Brownie showed up on Beach Street in downtown Daytona Beach in 1940. He was about a year old and liked to hang around the Daytona Cab Company. Owner Ed Budgen and his cab drivers built Brownie a dog house and established a bank account in his name at the Florida Bank and Trust. You can still visit this bank today, although it’s now the Halifax Historical Society Museum.
Brownie’s bank account was funded from donations made by locals, Beach Street merchants, and tourists and was used to pay for Brownie’s veterinary care and other needs. Cash was placed in a coffee can outside Brownie’s dog house and each day a cab driver would take the money and deposit it into Brownie’s account.
Every year, the townspeople bought Brownie a dog license. His tag number was always #1 – signifying that he was the goodwill ambassador for the town. The local merchants provided food – usually steak and ice cream. Brownie LOVED ice cream and often ate an entire pint in one sitting. This is likely the reason he appears portly in some of his later pictures.
He became a must see for shoppers and tourists on Beach Street. People would stop to greet Brownie, take a picture with him, or just sit with him while waiting for buses or cabs. In fact, the slightest limp or sign of illness resulted in the entire town asking “Is Brownie okay?”
As his popularity grew, he was written about in national magazines and newspapers. His antics were covered regularly in the local Daytona Beach newspapers. It’s not clear when Brownie officially became the Town Dog; to most citizens he just always was. Every year, Brownie received Christmas cards and presents from all over the United States.
He was especially loved by children. Many locals remember begging their parents to tag along on their trips to downtown just to get a chance to play in the park with Brownie.
Brownie died on Halloween in 1954 at the age of 15 after a long illness. His obituary and funeral made the front page of the Daytona Beach News Journal – twice!
Since it was against the law to bury anything in the park, Mayor Jack Tamm had the laws changed – in just one day! – to allow Brownie to be buried on the corner of Beach Street and Orange Avenue, directly across from where his doghouse stood and within easy view of the Daytona Cab Company.
The entire city mourned his passing and 75 people – and several stray dogs including his fellow stray dog friend Stinky – attended his funeral on Tuesday, November 2, 1954. Mayor Tamm gave Brownie’s eulogy and reminded the crowd that Brownie was “a good dog,” Those words were later etched on his tomb stone. Several prominent business men and city officials were his pallbearers.
Brownie had $300 (about $3000 in today’s money) left in his bank account after his final vet expenses were paid. The $300 were used to pay for his funeral, casket and burial stone. The burial stone alone cost $125 ($1250 in today’s dollars), but the local stone mason only charged Brownie’s estate $75.
It took two years for the grave stone to be placed on Brownie’s grave because there were disagreements over how Brownie should be memorialized. In the end, it was decided that his original grave stone would be placed on his grave.
The city of Daytona Beach mourned Brownie so much, that a second Brownie – known as the Post Office Mascot – appeared at the Beach Street Post Office and became an official employee of the Post Office. He also had a bank account and also lived 15 years. He lived from 1955 to 1970 and was buried next to the Post Office. His grave site is still there. Brownie 2 was no where near as popular – or as loved – as the original Brownie.
Brownie’s grave site is visited daily by locals and tourists. It is also a popular spot for wayfinding groups.
In the late 1980s Brownie’s grave disappeared. Somehow, the grave was sodded over and no one seemed to notice. In 1994, it was rediscovered and ever since Brownie has been celebrated. His grave was maintained by citizen gardener Brenda Gibson. Brenda died in May of 2017.
In 2016, Brownie’s Dog Boutique opened in honor of Brownie’s life and the owners are working with the city of Daytona Beach to erect a bronze statue of Brownie. In memory of both Brownie and Brenda Gibson, a 1 hour clean up of Brownie’s grave is held every two weeks. Visitors and locals are invited to participate.