When I stumbled upon one of the articles on Newspapers.com, I knew I had to write a book about him. A life-size talking deer made of iron who was wise, funny, and sometimes sarcastic–I loved it. This deer was a big celebrity in his early days and is still a prominent figure in his hometown.
While many of his fellow Wilkes-Barreans know him as someone to get a photo taken with, it’s unclear how many know about how famous he was, back in the day. About how he was interviewed for articles that appeared regularly in the local newspaper, with readers eagerly awaiting the next one. Those readers wanted to hear what he had to say about local people, events, and politics. Because they knew he would tell it like he saw it, no matter how badly it offended those he talked about, including the reporter who interviewed him.
Ernest Hanson was the reporter who wrote the original Court House Deer column for the Sunday edition of the Wilkes-Barre News-Dealer. In his articles, the reporter was usually coming through the courthouse yard late at night, clearly after a long night of drinking, and after staggering over to the Deer would often prop himself up on a nearby small tree before beginning their discussion.
“…This deer…occupied a conspicuous space in the yard on the Square, where the old court house stood. Mr. Hanson’s idea was that from its position the ‘Court House Deer’ was supposed to see all and hear all…when the Sabbath came around, the reading public lost no time in purchasing Hanson’s celebrated column…” (The Evening-News, March 22 1932)
Below is the cover of my book (available on Amazon). The sketch of Hanson and the Deer was drawn by one of Hanson’s colleagues. All of the Court House Deer articles written by Ernest Hanson are in the book, along with images of several of the people he opined about.
The Deer often remarked on the reporter’s inebriated condition—the following is a quote by the Deer in one of the Court House Deer articles:
Hanson and the Deer conversed in their articles from November 1888 until August 1890.
The Court House Deer still stands on the courthouse lawn, although when he was talking with the reporter the courthouse and its lawn were on the Public Square, not near the river like they are now. But it’s the same Deer, refurbished from time to time over the years (most recently in 2021)—in other words, he’s had work done. He looks great, given that he was created and presented to Wilkes-Barre in 1867, making him 156 years old now. He’s clearly worthy of his previous celebrity status, his current fandom, and is camera-ready for more photos with his fellow Wilkes-Barreans, as wells as fans from far away, like me.