Bummer and Lazarus
Entry Author: Malcolm
Bummer and Lazarus were two stray dogs that roamed the streets
of San Francisco between 1861 and 1865. They became famous
for their expertise at killing the rats that infested the
city in those days, and for their unique bond of friendship.
Newspapers vied with each other in reporting their escapades,
whether it was stealing a bone from another dog, getting locked
overnight inside a jewelry store, or stopping a runaway horse
and cart on Clay Street. On June 16, 1862, the San Francisco
Board of Supervisors exempted them from a strict ordinance
that banned all dogs downtown without a leash and/or muzzle,
and allowed them to roam, unfettered, wherever they wished.
Edward Jump, a young French artist,
included the two dogs in a series of satirical cartoons lampooning
the city's notable characters, one of whom was Joshua Abraham
Norton, who proclaimed himself Emperor Norton I of the United
States in 1859. These cartoons later led to the myth that
Bummer and Lazarus were Norton's pets, even though no contemporary
account made such a connection.
When Lazarus died in October 1863, the Daily Evening Bulletin
ran a lengthy obituary entitled "Lament for Lazarus."
Bummer died a painful and lingering death two years later
after being savagely kicked by a drunk. Mark Twain, then a
young reporter for the Virginia City (Nevada) Territorial
Enterprise, wrote a characteristically wry obituary in which
he said that Bummer had died "full of years, and honor,
and disease, and fleas." The Bulletin referred to them
as "two dogs with but a single bark, two tails that wagged
Cartoonist Edward Jump's famous picture,
from the Wasp. shows Norton I as the pope, performing the
funeral service for Lazarus. The crowd is composed of well-known
San Franciscans of the era. Bummer and Lazarus were mongrel
dogs the supposed pets of Norton I.
From the Virtual Museum of the City of San
The skins of both dogs were stuffed by a taxidermist and
placed on display in the two saloons they had frequented while
alive. In 1906 the skins were given to the Golden Gate Park
Museum (now the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum) for display.
They remained in storage there until 1910, when they were
On March 28, 1992, a 30" x 20" brass plaque recalling
their adventures and misadventures was installed at the base
of one of the city's most visible landmarks, the Transamerica
Anne Bancroft: The Memorable Lives of Bummer & Lazarus
(Citizens of San Francisco). (Ward Ritchie Press, Los
Malcolm E. Barker: Bummer & Lazarus: San Francisco's
Famous Dogs (Londonborn Publications, San Francisco, 1984