Foswelch in Formstone

Today’s Zippy has Mr. the Toad recruiting a Pinhead named Foswelch — Toad uses the name as an address term in every panel of the strip except the last — as a Formstone siding salesman in Baltimore:


There’s the name Foswelch, another in a series of F-initial family names that Bill Griffith seems to be fond of. And the combination of siding and Baltimore — a natural for Formstone, but also evoking the movie Tin Men.

Griffithian names. Griffith savors names, some of them with great pleasure. For example, Fenwick, in my 5/14/18 posting “Fenwick the semi-generic”; and Fenwich, in my 5/28/18 posting “Fenwich, come here, I need you”. On 5/4/15, in “Morning with the Fosdicks”, I looked at two celebrated Fosdicks — Harry Emerson Fosdick and Fearless Fosdick (in the Dick Tracy comic strip) — and the name Fosdick occasionally appears in Zippy strips, as here (on 11/26/12):

(#2) Featuring Fernwick “Ferny” von Fosdick

But of Foswelch, there is no trace in Zippy. Or anywhere, as far as I can tell; it looks like pure Griffithian invention. There is an attested name Foswick, as on this gravestone:

(#3) (Think of Foswick as the love child of Fosdick and Fenwick)

But Foswick seems not to have made it into Zippy. Instead, we get Foswelch.

Baltimore siding. Previously on this blog, in the 10/27/15 posting “Flintstone and Formstone”:

(#4) Formstoned row houses in Baltimore

Formstone [invented in Baltimore] is a type of stucco commonly applied to brick rowhouses in many East Coast urban areas in the United States, although it is most strongly associated with Baltimore. (from Wikipedia)

The strip in #1 ends up with a reference to the great American play Death of a Salesman, but you say show, Baltimore, and siding to me, what I get is Tin Men. From Wikipedia:

(#5) Poster for the movie

Tin Men is a 1987 American comedy film written and directed by Barry Levinson, produced by Mark Johnson, and starring Richard Dreyfuss [as BB], Danny DeVito [as Ernest], and Barbara Hershey.

It is the second of Levinson’s four “Baltimore Films” set in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland, during the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s: Diner (1982), Tin Men (1987), Avalon (1990), and Liberty Heights (1999).

Ernest Tilley and Bill “BB” Babowsky are rival door-to-door aluminum siding salesmen in Baltimore, Maryland in 1963, an era when “tin men,” as they’re called, will do almost anything — legal or illegal — to close a sale.

2 Responses to “Foswelch in Formstone”

  1. Stephen R. Anderson Says:

    When I lived in Baltimore in the 1990s, the vast majority of row houses were still covered in formstone, and a major issue was how to replace it. It was generally considered a local catastrophe.

    • arnold zwicky Says:

      John Waters described Formstone as “the polyester of brick”; coming from him, that goes both ways. But the stuff is awful; chunks of Philadelphia and SE Pa. cities (like Reading, the city of my childhood) were afflicted, but nothing like the way Baltimore was. Mostly associated with the respectable working class and the striving lower-middle class — my people — but it made only small inroads in my working-class town, which mostly remained solidly sturdy (and handsome) brick (with many slate roofs, slate being cheap and plentiful in the area).

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: