The Smithsonian Speaks
If you've been following my Cher Ami investigation thus far, you know Cher Ami was a carrier pigeon who became a WWI hero after saving the lives of nearly 200 American soldiers, but in the wake of the bird's death, it had been revealed the bird was a hen, not a cock, as previously thought. Or had it? The exhibit label at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History declared Cher Ami was a boy, but the military said Cher Ami was a girl. So which one was it?
Perhaps there'd been some confusion, I considered. If the military said Cher Ami was female, wouldn't the Smithsonian, where Cher Ami stands on permanent taxidermied view, want to know about it and change their exhibit label? I reached out to the Smithsonian to point out this problem.
I emailed the director of the public affairs office at the National Museum of American History. I pointed out the Army said the bird was a hen, so why not change the label so visitors would know this war hero was not male, but female?
This was her response:
Thank you for your inquiry. I do have a response from the Chair of our Armed Forces History Department.
"There are differing accounts as to whether Cher Ami was male or female, and due to taxidermy, there is no way to tell.
We have differing accounts using different genders. So, there is no genuine way to actually tell, as the US Army Signal Corps department did not gender the birds during their use as carrier pigeons during the war. What would be needed is the actual registry for Cher Ami as that may provide a definitive answer, but without the original document, we cannot say for sure. Cher Ami came to the Smithsonian from the Army Signal Corps Museum but our staff has not been able to locate the registration of the bird. There are other accounts that document Cher Ami as a 'he'
But this wasn't a matter of "other accounts." The military itself stated the bird was female.
Apparently, what I needed was proof.
Next week, I'll share what I learned as I continued to investigate this story.