"Manufactory of artificial kneecaps"

One of my favorite Sherlock Holmes stories (The Red Headed League) contains a reference to a “manufactory of artificial knee-caps.” I’ve always wondered what they are, considering the state of surgery back in the days when the story was written. What exactly was an artificial knee-cap?

A google search turned up this site. Leave it to the Sherlockians to investigate every little detail in the stories.

Seems like they were closer to what we would call knee braces or protectors.

That’s not quite what that site says. It says they were knee protectors, yes, but for horses.

According to Leslie S. Klinger’s New Annotated Sherlock Holmes (Vol. I, p. 55), citing Donald Redmond’s A Study in Sources, a few doors down from the address given there actually WAS the firm of Arnold and Sons, which manufactured artificial limbs (but not kneecaps).
It should be noted that, despite the noted investigatory skills of his character, Doyle himself really didn’t trouble to research things very well. He frequently gives the wrong names or details for previous cases and has inconsistent details. In “The Red Headed League”, for instance, Wilson started work on April 29, and eight weeks later, when the League was said to be dissolved, would be June 25, not October 9, as the piece of cardboard affixed to the door has it. The June date is consistent with Watson’s remark that Wilson first saw the advertisement “two months ago”
Watson says the ad appeared in the Morning Chrtonicle in 1890, but that newspaper had been out of business for thirty years by then. And so on. These discrepancies and countless others (How come the details of “The Second Stain” as given in “The Naval Treaty” don’t agree with the story of that name? Is it “The Priory School” or have a different name? These thinhgs give Sherlockiansd endless fodder for discussions and rationalizations, but the truth is evidently that Doyle himself wasn’t the Sherlock “Trekkie” his audience was, and the discrepancies didn’t bother him.
This doesn’t explain, though, why Doyle couldn’;t have been bothered to look into the number of Henry Bakers there were in London in 1890. “some hundreds” of them, saysd Holmes in The Blue Carbuncle, and "thousands of Bakers*. The London Post OIffice Directory, though, lists only SEVEN “Henry Bakers” in London at the time, and only 139 "Baker"s altogether. (Klinger, I, p. 200). Sherlockians have a dislike of that story, charming as it is, because Holmes makes so many deductions that seems to be counter to his often-stated principles.

You’re straining at gnats if those are your examples of Doylian inconsistency. How about the fact that he can’t even get the name of his #2 character straight?

“John/James/Hamish” is of a piece with Doyle’s other errors, not “straining at gnats.” The point is that Doyle just didn’t really expend all that much effort on checking up on things, and sometimes just threw in a colorful bit of stuff, which explains that “artificial kneecap” line. It’s typical of the man, but I can usually ignore such things in view of how enjoyable the rest of the story is, and the interesting point he really is trying to make. Occasionally, though, as in “The Creeping Man”, it just becomes too much.

I suppose it’s possible that Doyle really did know (or read of) a man who ended arguments by pulling out his false teeth and throwing them at his wife, leading to their divorce, but I suspect that’s another case of his taking out and throwing at his audience the first weird thought that came to mind.

As an aside, Messrs. Dalton, Barton, and Co who were, it seems, the occupiers of the address in question, were producers of medal ribbons ans suchlike woven items. They also had a branch in Coventry.


0.3% of London, which is 6 million total, so thats 20,000 Baker people.
There would be many thousands of Baker households and bachelors.

From the 1881 census,


580 Henry Baker. Not sure if its the same definition of London …But well its representative of the issue… Perhaps Doyle was referring to 120 of the correct age group, or H may be for Harry and so on, not sure what the search is doing. But still its not just 7… thats very very off.