Reading Terminal Market

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“18 Phascinating Phacts about Philbert the pig sculpture, the Market's Favorite Pork Product Not Topped with Broccoli Rabe and Provolone,” By Carolyn Wyman

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1. Wendy Smith Born of Metropolitan Bakery got the idea for Philbert when she saw the Pike Place Market Foundation's giant piggy-bank sculpture, Rachel, on a visit to Seattle.

 

2. Rachel (b. 1986) was another great idea from the founder of the Sur La Table cookware chain (which started as a single shop at Pike Place Market).

 

3. At the time of Born's Seattle visit, The Food Trust was a program of Reading Terminal Market and Born was chair of its board, looking for new ways to raise money.

 

4. Rachel is more of a traditional piggy bank with a slot for coins on her back but local sculptor Eric Berg wanted donors to "feed" his pig -- with money going into his mouth and coming out his rear end, something that kids love but that some potential funders found hard to swallow.

 

5. CoreStates Bank (now part of Wells Fargo) did eventually agree to pay $25,000 to get the 3-foot-tall, 225-pound bronze Philbert made in 1995. The food-decorated tile base that helps Philbert rise above the Market trash cans was crafted by sculptor Berg's then-girlfriend Victoria Davila and cost an additional $15,000.

 

6. Philbert and Rachel have had a longtime, long-distance love affair, initially conducted via the U.S. Postal Service or via mash notes found in their respective cash boxes and most recently, this Valentine's Day on Facebook (see www.facebook.com/RachelThePiggybank).

 

7. Philbert is a potbellied/domestic pig hybrid that sculptor Berg says he "did not sex, though I do refer to him as a him" (and there is that abovementioned romance with Rachel ...).

 

8. Philbert got his name in a student contest. It was inspired by Reading Terminal Market's Filbert Street location but with the f changed to ph as per local (i.e., the Phillie Phanatic) custom.

 

9. In 2013, Philbert raised $6,807.99 towards The Food Trust's mission of increasing needy families' access to healthy food and healthy food information.

 

10. Philbert contributions are also occasionally designated to help out with natural disasters like Hurricane Sandy, the 2010 Haiti earthquake and the 2004 Indonesian tsunami (for which this pig-lanthropist raised almost $4,300 in a single week).

 

11. Among the more unusual, less obviously useful items that people put into Philbert: foreign currency, Chuck E. Cheese tokens, straws, forks, gum, chicken bones and half-eaten French fries.

 

12. Rubbing Philbert's snout is supposed to bring good luck and is the reason it's so shiny.

 

13. Next to the Welcome Desk, Philbert is the Market's most popular meeting place.

 

14. Philbert dresses up for special occasions, wearing a wreath at Christmastime and pink in support of the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure, for instance. He's also a favorite place for Market visitors to park misplaced hats and scarves.

 

15. Philbert's throat was originally so narrow that a ramrod was used to make it easier for him to "swallow" dollar bills. But so many things (see No. 11) got stuck on the way down, that Berg widened it into more of a chute and also added a slot for bills at the front of the cash box.

 

16. Other famous local animal statutes by Berg include the Drexel dragon and the Academy of Natural Sciences tortoise.

 

17. A year after making Philbert, Berg was commissioned to make several pig sculptures for State College Borough, one of which was stolen in a student prank. The student's plan to stash the pig at the home of his out-of-town girlfriend was thwarted by a UPS employee who remembered seeing the outline of a pig while screening packages.

 

18. Berg has an exact replica of Philbert (cast at the same time) in his studio which he says he'd be willing to part with (should anyone long to legally own a Philbert).

 

Philbert phacts courtesy Eric Berg (www.bergbronze.com), Sarah Levitsky and Michael Anthony of Reading Terminal Market, Caiti Rothenberg and Meghan Walsh of The Food Trust (www.the foodtrust.org), Wendy Smith Born of Metropolitan Bakery (www.metropolitanbakery.com) and Suzanne Spencer of Pike Place Market Foundation.

 

Carolyn Wyman is the Market's news correspondent and operator of the Reading Terminal's bi-weekly Taste of Philadelphia Food Tour.

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