Town Crier

15 11 2016

I had the pleasure of visiting Centralia, Illinois this month and swung by the Sentinel Newspaper building, which is a fabulous 1920’s Egyptian Revival structure. Because my blog is solely about my collection of Egyptomania objects, you’ll have to look at other people’s photos of this building online. But here is a scan of their newspaper heading, which has now been added to my stash. “Egypt’s Greatest Daily” refers to the nickname of that region – the lower sixteen counties of Illinois are correctly called Egypt (incorrectly called Little Egypt, even by locals, who forget that this moniker refers to a hoochy-koochy dancer at the 1893 Columbian Exposition.)


Descending Like Flies

20 02 2012

Here is an amusing illustration from an 1899 article, “By Trolley to the Sphinx”, about tourism and Egypt, published in The Cosmopolitan.  Poor Sphinxy looks a bit alarmed by the crowd of admirers flocking to his feet.  Danged tourists!  Litter, missing bits of monuments, camera flashes, noisy children, noisier adults…but then again, the natives “recycled” available building materials for centuries, plundered tombs, and otherwise chipped away at history.

Eternal Love

14 02 2012

Oh, wonderful – another Feb 14th.  Just so happens that I have an appropriate item to post for today.  This Valentine card is from the 1930s, and while many people might object to the artistic style, I think it’s kind of cute.  Artistic exaggeration is nothing new, and it’s certainly an equal-opportunity stylistic pursuit.  I don’t get my panties in a twist about Olive Oyl being an unkind characterization of a white chick.  And ancient Egyptians weren’t black, despite their various claims to the contrary throughout history.  But here we have a Nubian Cleopatra reclining in her barge (powered by an Evinrude motor), receiving an affectionate gift from her suitor while they glide down the De-Nial Rivah.  De-Nial, you say?  Ah, the romantic gesture must be being spurned.  Just like on the Bachelorette.  Happy Valentines y’all!

Good Luck

29 10 2011

Postcards were a great way to spread artwork and ideas to the far ends of the globe.  This 1907 example combines both – a delicate watercolor by a prominent illustrator, and a few sentences of folklore that may be completely fabricated, but who would ever know?  Also note the conglomeration of terms filed under “Orient”…

Greetings From Ashland, Alabama

5 02 2011

America has repeatedly suffered from Annie Oakley syndrome, and in boastful fits reminiscent of ‘anything you can do I can do better’, has held up various natural resources and landscapes in comparison to those of Egypt.  This early twentieth century postcard features a photograph of the river wending through Ashland, Alabama, accompanied by this little poem:

“Who wants to visit Egypt,
With its pyramids and sand,
When a place like this is easily reached
In one’s own native land?”

Road Trip

6 11 2010

The United States has had a long-term crush on ancient Egypt in more ways than one.  Did you know that the lower 15 or so counties of Illinois refer to themselves collectively as Egypt?  For brevity’s sake I will let you read why on Wikipedia.  In this post I am going to focus on one point of this history, the name itself.  Many sources stress not to call the region “Little Egypt”, since this name was used by an exotic dancer at the 1893 Columbian Exposition (and yet another dancer at the 1933 World’s Fair).  This postcard, c.1940, promotes the preferred name of Egypt.

However, this Wolf’s cola bottle from around the same time uses the taboo phrase of Little Egypt.  Surely they ought to have known better, being located in Harrisburg, which they even mark on the map of Illinois that is used as a logo.  Perhaps this disparity mirrored class distinctions – the tea and crumpets set addressed their letters with the grand and sombre ‘Egypt’, while the beer and pork rinds gang embraced the hoochy-koo implications of Little Egypt?  We may never know for sure.

These Boots Were Made For Walking…

23 03 2010

I used to walk.  Lots.  For long distances.  But not compared to John Albert Krohn, aka Colonial Jack.  In 1908 he began a walking trip from Portland Maine around the border of the United States, and to answer your obvious question of “WHY?”, here is an excerpt from the preface of his book (published in 1910): “Why did I push a wheelbarrow around the border of the United States?  To make money by selling my story.”  There are actually a few sentences more but they’re rather silly and this sums it up nicely enough.  The book is a flimsy softcover affair printed on cheap paper – my copy shatters if I look at it too hard, so I have not read it through, but generally it is an account of C.J.’s encounters with aggressive dogs, narrow misses from trains while crossing railroad trestles, and his observations of regional lifestyles.  His trip was publicized so people eagerly awaited his arrival at each town, and railroad men kept an eye out for him as well in case he was in trouble.  People also gave him notes and cards to deliver to their friends and family at future stops, and the cover of his book shows the pyramid-shaped ‘suitcase’ on his wheelbarrow completely covered by these papers.  Why the fancy shape for his luggage?  How does that relate to his nickname?  I have no clue.  But it’s kitschy Americana at its best, (at least until the 1950s rolled around).  A few more fun bits from the book – he wore out eleven pairs of shoes, and in Jacksonville FL was given a “cocoanut that was in the husk – it being too bulky for me to carry, it was mailed home.  I walked a distance of 1,406 miles and had finished my trip a week before the cocoanut arrived.  Uncle Sam, why this delay?  Explain yourself.”  C.J. also needed to raise funds in order to cover his personal expenses, those of his wife, who travelled with him for a third of the way, and also for his young daughter who remained at home.  Besides giving public talks about his experiences, he also sold medals made of aluminum and embossed with his picture on the front, and these words on the back: “Colonial Jack is walking & pushing his wheelbarrow around the border of the United States, a distance of 9000 miles, in 400 days (except Sundays), starting from Portland, Me., June 1, 1908 & ending at Portland, Me.”

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