The Hardy Boys
Franklin W. Dixon
Since 1927 the Hardy Boys series has continued to be one of the most popular of children’s series, translated into over 25 languages and continuing to sell over a million copies per year. The brainchild of publisher Edward Stratemeyer, the books have been ghostwritten by a number of authors and have been spun off into numerous related series as well as television and comic book versions.
Brothers Frank and Joe Hardy, the teen heroes of the series, are amateur detectives, each volume detailing a new case that comes to their attention. Initially somewhat younger (15 and 16 years old rather than the current 17 and 18), the boys in the early years of the series were quite different than they were portrayed in later series – initially actively dealing with financial struggles and suspicious of if not hostile to police and other authority, in the 1950s they were re-cast as affluent, obedient, and entirely law-abiding kids. At the same time, the books became less dark, less violent, and more explicitly modeled the ideals of that era’s middle America. Further, as earlier series had been criticized for extensive use of racial stereotypes, the series was substantially revised and newer volumes all but eliminated non-white characters rather than risk any discussion of how questions of race were handled. The 1980s saw further development with the introduction of the Hardy Boys Casefiles series; marketed to an older audience, here the violence is back, the boys themselves carrying guns and working as part of an undercover state network to battle terrorism, organized crime and other such baddies.
Hugely popular, widely-read and extensively-referenced in popular culture, the Hardy Boys – in all their incarnations – are one of the most enduring series of books for young people in North America, and their evolution over time provides insight into broader social, cultural and ideological change.