waiting to see how the boy
Joe swallowed hard and looked at the gloves. They were made of grey fabric with a
small label sewn to the hem of one, saying Made in Cuba. Acting on a sudden hunch, Joe
pulled them on.
The move seemed to please the stranger, who gave a tight smile and muttered, "Ah,
bueno!" Then he produced a small key and slipped it into Joes gloved hand, adding, "You
have been instructed!"
They then deliberate about what to do. Deciding not to follow the stranger and realizing that Joe has apparently inadvertently given some kind of password, they turn their attention to the key that he has been given, and come to the conclusion that it may fit one of the wall lockers in the terminal. They find the locker that corresponds to the number on the key and decide to see if it will work:
...Then [Joe] inserted the key into the lock. It fitted!
He turned the key and the door swung open. Hearts pounding, the boys peered inside the
locker, the boys peered inside the locker. It contained a small, black-leather zippered case of
the type used by business executives and salesmen.
Joe reached in and pulled out the case. The next instant, both boys jumped in alarm as a
voice behind them barked:
"You're under arrest!"
As the Hardys whirled around from the airport lockers, they saw a dark-haired, hard-jawed
man of medium build eying them coldly.
"Caught you right in the act, eh?" he rasped. Flipping open his coat, he flashed a detective's
"What do you mean 'right in the act'?" countered Frank evenly. "We have a perfect right
to be here."
"Then why the gloves on a warm day like this? Trying to conceal your fingerprints?"
"Of course not," said Joe, taking off the gloves, but giving no further explanation.
Their further evasiveness on the subject leads to the airport detective taking them to police headquarters. Out in the parking lot, while Frank distracts the detective, Joe looks in the case to find that it contains a new wonder drug that has just come out. Suddenly, they are waylaid by three men in the parking lot, and there is a scuffle, during which the detective seizes the case and runs away. It turns out that he was a phony, as was their "arrest."36
There are also times when the boys knowingly subvert justice, although this happens seldom, such as in the case of "The Great Fruit Stand Bomb Hoax"37
(supra) in The Tower Treasure. . As well, they are guilty of trespassing numerous times in their search for clues.
By and large, the criminals encountered in the original canons are a tough bunch, and are usually white. Occasionally, though, some are foreigners. It is probably in regard to those individuals (criminals and others) that appeared who were non-White, non-Anglo, and non-American that the "Lost Hardys'" doom would be sealed.
Foreigners are Funny, Sometimes Evil, And Usually "Swarthy"
"Foreigners" show up with increasing frequency in the original canon. They are in evidence for various reasons, from providing comic relief to playing the villain. Usually, foreign nationals are little more than charicatures or stereotypes, and exaggerated ones at that; they have strange customs, and all speak in broken or pidgin English. Americans from recognized minority groups show up as well, and are accorded no different treatment.
The Sinister Sign Post introduces one such character in the following way where Frank is watching the Bayport High team play football:
"Please," said a gutteral voice at Frank's elbow, "vould you be so good as to oxplain dis game to me? I do not onnerstand."
Frank looked up. A swarthy, well-dressed stranger was raising his hat politely...
The lad tried to explain the game to the man, but the foreigner, who introduced himself as a Mr. Vilnoff, and who said he was living near Bayport became more and more muddled.38
Vilnoff, as it would turn out, is apparently a German (at one point he exclaims "Ach!") who is manufacturing illegal munitions in the US, and is the head of a group of foreign nationals who wish to use these "inventions of warfare" against the American government, presumably in terrorist activities. The copyright date of the book (1936) would seem to suggest that Franklin W. Dixon was warning (at least the juvenile American public) that the Hitler regime in Germany might be the cause of some aggrevation to Americans before long.
The Twisted Claw uses eastern Canada as a setting; it is to there that Fenton Hardy has been kidnapped and held prisoner at an abandoned lumber camp, but the boys don't realize this until they meet the following character:
As they approached, sounds of music and the thump of dancing feet mingled with the
shouts and laughter of merry-making dockhands and sailors.
"Well, let's go in and see what happens," Frank suggested dubiously.
No sooner had the brothers entered the reeking atmosphere of the place than a lean,
swarthy man with a hooked nose sidled up to them.
"You air ze Hardy boys?" he asked hoarsely.
"Yes, we are," replied Frank with a queer feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Are you
the gentleman who called us?"
"The stranger's face was expressionless. "Geev Pierre ze briefcase. I work for your
Frank hesitated an instant, then handed over the case without saying a word. A faint
smile played over the man's thin lips. "Tank you. Goo'bye." He stalked off into the
crowded room adjoining.39
Italians were dealt with in the first book of the canon, The Tower Treasure, both in the person of the Hardys' friend, Tony Prito, and in that of Rocco, who owns a fruit stand in downtown Bayport:
Not far from the Bayport police station was a fruit stand over which presided an Italian
by the name of Rocco. He was a simple, genial soul, who believed almost everything he
heard and, like most of his countrymen, he was of an excitable nature. Toward Rocco's
fruit stand the boys made their way. Rocco was sorting over his oranges when they ap-
proached. Tony, with the box under his arm, hung in the background, while Chet stepped
"How much are your oranges, Rocco?" he asked.
Rocco, with much explanatory waving of arms, recited the prices of the various grades
"Too much. There's a fellow at another fruit stand on the next street sells them a nickel
a dozen cheaper.
"He no can do!" shrieked Rocco. "My price is da low." ...
"You'll have the Black Hand after you if you keep on charging such high prices, that's
all I can say!" declared Chet, as the boys moved away.
"Poof! W'at do I care for da Blacka Hand. No frighten me!" said Rocco bravely, but
he gulped when he said it and there was no doubt that the shot had gone home.40
As well, there are encounters with individuals from the Middle East. The following incident occurs
outside the tent of a fortune teller who is doing business on the edge of Bayport:
Frank parked the convertible under a tree and the brothers walked toward the tent. As
they were about to enter, a man, at least six and a half feet tall, and with an extremely large
head, loomed up in front of them, barring the way.
His swarthy, hook-nosed face gave the men a menacing air. But what gave both the
boys a jolt were his clothes. He wore baggy trousers, oriental slippers with pointed, curled-
up toes, and a purple turban!
"What is it you wish?" he demanded in a deep, harsh voice.
"We've come to have our fortunes told," Joe said evenly.
"I do not tell fortunes, I am only Abdul, a helper," the man grunted. "You wait outside.
I will go see if The Great Hugo will receive you."41
Mexicans, it would seem, were never subjected to such treatment for some reason; perhaps this had to do with the fact that the writer was just simply not good at writing in accent, but for whatever reason, none of the Mexicans in The Mark on the Door speak anything like Pancho (the Cisco Kid's sidekick) or Cheech Marin:
The man was Pedro Vincenzo. He stood grinning unpleasantly at them, a smirk of triumph
on his swarthy face.
Joe sat up and rubbed his eyes. When he recognized Vincenzo, he became fully awake.
"Just the man we wanted to see."
The Mexican looked about the cave.
"Not very luxurious," he said. "But a hard bed and plenty of fresh air will hurt no one."
Then his manner changed. "Well, you brats!" he snarled, "I hope this will teach you to think
twice before you try to interfere with me."42
The same situation is found to be true with regard to other Latin Americans as well:
Frank smiled, then said to the man, "Now tell your story."
"You are right," the stranger began slowly. "I am Luis Valez from Guatemala. But please,
do not arrest by brother Eduardo. He knows nothing of what I do."43
Despite this reasonable manner of dealing with Mexicans, African-Americans didn't fare nearly as well; in fact, they and Chinese characters are by far the most stereotypically-treated racial groups. Assumably, this had to do with skin colour, more than anything else, because these two groups are so obviously not white. The first time black characters are evident in the series is in The Hidden Harbor Mystery, which takes place in the American south and treats these characters in the finest Minstrel show tradition:
The conductor came through the car presently and took up the tickets. As he punched the
one handed him by the negro he said quietly:
"It's against the rules to put your feet on the seat."
"What rules?" demanded the passenger in an insolent tone.
"The rules of the company."
"Ain't nobody sittin' in that seat," came the retort
"That doesn't matter," answered the conductor, restraining his temper with difficulty. "I'm
just asking you to obey the rules."
"Fool rules!" grunted the negro disdainfully.
Nevertheless, he removed his feet, but as soon as the conductor had disappeared, he put
them onto the seat again.
"Luke Jones don't stand for no nonsense from white folks!" he said audibly. "Ah puts mah
shoes where Ah please."
Despite all this bravado, he hastily restored his feet to their proper place on the floor when-
ever the conductor came through the car.44
Luke Jones, it would appear, was what my generation in its parlance would have referred to as a "real
bad dude" and even dressed the part:
The more he saw of Luke Jones the more he disliked the fellow, who was dressed in a
suit of extreme collegiate cut, and wore a pink shirt with a violet necktie. A diamond ring
twinkled on his finger, and his patent leather shoes shone.
"Yo' white boys bettah get away from heah, Ah's warnin' yo' " he said. "You'll git
into plenty ob trouble hangin' 'roun' de Blackstone place. Ah knows who yo' is. Ah
knows lots mo' dan yo' thinks Ah does, but Ah'm not tellin' nuthin'."45
This cross between Superfly and Jim Croce's Bad, Bad Leroy Brown that Luke Jones is seems to be inflamatory enough, but descriptions of blacks get even worse in The Hidden Harbor Mystery; witness this description of a race meeting, later in the book:
"Shh! They're coming! Look."
Chet and Joe peered out from among the branches and saw a strange procession coming
down the slope toward the old boathouse. There were about a dozen young men and boys
in all, and the wan moonlight revealed that the newcomers were colored youths. At their
head marched a familiar, swaggering figure, none other than Luke Jones from the Black-
stone estate. When the gang was within a few yards of the big tree the members halted in
its shadow and formed a ring around their leader.
"Membahs ob dis secret society!" he orated. "We is gathered heah tonight to initiate a
new person into our club."
"Heah Ah is, Luke," cried a big Negro, shuffling forward. He was a huge, broad-shouldered, bullet-headed youth, very dark, and rather stupid looking.46
The Hidden Harbor Mystery aside, blacks would show up in successive volumes of the canon, but never again would they be so vividly described. As well, they would never again show up as villains, but merely as miscellaneous characters, working for a living:
A big box truck just then lumbered down the road and drew to a stop abreast of them.
A colored man in the driver's seat leaned out.
"Kin you gemmen tell me which is de right way to Spurtown?" he drawled.47
And even in more "traditional" jobs as can be seen:
At length, tired by the day's activities, the brothers turned in and slept soundly until the
porter called them at seven the next morning.
"St. Johns, Massa!" he rapped, coming in with a tray of breakfast. "Yo' all got half an
hour befo' its time to get off."48
The Chinese were as badly portrayed as the blacks; observe this discription of a known opium smuggler
from The House on the Cliff:
The capture of Li Chang was without incident. When he was told that Snackley and
the gang were captured, the Chinaman, who was a small wizened little fellow with a villainous countenance,
blandly submitted to arrest and consented to be taken ashore...49
The twelfth volume of the series, Footprints Under the Window is to the Chinese as The Hidden Harbor Mystery was to blacks: bad stereotypes abound along with several characters who speak in the "No tickee, no shirtee" manner as burlesqued by Chet in this passage:
...Both boys had completely forgotten to send their shirts out to the laundry, as well as
the other things.
"We'll take them down to Sam Lee," decided Joe. "He's the best Chinese laundryman
in town. If we tell him the fix we're in he'll have them all ready by tomorrow."
They gathered up the linen and stuffed it into the bag. While they were bringing it down
stairs the front
door opened. Chet Morton, fat, tousle-headed and beaming, stepped into the
hall. When Chet spied the laundry bag he chirped:
"Washee? Washee? Any colla's today?"50
However, it is at the laundry that they encounter the real thing. At first things things
seem to be all right, but this changes in short order:
...The name of Sam Lee was still inscribed upon the signboard that hung above the door,
but when the boys stepped inside they were aware of a changed atmosphere.
Ordinarily Sam Lee would come hurrying forward to serve them, quiet, friendly, and
smiling. There would be much joking and high-pitched chatter among Sam Lee's helpers
beyond the partition at the back. But now no one came. There was no activity whatsoever
in the laundry.
"Maybe it's a holiday," whispered Joe.
Frank was just about to rap on the counter when he heard a voice. It was that of a China-
man, deep and diabolical. It sent a chill through him.
"He nearly die," said the voice slowly. "Boat velly hot."
"Too young. Him lucky to live," interjected another voice, sharp and quick.
"No good. Catchee much tlouble sometime. No likee," returned the first man.
"All right. All right," growled a third man. He was obviously white, which explained
the fact that his Chinese companions spoke in pidgin English. "It won't happen again. No
There was a sharp exclamation in Chinese, then a silence. A swift pattering of slippers
on the floor heralded the approach from beyond the counter of the most villainous-looking
Oriental the boys had ever seen. He had a long, lean face with high cheekbones. His head
was pointed and almost bald, while a cruel mouth was partly concealed by a drooping wisp
of mustache (sic). His eyes were as cold and glittering as those of a snake.
"Why you listen?"
"Where's Sam Lee?" demanded Frank.
"Sam Lee gone. Far away. Back to China. Me Louie Fong. What you want? Why you
listen?" snarled the man.
"If that's the way you talk to customers you won't get much business," remarked Joe.
"We have some laundry here. We want it done by tomorrow."
"No can do," returned the Chinaman impatiently. He ripped a laundry check from a pad
on the counter. "Thlee'fo' day. Not befo'."
"All right," sighed Frank. "Here's the laundry."
Louie Fong seized the soiled linen, tossed Frank the check, and retreated.
"You go 'way now," he snapped. "No listen."
The boys went out into the street.51
The presence of such stereotypes would before long cause these versions of the books to lose favour, and starting in 1959, they would be rewritten; all of what would (later) appear to be derogatory and insulting would be removed,
thus safeguarding the minds of innocent youth. There were other reasons for the rewrites as well, as shall be seen.
In 1959, the Syndicate, under the leadership of Edward Stratemeyer's daughter, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, commenced a revision project on the first thirty-eight books of the series, replacing the older stories with newer ones. The main reasons tendered in order to explain this measure were to update obsolete prose and terms, such as in speech mannerisms
and technology (for example, Chet's "roadster" now became a "convertible"), and to remove all of the racial stereotypes.
In regard to the latter reason, it is interesting to note that from the time of The Clue of the Broken Blade
on (i.e., from 1941), that very few racial stereotypes actually exist at all; it is the twenty books before this that are the worst offenders on this count. The reason is obviously a simple one: the outbreak of World War II. Those Chinese stereotyped in Footprints Under the Window were now our allies, in fact they were our gallant allies, having been among the first to encounter the expansionist plans of Imperial Japan. The same was true of many other "foreigners": they were fighting on our side. This fact was so obvious that it couldn't be ignored. Why take the risk of offending anyone?
It would have, of course, been very easy during World War II to make the villains in new volumes of the series Germans, Japanese, or Italians, as was done in many popular Hollywood movies, but this was not done. If anything, Syndicate writers pulled back from using any racial stereotypes for the majority of characters that appeared in the various installments during the duration of the war. It seems that although the elimination of stereotypes would be a good reason to commission the rewrites, it is doubtful that this was the largest reason. If the Syndicate felt this strongly about the situation, why did some stereotypes continue in the post-war period?
As late as 1955, stereotypes were still appearing, but now only in regard to American Indians:
Tony was right. One bag was missing!
"And it's mine!" Tony moaned. "It had all of my clothes in it."
"Couldn't we return to the other [air] field?" Chet asked, but Frank pointed out that
they could never get back in time to catch the Central American flight.
Tony was grim. "What'll I do?" he asked woefully.
"You'll just have to dress like an Injun!" Joe laughed and folded his arms across his
chest Indian style. "You heap big chief of our tribe."52
And in this passage from the same volume, Frank displays what he knows about Indian spirituality after Tony has been mistaken by the local population as actually being an Indian after going ahead and dressing like one, the result of which is that they have "kidnapped" him:
"What's so wonderful about a shaman?" Chet questioned.
"He's a mixture of priest and poet," Frank replied. "What ever the shaman says goes.
He is supposed to see into the future. One ritual he performs is called "telling the mixes."
"What's that?" Chet asked eagerly.
"When a person plans to do something on a certain day," Frank explained, "and he
wants to be sure its the right time, he calls on a shaman. This man arranges some red beans
from a pita tree and...[t]hen he burns some stuff called copal, says his mumbo jumbo, and
announces to the man whether its the lucky day or not."53
Given that these passages are written only four years before the official rewriting program began, the question that begs to be answered is why do they even appear at all? Did the Syndicate suddenly get a consciousness of what was going on with this matter in 1959, and then suddenly decide to expunge all of the racial stereotypes? It matters not, really, because there is no documentation of when the idea first manifested itself.
Likely the biggest reason for the rewrites was as a cost-saving program. The majority of the early canon had books that ran for twenty-five chapters over an average of 214 pages. After the rewrites, the number of chapters had shrunk to twenty, the page count to 177. Obviously, it is much cheaper to produce a book with almost forty less pages. This is not to say that in some cases the verbiage in the books was outdated, it obviously was, and it did present a problem; however, this would seem to be a minor issue in comparison to the cost of production of the longer books. From the thirty-third volume, The Yellow Feather Mystery, to the thirty-eighth, The Mystery at Devil's Paw, the rewritten volumes are only slightly altered from the originals as far as the plot is concerned, but they are all thirty or so pages shorter. This could hardly be a matter of "updating" them (the standard excuse of the Syndicate), given the relatively short timeframe between the original publishing dates and the year the rewriting project went into effect. It would seem that it was all a matter of dollars and cents in regard to what motivated the rewrites, and if some obscure terms and stereotypes could be dispensed with in the shortening of the stories, that was a bonus, as far as the
Syndicate was concerned.
However, there is no reason to regard the earlier canon in a harsh light, or to create a tempest in a teapot over the presence of all that would be looked at today as being politically incorrect. To do so would be to cause a great disservice to these books. One fact must be faced: these books were created long ago yesterday in a world that is very different to our own, today. People were different, and so were their attitudes on many issues of day-to-day life. They were afraid of the unknown immigrants that were still filling up North America, thus launching popular misconceptions about many racial groups. This is largely attributable to ignorance, pure and simple; can we be so smug as to say today in our "enlightened" times that we now know everything? It is highly doubtful, and only the passage of time will prove this to us. However unsettling racial stereotypes are to us, it wasn't that long ago that we sat in our living rooms laughing at the wisdom of Archie Bunker on All In the Family, a television show that appeared consistently in the Neilson top ten.
If anything, these books document that long-ago time. They deserve not to be censured, but instead to be studied as a part of our social history, just as much as John Wayne westerns, or anything else that would be considered politically incorrect today. It is only through knowing who we were can we come to an answer of who we are now. Our lives are studded with various aspects of past pop cultures; those attitudes that we ourselves carried in the past
have influenced those attitudes that we carry today. If anything, it is to be admitted that these books are not haute couture, but they are pop culture.
As well, they do tell us about attitudes regarding the police and justice in the time when they were written, and as I have previously said, what they portray in this area is not always a pretty picture. But that is part of our history, too. As well, I would hazard a guess that it continues to play a small part in our present. An interesting project would be to poll our legal community of police officers, lawyers, and judges to find out how many of them had ever read a Hardy Boys book, and of those who admit to doing so, ask them if they have been, in any way, influenced by them. I'm sure that the results would be astounding.
It seems that Hardy fans are currently having the last word regarding the "Lost Hardys" canon. Applewood books, a reprint house, started to re-release the obsolete versions in 1991, sensing that there was still a market for them. The initial plans called for re-releasing the first three volumes (in an echo of Stratemeyer's quot;breeder" program) to check the waters. If the demand was in fact there, the next three would be re-released, and so on, three at a time. It is pleasing to report that Applewood is now looking at releasing reprints of volumes thirteen through fifteen. It seems that advocates of the original canon have made their voices heard.
On this note, it seems appropriate to end this overview of the canon, and give the last word to Leslie McFarlane, the man who really started it all:
"Literature these books were not but, by God, they were Moral! You could fault them on any grounds you liked, but never on turpitude!"54
And, objectively, isn't that the most important thing required in children's literature? I would think so.
1 For an extreme example, take the
experience of Alfred Hitchcock: "...when Hitchcock was five or
six, in punishment for some minor transgression...he was sent down to
the police station with a note. The officer in charge read it and then
locked him in a cell for five minutes, saying, 'This is what we do to
naughty boys.' The story is so convenient, accounting
as it does for Hitchcock's renowned fear of the police, the angst connected
with arrest and confinement in his films, that one might suspect it
of being in the ben trovato
category. And probably Hitchcock has told the story so often he is
not sure himself any more if it is true. But his sister insists that
it actually did happen." 'John Russell Taylor,
Hitch: The Authorised Biography of Alfred Hitchcock, Abacus,
London, 1978 at p.6.
2 And newer examples are to be found
in Mercer Mayer's Little Critter
series and in The Berenstain Bears
by Stan and Jan Berenstain.
3 Other series published by Grosset
& Dunlap included The Bobbsey Twins,
Tom Swift, The Ted Scott Flying Stories, Kay Tracey
(actually a cut-down lineup which originated in the '30s because of the
depression, and the following paper shortage situation during World
War II, of which the latter two did not survive into the following decade),
to which was added in the '50s and '60's,
The Chip Hilton Sports Stories, The Cherry Ames Series, Tom Swift,
Jr., The Rick Brant Adventure Stories, Bret King, Linda Craig, The Tollivers,
Christopher Cool, Teen Agent, and
Honey Bunch and Norman. All were Stratemeyer Syndicate properties.
4Dixon was also the author of
The Ted Scott Flying Stories.
5 Although the publisher of both series
since 1979 has been Wanderer/Minstrel for the new releases, G&D
still owns the publishing rights to the first 58 volumes of each; this
was per the decision reached in a court case that year.
6 This same situation does exist regarding
the Nancy Drew series.
7 Actually, until the late 1960s, it
was not uncommon to see the rewritten version side by side with the
original version on store shelves, as I recall. One could have their
pick of which to buy.
8 Some details exist however: see Stratemeyer's
entry in Contemporary Authors, his obituary in
The New York Times of May 11, 1930, and Bruce Watson's article,
"Tom Swift, Nancy Drew and Pals All Had the Same Dad,"
The Smithsonian, October 1991.
9 Watson, ibid.
10 New York Times obituary,
12 What's in a name? To Stratemeyer,
the hidden meaning behind Winfield was "winning the field"
or "winner in the field," which he considered himself to be
and why he settled on it as an author's name. Not all of the pseudonyms he thought
up were so symbolic, though.
13 The Outlook, 18 November 1914,
14 McFarlane, Leslie.
Ghost of the Hardy Boys. Toronto: Methuen/Two Continents, 1976,
15 Contemporary Authors, under
listing, "STRATEMEYER, Edward L."
Ghost of the Hardy Boys, p.64.
18 In fact, there seems to be some controversy
regarding the origin of the name Franklin W. Dixon. McFarlane says,
on p.62 of Ghost of the Hardy Boys: "[The Hardy Boys]
would be the title of the series. My pseudonym would be Franklin W.
Dixon. (I never did learn what the "W" represented. Certainly
not Wealthy.)," leading one to believe that the pen name was assigned
by the syndicate. According to Scott McFarlane (the great-nephew of
Leslie) who recently wrote on the topic in R.W.Finnan's
Hardy Boys website (which can be found at http://users.arczip.com/fwdixon/hb3.htm):
"You might be interested to know that the syndicate took full credit
for the name...[f]act is Les named himself after two of his brothers,
(Frank, my grandfather [Franklin], and Wilmot (also known as Dick)[both
the W. and the Dixon]. This is not mentioned in
Ghost." What Leslie does mention in
Ghost is the confirmation of these facts brought up by Scott.
At p.120-121, he recounts the bush fire of October 1922, which occurred
in the neighbourhood of his home town of Hailybury. At the time, working
as a reporter for The North Bay Nugget, he heard word that the
town had been destroyed, and McFarlane was frantic because his parents
and brothers still lived there. People were evacuated to North Bay,
and Leslie ran to the station to find out what news he could regarding
his family: "As the train came to a stop and weary people emerged
from the coaches, I caught a glimpse of my mother, than my small brother.
When my mother saw me, her familiar bright smile turned me inside out.
We hugged and kissed each other. 'How about Dad?
Frank? Dick?' 'They're safe. I saw them in Cobalt this morning.
They'll be down on the next train.' (emphasis added). It would seem, then, that there may
be some truth to what Scott McFarlane contends as being the case.
19 For the record, herewith is a list
of the ghostwriters that made up the "Lost Hardys" canon:
||The Tower Treasure
||The House on the Cliff
||The Secret of the Old Mill
||The Missing Chums
||Hunting for Hidden Gold
||The Shore Road Mystery
||The Secret of the Caves
||The Mystery of Cabin Island
||The Great Airport Mystery
||What Happened at Midnight
||While the Clock Ticked
||Footprints Under the Window
||The Mark on the Door
||The Hidden Harbor Mystery
||The Sinister Sign Post
||A Figure In Hiding
||The Secret Warning
||The Twisted Claw
||The Disappearing Floor
||The Mystery of the Flying
||The Clue of the Broken
||The Flickering Torch Mystery
||The Melted Coins
||The Short-Wave Mystery
||The Secret Panel
||The Phantom Freightor
||The Secret of Skull Mountain
||Geo. Waller, Jr.|
||The Sign of the Crooked
||The Secret of the Lost
||The Wailing Siren Mystery
||The Secret of Wildcat Swamp
||The Crisscross Shadow
||The Yellow Feather Mystery
||The Hooded Hawk Mystery
||The Clue in the Embers
||The Secret of Pirate's
||The Ghost of Skeleton Rock
||James Duncan Lawrence|
||The Mystery at Devil's
20As an example of this, I would cite
volume 19, The Disappearing Floor
(1940), authored (we are told) by John Button. This installment
always intrigued me because, to be quite honest, it does not make a
lot of sense. Robert W. Finnan, in the December 1997 edition of
The Bayport Times, the newsletter to his Hardy Boys webpage (supra)
can explain the problems with the plot far better than I, and says:
"[the book] is episodic and disjointed and seemingly written without
a care to continuity. It stumbles along and doesn't really get interesting
until the last third of the book, when it starts to get weird, almost
surreal. The Boys are constantly in motion, going here and there for
no apparent reason other than to fill up chapter space. Not one person
in the story displays one iota of common sense at any time. The Boys
are attacked when they return stolen bank loot, a police officer threatens
them with a drawn gun when The Boys, Callie [Shaw], and Aunt Gertrude
go to Callie's parents' summer cabin, The Boys are frozen solid and
set adrift in a row boat, Beeson saves The Boys from a tiger attack.
None of these events (along with many, many others) have the slightest
bearing on the plot (such as it is!). 'Who is Harry Tanwick?' Joe
doesn't know, and neither does the reader."
21 The Tower Treasure
22 The Tower Treasure
23 The Tower Treasure
24 Today, this kind of a stunt would be
seen clearly as obstruction of justice!
25 The Tower Treasure
26 The House on the Cliff
27 Chapter XIV, "Con Riley Guards
A Package," found at pp. 105-115.
28 The Secret of the Old Mill (1927),
29 The Missing Chums
30 Note the wide openness of St. Paul,
Minnesota in the mid '30s, a city where the authorities looked the other
way while criminals holed up there on the lam; among those who enjoyed
the "hospitality" of St. Paul were John Dillinger, Ma Barker
and her boys, Doc, Freddie, and her "adopted son," Alvin Karpis,
among others. Also note that it was in this period
that the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigtion rose to prominance under
J. Edgar Hoover.
31 The Twisted Claw
32 Ghost of the Hardy Boys,
33 Ghost of the Hardy Boys,
34 Those that are strictly mysteries are
The Secret of the Caves (in which the boys search for a missing
amnesiac), The Mystery of Cabin Island
(a lost stamp collection is looked for),
The Mark on the Door (a missing witness in an oil rights trial
is located), The Hidden Harbor Mystery
(the boys find themselves caught in the middle of a feud between two
Southern families, the Rands and the Blackstones),
The Secret Warning and The Secret of Pirates' Hill
both have to do with searching for sunken treasure, while
The Secret of the Lost Tunnel
has to do with one hidden in a cave,
The Yellow Feather Mystery (which entails the search for a lost
35 The House on the Cliff
36 The Ghost at Skeleton Rock,
37 As Leslie McFarlane liked to refer
to it. See Ghost (supra), p.69.
38 The Sinister Sign Post
39 The Twisted Claw
40 The Tower Treasure
41 The Ghost at Skeleton Rock
42 The Mark on the Door (1934),
43 The Clue in the Embers
44 The Hidden Harbor Mystery
45 Ibid. pp.140-41.
46 Ibid. pp.179-80.
47 The Sinister Sign Post
48 The Twisted Claw
49 The House on the Cliff
50 Footprints Under the Window
51 Footprints Under the Window
52 The Clue in the Embers
53 Ibid., p.178.
54 Ghost, (supra), p.178.