Andrew Edward Svenson, son of Andrew and Laura (Soleau) Svenson, was born May 8, 1910, in Belleville, New Jersey. He attended Newark, New Jersey, schools and graduated from Barringer High School in 1928.
Svenson’s propensity for writing developed in the elementary grades when he began sending short articles and poems to the local newspaper.
At Barringer, he was editor of the school paper and the yearbook. It was here that he was encouraged by a dedicated English teacher to continue his writing. Under the guidance of a German professor, Svenson learned to speak German fluently, which in later years was a tremendous aid in his many travels, especially to Europe.
In 1928, he entered Carnegie Institute of Technology but soon realized engineering was not for him. He transferred to the University of Pittsburgh and took all the writing courses they had to offer. While in college, he joined the Sigma Nu Fraternity. After graduation in 1932 with a Bachelor of Arts degree, he wanted to be a teacher.
Svenson’s first job was selling advertising space for radio station W P A T. Meanwhile he was attending Montclair State College in New Jersey which provided him with the needed pedagogy. His practice teaching was done at Barringer High School and he received his State Secondary Certificate. However, he accepted an offer to work at the Newark Star-Eagle (the predecessor of the Newark Star-Ledger) as a feature writer. After one year, he went to work for the Newark Evening News. There he remained for fourteen years as a reporter, writer, and editor until 1948.
In 1945, Rutgers University offered him a part-time teaching post in the evening division at the New Brunswick and Newark campuses. There he taught journalism, freshman English, expository writing, and short story for several years.
It was during this period, while still at the Newark Evening News, that he began to write, on a free lance basis, for the Stratemeyer Syndicate in East Orange. Svenson had been introduced to the Syndicate by Howard R. Garis, a juvenile writer of “Uncle Wiggily” fame, and who also had written for Edward Stratemeyer, the founder of the Syndicate.
Svenson’s first two books in the juvenile fiction field were in the MEL MARTIN BASEBALL story series. Thus, began a career in which he found the greatest pleasure of achievement in expounding his love for creative writing. He left the Newark Evening News in 1948 to join the Syndicate as a writer and editor. At this time, he gave up the Rutgers teaching post and joined the faculty of Upsala College in East Orange where he had a full schedule of morning classes. From there he drove to his office in East Orange for his literary work.
While at Upsala, he became a member of the American Association of University Professors and served as advisor for the student newspaper. He was also made honorary member and faculty advisor of the local fraternity, “Owls.” As he said later, “this was one of the most enjoyable periods of my life.” Work as a writer, however, demanded more and more of his time and he finally gave up college teaching in 1954.
In the years that followed, he created the HAPPY HOLLISTERS series of books for children under the pseudonym of Jerry West. The series was published by Doubleday & Company for children ages seven to eleven. He wrote thirty-three titles, which were published between 1953 and 1969. Over eleven million copies have been sold in the United States alone. The series has also been translated into French, German, Spanish, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish.
Altogether Svenson wrote seventy-five children’s books and outlined and edited many more. He also created the TOLLIVER books under the pseudonym of Alan Stone (World Publishing), a series of three stories centered around a Black family. The TOLLIVER mystery and adventure books are still being published in France. Further series for children in which he had a hand in outlining and editing are: TOM SWIFT, JR., BRET KING, LINDA CRAIG, CHRISTOPHER COOL, BOBBSEY TWINS, HARDY BOYS, HONEY BUNCH and NORMAN, and the new motor racing books, WYNN and LONNY RACING BOOKS. He wrote eight of the HONEY BUNCH and NORMAN books, several BOBBSEY TWINS and many of the HARDY BOYS books. He also rewrote most of the old HARDY BOYS. In 1961, Svenson became a partner in the Stratemeyer Syndicate, assuming business and management responsibilities along with his writing assignments.
Plots and ideas for story material were often gleaned from newspaper clippings, conversations with all kinds of persons from every walk of life and his own personal observations. Traveling in search for authentic research material took him to many parts of the world. His travels included Alaska, the Caribbean Islands, South America, Panama, Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, Taiwan, Hongkong, Bangkok, Morocco, all the western European countries including Greece and the Greek Islands. Everywhere he went he took photographs which were often used as models for the illustrations of his books. As a result photography became one of the hobbies he most enjoyed. Hiking in the Alps was another enjoyable hobby, where he would walk for up to ten miles at a time. At home, he found pleasure in gardening.
Svenson gave many talks and lectures before various groups, capturing the rapt attention of both adults and children alike. He particularly enjoyed his encounters with children who often inspired him in his work. He was a man of keen observation, bright, sparkling humor, and at the same time, kind and sympathetic to everyone.
Besides being a member of the American Association of University Professors and the Sigma Nu Fraternity, he also belonged to the Western Writers Association, the Mystery Writers Association, the Dutch Treat Club and the Players Club, both of New York, the Explorers Club, American Professors of Journalism, Past President of East Orange Rotary Club, Defense Orientation Conference Association and a member of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Essex Fells, New Jersey, also Bloomfield Lodge, #40, F. & A. M.
Svenson married Marian Louise Stewart of Pittsburgh on August 31, 1932. They had two sons and four daughters. They are Andrew E., Eric R., Laura S. Schnell, Jane S. Kossman, Eileen S. de Zayas and Ingrid S. Rudin. There are also fourteen grandchildren.
On August 21, 1975, after a long illness, Andrew E. Svenson died in St. Barnabas Hospital in Livingston, New Jersey.
By Marian S. Svenson