Chattanooga always has welcomed guests. Some come to promote a book, movie, idea or product. Some come to campaign for a political candidate. Most of Chattanooga's visitors come on two legs. A few come on four or with a tail.
One of the first known animal celebrities to visit Chattanooga was Owney, a curly haired, gray Scottish terrier mutt missing one eye. This dog traveled only in railway cars and slept on mail bags. He associated primarily with mail clerks and acquired tags from every post office visited. Clerks affixed the tags to Owney's collar, but as the number grew, that became too heavy. Postmaster General John Wannamaker gave Owney a harness on which to display his travel wares.
Owney's career began in Albany, N.Y., in 1888, but his popularity earned him a ticket anywhere the trains went and even across the ocean. He went around the world in 1895 from Asia to Europe and back. In July 1894, Owney stopped in Chattanooga on his way to Mexico. After his early morning arrival from Indiana, Owney toured the new custom house and then had breakfast at Neddo's restaurant at 832 Market St. Owney had his photo taken at a local gallery and then toured the city. He received his Chattanooga tag at the office of C.H. Cox, a seal engraver at 7 W. 8th St. It read "souvenir de Chattanooga." Trains ridden by Owney never crashed, and so all of the rail lines enjoyed hosting him. In 1897, Owney died, and railway clerks raised money to have his body preserved. Owney now is at the National Postal Museum atrium greeting visitors while proudly wearing his harness with several of his tags.
In May 1923, another canine hero to visit Chattanooga was Wolf, a war dog. Wolf was a recipient of the French Croix de Guerre after his service in World War I. The French awarded several medals to deserving horses, dogs, goats and even pigeons. These animals carried messages, alerted battalions to dangerous gas attacks due to their sense of smell, found wounded soldiers, carried weapons and befriended those in camp. Wolf was in Chattanooga "doing his bit" for the American Legion in a feature connected with the film "The Man Without a Country."
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
The Local History department of the Chattanooga Public Library maintains a famous visitors file with dates and references of upcoming Chattanooga appearances. If you need to know when Billy Graham preached or Elvis Presley sang, we can help. (The department has been frequently asked about a 1955 Elvis sighting. As far as we can determine, Elvis was not here.)
Call 423 643-7725 or email email@example.com.
Some legendary animals became known through appearances in the movies and even in the credits before the film began. The lion who roared for Metro- Goldwyn-Mayer studios made a kingly tour through the South in 1928. Leo journeyed to Chattanooga on Nov. 29, 1928, after his visit to Knoxville. He remained in Chattanooga for three days, sometimes on view in front of the Tivoli or State theaters. Leo had survived a spectacular plane crash in the Arizona desert several months before his visit. Both the pilot and Leo survived to roar another day.
A smaller cousin of Leo appeared in Chattanooga on Oct. 7, 1994. Morris the cat, the "spokescat" for 9-Lives cat food since 1968, arrived in Chattanooga for a benefit for the Chattanooga Humane Society. Chattanoogans could visit Morris at the Petstuff store in Brainerd Village Shopping Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Several did and had their photo made with this most famous feline.
The Clydesdale horses made a three-day appearance in the city beginning Jan. 24, 2006. The horses pulled a turn-of-the-century beer wagon around the Walmart parking lot on Highway 153. More than 500 Chattanoogans took photos and watched the impressive horses. They also visited the Walmart on Gunbarrel Road during their stay. The teams routinely traveled around 11 months to fairs, festivals, promotional events and parades.
Another national visitor to Chattanooga that did not tread the ground but scampered up trees was Kokomo, a chimpanzee. In 1957, NBC's Today show filmed a live show on June 8 at Rock City. Dave Garroway and staff, including Kokomo, flew from New York to Chattanooga. Kokomo had replaced the show's former monkey, J. Fred Muggs, as Muggs had become a little difficult. Though hampered by a fog, Garroway and crew proceeded to film the Today show, and Kokomo with his trainer was part of the show "inside a cloud."
Suzette Raney is the archivist in the Local History department at the Chattanooga Public Library.