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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

From Dr. Watson's Tin Dispatch Box

Bill Harris, the Unknown Constable, and Dr. Watson's tin dispatch box

How many times in the Canon does Dr. Watson mention his tin dispatch box with notes of unrecorded cases?

The answer is at the end of this blog post. The question comes from Bill Harris, who has been a member of the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati since the 1980s (although he and wife Teresa live in the Columbus area). It was on a quiz he formulated for our Dec. 13 meeting, at which Bill displayed his own reconstruction of the dispatch box.

Bill’s box contains such items as a stethoscope, a deerstalker, a pipe, a Sidney Paget illustration, binoculars, a magnifying glass, and a photo of William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes. But one of the highlights is a set of handcuffs from around 1890 that Bill bought on e-bay some years ago.

We don’t have investiture names in the Tankerville Club, but Bill has dubbed himself (with my august permission) the Unknown Constable in honor of the 36 unnamed constables in the Canon. The reason is that Bill retired as a police officer on January 12, 2011 after 33 years, 3 months, 3 weeks, and 3 days on the job. Just days before he retired, he clapped those 1890 handcuffs on a man who turned himself in to do a three-day jail sentence for driving under the influence. It caused quite a stir!

Maybe Bill should be a member of Watson’s Tin Box of Ellicott City, Maryland, another great Sherlock Holmes scion society.

Watson mentions the dispatch box three times – in “The Adventure of the Creeping Man,” “The Problem of Thor Bridge,” and “The Adventure of the Veiled Lodger.” When I took Bill's quiz, I only remembered the famous “Thor Bridge” reference.  

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