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!)
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.