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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Monkey Business at the Capitol

You've probably heard of Old Abe, the eagle that accompanied Wisconsin troops during the Civil War. But how about Joe the Monkey, a regimental mascot during World War Two?

David Mackin of Milwaukee won the pet monkey from French sailors during a crap game in North Africa. Joe tagged along as Mackin's unit moved across Africa and then north through Sicily and Italy. Eventually he came home to Milwaukee with Mackin at the end of the war.

Unfortunately, the neighborhood children were so fascinated with Joe that they pestered him with unwanted attention. He responded by attacking and biting them, leading to terrified kids, angry parents, and repeated police calls.

One of the neighbors actually had Mackin arrested for disorderly conduct, but a judge dismissed the charge on the grounds that Mackin himself had committed no crime and there was no ordinance governing the behavior monkeys in Milwaukee.

That prompted the neighbors to have a bill introduced in the state legislature. They demanded that a law which already allowed private citizens to shoot and kill mad dogs be expanded to cover other pets, including monkeys.

On April 17, 1947, half a dozen neighbors arrived at the Capitol with an attorney to plead their case. Mackin showed up, too, with Joe the Monkey in his arms (here's a picture). The neighbors accused him of terrorizing the neighborhood, Mackin accused them of harassment, and a friend of the court pointed out that if the bill passed as drafted, animals of the species homo sapiens might legally be shot by their neighbors, too.

Joe the Monkey was on his best behavior that day and Mackin revealed his intention to find him a more suitable permanent home. The ultimate fate of the legislation has not been traced, but Joe ended up at the Milwaukee Zoo. He lived there until his death in 1962, when his remains were interred beneath the bell on Monkey Island.

:: Posted in Animals on October 21, 2010

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