Toynbee Tile News and history 101

In late 2001/early 2002 artist, musician and Toynbee tile lover Justin Duerr discovered the last original tile ever glued, just minutes after it was put to the street. He wrote to

I left my house on a mission to my lacal convinience (sic) store
for a late Sunday night snack (about 4:00 A.M.,so perhaps “early morning snack would be more appropriate wording.) On my way back to the house I noticed a black mound in the street which had made it’s appearance there sometime in the 10 minute period that I was in the store. Upon closer inspection I discovered it to be a mound of tar paper, intermingled with what appeared to be wood glue. Being the inquisitive soul that I am, I lifted the top layer to see what may lay underneath—-a “TOYNBEE IDEA” TILE!!!!!( This was discovered at 12th. & Race ST. in Philadelphia, if you want to add it to your sightings list.) Needless to say, I examined the tile for quite a while, my heart racing all the while, knowing that I had missed catching the “mad tiler” by only a matter of minutes.

In the next 48 hours, heavy rains washed the tile away. It never adhered to the asphalt. In the past 5 years, no old school tiles have appeared in Philadelphia or anywhere else.


Starting in 2002 new-school tiles began appearing. They have a different font and orientation. Most of them are small and placed close to the curb. Nearly 200 of them have appeared in Philadelphia and surrounding highways since 2002. Only 1 has been reported outside of the Philadelphia area. Tile experts are split on whether these new tiles are the work of the original tiler or a copycat. But that’s not the point of this post.

Since early 2002 every single tile glued to a street in center city Philadelphia has been small, crude and aesthetically boring. But in the past week at least 3 old-school size mystery tiles have appeared.

These tiles are large and mysterious. Not yet exposed (still covered in layers of glue and tar paper) these tiles could be anything. No matter what lies beneath, the tiles are an exciting development in the Jupiter resurrection movement. Over the next few weeks, large, bright mosaics will again decorate center city Philadelphia streets. Keep your eyes on 15th/16th and Chestnut and 15th and Arch. In the meantime, here are some early photos from Chestnut Street:

I couldn’t keep myself from messing with this one:

slightly vaginal looking detail crop:

7 Comments on “Toynbee Tile News and history 101

  1. All I’m saying is that as both a owner of a vagina and having known others vaginas, I would put a heavy emphasis on the “slightly” in the statement “slightly vaginal looking detail.”

  2. BUT I am happy to see that the vaginal looking detail will actually give birth to a new Toynbee.

  3. Thanks for the info. I’ve never actually seen a vagina in real life so this is a big help!

    But seriously, I’m way too excited about new large tiles in center city. The original tiler actually did include some slightly explicit imagery, as if the idea was being birthed from a woman’s body. A few tiles included lady legs, like these:

    Maybe that’s (part of) why I was seeing vaginas.

  4. A fascinating development. I wrote a couple of stories recently on concerning the tiles and it looks like there will have to be another follow-up. The preview of Resurrect Dead was interesting too. Nothing like a good mystery.

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