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Just when you’ve got it figured…

…it’s time to go.

The Future

Arch of Janus / Forum Boarium, Rome / Photographer: Enrico Fontolan/World Monuments Fund

Only three more months until the end of my fifty-two-year teaching career and questions occur to me every day. Some are prosaic, simple pains in the posterior, like, “How in hell am I going to vacate my office in less than a month?” Or, “What will it be like to sleep in on Tuesday and Thursday mornings?” — rather than catching a bus at 7:00 a.m. for campus. There are more important issues, such as activating my retirement account with TIAA and slogging our way through the transition to Medicare. It’s going to be interesting and much of it will be played out here every few days, I suspect.

Perhaps the most difficult matter is this: “Will my past have a future?” What is to become of the Agincourt Project in the years remaining to me and following? The web is such an ephemeral (non)place. URLs among my bookmarks very often return a big “404”, telling me the site no longer exists at that address and, probably, at none other. Agincourt’s future in a matter of personal concern.

Does the past have a future?


“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 to our attention 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 was 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 be the Chicago office-showroom of Yawman & Erbe, manufacturer 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 to my attention 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.


The New Normal (1.3)


The name of Agincourt’s second esteemed educational institution has been bandied about for several years, with no resolution to the big question: What is the history of Northwest Iowa Normal College? That’s unlikely to be resolved this afternoon, but I do want to make not of two important issues: 1) what is the college motto and is it in Latin or Greek? and 2) what is the mascot of its sports teams?

As a nominee for #1, I offer “μιλήστε γρήγορα και αφοσιωθείτε σε τίποτα” (Talk Fast and Commit to Nothing). It’s pronounced, “milíste grígora kai afosiotheíte se típota”. You’re welcome.

Meanwhile, some nominees for #2 have already been taken: the high school team are the Muskrats and its Double-A baseball team are the Archers. So what’s left?

PS / Update [20 minutes later]: Problem solved via Robert: The Pomegranates., a.k.a., The Pips.

NITC (again)

The solid brass HO-gauge model of an early 20th century interurban car which frequently distinguishes our masthead represents the rolling stock of the Northwest Iowa Traction Co. Its origin and early history are outlined elsewhere. [I’ll try to post some links.] But of late I seem preoccupied with two small matters: first, the schedule of service between Fort Dodge and Storm Lake. Inserting several miles into the actual distance between those two northwest Iowa communities presents issues.

A second but still important issue — given that it affects the appearance of that brass HO model — is the color scheme for the company: what would have distinguished its rolling stock from other connecting lines [like the Fort Dodge, Des Moines & Southern]. As someone more fond of secondary colors than those garish primaries — Cecil Elliott once said that I wasn’t satisfied with any color until I’d added a bucket of shit; it’s the Victorian in me — I’ve settle on Mustard and Magenta. The first must be a robust, nearly whole grain mustard of the eastern European variety (not that ghastly French’s yellow) and the second, the sort of 100% woolen magenta of high school band uniforms. I’m terrified to actually paint the bloody brass car, though, so photoshopping will have to do for the present, at least until I grow a spine.


Reményi again

Photograph of Reményi early in his career. He was always passionate about his Magyar heritage.

A couple entries ago, I introduced Edouard Reményi as a likely visitor to Agincourt and also discussed the notion of itinerancy. By a stroke of luck, Reményi was one of those vagabonds who left a sketchy trail.

Within eight years of his passing, friends and family of the artist gathered recollections of him; less that a biography but far more than might have been written about his passing in San Francisco. The introduction lays out a behavior that suits our purposes:

“His movements were always mysterious. There would be long silences; then would come detailed reports of his death. How many times was he shipwrecked, captured by savages and assassinated! How many times was he reported deserted and dying in strange countries! Soon, however, he would be announced as playing in some place on the far edge of the world — always happy, always finding something beautiful, always a roamer, always a gypsy.” [from: Reményi, Musician and Man (1906)]

If rural northwestern Iowa qualifies as “the far edge of the world,” we’ve found our man.

Opening Season

The Auditorium


“The Transcendentalists” 

a lecture by Ednora Nahar, Elocutionist

Edouard Reményi, Violinist

[programme to be announced]

“Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde”

a play by J. McKinney

adapted from Robert Louis Stevenson

Rosamunde Saucisse-Sèche, Lyric Soprano

selections from “Dante et Béatrice” by B. Godard

and “The Queen of Spades” / “Pique Dame” by P. I. Tchaikovsky.

“Philidor”— an opera comique

libretto and music by D. d’Argentuille, 

[sung in French with projected subtitles]