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Items from Nancy Drew author sold at Ohio auction

Updated: December 9, 2013 12:01AM



TOLEDO, Ohio — Typewriters and a desk from the home of the original author of the Nancy Drew mystery books, along with a book detailing how the series was created, were auctioned in Ohio on Sunday.

The items were among a lifetime of keepsakes, including autographed posters and writing awards, belonging to Mildred Wirt Benson that sold at an auction in Toledo, where she was a newspaper reporter and columnist for nearly 60 years before her death a decade ago.

Benson wrote more than 130 books, including the 1940s Penny Parker mystery series, but she is best known for the Nancy Drew books that inspired and captivated generations of girls. She wrote 23 of the 30 original Nancy Drew stories using the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. Paid $125 per book, she never collected any royalties.

Benson died in 2002 at 96 and left her home and possessions to her only daughter, Peggy Wirt, who died in January.

A copy of “Rediscovering Nancy Drew” that details how the series was created and was inscribed for her daughter drew a gavel price of $2,150 Sunday.

A typewriter went for $825, and a desk for $525. A 10-book set by science-fiction writer Andre Norton, who had a personal relationship with Benson, was also auctioned. Nine of the 10 books were signed to Benson and the collection, along with some letters, had a gavel price of $3,200.

Auctioneer Jade Montrie, who handled the estate sale said a few hundred of Benson’s signed and canceled checks went for $900.

A typewriter that Benson used to write the Nancy Drew stories was donated to the Smithsonian Institution years ago. Her daughter left a collection of her mother’s books to the University of Iowa, which was Benson’s alma mater.

Benson was hired in 1930 to write the books based on plot outlines written by Edward Stratemeyer, the famed book publisher who also was behind the Bobbsey Twins and Hardy Boys.

Most scholars credit Benson with developing the character of Nancy Drew, who wore stylish cardigan sweater sets while climbing through attics and haunted mansions in search of clues and catching jewel thieves and kidnappers.

Dozens of ghost writers followed Benson, also writing under the Keene name. Harriet Adams, Stratemeyer’s daughter, took over and directed writers in the 1950s to make the stories shorter and faster-paced. The books are still in publication, though the main character has evolved with the times since her debut in 1930.

Benson was bound by an agreement with the publisher not to publicly reveal her identity as the series’ original author, but it became known in 1980 when she testified in a court case involving Nancy Drew’s publisher.



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