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Wednesday, March 29, 2023

ACD in the Queen City

The Cincinnati Art Museum, visited by Arthur Conan Doyle in 1894 

Arthur Conan Doyle first visited what he later called “the great city of Cincinnati,” my hometown (and also called "the Queen City"), in October 1894 as part of a U.S. tour during the Great Hiatus. Christopher Redman’s Welcome to America, Mr. Sherlock Holmes has a lot about that. Now comes the opportunity to read extensive contemporary accounts.

Sherlock Holmes and Conan Doyle in the Newspapers, Volume 6, edited by Mattias Boström and Marc Alberstat, is entirely devoted to that one month. (The first volume in the series from Wessex Press, by contrast, covered five years.) The book includes stories from The Cincinnati Post (where I worked for almost 24 years until 1997), The Cincinnati Enquirer, The Cincinnati Commercial Gazette, and The Cincinnati Tribune. Only the Enquirer still exists.

The news accounts of ACD’s lecture at the Odd Fellows Temple (built in 1891 and demolished just 51 years later) and a joint interview with the local press are quite similar. After all, they were all recording the same event. But one newspaper, the Tribune, reported on what else “Dr. Doyle” (as it consistently called him) did in Cincinnati. Taking a streetcar, he visited:

  • Eden Park, with a view of the Ohio River and the Kentucky Hills which he “pronounced the finest he has seen in America, and was loath to leave when it was time to take the car again.”
  • The Cincinnati Art Museum, “the subject of much admiring comment on his part, and he stated that he had frequently read of the building and was glad to see it.”
  • The Cincinnati Zoological & Botanical Garden, AKA Cincinnati Zoo, “of which he had often heard” and “was much pleased.”
  • Harriet Beecher Stowe’s former home. (Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin and was the sister of Henry Ward Beecher, whose unframed portrait was on top of Dr. Watson’s books.)
  • The Cincinnati neighborhoods of Walnut Hills, Avondale, and Clifton, seeing which caused ACD to conclude “that the average American enjoys more comfort in every way than can the average Englishman, that there was a much greater contrast between the rich and poor there than here.”

All of these places still exist, and the Tankerville Club of Cincinnati plans to sponsor a field trip this summer—in cooperation with the Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis and the Agra Treasurers of Dayton—that will let us walk in the footsteps of Dr. Doyle.

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