It’s A Dogs Life The Amazing Friendship and Life of Bummer and Lazarus: San Francisco History Podcast for Kids

This week we are are going back to the 1860’s to learn all about two dogs who ruled the city: Bummer and Lazarus. They were friends with the King of America (Emperor Norton) and with Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain). The city fell head over tails for these pups and they could do no wrong in the populations of San Francisco’s eyes.

One day outside of Martin’s Saloon a giant black and white Newfoundland appeared and quickly made himself very useful by tackling the saloons rat problem. The patrons gave this giant the name “Bummer” for his very dog like trait of bumming snacks off of anyone with food on their plate. They called him a “professional lunch eater”. A job both of my dogs aspire to.

Bummer was his own dog and patrolled San Francisco. One day while out on his usual wandering he came across two dogs in a fight. Bummer saved the day chasing away the dog who started the fight and tended to the other who was badly hurt. Bummer did not leave his new friend keeping him warm at night and bringing him scraps of food. Soon the dog made a full recovery earning his new name, “Lazarus’.

The dogs became a statewide sensation with everyone fascinated by their daily tales. This was right in the middle of the civil war and people were happy to have a few moments of happy with all of the frightening news. A reporter was a regular at Martin’s Saloon and began to publish Bummer and Lazarus’ antics. The best dog friends were happy to oblige their fans with their antics in many of the California newspapers. The papers portrayed the dogs as people with Bummer portrayed in the articles as a gentleman who was down on his luck. Lazarus however was cast as a sly yet not bright pup. Adding to their fame the cartoonist Edward Jump would draw the dogs in the company of Emperor Norton, the king of the United States (yes, we are VERY much going to do an episode on Emperor Norton).

The two friends even helped the SF police department with their jobs by helping capture a man the police were chasing, tripping the man enabling the police officer to make an arrest. They were even credited with stopping a runaway horse.

In 1862 San Francisco paid $2,000 for a fountain in Portsmouth Square ($49,749.11 in todays money according to the CPI inflation calculator). Though the puppy partners were not the only ones causing problems for this expensive and lovely fountain they were the only ones who insisted on using it as a bathtub everyday.

In 1862 trouble came and Lazarus was picked up by a new dog catcher who was not familiar with the celebrity of the friends. A mob of San Franciscans took to the street demanding the release of Lazarus. Within a day the city decided that Lazarus and Bummer should never be so inconvenienced again. A special rule was passed making Bummer and Lazarus officially San Francisco so they would never be picked up by the dog catcher again.

Sources *these sources are how I do my research. Some things are left out to make the stories appropriate please keep this in mind before clicking*

SF Gate: by Katie Dowd

"The Three Bummers". Tales from Colma. 1997. Retrieved 29 June 2007.

Mark Twain (8 November 1865). "Exit Bummer". Territorial Enterprise. Retrieved 29 June 2007.

Carr, Patricia E. (July 1975). "Emperor Norton I: The benevolent dictator beloved and honored by San Franciscans to this day". American History Illustrated. 10: 14–20. Retrieved 29 June 2007.

A Fond Look Back at Bummer and Lazarus Dogster