Did You Know This Famous Children’s Author Hailed From Binghamton?
For as long as I can remember, I've loved to read and through the years, I've managed to amass a book collection in the thousands.
One day while dusting my bookshelves, I found myself holding one of my Bobbsey Twins books and curiosity got the best of me. Who was this author named Laura Lee Hope? What was her story? How did she fall into writing the Bobbsey Twins books?
I began to dig for information and my research led me to a man named Howard R. Garis. If you know anything about the Bobbsey Twins, this might seem a bit peculiar because the book series author was Laura Lee Hope.
Or was it?
Contrary to popular belief, Laura Lee Hope wasn't actually the author of the Bobbsey Twins series. Even more shocking is that Laura Lee Hope wasn't even a real person. In reality, the Bobbsey Twins series were penned by several authors, all of whom wrote under the pseudonym, Laura Lee Hope.
While there's no concrete evidence, it's widely believed that Edward Stratemeyer (head of Stratemeyer Syndicate, a producer of several series of books for kids, most notably Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys) wrote the first book in the Bobbsey Twins series. Books two and three were written by Lilian Garis, books 4-28 were written by Howard R. Garis. Books 29-72 were written by several different authors.
The reason my eye caught the author name of Howard R. Garis is that I remembered someone mentioning that a famous children's author came from Binghamton, but the name escaped their memory. And the wheels started turning in my brain - where had I seen the name Garis? Could this have been the Binghamton author my friend was thinking of?
According to Syracuse University, that author was, in fact, Garis. Garis was born in Binghamton in 1873 and graduated from Binghamton High School. Not only did Garis and his wife both write several of the Bobbsey Twins books, but Garis is actually most well-known for a series of children's books that he created and wrote under his own name- the Uncle Wiggily series. In addition to his book series, Uncle Wiggily also had his own board game.
I vividly remember playing the Uncle Wiggily board game with my mom as a little girl and when I asked her what she remembered most about playing the game with me, she wrote, "All I remember is that you didn't like rheumatism and wanted him [Uncle Wiggily] to drop the cane and hop right. You loved the graphics but didn't like the time it took to play. You wanted ALL the turns and to make the rules. We never really finished a whole game because you got so upset at Uncle Wiggily not hopping." Several years ago, I found an old Uncle Wiggily board game that sits tucked away safely.
In addition to writing several Bobbsey Twins books, and the Uncle Wiggily series, Garis also contributed to several other series including, the Motor Boys (as Clarence Young), the Great Marvel series, and books featuring Baseball Joe (as Lester Chadwick), and the Camp Fire Girls (as Marion Davidson). According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Garris retired in 1947, but not before he wrote, "more than 15,000 stories and about 500 books."
Garis was a busy man who also managed to find the time to write as a reporter for the Newark Evening News and for a time, he worked as a syndicate writer and DJ on WNJR-AM in Newark, New Jersey. When Garis passed away in 1962, he was predeceased by his wife, Lilian who was quite the prolific writer herself, having written hundreds of juvenile fiction books from the early 1900's to the early 1940's.