Matilda the Harlem Goat
Matilda the Harlem Goat was almost Columbia's mascot.
Owned by squatter Patrick Riley who lived in a shack on the northeast corner of 120th and Amsterdam, Matilda was often lent to Columbia students for hazing and pranks. When the Lion was suggested as a mascot for the school in 1910, some students suggested that Matilda the Goat held a closer place in Columbians' hearts than some metaphorical and royalist king of the jungle. Pretension won out, and the Lion was officially selected.
Matilda died in 1914, and received a proper funerial procession from Columbia students, who donned their academic regalia and sang a dirge for the fallen beast, "A Harlem Goat." Thereafter, Charles Freidgen, owner of an eponymous drugstore across the street (now Hartley Chemists), acquired the remains, and had them stuffed and preserved. The goat remained on display in the store until its new owner, David Ratner, moved 2 blocks south to 118th street. The stuffed goat was cleaned up and put on display in the window in 1954. In 1956, Matilda was featured in an eponymous children's book, in which she saved the day at a Columbia football game by headbutting the fullback who'd fallen asleep. Ratner's daughters closed the business down in 1960, with plans to donate the goat to the New York-Historical Society. A man from New Hampshire also expressed interest in the stuffed animal.
Matilda's fate is unknown.
- Historical Society Will Probably Get Columbia's Goat, The Spectator, January 6, 1960
- Harlem Goat, Full of History And Stuff, Needs a New Home, New York World-Telegram, January 23, 1960