Entertainment Literature

Celebrating 90 Years Of Nancy Drew

Before Pretty Little Liars and Riverdale, there was one mystery girl and her name was Nancy Drew. That’s right I’ve decided to do an entire article focused on the OG Girl Detective that pioneered the path for the other female detectives in pop culture today. But this just isn’t any type of Nancy Drew article, no, it’s the ultimate Nancy Drew article for all the ND fans out there. This is to celebrate almost 90 years of Nancy Drew as her anniversary is coming up this month, it seemed fitting to have a themed article written about her. In this article, we will be giving you the ultimate rundown on everything Nancy Drew related. From the changes in the Nancy Drew books to her history within the media to even the hard to find ND merchandise. This is your rundown on everything Nancy Drew. Make sure to watch out for special guests with fellow Nancy Drew fans. Their socials alongside their own projects will be linked at the end of this article so make sure to check them out. This article has also been kind of alot of work so I hope you all enjoy this……and also share it with others. With that being said let’s dive into the article.

The Start Of Nancy Drew

The first photo on the left was artwork done by Tandy

Nancy Drew was first introduced in 1930 when her first book, The Secret Of The Old Clock, was officially published. The first cover art on the left featured in the photo above is the first cover art of the book. This artwork is done by Russel H.Tandy, who went on to paint several of the first book covers in the Nancy Drew franchise. The book was revised in 1959 with a few differences being made to the story. In the revised version, Nancy is shown to be less impulsive and is more calmer and described as being refined. The cover art was also updated to show Nancy investigating the clock out in the middle of a field, and had a more modernize look to it compared to Tandy’s artwork. Following the release of the first book, the second Nancy Drew book was released on April 28th, 1930. This book is the one that features the iconic cover of Nancy making her way up a secret staircase beaming her flash light. I asked some Nancy Drew fans about their favorite Nancy Drew book and Jennifer Fisher (Also known as Nancy Drew Sleuth) said the second book is one of her favorites. “I have always loved The Hidden Staircase – it’s spooky, there’s a haunting, secret passageways and lots of gothic suspense.” says Jennifer Fisher (AKA: Nancy Drew Sleuth). I decided to ask some other Nancy Drew fans what they’re favorite Nancy Drew books are.

  • “I like The Sign Of The Twisted Candles the most -Nancy Drew Sweden.
  • “My favorite ND book is Mystery at Lilac Inn”. -Nancy Drew Russian Soul
  • “It’s hard to choose but I usually say the original text of The Secret Of The Old Attic because it’s so nostalgic for me (and the second cover art is specifically nostalgic for me so that’s my favorite cover). Mystery of the 99 steps is also really nostalgic for me” -Nancy Drew Collector

Changes In Nancy’s Look

Original look featuring Nancy’s strawberry blond hair on the left and her updated Titan hair look on the right

Over the years Nancy’s look alongside the covers of the book changed. As mentioned before Russel H. Tandy did a majority of the covers in the beginning. He did the cover art for volumes 1-10 and 12-26. Eventually the cover art was updated and Nancy’s style was updated along with it when in 1950. This new style was by illustrator, Bill Gillies. He painted the volumes for 27-29 and also did the revisions for covers 1-9 and 11. I asked Nancy Drew super fan, Jennifer Fisher about what her favorite covers were. “I grew up on the current covers of the classic 56 hardcovers plus the paperbacks and Nancy Drew Files series which I enjoy greatly, but then discovered the vintage art from the 1930s and 1940s by Russell H. Tandy and I absolutely love that art, it’s so sophisticated. I do own the paintings for Nappi’s Hidden Staircase and Witch Tree Symbol which I grew up seeing – and love these paintings” says Fisher (Nancy Drew Sleuth). A new artist known as Rudy Nappi was brought in for The Clue Of The Velvet Mask. He ended up revising Volumes 1-5 and 8-34. Nappi later went on to do the artwork for volumes 30-56, becoming the longest running illustrator for the Nancy Drew series. Another thing to point out is over the years Nancy’s style and look changed. In the early editions, she sported blond hair but eventually her hair was changed to a Titan haired look. A look that many of us are used to seeing today. I asked Jennifer which style she preferred and she seemed to like both styles. “Both – I grew up with the red haired or Titian-haired Nancy Drew with the flip hairstyle, but I think blond Nancy is quite pretty too.” says Fisher.

Nancy Drew Around The World

Pictured here are various international covers of “Nancy Drew: The Mystery At The Ski Jump”

Another interesting thing to point out is how popular Nancy is oversees. What’s even more interesting are the differences between the character in each country. For example in France, Nancy is known as “Alice Roy”. While in Sweden she’s known as “Kitty Drew”, and in Finland she’s referred to as “Paula Drew”. I actually managed to talk to several fans across the world who know Nancy differently which has been super interesting. The Nancy Drew books were first printed in Norway in 1941, Denmark since 1958, France since 1955 and in Italy since 1970. It’s safe to say that Nancy has a presence popular all across the world. In each country, the book covers range as being different. In both Norway and France, she’s shown spotting blond hair, which was her original hair color in the US before they changed it. The Nancy Drew books are also published in Russia. “In Russia, Nancy is popular. Mostly thanks to Top Secret publishing house. They organized a series called Children’s Detective in the 90s. For Soviet teenagers this was a breakthrough, this series was an innovation” says Nancy Drew Russian Soul from Instagram. She then goes on to dive deeper into Nancy’s history within Russia. “The series was released from 1992 to 1998, it also included The Hardy Brothers, Enid Blyton, and others. But in fact very few books were published about Nancy. I think there are less than half of what was published in America. But now Russia has began publishing new series about Nancy Drew such as ND Files and the ND diaries. Overall Nancy Drew is popular not only to the books but also to the games, we have a large official community that publishes news and other interesting stuff” says ND Russian Soul.

French versions for The Message In Hollow Oak (Left) and The Secret Of Red Gate Farm (Right)

To dive more into why she’s called Alice in France, I recruited Nancy Drew Collector to help me. “So Nancy is a big city or something in France and they thought it would be disrespectful to name an American heroine after a French city and also Drew is difficult to say for French people” says Nancy Drew Collector. Collector owns a few of the French versions herself as well. “Of course I’ve never read them since I can’t read French but I absolutely loveeee the cover art and I love the ones with colored illustrations inside and I wish the American ones had colored illustrations”. The French versions are usually a bit smaller but feature more illustrations, some that are even colored.

Some of the Swedish Covers illustrated by Bertil Hegland

Nancy Drew Sweden, who runs an account on Instagram, joined me for an interview where in Sweden the character of Nancy is known as Kitty Drew. “There’s no common explanation for it. But the common reason is that Nancy seemed old fashioned at the time. Remember that the first Nancy Drew book came out in the early 50s. So I think they wanted something snappier” says NancyDrewSweden. She then adds “For the 50s, Kitty would have been a pretty hip name”. Nancy’s style in Sweden varies as well as she sports different hairstyles. “The Swedish ones are so scattered, Nancy looks so much different from cover to cover, sometimes she even rocks black hair”. In Sweden, the artwork was done by an illustrator known as Bertil Hegland, who unfortunately injured his hand which ruined his career as an illustrator. “You can tell that Bertil came from the pulp world” says Sweden who is a big fan of his work.

Nancy In Film & Television

(On the left) Pamela Sue Martin, Emma Roberts (On the right) Sophia Lillis and Kennedy McMann

Many different versions of Nancy Drew have been shown within the media. The first actress to play Nancy was named Bonita Granville, who stared in the first Nancy Drew movie titled, “Nancy Drew Detective” which was released in 1938. Bonita went on to star as Nancy for another three films. The next adaption of Nancy wasn’t until 1977 when Pamela Sue Martin took on the role in “The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Myteries” show that ran for 3 seasons. Pamela Sue Martin seems to be the fan favorite portrayal of Nancy. Martin’s performance is referred to as most fans as one of the most accurate portrayals of Nancy. Eventually Martin left the show and was replaced by Janet Louise Johnson for the last few episodes Nancy was featured in. All I’m going to say is the network totally screwed Nancy’s character over in that show in favor of The Hardy Boys. Just saying. The show was adapted again for TV in 1995 with actress, Tracy Ryan, as Nancy but the show was cancelled after 13 episodes due to low ratings. Later in 2002, Maggie Lawson took on the role of Nancy in a television adaption of the character.

In 2007, a feature film featuring Emma Roberts was released in theaters. Fun fact but this is the movie where I was first introduced to Nancy Drew and looking back the movie is…..rough. Nancy is portrayed as a outcast teenager living in the 21st century and the forced new characters left a bad taste in my mouth. Either way, it introduced me to the world of Nancy Drew so I can’t complain. ANOTHER film adaption was dropped in 2019 this time staring Sophia Lillis called “Nancy Drew & The Hidden Staircase”. I don’t know how the movie has a fresh 67% score on Rotten Tomatoes because that movie is……woof. It feels like a direct to DVD movie that took barely any effort to write. Needless to say it wasn’t the best adaption of Nancy Drew. Thankfully we got Kennedy McMann as Nancy Drew in the current CW series that’s been airing since last year. Kennedy is so far one of the best portrayals of Nancy and despite me having some issues with the show, she really brings the character to life in a way that feels refreshing. She’s also a fellow Nancy Drew fan herself, and has even liked several of my tweets about the show. This adaption of Nancy Drew, has a supernatural aspect to it and focuses on Nancy uncovering the mysterious death of, Lucy Sable. Let’s just say there’s a plot twist in it you will probably not see coming. It’s well a twist I’ll give it that.

I decided to ask some Nancy Drew fans their responses on what adaption they think is best and here’s what they had to say.

I think the 1970s TV show was the most successful in adapting the classic Nancy Drew books and keeping Nancy Drew in character. However, I have enjoyed the current CW series too – as Kennedy McMann’s take on the character is refreshing and bold.-Jennifer Fisher (Nancy Drew Sleuth)

“My first will always be Pamela Sue Martin, she just feels like Nancy Drew (revised text as well as 70s and 80s Nancy). She just has that feel to her. And Kennedy McMann is quickly becoming my second favorite, because she feels so much like original text Nancy, mixed with modern Nancy-Nancy Drew Collector

“I definitely think Pamela does the best Nancy Drew, but I love Ned from the first movies. George and Bess are best in the Canadian 90s series”. -Nancy Drew Sweden

The Nancy Drew Video Games

A few examples of some of the many ND games

So in case you didn’t know but Nancy Drew has a well known brand of video games that are enjoyed by many. I personally, never played the games but I do know of people that have played them. There’s a whole range of Nancy Drew video games that have been released since 1998. The current latest game release is titled “Midnight In Salem” and was released last year for both PC and Mac. “I like them, I always liked Haunted Mansion. I like the old houses and spooky settings!“says Jennifer Fisher. I asked other Nancy Drew fans about the games and which ones are their personal favorites. “I’ve played the later ones, those available for Mac, the Ghost Of Thorton Hall is really scary” says Nancy Drew Sweden. She lists Thorton Hall and Treasure In The Royal Tower as her favorites.

“I’m a big fan of the games. It’s great to meet Nancy through the books, love a character and then find out there are also games. It’s very difficult to name your favorite game as I love each of them. However but I think Alibi In Ashes because the action takes place in Nancy’s hometown, we can visit her house which is amazing and the whole game is about home, friendship, and great justice. This game is very homely, cozy and has all your favorite characters including Carson Drew and Hanna” says Nancy Drew Russian Soul, who is also huge fan of the games. They then continue. “Each of them are made very atmospheric in detail, you are immersed in the investigation. The way locations are thought out, props and music is a separate art form! This is the general opinion of all Russian fans”

A Fanbase Of Detectives

Featured is Mildred Wirt Benson, one of the original ghost writers of Nancy Drew.

It’s no surprise but Nancy Drew does have her own fanbase of fellow detectives who share their love for Nancy Drew and the mysteries she finds herself falling into. There’s several really neat fan accounts, Nancy Drew Sleuth (Jennifer) being one of them. I asked her about what was her most prized Nancy Drew collectible and this is what she had to say. “My first printing of the first book in the series, The Secret of the Old Clock, signed by the original ghostwriter, Mildred Wirt Benson. She signed it for me in person when I met her in 2001 at our Nancy Drew Sleuths unofficial first convention.” Fans collect all types of Nancy Drew merch, which isn’t easy to come by. From collecting the original Nancy Drew books (First editions aren’t easy to find and come at a huge price) to coloring books to even a Nancy Drew board game. My friend, Nancy Drew Collector, owns a Nancy Drew board game among with other merchandise. Highly recommend checking out her Instagram, where she frequently posts stuff from her collection. Really interesting the type of Nancy Drew merchandise that is out there. There’s even a Nancy Drew mask, which I find to be absolutely terrifying but it does exist.

“It’s hard to pick a favorite piece of Nancy Drew merchandise! I absolutely love the board games! I have both the 1957 and 1959 editions, and they’re so cool! But I think my most treasured Nancy Drew item is my copy of The Haunted Bridge, that is signed by Mildred Wirt Benson, the very first Carolyn Keene! Some even collect old merchandise from the 1970s series”Nancy Drew Collector.

Nancy Drew Websites On The Rise

There’s a bunch of Nancy Drew collectors out there. Fans have since gone on to start their own Nancy Drew based website. As mentioned before Jennifer Fisher, has her own site known as, Nancy Drew Sleuth, which is the ultimate guide for all things Drew related. She also holds Nancy Drew conventions. Information for that can be found here. Another cool website to check out is a site owned by, Nancy Drew Collector. On this site she’s done several recaps dedicated towards the current show on the CW and it’s worth the read. l I decided to ask some Nancy Drew fans how long they’ve been fans of the iconic detective and here are a few of their responses.

I’ve been a fan since I was a child, but not so much a collector or historian of the series until my 20s. It was in my 20s that the internet was starting to get big – late 1990s – among the mainstream, and there was a niche to be filled in this area. I was inspired to start a website and share research and the history of the series plus collecting information. As I am working on a biography of Mildred Wirt Benson, I’ve been adding info about that to the website as well. We formed our fan group, Nancy Drew Sleuths, in 2000 and have been having conventions each year – this year is our 20th annual year doing these.-Jennifer Fisher (Nancy Drew Sleuths)

“I had the idea to decorate one of my tables with covers from Swedish Nancy Drew books so I ordered a few and then I got them but I just couldn’t destroy them, it just felt wrong. I was overcome by that feeling I had as a child whenever I got my hands on a Nancy Drew book. So I started reading them instead. And decided to write about the books on a website. I noticed that nobody really had done that in Swedish before” -Nancy Drew Sweden

“When I was around 7 or 8, my mom handed me my very first Nancy Drew book. I can’t remember which one it was, but as soon as I read it, I was hooked! There’s also so much history behind the books, which is a big reason why I got into collecting! I was inspired to start a Nancy Drew account because I had so much Nancy Drew knowledge and facts rattling around in my brain with no one to share them with! I expanded my Instagram account to Facebook, and also started a Facebook Discussion group for people to talk to each other about our favorite girl detective! I’ve expanded it to other platforms as well, but non have been as popular as my Instagram! This account has led me to meet so many cool people online (and hopefully in person some day), and I’ve been given opportunities that I never would have been given otherwise! I’m slowly but surely turning what I love into a business, selling books, consulting, making mystery boxes and merch, etc. I can’t wait to see what else is in store!” -Nancy Drew Collector

What Makes Nancy So Successful?

Image result for nancy drew the haunting of nancy drew photos
Kennedy McMann in the CW Nancy Drew series.

So as we wrap up this article, I think it’s important to talk about how much of an impact, Nancy Drew, has had on us. For the fans, reading her books took us to a whole different world full of mystery and adventure. Collecting Nancy Drew books is more than just collecting, it’s building of a library of stories to hopefully share with our own kids one day. Most importantly, Nancy Drew taught and inspired young youth that they could go on any adventure they desire and that they could solve any mystery they wanted. Here’s what other fans had to say about the detective icon.

“Everyone loves a good mystery and they deliver on that. Nancy’s bold independent character is inspiring and positive and good entertainment and that appeals to everyone. Playing Nancy Drew and having exciting adventures through her, is a great way to do what most kids can’t  do in their everyday lives. Solving cases, finding clues, and saving the day and helping others, makes Nancy Drew a role model that endures.” says Jennifer Fisher.

“She’s a proper role-model. Nancy never sacrifices the fact she is a girl. And she’s a really cool girl. Of course young ladies reading that loved it” says Nancy Drew Sweden.

“I think there was simply nothing like Nancy before. She’s an innovation, this is a girl detective! I think this was new to adolescent readers. Therefore when young people saw that there were books about a young girl detective, they became interested and they drew attention to her. Nancy is successful because she is perfect! She has a strong personality and knows how to do everything! What a girl” says Nancy Drew Russian Soul

“I think Nancy Drew is so successful because when she was first created, Nancy was doing things that were unheard of for girls back then, when girls needed to see that there was more to life than what they were used to, and that they could do anything boys could do! She gave them inspiration, courage, curiosity, and compassion! She’s independent, bold, and loves people! Nancy is what little girls all wished they could be! But she’s not just for girls, guys are drawn to her adventurous stories as well! Many males have been introduced to Nancy by their sisters, moms, or grandmothers and have grown to love her just as much as any girl!” -Nancy Drew Collector

Wrapping It Up

Nancy Drew has managed to capture the hearts of all ages from kids to even adults. Growing up, one of my favorite types of books to read were mystery books and any time I started reading a Nancy Drew book, I instantly was hooked. Usually my Dad would read the books to me but eventually got to a point where I read the books on my own because I was so invested in whatever the mystery was. There’s something about Nancy to me personally that holds a special place in my heart. She’s become a iconic character that everyone has come to know and love, cherishing our hearts and continuing to do so for years to come!

Happy 90th Anniversary To The One And Only Nancy Drew!

To wrap up this article our friend, Nancy Drew Collector’s documentary on original ND ghost writer, Mildred Wirt Benson

Nancy Drew Collector Socials:

Nancy Drew Sleuth Socials

Nancy Drew Sweden

Nancy Drew Russian Soul

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