Monthly Archives: June 2016

A Mysterious Hero Dog of Chicago, 1958: Your Help Needed!

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“Spotty the Hero Dog,” posthumous photo,Chicago, IL, 1958. Photographer unknown.

Here is a mystery that really needs solving, and I hope that you can help!  Years ago, I purchased this posthumous photography of “Spotty Chicago Hero Dog.”  The images had no information on the reverse side, although the 8″ x 10″ black-and-whites looked like unused newspaper photographs.  The seller had no information on the pictures, either.

Spotty the Hero Dog won a “Lassie Gold Award.” For you youngsters, the rough-coated collie Lassie was the star of a young adult novel, Lassie Come-Home, published in 1940.  The novel became a movie in 1943, and Lassie (who was really a male collie named Pal)  became so popular that a series of movies followed.  Then came the television show Lassie, which first aired in 1954 and continued for twenty years. Pal did not live forever, of course, but his descendants played subsequent Lassies.  Not only was Lassie the centerpiece of a media machine, but Lassie products proliferated, too:  dolls, spin-off children’s books, lunchboxes and posters and other items. As a little girl, I watched Lassie, although I always thought that Timmy, the boy who had the thankless job of starring against Pal in the late 1950s and early 1960s, was sort of a drip.

In 1957, the popularity of the heroic Lassie character led to the creation of the Lassie Gold Awards, intended to commemorate dogs that had done something exceptional, including protecting or rescuing people.  It’s not clear whose idea led to the awards, nor is it known who nominated or selected the winners. The first award in 1958 went to posthumously to a dog that had died in World War II.  So Spotty here was an early recipient of the award, which included a large gilded bronze medal with Lassie’s picture on one side.  One medal hangs above Spotty and a $500 Savings Bond, apparently part of the award, is visible to its right.  However, I think that the Lassie medal may be the larger one in the open case in front of Spotty’s coffin.

I searched for a list of recipients of the Lassie Gold Award, but I have been unable to find one.  One 1964 newspaper article I found noted that by 1964 more than 200 dogs had received it.  The award seems to have continued into the 1970s.

So who was Spotty?  I may have found him, but let me know whether you think I’m right and if you have more information.  Here is the heroic Spotty that I found.

Spotty crop copy

This is an image of Spotty nursing a head injury after saving his owner, Vivian Piorcharz, from a pair of robbers. Circulated  by the United Press as a human interest piece, this one was published in the 21 March 1958 edition of a local newspaper in Harlingen, Texas.   Returning to the original photo and using a  magnifying glass, I think that I make out her name on the Lassie medal.  Also, there are mounted clippings just visible to the left and right of the coffin.

So what happened to Spotty?  If this is he, the faithful dog didn’t survive long after his heroic deed. Perhaps he died from a head injury.  The white markings on the face of the corpse don’t exactly match the photograph, but perhaps Spotty’s body was dolled up a little.

I’ll keep looking for more information.  Don’t hesitate to let me know if you can fill out more of the story!

 

 

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Filed under Dog hero, dogs, material culture, memorial photography, pets

Doghouses: Daily Life for Dogs in the Past

Doghouses were once a common sight in the back yards of American households. Well into the 20th century, family dogs often spent their nights outdoors,  and quite a few dogs seem to have lived outside all of their lives.  Don’t assume that this meant that people did not love their dogs, or that outdoor dogs weren’t pets.  There are many reasons that dogs lived in separate houses. For instance, watch dogs were important for many households;  often, a barking dog was the only burglar alarm available.   Especially during the warm months, flea infestations were so hard to control that the best way to limit household infestations was to keep dogs outside.  (I’ll be doing another post on flea control later this summer.)  If a family had a stable or barn, dogs often slept there and did not have a doghouse.

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Advertising trade card for Charles Hall, Springfield, MA, undated (1870s). Chromolithograph, published unknown.  This image was purchased as a “blank,” and Charles Hall, who started his business in the early 1870s, added the store information, probably using a local printer.

A few doghouses from the nineteenth century survive;  there is a charming one in the collection of the John Quincy Adams house.  But most are long gone.  However, lots of images of doghouses, in a variety of media, show use what they looked like and  how they were furnished and used.  This trade card, from the 1870s, depicts a mother dog with her pups receiving a pan of milk from two children.  It’s a plain, unpainted structure with a peaked roof.  It looks like it may have a floor, too, and the adult dog lies on bedding of straw.

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Advertising trade card for W. Winslow, Peabody, MA, no date (1870s or 1880s).  Lithograph, Gies & Co, Buffalo, New York (c. 1871 – c. 1922).   This is another blank with the store information added later.

The trade card above, from around 1880, shows a doghouse that has been fashioned from a barrel.  In this domestic scene, the mother terrier has brought a rat to her puppies and seems to be instructing them on their duty as terriers to hunt and kill rodents.

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Advertising trade card for Prescott’s Universal Stove Polish, J. L. Prescott & Co., Berwick, Maine, undated.  Chromolithograph, publisher unknown. This card was distributed widely, and many copies survive.

Here’s another trade card image that shows an improvised doghouse made from a barrel steadied with bricks to keep it from rolling.  The adult dog is absent, but a collar and chain lies in front of the barrel, as does a pan containing a large bone.  Frances Butler, the author of Breeding, Training, Management, Diseases, Etc. of Dogs (first edition 1857), advised his readers, “If you are in the habit of keeping your dog on a chain, let him at least run a few minutes every day.” Perhaps that is what is happening here.

Postcard doghouse 1907

“Beware of the Dog,” commercial photographic postcard.  Coryright 1907, Robert McCrum. Published by Bamforth & Co, New York, New York. This card was one of several comic photographic postcards  by Robert McCrum thar featured dogs.

Another crudely constructed doghouse from the early 20th century is depicted in this comic postcard from 1907. It shows a bewildered puppy chained to a doghouse that is raised on improvised legs nailed to the exterior and has an open roof line for ventilation.  The dirt yard suggests that this doghouse is in a city backyard or alley — not a great place to keep a dog, but a location where many city dogs lived.

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Two dogs, a cat and a doghouse.  Real photo postcard, photographer unknown.  Sent from Pleasant Lake, MA, on 16 June 1908 to Phoebe Cahoon of Sandwich, MA.

Advice books about dog keeping often included plans for making a good doghouse, but nothing I have seen looks remotely like this improvised structure.  Set well off the ground, it is covered with what were probably leftover shingles.  With its small entrance, it was probably cozy in winter, especially if two dogs slept in it.  Again, we see the straw bedding in the doorway.  Notice the cat keeping company with the two spaniels here.

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Plan for the “Vero Shaw model kennel,” published in William A. Bruette, Amateur’s Dog Book: A Treatise on the Management, Training and Diseases of Dogs. New York: Field & Stream Publishing Company, New York, New York, 1906.  My copy of this little book, which is only 4 1/2 by 6 3/4 inches, is inscribed “From Foley Dog Supplies, Inc. 119 So. 19th St. Phila. Pa”

Finally, here’s a plan for an improved dog house, published in a small paperback titled Amateur’s Dog Book, which was published in 1906.  Called the “Vero Shaw model kennel.”  It could be taken apart to enable thorough cleaning and had a bench front that allowed its occupant to “rest and enjoy the air.”   Notice the trim on the peak of the roof and the glass window!  This doghouse was intended to be a significant little outbuilding, an asset to the yard it occupied.

As a side note, Vero Kemball Shaw (1851-1921) was a British peer (I haven’t figured out his title yet) who was apparently active in the British dog fancy.  He published The Illustrated Book of the Dog (Cassell, Peter, Galpin & Co) in 1881.  The book featured beautiful chromolithographs of purebred dogs, and the images have often been pulled out of the book and sold for framing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under doghouses, dogs, material culture, pets, real photo postcard