Today, June, 13, 2018, marks the 125th anniversary of Railroad Jack’s death. But sadly, probably only you who are reading this blog post will know that. I suppose this is my failing as a historian—I haven’t gotten the word out enough. I’m hard at work on the book (the proposal is my next step!), but I can’t help but feel that this is an important date that should be commemorated no matter how many people know about it.
By June 1893, Railroad Jack was an old dog suffering the effects of a life of hard travel and overfeeding. Early on the morning of June 13, sometime around 4:00 or 5:00 am, Jack died at home in his beloved Union Depot. One report of his final moments stated: “He ate of some food provided for him the day of his death, walked to the door of the baggage room, looked at the moving cars and engines for a while, and then turned about to return to his bed. Suddenly a dizzy spell overtook him, and he reeled over and died.”
The railroad men sent Jack’s body to William Vigars, an Albany taxidermist. After some minor hiccups in the taxidermy process (he first posed him standing, instead on laying down, his more natural state; and he couldn’t find the right color brown for his eyes). Jack was displayed at the Union Station, and later, at Saul’s clothing store on North Pearl. It was there, in late 1894, that I found the last reference to his body. It’s been “missing” since.
So where does this leave us, 125 years later, on the anniversary of his death. I wish I had some new insight to share, some new clue that could help me find him, but sadly, I don’t. Still, I’m holding out hope that someone out there knows something. I’ll be giving at public talk on my research at the Arkell Museum in Canajoharie, NY tonight, during which I’ll try to enlist the audience into this search.
To honor the 125th anniversary of Jack’s death, I ask that you share this post, my website, Twitter account, or even just tell someone you know about Jack’s story. You never know who might hold the key to solving this mystery. Can you be the person that helps me finally find out what happened to this remarkable dog?