Sherlock Holmes Societies are clubs where enthusiasts of Sherlock Holmes can gather together.
The Sherlock Holmes Society, in London, and the Baker Street Irregulars, in New York, were both founded in 1934. Both are still active (though the Sherlock Holmes Society was dissolved in 1937 to be resuscitated only in 1951). The London-based society is one of many worldwide who arrange visits to the scenes of the Sherlock Holmes adventures, such as the Reichenbach Falls in the Swiss Alps.
These two initial societies were followed by many more, first of all in America (where they are called "scions societies" -offshoots of the Baker Street Irregulars), then in England and Denmark. Nowadays, there are Holmesian societies in many countries like India and Japan being the more prominent countries which have a history of such activity.
The Baker Street Irregulars
The Baker Street Irregulars took their name from the name of a gang of young street children whom Sherlock Holmes often employs to aid his cases. The organization of Sherlock Holmes enthusiasts was founded in 1934 by Doubleday Editor Christopher Morley. Formal members are known as "investitures" and bear club titles derived from the Holmes stories.
The organization convenes every January in New York City for an annual dinner, which forms part of a weekend of celebration and study involving other Sherlockian groups and enthusiasts. The present leader is referred to in group jargon as the "Wiggins". The leader is elected for life and selects his successor.
The BSI, as it calls itself, was once considered the pre-eminent Sherlockian group in the United States. There are also "scion societies" approved by the BSI in dozens of local communities. While most of the scion societies welcome new members, the BSI does not accept applications for membership. Instead, membership and the awarding of an "Irregular Shilling" are offered to those who have made a name for themselves in local groups or in Sherlockian publications. The group has published The Baker Street Journal, an "irregular quarterly of Sherlockiana", since 1946. Scion societies of the BSI are located around the world.
The BSI does not provide any support to its numerous "scion societies". Nevertheless, these societies continue to flourish throughout the U.S. They sponsor various events throughout the year and often feature original works of Sherlockian scholarship.
The Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes
Because the Baker Street Irregulars refused membership to women until 1991, the Adventuresses of Sherlock Holmes, or ASH, was formed in the late 1960s. Its quarterly journal is entitled The Serpentine Muse.
Official membership in ASH, like that of the BSI, is by invitation only, and its official members are likewise given investiture names. In recent years, both clubs have welcomed all genders equally. However, ASH is a literary social club at which attendance and participation (whether in the flesh or via other media) is a serious consideration for membership—unlike that of the BSI, which at times inducts distinguished Sherlockian figures without previous person to person interaction. In addition, all ASH events without exception are open to any interested parties, while the BSI Dinner remains invite-only. ASH, as an independent group and a non-scion society, operates entirely outside the umbrella of the BSI, although a great many of its members overlap. Another notable difference is that ASH meets in New York City on the first Wednesday of every month, and the BSI officially meet once a year during the January BSI Weekend.