Monday, November 9, 2009

Ohio Library Uncovers "The Secret At Shadow Ranch"

KEENE, Carolyn [Mildred Wirt Benson]. The Secret At Shadow Ranch.
NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1931.

The staff of the Toledo Lucas County Library is shedding some light on the shadowy side of super sleuth Nancy Drew. The library has purchased the painting created as cover art for the first edition of Carolyn Keene's The Secret At Shadow Ranch. Paintings used for the early Nancy Drew Mystery Stories book covers, by Russell H. Tandy, are exceedingly scarce. The vast majority of Tandy's original artwork was destroyed in a 1962 fire at his home.

Tandy's painting will be added to the library's Robert L. and Posy Huebner Collection. The gallery houses 130 "significant works of original art by illustrators of children’s literature," with a special emphasis on works with a historic connection to Ohio. The trustees of the collection had long sought to add work created for the Nancy Drew mysteries to the collection, as the first writer behind series's pseudonymous author "Carolyn Keene" was a native of the Buckeye State, Millie Benson.

Nancy Eames, the library's youth services coordinator said the staff had given up on ever obtaining a Tandy portrait of the famed girl detective, when a local history manager for the library stumbled across a listing for the Shadow Ranch painting in an online auction. Donor funds covered the $9,500 sale price, according to the Toledo Blade.

KEENE, Carolyn [Mildred Wirt Benson]. The Secret of the Old Clock.
NY: Grosset & Dunlap, 1930

The illustrations for the Nancy Drew Mystery Stories reflect the evolution of the titian-haired sleuth over her nearly 80 year career. Tandy's conception of Nancy Drew reveals his background as a fashion illustrator. In addition to designing book covers, Tandy's art was featured in advertising campaigns for Jantzen bathing suits, and on the covers of Butterick Patterns. Not surprisingly, the 1930's Nancy is a soigne sophisticate sporting smart suits, silk scarves, and stylish chapeaux. (She bears an uncanny resemblance to screen goddess Carole Lombard.) The Shadow Ranch cover is first to depict a hatless Nancy engaging in outdoorsy activities. But note that her riding togs are classic Chanel chic.

Carole Lombard finds a murder victim in Virtue (1932)

The Toledo Lucas County Library will exhibit their prize painting until the end of 2009, at which time it will be sent to Oberlin College for minor restoration. (Some of the paint is flaking off the letters in the title, and there is a small hole in the canvas.) After eight stress-filled decades as a shamus, even the unflappable Miss Drew can do with a touch-up.

Collage Of Russell H. Tandy's Art From Jennifer Fisher At: Nancy Drew Sleuth Unofficial Website

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