The popular garden gnome may not have originated in south Thuringia as previously believed. The latest research by German gnome historians indicates that they just may herald from a present-day Polish city instead.
"Original" gnomes come from Thuringia, Germany -- or so we thought
The news released at the first garden gnome congress in the town of Trusetal, Thuringia shook the foundations of gnome-ology to the core.
In the course of normal research activity, a garden gnome expert happened upon an 1886 edition of the Deutsche Illustrirte Zeitung containing an advertisement from a company in Neuwedell, a town that was once in German Pomerania but is now part of Poland, where it is known as Drawno. The ad showed colorful garden gnomes for sale, said Frank Ullrich, the manager of Trusetal's Garden Gnome Theme Park.
The garden gnome has become a German symbol
Until now, the oldest document pointing to the birthplace of the garden gnome was an 1893 article from the Illustrirte Welt, which seemed to hint that gnome culture had its roots in Thuringia. The recently discovered ad predates the article, suggesting that gnomes actually originated further eastward. Gnome devotee Ullrich, however, plans to proceed with caution.
"This new evidence doesn't say for certain whether the company from Neuwedell was also a manufacturer of garden gnomes," he said. "We will continue our research."
Most experts agree that the ancestors of the modern day garden gnome emerged at the end of the 19th century at one of the three major European centers for the terracotta industry, which in addition to Thuringia, also included the Czech town of Usti nad Labem and present-day Drawno, Poland.