Meet Richard Goodwin, Dog Specialist. This is a face that looks like its owner has been around and seen a few things….stylish fedora and bow tie aside.
I purchased this small book (it’s only 5 inches by 4 inches in size) a while ago, and over the holidays I began to look into the story of Richard Goodwin, whose photograph suggests that he was what might be termed a “character.” What I’ve discovered so far says says something about the improvisational nature of much of the nascent pet industry, but it’s also an entertaining — if incomplete — story of an opportunistic guy who clearly worked on the far edges of show business and had enough talent for self-promotion.
Richard Goodwin left a thin, but intriguing, trail of newspaper articles and advertisements from his apparent arrival in Los Angeles in 1915 until his death in 1931. He first appears in the 16 April 1916 issue of the Los Angeles Times, in an article titled “How to Treat Animals:”
Richard Goodwin, whose four trained dogs have been features on the streets of Los Angeles for months past, as they carry advertising costumes, pipes in their mouths, etc. spoke before the Loreto-street school Friday on “Proper Care and Treatment of Animals.”
The talk, which included dog tricks (not the usual kindness-to-animals public lecture, this) was by invitation of the Parent-Teacher association, which also “requested” that Goodwin speak at other schools and “in the orphanages.” The images below, from the 1928 booklet, suggest what both passersby and the audience for this talk saw.
One of the dogs, “His Master’s Choice,” was featured in a 13 January 1918 Los Angeles Times article under the headline “Dog Helps to Sell the War Savings Stamps.” The dog, whose name was actually Spike, wore a signboard. Goodwin made at least some of his living from the “world’s champion advertising dog,” but was donating his services to the war stamps sales effort.
“The Nation’s Pride” and “His Master’s Choice” were either Boston terriers or a related cross. In 1917, Goodwin began to run periodic ads for stud services from purebred Boston terriers with the address 1668 W. Washington Street, a relatively new residential neighborhood in the 1910s (now a poor, predominantly Latino neighborhood in central Los Angeles). From this kennel, Goodwin apparently also did dog doctoring, and he got his hand slapped for this. In 1919, the Society of Veterinarians of Southern California filed a complaint against Goodwin for “practicing veterinary medicine without a license,” and he was fined $60 after pleading guilty (“Veterinary Practice,” Los Angeles Herald 9 April 1919, p. 17).
This temporary setback did not prevent Richard Goodwin from developing and publicizing his business. In December 1919, he donated a “$1000 Puppy,” which looks like another Boston terrier in the blurry online newspaper photograph, to the Police Relief Association auction. An advertisement in the Automobile Club of Southern California’s driving guide Spanish California and the Gold Rush offers a sense of the scope “Richard Goodwin’s Sanitary Kennels” and the ambitions of their owner: “Dogs Trained, Boarded and Treated.” “Three Expert Veterinarians in Attendance.” “High School for Dogs.” The idea of a “sanitary kennel” was important to well-informed dog owners at this time: there was still no remedy for distemper, for example, and advice books of the era are universal in recommending cleanliness as especially important to successful rearing of puppies.
A scattering of classified advertisements track Richard Goodwin’s Sanitary Kennels through the mid-1920s, but none of these mention the line of remedies that are promoted in little book and I have been unable to learn anything more about this period. Things start to change in 1927, however, when yet another small advertisement in the L.A. Times urges readers to send for “Richard Goodwin’s Dog Book.” And this is when things start to get especially interesting, as the book’s text and illustrations suggest.
I’ll offer Part II of Richard Goodwin’s story as my next blog post.