I try to purchase paper items relating to early small-animal veterinary practices when they come my way. (Check out my post from July 2015 on the an early New York City animal hospital, based on a 1900 pamphlet that promoted the practice.) I was pleased to be able to purchase this group of snapshots of a veterinarian and his practice, all dated 1939. I’m still trying to figure out who Dr. Hyde is. I made the mistake of not quizzing the seller of these snapshots about the source, and I will try to contact him as time permits. If I learn more, I’ll revise this post.
The office appears to be in a residential neighborhood, and it looks like a converted two-car garage.
The operating/examination room is very simple, but it follows the ideas about small-animal practice that took hold in the 1920s, when many large-animal vets in cities and towns reoriented their practices toward the care of pets. It has a white enamel sink on the left side and the operating table has a white enamel surface. There’s a locker, perhaps for supplies, beyond the sink and a cabinet of medicines on the upper right.
And here is Dr. Hyde with either his own dog or one of his patients, who looks serious — perhaps at the prospect of getting a vaccination. Dr. Hyde has his arm around the little fellow and they both look into the camera, like a studio photograph of a man and his dog.
I’m only sorry that there was apparently no photo of the waiting room. I’d like to see whether Dr. Hyde followed the advice of the American Animal Hospital Association (founded in 1933) to create an office environment that paralleled that of the family physician.
If you know anything about Dr. Hyde, please share it with us! I’d be happy to credit you as co-author of this post.
Lots of children kept rabbits as pets in the 1800s and early 1900s. The child’s plate below, which dates from the 1830s, shows a girl caring for her “favourite rabbits.” (I have been searching for the source of the verse on this plate; any leads will be much appreciated and fully credited!)
Children’s plate. Creamware with transfer and enamel designs, 1825-1850. Maker unknown.
I’m not completely sure why, but rabbits were regarded as perfect pets for children, perhaps because they could be kept outdoors in hutches; were gentle (although my rabbit-owning friends will tell you that they can and do bite); were relatively tolerant of over-enthusiastic handling; and multiplied quickly, offering replacements for casualties. They could also be eaten, although many Americans seem to have been losing their taste for roasted or stewed rabbit by the time this card was sent in 1916. While I can’t identify them for certain, Buster’s bunnies are probably “Rex” rabbits, a larger breed kept as both pets and meat animals.
Play with pet rabbits could become quite elaborate. My book Pets in America offers a detailed account of the “Bunny States of America,” a pretend-play world of pet rabbits, chickens and other animals enjoyed by the children who lived at the house Cherry Hill in Albany, New York about a decade before Buster wrote this postcard to his friend John.
While I can’t say this for certain, I think that Buster was also the amateur photographer here, with access to a simple box camera and, I presume, the ability to print his negatives on postcard blanks. Since he was studying geometry, he was probably a young teenager in 1916. I also like the set-up for this photo shoot. The “Friends” at the top were photographed on a tapestry carpet dragged outdoors for the purpose. Commercial postcards that featured photography of pet animals sometimes included set-ups like this, where several animals were depicted together. The handsome rabbit in the image below seems to be sunning him or herself on a worn tablecloth.
Service Animal and Pete Relief Area, Philadelphia International Airport. Photograph by the author, 24 March 2017
Trudging along in the Philadelphia International Airport, I came across this extraordinary example of the material culture of modern pet keeping. I noticed a small dog and his owner, who was also toting a nylon carrier, and they drew my eye to this comfort station. Most of the two million animals transported by the airlines must travel in the hold (a situation that has led to a number of tragedies and a lot of bad publicity for the airlines that, in the past, have operated been in violation of the Animal Welfare Act. However, small animals and service animals now must be accommodated in the passenger compartment. With security regulations preventing canine passengers accessing the exterior of terminals as impromptu dog potties, airports are now apparently creating these public restrooms for dogs.
One of the design elements that is so interesting about this is the survival of the fire hydrant as a vertical surface for the use of male dogs. This one is made out of cast plastic, but it is full size and the regulation red. This has been a standing joke in humor about city dogs for at least 100 years.
If you would like to share images of other airport canine comfort stations, let me know; I’ll be happy to post them. And if you have had experience with getting your dog to use one of these, I’ll share the stories, too. Kudos to PHL for taking care of our canine companions. Now I’m waiting for a public litter box for our flying feline friends.