No, you read that right.
No, I’m not referring to some bunch of drunk chauvinistic cartographers.
What I am referring to is a wonderful piece of Illinois art, a piece produced by a pottery in Anna, Illinois.
These flasks show the transportation routes through Illinois, both rail and water. The cork that holds in the whiskey is in, ahem, a place where a hole might usually be on a pig. The pigs are also, ahem again, anatomically correct.
These flasks were produced by the Anna Pottery, which was started by brothers Cornwall and Wallace Kirkpatrick when they came to Illinois from Ohio in 1869. Their mainstay, as it would have been for any potter of the time, was utilitarian objects: crockery, drain tiles, tombstones, tobacco pipes.
Their best-known, and most interesting pieces, are their whimsical folk art pieces like the pig flasks. They are a combination of craftsmanship and humor, with a bit of transportation history thrown in.
Why Anna? It was a combination of resources and transportation. Anna, and most of Union County, sits atop clay beds packed with the coveted kaolin clay. Anna was also a stop on the Illinois Central Railroad, so the Kirkpatricks’ products could reach beyond Southern Illinois (although research shows that most of it was sold within 100 miles of Anna).
The pottery remained in the Kirkpatrick Family until 1900, and was closed in 1910, a victim of dropping consumer demand for pottery in the wake of the cheaper tin and glass containers.
Fortunately, we still have many examples of the Kirkpatricks’ handiwork. We can picture a Victorian businessman pulling the flask out of his breast pocket, showing off its features and transport maps to his colleagues. We’d also like to think he shared his whiskey. No need to be a pig, you know.
Illinois State Museum, “Anna Pottery,” http://www.museum.state.il.us/muslink/art/htmls/hh_anna_hist.html
Green, Chanda, “Famous and valuable Kirkpatrick Pottery from Anna,” The Southern Illinoisan, October 6, 2014.