TOLEDO, Ohio (AP) — Typewriters and a desk from the home of an author who brought a young sleuth named Nancy Drew to life are going up for auction.
A lifetime of keepsakes, including autographed posters and writing awards, belonging to Mildred Wirt Benson are to be sold at an auction Sunday 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.
Auctioneer Jade Montrie, who is handling the estate sale, said many of the items came from Benson’s home office, where she wrote for decades.
“When we went into Mildred’s office, it was kind of like a time capsule,” he said.
Books, papers, awards, four typewriters and a wooden desk filled the room. The desk was where the family said Benson wrote many of her books and newspaper columns, Montrie said.
“It looks like it came from another era,” said Lois Kovar, Benson’s great-niece. “The writing room was always Millie’s. That was like her little cove.”
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.
There’s no indication that the desk being put up for bid is where Benson wrote the tales of Nancy Drew, but her family has said that’s where she wrote many of her other books and columns.
Other items being sold include a Mystery Writers of America award, autographed letters and newspaper clippings, and a copy of “Rediscovering Nancy Drew” that she inscribed for her daughter. The book details how the series was created.
“This is a fine account of how my identity as Nancy Drew’s author became known,” Benson wrote inside the book. She signed it “The `real’ Nancy Drew.”