What Is It?

Toynbee ideas in Kubrick's 2001 resurrect dead on planet Jupiter

I've seen this plaque embedded in road intersections all over Philadelphia and NYC while others have reported seeing it in other states. I had originally thought them to be constructed from some kind of thick metal but Jared E Danziger wrote with another idea:
These plaques are, I think, made of plastic which is somehow baked onto the street. Either that or they are painted on with the paint that is used for roads (to make dividing lines). I think they are plastic though because of the fact that it is a negative image that is left (what would suspend the letters in space if it were an ordinary stencil) (although there are fine lines sometime between lines of text). Unfortunately whatever they are made of is delicate, especially around the edges of the letters and tends to break apart after a while.

--From an email message dated February 17, 1996

But what is it? What does it mean?

Some Possible Interpretations

Toynbee was an English historian (1889-1975). "Kubrick's 2001" probably refers to the movie 2001 by Stanley Kubrick. It's been a while since I've seen 2010, the sequel to 2001, but if I remember correctly Jupiter is the planet that all the monoliths converge upon.

My friend Charlie Taylor has been researching Toynbee to see what his connection to the plaques may be.

An old Usenet posting found on Google asked Kubrick's daughter if Stanley knew anything about the signs.

Variations Upon A Theme

There are actually several different versions of these plaques. One says "Toynbee ideas in Kubrick's 2001 resurrect dead on planet Jupiter" while the other says "Toynbee ideas in movie 2001 resurrect dead on planet Jupiter". These are the two most common types. Then there are variations such as colored borders- sometimes with text within it- and some that don't involve any of these themes and look like public displays of paranoia (see the intersection of E. 47th Street and 5th Avenue, for example).

Miscellaneous pictures

Check out the gallery of pictures! The Philadelphia ones are from the summer of 1998. I'm tracking down the dates of the other pictures.

New York Times article about this site

Corey Kilgannon of the New York Times interviewed me recently about this web page. The publicity has already resulted in more sighting reports, including reports from previously unlisted cities such as Boston, MA and Atlantic City, NJ. The article was in the Sunday, April 25, 1999 edition and can be found in the NYT archives at http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/04/biztech/articles/25onli.html

Cincinnati City Beat article

John Stoehr of the Cincinnati City Beat did some awesome research into the Toynbee mystery. His article can be found at http://www.citybeat.com/2001-08-02/news.shtml

Columbus Alive article

John Stoehr notes that a similar article to his was published in the Columbus Alive alternative weekly. Check it out at http://www.columbusalive.com/2001/20010809/080901/08090103.html

There's been a couple of other websites created keeping track of these things. I'll add links to them soon. Keep sending in those sightings!

Known Locations (last updated 04/06/2003)

Philadelphia, PA
4th Street and Sansom Street
5th Street and Walnut Street
4th Street and Sansom Street
4th Street and South Street Spotted by Timothy Keeney
5th Street and Walnut Street
7th Street and Chestnut Street
9th Street and Chestnut Street
9th Street and Shunk Street Spotted by Justin K*H*
11th Street and Oregon Avenue Spotted by Donna Gabriel
11th Street and Walnut Street Spotted by Timothy Keeney
12th Street and Berks Mall
12th Street and Chestnut Street
12th Street and Race Street Spotted by Justin K*H* who may have discovered one being applied
13th Street and Chestnut Street There were 2 found here
Broad Street and Oxford Street
Broad Street and Oregon Avenue
Broad Street and Sansom Street Spotted by Jared E Danziger
15th Street and Arch Street Spotted by Rob Petrone
15th Street and Chestnut Street
15th Street and Walnut Street
16th Street and Chestnut Street
16th Street and Market Street These are large, multicolored plaques in Philadelphia near Liberty Place. They are about 2-3 times the size of the older ones and have a white background with red and blue lettering. I believe one of them even had a tiled effect within the letters themselves (couldn't investigate too much due to traffic!).
16th Street and Sansom Street
17th Street and Walnut Street
I-76 West at City Avenue exit loop Spotted by Meng Weng Wong and Russell Mahoney
I-676 West near 23rd Street on-ramp Spotted by Unkysteve?, Michael Tuck and Russell Mahoney
I-95 North near Rt. 420 exit Spotted by Michael Tuck. This is really in Tinicum Township, not Philadelphia

Pittsburgh, PA
Smithfield Street and 7th Avenue Spotted by Miriam Greenberg along with Jon Wichmann and John Fail. She notes that this tile has instructions for making them:
lenoleum, asphalt glue (?) in several layers, then placing tar paper over it so that car wheels won't mess it up, and apparently the heat of the sun on the tar paper will bake it into the street
Photographed by Amy Kerlin
Smithfield Street and Oliver Avenue 2 here, spotted by Miriam Greenberg and Andrew Rizzardo. Photographed by Ron McConnell and Amy Kerlin
Smithfield Street and Forbes Avenue Spotted by Ron Miller
Forbes Avenue near the Allegheny County Courthouse Spotted by Ron Miller
Penn Avenue across from the Hilton Spotted by Miriam Greenberg. This includes the same Philadelphia address as the Chilean tile

New York City, NY
E. 36th Street and Madison Avenue Spotted by Kevin Walsh- notes that it has been painted over
36th Street and Park Avenue Spotted by Steve Sclafani
36th Street and 5th Avenue Spotted by Steve Sclafani
E. 39th Street and 5th Avenue Multicolored version- Spotted by Gerry Hinkle
W. 39th Street and 6th Avenue Spotted by Ben Moldover
40th Street and 5th Avenue Spotted by Timothy Keeney. 2 here - 1 small white, 1 large multicolored
41st Street and 5th Avenue Spotted by Robert F Sterling
42nd Street and 7th Avenue
44th Street and Broadway Reported to no longer exist by Bob O'Brien
44th Street and 5th Avenue
44th Street and 6th Avenue Spotted by Timothy Keeney. Large multicolored with tan background
45th Street and Broadway Spotted by Bob O'Brien. Large with blue background
45th Street and 3rd Avenue Spotted by Timothy Keeney
45th Street and 5th Avenue Plaques had a red border surrounding them
E. 47th Street and 5th Avenue These were of the same material and printing style as the original plaques but with a different phrase: "Please (make these)? tiles as the American media is working with the Soviet Union and its thousands of fronts in USA to ??? this". I couldn't understand the rest as it was very broken up
E. 48th Street and 1st Avenue Spotted by Susan Readwin
48th Street and Broadway
E. 49th Street and 5th Avenue There were 3 found here, and had a red border around them with the phrase "Murder every journalist I beg you" on it
W. 51st Street and 7th Avenue
51st Street and 6th Avenue Spotted by Ian Harmon
52nd Street and Broadway There were 3 found
52nd Street and 8th Avenue Spotted by Jean Leavitt
53rd Street and Broadway Spotted by Timothy Keeney
53rd Street and Lexington Avenue Spotted by Timothy Keeney. Located near the Citicorp Center
E. 53rd Street and 5th Avenue
W. 53rd Street and 7th Avenue
54th Street and 5th Avenue Spotted by Timothy Keeney
55th Street and Broadway Spotted by Timothy Keeney
E. 55th Street and 5th Avenue
W. 55th Street and 7th Avenue
W. 57th Street and Broadway There were 2 found here
West Broadway and 6th Avenue Spotted by Timothy Keeney. Disintegrating due to traffic
Broadway Avenue and Park Place Avenue Spotted by Joshua Gonze
Broadway Avenue and Barclay Avenue Spotted by Joshua Gonze
Broome Street and Varick Street This one is right near the entrance to the Holland Tunnel
E Street and 12th Avenue
F Street and 12th Avenue
F Street and 15th Avenue
New York Avenue and 15th Avenue There were 2 found here

Baltimore, MD
Calvert Street and Lombard Street
South Street and Lombard Street
Light Street and E. Baltimore Street Spotted by Chris Goldrick who writes:
This gets a little obsessive, but here's a new Baltimore sighting: Four (count 'em) at the corner of E. Baltimore and Light Streets.
South Street and E. Baltimore Street Spotted by Chris Goldrick
Redwood Street and S. Calvert Street There were two found here- one of each version
E. Lombard Street and Light Street
Charles Street and Chase Street Spotted by Scott Sackville
Charles Street and E. Madison Street Spotted by Dyche Mullins
Charles Street and Monument Street Spotted by Mark Davis
Charles Street and E. Mt. Vernon Place Spotted by Dyche Mullins
North Charles Street and Fayette Street Spotted by Sharon Shomette
St. Paul Street and Centre Street Spotted by Mark Davis
St. Paul Street and Lexington Street Spotted by Mark Davis
Liberty Street and Lexington Street Spotted by Mark Davis
Lombard Street and Hopkins Street Spotted by Mark Davis
Lombard Street and Market Place Spotted by Diana Schenk
Park Avenue and Read Street Spotted by Chris Goldrick

Aberdeen, MD
Route 22 and Beards Hill Spotted by John & Jennilyn Landbeck

Edgewood, MD
Route 40 and Route 24 Spotted by John & Jennilyn Landbeck

Washington, DC
Indiana Avenue NW and 7th Street NW Located near the Archives-Navy Memorial Metro Station
New Hampshire Avenue and DuPont Circle Spotted by Adam Butler
6th Street NW and Massachusetts Avenue NW Spotted by Rick Karr
6th Street NW and D Street SW Spotted by Kevin Palmer who ironically notes that it's adjacent to the US Dept. of Transportation
7th Street NW and K Street NW Spotted by David Raynor
12th Street NW and I Street NW
13th Street NW and E Street NW
13th Street NW and G Street NW
13th Street NW and K Street NW Reported to be paved over by Meredith Peruzzi
14th Street NW and F Street NW
14th Street NW and K Street NW Spotted by Jack Pickett
14th Street NW and L Street NW Spotted by Rebecca McClellan
15th Street NW and Pennsylvania Avenue NW One block from the White House!
15th Street NW and E Street NW Spotted by Timothy Keeney
15th Street NW and I Street NW
M Street NW and Thomas Circle NW Spotted by Meredith Peruzzi

Columbus, OH
3rd Street and Broad Street Spotted by Neil Aho

Toledo, OH
Huron Street and Jefferson Avenue Spotted by Gene Powell
Summit Street and Jefferson Avenue Spotted by Gene Powell and Mike Osswald
Superior Street and Jefferson Avenue Spotted by Mike Osswald

Cincinnati, OH
4th Street and Main Street Spotted by John Stoehr
5th Street and Walnut Avenue Spotted by John Stoehr
6th Street and Walnut Avenue Located near the Aronof Center. Spotted by Robert A. Crawford

Cleveland, OH
W. 3rd Street and Prospect Avenue Spotted by Shawn Wickens, who notes that it speaks of a diagnosis of a fatal disease
E. 12th Street and Euclid Avenue Located in front of the Union Club. Spotted by Don Cairns
Tower City Center on Public Square Spotted by Ken Boone who notes that these have additional messages in the bottom of the panel, including one that says "THANKS GOODBYE"

Boston, MA
Berkeley Street and St. James Avenue Spotted by Les Peat
Charles Street Spotted by Timothy Keeney. Located in crosswalk btw. Boston Common and Public Garden
Kingston Street and Essex Street Spotted by Timothy Keeney
Commonwealth Avenue and Arlington Street May have deteriorated due to heavy traffic. Spotted by Les Peat
Temple Avenue and Tremont Avenue Spotted by Charlie Taylor
Dartmouth Avenue near the Back Bay T Station Spotted by Josh Brandt

Atlantic City, NJ
North Carolina Avenue and Pacific Avenue Spotted by Henry Komansky

Bellmawr, NJ
Blackhorse Pike at the NJ Turnpike Off-Ramp Spotted by Bryan Firlein

Chicago, IL
Jackson Street and Wells Spotted by Jeffrey Scorsone
Jackson Street and Michigan Avenue Spotted by Andrew Whatley
Delaware Place and Michigan Avenue Spotted by Andrew Whatley
Baltimore Avenue and Michigan Avenue Spotted by Kevin McGuire
Near 900 North Michigan Avenue Spotted by Marc Fischer
Near 400 North Michigan Avenue and Congress Street Spotted by Marc Fischer
Michigan Avenue and Madison Street Spotted by Jonathan Nowak
Crossing between John Hancock and Water Tower shopping Center Spotted by Han Huie. Photographed by Bill Tozier
Michigan Avenue and Chestnut Street Spotted by Robert Koslow
Michigan Avenue and Pearson Street Spotted by Donald Chipman III

Indianapolis, IN
Georgia Street and Meridian Street Spotted by Daniel Axler and Michael Sorensen

St. Louis, MO
Market Street and 8th Street Spotted by Les Hostetler and Patty Heininger
Washington Street and 6th Avenue Spotted by Sean Tejaratchi
Olive Street and 6th Avenue near Famous Barr Spotted by Mark Plattner

Kansas City, MO
12th or 13th Street downtown Spotted by Anders

Detroit, MI
Randolf Street and Congress Street Spotted by Vernon Duke and Nick Manciero
Woodward Avenue across from City-County Building Spotted by Victor Wooddell
Woodward Avenue and Larned Street Spotted by theroid?

Mottville, MI
US 12 near Mann Road Spotted by Adam Lewis, who wonders:
I understand Big city weirdness, but why would there be one in a little hicktown?

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, South America
Av. Presidente Vargas and Av. Uruguaiana Several reports of these! Check out http://www.tiagoteixeira.com.br/toynbee/ for a great site about them

Buenos Aires, Argentina, South America
Near the intersections of Avenida de Mayo, Rivadavia, and Parana Streets Spotted by Jared Danziger, photographed by Manuel Barcia

Santiago, Chile, South America
Agustinas and Estado Spotted by Christian Soto who notes that it contains an address:
Toynbee A.
2624 S. 7th
Philadelphia, PA.
19148-4610
USA

Other Links of Interest