Sometimes I get especially lucky in my low-budget search for ephemera relating to the history of pet keeping in the United States. This little brochure, which was published before 1963 when postal ZIP codes were instituted, is a treasure. I date it to the mid- to-late 1950s, when every suburban neighborhood, with its complement of stay-at-home moms, hosted a Cub Scout troop. My own mother was a so-called “den mother” for a while. I, being a few years older then my creepy little brother’s Cub Scout buddies, viewed the troop meetings with contempt.
That said, I would have been more enthusiastic if my mother had gotten her hands on this brochure and decided to hold a pet show!
This brochure is a fold-out, so there is some repetition in my scans. You can read the text on your own, but I want to call your attention to the cartoons of pet animals across the bottom of the panels. Chickens,a frog, a duck, a snake, a pig and even a pet skunk (I’ve written about their popularity in an earlier post) join the expected cats and dogs, turtle and bunnies.
Below, on the back cover and inside back is a list of the suggested classes, which includes “Pet that most closely resembles its master” and “Noisiest pet (booby prize). The Boy Scouts also offered a list of pet show props, including ribbons and posters. The text advises, “Every boy should take something home from the show,” offering consolation prize buttons as well as ribbons for the winners. Throughout the text, the Boy Scouts of America make clear that promoting scouting is an important subtext for the event.
I think that this brochure is just the tip of the pet show “iceberg.” Did the Brownies or Girl Scouts promote pet shows, too? I’ll look for more material and write about it in future posts. And let me know if you participated in a pet show as a child.