Take one down pass it around

By Gus Bode

Mammology professor has 604 bottles of beer on the wall

Walking into a professor’s office, students usually see the same things:computer, desk, chairs and lots of books. George Feldhamer has the same in his office but with an added twist:He collects beer bottles.

Not the average Budweiser bottle, but ones that have mammals pictured on the labels.

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The collection, which has been accumulating for 10 years, has brought Feldhamer 604 bottles into his office.

The professor has three bookcases full of bottles from around the world. Feldhamer said a lot of the bottles came from the United States, but some come from such countries as Vietnam, China, South Africa and Thailand.

“A lot of the bottles are no longer in print and probably no longer available,” Feldhamer said.

Feldhamer said the collection started when he attended an annual meeting for the American Society of Mammalogists. The convention offered a beer bottle with the fastest mammal in North America, the Pronghorn, on the front. From there, the collection began.

The next of many came from a former professor at SIUC. Feldhamer said the label boasted the thylacine, an extinct mammal from Tasmania.

Over the next couple of years, the bottles kept rolling in, he said.

“Sometimes I will come into my office, and someone will have dropped off a bottle of two,” Feldhamer said.

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Aaron Poole, a graduate student studying zoology from Eldorado, said he has been working alongside Feldhamer for more than two years.

Feldhamer said he has given Poole most of the bottles to drink.

“To be honest, I don’t really care for beer that much,” Feldhamer said.

Poole said since he has started working with Feldhamer, he has given him more than 25 bottles, but most of them Feldhamer already has.

“When I had him as a professor, he showed me all of the bottles,” Poole said. “I was shocked to see them all. It was fascinating to see all the mammals on the bottles.”

Feldhamer said although he has friends who live oversees and help him with the collection, he has collected most of them himself.

“Every time I am in a new town, I try to find different ones,” Feldhamer said.

A couple of years ago, Feldhamer decided to index all of the bottles and taken a tally as to what mammals grace the label of the containers.

Feldhamer said of the 4,000 species of mammals in the world, 60 percent of those are rats and bats, yet less than 2 percent of the bottles sport these mammals.

“Bats and rodents are icky, and people don’t like them,” Feldhamer said.

Most animals that decorate the labels are strong, powerful animals, such as moose, lions, bears and buffalo, Feldhamer said.

The problem with all the bottles, Feldhamer said, is what he will do with them all when he retires.

“I want to pass on the torch to a graduate assistant or someone willing to keep the tradition alive,” Feldhamer said.

Poole, who is continuing with his doctorate at SIUC, said he would take the bottle collection if it were given to him.

“I would be more than willing,” Poole said.

Reporter Matthew McConkey can be reached at [email protected]

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