Sweet Annaline: The Tale of a Marylander at the White House

In Uncategorized on September 24, 2013 by rob schoeberlein

Alderney cow

An Alderney cow (Annaline’s relative)

“Political animal” is a term sometimes used to describe the chief resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.  Washington, DC’s most exclusive address indeed has seen a number of donkeys and pachyderms, and even a bull moose.  But did you know of Maryland’s four-legged contribution to this menagerie? Baltimore businesman Samuel Moor Shoemaker, a nineteenth century resident of 901 St. Paul Street, made it all possible.

A national tragedy brought Annaline, an Alderney cow from Shoemaker’s farm, to nibble clover at the White House.  On July 2, 1881, at a Washington, DC railroad station, Charles Guitreau, a disappointed government office seeker, unloaded his revolver into the back of President James Garfield.  Letters and telegrams professing sympathy and wishes for the President’s recovery swept over the Executive Mansion.  One Maryland correspondent offered more.  Garfield’s doctors “had found some difficulty in procuring the very best milk, and it was their wish that the milk given their patient should not only be of the best, but should be drawn from one animal”, so Samuel Moor Shoemaker, the owner of a prize-winning cowherd in Greenspring Valley offered Annaline to aid the President’s recovery.

Sent by rail to Washington, Annaline arrived on July 9 and “was tethered at a stable below the State Department Building” just next to the White House.  By sunset, the Maryland cow was chomping upon the cool grass of the White House lawn and “switching her tail in glee.”  The Garfield children witnessed the first milking which produced “a splendid gallon of rich milk, some of which was soon served to the President and relished very much.”

The White House staff treated Annaline as any dignitary or special envoy.  And why should it have been any different?  “The cow [was] doing her part nobly…the nation’s hopes rest[ed] somewhat upon her being a success.”  Curry-combed and washed twice daily, she grazed freely upon the back lawn of the White House during the daylight hours.  Each morning and evening, Annaline feasted on grain back at her stable.

Visitors came to call and others bestowed gifts upon the special lady.  Mrs. Garfield visited with Annaline at the stable, escorted by Secretary of State Blaine.  One smitten Bostonian sent two silver tips for the ends of Annaline’s horns, though “this mark of distinction is not nearly so great as the cow deserves.”

Despite the valiant efforts of our Maryland cow, the President experienced numerous reverses.  On September 6, to speed Garfield’s recovery, his doctors moved him to the seaside resort town of Long Branch, New Jersey.  Annaline remained back in Washington though her transfer was being seriously discussed.  Unwisely, a Jersey cow named “Repartee” took over Annaline’s sacred mission in mid-September. The President died soon thereafter.

Yet, the tale has a happy ending for our sweet Annaline.  Although she never munched upon the verdant grass of Maryland again, she likely spent her last days in the company of the Garfield family.  Mrs. Garfield sent a note of thanks to Samuel Shoemaker in November 1881, after leaving the White House for their Mentor, Ohio farm. She wrote: Your kindness…has enabled me to receive in most excellent condition the cow and household goods from Washington…. It adds one more to the very thoughtful and considerable acts performed for me by the friends of General Garfield.  So it appears that the pampered former White House guest whiled away her hours–chewing her cud, occasionally running from playful children, and very likely “switching her tail in glee.”

Cow image (without the bow) courtesy of:


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