For “Extra Cat and Kitten Pleasure”: the Early Days of Cat Litter and the Changing Status of Cats after World War II

Cat “litter” and litter boxes are facts of life for cat owners.  Hauling heavy boxes and bags; finding a good spot for the litter box; monitoring litter-box behavior; sweeping up litter carried out of the box on busy little paws; scooping out poop and “clumps” of petrified pee; dumping used litter; and figuring out how to get rid of that distinctive litter box smell:  these constitute a considerable part of cat ownership, especially now that many pet cats are indoors-only.  (By the way, the word litter, which has its archaic origins in French for “bed,” was used mainly to describe either trash or livestock bedding until “cat litter” entered the lexicon.)  By 2015, cat litter was a $1.8 billion business in the United States.

Until the 1940s, keeping a cat indoors exclusively took more determination than  I could probably have mustered.  Cat owners had to improvise a latrine, filling a wooden box, probably a discarded shipping box from a store, with sand, cinders or torn-up paper.  As I did research on these early versions of cat-box filler, I was struck  by how little anyone talked about it.  Even a 1903 volume on breeding and showing cats, whose author was obsessed with cleanliness, failed to offer specific instructions for creating and keeping a sand box.

The story of cat-box fillers made from absorbent clays such as fuller’s earth begins with industrial-clay salesman Edward Lowe and Kitty Litter™, which Lowe first marketed under that name in 1947.  Here is an early Kitty Litter™ bag that I found online in a Washington Post article about Edward Lowe ,the inventor and brilliant marketer of bagged clay.

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Early Kitty Litter bag, no date. 1950s? Courtesy the Edward Lowe Foundation.

The appearance on the scene of bagged granulated clay for use in cat latrines soon led to a number of competitors.  The little brochure below advertises Pet Pamper®, a short-lived litter-box filler marketed by the Southern Ezy-Mix Company of Memphis, Tennessee.  The firm was known primarily for its bagged cement mix, sold through regional hardware and feed stores.  The ads I have found for Ezy-Mix concrete mix suggest that it was marketed to do-it-yourselfers tackling home improvement projects. Pet Pamper® was a sideline product that competed for a short time with Kitty Litter™.  It seems to have disappeared by the early 1960s.

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Kitty Care and Training by NoKo.  Brochure promoting Pet Pamper litter-box filler, published by Southern Ezy-Mix Co., Memphis Tennessee, between 1952 and 1955.

Below, the 1958 newspaper advertisement for Pet Pamper® informs cat owners that the product replaces sand and sawdust and does a better job preventing “kitty odor.”

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Advertisement for Pet Pamper, 1958.

A decade after launching Kitty Litter™,  Lowe’s branched out into other products for cat owners, promising a “Better Life for Kitty.”

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“The Better Life for Kitty,” brochure for Lowe’s Cat Products, between 1958 and 1963.

Along with litter box filler, Lowe’s offered toys, a dry shampoo, a laxative that was intended to help hair balls move through Kitty’s digestive system, flea powder and even a disposable cardboard litter tray.

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Inside of brochure for Lowe’s Cat Products.

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Inside of brochure for Lowe’s Cat Products.

What’s interesting about the pitches for Pet Pamper and Lowe’s cat products is that they promised a better life for cats, not just their owners.  And all these products were associated with keeping cats indoors rather than letting them roam freely: “Kitty Litter will keep your cat safe, clean, indoors.” I’ll be writing more about products for cats and the rise of the indoor cat in future posts.  The idea of keeping pet cats at home where they could be supervised closely couldn’t get much traction until dealing with cat waste became less unpleasant.

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Dog Toys: Amusement from Two Points of View

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Lemony with her toy basket, 24 October 2017.  The bedraggled Horton, at her feet, is a favorite.

How many of you have a basket or bin (or just a pile) of these bedraggled objects:  the toy box for your dog(s)?

When I was a child, our first dog, Gussie the basset hound, had a much smaller collection of possessions including an old tennis ball, a well-chewed soup bone that was periodically replaced by my mother, and — her favorite — a smelly toy made from two worn-out sweat socks, one stuffed in the toe of the other and tied off with a knot.  The sock toy was good for both playing fetch indoors (no danger of breaking a lamp) and for games of tug.

Beginning in the early 1970s, our family dogs began to have a larger collection of toys, all purchased from pet stores.  Rubber squeaky toys were especially popular.  Our Lab/Golden Retriever mix, Jenny, had a very soft mouth, and she had one squeaky toy, a rubber peanut that had a  face like a cartoon “bandito” and wore a sombrero. We called the peanut Roy, after the friend who presented this treasure, and Jenny played with it until just before she died.  Roy is still somewhere in a drawer at my mother’s house; my father saved it along with Jenny’s collar.  If I can find it, I’ll put it into this post.

The cover of my book Pets in America: A History (the hardcover edition) features a photograph from the 1880s of a man getting ready to throw a ball for a dog who is absolutely rigid with anticipation.  The ball may be a baseball.  It is certainly not a ball made just for the dog.  I own a number of trade catalogs and photos that suggest the evolution of toys produced intentionally for the amusement of dogs.  Let’s look at some of them.

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Cover, Catalog of Dog Furnishings. Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc., New York City, 1937.

Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc. seems to have begun as a distributor of pottery, but by 1905 the company sold chain and leather dog collars wholesale.  The company existed until 1976, although it moved away from a focus on dog “furnishings.”

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Catalog page of dog toys offered by Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc. in 1937.

There are many interesting things about this catalog, which offers a wide array of products in the heart of the Depression.  The pages of toys are our subject today; I’ll share more of this catalog later.  Notice that the rubber balls are shaped to look like animal heads.  This is the beginning of marketing dog toys that are meant to be equally amusing to owners.  The rubber rat relates back to the traditional role of terriers as vermin-catchers in barns and households.  The “Sani-Bone” and “Happidog Bone” reflect new concerns about the health of dogs.  (As I have noted elsewhere, the 1920s was the decade when small animal veterinary clinics proliferated, and concerns about the impact of germs on treasured pets appear in the popular literature.  And they also imply that consumption of said bone would take place indoors, rather than out in the yard.  No grease spots on the carpets!

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Counter-top dog toy display and Christmas stocking, Walter B. Stevens & Co, 1937.

The counter-top display box, depicted above, suggests that pet store owners present toys as impulse purchases.   And the Christmas stocking is the earliest holiday packaging  I’ve found so far.

Now let’s look at some dog toys from 1947, ten years and a world war later.  Below is a catalog page from Lehman Bros. of Cleveland, Ohio, a company that I have not been able to find out much about.  The  letter to store owners in the June 1946 wholesale catalog and price list for “Sterling Quality Dog Furnshings” states that the firm had been in the pet supply business since the mid-1920s.

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Page of dog toys from Lehman Bros., Sterling Quality Pet Supplies, Dog Furnishings. Catalog No. 41. 1830-1838 St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.  June 1946.

This page depicts rubber “squeaky” toys (which would not have been available when rubber was a strategic material) and tug toys. The rubber toys look like, and may be, identical to squeak toys for babies marketed at the time.

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Rubber dog toys, maker unknown.  Probably 1960s.

The rubber dog toys in the photo above , which I discussed in a post in January 2016,  are a more complete expression of the trend toward toys taking shapes that dog owners would find amusing.  Here the toys represent things that dog are NOT supposed to chew.  In the pages of toys from Du Say’s, a mail-order pet business that has been the subject of a previous post, whimsy continues to shape the latex rubber toys.  By now they include a Smurf called “Flower Boy,” Hillbilly Bears and even Magilla Gorilla.

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Dog toys, Everything for Pampered Pets.  Du Say’s, New Orleans, around 1975.

The “All Time Favorite” Collection, at the bottom of page 12 above, recalls the simple toys of the 1930s and 1940s:  tug toys, burlap squeaky toys and rubber ball and bones.  Compare them to the Stevens catalog pages.

It’s clear that dog owners shared their postwar prosperity with their dogs by buying them lots of new toys. Take a look at the post titled “Look At All My Toys” from 26 January 2016.  It analyses two snapshots of a black Pomeranian dog with all his prized possessions, dated December 1963.  Here’s a detail of one.  The rubber hamburger and steak, disembodied feet, and rubber pack of Winston’s cigarettes, along with the sheer number of toys, suggests how funny the photographer (presumably one of the owners) found the whole accumulation of squeaky things.

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Detail of snapshot of Pomeranian dog and his toys, December 1963.  Photographer unknown.

Dogs like to chew, tug, chase and carry the objects we give them to play with.  My dog Gussie was happy with an old pair of sweat socks.  While Lemony enjoys chewing on and tossing around toys from her basket, she doesn’t care that one depicts Dr. Seuss’ elephant Horton and another is a long purple snake with bug-eyes.  Dog toys make us happy.

 

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My 100th Post! Reader Feedback Welcomed.

This is my 100th post as The Pet Historian!  I’ve got lots of plans for  future posts — next up is one on dog toys — and plenty of new objects and images to share.  I’d love to hear from you about what you especially like and want to see more of.

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Amateur photograph three children and the family dog, after 1900. Photographer unknown.

My goals in creating The Pet Historian were three-fold:  1) to share my still-growing collection relating to the history of keeping pets in the United States; 2) to use my posts to show how close study of these items can inform our understanding of the complexities — both past and present —  associated with living with animals in and around our living spaces; and 3) to keep practicing my writing during a period  in my professional life when finding long stretches of time has been a challenge.  I’ve tried to share my own delight in the collection, and my sense of humor, in my posts, and I hope that you enjoy them.  I don’t pretend to be a disinterested observer;  my own daily experiences with animals underlie everything I write about.

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Postcard for Sharkey’s Tropical Fish and Pet Supply Company, 1940s?

So what would YOU like to see more of?  Has anything in particular pricked your curiosity?   I am also thinking about putting together a self-published book on my collection.  If I do, what would you especially like to see?

Kasey Grier

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Bird cage with “japanned” stenciled base, maker unknown, United States. Wood, brass and plated tin.

P. S.   And look for a redesigned site in the next couple of months, with new features.

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A Canine Supermodel of the 1970s: Meet Pooch of Du Say’s for Pets

I recently purchased a very interesting mail-order catalog of dog (and a few cat) supplies from about 1975.  Titled Everything for the Pampered Pet, the catalog was published by Du Say’s, a New Orleans pet business.  Here’s the cover:

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Du Say’s for Pets (originally Du Say’s Pet & Seed Company) was founded in the 1930s by Charles Albert Dusse;  the store name is the phonetic pronunciation of his surname. Charles was an enterprising fellow who sold both animals and their supplies and equipment.  Details about his operation are hard to come by, but my research located one article in the 29 July 1947 edition of the Texas Panhandle daily the  Amarillo Globe Times titled “New Orleans Pet Shop Would Buy Panhandle Pests.”  This was on the front page!  It reported that the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce had received a letter of inquiry from C. A. Dusse of the “Du-Say Pet Supply Company” expressing his desire to purchase prairie dogs “trapped when babies and hand raised, as we understand it is rather difficult to tame old, adult ones.”  Subsequent activity on this matter by either  the Chamber or Dusse is unknown, but it does offer a glimpse into the enterprising spirit of the pet shop owner.

By the 1960s, the business had two retail locations, one in downtown New Orleans — the building apparently still stands, now occupied  by a restaurant called “Ye Olde College Inn”  — and the other at the Lakeside Shopping Center in nearby Metaire.  Around that time, one of Charles’ three sons, Richard, took over the business.

Richard’s was the hand behind the Pampered Pets catalog.  I share a few pages in this post; others will appear later.  The array of novelties was directed primarily to the owners of small dogs, as in the case of the elegant dog bed on the cover with its happy Pomeranian demonstrator.  But as you look through these pages, I want you to focus on one particular thing: the unsung canine model who was pressed into service.   Meet Pooch, Richard Dusse’s own dog.

Sometime after the catalog was published, Richard Dusse’s remarkable catalog was highlighted in a wire-service newspaper article that was picked up in newspaper around the country.  Sometimes the article included the photo below; sometimes the photo appeared as filler alone. Here it is.  Richard Dusse’s expression doesn’t look much like that of a warm-hearted dog lover.  He holds out his dog “Pooch,” a chihuahua-terrier mix who sports a hat, shades and a collar that looks like a shirt collar with a bow tie.

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Now look at the picture promoting the “Ivy League” hat below.  Don’t you think that Pooch looks fetching (no pun intended)? Pooch also models a “Jewish Yamulka” (sic), a “Calypso” hat adorned with tiny fake fruit and appears as Santa Paws, a cowboy and a French sailor.  Like any good supermodel, Pooch kept his face deadpan for the photographer.

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Pooch also appears above demonstrating the “Piddlin’ Plug,” a red vinyl “fire hydrant” intended as a house training aid.  Below, he was pressed into service as the model for the “Rain or Shine Coat” and the “Fisherman’s Raincoat,” below. He was loaded into the “Pet Tote Basket” to demonstrate its size.  At least Pooch didn’t have to wear the Doggie Life Jacket.

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In the two-page spread below Pooch models a “Happy Hound” bed, the “Curl-Up Bed” and the four-poster bed on the catalog cover. He is stuffed into the “Doggy Bathrobe,” a “Pet Playsuit” and a pair of “Doggie Pajamas.”  The identity of the Pomeranian in the high chair is unknown — just another catalog model.

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There are more treasures to be had in the pages of the Du Say’s catalog.  It represents the full flowering of the modern pet industry.  I’ll be sharing pages on dog fashions and collars in the future, along with a feature on the evolution of dog toys.  But for now, let’s think fondly of little Pooch, the unsung canine supermodel of  Everything for Pampered Pets.

 

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Filed under Christmas gifts for pets, dog clothing, dogs, Du Say's of New Orleans, fire hydrant, mail order catalogs, material culture, newspaper articles on pets, pet furniture, pet humor, pet stores, pet supplies and equipment, pets

A pet portrait promoting Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier (1898)

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Trade card for Mrs. Temple’s Blood Purifier, n.d. Halftone print on coated paper.  Based on information discussed below, I date this at 1898.

It’s not unusual that the visual content of advertising trade cards from the nineteenth century has nothing to do with the product being sold.  This is certainly the case with this large (5 1/2 by 7 inch) card for Mrs. Temple’s Blood Purifier.  The image is a halftone print of what seems to be a studio photograph. The bulldog and cat are posed on either a tabletop or a lounge.  This is a halftone print, one of the photographic reproductive techniques that tolled the death knell for the lithographs and wood engravings that sold products for most of the nineteenth century.

The back of the card is an advertisement for Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier, “Prepared by Mrs. J.E. Temple, No. 16 Moraine St.” of Brockton, Massachusetts.  In my research to date the card,  I learned a lot about “blood purifiers,” which were one of the most common proprietary, or patent, medicines.  I also learned a tiny bit about Mrs. Elizabeth Temple, the originator of this product, and what I learned was worth sharing here even though it has nothing to do with pet keeping!  So here goes.

In 1865, Mrs. Elizabeth Temple was a widow in Boston, living at 12 Acton Street.  By 1864, she was the creator of Mrs. Taylor’s Renovating Remedy, which she promoted with a 24-page booklet. (I can find the catalog entry for this on Google Books, but I cannot access the text.)  Mrs. Temple’s Renovating Remedy was a wonder “prescribed for Neuralgia, Scroffula, Jaundice, Costiveness, Catarrh, Nausea, Dropsy, Etc., with Great Success.”  The nostrum also turns up in a few classified newspaper ads from 1868, where it was commended for “all diseases of the blood.”

Many patent medicines marketed themselves as “blood purifiers,” with perhaps the the most famous being Hood’s Sarsparilla, which was advertised and available pretty much everywhere in the late 19th century.  Sarsparilla, made from the roots of Smilax ornata, was regarded as a good tonic.  In fact, it is still used in herbal medicine.   Even early over-the-counter medicines for dogs, including medicines sold by Dr. S. K. Johnson (who was the subject of a post on 7 July 2015) sometimes advertised themselves as “blood purifiers.”  At a time when disease mechanisms were still poorly understood, the idea of cleaning the blood as a way of treating chronic disease was powerful.

By 1869, Mrs. Elizabeth Temple was listed in the Boston city directory as a “physician!”  She shared her house, 41 Shawmut Street, with Lyman W. and Israel Temple.  The next year, the 1870 federal census tells the story of some modest but real financial success.  62-year-old Elizabeth Temple was listed as the head of her household, although she was only described as “keeping house.”  Her dwelling was worth $12,000 and she possessed $1,600 of personal property.  She shared the house with 23-year-old Israel, a postal clerk, and 32-year-old “Damen” (Lyman?) W., who was listed as having no occupation, along with two live-in servants.  In the 1872 Boston City directory, she was again listed as physician, at 253 Shawmut Avenue.  Then she disappears, turning up in the 1880 census in Newton, Massachusetts, still living with her son Lyman.

What happened to her “blood purifier”?  It seems to have lived on, or was revived, in the 1880s by John E. Temple of Brockton, MA, who is listed in city directories as a “traveling salesman” by 1887.  Was he another of Elizabeth Temple’s sons? or even a grandson? In 1898, John E. Temple lived at 16 Moraine Street in Brockton, which is the address on the back on the trade card.  And the new iteration, Mrs. Temple’s Celebrated Blood Purifier, was prepared by “Mrs. J. E. Temple,” presumably his wife.

I’d like to these these these lovely animals were the pets of Mr. and Mrs. John E. Temple, but there is no way of knowing, of course.  In any event, I believe that the advertisers thought the image of the cat and dog would encourage people to take and keep this large trade card.  And I hope that you enjoy this digression into the weird world of American proprietary, or “patent,” medicines.

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A Victim of Cat Hypnosis (1904)

Meet Sport, whose cross-eyed portrait graced the Indianapolis News On June 11, 1904.

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I was doing research on something else entirely (a future post) when my combination of keywords led me to this treasure. I had to share it!  The tongue-in-cheek article reported that Sport, a Scotch terrier owned by an Indianapolis grocer, had suffered a youthful encounter with a cat:  “Long did the cat hold his frightened gaze, the pup powerless to break the spell.  Since then, people who know Sport say, he has been cross-eyed.”

All cat owners have experienced the efforts that our household adversaries and master manipulators make to hypnotize us.  It’s a well-known hazard of cat ownership.  Poor Sport never had a chance….

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“Thought I’d send you some cats,” 1907

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Cats on a ladder, real photo postcard.  Postmarked 8 October 1907.

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Verso of real photo postcard above.

While I prepare some longer posts after some time off, here’s a terrific real photo postcard of a mother cat and four kittens posed on a stepladder. Two things are unusual in this image:  the entire family appears to be white, and there are four kittens.  It was often the case that, in the days before surgical spaying became available, all the kittens but one or two were drowned at birth.  Perhaps the little fellows all survived because of their unusual color.

Presumably the photographer is “Glen,” who sent the postcard with the comment “thought I’d send you some cats.”  However, this pose probably required more than one person: a cat arranger and a photographer ready with the camera before the subjects jumped down and ran off.

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