Digital North Carolina Blog

Digital North Carolina Blog

This blog is maintained by the staff of the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center and features highlights from the collections at DigitalNC, an online library of primary sources from institutions across North Carolina.

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Sherlock Holmes in Wilson, N.C.

Ad for "The Sign of the Four," by A. Conan Doyle, published in the Wilson Advance, Feb. 28, 1895.Fans of the BBC series Sherlock who are eagerly awaiting in the next installment would have found kindred spirits in Wilson, N.C., in 1895.

In the winter of 1895, the Wilson Advance, the local weekly newspaper, announced that it would serialize a recent novel, “The Sign of the Four,” featuring a character who had been introduced only a few years before but was quickly gaining popularity worldwide: Sherlock Holmes.

The first Sherlock Holmes story by Arthur Conan Doyle appeared in a London magazine in 1887. More stories and books followed and found eager readers in England and the United States. In 1894, Doyle went on a lecture tour of the United States (though apparently he did not visit North Carolina), which helped to increase interest in the stories of the fictional detective.

On the front page of the February 28, 1895 issue, the Wilson Advance announced that they would be publishing Doyle’s novel, “The Sign of the Four,” the second full-length Holmes book, which had originally been published in the United States in 1890.

The Advance began running the story in the March 7, 1895 issue, often filling most of a page with the text and illustrations. Installments appeared throughout the spring, finally finishing in on June 13, 1895. There’s nothing in the paper itself to indicate how the story was received, though in an age before radio, TV, and movies, it’s easy to imagine kids and adults alike anxiously waiting for the paper to arrive and quickly turning to the back page to find out what happened next.

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