Friday Photo: Spooky Stories

Today’s Friday photo entry is the result of some frustration on my part, because I couldn’t find the photo I actually wanted. This one will unfortunately have to do:

This is “The Brass Keys of Kenwick” by Augusta Huiell Seaman, a young adult mystery published in 1931. The story is based on the life of the last private owner of the Hammond-Harwood House, the reclusive and impoverished Hester Ann Harwood. We have a copy in the office and I read the first half of it this week. If you grew up reading Nancy Drew or the Bobbsey Twins, put Seaman’s books on your must-read list. She wrote over 40 books and a number of short stories, mostly mysteries with a historical bent for middle schoolers. I wanted to post a photo of Augusta Seaman today, but have so far been unable to find one in the depths of the Internet.

Apparently Seaman was a bit of a mystery herself, with even the author biographies in her books providing contradictory information. She was born in 1879 in New York City and went on to attend Normal College (now Hunter College) and become a 5th grade teacher. Once she married in 1906 she quit teaching and devoted herself to writing. It took some time, but she eventually became very successful writing mysteries for girls, with each book relating to a different historical era or site. Her books often contain themes or incidents related to her own life; several of them are set in Island Beach, New Jersey, where Seaman lived with her second husband. Island Beach was a small community, with about 14 residents in the early 1930s, so Seaman was the borough treasurer, tax collector and registrar while her husband served as mayor, fire chief, police chief, and president of the board of education. For more information on Seaman, check out this article. And to find your own copy of “The Brass Keys of Kenwick,” check out used book sites like alibris.com or keep an eye out at yard sales. But I have first dibs – I might need to buy a new bookshelf to do it, but I think I need more of Seaman’s books. I just can’t resist mysteries about old houses…

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