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Monthly Archives: March 2023

“You know, for kids…”

Hindsight suggests that I didn’t have nearly enough time to play with blocks when I was a tyke. And it’s equally clear that Agincourt has afforded time to remedy that deficiency. I suspect that “retirement” will permit even greater exploration of building systems in general and examples like Fröbel and the set you see here (on the left) from “The Village Blocksmith“! — whose products I show as apology for doing so without permission. If any readers know other similar sets, please pass your recommendations along.




1.  a book published usually under the jurisdiction of the government and containing a list of drugs, their formulas, methods for making medicinal preparations, requirements and tests for their strength and purity, and other related information.

2. a stock of drugs.

Patent medicines during the 19th century and up to about 1920 presented a bewildering array of outrageous claims and false hope to sufferers of everything from warts and ringworm to cancer and dementia. Eventually this all came under the watchful regulatory eye of the federal government — the FDA, founded as early as 1906, a surprise to me.

The point today is this: I ran across a book on the history of 19th century packaging, packaging as art, and though immediately off Agincourt’s need for graphic design. Imagine the possibilities. Mine went immediately to the topic of pharmaceuticals.

“More real than real”

In the YCMTSU Department [“You can’t make this shit up”], a friend of the project recently called our attention to a postcard offering (on the Online Auction Site that Dare Not Speak). Its name: the RPPC view of an urban fire.

I’d seen this image some time ago, and was intrigued by the event; urban fires have been a fact of municipal life and surely Agincourt had been touched by at least one. A firefighter is shown still pumping water on the smoldering semi-ruin. At least part of the signage was still visible — “…N & ERBE MFG. CO.” — and turned out to have been the Chicago office-showroom of Yawman & Erbe, maker of office and library furnishings at the turn of the last century. I thought immediately that they would have manufactured cabinetry for the public library project of 1915, so I cribbed the image and wrote a brief entry.

Then, yesterday, Mr Johnson called my attention to a listing on eBay for another copy of that card — it’s relatively easy to tell one RPPC from another “identical” card — a listing that identified the image as “Agincourt Iowa”! Now we’ve been known to play fast and loose with history but never imagined that one of the project’s many fictions would enter the realm of fact. The slight guilt I feel encourages (obligates?) me to buy the damned card. Whaduya think?


“Does this bus go to Duluth?”

The reply to that query (during my high school years) was, “No, this bus goes beep-beep.”

The 34th annual Lake Superior Design Retreat, a two-day creative cross-pollination among various design types, took place at Fitger’s Inn on the Duluth lakefront. You can read about it here and plan to attend in 2024. You’ll thank me. This year I shared the Agincourt experience with ninety folks, in fifteen-minutes “commercial breaks” scattered among the other five presenters. Agincourt was conceived during a commercial break, so there’s a measure of justice here.

It’s difficult enough to encapsulate a seventeen-year effort in seventy-five minutes. Try parsing that into five bitesized chunks. By the fourth installment, I’d nearly figured it out and number five took a form that should have shaped the other four. Better late than not at all.

I’ll do better next time. But this opportunity has been more beneficial than I could have imagined.