Saturday, November 28, 2009
The Life and Times of Lillian Mountweazel
(Above: Not Lillian Mountweazel.)
If you had picked up a copy of the New Columbia Encyclopedia published in 1975, you would have found an entry for a woman by the name of Lillian Virginia Mountweazel (1942-1973). According to her biography, Ms. Mountweazel was a fountain designer and photographer, best known for her collection of photos of rural American mailboxes, Flags Up!. She was born in Bangs, Ohio, and died in an explosion while on assignment for Combustibles magazine.
Pretty interesting lady, wouldn't you say? But the most fascinating thing about Lillian Mountweazel is that she never actually existed. She was what's known as a "fictitious entry." The publishers of reference books (dictionaries, encyclopedias, etc.) and maps will often include fictitious entries in their works. This makes it easy for them to know when their copyrights have been violated.
Thanks to good old Lillian, these entries are now known as Mountweazels. (In the world of maps, fictitious streets are called "trap streets." However, map makers' inventions have an interesting habit of becoming real places.)
That hasn't been the only honor bestowed upon Lillian. There's also a Lillian Mountweazel Memorial Society, and earlier this year there was an art exhibit devoted to her life and times.
Not bad for someone who never drew a breath. But it kind of makes you wonder what else might not be real.