Poor Polly Buried: 1892

parrot cage 1917

POOR POLLY BURIED.

Killed by Cold Water or Watermelon.

A Funny Funeral in Noe Valley.

Obsequies of a Dead Bird—Taken to the Grave in a Goat Carriage.

There was a strange scene in Noe Valley, away out Castro street, on Thursday and those who witnessed it will not soon tire talking of it. To most of those who took part in it the occasion was fraught with more of curiosity than of deeper interest, but it was not so with all. In a little front parlor at 1414 1/2 Castro street stands a big empty birdcage. Rising from the top of the cage a staff on which a flag, hoisted half mast high, tells the visitor that the one time occupant is dead. All around the little doorway where she fluttered in and out bits of black and white still further emphasize the fatal fact, and bouquets of flowers fitted into feeding and drinking cups and hanging from the swinging perch where Polly used to swing are tokens to her memory.

It was only a parrot, this recent dweller within those walls of wire, but seldom has a bird left more sincere mourners behind it, and many a man or woman would be proud to think that such an elaborate funeral was in store for him or her. Less than two years ago this poor parrot was hatched out in the wilderness of Panama. John Stranaghan, an honest sailor lad, came into possession of the bird on one of his coast-wise trips and brought it to his uncle’s home in Noe Valley. Just one year ago was presented to Mr. and Mrs. Augustus Tache, and in their pretty little home on Castro street the bird really began to live the life that has now so suddenly ended. The parrot’s name was Loretta, but owing to the difficulty parrots find in pronouncing the letter T she called herself Lora, and those who knew her and loved her learned to accept the abbreviation. Lora was the pet of the entire neighborhood, but she was the apple of Mrs. Tache’s eye.

There were tears in both of Mrs. Tache’s eyes last evening as she related stories illustrating the genius and accomplishments of “poor Lora.” In appearance the bird had been quite like any other green parrot with gold trimmings. Her size was roughly but kindly stated by Mr. Tache, who is a carpenter, “She just fitted into a box 13 by 3 inches,” said he. And there stood the box on a pedestal just in front of the empty “cottage.” It was a dainty box, more like a young lady’s glove box than a coffin, covered with baby blue silk and lined with the same in quilted squares. Yet in it poor Lora had been laid out. By the silken handles on either side the pallbearers had carried it to the grave side, and there in the darkened parlor it now stands with the other evidences of a woman’s strange devotion to the memory of a dead bird.

The lessons that Lora learned in her home on Castro street seem all to have been good ones. She could not only talk and whistle like other parrots, but as a singer she had an enviable record, Her singing of the chorus of “Auld Lang Syne” is said to have made many of the residents of Noe valley weep copiously, and Mrs. Tache herself was very much overcome last evening in endeavoring to give the reporter an idea of Lora’s rendition of “Amid the Raging of Sea.” “She had a sweet and lovely voice,” said this fond mistress of a pretty pet, but Mr. Tache did not seem to agree with her. There was also a slight difference of opinion as to the cause of Lora’s demise. Both agreed that the parrot died of cholera morbus, but Mrs. Tache declared that the disease was due to Mr. Tache feeding the bird on watermelon, while the latter contended that death had been due to too frequent bathing at the hands of Mrs. Tache.

Whatever the cause, poor Lora was taken ill on Monday last. She was “off ‘her feed,” as Mr. Tache puts it, all the afternoon, and when night came she could muster up no words from her voluminous vocabulary save “Poor Lora! Poor, poor Lora.” It should be mentioned here that she never referred to herself as Polly, and never made the stereotyped suggestion regarding the proverbial cracker. Just as Monday was turning into Tuesday Mr. and Mrs, Tache, snugly stowed away in the ad joining bedroom, heard a terrible scream. They knew at once that Lora was on her last legs. Mrs. Tache promptly got out of bed and went to the rescue. She also did what a mother would have done for a dying child. She took the bird to her bosom and sat with it on her own bed. Poor Lora lived but a short hour longer. After the one shrill scream there came but these words, “By by, Lora, by by!” They were the last words indeed. Written by the. afflicted mistress these words are still pinned to the wires of the empty birdcage. The writer and her husband are as subdued in their grief as if a child had been taken away.

The funeral took place at 4 p. m. on Thursday. The neighbors turned out in goodly numbers. The house at 1414 1/2 Castro street was crowded, and there were more flowers than city officials have sometimes been honored with. But the most unique feature of the occasion was the hearse. The son of a neighboring groceryman offered the services of his goat wagon. Certainly nothing could have been better suited to such a service. The goat was a well trained animal and did not run away. Two little girls, Gay Spencer and Maggie Delmore, carried the casket out of the house and placed it in the little wagon. Then taking their places, one on each aide, and the other children walking two by two behind them, they led the way up Castro street to Clipper, where in the garden of Mr. Stranaghan, at 424, a grave had, been dug to receive all that remained of Lora. The older people stood by when the blue casket was exchanged for a coarser one, and when the earth was filled in above the lowered coffin there was more than one genuine sob audible. On the top of the little mound in that Noe valley garden flowers faded in the warm sun of yesterday and the incident will no doubt soon fade from the minds of most of the participants, but the grief of that honest couple at 1414 ½ Castro street is as touching as it is strange, and yet it may not be so strange after all, for their ten years’ union has not been blessed with children and “Poor Lora” could talk and sing and cry, and now “Poor Lora” is dead.

The San Francisco [CA] Chronicle 20 August 1892: p. 4

[Note: It’s rather interesting that the Chronicle’s headline was so jocular. Subsequent syndication of the same story in various papers such as The Clarion [PA] Democrat 29 September 1892: p. 7, treat it more respectfully.

BURIAL OF A PARROT

WHOLESALE MOURNING OVER A MUCH LOVED HOUSEHOLD PET.

Unfortunate Creature Said “By By, Lora, By By,” and Yielded Up the Ghost–The Funeral Was a Large One and the Furnishings Were Gorgeous.

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead. And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

A Rat Funeral: 1900

rat poison mourning rat family 1880
Advertisement for Tord-Boyaux rat poison, c. 1880 https://wellcomecollection.org/works/d6aem4hx

A RAT FUNERAL

Mike Was Popular and There Were Many Mourners.

Mike was buried on Tuesday afternoon. That is, the first interment occurred then. The second burial was late in the evening. News of Mike’s death was not published in any paper and no carriages followed the body to the grave, but there were many mourners and the grief was sincere.

Mike was buried in the animal burying ground on Convent Heights, opposite St. Nicholas avenue, near One Hundred and Thirty-first street, where already had been buried the bodies of two cats, three canary birds, one parrot and “Snoozer,” a fox terrier, all of them pets of their owners, as well as friends of the children who live “in the block.”

Mike was a tame white rat, who belonged to a family who live at the corner of One Hundred and Thirtieth street and St. Nicholas avenue. He was an enterprising rat. He lived, when at home, on the top floor, and daily he would go through the open windows to the wide ledge which runs the entire block, and passing through the open windows of the other flats make informal calls on the neighbors. It was quite a common occurrence when a family was at breakfast, or lunch or dinner, to see Mike suddenly appear on the table and help himself to a portion of whatever food appealed to him. Sometimes he would disappear with the food in his mouth as quickly as he came. At other times, he would sit up on his haunches and eat, holding the food in his paws as a squirrel holds a nut.

Sometimes his calls lasted for several hours, and at other times he would scamper through a flat, return in a few minutes to the parlor, jump into a chair, then to the window sill and ledge and continue on his route. The housewife found Mike in the most unexpected places; in beds, closets, clothes baskets and bureau drawers. One morning he called in for breakfast on a family and was allowed to help himself. When he had finished he curled himself up like a kitten on one corner of the table and went to sleep. He slept for an hour, the removal of the dishes and other noises not disturbing him.

Strange to say, Mike would not eat cheese, but he was fond of cocoa, milk, potatoes, corn, meat, and especially of lettuce and similar green stuff. He was often seen scurrying homeward along the ledge, carrying a choice morsel for future use. His owner estimated that Mike brought home on an average about a teacup full of forage daily.

Mike was not popular with all the persons on his list. It is rumoured that he was pushed from the ledge by an enemy. However that may be, one of the Rogers twins found him on the sidewalk on Tuesday afternoon badly hurt. Mike was at once taken to his home, where he died in a few minutes. The body was put in a fancy, gold-embossed candy box, lined with blue silk. A white ribbon was tied around the box.

Burial arrangements were then made. The owner led the procession ,carrying a spade. The Rogers twins came next, and then followed the single file Jay, Georgie, Balance, Teddie, John, Vinnie, “Sluts”—which is short for Slattery—“Fatty” and his sister Grace, Ethel, Margaret Reade, and a dozen others.

Great care was taken to prevent the “Eight avenues,” as the juvenile residents of that avenue are known, from learning of the event, and making trouble. After mike had been properly interred a big cannon cracker was fired as a salute and the procession retraced its steps. Later it has rumoured that the “Eight avenues” had learned of the burial and were about to steal the body. The procession was quickly reformed and marched to the grave. The body of Mike was disinterred and reburied in another spot.

Cincinnati [OH] Enquirer 4 August 1900: p. 12

 

 

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.  And visit her newest blog The Victorian Book of the Dead.

He Died in France

help the horse save the soldier animal relief great war
Poster for The American Red Star Animal Relief, https://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205324811

HE DIED IN FRANCE

Helen M. Richardson.

In sunny France a nameless unmarked grave

O’ergrown by poppies, matined by the birds,

Proclaims the resting place of one who fell

That earth its liberty might still retain.

Ununiformed, unhelmeted he went,

No thought of well-earned glory for a shield.

In sunny France, unmourned his body lies,

He knew not why he went; at man’s behest

He fared him forth upon that summer day

Caparisoned with naught but faithful love

For one who companied him upon the way,

Amid the deafening roar of bursting shells

And smoke that blurred his vision he went down

And left his rider to escape unharmed.

A horse—you say; –but when a human life

Is save what matters that a horse should fall!

I say it is a hero’s grave that hides

Beneath the poppies red in sunny France,

He fell as falls the man behind the gun,

With no less courage in his faithful heart

May he not claim his recompense, perchance,

When angels pass the words, — he died in France?

 

 

Chris Woodyard is the author of The Victorian Book of the Dead, The Ghost Wore Black, The Headless Horror, The Face in the Window, and the 7-volume Haunted Ohio series. She is also the chronicler of the adventures of that amiable murderess Mrs Daffodil in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales. The books are available in paperback and for Kindle. Indexes and fact sheets for all of these books may be found by searching hauntedohiobooks.com. Join her on FB at Haunted Ohio by Chris Woodyard or The Victorian Book of the Dead.

Mourning the Dandy Dog: 1896

a stone in the dog cemetery 1905

We have previously read of the luxuries lavished on the “dandy dogs” by their masters and mistresses. Yet, in spite of the finest food and drink and the best medical care, these beloved pets, like all of us, “must come to dust.” As we come to the end of “National Pet Week,” we continue the dandy dog narrative as found in The Strand.

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And yet, with all this, dandy dogs die like their humbler brethren – probably much sooner. Then comes the funeral, with its flowers, carriages, and marble monuments. I am not jesting. An illustrated article has already appeared in THE STRAND MAGAZINE on the Dogs’ Cemetery, situated, appropriately, in Hyde Park. Mr. Rotherham, the canine specialist, has an extensive burying-ground of the same kind on his property at Neasden.

Mr. Kenyon, the gentle, sympathetic undertaker of Edgware Road, tells me he was sent for in hot haste one Saturday afternoon. He was out at the time, but he called on the Sunday – thinking, of course, that he was required to take an order for the burial of an ordinary Christian. It was not so. The deceased was a pet dog that had met with a tragic death in the street beneath a coal cart. The lady tearfully explained that she wanted the body embalmed, and then placed in a glass coffin, so that she could have poor dear “Friskie” with her all days—even to the consummation of her own; the two would then be interred together. Mr. Kenyon thought this might be magnificent, but it was not business; so he declined the commission.

Mr. Rotherham knows of dozens of cases in which toy dogs have had costly funerals. Pets that die in town are usually buried at the country seat of the family. In this surgeon’s canine cemetery lies one dog that was brought from France. But here is a poetic funeral card that speaks for itself; note that it contains hopeful hints of a canine hereafter – “another place,” as they say in Parliament.

But listen to Mr. Rotherham’s record case. “A year or two ago I was called to the Grosvenor Hotel to see a dog. When I entered the room I saw a young man stretched on the hearth-rug. I thought I had been called to see him ; but I found I was mistaken. The dog was dead, the circumstances being these: The gentleman had occasion to go out, so he shut his dog in the sitting-room. The dog pro tested strongly in his absence – mainly by disfiguring the door, and driving several other visitors nearly crazy with continuous howls. When the master returned, the hotel people complained, whereupon the young gentleman proceeded to chastise his demonstrative pet – which chastisement took the form of a running kick that ended the dog’s days.

“The remorseful man’s reparation resolved itself into a gorgeous funeral. There was a purple velvet pall, two broughams (one for the coffin and one for the mourners), and three guineas’ worth of flowers—chiefly lilies of the valley. A leaden shell was made and inclosed in a polished mahogany coffin, with silver fittings and name-plate. A touch of romance was given to this unique function when, just as the leaden shell was about to be sealed up, the impetuous young fellow was seen to put in with the dog’s remains a packet of letters and a gold locket containing hair. I imagine the dog must have belonged to the chief mourner’s deceased lady-love.”

This funeral, Mr. Rotherham assures me, cost £30 or £40; and the funniest thing about it was that the surgeon himself was requested to “follow.” He consented to do this, and was forthwith provided with a white silk sash and a satin rosette. Another very interesting dog’s funeral was one carried out by a London undertaker, although the remains were to be interred in the tomb of the sorrowing master’s ancestors in Sicily. The dog’s body was, of course, embalmed ; and the headstone was sent with it.

dog's funeral card strand

A typical dog’s funeral-card is reproduced here. “Monkey” was a quaint little Yorkshire; and his mistress — an enormously rich woman, and a great believer in Sir Henry Thompson – had his remains cremated. “Monkey’s” cinerary urn, shown in the accompanying photograph, probably represents the very highest pinnacle of (deceased) Dandy Dog-dom. It cost six hundred guineas, being in the form of a solid tortoise-shell sedan chair, enameled all over the front and sides in the most costly manner, and inlaid with brilliants, rubies, emeralds, and pearls; the extremities of the handles are simply incrusted with jewels.

dog's Monkey cinerary urn, cost 600 Guineas

Inside is a gold-mounted crystal jar, with a monogram in diamonds; this contains the ashes. It is surmounted by a skull. The name of the departed pet is perpetuated by the monkey seen on top of the casket; and in his paw he holds a fine pearl. This casket was made by Messrs. A. Barrett and Sons, of 63 and 64, Piccadilly; of course, it was an exceptional order, but Mr. H. Barrett tells me that the firm ordinarily make cinerary urns, ranging in price from £10 to £250, for holding the ashes of cremated pet dogs.

In conclusion it may be said that pet dogs are treated by their mistresses almost precisely as though they were human members of the family; the only discrepancy in the analogy being that it is horribly bad form for a lady to drive in the park with her baby by her side, while the presence of a pompous pug or a toy terrier is irreproachably correct.

The Strand Magazine 1896

Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire:  Despite the sorrowful sentiments expressed, Mrs Daffodil finds “Monkey’s” cinerary urn arrangement to be both absurdly costly and macabre. Expensive funerals for beloved pets were frequently featured in the press. Dogs were thus honoured.

Fine Funeral of a Pet Pug.

Paris is laughing over the extravagant funeral of the pet dog of an American family residing in the gay capital. The body was placed in two caskets, one of oak, the other leaden, conveyed in a hearse covered with flowers to Vaucresson, and there buried. A number of mourners in carriages followed the hearse to the cemetery, and a monument costing $300 was erected over the grave, the total expenditure for the funeral amounting to over $500.  Edgefield [SC] Advertiser 20 February 1895: p. 1

So were cats.

Funeral for Cat

With more pomp and ceremony, perhaps, than ever marked the obsequies of any animal buried in New Haven, Conn., the pet cat of Mrs. William Gay, a wealthy woman, was recently interred. Laid out in a pink silk-lined coffin, with catnip spread around the remains, a big pink silk bow at his throat and fastened to the collar with silver bells, Sonny was buried I a grave dug in the garden by the janitor of the apartment house. Mr. and Mrs. Gay, who believe their pet was poisoned by some one  in the neighborhood, attended the ceremony.

In life Sonny was cared for like a baby, being given the best of food and sleeping in a little bed, snugly tucked in between specially made sheets, with blankest of the same size and with downy pillows for his head. Given a bath and combed every evening by Mrs. Gay, his shiny fur was soft as down. The Silver Messenger [Challis ID] 20 January 1903: p. 6

girl with dead canary Greuze
Girl with Dead Canary, Greuze

And even canaries:

Shoddy made a pretty good exhibition of itself in Philadelphia this week at the funeral of a pet canary. The coffin was of walnut, mounted with silver handles, and screw-heads, and upon it was a cross of white flowers with the inscription in rose-letters, “We mourn thee.” The little boy who was to read the funeral service broke down at the moment he was encouraging his hearers to bear their loss with fortitude, and the other children joined in his sobs. Even older people, who had drawn to the scene by curiosity, were affected. Next Sunday they will put up marble grave-stones with an appropriate inscription, over the resting place. The coffin cost $10, the flowers $6, and the gravestones cannot be had short of $10. The Buffalo [NY] Commercial 4 May 1878: p. 2

Mimi Matthews, the author of The Pug That Bit Napoleon has written this excellent piece on dog funerals in the late Victorian era.

Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes

You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.