The View from Sherlock Peoria (1)
Back to SherlockPeoria front page June 2, 2002 Back to The View from SP Archives
What does Sherlock Holmes have to do with Peoria, Illinois?
You know, I keep asking myself that.
Peoria isnt mentioned in the sixty original stories of Sherlock Holmes, and probably not in any of the legions of copycat tales came after. Illinois is certainly mentioned. In A Study in Scarlet, little Lucy Ferrier asserts that God made the country in Illinois, and sitting on Peorias river bluffs on a fine summer day, you can agree with her pretty easily. But thats just not quite the same as having Holmes himself refer to a parallel case here, like he does with St. Louis, our neighbor down-river.
Our big urban brother to the north, Chicago, appears by name in four different Holmes tales. Criminals liked to find their way to England via Chicago, just as criminals have long liked to find their way to Peoria via Chicago. Chicago is a good place to import criminals from, even today.
Peoria has its own exports, though, and in the Victorian era, one of those was of particular interest to Sherlock Holmes: whiskey. Holmes liked his whisky and soda, and offered it to friend and foe alike when they came to 221B Baker Street. In the 1880s, Peorias Great Western Distillery was the largest distillery in the world, and by the 1890s, the river town was turning out almost a million bottles of whiskey a day. Might one of those bottles found its way to Holmess spirit case? Well, there was probably more that one reason for Holmes to exclaim "It is always a joy to meet an American." Perhaps he was as fond of our whiskey as many a Sherlockian is of that same product from the British isles.
"Perhaps" is good word to keep handy when discussing Sherlock Holmess connections with Peoria. Perhaps he kept Peoria whiskey in his spirit case. Perhaps he even came here on a visit with Dr. Watson in the autumn of 1899. Perhaps a certain Holmes expert in that same city has a record of the case, sitting in a tin dispatch box waiting for a time when the world is finally prepared to learn the shocking secrets it reveals. Or perhaps not . . .
The one direct connection Sherlock Holmes has to Peoria, in any case, is now a web site called "SherlockPeoria." He has his fans here, and this site is dedicated to the hope that those ties that bond midwestern readers and Victorian consulting detecctives grow stonger with time.
Come see us again sometime.