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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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A Different Drummer: 1925

A Different Drummer: 1925

May 11, 1925. "William H. Egberts of National Museum with Siamese musician." National Photo Company Collection glass negative. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

It's... it's... it's:

It's Asian Ringo with the Beatle hairdoo!


I think this guy has a robotic woman in his basement. His wife is blissfully unaware, of course.

Gamelan Man

My guess would be that this is a gamelan.

The instrument

The Siamese instrument looks something like the Punjabi Jaltarang, which is a series of ceramic bowls filled with varying levels of water. they sound a note in direct relationship to the amount of water in them. It is such a rare instrument that there is perhaps only one master left, Milind Talunkar, who is just about singlehandedly trying to revive it.

I'd like to know the name of the Siamese instrument, and whether it is still extant.

Not Simulated Fried Eggs

The tuned gongs in the photo are called the khong wong lek.

By the way, if you try to emigrate there, you have to be sponsored by a national, or else at Customs they say, "Sorry, you can't come in without a Thai."

William H. Egberts

Mr. Egberts' brief obituary in 1959 reports his home address as 4019 Veazey st., N.W. He was survived by his wife, Ollie C. Egberts, as well as a nephew (Hugo Hespen of Washington) and niece (Etta Pfrommer of Miami Beach)

Washington Post, Feb 2, 1936

The Washington Scene

By the Poe Sisters

Down in the catacombs of the New National Museum is an "old curiosity shop" of which Dickens himself might have been proud. The presiding genius of the shop is W.H. Egberts, sculptor, whose title, "preparator," does not express his craft at all. For this keeper of curios deals in plaster heads, legs and arms, in false fingers, in beads and pieces of fabric, old copper, tin and metal garnered from all corners of the world. In this "curiosity shop" the exhibits in the group of Smithsonian Buildings are prepared. A native from far-off Timbuctoo will be the inspiration for a whole group of figures. The figures are classed according to the rules of artistic anatomy. Every detail of native costumes on the figures are outlined, after extensive study.

Not only does this require a sculptor of no mean ability, but one who is erudite in history, archeology, geology and geography. It also requires a student of the differing habits of races of men throughout the world. Often the making of a single group entails months of study and research. First the figures are molded, according to designs made by this master sculptor. Then they are painted and dressed. Even the arrangement of the hair is of vital importance in the representation.

Thus when one enters this curiosity shop he is apt to see a gracious lady with her plaster hair piled high in coils and curls of another day being modeled and prepared to don the dress once worn by a White House lady. It is a unique fact that the collection of costumes of the women of the White House are displayed on figures the faces are exactly the same and taken from the same classic head, but the sizes vary as do the figures, of course. The head dresses are individual and so it the method of hair dressing which gives a real variety to the appearance of the First Ladies. This collection was suggested and arranged by the late Mrs. Julian James of Washington with the aid of Mrs. Rose Gouverneur Hoes, a grand-daughter of President James Monroe.

At one end of the room is a huge cliff dwellers scene being produced or repaired, with every thing, even the cliff dwelling figures, fitted in exactly to scale. This to be used as part of the "set" of some rare relic or relics owned by the New National Museum or Smithsonian Institution.

The walls of the subterranean work shop are lined with pigeon holes in which are placed arms, legs, hands and bits of hair, or other precious "keepsakes" carefully numbered and card catalogued in the most unique filing system to be found at the Smithsonian group.

Let there be life..

This guy looks like he was the Michelangelo of the National Museum. How do you get a job like that? I know it's an old B&W photo but it looks like he ran out of paint for the lighter skin tones a while ago.

Mr. Egberts

After seeing Mr. Egberts for the 3rd time, I did a web search and came upon this article -

Seems like William Egberts had a long and interesting relationship with the Smithsonian.

I suspect.....

that the Siamese musician has a case of rigor mortis!


OK..This is the third picture of this guy. So who is he and what's his story.

Night at the Museum

These photos of William Egberts creating facsimiles of humans really fires up my imagination into creating a story akin to "twilight zones" or "one step beyond" situations. Did this man project humanity into his creations (like the old ventriloquist dummy plot), did he name them in his conscience, did he assign them personalities like the author of a book does for his characters? Dr. Egberts's suit sleeves are worn and tattered, a trendy look today but not in 1925, so he obviously took his job very seriously, so completely engrossed in his work that he was unaware of his threadbare clothing. Did his sculptures become his companions, did they come to life at night (at least in his mind) and do the tasks he created them to do? Did William ever marry or have a life other than recreating scenes from other civilizations? He does seem like a lonely man.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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