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By Eric Shackle

For 150 years, Cincinnati, Ohio has been called Porkopolis*, because of its pork-packing industry.  But did you know that St. Paul, Minnesota, was once officially named Pig's Eye?

Professor and freelance editor Katherine Levin, who lives in St. Paul, disclosed this in an e-mail, after reading our recent stories about U.S. newspapers' odd names.

"I'm devastated that no one so far has mentioned the St. Paul Pioneer Press in St. Paul, Minnesota" she wrote.

"James Goodhue founded the Minnesota Pioneer before Minnesota was even a territory of the US, and early in the twentieth century it merged with the St. Paul Press and received its current name.

"At the time Goodhue founded the Pioneer, the largest settlement in the territory was called Pig's Eye, after a Frenchman called Pig's Eye Parrant, who sold booze in one of the caves under the Mississippi River bluffs.

"When Minnesota became a territory in 1849, Pig's Eye was in competition with the towns of St. Anthony (now Minneapolis) and St. Peter to become territorial capital. The town fathers felt that Pig's Eye was an insufficiently serious name for the capital, so they decided to rename the town.

"The only other landmark was St. Paul's Church, a 17- by 21-foot Catholic church on the bluff over the river. When the new name was chosen, Goodhue wrote a poem for the Pioneer that ended:
    Pig's Eye, converted thou shalt be like Saul.
    Thy name henceforth shall be St. Paul.

"Too bad the paper isn't the Pig's Eye Pioneer Press."

In a pig's eye is rhyming slang for lie, and usually means Nonsense!  "As an expression of scorn the expresion was picked up in 1872 by Petroleum V. Nasby (David Locke) in one of his satirical newspaper columns 'poetical cotashuns' which wuz "Kum one, kim all, this rock shel fly From its firm base - in a pig's eye." (From The Dictionary of Cliches by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

If you want to see what a pig's eye looks like, it's shown on the website of the Pig's Eye Pub in Hartford, Connecticut. Then there's a common Australian phrase referring to another part of porcine anatomy: "pig's arse it did!" which Strine, or an Aussie Lexicon translates as "a term of disparaging disagreement".

Several other correspondents have kindly added to our lists of newspapers' quirky names:

From Robert Love, Vice-President, The Tombstone Epitaph:
The Tombstone Epitaph was founded in May, 1880. As Arizona's second oldest continuously published newspaper, it is currently published monthly in a national historic edition. It contains original articles about the old west written by western history writers. Send $20/year for a subscription to: The Tombstone Epitaph, P.O. Box 1880, Tombstone, AZ 85638. Visitors to the newspaper office in Tombstone can see the original Washington printing press and view a video demonstrating how the  newspaper was printed in the 1880s. Visitors can also read the Epitaph's original 1881 reports of the gunfight at the O.K. Corral and learn the story of John Clum, the founder of the Epitaph and Tombstone's first elected Mayor. Several years ago The University of Arizona was given permission by the Epitaph to print a local Tombstone edition which is published during the school year by students in the journalism department.

From Frank Gibson,  Madden Library, California State University, Fresno:
The beach-front town of Ocean Shores, Washington used to have The Sand Paper. In northern California when the Arcata Union (from the former name of the town) died it was replaced by the Arcata Eye. [Its website lists what it terms "Mildly Objectionable Deadlines."] Fowler, California has the weekly Fowler Ensign (pronounced en ZINE).

From Hank ("the Yank") Ickes, Arlington, Virginia:
The story [Tony Blair Visits Hospital] was also related by a Scottish musician (whose name escapes me at the moment, but it could have been Aly Bain) last year on the popular American public radio show "A Prairie Home Companion". On this occasion, though, the bemused/befuddled visitor wasn't Tony Blair, but the Queen!

*  Cincinnati was known as Porkopolis  (although poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow called it Queen). in the 19th Century when pork-packing houses sprouted up all across the Ohio River basin. By 1854, it had become one of the largest cities in the United States. Its salt pork was shipped all over the world - even supplying ships of the British navy and Queen Victoria's dinner table.

The first annual Porkopolis BBQ Fest took place last June in the shadow of the Cincinnati Gateway sculpture by Andrew Leicester featuring "the famous four flying pigs". Joanna Schmersal, 2001 Ohio Pork Industry Queen, judged a  hog-calling competition.

The PORKOPOLIS website displays a 34c.U.S. commemorative stamp showing Porky Pig as a mail carrier wearing a leather U.S. mailbag and standing near a weathered wooden mailbox. The stamp was issued on October 1, 2001.

Copyright 2002   Eric Shackle   Story first posted January 2002

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