J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

How to Make Your Own Prophetic Egg

From volume 9 of The Percy Anecdotes, published in London in 1826:

In the year 1819, there was exhibiting in Boston in America, a wonderful egg, said to have been found at a farm house near Bordeaux, having thereon the following inscription:

“Ceci avertit, que Napoleon Bonaparte, remontera sur la trone de France, le 15th Novembre, 1818.”

“This is to give notice, that Napoleon Bonaparte will re-ascend the throne of France, November 15, 1818.”

The advertiser says, “this egg was boiled for breakfast, and discovered by a Lieutenant Patterson, of the British army; and was sold in London in September, for three hundred guineas.”

We should hardly have supposed, that the good folks of Boston could be deceived by such a miserable hoax as this. Nothing is more simple or easy, than the art of making inscriptions upon eggs. Write any words you please upon an egg, with grease, and boil the egg in lime water, with a little onion juice; or place the egg in strong vinegar, for a few hours; and the inscription will appear prominent. We have likewise seen letters raised upon an egg so ingeniously, as hardly to be discovered, with no other instrument than a sharp penknife. The Yankee who can manufacture wooden nutmegs, can make prophetic eggs with as little trouble or expense.
In searching for Plymouth’s “prophetic egg,” I found references to others appearing in Portugal during the Peninsular War and in Macon, Georgia, during the U.S. Civil War. They seem to appear in times of crisis. And now you can make your own for the next time.

(Photograph by Marie Richie, via Flickr under a Creative Commons license.)

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