An Angel(l) to Animals

George Angell's grave in Mount Auburn Cemetery
George Angell's grave in Mount Auburn Cemetery
George Angell's grave in Mount Auburn Cemetery

Years ago, the first time one of my pets became violently ill on a weekend, I listened to the recording on my regular vet’s voice mail instructing me “to seek after hours emergency care at Angel Memorial Animal Hospital” and assumed the hospital had a religious affiliation. Once I’d bundled my sick cat into the car and found my way to South Huntington Avenue in Jamaica Plain, I wondered why “Angell” had two l’s, but was too worried about my cat to give the unusual spelling more than a passing thought.

Many visits later with a succession of ailing cats, a chinchilla with ingrown teeth, and my last dog, who suffered from glaucoma and had to have an eye removed, I know that Angell Memorial (rebranded as MSPCA-Angell in 2003) is named for George Thorndike Angell, a Harvard-educated attorney and criminologist who, in 1868, founded the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. With the backing of a group of fellow Boston Brahmins that included Emily Appleton, John Quincy Adams II, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry Saltonstall and William Gordon Weld, Angell launched the MSPCA two years after the original ASPCA began in New York, making it the country’s second oldest humane society.

More recently, I discovered that the George Angell (1823-1909) is buried in Cambridge’s Mount Auburn Cemetery. Decorated with the five-pointed badge that was the MSPCA’s original logo (“Band of Mercy, Glory to God. Kindness, Justice, Mercy to All”) and capped with the inscription, “Blessed are the merciful,” Angell’s tomb is prominently located at the T-intersection of Beech and Poplar Avenues (on the cemetery’s mobile map of notables, it is marked #2). At its base, the grave offers a lofty exhortation: “We must never forget that the infinitely most important work for us is the humane education of the millions who are soon to come on the stage of action. G.T.A.”

If you continue a short way uphill on Poplar and take a right on Lily Path, you will find, at left beneath a magnificent spreading purple-leaf beech, a life-size sculpture of a sleeping dog that marks the grave of Francis Calley Gray, another Harvard-educated attorney and dog lover, who died in 1856. The Gray Dog is one of several dog “pyschopomps” I described in a prior post, “The Dogs of Mount Auburn Cemetery.” (Next time you’re in Mount Auburn Cemetery, pull up an interactive mobile map on your phone to find your way to other noteworthy graves and listen to audio tours:

Angell Monument in Boston (photo by John Stephen Dwyer, 2009)

Finally, if you frequent in Boston’s Financial District, you may be familiar with a small park dedicated to George Angell near Post Office Square at the convergence of Congress, Milk and Pearl Streets. Designed by Peabody & Stearns in the early 20th century and decorated with lions’ heads and a gilded eagle atop a flagpole, the Angell Monument originally served as a fountain to water carriage horses. It bears the inscription: “Our humane societies are now sewing the seed of a harvest which will one of these days protect not only the birds of the air and the beasts of the field but also human beings as well.”

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