Objects of Intrigue: A Pocket Watch Swallowed by a Catfish
The watch was later found in the catfish’s stomach (it’s unclear how long it lived with the indigestible meal, although it’s easy to imagine, although rather unlikely, a Captain Hook-like situation with the catfish tick-tocking along the riverbed). It’s currently in the collection of the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History in Iowa City, which has around 115,000 objects and specimens from zoology, geology, and anthropology.
According to Trina Roberts, Associated Director of the University of Iowa Museum of Natural History,
The museum was founded in 1858, and is the oldest university museum west of the Mississippi River; after more than a century and a half, we certainly have our share of oddities in the collection. This is one of our favorites in the “strange objects” category.
It is a gentleman’s pocket watch — or perhaps more accurately, it’s what’s left of a gentleman’s pocket watch. According to the handwritten note that is with it in our collection, it was found in the stomach of a catfish in the Missouri River near Sioux City, Iowa, in summer of 1882. It is heavily corroded and in multiple pieces — as is probably to be expected for something stuck inside a catfish for a while. We don’t know what happened to the catfish. We can perhaps assume it became a tasty meal for the fisherman, who must have been quite surprised to find a watch when cleaning his day’s catch. Nor do we know what happened to the original owner of the watch, or how he lost his pocket watch to a fish (or to the river) to begin with.
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