I enjoyed compiling a list of Full Name counties in the United States earlier this week. In a comment "The Basement Geographer" improved the article significantly with a list of similarly-constructed counties in Canada. It was great work on his part. Readers should refer back to his comment and check it out.
That led me to wonder whether I might be able to find examples in other nations. I focused on places where English was an official language either by itself or alongside others, due to my lack of ability to work with other languages. The upside of this approach was that it left lots of nations for the international 12MC audience to investigate if it so chooses.
I found one example in Australia and then I hit the jackpot in South Africa.
County of Deas Thompson, Queensland, Australia
Queensland, Australia contained the County of Deas Thompson, named for Sir Edward Deas Thomson (1800-1879), a "public servant and parliamentarian" in New South Wales, and chancellor of the University of Sydney. As with a couple of examples in the United States (Jo Daviess instead of Daveiss and Anne Arundel instead of Arundell), authorities screwed-up Thomson’s name and in this case inserted an extra letter. Seriously, why would someone fail to proofread a name before affixing it permanently to the landscape?
The county, from the very little data that I could gather, was situated between Rockhampton and Gladstone on Queensland’s Capricorn Coast. I’m certainly no expert in Australian governance although the lack of any tangible information or web presence led me to believe that the so-called County of Deas Thompson couldn’t possibly retain much authority.
I’d never heard of Deas Thomson, the man, although that was hardly surprising given my lack of depth in Australian history. Fortunately the Australian Dictionary of Biography provided a remarkable amount of information, and frankly much more than I cared to review although I included the link in case it sounded interesting to anyone else.
Deas Thomson Street, Vincentia, New South Wales, Australia
Thomson was a competent administrator albeit a lesser functionary in Australian history which is probably why his name adorned a minor county in rural Queensland, a short residential street near the Jervis Bay Territory — and possibly Thompson Point in the general vicinity of the aforementioned county (map) although I couldn’t confirm that last one.
Deas Thompson Point, Northwest Territories, Canada
More inexplicable was Deas Thompson Point (again with the extra letter), a cape in Canada’s Northwest Territories. It wasn’t labeled on the online maps I examined although the coordinates were included in the Natural Resource Canada geographical names data base. Thomson did spend some time in Canada according to his biography although it didn’t seem to merit geographic representation. Clearly he had friends in high places looking out for his good name.
Kuruman, John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality, South Africa
I’m not sure any nation will have more full name geographic units than South Africa. It had 52 districts in total, which were roughly analogous to counties in function, and a dozen of those incorporated full names.
- Alfred Nzo District Municipality: African National Congress political leader (source)
- Chris Hani District Municipality: General-Secretary of the South African Communist Party (source)
- Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality: First President of Zambia (source)
- Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality: ANC official; part of delegation that negotiated peaceful transition of government (source)
- Fezile Dabi District Municipality: ANC leader; author, poet, philosopher (source)
- Frances Baard District Municipality: "Organiser of the African National Congress (ANC) Women’s League and Trade Unionist" (source)
- Gert Sibande District Municipality: "Organised farm workers, member of the ANC, accused in the Treason Trial of 1956, helped expose working conditions in Bethal, provincial president of the Transvaal ANC" (source)
- Joe Gqabi District Municipality: "Photographer, Reporter, Member of the ANC and MK" (source)
- John Taolo Gaetsewe District Municipality: "Trade unionist, member of the ANC and General Secretary of SACTU, Robben Island prisoner, banned person" (source)
- Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality: Nelson Mandela obviously requires no further explanation.
- Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality: "historian, political activist, author and medical practitioner" (source)
- Pixley ka Seme District Municipality: "Lawyer, journalist, author member of the South African Native National Congress, launched the SANNC newspaper, Abantu Batho, President-General of the ANC" (source)
Admittedly, South Africa was a unique situation. All of these geographic names arose after the peaceful dismantling of apartheid in the early 1990′s. They served as a tangible means to recognize the leaders of the struggle for equality, replacing names that had been imposed by colonial powers.
I experienced the joy of traveling within the Twelve Mile Circle — the Delaware geo-oddity for which this site was named — while visiting with some dear friends last weekend. In Wilmington, at Rodney Square specifically, I glanced up and noticed the wonderful Egyptian Revival architectural details on the Wilmington Public Library. I’d been sensitized to the style because of my earlier Egyptian Revival Churches research, which provided evidence that I’ve actually learned a few things while publishing this rag. Now I could bore my companions with tales of trivial knowledge.
Architectural Detail on Wilmington (Delaware) Public Library
My Own Work
Then I noticed the swastika. I already understood that it was an ancient symbol existing for thousands of years before the Nazis co-opted and defiled it, converting it into a symbol of hate.(¹) As the US Holocaust Memorial Museum explained:
The swastika has an extensive history. It was used at least 5,000 years before Adolf Hitler designed the Nazi flag. The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being”… In the beginning of the twentieth century the swastika was widely used in Europe… Despite its origins, the swastika has become so widely associated with Nazi Germany that contemporary uses frequently incite controversy.
I couldn’t have agreed more. The Wilmington swastika jumped like a bolt into my consciousness by its mere existence, even while I understood its historical usage intellectually, a reflection of severely negative connotations forever associated with its symmetry. Edward Lippincott Tilton, a master architect of public libraries in the United States, could not have foreseen the result of his decorative choice when he designed the building in 1922 and likely would have been appalled had he not passed away before the war.
The Wilmington Public Library included various architectural details based on classical ideals. None of them became the least bit controversial except for the swastika. Feel free to check some of them out by clicking the left-and-right arrows on the Flicker image above or from what you can spot on Street View. I’m a fan of the little owl sculptures on the second-floor window ledges.
I posted my discovery on the 12MC Google+ page(²). Reader "Benjamin" kindly posted a couple of links including a vintage photo with an advertisement for Swastika Sodas and a page on the Early Use of the Swastika in WA State. That led me to wonder about the prevalence of swastikas as a North American architectural detail during the early 20th Century, before such usage became unthinkable.
More examples survived than I could have possibly imagined, both in clockwise and counter-clockwise orientations. Below are just a few that I noticed either photographically or on Street View.
Skillman Branch Library, Detroit, Michigan, USA
Opposite Ends by Charles Dodds on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) license
Notice the decorative fret running around the Skillman Branch Library perimeter which included both attached and standalone swastikas (it was also visible in Street View). The building was constructed in 1931/32 and originally called the Downtown Library until its extensive renovation and re-opening in 2003. The Skillman Branch may be known best as the location of the extensive National Automotive History Collection.
Lampposts, Glendale, California, USA
[Glendale Lamppost Swastika by Jeremy Sternberg on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
The City of Glendale, California erected a series of cast iron lampposts along some of its busier downtown commercial and residential streets in the 1920′s, notably on Broadway between Glendale Avenue and Brand Boulevard. More than 900 vintage lampposts included decorative swastika bands within their design. In response to a complaint, the City Attorney conducted an extensive evaluation in 1995 and concluded,
The contention was that these approximately 2 inch by 3 inch symbols encircling the base of these old lampposts, were Nazi swastikas, were offensive and should be removed… Not a scintilla of evidence exists to indicate that the counter clockwise swastika design at the base of the lampposts was intended as a political or other statement in support of any group or organization.
The City Attorney offered several alternatives including "take no action and preserve the lampposts as they are." An April 2011 Street View image seemed to confirm that selection.
Jefferson County Courthouse, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Columns at Jefferson Co. Courthouse, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Swastikas also appeared on columns outside of the main entrance to the Jefferson County courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama. This granite and limestone Art Deco building dated to 1929, as designed by the noted Chicago architectural firm Holabird & Root.
The building’s National Register of Historic Places application listed numerous exterior architectural details.
Bas-relief sculpture adds subtle and sometimes elegant decorative detailing to the facade. Particularly notable are the series of sculptures by Leo Friedlander symbolizing attributes associated with the seat of justice and cultural and political influences from the county’s past. Over the west entrance the panels depict the Indians, the Spanish, the French, early American settlement, the Confederacy, and the English. Other panels of the building symbolize vigilance, power, justice, and mercy. Columns topped with the American motif of New World corn flank the main entrance. Handsome Art Deco lanterns also mark the entrances.
Nowhere did it mention swastikas.
The Travellers Hotel, Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada
The Travellers Hotel, Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada
North America usage of this motif wasn’t limited to the United States, as evidenced by the façade of the Travellers Hotel, in Ladysmith, British Columbia, Canada, constructed in 1913:
The large and highly detailed Traveller’s Hotel building speaks to the prosperity and optimism that existed in pre-war Ladysmith… an excellent example of an Edwardian-era, commercial style building… The most striking features are the brick swastika symbols on the front facade. At the time of construction, the swastika was a relatively common symbol of prosperity and peace; during World War II, concerns were expressed about the symbol’s association with Nazism. The building was not altered in response to these concerns and the Traveller’s Hotel remains in substantially original condition.
Today the Travellers Hotel Cooperative hopes to "revitalize and reopen" this historic hotel.
Kimo Theater, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
Kimo Theater, Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Native Americans, including the Navajo and other tribal nations of the US Southwest that used swastika-like decorative designs. This was carried forward into the Kimo Theater in Albuquerque. I couldn’t find a decent public domain or creative commons photograph to embed, nor a decent Street View image, although one good photo existed on the City of Albuquerque’s Kimo Theater swastika page. The Kimo Theater, first opened in 1927 and now owned by the city, represented the "flamboyant, short-lived architectural style" known as Pueblo Deco.
Thus, the Kimo Theater (map) wasn’t a throwback to ancient Egypt, Greece or Rome. It represented Native American, particularly Navajo artistic elements, for whom the swastika represented "life, freedom and happiness."
(¹)For example, and as noted previously in 12MC to represent a Buddhist temple in Japan or the name of a town in Ontario, Canada.
(²) I try to post unique tidbits, breadcrumbs and non sequiturs on each of the various 12MC pages, whether here on the flagship site within those "completely unrelated" footers or on satellite locations such as G+ or Twitter. Readers won’t get the full 12MC experience on any one site; they all contribute to the whole. Often I use Twitter to announce new articles, mock spammers and conduct nonsensical public conversations that chase away readers which is why I can’t seem to get my subscriber base to grow. Imagine that. I often use G+ to mention weird 12MC visitors from oddball locations and such. Nobody uses G+ although I still like to keep it alive. There will never be a 12MC Facebook page, though. There’s no particular rhyme or reason for what I post where except in very general terms
I’ve long wanted to add Washington’s San Juan County to my county counting list and maybe someday I’ll succeed. Pondering that eventuality I began to grow increasingly curious about its only incorporated town, Friday Harbor, specifically the story behind its name.
Friday Harbor, Washington, USA
It seemed unusual to name a settlement after a day of the week. What confluence of events could lead to something like that? Maybe an early explorer sailed into a harbor on a Friday, I figured, maybe even one of the original Spanish expeditions that charted the archipelago in the late 18th Century. Actually that wasn’t the case at all. The name referred to the day of the week although it happened decades later and indirectly.
View from Friday Harbor House by Jamie Campbell on Flickr
via Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0) license
According to the San Juan Historical Society:
Friday Harbor was named for a Kanaka — a Hawaiian named Joseph Poalie Friday, who was employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company to tend sheep on the land overlooking the harbor. His was the only habitation to be seen for miles, and when sailors coming along the coast saw the smoke from his camp, they knew they had reached “Friday’s Harbor” … Poalie is a shortened form of “Poalima,” the Hawaiian word for Friday. Joe might have dropped his native surname in favor of Friday when he came to the Northwest.
That sounded a bit convenient, perhaps apocryphal. I examined the reference using a modern Hawaiian dictionary. It included the word Pō’alima and confirmed the definition Friday. The theory wasn’t completely out of the question. Thus Friday Harbor was likely named after a man either with the surname Pō’alima or Friday, in either case Friday.
Friday, Texas, USA
Texas included a small village named Friday. I love encountering Texas place names because I can almost always find an explanation in The Handbook of Texas, published by the Texas State Historical Association. That source noted,
FRIDAY, TEXAS… was established around the time of the Civil War and was originally known as Ellis Prairie… In 1903, when a post office was established, the name was changed to Friday. By 1914 the community had a general store, a cotton gin, and a gristmill… The post office continued to operate until 1955… The population in 1990 was forty-one. In 2000 it had grown to ninety-nine.
While the Handbook explained when Friday became Friday, it did not explain why that happened although it dangled a tantalizing clue. I speculated that there was already an Ellis elsewhere in Texas and the residents had to select an unused name in a hurry if they wanted a post office. The pages of 12MC record numerous instances where unusual names arose from similar circumstances.
Joe Friday Well
Joe Friday (Jack Webb) and Bill Gannon (Harry Morgan) on Dragnet
SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons in the Public Domain
I mentioned Joe Friday only a few weeks ago in Just the -fax, Ma’am when I wrote,
Police sergeant Joe Friday never actually said "just the facts ma’am" on the vintage television show Dragnet, according to Snopes. Rather, the character played by Jack Webb uttered different lines that were later confused with the classic phrase now erroneously attributed to the show.
Joe Friday Well, Arizona, USA
Nonetheless Joe Friday had his own well in Arizona. Or maybe it was Joe Friday for whom Friday Harbor was allegedly named? Seriously, what were the odds of three different Joe Fridays suddenly appearing in a matter of days on 12MC? I swear it wasn’t intentional. If it were I’d have created an entire Joe Friday article.
Friday Island, Queensland, Australia
Friday (and other day) Island, Queensland, Australia
Friday Island appeared off of the Cape York Peninsula at the far northern tip of Queensland, about as close as Australia could possibly get to New Guinea. I didn’t find anything unusual about the name as much as when it was combined with some of the neighboring islands including Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday Islands. And what happened to Monday and Saturday, which didn’t seem to be present, and Sunday charted much farther down the peninsula (map)? Notable features included lighthouses on Tuesday and Wednesday, pearl farms on Friday, and a sizable population of about 3,500 residents on Thursday.
Black Friday Lake, British Columbia, Canada
I wondered about Black Friday Lake in British Columbia, Canada, too. Which Black Friday inspired the name? I assumed it wasn’t the 1945 riot at the Warner Bros. studios, or the 1910 suffrage protest in England, and certainly it wasn’t the day after Thanksgiving shopping event in the United States because that would make no sense at all in Canada. Perhaps it referred to the alternate name for Good Friday.
Best Avoided by Those With Delicate Sensibilities
Reader "Glenn" sent an email to 12MC with a map link, and a firm "no comment." I followed the link, chuckled, and noticed another geographic feature about a mile southwest of there. I replied, "apparently we have quite the, um, interesting theme going on there in Florida’s nether regions."
Keep those comments, ideas, and discoveries coming!