If One Must Be In Jail, It’s Good To Have A Dog For Company

This illustration, titled “the Hon. Daniel E. Sickles receiving his friends during the day in the jailor’s apartments,” shows the honorable Congressman petting a dog while speaking with a man visiting him at the Washington, D. C., jail. It’s from Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, the March 26, 1859, edition. At first glance, the picture raises questions: Is the scene artistic license? Could the hound be the jailor’s dog? Did Sickles’ friend bring the dog for a visit? Or was Sickles allowed to keep a dog while in jail? Details about the illustration are here, at the Library of Congress: http://www.loc.gov/item/2002706389.

It turns out that the dog was indeed Sickles’ own Italian greyhound, Dandy, who did stay with him in jail. A prominent friend of Sickles, former Congressman Emmanuel “Manny” Hart, had made arrangements with the authorities to allow Sickles to have his dog with him while he awaited trial.(1) It’s a humane approach on the part of the jailors, and also a nod to Sickles’ elevated status as a member of Congress.

Dan Sickles pets his greyhound, Dandy, while talking with a friend who has come to visit him in jail. A jury later acquitted Sickles of the murder of his wife’s lover, Francis Barton Key, in the first successful use of “temporary insanity” as a defense. A high-resolution image of the illustration can be found here, at the Library of Congress.

(1) “American Scoundrel: The Life of the Notorious Civil War General Dan Sickles,” by
Thomas Keneally, 2002.

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