Make America Porcine Again

The title links to an evergreen post via the University of Michigan Map Library blog. I keep returning to it, eight years after my first glimpse.

I wish Big Think had better URL persistence, but I was able to relocate one broken inline link, National Porcineographic: Portrait of America as a Young Hog. It was written by Frank Jacobs for Strange Maps.

Hygienic background

The map commemorated introduction of a ‘Sanitary Piggery’ in July 1875, in Massachusetts. The facility was the cornerstone of W.E. Baker’s contribution to the Pure Food movement. Baker was a tailor whose Grover & Baker Sewing Machine Company brought him great wealth. His philanthropic work was centered on his Hygienic Farming and Sanitary Cookery initiative. He wanted to help improve human health by helping pigs.

Baker’s Sanitary Piggery involved a clean environment and wholesome food for its porcine residents – it was even rumoured they had individual beds, and slept under silk sheets. That may have been hyperbole, but it underscores Baker’s belief that public health depended greatly on sanitary food production.

He didn’t blame pigs for the filth and squalor in which they wallowed: “The hog is naturally more cleanly in its habits than many of those who say he isn’t”. Instead, he believed that the common practice of feeding garbage (dumped by the city of Boston) to pigs was the cause of much disease, in both swine and the people who consumed unwholesome pork.

World’s finest example of porcineography

Cute details abound! Washington State has a curly tail wrapped around Alasqueue.

The porcineograph also reflects geopolitical concerns of the time. The United States had its eye on Hawaii, which (like Alasqueue) was not yet a state of the Union. Map piggy suitably conveys this by extending his faintly outlined left back leg from the California mainland, out over the Pacific. His hoof lightly rests on the Hawaiian islands, then known as the Sandwich Islands, which are represented by bacon sandwiches.

Possible territorial expansion to include Cuba is indicated by piggy’s front left leg. He is striding forward to touch Cuba, which is sausage-shaped.

2500 copies of the map were produced as numbered lithographs. Only a few remain extant.

Thematic cartography

The porcineograph is more than a map. Subtle details in the margins evoke America’s history and regional variations.

The map itself is surrounded by a herd of pigs… The main trio is labelled, left to right, Hog & Ham & Pork. Hog is holding a plate of shrimp and what appears to be a palm tree. Ham is emblazoned with a patriotic slogan and holding an eagle’s nest containing a young chick and some yet to be hatched eggs. Pork is preparing a bean-based condiment…

I can only hope that there will be more porcine-themed cartography posts by the University of Michigan Map Library blog and geographers wherever they may be.

1 reply on “Make America Porcine Again”

Long time supporter, and thought I’d drop a comment.

Your wordpress site is very sleek – hope you don’t
mind me asking what theme you’re using? (and don’t
mind if I steal it? :P)

I just launched my site –also built in wordpress like yours– but the theme slows (!) the site down quite
a bit.

In case you have a minute, you can find it by searching for “royal cbd” on Google (would appreciate any feedback) – it’s still in the works.

Keep up the good work– and hope you all take care of yourself
during the coronavirus scare!

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