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Aficionados of A. Conan Doyle will recognize the title of this entry as the phrase used by Sherlock Holmes to Dr. Watson at the start of a new case.

The case is The Mystery of the Spider in the Sailor's Ear, and the game's afoot.  It might never have become afoot had I paid more attention - that is, any attention at all - to a cigarette ad.

Here's what happened.  I have referred to Uncle Edward's Receipt Book, and the book of his drawings which came out of it.  Leona, a connection in Ontario who is actually more closely connected than I to Uncle Ed (who is my uncle by marriage), being his great-grand-niece, learning about the art found in the receipt book, added this to the mix:  As a child she had heard the story of Uncle Ed producing the artwork for an ad, perhaps more accurately a logo,  for the Player's cigarette company, showing a sailor.   The ad was used widely, indeed internationally, for many years.  I'm guessing from the prices Uncle Ed reported in his receipt book that he was paid perhaps $8.00 for it.

Commercial art is not signed, so, his great-grand-niece told me, he drew a tiny spider in the ear of the sailor, visible only on VERY close inspection.  That spider remained in the ad for many years.  

Leona asked me if I had heard the story.  I had not, but thought I might have a shot at tracking down the actual image, either through Uncle Ed's son, my cousin Gordon, or through the Borden Museum.  Gordon reported that he had heard the same story as a boy, and had tried to track it down through the Internet, without finding it.  Wikipedia has a graphic of the image - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Player_&_Sons - but I think that is an earlier one than Uncle Ed's - it is dated about 1914 and I believe his commercial art business got started a few years later.

When my sister Mary and I were in Borden, Saskatchewan for the centennial of the village - and of Saskatchewan - the Borden Museum had a special display of the work of  Borden artists past and present.   Included were landscapes by Uncle Ed - and the Player's ad.  I didn't pay enough attention to it to discern more than that it was a cigarette ad;  my sister remembers that it did indeed contain a sailor.  

Another kinswoman, also an artist, undertook to track down that piece of commercial art through the Museum, and found the Museum closed for the winter, the committee chair away, but that she was hot on the trail.  Then I told my sister about this and SHE said, "But the Museum doesn't own that piece!  It is owned by Stan Foster of the Borden General-Store-cum-Museum."  He had lent it to the Museum for the centennial display, and had told her that for many years it was on display - as a cigarette ad! - in the store.  

Present status:  Nancy has been asked to please take a magnifying glass and go and see Stan Foster and have a look in the sailor's ear.  I await, more-or-less breathlessly, for the result.

There aren't many interstices otherwise unoccupied in my life, but "the game's afoot" is what I fill them with when they occur.  Sometimes my family history work hits a tedious patch, like right now, with a great many finished and printed books waiting to be bound.  This is physically hard work, and exacting.  Tracking down The Mystery of the Spider in the Sailor's Ear enlivens my days of bookbinding.