If you ever find yourself travelling through the south of Illinois, passing by the village of Cobden, you may want to make a quick stop to pay your respect for an individual who raised millions of dollars to help the US navy during World War II.
Born in early 1942 at the Sherman Boner farm, a young pig called Parker Neptune was soon adopted by the farmer’s young daughter to raise as part of a youth project. With the war effort under way, Neptune was donated in December 1942 to be served at a fundraising event to raise money and seemed destined for the chop.
A local navy recruiter, Don C. Lingle, spotted Neptune’s potential and took him on a trip throughout the south of Illinois, renaming him King Neptune, and auctioning parts of the pig off for war bonds. These bonds were raised in order to build a brand new battleship, to be named USS Illinois. At each auction the pig was returned unharmed to be auctioned elsewhere. Among the “parts” to be auctioned, even his squeal managed to raise $25 in one of the auctions.
King Neptune was now a celebrity and was given a blue navy jacket, a small crown and silver earrings. He made a number of appearances around the rest of Illinois, raising further funds, and being sold over and over again. At one auction the Governor of Illinois, Dwight H. Green, bought King Neptune for $1m before returning him to Lingle.
Aside from his auctions, King Neptune’s appearances led to his life membership of a number of clubs across Illinois, and his efforts led to Lingle’s promotion to Chief Petty Officer.
During his career as fund raiser, King Neptune collected an incredible $19m, which in today’s terms is close to a quarter of a billion US Dollars, an achievement few could match.
After the war King Neptune retired, living in a farm and enjoying himself. He died just two days prior to his 8th birthday from pneumonia.
After his original grave suffered from neglect, and was later vandalised, the state of Illinois created a new memorial for him, just outside the village of Cobden:
Unfortunately, the USS Illinois was not completed before the end of WWII, and her construction was halted. Her incomplete hulk was finally broken up and scrapped in 1958. The only surviving piece is the ship’s bell, which is now displayed at the Memorial Stadium, at the University of Illinois and is traditionally rung when their football team scores a touchdown or a goal.