From Round to Square (and back)

For The Emperor's Teacher, scroll down (↓) to "Topics." It's the management book that will rock the world (and break the vase, as you will see). Click or paste the following link for a recent profile of the project:

A new post appears every day at 12:05* (CDT). There's more, though. Take a look at the right-hand side of the page for over four years of material (2,000 posts and growing) from Seinfeld and country music to every single day of the Chinese lunar calendar...translated. Look here ↓ and explore a little. It will take you all the way down the page...from round to square (and back again).
*Occasionally I will leave a long post up for thirty-six hours, and post a shorter entry at noon the next day.

Friday, September 20, 2013

From the Geil Archive (12)—American Flag

[a] Planted RF
Click here for other posts in the Round and Square series "From the Geil Archive":
               Introduction                              1-Southern Mountain Museum             2-Sacred Mountain Map           
               3-Hat and Cattle                       4-Seeking Anthropology                       5-Curly Fives
               6-How to Write the Book          7-Mortarboard Man                               8-Orator
               9-Naming (Un)Conventions     10-Unlike the Others                            11-Killed by Lightning
              12-American Flag                    
Julia Lacher is a proud native of Des Moines, Iowa, and graduated from Beloit College in May with a double major in Anthropology and History and a minor in Museum Studies. She is the only intern working with William Edgar Geil's papers at the Doylestown Historical Society who did not take Professor Rob LaFleur's class on "The Accidental Ethnographer," and is currently wondering what she got herself in to.
[b] Unsubtle DHS
 ***  ***
Please note that all items marked "DHS" are property of the Doylestown Historical Society, and used with DHS permission. If you wish to use an image, you need to have the permission of the Society. Please contact Robert LaFleur (, and he will put you in contact with the appropriate people.

An American Abroad: Nailing Flags to the Great Wall
After two weeks and more than 600 scanned newspaper articles, each headline alternately more haughty and expansionist than the last, I didn't think there was anything left in the archive that would shock or surprise me. However, I was proven wrong when I came across a picture of Geil at the end of his trip along the Great Wall of China in 1908.

Take a look at Image C. Yes, that is an American flag nailed to the Great Wall of China.

While this picture made me think about issues of colonialism and nationalism that I would like to explore in a later post, it also made me think about how Geil's identity as an American -- his "American-ness" -- was intricately tied to how he presented himself, both as a speaker and as a writer.
From the title of his first published book,  A Yankee on the Yangtze (1904), it is clear that Geil was very invested in his identity as an American.
[c] Flagged DHS

In fact, many reviews of his books, especially his 1908 The Great Wall of China, make allusions to Geil's American qualities. A review  of On the Great Wall of China printed in the Boston Herald in 1910 reads "it must be admitted, however, that the reading charaterised by an optimistic quality that indicates what is usually regarded as the genuine Yankee temperament." 

This is not the only article to point out Geil's American qualities, though it is more laudatory than some others, such as the  which instead of refreshing find Geil's familiar and humorous language obnoxious. "We could, however, wish that there were not so many light-hearted Americanisms in it" writes a reviewer for the London Queen in 1910.

I can't help but wonder if Geil's familiar, American prose and the humor he sought to inject into his writings is what made him popular in his day, but also contributed to his being forgotten. Geil seems to vacillate between wishing to be taken seriously (often adding the word "Dr." before his name as it appears in newspaper articles) and using humor and "plain talk" to sell books and entice people to come to his lectures.   
[d] Consequences (of a later era) RF
"American Invaders Will 
Surely Be Defeated"

While exploiting his identity as a plain spoken, boisterous American may have made him successful in the short term, it is perhaps his lack of a serious academic mien—both in his writing and in his speaking—that relegated him from the ranks of serious academic to the level of amateur traveler, doomed to obscurity (...until now!)...

In the meantime, I do hope he refrains from nailing any more flags to important cultural symbols. 

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