Nancy Drew turns 86 years old today.
The amateur sleuth is actually immortalized as a teenager in her mystery stories, sometimes at age 16 and sometimes at 18. But the first story in her series, The Secret of the Old Clock, was published 86 years ago on April 28, 1930.
In the bright-yellow-bound books penned by a series of authors under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene, Nancy does it all. She catches thieves, debunks ghost stories, and even reveals hidden talents like deciphering Morse code. She’s the ultimate hometown hero of River Heights.
To clarify, River Heights is a fictional town somewhere in the Midwest. While its location is not named in the original books, later versions place the town near Chicago, Illinois. This means Nancy’s life is pretty far off from being connected with Boston—until you consider her boyfriend.
Ned Nickerson comes into the picture in the seventh book in the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories. He’s tall, handsome, athletic, and a sophomore at Emerson College.
Is it that Emerson College? We say yes. Sure, Ned is a star football player at Emerson. And yeah, Emerson has never had a football team (there’s even a running joke that the team has remained undefeated). But Ned was definitely a Bostonian for a time.
Some argue that Emerson College is a fictional university near River Heights and Ned’s nearby hometown, Mapleton. It’s hard to make that argument, though, when you consider that Emerson College existed before the books were written. Neither River Heights nor Mapleton are real places. Emerson College is most certainly a real place—it was founded in 1880 by Charles Wesley Emerson.
It’s never made clear what Ned studies at Emerson College. In fact, Ned is a fairly passive character. He gets Nancy out of a jam when she needs help, but Nancy politely asserts that mysteries take priority over boys.
While Ned usually takes a backseat to Nancy, today we’re highlighting him. He’s one of our only local connections to America’s favorite detective, so we’ll take what we can get.
Update: Harriet Stratemeyer Adams wrote almost 200 books under the pseudonym Carolyn Keene. In another local Nancy Drew tie, she was a Wellesley College alumna, as well as the daughter of the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories founder Edward Stratemeyer. [h/t Megan Turchi]
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