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The Rover Boys, or The Rover Boys Series for Young Americans, was a popular juvenile series authored by Arthur M. Winfield, a pseudonym for Edward Stratemeyer, and published by Stratemeyer Syndicate. Thirty titles were published between 1899 and 1926 and the books remained in print for years afterward.
The original Rover Boys were brothers Tom, Sam, and Dick Rover. Their children (Fred, son of Sam Rover; Jack, son of Dick; Andy and Randy, twin sons of Tom) became the main characters of the "second series" that began with Volume 21, The Rover Boys at Colby Hall, published in 1917. The elder Rovers continued making appearances in the second series.
Additionally, there was a related Putnam Hall series of six books that featured other characters from the first Rovers series although the Rovers themselves do not appear.
The Rovers were students at a military boarding school: adventurous, prank-playing, flirtatious, and often unchaperoned adolescents who were frequently causing mischief for authorities as well as criminals.
The series often incorporated novel technology of the era, such as the automobile, airplanes (The Rover Boys in the Air) and news events, such as World War I.
Like other juvenile fiction of the era, the books often utilized exaggerated ethnic stereotypes and dialect humor. Blacks, Germans, Italians, Chinese, and Irishmen were often portrayed with unflattering dialects, which was common at the time. The books also had many heroic characters of these nationalities as well.
- While there are better-known and longer-running juvenile series such as The Hardy Boys, Nancy Drew, and Tom Swift, the Rovers were very successful and influential. They established the template for all later Stratemeyer Syndicate series.
- It was Stratemeyer's first series, and one of his favorites. Stratemeyer did all of the writing himself, rather than hiring ghostwriters.
- The Rover Boys were parodied in a 1942 Warner Brothers Merrie Melodies cartoon as The Dover Boys, subtitled "The Rivals of Roquefort Hall" (as opposed to Colby, both terms being cheeses). The cartoon was directed by Chuck Jones. The characters from this Rovers parody would later appear in an Animaniacs episode and in the 1996 movie Space Jam.
- In the 1950s a vocal group named after the Rover Boys had a Top 20 single with the school-themed "Graduation Day".
- In the 1955 MGM musical It's Always Fair Weather, there are two references to The Rover Boys. The first is in the beginning of the movie when a bartender exclaims, "Well if it isn't the Rover Boys" as the three main characters walk into his bar. The second is toward the end of the movie. While trying to evade thugs, the character played by Gene Kelly borrows a jacket which has "The Rover Boys" embroidered on the back.
- The Rover Boys books were mentioned in the supernatural soap opera Dark Shadows (episode 38) where the governess Victoria Winters was searching for the books in the basement of the old mansion for her charge David Collins.
- More than a million Rover Boys books were sold, and the titles remained in print by Grosset & Dunlap and later Whitman for years after the final title was published. The most commonly encountered are the green and brown cover editions published by Grosset & Dunlap during the 1910s and 1920s.
- The names Tom, Sam, and Dick Rover are mentioned by Scout in Harper Lee's novel To Kill a Mockingbird in reference to a game of pretend in which Dill, Jem, and Scout all had good parts.
- The 18th episode of the first season of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is titled "Rover Boys" and features a narrative driven by a disagreement between Ozzie and his neighbor Thorny concerning the plot of a Rover Boys story.
- In the eighth season of the Andy Griffith Show, in an episode titled "The Tape Recorder," the bank robber character Eddie Blake (played by Herbie Faye) complains that his luck was he had to run into the "Rover Boys" when Opie (Ron Howard) and Arnold (Sheldon Collins) ask him to confess of his crime because they secretly recorded him in his cell reveal the location of the stolen money.
- In an episode of I Spy called "Carry Me Back To Old Tsing-Tao," Scotty (Bill Cosby) referred to the three money-hungry sons-in-law of an aged Chinese criminal mastermind as "The Rover Boys" by saying, "...Now can the Rover Boys be far behind?"
Some of these books are available for download free at Project Gutenberg.
- Andrews, Dale (2013-08-27). "The Hardy Boys Mystery". Children's books. Washington: SleuthSayers.
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