The Neo-Egyptian Revivals

Part of series of photos on presidential candidates and their families. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover and Lou Hoover with King Tut on the porch of their Washington, DC home. 5/21/1928

By Thomas F. Schwartz

Napoleon’s invasion of Egypt in 1798 served both a military function in disrupting British access to India as well as a scientific function with an “army” of scholars representing specialties ranging from naturalists, geologists, and chemists to geographers, civil engineers and botanists.  This later group was part of the Commission of the Sciences and Arts that compiled the information gathered from Napoleon’s Egyptian expedition and published their findings in a multi-volume work Description of Egypt (1809-1829).  The discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 was undoubtedly the greatest find by these scholars.  Interest in ancient Egypt was revived in the aftermath of Napoleon’s invasion and the availability of published findings by these scholars.  Expressions of ancient Egypt began to influence architecture with the opening of Egyptian Hall (1812) in Piccadilly, London and construction of obelisks, the Washington Monument perhaps being the most familiar to Americans.  Howard Carter’s discovery of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922 revived an interest in all things Egyptian.  The Art Deco movement was strongly influenced and buildings such as Grauman’s Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood (1922) and Lenin’s Tomb in Moscow (1924-29) all contain elements from ancient Egyptian architecture and design.

               
  The Hoovers were big film buffs as previous blog posts have discussed.  In 1932, The Mummy with Boris Karloff began a franchise of many other films stemming from it, set in Egypt and referencing antiquity.  Also great lovers of dogs, the Hoovers named one “King Tut” likely after the discovery of the boy king’s tomb.  The most requested photograph of the Hoover presidency shows President Hoover with the German Shepard, King Tut.    As Lou wrote to Senator Wolcott upon King Tut’s death in October 1929:

              
        “Yes, Tut was about ten years old, or older.  When he came to us they said he was a year old, or perhaps it was ‘not quite a year old,’ and so his pedigree indicated.  But I remember that when the veterinary saw him he said that he had the teeth of a well grown dog and was not so young, so that one might imply that he was older than his birth certificate stated!  In that case he might be twelve or thirteen years old.  On second thought, I must say in remembering him he seemed in other respects like a very young dog at the time he came.”

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