Tommy Tucker was a male Eastern gray squirrel adopted in 1942 by Zaidee Bullis and her husband Mark C. Bullis after he fell from a tree in the backyard of their house in Washington, D.C. Tommy became famous throughout the United States, touring the country wearing women’s fashions while entertaining children, performing tricks, and selling war bonds.
Although Tommy was a boy, all his outfits (more than 30 outfits made by Mark and Zaidee Bullis) were female, for the simple reason that his tail would not fit in pants. Tommy was featured in LIFE magazine, complete with a gallery of photos by Nina Leen, a young freelance photographer.
Prints of those photos are now on view at Daniel Cooney Fine Art in Chelsea. A Washington Post columnist called him “the most famous squirrel ever to come from Washington.”
In 1943, the Bullis family began taking Tommy on tour in their Packard automobile and he began to visit schools and hospitals, where he charmed his young audience.
Tommy was dressed in a coat and hat for going to market and in a Red Cross uniform for visiting the hospital. At the height of his fame, the Tommy Tucker Club had around 30,000 members. He sold war bonds during World War II and starred in a short Paramount film.
Tommy died in the Bullises’ trailer on June 25, 1949, due to a heart attack brought on by old age. He was sent to a taxidermist in Denver to be stuffed so that he could be placed in a museum but that never happened.
It is believed that in 2005, his remains were offered to the Smithsonian Institute along with all his belongings, including his dresses, souvenir photographs, and letters from schoolchildren.
They showed no interest and turned him down because they were receiving so many donations at the time. No one is exactly sure where Tommy’s remains are today.