Corporate magazines can be useful sources for historians interested in business and American consumer society. Of course, the obvious interest of public relations departments in presenting firms in the best light possible has to be taken into account. Even so, they often contain information and pictures that can’t be found anywhere else.
Studying the history of companies that made pet food has lots of obstacles; the absence of business archives from the many small firms operating in the first half of the 20th century is a big one. I was lucky to find this issue of the National Biscuit Company’s corporate magazine from 1938. The cover story was about Milk-Bone dog biscuits Taking readers “behind the scenes,” the article stresses the modern, clean, mechanized facility, providing “good, wholesome nourishment, made with such scrupulous care.” I especially like the last photo and caption, introducing the group of women who handled requests for free samples of Milk Bone and a booklet on dog care, received through mail-in coupons published in magazine advertisements. “These girls keep busy….”
Remember that this dog-biscuit factory was in successful operation during the Great Depression. My research on the history of dog food has suggested that the 1930s were actually a break-through decade for the use of commercial dog food, especially among urban and suburban households. My post on the Canine Catering Company and its sales giveaway, the Puppy Puddle, discusses another Depression-era dog food business, one focused on a very well-to-do clientele in the greater Philadelphia area.