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Published: Thursday, 4/28/2005

Nancy Drew is 75

Nancy Drew, teen sleuth and heroine to generations of girls, debuted 75 years ago today with the publication of The Secret of the Old Clock. It was part of a three-volume "breeder" set along with The Hidden Staircase and The Bungalow Mystery.

After great success with "ghost-written" series for boys (including the Hardy Boys and Tom Swift), publisher Edward Stratemeyer dreamed up Nancy Drew as the central character of an adventure series for girls.

In 1929, he gave outlines for the first Nancy Drew books to Mildred Augustine (later Mildred Wirt Benson), who was ghost-writing his Ruth Fielding series.

"He only gave me one direction at the time that I was hired. He said you can snap your fingers at literary content but keep up the suspense," said Benson, who wrote 23 of the first 30 Nancy Drew books, five of which were published in 1930.

Benson became a reporter for the former Toledo Times in 1944, and after it closed in 1975, for The Blade until her death on May 28, 2002 at the age of 96.

The Toledo-Lucas County Public Library plans two events to commemorate Benson and Nancy Drew at its Main branch: "The Mystery of the Missing Cake," July 9 at 2:30 p.m., and an exhibit of Benson's 137 books, "100 Years of Millie Benson" from June 13 to August 6. Benson was born July 10, 1905.

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