Little Egypt Brass


Brass Quintet in Southern Illinois (aka Little Egypt)

Southern Illinois
“Little Egypt”

How did Southern Illinois get the nickname, “Little Egypt”?

Map of Little Egypt

It is believed that Southern Illinois’ nickname, "Little Egypt" had its origins in the 1830s, when a harvest shortage in the northern part of the state brought people to Southern Illinois to buy grain where the land of the great Mississippi and Ohio River valleys bears a resemblance to that of Egypt’s Nile delta. However, even before then, back in 1818, a huge tract of land was purchased at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and its developers named it Cairo. The town of Cairo is still there.

References of the phrase, "Little Egypt", can be found in early newspapers. In 1912, a state news brief was headlined, "Two New Little Egypt Pastors." It was found in the Troy Weekly Call of Troy, Illinois and was about two new Presbyterian ministers installed at Brookport and Salem, Illinois. On April 20, 1920, an article about fruit grown in the Southern Illinois region appeared in the Chicago Tribune that used the phrase, Little Egypt, to refer to the southern part of the state. In 1864, during the Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant had a war horse named Egypt because it came from Southern Illinois. Egypt went to the White House stables when Grant became President in 1869.

Today there are many references to the Southern Illinois region being called “Little Egypt.” A few examples are the Little Egypt Arts Association in Marion, the Centralia Sentinel calling itself Egypt's Greatest Daily, the Little Egypt Festival held every year on the first weekend in October in Salem, and of course, the Little Egypt Brass.

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