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HolmeWork Assignment: The 1998 William Gillette Festival Medal

HolmeWork Assignment: The 1998 William Gillette Festival Medal

“… aid us in our search.”

– The Boscombe Valley Mystery (BOSC)

sherlock_speechOur next HolmeWork assignment is once again the result of a brief paragraph in Peter E. Blau’s Scuttlebutt from the Spermaceti Press. From the December 1998 edition:

A new flier from Carolyn and Joel Senter (Classic Specialties, Box 19058, Cincinnati, OH 45219) <www.sherlock-holmes.com> offers souvenirs (the pin, poster, and medallion) from the recent William Gillette festival in Tryon, N.C.

We’ve reached out to the Senters, who have retired and no longer sell items, for more information. They remember having the medal for sale, but were unable to provide any additional details about the medal. They do have a report about the second William Gillette Festival, which was held November 7, 1998 and your can read it HERE.

William Gillette in Sherlock HolmesWilliam Gillette is the noted turn of the century actor who is credited with popularizing the Sherlock Holmes stories. With Arthur Conan Doyle’s permission, he created a stage play and would go onto perform as Holmes over 1,300 times over a 30 year career. He would portray Holmes again in a silent film version of his stage play in 1916. This film had been thought lost for years, but was discovered and repaired in 2015. Gillette would reprise the role for the first Sherlock Holmes dramatization on radio, The Adventure of the Speckled Band, broadcast by NBC on October 20, 1930. Gillette would pass away in 1937 at the age of 83.

tryon-sealTryon, North Carolina is located in the western area of the state and is only a few miles away from South Carolina border. William Gillette first visited Tryon in 1890 and was so smitten with the locale, he bought property there the following year and began building a home. Gillette boarded the home up for unknown reasons in 1910 and sold the property in 1925, becomning converted into the Thousand Pine Inn. Today, the building is once again a private residence.

Henry Zecher, a noted authority on Gillette, discussed how the first Gillette Festival came about:

The first William Gillette/Sherlock Holmes Festival, held in Tryon, NC,on 8 November 1997, came about almost by accident. It was proposed by a frame shop owner named Jerry Soderquist, formerly of Lake Forest, Illinois, who says that he finds the serene life in Tryon far more appealing than the early grave he was working on as a big-time, but overworked, engineer designing malls, buildings and train stations. In reading about Gillette’s tenure at Tryon, Jerry noticed that Gillette’s Sherlock Holmes had opened at the Garrick Theatre on Broadway on November 6, 1899. Soderquist wrote to the editor of the Tryon Daily Bulletin (which claims to be the smallest daily newspaper in the world) and asked, “Why not hold a festival to honor Gillette’s work?” Since Gillette lived in Tryon for nearly 20 years, from about 1891 until 1910, and was, in fact, living there when he first played Holmes, it seemed fitting that Tryon should host such a festival. But, as Soderquist found out, “It’s like I plugged into some cosmic source while sitting at the computer that day. I began writing and when it was through, I had written a proposal for a William Gillette/Sherlock Holmes Festival. I sent it to a few people asking for their thoughts.” And, once his proposal was published, “The Festival has taken on a life of its own.” Soderquist contacted various Sherlock Holmes societies; but, because he began all this in the summer of 1997 — extremely short notice for a festival to be held that same autumn — there was not likely to be a huge turnout for the first festival. Still, many of the society representatives suggested that there could be a much larger turnout in subsequent years.

1998-tryon-gillette-festivalThe 1998 Festival did prove to be a much larger affair. You can see by the schedule to the left that full day of activities were arranged. Take note of the mention of “Dated Collectibles,” could this be referring to the medal possibly?

The Senters mention, in their 1998 festival report, that a third festival would take place in 1999. I am unable to find confirmation that it took place or any other editions after that.

So, the HolmeWork Assignment is:

Can anyone supply a picture and description of the medal for the 1998 festival?

Was there a medal for the first festival in 1997?

Were there medals for festivals in 1999 and beyond?

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