Andrew Jackson’s pet bird, Poll, swore like a sailor.
The story of a presidential parrot cursing at a funeral is almost too unbelievable to be true.
So we thought we had better check out the persistent story that President Andrew Jackson’s pet parrot started uttering obscenities during the former president’s own funeral and had to be removed.
Here is a quote attributed to the Rev. William Menefee Norment, who was presiding at the service, and found in Volume 3 of Samuel G. Heiskell’s Andrew Jackson and Early Tennessee History:
“Before the sermon and while the crowd was gathering, a wicked parrot that was a household pet got excited and commenced swearing so loud and long as to disturb the people and had to be carried from the house.”
The Rev. Norment goes on to report that the presidential parrot was “excited by the multitude and … let loose perfect gusts of ‘cuss words.’” People were “horrified and awed at the bird’s lack of reverence.”
Parrots, intelligent birds that can live to be 75 years old, are known for their ability to learn words and to mimic other sounds they hear, including phones ringing and babies crying.
Parrots do not have vocal chords but instead produce sounds by pushing air out of their tracheas. Jackson bought Poll, an African grey parrot, for his wife, Rachel, but took care of the bird himself after she died.
Old Hickory was one tough man. Not only was Jackson a war hero, but when a man tried to shoot him at a speaking engagement and the gun misfired, President Jackson, 67 at the time, beat the would-be assassin almost senseless with his walking stick.
Jackson outfitted the White House with a dozen spittoons, fought duels, and was the first president to open the White House for public visits. So it seems natural that his language might have been kind of, um, salty — but what did his parrot say exactly? No one seems to $%&! know.