The people-being-eaten-by-an-alligator-or-crocodile event
September 7, 2007 10:43 AM   Subscribe

Variations on a theme, a short history of alligators biting and threatening people - mostly children, mostly African-American - a surprisingly popular motif of candy wrappers, sheet music, and post cards.
posted by ardgedee (26 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
The host site, Maproom Systems provides plenty of wunder for your kammer.
posted by ardgedee at 10:43 AM on September 7, 2007

Wow, what a quirky and disturbing set of images. I had no idea that alligators eating black infants was a major genre of early 20th century kitsch art.
posted by LarryC at 10:54 AM on September 7, 2007

Crazy... the images make it seem like it's a wonder any black people survived to adulthood with all the rampant alligator attacks.
posted by jonson at 11:01 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Ahem, I'm sorry I have not the willpower to resist. (I will however spare you the blink tag.)

posted by oddman at 11:03 AM on September 7, 2007

Very interesting site.
posted by Eekacat at 11:04 AM on September 7, 2007

Yeah, that's pretty fucked up right there.
posted by quin at 11:04 AM on September 7, 2007

After clicking thru all those pages of disturbing images,
I remember more shocking ones from Arno press. LarryC,
the alligators eating black infants was the tip of the iceberg.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:06 AM on September 7, 2007

I'm reminded of a no-longer made fishing product called 'Gator Bait'. I've now convinced myself that it was dropped to distance the makers from being seen as advocates of reptiles eating black children. Because that makes the most sense.
posted by quin at 11:08 AM on September 7, 2007

Aw, aren't those little pickaninnies cute? Look out, a gator might eat you! Haw haw haw.

Seriously, that's some creepy imagery. I'm from the South and these images look instantly familiar to me, but seeing them together in a web collection recontextualizes it. It doesn't read as explicitly hateful to me, but a more chilling form of racism, an unthinking and constant disquiet.

Is there some 19th century folktale about a black baby and an alligator that explains all this? Sort of a reverse Moses-baby-in-a-basket story?
posted by Nelson at 11:15 AM on September 7, 2007

You must not forget that at the same time, some cities were also handing out souvenir postcards of lynchings.
The looks on the faces of the people in the crowd were the creepiest of all. There they were standing there with their kids in tow and in the background, a dead black man. Hung up or strung up in a tree. Sometimes burnt beyond recognition and the crowd picking thru the debris for fingers
or toes.
posted by doctorschlock at 11:15 AM on September 7, 2007

what an absolutely bizarre trend in cultural history. alligator bait?

wow. once again, i say, this doesn't make me too proud to be an american.

posted by CitizenD at 11:20 AM on September 7, 2007

Oh it was way more extensive than just alligator-bait; I've seen a whole display of black kids coming to horrifying ends. Sort of like Edward Gorey turned into cutesy, racist kitsch.

I'm also sort of astonished that the Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben brands are still around, although it's true that their images have been sanitized for the modern consumer.
posted by kavasa at 11:36 AM on September 7, 2007

The racism is dreadful, but postcards with pictures of babies being eaten by alligators are terrific!
posted by Faint of Butt at 11:49 AM on September 7, 2007 [1 favorite]

Also! Having now looked at the entire exhibit (or whatever it's called), thanks! That's a pretty great collection of images, although the commentary is sort of superfluous. Pop art is neat stuff.
posted by kavasa at 11:55 AM on September 7, 2007

What is it with the crocodiles?

In the matter of racial attitudes Abraham Lincoln was no angel. (...) In his Hartford speech, for example, he pointed out that in the minds of some people, "when the question is between the white man and the nigger, they go in for the white man; when it is between the nigger and the crocodile, they take sides with the nigger." But here Lincoln was paraphrasing views that he emphatically rejected . In New Haven the next day, Lincoln called the white man-black man-crocodile comparison a slander devised to "brutalize the negro, and to bring public opinion to the point of utter indifference whether men so brutalized are enslaved or not."

posted by lucia__is__dada at 11:57 AM on September 7, 2007

WTF humanity?
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:58 AM on September 7, 2007

posted by bondcliff at 11:59 AM on September 7, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yeesh, I had no idea this was actually a fad.
Here's another, originally a stereoscopic card from c. 1900 entitled 'Terrors of the Alligator Swamp, Fla.', which I scanned from Richard Zach's An Underground Education.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 12:12 PM on September 7, 2007

I'm also sort of astonished that the Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben brands are still around

"Uncle Ben, who first appeared in ads in 1946, is being reborn as Ben, an accomplished businessman with an opulent office, a busy schedule, an extensive travel itinerary and a penchant for sharing what the company calls his “grains of wisdom” about rice and life." Uncle Ben, Board Chairman
posted by eddydamascene at 12:34 PM on September 7, 2007

Heh. My grandpa always called us kids "alligator bait."

This is one of those "best of the web" things. Congrats on posting it.
posted by klangklangston at 12:44 PM on September 7, 2007

Fascinating. I am also from the south and had never heard or seen anything like these images before. Really disturbing. I found it both strange and mysterious that more of the postcards came from California than the Southeast??.
posted by misha at 2:15 PM on September 7, 2007

Wow, that was really fascinating. Thanks!
posted by arcticwoman at 2:41 PM on September 7, 2007

Yes, fascinating.
posted by philfromhavelock at 3:50 PM on September 7, 2007

Read Why I Collect Racist Objects by Professor David Pilgrim, founder of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia Evidently, "gator bait" shows up there too. I used to collect postcards when I was 10 or so, and I remember finding one of those "gator bait" postcards from the 1930s at a local flea market. I was so jazzed I found a postcard from the 30s until I realized what the postcard meant.
posted by jonp72 at 6:11 PM on September 7, 2007

It would be inappropriate to not link to The Arrogant Worms great single, Rippy the Gator.

Lyrics here. Chomp! Chomp! Chomp!
posted by five fresh fish at 7:26 PM on September 7, 2007

So, I joined Metafilter to make this sort of self-absorbed comment:

I grew up in Florida and I have this postcard.

Or at least I used to. After I moved away, I threw out/gave away a lot of the random stuff I'd picked up in thrift and souvenier shops over the years. It was quite a shock seeing it online and in such an interesting context.

I had one with a pasted on Bettie Page too, but not the one on the site and I can't remember if there were any alligators.

Great post, thanks!
posted by thewrongparty at 8:28 PM on September 7, 2007

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