Published 1995 by the Baker Street Irregulars, 392 pp.

Out of Print.

George Fletcher had left Fordham University Press for a new position at the Pierpont Morgan Library, and his successor did not care to continue publishing this series, nor the Baker Street Journal either. Nor was it possible to find another academic press to take over the BSI’s publishing needs, and subsequently it was forced to rely upon its own resources, with printing done as before at Sheridan Press in Hanover, Pa. (As before the camera-ready copy for this and the next two Archival Histories were composed by me on a series of personal computers at home; and when one showed the “blue screen of death,” as Microsoft products were wont to do, Donald Pollock at SUNY Buffalo [formerly “The Anthropological Journal, BSI] found a graduate student to scan the contents I’d printed out as I went along into files I could load into my next PC, so nothing was lost

With his volume, the book’s Photographs and Other Illustrations became more plentiful than ever before, thanks to William Vande Water of Holbrook, N.Y. (“An Enlarged Photograph,” BSI). Bill, working at the time in CBS News’ research department in New York City, was noted on the volume’s title page and ones to come for graphic accoutrement, and I am grateful to him for his help and his friendship.


This volume was dedicated to the memory of John Bennett Shaw (“The Hans Sloane of My Age,” BSI), to whom all Baker Street Irregulars are permanently indebted for many things, including his personal collection the donation of which made the University of Minnesota Libraries’ Sherlock Holmes Collections the largest and most important in the world.




An Irregular Reader. — Editing A. Conan Doyle out. — Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: annotating the Canon. — The Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes: parodies and pastiches. — The Conan Doyles scowl. — The Dinner. First membership certificate. — Press reaction. — The Woman’s revenge. — Literary life spoofed. — Aftermath. — Final pronouncements.


     Doyle eclipsed. — Sherlock Holmes in ascension. —

Faltering movement becomes explosive actuality.


Anthony Boucher and Joseph Henry Jackson. — “We have scoured the

Bay Region.” — The Molly Maguires come on the scene. — A Scowrer

in New York. — “The Bodymaster wants trimming up.” —

Concelebrating to this day.


New concerns and excitements. — The Blanched Soldiers of the Pentagon. — Billy the Oysterman. — Basil Rathbone, BSI? — Frederic Dorr Steele under the weather. — A Baker Street Four-Wheeler. — Death of FDS. — Debut of Jay Finley Christ. — A monstrous perpetration! — R. V. Mouillerat. — Profile for a buck. — Certificates. — On to 1945.

5. PROFILE OF AN IRREGULAR by Ronald Mansbridge

Basil Davenport. — “Who is that extraordinary man?” —

“Gee! It’s a good thing he boxes!”


The annual dinner. — Irregular biography of Ben Abramson. — FDS memorial exhibit. — Adventures in Membership, and how to get one. — Death of FDR. — The Greek Interpreters of East Lansing. — A Baker Street Folio. — “The incredible Adrian.” — The war is over! — A Baker Street Quarterly? — Harry S. Truman, honoris causa. — On to 1946.

7. PROFILE OF A SCIONIST by Hugh Harrington

     Clifton R. Andrew. — The Sherlock Holmes Society of Akron.

“Ideas flying all the time.” — The William Gillette Luncheon. —

“A true believer.”


Russell McLauchlin. — Minutes of the Organization Meeting. — Moriarty’s Allied Friends in America.


     The annual dinner. — A photographic era develops. — Found-fact

of liquor consumption. — The Baker Street Journal comes out. — An editorial process allowing little rest. — The Dancing Men of Providence. —

A Portable Conan Doyle Library? — “The Implicit Holmes.” — Dealing with the Doyles. — Edgar Smith, editor. — The Canadian Baskervilles. — The Murray Hill under threat. — The BSJ in trouble. — On to 1947. — General Motors grows more and more Irregular (Jeff Decker).


     Allen Robertson. — Napoleonic campaigns in their first decade.

Paul S. Clarkson, Esq. — “Allen’s memory will live forever!”


The Old Lady of Murray Hill. — “An Age Passes.”

— One last mystery. — No further investigation.


     The annual dinner. — Morley’s mood. — The BSJ's second year: subscribers wanted! — The Illustrious Clients of Indianapolis. —

BSI “over-gatherings”? — The Wisteria Lodge Confederates of the

Eastern Deep South. —  What makes a scion society? — The end of the Murray Hill Hotel. — To preserve the BSI’s “austere charm.”



Like Inspector Lestrade in A Study in Scarlet, most Baker Street Irregulars were no spring chickens in 1944. Even so, military service had thinned the BSI’s ranks a bit by March that year. Those still around town were excited about the BSI’s special dinner scheduled for the end of the month. In 1940, Vincent Starrett’s book 221B: Studies in Sherlock Holmes had prompted Christopher Morley to call the first BSI dinner since 1936, as a publication party. Now not one but three new books about Sherlock Holmes were coming out simultaneously, from publishers taking the occa-sion seriously enough to launch them with lots of publicity and ration points.

    The Trilogy Dinner, like the annual dinners since 1940, was held in the faded but authentic Victorian precincts of Park Avenue’s Murray Hill Hotel. Morley had pro-posed it in 1939 as the New York hostelry closest to the London of Sherlock Holmes. It had stood since 1884, but its seven stories lay increasingly beneath the shadows of modern office buildings in the neighborhood. The Murray Hill was living on borrowed time. In 1942, a development company had bought it with the express intention of tearing it down once the war was over. Court-ordered delays gave it another year and a half after V-J Day, but in the spring of 1947 the wrecking ball finally swung.

    But on the night of March 31, 1944, the Murray Hill Hotel was a festive place. Irregulars enjoyed the simultaneous popping of champagne corks and flashbulbs. Time and Life and Charles Honce’s Associated Press splashed the BSI in front of American readers from coast to coast. Christopher Morley’s Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson: A Textbook of Friendship annotated the Canon for the first time. Edgar Smith’s Profile by Gaslight gave the public a second collection of BSI Writings About the Writings. And Ellery Queen’s Misadventures of Sherlock Holmes gathered together the best parodies and pastiches of previous years an act that deepened the Conan Doyle Estate’s suspicion of the BSI, and set the stage for later blows. Profile by Gaslight could only cut back the mounting pile of Irregular essays a short while, and Irregulars increasingly felt the need for a journal of their own. So two years later The Baker Street Journal was born to face a hostile Conan Doyle Estate, angered by the BSI’s playful position that A. Conan Doyle was merely Dr. Watson’s literary agent.

    The Authors’ sons’ command failed to halt the Irregular tide from coming in. The Mid ‘Forties saw the annual dinner in New York grow larger, and the number of scion societies elsewhere quadruple. In San Francisco, Detroit, Baltimore, Los Angeles, and other cities, newly dubbed Scowrers, Amateur Mendicants, Greek Interpreters and Illustrious Clients joined Speckled Bands, Hounds, and Pips in worshipping the Master. A new breed of Irregular was being born, the Scionist, who might aim to be at the BSI dinner most Januaries, but pursued the Sherlockian life in his own home town the rest of the year. The archetypal Scionist was C. R. Andrew of Akron, Ohio, who founded the Sherlock Holmes Society of Akron in 1943 by placing an ad in the local paper asking that if Sherlock Holmes needed friends in Akron, how many would he find? By 1945, his scion had picked up members as far away as Canada. In addition to attending BSI dinners in New York, Andrew was organizing a small lunch in the Murray Hill’s grill-room, for out-of-town Irregulars coming for the evening’s BSI dinner not so small a gathering today, every January.

    The scion societies of the Mid ‘Forties brought forward other names that became pillars in Baker Street Irregularity. Founding San Francisco’s Scowrers was Anthony Boucher, the author of 1940’s The Case of the Baker Street Irregulars. Jay Finley Christ in Chicago, Russell McLauchlin in Detroit, and H. W. Starr in Philadelphia became important Writers About the Writings. Chicago rare bookdealer Ben Abramson set up shop in New York, and became The Baker Street Journal’s first publisher. Some Irregulars fell from the ranks, but new ones far outpaced the losses. All the Irregulars who had gone off to war came home, save one: the Commander in Chief himself, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, whose death on April 12, 1945, made him the sole Irregular casualty of the war.

    The BSI’s leaders were older and even busier men by war’s end. Edgar Smith, the man of commerce, continued to find time to be an effective Buttons-cum-Commissionaire, but he was busier than ever at General Motors, which was entering a new era of industrial maturity and productivity. Christopher Morley, the man of letters, had left the Saturday Review of Literature to be on his own, writing and editing and reviewing, judging for the Book of the Month Club, and broadcasting on radio. Life was more hectic now, and Morley, whose taste in clubs had always run to the spontaneous and casual, was seeing the BSI become a more and more organized affair, with larger and larger annual dinners, attended by more and more people whom he failed to recognize. A discontent was setting in. In 1947, it would boil over.

If March 1944 was a happy time for the Irregulars, it was an anxious time too. Chris-topher Morley had one son in the Army, Edgar Smith had two. Victory could not be considered a sure thing until the Allies landed in France, drove the Nazis out, and defeated them on their own soil. Those landings had to come soon, with Britain groaning under the growing weight of American troops and equipment, but in March ’44 the great gamble still lay ahead. When D-Day came in June, few realized how close a thing it had been on bloody Omaha Beach. But the U.S. Army was on the continent for keeps, and headed for the Rhine. Not even the setback in the Bulge in December could dispel the vision of victory now. A worse blow was FDR’s death, just days before Hitler’s suicide and Germany’s surrender. In the Pacific, progress proved hideously costly at Iwo Jima and Okinawa. Americans steeled themselves for a hellish invasion of Japan’s home islands then cheered and wept with relief as a secret weapon, the atom bomb, forced Japan to surrender. The last Axis dictatorship expired a few days later on the deck of the battleship Missouri, triumphantly at anchor in Tokyo Bay.

    When the war ended, 12,000,000 Americans were still in uniform. Few stayed in uniform long. Already, on June 20, 1945, the Queen Mary had brought the first big contingent of 15,000 GIs home from the European theater, to a tumultuous welcome, in New York City. “‘Bring the boys home!’ is a cry that wells up from the heart of America,” declared one Massachusetts congressman, and America lost no time dis-mantling the greatest war machine the world had ever seen. By July ’46, nearly 10,000,000 U.S. soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines had been discharged, with an-other half million to go. Over half of America’s GNP had been devoted to war pro-duction in 1945. By the summer of ’46, economic and industrial reconversion was virtually complete. No one had ever seen anything like it.

    The United States had suffered virtually no damage from the war, and now a great deal of postponed business could get underway. The theme of the 1939 New York World’s Fair had been “Building the World of Tomorrow.” Now Tomorrow had ar-rived. American kids who’d lived through the Depression and then fought the War were grown up in September ’45, Shirley Temple got married! Time and distance in a country spanning a continent continued to shrink, as America’s railroads reached their zenith. Every day the New York Central’s 20th Century Limited pulled out of Manhattan at 6:00 pm, and rolled into Chicago at 8:00 the next morning in time for a day’s business. On the way, it offered its passengers cocktails, a first-rate dinner, a rolling night club until the small hours, a night’s sleep in private staterooms, and a shave or haircut from a barber before breakfast. And splendid service like this was standard on the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited, the Santa Fe’s Super Chief, Seaboard’s Orange Blossom Special, and many another Streamliner, Zephyr, and Rocket.

    No matter. American transportation was about to revolutionize itself again, chang-ing forever the way Americans lived. With Detroit shifting back to civilian production manufacturing 2,149,170 passenger cars in 1946 instead of jeeps and tanks the private automobile would finally come into its own, millions of them driving the length and breadth of America on the superhighways predicted by GM’s breathtaking “Futurama” exhibit at the 1939 World’s Fair. America also stood on the brink of its Air Age.  The immense new aircraft industry that had inundated the Axis with American fighters and bombers now turned to making airliners. The airlines were beginning to cut their fares to compete with the railroads. While New York’s La Guardia Airport was a recent thing built to serve the ’39 World’s Fair, construction of an even larger one at Idlewild was already underway. Some glimpsed the future in January ’46 when a P-80 Shooting Star jet flew from Long Beach, California, to La Guardia in just 4 hours 13 minutes 26 seconds, at an average speed of 584 mph.

     Television’s advent had been postponed by the war, but now it was getting under-way too, and would also change the American way of life enormously. In 1946, regular broadcasting began in New York, Philadelphia, Washington, Chicago, and Los Angeles. On June 19 that year, 45,000 people went to Yankee Stadium to see Joe Louis knock out Billy Conn but 100,000 watched it live on TV. Some 60,000,000 radios were in use in America in 1946, with the number of TV sets almost too small to notice. By the end of 1947, TV stations were on the air or being built in 60 cities, and over 200,000 sets were in use, a number expected to rise to over 1,000,000 by the end of 1948. Another revolution was taking place, in American communications, journalism, and entertainment, and a movement in home life from front porches into air-conditioned living rooms and dens had begun.

    So had the movement of Americans off farms to cities, and out of cities into sub-urbia. Millions of servicemen were coming home with different expectations of life than before the war. The GI Bill would send millions of them to college. The numbers of professionals and white-collar workers would mushroom in a trans-formed economy that in 1946 constituted nearly half the world’s GNP. And when returning GIs were reunited with their wives and girlfriends, the Baby Boom took off. Commercial construction was suspended so the materials could be used to build housing for veterans. Another portent of postwar America started going up in 1947 on Long Island thirty miles from Manhattan: Levittown, a planned community of 17,447 mass-produced houses for veterans, all much alike, close-set houses laid out in trance-inducing grids of streets. In the cities, by the end of the ‘Forties the exuberant Art Deco architecture that had erected the Empire State Building, the Chrysler Building, and Rockefeller Center was done. The era of the Glass Box was about to dawn.

    New Year’s Eve of 1945, Information Please Almanac noted, was the first in six years on which men were not shooting at each other formally. Even so, peace was no goose that laid golden eggs. As wartime price controls ended in 1946, prices stayed high, or went higher. “A hamburger for lunch in a New York club, $2.75,” griped Information Please. “You tipped the bus-boy half a buck for your glass of water, the waiter a buck for bringing the hamburger, the maitre d’ a buck or two for letting you eat in the joint” (assuming you could spare the dough, in a year when the average in-come was $2500). The end of the war released a great deal of pent-up labor dissatis-faction. 1946 saw nationwide turmoil, with over 4,500,000 American workers going out on strike, often paralyzing critical industries. “A strange year,” mused Elmer Davis. BSI, about the year 1946 in Information Please Almanac: “bitter, turbulent, and unfruitful. A typical first postwar year, said men with historical memories; less injurious to the national interest, at any rate, than 1866 or 1919. But bad enough.”

    Things weren’t much better as 1947 got going, and were aggravated by a growing realization that the peace abroad, purchased by long costly years of war, was turning out differently than Americans had expected. Greece was in a civil war. Britain, France, and the Low Countries were still reeling. Germany was a divided ruin, Italy a wreck. Our erstwhile Soviet ally was stirring up trouble wherever it could. And Eastern Europe, far from having been liberated, was being shoved beneath the chariot wheels of another tyranny. The new United Nations seemed powerless to do anything about it. At Fulton, Missouri, in March 1946, Winston Churchill (to Americans, a giant inexplicably turned out of office in July ’45 by an ungrateful British people) warned of the “Iron Curtain” dividing postwar Europe. By March ’47, European democracy was in clear peril when President Truman called upon America to rescue embattled Greece, and resist communist attempts to overthrow democratic governments.

    Americans were not sure they wanted responsibility for the rest of the world any longer. Selective Service was allowed to expire that month. Truman’s popularity was low, and going lower. FDR’s New Dealers were deserting his administration. The Republicans gained both houses of Congress in the ’46 elections, and looked forward to New York Governor Tom Dewey taking the White House in ’48. And different wings of the President’s own party were attacking him, especially former vice-president Henry Wallace, who called upon the United States to accommodate Stalin, and threatened to run against the President on a third-party ticket.

    Harry Truman had no record of distinction behind him. He had gotten his start in politics in Kansas City’s notorious Pendergast machine, and when he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1934 Washington dismissed him as “the Senator from Pendergast.” He had not been picked for vice-president in 1944 because of any leadership qualities that anyone had noticed. But now “the man from Independence” began to emerge, as Truman stuck to his guns. In January 1947, he appointed George C. Marshall, who as Army Chief of Staff had been the architect of victory in World War II, to be architect of peace and security now as Secretary of State. That June, at Harvard University, Marshall proposed his ambitious plan for America to assist the recovery of war-devastated Europe. And when the Kremlin denounced it, and refused to allow its satellites to participate either, Truman went ahead without them.

    Passage of the Taft-Hartley Act later that month did not please everyone, but it held out hope of labor peace once more. 1947 might turn out all right after all, Americans began to think. GI Joe had turned into Joe College, and carefree bobby-soxers were abroad in the land. Americans hummed along to Bing Crosby and Dinah Shore, laughed along with Bob Hope and Jack Benny, and listened to witty pundits like Clifton Fadiman, F. P. A., and Christopher Morley on Information, Please! on the radio. Black Americans, left out of much of the progress, took encouragement when Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers that April. Peacetime re-adjustment took some doing, sure. That was the theme of The Best Years of Our Lives, the movie that swept the Academy Awards for 1946: realism beating out the idealism of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life. But things were getting back to normal at home by the summer of 1947.

    (Or were they, quite? In late June, Lowell Thomas made America blink with the first reports, from Oregon, of strange flying saucers in the skies.)

But all that was yet to come when the Mid ’Forties opened. When Irregulars con-vened at the Murray Hill Hotel for the Trilogy Dinner, it was the war that was on everyone’s mind. Today, 50 years later, Americans have marveled to look back at what other Americans did in World War II: the emotions and sacrifice and unity and mobilization of the energies of a vast and populous land. Let us close this in-troduction by looking at America, at that time in our history, through an outsider’s eyes. George H. Johnston was an Australian writer serving as a war correspondent when he spent six months of 1943 in New York. He made a point of getting out and about to see as much as he could, and when he returned home he wrote a book about it that was published in Australia in 1946. Skyscrapers in the Mist gives a re-markable picture of America during the war, and toward the end Johnston tried to sum up America for his countrymen.

    He liked the absurdity of contrasts, he said, the little things against the backdrop of gigantic things. He liked the immensity of production contributing to the winning of the war, and the earnest desire of scientists and industrialists and workers to return to making things that would make people happy in peacetime. He was deeply moved by an elderly lady he met at Grand Central Station, waiting to see her youngest son one last time before he joined his three brothers already overseas, and hoping that they would all come home one day their father had not returned from France in 1918. Yet she had been concerned for Johnston, so far from home. Johnston liked America’s vigorous arts, and poets like Whitman, Sandburg, Benet and MacLeish. He liked the Manhattan skyline, and country lanes. He liked the slang and casual dress and open manner of Americans. He admired the highways and the railroads, “great snorting American railway engines, spending their lives clattering out their great steel-bound theme song of rattly-rattly-boom-rattly-boom on great curving tracks that span the continent.” He saw a country, he said, “which has sentiment and emotion and pageantry and much that is theatrical a good deal of which foreigners fail to understand; and a land of achievement and production and impossible things done which foreigners do understand, and hastily copy.”

    But most of all I think of people. Of the days and nights spent in America with men and women who were kind and friendly and warm-hearted to a foreigner who had nothing to give them in exchange. I think of dance bands playing, and a girl humming a tune in Brooklyn, and country school-kids singing “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Of ice tinkling in cocktail shakers, and the noise of the elevators, and the laughter of kids, and the sound of the June wind in the pines, and of people talking and worrying and praying for the day of peace. I think of a land where the children have rosy cheeks and white teeth and smile often, and where young men are marching away to a war that has yet to be won, but which is being won. Of a country where, despite the tension and loneliness and tragedy of war, there is more music than in any land on earth from boogie-woogie to symphony, and the vast and rich store of folksongs that has been accumulated in only a century and a half. A land, too, where there are no boundaries to culture not to entertainment, for the wealthy man may go to the Metropolitan or Carnegie Hall, or to a jive session, or to hear Frank Sinatra. And nobody thinks any differently of him whether his choice goes one way or the other. The poor man has the same right of discrimination. I think too, in these absurd and trivial memories, of the burnished vegetable stores in New York, where the cabbages are washed and the potatoes polished and the turnips scrubbed until they look like freshly laundered linen. I think of a New York cab-driver poking his head through the window of his cab and yelling to a motorist who had cut in too sharply: “Where in hell did you learn to drive? At a goddam correspondence school?” I see a long column of rookies marching down Madison Avenue, and a little old lady waiting for her son at Grand Central Station. I see America the greatest phenomenon, and perhaps the greatest hope, of the world today.

America, and New York, in the Mid ‘Forties.

from the Preface and Acknowledgments:

The first volume in the BSI History series, “Dear Starrett”/“Dear Briggs, came out in the autumn o 1989, and was followed over the next two years by Irregu-lar Memories of the ‘Thirties and Irregular Records of the Early ‘Forties. This is the first volume since 1991. The reasons for the hiatus were many, and both personal and Irregular in nature. But the research never ended, and this and the next few volumes to come in the series will be the richer for the hiatus, since much came to light which would not have gone into them had publication continued on an annual basis.

*           *          *          *          *

    This volume could not exist without the contributions of many others as well. Hugh Harrington, Ronald Mansbridge, and Ted Schulz and his scowrerly collaborators contributed chapters which enrich the volume, and Jeff Decker provided a cartoon that captures the marvel of how far Edgar W. Smith bent GM corporate resources to the service of Baker Street Irregularity. This volume also contains materials and information provided by many others as well, and my thanks for their assistance go to Walter P. Armstrong, Jr., Ray Betzner, Peter E. Blau, James H. Bready, Paul S. Clarkson, Jr., Steven T. Doyle, Ralph Edwards, Ted Friedman, Tom Galbo, David Galerstein, Robert S. Gellerstedt, Jr., Paul Gitlin, Don Hardenbrook, Robert G. Harris, William C. Hyder, the late William D. Jenkins, Susan Jewell, Robert S. Katz, Edwin V. King, Jr., Arthur L. Levine, Marilyn MacGregor, Allen Mackler, Andrew Malec, Jerry Margolin, Michael McClure, Austin McLean, Glen Miranker, Mary Mouillerat, Pauline Page, the late Milton F. Perry, Dan Posnansky, Chris Redmond, Edgar S. Rosenberger, Steven Rothman, Peter A. Ruber, Richard S. Schwartz, the late John Bennettt Shaw, Philip Sherman, Philip A. Shreffler, Bruce Southworth, Enola Stewart, Thomas L. Stix, Jr., James J. Tattersall, Sandy Waters, Sarah L. Wood,  and Donald A. Yates.

    I am very conscious that I may have overlooked contributions by other individuals to this and succeeding volumes. During the hiatus, my attention was largely else-where and my research notes underwent along with everything else the two moves that are proverbially worse than a fire. I apologize to everyone whom I may have failed to mention in these acknowledgments.

    A number of public and private institutions were also of inestimable help, and my thanks go to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, the Harry S. Truman Library, the New York Public Library, the New-York Historical Society, the Chicago Historical Society, the University of Minnesota Libraries, and the libraries of The Players in New York City and of the Pentagon and the Army & Navy Club in Washington, D.C. I want to say a special word of thanks to Barbara Cohen of New York Bound bookshop in New York City for bringing George Johnston’s Skyscrapers in the Mist to my attention.

    Once again, Ronald De Waal’s World Bibliography of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson has been my constant and indispensable companion in preparing this volume, along with the late Bill Rabe’s Sherlockian Who’s Who & What’s What.


From the book:

    Ch. 11, “Farewell to Parlors F and G”

    . . . . one last mystery, before we say farewell to the Murray Hill Hotel forever. It may never be solved, for the Murray Hill is long gone now, and the memories of the few Irregulars left who attended BSI dinners in Parlors F and G have faded.

    From the surviving Irregular references, I have never had a clear idea of the Murray Hill Hotel’s interior geography. Where in the hotel were Parlors F and G? When a Baker Street Irregular entered the Murray Hill on the evening of the Friday closest to January 6th, each year between 1940 to 1947, what did he behold? How did he make his way to those magical rooms, where Irregulars greeted each other, and laughed and talked and drank and toasted The Woman, and then sat down to dinner and what Robert G. Harris fondly called Con-frontation, Disputation, and Dialectical Hullabaloo? What Victorian survivals lay between the entrance and Parlors F and G?

    So on January 5, 1995, I was pleased to find at the New-York Historical Society, in its file on the Murray Hill Hotel, a set of the floor plans.

    One entered on Park Avenue, and found oneself in the Murray Hill’s spacious faded-magnificence lobby. Straight ahead, on the left side of the lobby, was the grand staircase going upstairs to the floors where guests stayed. Beyond the staircase were a newstand, a cigar shop, and a telegraph office; on the right side of the lobby were the reception desk and the hotel’s offices. Visible beyond the lobby itself was a large rotunda.

    The hotel’s parlors lay along a corridor that began just before the grand staircase. One turned left and walked down that corridor in the direction of 40th Street. On its left-hand side were more offices and the hotel’s parlors, on the right a very large dining room and a long narrow tea room. The corridor turned right, and ran parallel up 40th Street. Halfway up was a Ladies’ Entrance, so ladies of quality could come to tea without being subjected to the hustle and bustle, the noise and smoke, of the busy lobby. The parlors began just below that entrance. Parlors A through E ran back down the way we have come, to the turn in the corridor; then, on the near side of the bend, they continued with Parlors H and I.

    In other words, Parlors F and G do not exist on the floor plans of the Murray Hill Hotel.

    All other rooms on the ground floor are clearly labelled otherwise, and none of them seem to have been the right size for the rooms in which the BSI met eight Januaries in a row, judging from Irregular descriptions and photographs of the BSI’s annual dinners there. There were no parlors on the upper floors of the hotel. The plan for the floor below the lobby level is missing, and it was an important floor, accommodating the hotel’s large barroom, its grill-room where Irregulars gathered after dinner for another hour or two of drink and talk — and where in 1945 Clifton R. Andrew started a Friday out-of-towners’ lunch that grew into the William Gillette Memorial Luncheon of today — and what throughout the hotel’s lifetime was the largest billiards room in New York City. But from Irregular comments over the years, it seems sure that Parlors F and G were not located on that floor. Edgar Smith’s story “Murder at the Murray Hill,” published in Leaves from the Copper Beeches in 1959, indicates that Parlors F and G lay somewhere along that ground-level corridor off the lobby. His account of the Unrecorded “creeping man” Incident of 1941 said that Parlors F and G were on the street level

    But on the floor plans, they do not exist.

There are further lines of investigation possible. The companies which insured the Murray Hill Hotel over the years no doubt had complete floor plans, and insurance companies often hang onto such things. But I shall make no further effort to solve the mystery. I have come to like the fact that Parlors F and G, where so much of the BSI’s Golden Age took place, are not to be found on the Hotel’s floor plans at the New-York Historical Society.

    For — like Holmes and Watson in Vincent Starrett’s sonnet 221B — if Parlors F and G never lived, they can never die. Perhaps they were magically transferred in 1947 to some celestial Baker Street, where Edgar Smith and Chris Morley and Bill Hall and Bob Leavitt and Basil Davenport and all the other Murray Hill Irregulars continue to gather and eat and drink and carouse, and every night is the Friday night closest to January 6th.

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