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A deerstalker and a curved pipe? Not so elementary!

Sherlock Holmes’ now familiar deerstalker cap and curved calabash tobacco pipe were not really part of the original character in the original Arthur Conan Doyle stories. They are now iconic features of this great detective. How did this come to be?

The deerstalker, a traditional British rural outdoorsman’s cap, first appeared in drawings by Sidney Edward Paget, published to accompany the Sherlock Holmes stories in The Strand magazine between 1891 and 1904. Altogether, Paget completed some 356 published drawings for the Sherlock Holmes series. The deerstalker, combined with the calabash curved pipe and Macfarlane cape-coat, were then further popularised by American actor-playwright William Gillette. After persuading Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to allow him to “resurrect” Sherlock Holmes (killed off in print in 1893) in a stage adaptation, he incorporated these characteristic features in his own performances in the role (more than 1,300 times over 30 years).

You can explore more of the early theatrical world of Sherlock Holmes by watching this very brief parody from 1900, and the wonderfully restored silent movie from 1916, starring William Gillette as Sherlock Holmes.


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