William Gillette

William Hooker Gillette (1853 - 1937)

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William Hooker Gillette
Born in Hartford, CTmap
Ancestors ancestors
Husband of — married in Windsor, Essex, Ontario, Canadamap
Died in Hartford, Connecticutmap
Profile last modified | Created 28 Sep 2014
This page has been accessed 263 times.


William was the son of Frances Gillette, a United States Senator representing Connecticut, and Elizabeth Daggett Hooker Gillette, born 24 July 1853 at Hartford, Connecticut. [1]William was also a descendant of the Rev. Thomas Hooker, the founder of Connecticut. [2]He later became a famous actor, the first actor to portray Sherlock Holmes.

"Gillette's most significant contributions to the theater were in devising realistic stage settings and special sound and lighting effects, and as an actor in putting forth what he called the "Illusion of the First Time". William's portrayal of Holmes helped create the modern image of the detective."[3]

William played the role of Sherlock Holmes on stage more than 1,300 times over a thirty-year period.[4]

William was married to Helen (Ella Carroll) Nickles of Detroit on 1 June 1882 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. [5] Helen was the daughter of David and Pamelia (Merrick) Nickles. Helen died 1 September 1888 at Cos Cob, Connecticut. [6]The couple did not have any children, and William never remarried.[7]

He received his education at Hartford High School, Coll. City, N.Y. and Boston University.[8]

William had an extensive career as a stage actor, director and playwright and achieved worldwide fame.[9] He wrote 13 original plays and seven adaptations. "Two pieces based on the Civil War remain his greatest works: Held by the Enemy (1886) and Secret Service (1896). Both were successful with both the public and the critics, and Secret Service remains the only one of his plays available today on commercial VHS and DVD from a 1977 Broadway Theater Archive production starring John Lithgow and Meryl Streep."[10]

On April 29, 1937, William died, aged 83, in Hartford, Connecticut. His remains were buried at Riverside Cemetery, Farmington, Connecticut.[11]

The following obituary has more details about his life and work.

"William Gillette, World-Famous Actor, Expires" "His Greatest Work on Stage Was the Characterizations of Sherlock Holmes."

"Hartford. April 29 (AP) -- William Gillette, world famous actor, was found dead in bed at Hartford, Hospital about 7 o'clock this morning."

"He had suffered a pulmonary hemorrhage during the night and was dead when a nurse came to his room to attend him. Dr. John A. Wentworth, who for some months had been the aged actor's physician, made the announcement."

"About six months ago, Mr. Gillette, who was in his 82nd year, came to the hospital for treatment. He responded, and after about a month's treatment returned to his home in Hadlyme."

"Three weeks ago, however, he returned to the hospital and since then had slowly faded."

"A native of Hartford, where he was born July 24, 1855, Mr. Gillette rose to the heights of fame on the stage. His greatest work, from the popular standpoint, was his characterizations of Sherlock Holmes."

"He was a son of Francis G. Gillette and Elizabeth Daggett (Hooker) Gillette. His father was a United States senator from Connecticut the year that William was born."

"As a boy he showed a liking for the stage, and produced plays in the attic of the Gillette home on Forest Street, now owned by Lucius F. Robinson, Jr. His father tried to discourage him from a stage career, but after he was graduated from Hartford High School William entered the University of New York and from there went to St. Louis and got a job in a stock company. He got no pay, but remained with the company long enough to gain a knowledge of stagecraft that enabled him to become a successful producer of his own plays in later years."

"Leaving the stock company in New Orleans, Gillette, a youth of 20, returned to Hartford. mark Twain, then living at Farmington Ave., and Forest Street, encourage the young man in his ambitions to be an actor. He obtained an engagement for him at the old Globe Theatre in Boston, where Gillette made his first appearance as Guzman in "Faint Heart Ne'er Won Fair Lady." That was September 15, 1875. His rise to fame thereafter was rapid."

"He next appeared in "The Guided Age," Followed by Shakesperian parts and a wide range of modern plays, chief among which was "Broke Hearts," in which he played Prince Florian."

"For many years, Mr. Gillette, who never married, lived at the Plaza Hotel in New York. Some years ago he built his "castle" in Hadlyme, where he had a model railroad which he greatly enjoyed operating."

"Mr. Gillette numbered hundreds of friends in Hartford, where he was a frequent visitor."

"Some years ago he wrote a novel, "The Astounding Crime on Torrington Road," which was printed serially in the Hartford Times, and later was published by Harpers."[12]


  1. Handy Book of American Authors, 1907, William Hooker Gillette, born 24 July 1853, Hartford, Ct.
  2. The Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker, Hartford, Connecticut, 1586-1908, page 246.
  3. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, William Gillette.
  4. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, William Gillette.
  5. Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928. Wm Hooker Gillette, Actor, age 28, birthplace Hartford, CT, marriage date 1 June 1882; marriage place Essex, Ontario, Canada; father Francis Gillette; mother Elizabeth D. Hooker Gillette; spouse Ella Carroll Nickles, daughter of David Nickles and Pamelia Merrick Nickles.
  6. Find a Grave Memorial for Helen Nickles Gillette.
  7. The Descendants of Rev. Thomas Hooker, Hartford, Connecticut, 1586-1908, page 246.
  8. Motion Picture Studio Directories, 1919 and 1921 for William Gillette.
  9. Motion Picture Studio Directories, 1919 and 1921 for William Gillette. "Stage career, many years star in New York, London and en tour; "Sherlock Holmes," "Secret Service," "The Private Secretary" and "Dear Brutus"; screen career, Essanay ("Sherlock Holmes," "Secret Service"). Lambs Club, New York."
  10. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, William Gillette.
  11. Find a Grave Memorial for William Gillette.
  12. Obituary: Daily Advocate, Thursday, April 29, 1937, Stamford, CT, pages 1 and 4.
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William Hooker Gillette
William Hooker Gillette

Wiliam Gillette as Sherlock Holmes
Wiliam Gillette as Sherlock Holmes

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On 9 Jul 2018 at 16:16 GMT David Pierce wrote:

Gillette-574 and Gillette-235 appear to represent the same person because: Please merge these duplicate profiles. Thank you.

William is 19 degrees from Robin Helstrom, 23 degrees from Katy Jurado and 18 degrees from Victoria of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

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