FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
DNA TESTING OF MASCOT’S FEATHERS YIELD CONCLUSIVE RESULTS
What: Wisconsin Veterans Museum partners with UW-Madison Biotechnology Center Molecular Archaeology Group (MAG) at UW-Madison to announce results of DNA analysis testing gender of Civil War mascot “Old Abe”
When: 10 a.m.
Where: Wisconsin Veterans Museum Civil War Exhibit
30 W. Mifflin St.
Madison, WI 53703
Visuals: Old Abe’s original feathers; Old Abe replica; historic articles depicting icon’s gender debate
At 10 a.m. on Thursday, July 14, The Wisconsin Veterans Museum and The Molecular Archaeology Group (MAG) at UW-Madison will solve a 150 year old mystery by revealing the results of a DNA analysis testing the gender of the Civil War bald eagle mascot Old Abe. The Molecular Archaeology Group tested samples from the mascot’s feathers that were stored at the museum.
Named after President Abraham Lincoln, Old Abe was the mascot of the 8th Wisconsin Infantry Regiment during the Civil War and was present at over thirty battles between 1861-1864. The bald eagle, widely assumed to be male, helped raise morale among men in the regiment and narrowly escaped serious injury more than once. Old Abe became a patriotic symbol of northern victory and achieved celebrity status at rallies and parades across the country until its death in 1881.The bird’s legendary story took a turn in 1889, however, when well-known suffragette Lillie Devereux Blake began giving speeches about Old Abe having laid eggs, asserting the bird was actually female. Further evidence for this claim was made in 1915 when Old Abe’s taxidermist made a similar conclusion based on the eagle’s larger—and therefore female—size. But many, including remaining veterans of the 8th, saw these claims as scandalous, sparking a nationwide debate over the fact and fiction behind an American icon that continues to this day.