Earthquake, Bubonic Plague and a Fox Terrier

A fox terrier helped in the prevention of the bubonic plague after San Francisco's massive earthquake in the early 1900s.

The earthquake shook San Francisco on April 18, 1906 a little after 5 a.m. with a magnitude close to 8, killing an estimated 3,000 people and leaving more than 250,000 people homeless. About 80% of the city's infrastructure were ruined, with rats massing over destroyed land and open sewers.

According to John J. Conlon, a boy at the time, "There was a bubonic plague scare shortly after the fire and because the fleas on rats were carriers of the germs, the City paid a bounty for dead rats. These bounty payments were my introduction to the functions of the "middle man." An older lad enriched himself by paying the neighborhood youngsters with candy for dead rats. The rats he exchanged for cash at the repaired Emergency Hospital. The fire drove thousands of rats into our district and mother was horrified by them. Consequently, to avoid attracting them, all were instructed to securely cover garbage cans. Every morning, after the women had deposited the breakfast trash in the cans, I would remove the covers. Returning in about an hour, I would inspect the galvanized cans, and if any rats were trapped therein, cans were tipped so that my fox terrier could kill the emerging rodent; then to the "middle man" for candy."

Despite the preventive measures, outbreaks did occur. San Francisco was finally declared plague-free in 1908.


Hound Dogs and Hush Puppies

The story of how Hush Puppies shoes got their name and how a Basset hound became their mascot begins with an early American food from the south called hush puppies (or hushpuppies).

There are many stories about the origin of hush puppies, a deep-fried cornmeal ball. According to the oldest, they originated in Nouvell Orleans  (now New Orleans) around the 1720s and became popular throughout the south. One day, an African cook in Atlanta was frying up a batch when a nearby puppy began barking. To quiet the dog, she gave it a plateful of the fried dough and said "hush puppy." Soon, hunters would hush their hound dogs with the southern cornballs.

In 1958, James Gaylord Muir, the first sales manager of the now famous Hush Puppies shoes, went on a selling trip in the south and heard the story of the food's origin. Because "barking dogs" is another name for sore feet, he thought the name Hush Puppies would be perfect for their shoes - people could "quiet their barking dogs" with their shoes.


Dog Survives Train Wreck

Dog survives 1911 train wreck without injury in Florida.

Atlantic Coast Line train No. 85 coming from Orlando crashed just north of Kissimmee's Vine Street on November 30, 1911. The hit was described as "a spreading rail" and according to the Kissimmee Valley Gazette, it was "One of the most frightful wrecks of a passenger train ever known in this section..." According to The Orlando Daily Reporter-Star, "Of the seven cars composing the train, six left the track. The Jim Crow (racially segregated) car turned turtle down a 15-foot embankment and several of the occupants were injured." No one died and no one was seriously injured "except Mr. L.C. Royal, the baggage master, who was badly crushed from falling trunks." A dog, described as some sort of setter or spaniel, was riding in the baggage car and made it out unscathed.