By Drew Desmond
The Rough Riders were given several animal mascots, but it was the Arizona regiment’s first mascot that was by far the most popular. “The Arizona Volunteers’ mascot—the mountain lion [named Josephine]—is a great drawing card, and the boys down in San Antonio are thinking of charging a nickel a head to see [her] to swell the regimental fund,” The Journal-Miner reported.
“[She] is fastened to a cage by a long chain and is given perfect freedom, so far as the chain will allow. Adults and children crowded about the animal all day long. Several of the visitors tried to stroke the animal's head, but Josephine was in a vicious mood and repelled their advances with a show of teeth which was calculated to make a stout-hearted person feel uneasy."
Trooper George Allen took care of Josephine from the time she first joined the men at their send-off in Prescott. Josephine became attached to Allen and would allow only him to pet her. Unfortunately, Allen contracted malaria and required hospitalization. “When he didn’t appear at the usual time to feed [her,] the poor animal was inconsolable,” the paper said. “She whined piteously and would not be still.” When it came time for the men to retire for the night, Josephine curled-up in her cage, and nobody thought to close the door. Then at 2 AM, "everybody was suddenly awakened by a loud screech” and chaos immediately ensued. “Every man in the building was up in an instant,” it was reported. “Some who were aroused from their sound slumbers seized their carbines and listened for the order to fall in. Many thought themselves in camp and [under] attack.”
The cause of the commotion was soon revealed. One soldier “had spread his blanket within 10 feet of Josephine. The cougar, in nosing around in search of her missing master…had seized hold of [his] toes… On seeing the glaring eyes and dark form of the cougar almost upon him, he thought himself in deadly peril. He jumped high in the air and emitted the screech that aroused the other troopers. When they awoke, they found him frantically fighting an imaginary foe. Josephine, as badly frightened as anyone, had sneaked back into her cage and was growling savagely,” The Journal-Miner related.
When the war was over, Colonel Alexander Oswald Brodie telegraphed Bob Brow—the owner of the Palace Saloon, and the man who first presented Josephine to the volunteers as a mascot—asking him what should be done with Josephine. “Colonel Brodie stated that the lion was in great demand there, as over a score of people want [her.] Mr. Brow replied saying ‘send [her] home without fail!’” Josephine’s journey home was fraught with difficulty. “Mr. Brow was advised by telegram…that the lion would be shipped in the car with the officers' horses.” He anxiously waited for several days, but when the railroad car arrived, there was no lion in sight. Brow telegraphed to try to locate the animal, determined “to have her at any cost almost.” It was discovered that she had disappeared in Chicago. “Colonel Brodie has the Pinkerton detectives at work on the case,” The Republic reported, “and the recovery of the lion is far probable at an early date.” In fact, it took a month. She was finally found “in Indian territory.” Brow happily paid extra to have her shipped express.
After Josephine died, she was taken to a taxidermist. Several recall stories of Josephine being on display at the Palace Saloon. Eventually she wound up in storage at Northern Arizona University. Unfortunately, those who have seen her in recent years say that her body has deteriorated terribly.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1 The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at email@example.com for information or assistance with photo requests.