The Story of the Bobbsey Twins

Table of Contents

Introduction
The Family
Inconsistencies
Children Forever
Watching the Years go By
Bobbsey Book Revisions
Other Web Sites of Interest




Introduction

In the first place, there never was a "Laura Lee Hope." The Bobbsey Twins were created in 1904 by Edward Stratemeyer. One of dozens of juvenile series that Stratemeyer created and managed, the Bobbseys, along with Nancy Drew, The Hardy Boys, and Tom Swift are among the best known of childrens' book characters. Using the pseudonym "Laura Lee Hope," Legend says that Stratemeyer wrote the first three books himself, then hired ghost writers to write the remaining books, often from outlines he prepared. Newer information tells us that he probably only wrote the first book. Careful reading of the first three will suggest that, as the style in the first book is quite different from the others. (For more details on who really wrote each of the 72 books, see James Keeline's article on the subject.) On Stratemeyer's death in 1930, his daughter Harriet Stratemeyer Adams took over the Stratemeyer Syndicate.

The first series of books written/produced by Stratemeyer was The Rover Boys, written under the pseudonym of Arthur M. Winfield. There were 30 volumes, written between 1899 and 1926. The Bobbsey Twins series was next, and is the oldest "surviving" series, extending to 72 volumes,written between 1904 and 1979. Tom Swift,attributed to Victor Appleton, began in 1910 and there were 40 volumes before the series ended in 1941.(There was also a Tom Swift, Jr. series, by Victor Appleton II.) The Hardy Boys (Franklin W. Dixon, 85 volumes from 1927 to 1985) and Nancy Drew (Carolyn Keene, 78 volumes from 1930 to 1985) are the other best-known Stratemeyer books.

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The Family

The Bobbsey Twins live in the "eastern city" of Lakeport, which is clearly in the Northeast because it snows a lot there, at the head of Lake Metoka. Mr. Bobbsey is a prosperous lumber merchant. Mrs. Bobbsey is a housewife. Bert and Nan are the older twins, and Flossie and Freddie are the younger set.This explanation, in far greater detail, and with a reprise of the previous books (sometimes, in the early books of the series, it can go on for pages) is a standard feature of chapter 2 of any Bobbsey book. Never let it be said these were not formula novels!

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Inconsistencies

Those of us who have read the Bobbsey books in sequence to our children (are there any others out there besides me?), become almost painfully aware of the inconsistencies among the books, a reflection of both the number of authors and the time span over which the books were written. For example, Snoop the cat, introduced in the very first book, The Bobbsey Twins: Or Merry Days, Indoors and Out (copyright 1904) is a male, but he magically changes sexes from book to book, sometimes within a book. Danny Rugg (sometimes spelled Dannie Rugg), established in the first book as a prototypical bully and "bad boy," becomes, by the early 1920s, a playmate and only a bit character. Later in the series he re-emerges as a major character, an even worse bully, and for a large portion of the series is the Bobbseys' nemesis in every book. Some important items appear in one book, never to be seen again. In The Bobbsey Twins on Blueberry Island the twins have a goat andgoat cart. It never appears again. In The Bobbsey Twins in the Great West the plot hinges around Mrs. Bobbsey's inheritance of both a lumber tract and a ranch. They never appear again. Bert Bobbsey and his friend build an iceboat in The Bobbsey Twins in a Great City, and it is novel to them; yet Bert built an iceboat and sailed it much earlier in the series. Also in Great City the faithful dog, Snap, whom they have had for five books, has his name mysteriously changed to "Splash" in the last chapter. It is "Snap" again in all future books, except those where the author has forgotten his existence completely. On the other hand, some characters appear and seem to reappear and reappear, such as Aunt Sally Pry, who is a major player in some of the books in the late 1920s.

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Children Forever

One of the most fascinating things about the Bobbseys is that they never age. Bert and Nan, in the first book (1904) are about 8 years old and Freddie and Flossie are about 4. The first few books are written in "real time," which is to say that the action of one follows immediately after its predecessor. The Bobbsey Twins takes place during a school year, The Bobbsey Twins in the Country concerns the first half of the summer vacation, and that vacation concludes in The Bobbsey Twins at the Seashore. Their arrival home from vacation is desribed in the beginning of The Bobbsey Twins at School. During those books the Bobbsey twins aged normally. Stratemeyer must have realized that his twins were soon going to be too old for the books, for suddenly they stopped aging. Over the years Bert and Nan grew to be twelve and Flossie and Freddie became 6, but with all the years that went by, the family never grew older.

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Watching the Years go By

The century did grow older, however, and watching it change is one of the fascinations of reading these books. We watch the century change from the horse and buggy days of 1904 through the teens, the twenties, thirties, and up into the 1970s. Of course there is a Polyanna-ish cast to all these books. Two World Wars go by without comment. No one, least of all the Bobbseys, have any financial problems in the Great Depression. And, as my children remark, even when they are stranded all night in the woods in their car, no one ever needs to use the bathroom in a Bobbsey book!

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Bobbsey Book Revisions

The original edition of The Bobbsey Twins: Or, Merry Days, Indoors and Out, was published by Mershon in 1904 and that edition is a very rare find. The next two books were published by Chatterton-Peck. When Grosset and Dunlap acquired the publishing rights, they printed the first book as "copyright 1904, Mershon" and they printed the next two books as "copyright 1907" and "copyright 1907, Chatterton-Peck," respectively. Thereafter G&D published the books, usually at the rate of one per year, starting in 1912. As years went by, of course, copyrights needed to be renewed. In 1928 G&D "revised and enlarged" the original Bobbsey Twins book, but the text was not altered and it still reads like a turn-of-the-century book. Along the way, copyrights were renewed without visible alteration in the text. However, there were undocumented revisions in the 1940's. Finding them can be a matter of luck, and the collector must be aware. For instance, The Bobbsey Twins in A Great City was revised at its copyright renewal in the 1940s, as was The Bobbsey Twins at School and The Bobbsey Twins on a Houseboat. Others were renewed without change. These revisions go completely undocumented in the books. But, in 1950, G&D undertook what started to be wholesale revision of the texts, although that only extended to the first threebooks. They were completely rewritten and "modernized" and can be told from the originals by their primary copyright date of 1950 and by the words "revised edition" on the title page. The final revisions began in 1960 and in these the books were renamed. For example, the first book became The Bobbsey Twins of Lakeport. Because most of the original Bobbsey books depicted the twins solving mysteries, the 1960's revisions often incorporated the word "mystery" in the title. Below is a complete list of revisions:

Volume Year(s) Revised
1 1928, 1950, 1961
2 1950, 1961
3 1950, 1962
4 1941, 1962
5 1960
6 1955
7 1963
8 1960
9 1945, 1960
10 1959
11 1965
12 1963
13 1966
14 1967
15 1960
16 1955
17 1968
18 1968
19 1968
20 1971
24 1962
25 1960
Click here for a complete listing of all the "original" (i.e. Grosset and Dunlap) books, their year of publication, their revision history, and, when applicable, their new titles.

Mr. James Keeline, who is an authority on the Stratemeyer Syndicate, has kindly allowed me to reprint an essay he wrote on the authorship chain in the Bobbsey series. It is very interesting and is somewhat at odds with the "traditional" view that Edward Stratemeyer himself wrote the first three books and outlined many of the next ones. Please click here to go to that page.


Return to Main Bobbsey Page | Complete list of G&D Bobbseys

James Keeline on "Who really wrote the Bobbsey Books?


Other Web Sites of Interest:

Stratemeyer FAQs
Stratemeyer Syndicate
Dave Edwards' Series Book Sales Site
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Page Designed by Michael P. Weinstein
Last Revised 18 September 1999