Baker Street Irregulars
|Name:||Baker Street Irregulars (BSI)|
|Country based in:||USA|
|External Links:||Baker Street Irregulars Trust, The Baker Street Journal|
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The Baker Street Irregulars (commonly known as the BSI), was founded in New York City by Christopher Morley in 1934, and is one of the oldest and largest organizations devoted to Sherlock Holmes fandom.
After 1940, “scion” organizations located in other regions but inspired by the senior New York society gradually spun off from the BSI parent group; each included a reference to a Holmes story in its name. The Speckled Band of Boston was founded in 1940 by a Sherlockian who’d been attending the BSI's annual gatherings in New York (held each January to celebrate Holmes' birthday). Other groups founded during the 1940s included The Dancing Men of Providence, The Sons of the Copper Beeches of Philadelphia, the Five Pips of Westchester, the Hounds of the Baskerville in Chicago, and the Six Napoleons of Baltimore.
Hundreds of additional scion societies were founded across the United States during the 1950s and 1960s; some proved short-lived, while others are still active today. In the years after World War II, it became common for members of scion societies who were traveling on business or on vacation to attend meetings of one another’s groups. Leading Sherlockians from scion organizations from across the country and even abroad would also gather once a year in New York to see one another.
Membership in the BSI proper (and in the Adventuresses) is by invitation only, based on an individual's activities in and contributions to Holmesian fandom and scholarship. Prominent BSI members have included Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Harry S Truman, Rex Stout, Isaac Asimov and Neil Gaiman.
The early rank-and-file membership of the BSI and the other American Sherlockian groups that soon followed generally consisted of men who were professionally accomplished and often affluent, who could afford long-distance travel to Sherlockian meetings and/or to engage in fannish tourism. Meetings of the BSI during the 1940s and 1950s resembled those of other "gentlemen's clubs" of the period, but with a fannish focus and entertainment.
Women were excluded from the membership of the BSI and from many U.S. scion groups for decades, although the British Sherlock Holmes Society included women from the start. Nonetheless, early leading Sherlockian scholars included women like Helen Yuhasova, who submitted witty and erudite pieces for publication in the BSI’s journal. Female Sherlockians in the United States later formed their own association, the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes; while the Adventuresses remain active today, they are now fully allied with the BSI and actively involved in BSI Weekend activities.
The BSI and its scion societies dedicate themselves to the practice of "The Great Game," a form of fannish speculation in which it is assumed that the stories are all accounts of true events written by Dr. Watson, and that Conan Doyle was merely Watson's "literary agent," who got them published. Because Sherlockians playfully assume that Watson was Holmes' actual biographer, their gatherings and publications often focus on what is now described as meta: speculative or analytical material that seeks to explain or reconcile apparent contradictions in Doyle's canon.
Members of the BSI whose contributions to the community’s infrastructure or publications are widely respected have sometimes been honored with an “investiture” in the BSI that carries a personal title derived from a Holmes story. From the first, BSI members (and others) have created pastiches (or fan fiction), gone on fan pilgrimages to important sites (such as the Reichenbach Falls in Switzerland), and produced a staggering variety of fanworks in media that have developed and changed since the mid-twentieth century: books, pamphlets, published scrapbooks and other memorabilia, Sherlock Holmes Christmas card series, puzzles, comics and art of an impressive variety, quizzes, comics, games, musical scores, oratorios, scripts for plays, radio and television programs, parodies and pastiches, and children's books.
The organization's best-known activity may be its magazine, the Baker Street Journal, which has published scholarly criticism and fanworks since the organization's inception. It also puts on an annual convention, the BSI weekend, in New York. The BSI Trust, which describes itself as "a part of the BSI," is devoted to gathering and preserving BSI records and materials for archival study.
- Wikipedia, Baker Street Irregulars (accessed April 22, 2009)
- For the early history of the BSI and some of its "scion" organizations, see Jon Lellenberg's Irregular records of the early 'forties : an archival history of the Baker Street Irregulars, January 1941-March 1944 (New York: Fordham University Press, 1991)
- The Universal Sherlock Holmes, Ronald Burt De Waal & George Vanderburgh, Accessed September 18, 2010.