In honor of National Cat Day, allow me to introduce you to “Fluffy Ruffles,” the poster cat for all the indignities we visit on our feline housemates, especially in our photographs and videos. Not only was the poor creature given that embarrassing name, but poor F.R. was stuffed in a basket for this portrait. And you can see how happy he (or she) is about it. Happy National Cat Day!
Monthly Archives: October 2015
My collection of pet-related photographs has been pretty much assembled on the cheap, and I have missed a lot of great things in auctions because my budget just wouldn’t stand it. However, when I saw this real photo postcard on an auction site, I decided to go for it — and I even managed to outbid someone who tried to “snipe” me at the end. Lee, the otherwise unidentified sender — and, I presume, photographer — of this postcard notes that “This is an actual Photo taken from life” in the right-hand margin.
The annoyed-looking feline subject of this photograph is tucked into a doll bed that has a full set of linens, including the knotted quilt that covers him (or her). I used to do things like this to one of the cats of my childhood, and I imagine that many unsung housecats in the past suffered similar indignities.
The caption is especially interesting because it references a long-forgotten but very popular theatrical song of the 1890s. “Oh! What a Difference in the Morning!” is a comic lament about hangovers, women whose evening beauty is gone with the dawn, and others who are deluded by the romance of night life. There are multiple copies available online, including in the digital music libraries of the Johns Hopkins University and the New York Public Library (http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-edd6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99). It was popular in both English music halls and American popular theater; although I’m no music historian, my suspicion is that the American editions were knock-offs. The song has an apparent association with Laura Joyce Bell, an English singer and comedienne who made a very successful career here in the U.S., including performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with her husband Digby Bell. “Oh! What a Difference in the Morning!” inspired additional topical verses in American newspapers and magazines, and the title even shows up in advertisements for mattresses, suggesting that it was a widely-understood humorous reference.
The unknown sender of this photograph was sharing a joke that went far beyond the wonderful photograph he took.
Dog clothing interests me. These days, our canine housemates have protective rain coats and boots, down vests, Christmas sweaters, and Halloween costumes. Some years ago, I saw a “wiener dog parade” in New Orleans that included cheerleader outfits, superhero capes and — best of all — dachshunds dressed as wieners in buns with mustard and ketchup. The humor that we dog owners seem to get out of canine dress-up seems unbounded by anything except our budgets and the tolerance of our foot-footed buddies.
In an earlier blog post, I discussed a pattern for a crochet dog coat that was publishined in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1873. It was ornamented with a fringe and small jingle bells. However, dog clothing of the late 1800s and early 1900s was simpler than that Victorian fantasy. Here is a page from a catalog by Von Lengerke & Antoine, a Chicago sporting goods company that was in business between 1891 and 1938. The page dates from around 1910, I believe. Dog owners shopping in the store or via the mails could purchase sweaters, “dog blankets” that looked like miniature horse blankets, and rain slickers.
By the 1940s, the appearance of dog clothing increasingly paralleled human dress. This little coat, which dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s, is made from a woolen fabric woven in a version of a “buffalo plaid.” In clothing for people, buffalo plaids are fabrics woven in large-scale red-and-black checks; the patterns date back as far as the 1850s. Buffalo plaids were popular for mens’ and boys’ jackets in the 1940s and 1950s — and here it is made up the family dog.
The 1950s and 960s were the glamour decades for doggy dress — just as they were for women’s clothing. Most of the dog coats and accessories from the era that I have found were scaled for very small dogs — another fad of those decades. This was the heyday of the miniature poodle in particular.
Lynda Herman Chaney made this faux fur coat for Gigi, the miniature poold owned by her mother Juanita Herman of Kansas City, MO. Mrs. Herman was a fashionable dresser and, since Gigi needed protection from the cold winters, she dressed her in coats with boots and even matching hats.
Lynda Chaney could have used this pattern for Gigi’s coats. This copy of Simplicity Pattern 4219 is dated in pen “1963 April,” but the pattern itself dates from the 1950s. I like the array of dogs illustrated on the envelope: poodles, a boxer, a Boston terrier, a beagle and a miniature schnauzer. Most of these breeds were represented in my childhood suburban neighborhood in the 1950s and early 1960s. Notice that the all-American beagle is wearing a manly plaid coat, rather like the one illustrated above.
There’s more to say about doggie glamour of the 1950s and 1960s. From rhinestone-encrusted collars to nail polish, the developing pet products industry capitalized on the new prosperity of many Americans in those decades. I’ll share some of those products with you in a future post.