Monthly Archives: January 2016

More Dog Toys from the 1950s and 1960s

Continuing from my last post, here are a few more dog toys from the 1950s and 1960s.  I especially like the wingtip shoe.  These are in very good condition — no toothmarks — so they may never have been played with.

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Dog toys, probably American, 1950s and 1960s.  Latex rubber and paint, metal “squeakers,” manufacturer unknown.

As with the collection of toys “owned” by the little Pomeranian in the snapshot that was the topic for my last post, these squeaky toys take the form of objects that dogs are not supposed to be playing with, especially the glove and the shoe.  Out of scale and made from inappropriate materials, these are what George Bassalla has termed “transformed objects,” where functional objects are recreated, often out of scale and from more expensive materials then the originals, for ceremonial purposes (for example, bishops’ Croziers.)

Transformed objects are also widely used for the purposes of play, too.  Think, for example, of a toy hammer made out of fabric. Such an object is safer for play, of course, and it does allow a baby to practice the gesture of hammering, but its transformed character is also amusing to the adult who gives it to the toddler.  I think that we can add another characteristic to transformed play objects — they often make inappropriate, amusing sounds such as squeaking.

So “transformed object” dog toys are part of a much larger set of practices in material culture.  Not that dogs care about their conceptual sophistication….

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Filed under Christmas gifts for pets, dog toys, dogs, material culture, pet antiques, pet humor, pet supplies and equipment, pet toys, pets

Look at All My Toys!

I just purchased this snapshot of an unidentified Pomeranian and his stunning array of toys.  Fortunately, the image has a date. The film was developed and printed in December 1967. From the looks of this little fellow, he was well-loved, and the snapshot was clearly  meant to be funny.

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Unidentified Pomeranian with his squeaky and chew toys. Snapshot, photographer unknown, developed December 1967.

The 1950s and 1960s were decades when the array of products sold by the neighborhood pet store, along with the pet departments of local five-and-tens and the pet food aisles of large supermarkets, included a much-expanded array of toys, including squeaky toys of painted rubber or plastic  and chew toys made of nylon, hard rubber or rawhide.

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Detail of snapshot, showing the array of toys purchased for this dog.

Take a look at this incredible assemblage.  The squeaky toys are shaped like an opened pack of Winston cigarettes, hamburgers and hot dogs, a woman’s foot with painted toenails, a chicken head, a raw steak, an ice cream bar with a bite out of it and an array of cartoonish animal figures wearing clothing.  In the full photo, just behind the Pom’s head on the left side of the photo, there is a rubber toy shaped like a baby’s pacifier.  Along with rawhide bones in various stages of unraveling, hard rubber toys for chewing include a ball, a bone and a dumbbell.

After I looked at the snapshot for a while, I realized that I actually owned one of the toys in the picture!  Here it is, a dog in a Santa suit — in its original package, no less.

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“Squeaker” dog toy in original packaging, Stevens Company, United States, ca. 1967.  This toy appears in the right-hand side of the detail, above.

Of course, dogs don’t really care about the shape of their toys.  My childhood dog’s favorite toy was a pair of old socks that had been tied together, good for tugging and shredding and easily replaced in a house with growing children.  But since the 1950s, the people who own dogs have gotten a kick out of dog toys that are shaped like the everyday objects — often ones that dogs aren’t supposed to have — or that are visual puns.  Dog toys are as much fun for us as they are for our dogs.   A small dog carrying around an open pack of Winston cigarettes must have seemed pretty funny in a 1960s household where people smoked.  And the large pacifier was a self-conscious pun on the status of the dog as the household’s fur-covered baby.  I would love to know who thought up the shapes for these dog toys.

Further, there are parallels between the toys that babies have played from the mid-20th century to the present, and the toys that family dogs have enjoyed in the same era.  Rubber squeaky toys were common baby toys in the 1950s and 1960s.  Although I need to do more research on this, I believe that the same companies made both rubber baby toys and squeaky toys for dogs.  Nowadays, flexible rubber squeaky toys for babies have been largely replaced by other objects, including a much wider array of plush toys.  And now dogs often get plush-covered toys, too, in shapes that are funny to pet owners. My dog Stump  drags around a purple platypus that I bought for him because I thought it was cute.

I’ll write more about the origins of pet toys in future posts.

 

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Filed under animal-human interaction, anthropomorphism, Christmas gifts for pets, dog toys, dogs, pet humor, pet photography, pet portraiture, pet supplies and equipment, pet toys, pets, snapshot

The “Puppy Puddle” and the Canine Catering Company

On December 2, 1938,  Roy Goff & Company of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, received a copyright associated with the “Puppy Puddle,” a   9 1/2 by 13 inch paper advertising blotter presented for use as a house training aid.  “When an emergency occurs, place this “Puppy Puddle” on the wet spot. Press down lightly with the foot — the job is done.”  The text commented helpfully that “time is an element in the efficiency” of the blotter. When the mishap occurred on an absorbent surface such as a rug, the directions recommended that several of the blotters be kept in a “handy place” in “every room in which the puppy plays,” ready for use at a moment’s notice. The drawing of the puppy, who is sitting in his own puddle hollering as only puppies can, looks like a rough-coated fox terrier, a popular dog at the time.  (Remember Asta, the urbane canine star in the “Thin Man” films?)

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“Puppy Puddle” training blotter.  Roy Goff & Co., Ardmore, PA, copyrighted 1938.

The “housebreaking” directions also suggested that a used “Puppy Puddle” could be left on a tile floor as an attractant, the way that  “wee-wee pads” are used by some dog owners training puppies today.  This also recalls house training instructions that suggested using a newspaper already soaked with piddle to the same end.

The text on the Puppy Puddle didn’t only offer advice on house training, it also promoted Roy Goff’s “WHITE LABEL BEEF” as the foundation of an elaborate puppy diet prescribed by “a famous University Veterinary School.”  This reveals that the Puppy Puddle was actually an advertising giveaway.  It even had a blank space at the bottom right where a pet shop or veterinary clinic might stamp its name and address.

Looking for more information on  Roy Goff & Co. led me to an unexpected story.  LeRoy Goff, Jr., the president of Roy Goff & Co., was more than the inventor of a novelty for training puppies for life indoors. He founded the Canine Catering Company in his garage in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in 1933. Goff, who was born in 1903 and graduated from Princeton University in 1926, is listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as a well-to-do young insurance broker, owner of a house valued at $85,000, married with a toddler daughter, and cared for by two live-in house servants. Did his insurance business collapse? I don’t know yet.  Yet, in the heart of the Depression, Goff built a successful business preparing and delivering high-quality fresh meals for dogs.  This was a time when the canned dog food business was expanding, but it was also the unregulated stepchild of the meat and livestock feed industries.  Many dog owners viewed canned food with rightful suspicion.

The November 1934 issue of Popular Mechanics, a magazine that was full of uplifting stories about successful home-based  businesses, featured Goff’s young enterprise in a one-page story titled  “Catering to Dogs Becomes a Real Business.”  It opened by noting that “dogs appreciate a fresh, neatly presented meal and their masters like to have them properly fed and healthy.  That is why a depression-time business, started by LeRoy Goff II, of Philadelphia, in his own garage with no capital, has grown so rapidly that it numbers 6,000 animal customers…and is now housed in a modern plant in Philadelphia with branches in eight cities.”

The article reported that Goff began by working up a diet for his own dogs with the help of a veterinarian.  By 1934, the company’s offerings included a”veterinary meal,” a “kennel meal,” and “a la carte special meals, vegetables and beverages.” Subscribers placed orders from “attractive menu cards,” and the food was delivered to households three times a week.  Local veterinary hospitals also used the service for convalescing animals, sending their cars to the Canine Catering Company daily.  One-pound meals cost 13 cents for raw food (presaging today’s interest in raw diets for dogs) and 14 cents for a cooked dinner.

By 1938, Roy Goff & Co. offered canned food, the White Label Beef promoted by the Puppy Puddle giveaway.  There is more to be learned about LeRoy Goff’s Canine Catering Company of America, Inc. –and apparently the National Archives branch in Philadelphia holds some records relating to inspection of the company’s processing activities. (Here’s a link to information on the records group in the form of a Facebook post on Canine Catering Co. ) I also know that the company was  actually not alone in offering home-delivered pet food at the time.  Advertisements and other giveaways survive from pet businesses that offered  delivery of fresh meat, including horse meat, from the 1930s through the 1950s, when self-service supermarkets developed large pet food aisles and the nature of the pet food industry moved toward increasing consolidation.  By the 1960s, Roy Goff & Co. was no longer packing dog food; instead, it became a distributor of pet food and products, providing “professional retail guidance to small independent retailers,” according to a short profile on the website Philly.com.

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