Sherlock Holmes WORKSHOPS
1977 - 1993
Theodore Schulz, Shaw, and Evelyn Herzog at the Notre Dame Workshop (South Bend, IN) 1977.
Image courtesy of Steven Doyle, who was present at this first Shaw Workshop.
The John Bennett Shaw Sherlock Holmes Workshops
1977 Notre Dame University (South Bend, IN / July 31 - August 4)
1978 Johns Hopkins University (Baltimore, MD / June 16-18)
Popular Culture Society of Western New York (Buffalo, NY / June 23-25)
1979 Wayne State University (Detroit, MI)
Colby College (Waterville, ME)
Bradley University (Peoria, IL / July 20-22)
[Bradley cancelled due to lack of sign-ups. Verified by a Peoria resident.]
1980 Pleasant Places (St. Petersburg Beach, FL / January 18-20)
Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA / May 30 - June 1)
1981 Stanford University (Palo Alto, CA / July 19-23)
1982 Rockhurst College (Kansas City, MO / July 9-11)
1983 Benedictine College (Lisle, IL / September 19-21)
Berry College (Rome, GA / August 5-7)
1984 University of Dubuque (Dubuque, IA / August 17-19)
University of Minnesota (Minneapolis, MN)
1985 Stevens Technical Institute (Hoboken, NJ / August 9-11)
1987 College of William & Mary (Williamsburg, VA / July 24-26)
Stanford University (Stanford, CA / August 19-23)
1993 Santa Fe Community College (Santa Fe, NM / August 6-7)
The First Shaw Sherlock Holmes Workshop
1977 Notre Dame University
(South Bend, IN / July 31 - August 4)
John Shaw conducted his first Sherlock Holmes workshop at the University of Notre Dame in 1977. Although the first one was a full five-day event, subsequent workshops evolved into weekend events with John as the main presenter, invited guest presenters (most often, noted Sherlockian scholars), film clips, books discussions, sing-alongs, and one or more of Shaw’s “diabolical” quizzes. And there were meals and a fair amount of imbibing on the part of everyone.
Steven Doyle (BSI - 1996), author of Sherlock Holmes for Dummies, publisher at Wessex Press (Gasogene Press),
and publisher of The Baker Street Journal, made his start in Sherlockian publishing with his critically acclaimed periodical, The Sherlock Holmes Review (1987). He is also the mastermind behind the five Gillette to Brett conferences, held at the University of Indiana in Bloomington. Doyle had this remembrance of his experiences at the 1977 Notre Dame Sherlock Holmes workshop.
“I was a teenager in South Bend, Indiana, and attended this conference. I distinctly remember John Bennett Shaw, who took pity on the shy, intimidated boy in the back row during a break, coming back and striking up a conversation about Sherlock Holmes. Not talking at me, or down to me, but instead with me about our mutual love of the Great Detective. It was a foundational experience for me, and every conference I've ever put on (be it Sherlock Holmes Review or From Gillette to Brett) has its origin with this epic weekend.”
In another post at the Shaw Facebook page, Steven remarked, “Here's another relic from that weekend. . .an 8.5" x 11" flyer advertising the event. What is striking to me in this modern age is the simplicity of the thing. No email address. No website or Facebook page. Not even a phone number. Nope. . . just a simple mailing address. And it was enough. . .this thing was well attended! I am not certain where I got this. . .I believe it might have been posted at the South Bend Public Library, or even somewhere on the campus of Notre Dame. . .places that, as a boy, I spent a lot of time at. It has been over 40 years, so I can't quite remember. But there it is, fresh out of my shelf of many scrapbooks, bearing witness to being a Sherlockian collector from the earliest of ages. “
Chris Redmond (BSI - 1966) commented on the importance of that first Sherlock Holmes Workshop. “Not only did that conference establish Shaw’s national reputation; it changed the course of the Sherlockian world, opening up our enthusiasm to people of all ages and sexes in a way it had never previously been.”
Let’s look closely at the schedule
The Notre Dame Workshop continues to be the model for most of the Sherlockian conferences today. Steven Doyle admits that all his conferences are built on this model, his very first Shaw/Sherlock Workshop. The only difference is that this was the only five-day event. Most workshops nowadays are weekends only.
Presenters in that first symposium included Notre Dame faculty members Michael Crowe and Fred Crosson, as well as other professors with Sherlockian backgrounds, notably, Ely Liebow from the Northern Illinois University and Frank Hoffman from the State University College of Buffalo, NY. John’s BSI friend Michael Whelan (BSI - 1974) led a session on the London of Sherlock Holmes.
It would be almost a year before the next Shaw Sherlock Weekend would be held. John adjusted the schedule and set the program for all those to follow.
Let’s step back a bit to the time before the first workshop. Where did John Shaw come up with the idea of doing Sherlock Holmes workshops across America and abroad anyway? Jon Lellenberg offers this insight.
(But) an event which helped convince Shaw of the possibilities of such a program, drawing people from afar, was a Great Alkali Plainsmen dinner a year earlier to which he came, now that the scion society to which he'd belonged in the 1960s was restored to life and hitting its stride. It attracted people from four other scion societies as well, the closest of them 200 miles away. See the attached section of my Plainsmen history. That very lively dinner was quite an evening, more so than any of us had expected; it got Shaw thinking, and his first workshop a year later was a result.
(From an email sent by Jon Lellenberg, April 15, 2019)
Planning was already underway for a major extravaganza on what turned out to be the blazing hot day of August 21st (1976). John Bennett Shaw was coming up the Santa Fe Trail to his old scion for the first time since 1968, and both he and Lellenberg talked the meeting up a great deal to neighboring scion societies on the edge of the Plain. John Ferrier would have been impressed by the fair crowd that came. Besides fifteen Plainsmen and Shaw’s separate entourage of eight, the meeting was enlivened by three Afghanistan Perceivers, two Arkansas Valley Investors, four Maiwand Jezails, no less than ten Noble Bachelors of St. Louis, plus two wide-eyed NBC TV people from New York. In Kansas City to cover the just-concluded Republican National Convention, they had taken in the spectacle of the Irregular mob at cocktails – Shaw had insisted on a ninety-minute cocktail “hour” – and asked if they might join the bacchanalia for the meeting.
Shaw has always been a good drawing attraction, and this was no exception. Lellenberg was in the Chair, Shaw reigned as conquering hero returned, and a more lively Plainsmen dinner has seldom been seen. Traditional toasts by Milt Perry, Bill Wright, and Richard Miller of The Brothers Three of Moriarty were followed spontaneously by the additional toasts from the floor. There was indignant Shavian spluttering when the guest of honor discovered that Lellenberg had thoughtfully arranged for him to drink the toasts in his traditional Plainsman grape juice.
Shaw was disconcerted to hear his own wife Dorothy introducing him, satirically, along the lines of Watson’s cataloguing of Holmes’s knowledge in “A Study in Scarlet.” But he overcame this difficult beginning to give the assembled multitude a rousing talk, recalling his Plainsmen years in the 1960s, and how hard it was to get a drink in those days. He had brought a quiz, and Milt Perry shocked his compatriots by winning it. Ernest Willer and John Altman, as founders of the Great Alkali Plainsmen, presented Shaw with a scroll honoring his tireless efforts to make “the fair crowd even larger and fairer wherever his journeys take him.”
The Great Alkali Plainsmen of Greater Kansas City, a 25th Anniversary History by Jon Lellenberg, October 20, 1988 ( http://www.bsiarchivalhistory.org/BSI_Archival_History/GAP_GKC.html )
1978 Johns Hopkins University
(Baltimore, MD - June 16-18)
A course description:
“John Bennett Shaw:
A Workshop on Sherlock Holmes”
is a three-day, noncredit program sponsored by The Office of the Chaplain, The Johns Hopkins University, for the benefit of the Tutorial Program. Designed for those already familiar with the Holmes literature as well as those newly curious, the Workshop consists of a variety of lectures, films and discussions, all under the direction of Mr. Shaw. [Note: The major topics are then listed, and the course description continues.]
The Workshop is an opportunity to explore a fascinating subject in a way that combines insight and imagination with an abundance of good humor and fun. It is also an opportunity to meet and exchange ideas with men and women from around the country who share an interest in Holmes. Plan now to participate in what promises to be an excellent program.
Betzner & Shaw
at the Duquesne Workshop that set Ray Betzner on his way to a life with Sherlock Holmes.
1980 Duquesne University
(Pittsburgh, PA - May 30 to June 1)
Titled A Sherlockian Weekend, this event was sponsored by The Pennsylvania Small Arms Company. Just as the Notre Dame workshop encouraged a young Steven Doyle to become a major player in Sherlockian publishing and programming, the event in Pittsburgh set another youngster on his way to Sherlockian stardom: Ray Betzner (BSI - 1987), assistant vice president, University Communications, Temple University (Philadelphia, PA). The photo at the top of this section is a young Betzner with John Shaw at Ray’s first Sherlock Holmes Weekend, the one highlighted by the brochure to the left.
Just seven years later, when Betzner was employed by the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA, he organized a Sherlock Holmes Workshop featuring John Shaw and Michael Harrison as headliners. In his spare time Betzner authors the Vincent Starrett blog.
1983 Benedictine College
(Lisle, IL - September 19-21)
Brad Keefauver (BSI - 1989), creator of the Sherlock Peoria blog, sent information and photos (taken by his wife Kathy Carter) from this event. “The year was 1983. The place was Illinois Benedictine College at Lisle, Illinois. John Bennett Shaw had speakers like Jack Tracy, Evelyn Herzog, and Paul Herbert on the bill. And the good Carter was taking black and white photos so we could print some in The Baker Street Chronicle.”
Pictured above (click on arrows to access images): The Program (images 1 and 2), and (3) Evelyn Herzog at the lectern with Shaw seated.
College of William & Mary Workshop
Williamsburg, Virginia (1987)
We come now to the 1987 Williamsburg, VA, workshop at the College of William & Mary.
Ray Betzner was the organizer, and here is a bit of background from him about the event.
“This deserves a little explanation. I had attended a few Shaw workshops (Duquesne, Stevens Technical Institute, one in Georgia) and really wanted to host a Holmes conference in Williamsburg. I was shifting careers at the time, leaving the Daily Press and starting to work in PR at the College of William and Mary. W&M had a small summer conference program, and we (Chuck and Peggy Henry, John Lanzalotti and I) put together a pitch to Shaw. This is the letter where he agreed to do it (below). You can see he wanted to it to be a hit, and it was. We budgeted for 100 and had to stop registration at 200 because we didn’t have space for everyone. It was exhausting and wonderful and one of the great adventures of my life.
Seven Nashville Scholars, including Jim Hawkins (attending his one and only Shaw workshop), made the drive from Nashville to Williamsburg. Gael Stahl was president of the Scholars at that time, and he brought with him a proclamation from Governor Ned McWhorter of Tennessee, “that people of Tennessee commemorate the one hundredth anniversary of Sherlock Holmes’ first appearance in print.” Stahl arranged for a group photo to be taken with the BSI leaders in attendance: Bob Tomalen, Tom Stix Jr, and John Shaw. As president of our scion Gael decided to be in the picture (these days we call it photobombing!).
Almost 10 years later, in 1995, The Detective and the Collector: Essays on the John Bennett Shaw Library was published on the occasion of the dedication of that library. As I turned the pages of the book, remembering the good times with John and Dorothy Shaw at their Santa Fe home, I came to this photo, but without the hand-written notes, added later by Gael and Susan Stahl. Our Nashville Scholars have laughed about the “missing Stahl” often.
Here is a report on the William & Mary workshop, written by Gael Stahl, for the Nashville Tennessean.
Many significant events were held in 1987, the centenary of the first appearance of Sherlock Holmes in A Study in Scarlet. It was such a joy to be able to attend the Shaw Weekend at Williamsburg, even though I had to sell the 20-gauge shotgun I had inherited from my father to have enough money for the trip. This was prior to my first visit to the Shaws’ home in Santa Fe, in the summer of 1988. Ray Betzner had everything organized. Michael Harrison did indeed headline the event, along with Shaw. And, was it hot! Betzner remembers Mr. Harrison being dressed in a wool suit for the entire event.
John Shaw’s Last Sherlockian Workshop
August 6 and 7, 1993
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Santa Fe Community College
Brad Keefauver, along with his wife Kathy Carter and friend Greg Ewen, attended the 1993 Shaw Sherlock Holmes Workshop at Santa Fe Community College. It proved to be the last workshop that John Bennett Shaw was to lead. Brad was elated at the friends he made there and wrote about it enthusiastically in the September 1993 issue of the Hansoms of John Clayton newsletter Plugs & Dottles.
“Okay. Suppose you got to go to some really trendy part of the country, like New Mexico, maybe, for a Sherlock Holmes workshop. And you got there and they had guacamole dip and sangria and gave you a free t-shirt and showed you all sorts of Sherlockian video bites. Then, like, the head of the Baker Street Irregulars and the head of the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes showed up and actually talked to you, because it turns out they're just regular guys (except for maybe the head of the Adventuresses, 'cause she's definitely not a guy, which is cool). And then the World's Greatest Sherlockian dropped in and said it's okay if you come over to his house and see his stuff. And you went. Wouldn't that be great?”
See the entire post here.