Abraham Lincoln is consistently considered by scholars the greatest U.S. President. He led our country through the American Civil War, ended slavery, and declared Thanksgiving a Holiday! But he can also be considered America’s first true Animal Rescuer. Abraham Lincoln was a sensitive man with a great love for animals. He was known to stop presidential parades on the spot if he observed an animal in distress, and he preached against Animal Cruelty.
He also owned the very first “Fido”.
While Abraham Lincoln lived Springfield, Illinois, he and his family were the proud owners of a dog. Fido was a floppy-eared, rough-coated, yellow dog. A mutt if you must. His date of birth was unknown, but he was a true family member. Fido would accompany Mr. Lincoln on daily errands and wait calmly outside a barbershop while Lincoln would get a trim. He was an inside dog with the run of the house. He loved a horsehair sofa in the home and often claimed it for his own.
Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States on November 6, 1860. When it neared time to move from Springfield, Illinois, to Washington, D.C., he decided not to take Fido. He worried the dog would not survive the long train ride to the nation’s capital. Additionally, Mr. Lincoln had noticed that the clanging church bells and loud cannons, which had announced his presidential nomination terrified Fido. Sadly, the Lincolns felt they had no other choice but to rehome Fido.
Fido went to two neighborhood boys, John and Frank Roll, while Abraham Lincoln served his term in the White House. However, this ownership of Fido came with a strict promise. The Roll family was asked never to scold Fido for entering the house with muddy paws. He was not to be tied up alone in the backyard. Fido was to be allowed into the Roll home whenever he wanted. He was to eat with the Roll family in the dining room at mealtimes with the rest of the family. To make Fido feel at home, the Lincolns gave the Rolls their horsehair sofa.
Now think about that for a moment. That was back in 1860.
In 1863, the president’s Springfield barber, William Florville, wrote the Lincolns a letter giving an update on Fido.
Fido was still living at the time of Lincoln’s assassination. John Roll brought the dog to greet mourners at the Lincoln family home in Springfield.
Less than a year after Lincoln was assassinated and laid to rest in Springfield, Fido shared his former master’s fate.
A few weeks before his death in 1943, John Roll wrote about his beloved Fido. This entry was found in his journal.
“We possessed the dog for a number of years when one day the dog, in a playful manner, put his dirty paws upon a drunken man sitting on the street curbing who in his drunken rage; thrust a knife into the body of poor old Fido. He was buried by loving hands. So Fido, just a poor yellow dog met the fate of his illustrious master – Assassination.”
Fido was the first presidential dog known to be photographed. Before leaving for Washington D.C., Lincoln’s two sons, Tad and Willie, had Fido photographed at F.W. Ingmire’s studio in Springfield, Illinois.