WISCONSIN VETERANS MUSEUM TO END 150 YEAR OLD DEBATE BY REVEALING RESULTS OF DNA ANALYSIS TESTING GENDER OF FAMED CIVIL WAR MASCOT “OLD ABE”

July 13, 2016
DNA TESTING OF MASCOT’S FEATHERS YIELD CONCLUSIVE RESULTS

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

What:       Wisconsin Veterans Museum 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 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 museum partnered with a local DNA expert to test samples from the mascot’s feathers.

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 was even wounded during the Battle of Vicksburg. 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.

Please contact Karen Burch to arrange interviews regarding the background of Old Abe. Results of the DNA test will not be discussed until Thursday, July 14.
The Wisconsin Veterans Museum is an educational activity of the Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs.