The York Sunbury Museum’s most well known artefact is the taxidermy remains of the Coleman Frog. This frog lived in Killarney Lake just north of Fredericton (New Brunswick, Canada) in the late 19th-century. When discovered he was the size of an average frog but after Fred Coleman discovered a way to feed it people food the frog gained weight topping the scales at 42 pounds. The friendship between Fred and this amazing frog grew and over time the frog would come when called or to a dinner bell and entertained Fred’s guests. On occasion the frog was shy and would not always come out when called but there are reports of people seeing the frog when it was alive. After the Coleman Frog was killed in a dynamite “accident” Fred sent its remains to a taxidermist in Bangor Maine after which it was displayed in a glass case at Fred’s hotel in Fredericton.
There is a picture of the Frog in the hotel lobby that shows the Coleman Frog in its case in the hotel where its skin is speckled and very real looking unlike its painted appearance that it has today. Story has it that after Fred passed away the glass cover came off the case and the Coleman Frog was used as an ashtray for inebriated hotel patrons. Sometime between this and being donated to the York Sunbury Museum the frog was “repaired” and painted it’s unnatural green colour that it has now.
The Coleman Frog was sent to the Canadian Conservation Institute in 1988 and underwent two years of conservation treatment and it was determined at that time that the taxidermy methods used on the frog were consistent with late 19th-century techniques. We are told that other authenticity tests came back inconclusive.
Real or not … it’s difficult to say. All the eye witnesses have passed on and we are left with stories and tales. The Coleman Frog has been entertaining museum visitors since 1959 and fires the imagination of both children and adults alike. People and crowds huddle around to have their picture taken with this wonder and many walk away believers.
I consider myself very lucky to work with the Coleman Frog … he is a real treasure.
[Please note, the York Sunbury Museum changed it’s name to the Fredericton Region Museum in 2010.]