When Sherlock Holmes, Jr. Came to Town

January 14th, 2022

By Becky Chapin, Archivist

1916 was a busy year worldwide. Not only was the world in the throes of the Great War, Ireland experienced the Easter uprising, the IWW experienced a massacre in Washington, Pancho Villa led the Mexican Revolution, the United States  started its occupation of the Dominican Republic, the Arabs revolted against the Ottoman Empire, the Chinese Emperor abdicated and the Republic of China returned, the Olympics were cancelled for the first time in its 20 year history, Boeing  was founded, John D. Rockefeller became the first millionaire, and Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States while Emma Goldman was arrested for lecturing on birth control.

Needless to say there was not a lot of great news coming from around the world. Maybe that’s why Sherlock Holmes Jr. started making his way across the country, his notices appearing in local newspapers about a week before his visit. The Geneva Daily Times received word he was coming in September 1916 and offered their readers a $25 reward for identifying him.

The newspaper asked the same question I did: Who is the mysterious Sherlock Holmes, Jr., and why is he coming to Geneva?

“The first question, as his name indicates, he is a mysterious gentleman who goes about over the world stirring up excitement, and whose mission on earth seems to be to make other people have a good time. He is coming to Geneva incidentally for a little fun, and secondly to help The Times give away $25.”

“A man making arrangements” for Mr. Holmes Jr. would not tell the exact date of the latter’s arrival to our city but said his picture would be deposited under seal at the First National Bank until he is set to leave, then the bank would put the picture on display to prove it was the same man who visited. In order to identify him, he would wear a pin that would have a twin on display at BW Scott Book Store.

The hours that Sherlock Holmes Jr. will be subject to capture.

The Geneva Daily Times on September 30, 1916 gives the hours that Sherlock Holmes Jr. will be subject to capture.

The newspaper received a letter from the man himself on September 27 teasing the readers with his imminent arrival. Sure enough, on October 3 it’s reported that Holmes is having “The Time of His Life” wandering around the city and even meeting some local business men while evading capture.

A cablegram from Dr. Watson tells Holmes to meet him at the Regent Theater in disguise and give the Scotland Yard signal. Sir Conan had important instructions about unusual occurrences at home that necessitated immediate attention. This didn’t seem to faze Holmes who stayed for another few days, writing to the paper with amusing stories from around town.

He watched two ladies stop a man in front of the Hotel Seneca who tried to convince them he wasn’t Holmes until one of the ladies started eyeing the real Holmes and he had to quickly leave. Another time Holmes had to escape someone tailing him by boarding a street car and riding a few blocks away.

Holmes also overheard a woman describing himself to a friend almost exactly that he was amazed she did not identify him there and then. A young girl called to him “Hello, Sherlock” and surprised him, but did not give the identifying phrase ‘You are the mysterious Sherlock Holmes, Jr. of the Geneva Daily Times’ and he thought he recognized her from Auburn where he had been just a few days ago.

A young man in a cigar store sold Holmes a cigar and “proceeded to tell me how to capture Sherlock Holmes, Jr. I didn’t thank him then but I do now, and when ever I do decide to capture myself I shall act upon his advice.”

His next anecdote: “I was talking to a gentleman yesterday and he asked me my business I said I am doing a little stunt for the Geneva Daily Times. He looked surprised and said, ‘Not the Sherlock Holmes Jr. stunt?’ I said ‘yes.’ His next question was ‘What does Sherlock look like anyway?’”

Newspaper cartoon about Sherlock Holmes, Jr.

Cartoon published October 4, 1916: Are you Sherlock Holmes Jr.? Let me see the initials on your hat.

Sherlock Holmes, Jr. was finally captured on his last day in the city, October 6, after he took a ride with several Times staff members in an 85-Four model owned by the Geneva Automobile Company. They took a drive around downtown Geneva and throughout the run, Lester Ward and several other boys had been following the car so when it stopped they could approach Holmes. Jack Rose, trap drummer at the Regent, first approached Holmes but forgot the “Junior” in the pass phrase. Lester Ward approached right after Rose and won the $25 by getting the phrase correct.

It’s unknown what city Sherlock Holmes, Jr. visited next but I can confirm he visited Albany, Gloversville, Jamestown, Poughkeepsie, Auburn, Olean, and Wilmington, Delaware in 1916.

2 responses to “When Sherlock Holmes, Jr. Came to Town”

  1. James Padden says:

    Thank you for the info

  2. Sharon P Best says:

    That sounds like fun. We could use some about now!

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