Edward Stratemeyer was born in Elizabeth, New Jersey on October 4, 1862. Though his major successes would come in the 20th century with the creation of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew, he started writing as a hobby, distributing short stories to friends.
The first story which earned him any money was "Victor Horton's Idea" (1889), under the name Arthur Winfield. He sent the story off to a children's newspaper in Philadelphia and was happy to receive a check for $75 shortly after (six times his weekly salary). He continued writing, churning out story after story, often under various pseudonyms. His first book was Richard Dare's Venture (1894), and he continually published through the end of the century, with The Rover Boys in 1899.
After the turn of the century, he formed the Stratemeyer Literary Syndicate. Under that banner, he produced series after series of works using ghost writers. Each writer was paid a flat rate for their work but Stratemeyer retained all copyright. Because of the anonymity of all these writers, there has been some confusion in determining how much work is really Stratemeyer's.
The theme of his earliest works often had something to do with sudden success. As one scholar noted, Stratemeyer had stumbled upon a formula that would come to define juvenile fiction. He also followed popular interest: airplanes, cars, radios, movies, the North Pole, miners in the Alaskan frontier, and even a cameo by Thomas Edison. These adventures implied instant rags-to-riches stories were possible — if not, likely.
*For further reading, see The Essential Edward Stratemeyer Collection or the biography Edward Stratemeyer: Creator of the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew by Brenda Lange.