Monthly Archives: March 2017

Bulldog humor: trade card commentary on watchdogs in city life

Advertising trade cards, the little slips of paper that businesses handed out to promote their products, are rich (and under-used) sources for studying animal-human relationships in the late nineteenth century.  Tens of thousands of Victorian trade cards survive because they were meant to be kept.  Many were pasted into scrapbooks, but “metamorphic” trade cards like this one were little comic books before the comic book was invented.  They probably survived because they got shut into drawers or boxes and forgotten.   The wear on the folds suggests that this particular example was unfolded multiple times, suggesting that it was viewed repeatedly.

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Comic trade card for Hold Fast chewing tobacco, Weissinger & Bate, Louisville, Kentucky.  Chromolithograph published by Culver, Page, Hoyne & Co., Chicago, between 1870 and 1883.  This is what is called a “metamorphic” trade card because it unfolds to tell a story, usually a comic tale. It is only about three inches in height.

The card  tells the story of an unfortunate thief who takes advantage of the dozing woman minding an outdoor booth selling “Hold Fast” chewing tobacco.  He’s poor, just a barefoot youth, and his works (“I’ll be after taking a plug of HOLD FAST”) suggest that the figure is supposed to be an Irish immigrant.  But he is foiled by a bulldog named “Tige,” short for Tiger.

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First foldout, comic trade card for Hold Fast chewing tobacco.

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Buster Brown and Tige “rebus” (puzzle) valentine postcard.  Chromolithograph, Raphael Tuck & Co, publishers. Mailed from Williamsport, PA, 11 February 1908.

This is the same name given in 1902 to comic character Buster Brown’s pit bull-type dog, seen in the postcard above. Buster Brown’s bulldog Tige looks a little scary with his round eyes, wide mouth and array of teeth, but he was a a friendly boy’s pet — and he could talk, at least to Buster and the reader.  The Hold  Fast trade card’s “Tige” is a homely brute who means business. “By faith the dog was awake,” cries the thief while the woman yells “Sick him Tige.”

In the fully open card, the policeman, seen in the distance in the second view, has the thief by the ear while Tige has his leg — and the woman has Tige by the tail (an unintended visual pun, I think) and cries “Hold fast.”  “Hold-Fast” was both an order and a traditional name for bulldogs, reflecting their instinct to bite down and hold on to a bull’s nose or another fighting dog to the death.  (Don’t ask me how I know this — I will have to root around in old note cards for hours.  I know a note about bulldog naming is in a folder somewhere.)  This may suggest something about the attributes of Hold Fast chewing tobacco, which was first sold in 1878.

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Second foldout, comic trade card for Hold Fast tobacco.

The back center panel for the unfolded card offers another interpretation of “Hold Fast,” a tug-of-war between a child and the family dog over a doll, while the cat looks on from a chair back.  This dog is a terrier, another popular dog type in Victorian America.  Terriers were regarded as good family pets, but they were also esteemed as rodent-killers.

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Back panel, trade card for Hold Fast chewing tobacco.

Watch dogs like the Hold Fast seller’s Tige were common denizens of city life, and both families and businesses relied on them as four-legged security systems. Bulldogs, the ancestors of the pit bull and other bully breeds today, were the most popular types for this purpose because of their reputation for being protective and fearless.  They are often depicted as chained to a doghouse in a fenced back yard or alley.  Further, the idea that they would attack and bite trespassers was wholly acceptable, and even the source of humor.  Notice that this bulldog is wearing a spiked collar and has dragged the doghouse behind him.

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“The Dog I Left Behind Me.” Comic trade card, lithograph, printer unknown, probably 1870s. This card was sold widely as a blank, and businesses added their names to the bottom.  The caption refers to a popular folk song, “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”

Humor about bully-breed watchdogs sometimes took strange turns. Some humorous cards survive showing innocently naughty boys dealing with savage-looking watchdogs as big as they are.  The card on the left, below, is one of these.  The dog’s eyes are deeply unsettling!

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Comic trade card, lithographs, around 1880.  Grauer & Almstedt, St. Louis.  In 1883, the company advertised that it sold chromolithographed trade cards in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch classified ads.

Americans liked bulldogs  — they certainly kept a lot of them, in a variety of shapes and sizes — but they were also afraid of them.  This was not without reason in the case of urban watch dogs.  In the case of the Hold Fast card, the bulldog was the secret weapon in a comic story about crime among the poor.  Yet the other images suggest other ways that people found humor in the discomfort that a large bully-type watchdog could create. This is a trade card that I reproduced in another post, on pet photography, but it encapsulates the tension nicely — and the drawing is still funny today.

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“Photographing the Prize Bull Dog.” Trade card for Pan Cake Flour. Lithograph, probably 1870s. Artist and printer unknown.

 

 

 

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Richard Goodwin, Dog Specialist, Part III: Mrs. Goodwin and Business Promotion in 1920s L. A.

Richard Goodwin, Los Angeles dog specialist, was the son of Irish immigrants and born in Massachusetts, according to the 1930 United States Census. While he could read and write, he had never attended school.  His dwelling and the site of his kennel, on West Washington Street was rented rather than owned, and only worth $100. His immediate neighbors included a dentist, shipping clerks, carpenters, truck drivers and hotel doormen.  Like Goodwin, none of them were native Californians, and a few had been born in Mexico.

Yet Goodwin made at least some of his income from the array of silent-film starlets, theatrical bookers, radio announcers and others who earned respectable, if not munificent, livings on the margins of  L. A. show business.  From his start with “advertising dogs” on the streets in the 1910s, Goodwin used his connections to create a business breeding, training and caring for their dogs. I have not been able to find any evidence of Goodwin as a dog trainer for silent films, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t have a hand in there.  On January 11, 1929, an article in the Los Angeles Times reporting on the poor health of the Fire  Department’s mascot  Lord Byron assured readers that the bulldog was “receiving personal attention from Richard Goodwin, dog expert who cares for the health of the famous dogs of stage and screen.”

Richard Goodwin’s efforts to make his mark had already gotten him in trouble in 1919, when he was fined for practicing veterinary medicine without a license.  He didn’t give up, however.  Along with his breeding kennel and his proprietary remedies,  Goodwin also tried to make a mark by introducing another service to security-conscious dog owners:  canine nose prints as a way of tracking stolen dogs.  Here is Richard Goodwin taking a nose print of his Boston terrier Sharkey.pets-blog-7-jan-2017-goodwin_0003

In the 1920s, cattle breeders experimented with taking nose prints, and at least one Los Angeles veterinarian, a Dr. Clark (who I have been unable to trace further for the time being), promoted the idea of a nose-print “bureau” for dogs in 1923.

However, Richard Goodwin had another asset in his quest for success: Louise Goodwin. According to the same 1930 census manuscript, Louise E. Goodwin was a bookkeeper, twenty-three years younger than her husband.  By then Louise, who had been born in Maryland, and Richard had been married for eight years. This photo from Richard Goodwin’s Dog and Cat Book suggests what an asset she was to the operation, with her crimped hair and fashionable dress, and her arm around a chow dog who had recovered from mange.

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It is difficult to tell for certain, but Mrs. Goodwin may be one of the dog “laundresses” depicted in six photographs in the collection of the Los Angeles Public Library.  From an anonymous photographer, the undated and otherwise unidentified images feature three young women in white laboratory-style coats printed with “Richard Goodwin Dog & Cat Remedies” washing a Boston terrier, fox terrier puppies and a glum-looking collie at the “Dog & Cat Laundry.”  Whether this is actually Goodwin’s establishment is unclear;  the set-up consists of improvised laundry tubs and a clothesline located next door to a building advertising Goodrich Tires.  I reproduce two of them here.

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Photograph of women washing dogs, no date.  Photographer unknown. Source: Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Library.

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Unidentified woman hanging puppies on clothesline, no date. Photographer unknown.  Source: Security Pacific National Bank Collection, Los Angeles Library.

Why were these photos made? I wonder whether they were taken around the time that Richard Goodwin published his booklet; perhaps they were intended to be placed as light features in local newspapers. I can imagine all kinds of scenarios, But without the lab coats and the hat, these would never have been associated with Richard Goodwin and their purpose remains unknown.

Richard Goodwin’s business seems to have ticked along — until his death at the end of April in 1931.  The Los Angeles Times published a short article on May 2, “Funeral Rites Today for Richard Goodwin.” He was locally famous enough to attract this final bit of attention. The article stated that his kennel had been in business since 1913, which is earlier than my research has been able to confirm but is congruent with the time that his advertising-sign dogs began to ply the city’s streets.  Sometime after that, the kennel seems to have closed.  In the 3 March 1935 issue of the  Los Angeles Times, a classified advertisement under “Business Opportunities” tolled the end of the Richard Goodwin story: “RICHARD GOODWIN Pet Medicines and Formulas is (sic) to be sold at once to close estate. $300 cash.” Poor Louise Goodwin. I hope that she and the remaining dogs were able to live in some comfort after the death of the enterprising dog specialist.

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Filed under advice literature on pets, dog training, dogs, patent medicines for pets, pet supplies and equipment, pets, veterinary history, veterinary medicine