Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Hot Dog Man Stands Tall

Lincoln, Illinois, which I mentioned yesterday, was named after who you think it was, but not for the martyred president or even the president when he was alive, but Abraham Lincoln, esq. In the 1850s, it seems that Lincoln did some important legal work for the developers of the town, so they named it after him. So, in some alternate universe in which Stephen A. Douglas won the election of 1860, or William Seward had bagged the Republican nomination for president that year in the Wigwam, and thus many other things are different from our world, Lincoln, Illinois would still be Lincoln -- and would be a name about as obscure as most of the other places named for 19th-century figures.

As we were leaving the town of Atlanta, Illinois, I glimpsed Hot Dog Man. At about 20 feet tall, this fiberglass statue of a Paul Bunyonish man holds a really big hot dog in a bun in front of him in his two hands. I had to get out and look at that. Ann was occupied with a coloring book, so I crossed the street without her and stood in front of Hot Dog Man for a minute or so.

He reminded me of the Gemini Giant, who stands in front of a restaurant in Wilmington, Illinois, not far south of Joliet, except that GG wears a space suit and helmet, and holds a rocket. Anyway, it’s no coincidence. The same company made many of these fiberglass giants, most with the same mold. The story of these vernacular sculptures, generically known as Muffler Men, is told by the invaluable

As for Hot Dog Man, he stood in front of a hot dog restaurant in suburban Berwyn, Illinois, for about 30 years, though I never saw him there, since Berwyn is fairly far from my beaten tracks in metro Chicago. Only in 2003 did he end up in Atlanta, in a story told better once again by

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