When Valerie and I traveled to Chicago on the first of our annual Thanksgiving trips, we happened upon an interesting piece of American conspiracy theory art in the middle of the street. For the past couple of decades these colorful tiles, called Toynbee tiles after the English philosopher named in the tiles, have sprung up in major cities in the United States and a few far flung international locations. By pure chance, I had read about these tiles before I ever had seen one. In my work I get a lot of conspiracy theories that constituents want vetted and I saw the information on the Toynbee tiles whilst reading about some other long since forgotten nutty theory. The photo above is of the tile at the intersection of Jackson Boulevard and Michigan Avenue in Chicago. One day short of a full year later in November 2006, I found another Toynbee tile (below photo) at the intersection of 8th and Market Streets in St. Louis, Missouri.
People have speculated about the meaning of the tiles and who has placed these all over the place. While looking for something to watch the other night on Netflix, I saw a documentary about the tiles, called Resurrect Dead. The makers of the documentary spent many years trying to piece the clues together and they believe that they have found the person that makes the tiles and a little more about the weird conspiracy theory he espouses. Whenever we travel to big cities, I always keep my eyes peeled for these strange tiles.