French Bulldog History – Beware of Drunken Firemen

Tessa in her favorite patio chair

Many years ago, I had an office in the Yorkville area of Toronto, which was one of the very first Toronto neighbourhoods to get a Starbucks Coffee. I had a daily ritual of going to Starbucks for a coffee at the start of my work day, and would of course bring Tessa with me when I went. Initially, I brought her inside, but a manager one day told me that Public Health would no longer allow dogs inside the coffee shop, and that Tessa would have to wait outside.

Tessa was already used to sitting on the patio at Starbucks, where she would sit at her own chair. She loved to people watch, surveying the sidewalk and making friends with the other patrons, many of whom, at that time, had never seen a French Bulldog before.

Within a month or so, Tessa was on a first name basis with half of the regular patrons, who grew used to seeing her sitting outside on her own, in her chair, while she waited for me to come outside. Occasionally, someone would offer her a piece of biscotti, or part of their scone, and one day, she sat on the lap of James Woods, who admired her ears and her beautiful eyes.

One afternoon in late fall, I put Tessa in her chair near the door, and went inside to order my coffee. A few moments later, I heard angry voices outside, and saw Tessa on the ground. A suit wearing yuppie, finding no empty chairs, had objected to Tessa occupying one, and had unceremoniously tipped her off her seat onto the ground. He was immediately surrounded by a mob of angry customers, a few of whom looked ready to punch him. Tessa seemed fine, and was being cooed over by a trio of models from a nearby agency. The yuppie finally slunk off in shame, after shrieking justifications for his actions ( “it was just a dog, for Chrissakes!”), and Tessa got rewarded with so many snacks and cookies that I’m not sure she ate for the rest of the day.

The moral of this story is “never knock a French Bulldog off of its seat”, or something like that,  and it was just as true in 1896 as it is today.


From the New York Times – Feb 24, 1896


Attacked by Firemen Who Objected to His Prize French Bulldog.


The Clubman Overcome by Superior Numbers and Very Roughly Handled.

HAMPSTEAD, L.I. Feb. 23 —

James L. Kernochan’s second prize French bulldog was the innocent cause of a fight early this morning between his owner and a gang of drunken firemen, who were returning to Far Rockaway, after having taken part in the Washington’s Birthday parades in New-York and Brooklyn.

The trouble occurred on the train of the Long Island Railroad which left Long Island city at midnight for Hempstead, Jamaica and Far Rockaway. On board were a number of firemen, most of whom had been drinking, and some of whom were ugly.

On the same train was Mr  Kernochan and several other members of the Meadowbrook Hunt Club, who had been to the dog-show in New York, and were returning to Hempstead.

Many of their dogs had won prizes, and were in charge of Mr.  Kernochan’s grooms, who, with their employer, were sitting in the smoking car.

Chief among the dogs was Mr.  Kernochan’s Margot, who had won second prize in the French Bull Dog class at Madison Square Garden. Margot occupied a seat beside Mr.  Kernochan.Some of the firemen did not like French Bulldogs, and began to make uncomplimentary remarks about the animal. They even took exception to the good taste of the judges who had awarded Mr.  Kernochan’s dog even a second prize.

Mr.  Kernochan paid no attention to these remarks. Encouraged by his silence, one of the firemen forced himself into Mr.  Kernochan’s seat, and knocked the dog from the seat to the floor.

Not satisfied with abusing the dog, he turned his attention to the dog’s owner, and made a few insulting remarks about Mr.  Kernochan.

Mr.  Kernochan still refused to argue the matter, and the fireman changed from verbal to active aggression, and began to ill treat the dog. Thinking to end the matter, Mr.  Kernochan gave the dog to one of his grooms.

This made no difference to the drunken fireman, and Mr.  Kernochan changed his plan of campaign. He told the fireman to mind his own business.

Trouble then began in earnest. Both men were getting angry. The fireman suddenly struck Mr.  Kernochan a terrific blow over the eye, and followed it with one to the mouth.

The New York Times details how the fight escalated, with both sides bringing in reinforcements. The fight continued on through three stops of the train, with the firemen holding the doors shut between the cars, to keep the conductors from entering. The Kernochan party seems to have been soundly beaten, with the NYT stating, “The Kernochan party were the worst sufferers”.

The story sums up by telling us that –

Public sympathy everywhere is in favor of Mr.  Kernochan, and much indignation is expressed against the actions of the Far Rockaway Firemen.

It is understood that tomorrow Mr.  Kernochan will swear out warrants before Judge Francis B. Taylor for the arrest of every fireman who was implicated in the brutal assault upon him and his grooms.

No further word on how Margot fared.