Peel Me a Grape

6 06 2015

This colorful label dates to the early twentieth century and would have been glued to a wooden crate used for packing fruit – in this case, grapes fresh from sunny California. Although, they would have arrived by train or truck, not camel. Notice the usual artistic liberties taken with the design. The Sphinx is rather far away from the pyramids…


Squeaky Clean

7 05 2015

This is an early twentieth century newspaper advertisement for U-ar-das Bath of Benzoin. What is that, you ask? Well, according to the ad copy, it is a tablet that when dissolved, “softens the water and daintily perfumes it…removes all oils and foreign matter from the pores – strengthens and tones the natural functions of the skin and restores the perfect smooth, clear complexion which nature originally gave us.” Yeah, right. Oh, and this snake-oil purveyor also sold a companion item, Woodlark Dermatic Egg Shampoo. The Egyptian imagery of poolside temple and decorative Sphinx are applied to enforce the company’s claim that “Centuries ago, it was learned that the bath, prepared with benzoin, invigorated the skin and beautified the complexion. Benzoin is the modern name for Malahathrum described by Pliny. The Beauty Bath of the Ancients, therefore, is not a secret, and can be enjoyed daily by modern women.”

Uardas BH15

The Staff of Life

16 04 2015

This logo for Ballard’s Obelisk Flour is from a vintage piece of stationary from the Ballard & Ballard Company, c. 1910. It features the three most iconic elements of ancient Egypt – the Sphinx, a pyramid, and an obelisk. Because branding (the incorporation of a snazzy design element representative of your company into all aspects of what you do) is a great idea, the historic Ballard building in Memphis also features fabulous Egyptianizing ornamentation.

Ballard stationary-detail

Remember Me When This Pyramid You See

20 03 2015

Once upon a time there was a man named James Buchanan. He was President of the United States. Then he died, but that’s not The End. His niece donated land for a park to honor his memory, which includes a rustic stone pyramid on the site of Jame’s family home. You can read more about it here. And you can visit and compare this vintage postcard view to what you see there.

Buchanan tomb

Before the Hustle….

19 02 2015

…there was the Fox Trot, a ragtime invention that lasted well into future decades. Although I try to limit my collection to American items, I could not resist this sheet music from a London publisher. Gyptia was composed in 1920 and the cover art is a fun melange of ancient symbols and figures getting their shimmy on.

Gyptia sheet music

A Close Shave

6 02 2015

Endurance was a popular theme for products that used Egyptianizing graphics. In this case – “Eterna” razor blades, the eternity blade. This fold-out cardstock store display contains nine original boxes of blades, but since they are still sealed in their cellophane wrapping, I am not going to open one and tell you if they still work. You’ll just have to take the manufacturer’s, or the Sphinx’s, word that they do.


Eterna razor box

The Hourglass of Time

12 01 2015

During the 1940s, Egyptomania went into hibernation. Examples were few and far between, and severely restrained in comparison to the extravagant, sometimes garish, examples from the 1920s. This sheet music cover from 1947 is a great example of how Egyptianizing elements were downplayed – here, the primary focus is the hourglass, apparently twirling in a time vortex that has also captured two hearts (high school yearbook, anyone?). But, in the background, veiled through the mists of the ages, you can just make out the sphinx and pyramids. See? Trust me, they’re there!

It Takes Time sheet music_small


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