Eps 29 The Curious Story of Don, the Italian Greyhound

Curious stories

The featured image is ‘not’ of Don, the Italian Greyhound, owned by Anne Kelly of Havre de Grace. But we wanted to present a likeness to illustrate our story. Read on for a fascinating discovery by our ‘casual historian.’

Havre de Grace – Smithsonian Links

Believe it or not, we were included as #12 of the ‘best small towns to visit’ in the 2014 travel issue of the Smithsonian magazine (online). READ IT HERE

But Do You Know About Don – the Italian Greyhound?

Our ‘casual historian’ tells you all the time that you never know how or when an interesting piece of local history will arrive. But this is a MOST unexpected tale (or tail)!

News slipping of Don the Greyhound passing away but will be sent to the Smithsonian in D.C.
News slipping of Don the Greyhound passing away but will be sent to the Smithsonian in D.C. – 1881
Supposed photo of Don - the Italian Greyhound - owned by Anne Kelly from 1881 - but we're not sure - photo is poor

Don – the Italian Greyhound

This is a photo from the Kelly Beverage memorabilia, but we are not certain this is actually “Don” because the photo is very poor. Plus the ears don’t really look like those of an Italian Greyhound. hmmmm….

And we have many pieces of memorabilia that verify that this most certainly did happen!

Just who was this Spencer Baird?

This connection is most intriguing. Was it the first Italian Greyhound in the U.S.? We have no idea what was so special about Anne Kelly’s “Don.”

… Secretary Henry did believe in collecting natural history specimens for research.  In 1850 he hired a natural history curator, Spencer Fullerton Baird, who arrived at the Smithsonian with two railroad cars of natural history specimens and a dream that he would someday be the director of a great national museum. Born in Reading, Pennsylvania, in 1823, Baird was a naturalist and inveterate collector. When he was hired, the Smithsonian was a mere four years old, and the Smithsonian Institution Building, or “Castle,” was still under construction. The natural history collection consisted of 6000 specimens which Baird immediately set about working up for publication. Baird spent his early years carrying out Henry’s programs, publishing scientific books and coordinating the international exchange of thousands of publications. But he knew what he really wanted to be doing, so he quietly but steadily built a museum collection.

from Smithsonian Archives

But we do know that this was a pretty impressive connection. This specimen was included in the exhibit when the museum opened in 1881:

When the U.S. National Museum opened its doors to the public in 1881, it was the realization of Baird’s dream to create a great national museum to educate the citizens of a democracy, and display the country’s accomplishments to visitors from all over the world. It welcomed millions of visitors until 2006, when it was closed for renovations until 2014.

from Smithsonian Archives

One last piece to verify this story is an email response dated May 3, 2018:

Sent: Thu, May 3, 2018 12:41 pm
Subject: RE: Reference Request – 05/01/2018 – George Wagner

Dear George,
Thank you for your inquiry regarding an Italian greyhound sent to the Smithsonian in 1881.
Unfortunately, our photos team was unable to find any images of greyhounds in our collections. I also did not find any correspondence between Baird and Annie Kelly in RU 7002, the Baird Papers (https://siarchives.si.edu/collections/siris_arc_217202), or in our records from the Office of the Secretary.
However, I did locate a transaction card confirming that “Don” came to the Smithsonian via a gift from Annie Kelly. A copy of that record is attached to this email.
I’m sorry I could not be more helpful; please let me know of any other questions!
Deborah Shapiro
Archives Technician (Reference)
Smithsonian Institution Archives

Image of file on record for a Greyhound specimen received as a gift from Anne Kelly of Havre de Grace in 1881 at the Smithsonian.

from an e-mail reply to George’s request for info

So, once again, we share a fascinating piece of local history and ask that if you have any details to add, please contact our ‘casual historian,’ George.

Remember, don’t throw the Havre de Grace ‘stuff’ out when you’re cleaning out a home, settling an estate, or just ‘downsizing,’ without checking in with George. Don’t give him cause to cry!!!

Our ‘casual historian’ is always waiting for your stories and any memorabilia you may want to share.

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