Burgess & Cogswell © wood engraving (ed. 40) image: 7 x 5 in. $100.00 (go to "Hi There" for purchase information)
Dr. Henry Cogswell (on the right) made his fortune during the gold rush putting gold into the miner's teeth instead of taking it out of the streams of California. He was also a very devoted advocate of the temperance movement and believed that if there were drinking fountains throughout all the cities in the San Francisco Bay area people would drink clean pure water instead of alcohol. He designed and built elaborate drinking fountains in the form of monuments and had them distributed throughout the area.

Enter, Gelett Burgess (on the left), an artist and poet who taught technical drawing at the University of California, Berkeley. Cogswell's monuments offended Burgess's sense of design and he decided to deface them and knocked a number of them down. As a result, he was fired from the University of California. But his talents carried him beyond his vandalism and criminal behavior. He became famous for his poem, "Purple Cow" and other illustrated books. In 1907 one of his published books, "Are You a Bromide", contained a testimonial on the cover by a Miss Belinda Blurb. Burgess himself wrote the testimonial and made up the fictitious Miss Blurb. He coined the phrase "blurb", which is still in use today to describe the testimonials quoted on the dust jackets or covers of books.

(Thanks to Barry Moser for telling me the origin of the word "blurb")

Back to Collection of Odd-Balls

Back to Wood Engravings