Sherlock Holmes in Boston: A Trail of Evidence
The Baker Street Irregulars / The Speckled Band of Boston. A large composite collection of archival materials relating to the history of the Speckled Band, the Boston branch of the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI), 1940 – 2012. Collecting over 500 pages of correspondence and 450 manuscripts and ephemeral publications, the archive includes original correspondence among such founding figures as Edgar W. Smith, James Keddie, James Montgomery, Vincent Starrett, P. M. Stone, and Julian Wolff. There are internal reports and memoranda, and manuscripts for essays published in the Baker Street Journal and elsewhere. The collection is housed in ten archival cases, totaling 5.0 linear feet.
Founded by Christopher Morley in 1934, the Baker Street Irregulars (BSI) is the first literary society devoted to celebrating the life and work of Sherlock Holmes, the world's greatest consulting detective. Among the members of the BSI past and present are numbered such luminaries as Isaac Asimov, William S. Baring-Gould, Michael Dirda, Neil Gaiman, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Vincent Starrett, and Rex Stout. From early in its inception, the BSI gave birth to a number of local chapters, or “scion societies.” The Speckled Band was one of the first of these, founded in Boston in 1940.
Present at the first meeting of the Specked Band were five people: the founder, James Keddie, Sr. (1883 – 1942), his son James Keddie, Jr. (1907 – 1983), BSI chair Edgar W. Smith (1894 – 1960), Harold Wilmerding Bell (1885 – 1947), and Percival Mason Stone (1886 – 1965). The bulk of the present archive is derived from the personal files of P. M. Stone, an avid collector and amateur historian. James Keddie, Jr. assumed the mantle of leader (or “Cheetah”) of the Speckled Band upon his father’s death in 1943, and his papers comprise the second major source of this archive. Other materials come from the papers of such prominent Sherlockians as William S. Hall, John McAleer, James Montgomery, and Daniel Posnansky. (H. W. Bell's papers are at Harvard)
“You can file it in our archives, Watson. Some day the true story may be told."
-- Sherlock Holmes, The Adventure of the Retired Colourman
Of particular interest for the historian is the thick file of letters from Stone to Keddie (both père and fils), weighing in at over 225 pages. There is also substantial correspondence from such figures as James Montgomery, Peter Ruger, Bob Schutz, Edgar W. Smith, Vincent Starrett, and Julian Wolff. Among the several hundred documents -- holograph, typed, and mimeographed -- are articles, reports, and minutes by Poul Arenfalk, Nathan Bengis, Jan Finley Christ, Irving Fenton, William Hall, Roland Hammond, A. D. Henriksen, Russell McLauchlin, James Montgomery, Harvey Officer, Marion Prince, A. Carson Simpson, H. W. Starr, P. M. Stone, and Belden Wigglesworth. Many of these materials are organized into personal anthologies -- Keddie’s bound collection of over 140 early documents, many of which are written or inscribed by him; the sammelband of essays by Jay Finley Christ and other publications compiled by Julian Wolff; and three binders of materials on the history of the Speckled Band of Boston collected by Dan Posnansky, including signed menus and other ephemera from their annual meetings. The archive is rounded out by a small selection of association copies inscribed by one early BSI member to another, highlighted by the first pressing (three 78" discs) of James Montgomery's delightful Songs of Baker Street presented to P. M. Stone.
The archive is organized into five series:
Series I: Correspondence
Series II: Manuscripts and Mimeographs
Series III: Reports and Relics
Series IV: Personal Anthologies
Series V: Association Copies
The archive is of interest not only to Sherlockians and other literary historians, but also to scholars of fandom more generally. Long before science fiction fans and comic book enthusiasts engaged in cosplay, successful businessmen, lawyers, doctors, and writers sporting deerstalkers met with calabash pipes in hand to geek out. The BSI/Speckled Band archive thus offers a unique opportunity for sociological as well as literary and historical research.
- Boström, Mattias. From Holmes to Sherlock (Mysterious Press, 2018)
- Cole, Sean. “Sherlock Holmes Fans Play 'Great Game.’” NPR: All Things Considered, 1 December 2005
- Mehegan, David. "Guilt by association: For 65 years, a Boston club has made Sherlock Holmes mysteries a scholarly pastime.” The Boston Globe, 28 November 2005
- Monty, Scott. "The Speckled Band of Boston," I hear of Sherlock Everywhere, episode 77, 15 May 2015
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