Simanaitis Says

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WAS SHERLOCK HOLMES AN AMERICAN? PART 1

THERE’S SOLID evidence provided by chronicler Dr. John H. Watson that Sherlock Holmes visited the United States. But is it possible, nay probable, that the world’s first and greatest consulting detective was indeed an American? Here, in two parts today and tomorrow, are suggestions, if not rock-solid confirmations, from several sources. These include Presidents (as well as Sherlockian scholars) Harry S Truman and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, along with tantalizing comments by Holmes himself.

Holmes in Chicago, Buffalo, and .… As already discussed here at SimanaitisSays, in “His Last Bow” Holmes disguised himself as Altamont, a Brit-hating Irish-American: “I started my pilgrimage at Chicago,” he tells Watson, and “graduated in an Irish secret society at Buffalo.”

So we appear to have Holmes on U.S. soil. Do you suppose he had a hand in deep-dish pizza and hot wings??

What’s more, whence comes his profound knowledge of anthracite coal in The Valley of Fear? Clearly, Holmes spent some time in my own parent’s ancestral environs of Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.

There’s also the Far West: What about Holmes’ perceiving the motivations of Jefferson Hope, the hapless killer seeking revenge for his fiancée’s death in Utah and her father’s death as detailed in A Study in Scarlet?

And even New Jersey: Note how Holmes’ heart skips a beat with mention of Irene Adler. As Watson tactfully observes, “To Sherlock Holmes, she was always the woman.” And, to amplify on this matter of the heart as detailed in “A Scandal in Bohemia,” Ms. Adler was “born in New Jersey in the year 1858.”

Once a Jersey girl….

Presidential Views. Evidence of Holmes actually being American-born is a bit more tenuous. However, my sources are unassailable: no less than two U.S. presidents.

Harry S Truman, 1884–1972, 33rd president of the United States, Sherlockian. Portrait by Edmonston Studio-The Library of Congress.

Harry S Truman never explicitly claimed an American birthright for Holmes. However, Truman confessed to being “an old Holmesian,” proud of his own induction in 1945 as a member honoris causa of the Baker Street Irregulars. And, of course, having had a most friendly relationship with Winston Churchill, Truman already had a high opinion of a Brit sharing American heritage (Churchill’s mother was American).

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 1882–1945, 32nd president of the United States, Sherlockian. Portrait by Leon Perskie, 1944.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt, also an honorary member of the Baker Street Irregulars, was assertive on the matter of Holmes’ place of birth. The Baker Street Journal published his article titled “Sherlock Holmes Was An American!”

A Sherlock Holmes Companion, edited by Peter Haining, Barnes & Noble, 1994.

A Sherlock Holmes Companion gives details: Franklin Delano Roosevelt wrote, “Actually, he was born American and brought up by his father or foster father in the underground world, thus learning the tricks of the trade in the highly developed American art of crime.”

FDR continued, “At an early age, he felt the urge to do something for mankind. He was too well known in top circles in this country and, therefore, chose to operate in England.”

Tomorrow, we’ll add evidence provided by Christopher Morley, another noteworthy Sherlockian scholar. Holmes makes some telling comments too. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

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