A Kangaroo on Dyckman Street

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Kangaroo mascot aboard the USS Connecticut, 1908, Source: US Naval Historical Society.

In the Fall of 1909 the battleship Wisconsin sat anchored off of Tubby Hook on the Hudson River preparing for a tour at sea.  On-board was the ship’s mascot, a Kangaroo named Jim Jeffries.

In a bizarre event, which certainly captured my imagination, several sailors, or “bluejackets,” took the kangaroo ashore only to have him escape.  The ensuing chaos on Dyckman Street is definitely one of the more colorful events I have ever come across while researching the history of Inwood.

Let’s turn now to an account published in the Syracuse Herald describing Jim Jeffries’ rampage:

The Syracuse Herald, September 28, 1909.

The Syracuse Herald
September 28, 1909
WHO WANTS A MASCOT?
HOW A KANGAROO KICKED HIMSELF INTO TROUBLE
Was Taken Ashore From a Battleship For an Outing and Did All Kinds of Queer Stunts Until He Was Finally Arrested—Bluejackets Settled the Damages.

Jim Jeffries has got to leave the battleship Wisconsin, so if you know anyone who can give a big gray “old man” kangaroo a good home, please write the bos’n of that man-of-war before the fleet leaves the North River (Hudson River).

Crewman on board USS Wisconsin in 1901. Source: US Naval Historical Center.

Jack Atkins of No. 1 turret is the particular chum of Jim Jeffries, and hates to hear anything said against his queer looking pet; but even Jack said yesterday, when they took Jim ashore for an airing, that never again would he get shore leave until he goes for good.  Jim disgraced the navy.

Jack Atkins and four of his mates gave up a chance of a run around town to give Jim a sniff of the green trees and grass at the foot of Dyckman street, where the cutter landed Jim and his escort.

When they set him down just at the edge of the lawn Jim gave a couple of hops and sniffed at the green grass. Suddenly his great muscular hind legs beat down on the earth with a force that shot him upward as if driven by a huge steel spring.   The sudden jerk threw the man-o’-war jacks off their even keels, and they were sprawling in a hurrah’s nest in a second.  Jim, with the loose lanyard trailing behind him like a necklace, lapped in a series of strong hops into the trees about the old house.

Jim did not know much about the geography of Dyckman street, and therefore did not realize that, while the ascent to the house from the river is an easy slope, the hill is cut away above the street.  Below the lip of the cliff was a frankfurter dealer’s camp, with a dozen tin kettles boiling merrily.  So when Jim got near the edge of the cliff he gave a jump that carried him well over the verge and landed him with a loud crash in the middle of the stands.

USS Wisconsin, photographed circa 1901-1908 USS Wisconsin. Source: US Naval Historical Society.

No kangaroo ever lit on a frankfurter stand before, so far as is known, and natural history should be interested in hearing the results when Jim sat down in a tin kettle full of the canine product and scalding sauerkraut.  In falling Jim managed to smear himself liberally with mustard so that he looked like a three-sheet poster of the burlesque show as he bounded with frightened squawks up Dyckman street with a fringe of sauerkraut spattered with mustard ornamenting his thick tail.

To policeman Marty Sheehan is due the honor of Jim’s capture. He grabbed the line and belayed it to the off hind leg of a peanut stand at the corner of Broadway.  In two hops the peanut stand was a wreck.  But Sheehan kept his hold.  As he was flying under the subway structure he took a double half hitch round a subway pillar, and Jim was a captive once more.  That ended his shore leave, but it cost the bluejackets a dollar a head to settle for his damage.

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