Monthly Archives: January 2018

Winter’s here! Vintage Dog Booties from New York City and Hollywood

I have a small collection of vintage dog clothing, and I recently returned to it to see if I could learn more about the makers and the circumstances that inspired them to offer these novelties for American dog owners.  I’m especially fond of several pairs of dog booties, so let’s take a closer look at these.

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Pedigree Dog Bootees.  U.S. Specialties Co., New York, New York.  Probably 1940s.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the material of these little boots.  They aren’t made of a woven material, so I finally came to the conclusion that they are  cut from some kind of early plastic sheet, or a sheet impregnated with a plastic, that has become hard and brittle over time.  The bottoms are made of a different plastic that is shiny, black and imprinted with an “alligator scale” design.  It too has become stiff and brittle.  Even in their original condition, they probably didn’t conform completely to the dog’s foot, and they had to be laced on, which must have been inconvenient.  This pair didn’t see much, if any, use.  There is no documentation that they were made elsewhere, so I’m assuming that they were made in this country for U.S. Specialties Co., which distributed a wide array of pet supplies in the 1940s and 1950s.

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Original box for the Pedigree Dog Bootees.

So I looked around to see if I could find some kind of pattern or patent for these odd little boots, and I found a very similar design.  David Richman of New York, New York, received the patent in 1936 for a “dog boot or galosh” that was supposed to be made of an unspecified “flexible waterproof sheet material.”  Richman wrote, “It is thus possible to protect the animals from adverse weather conditions and to keep their feet clean so that they do not soil articles of furniture in the home when entering from the street.” Richman’s design has a single snap fastener at the top.

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Although David Richman’s dog booties look stiff and uncomfortable in the drawing, I have seen pictures of old leather booties used to protect the feet of sled dogs (sorry that I do not have a good one for this), and there are quite a few similarities in the design — except that the sled dog boots, because they are leather, with rawhide laces, seem to have been soft, conforming to the paw.  Richman’s justification for his patent design is interesting because it is very much directed to house dogs.  And the box for these booties suggests that the dogs who wore them were riding in cars and living indoors.  Further, in the 1940s, city dogs’ feet were exposed to a new material for making sidewalks and roads less slippery —  rock salt.  According to the National Geographic, Detroit was the first city to supply rock salt to its roads, in 1940.

The pair of dog boots below represent a couple of breakthroughs in the protection of little dog feet.  Many pairs of these, made by Hollywood Dog Togs, survive “out there” on sites like eBay.  This suggests that they were popular, but that some owners found them too troublesome to use.

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Hollywood Dog Togs, Inc., was incorporated in California in 1958 and existed until 1983.  It had been in operation by 1944, founded by Anne Ardmore and her husband Albert.  Mrs. Ardmore designed and sewed dog clothing. There is another interesting story here about the new enthusiasm for “fashionable” clothing for small pet dogs, and I will share it a separate post about the company Hollywood Dog Togs.

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Four little soft booties with their black elastic straps.

The boots are still soft and pliable, although the elastic straps have lost much of their stretch.  They were sized — mine are extra-small — and the box side below includes a nice picture of a happy pooch strapped into his boots.

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I was even able to locate some information about the material of these boots.  On 5 January 1958, the Miami Daily News-Record of Miami, Oklahoma, published a column called “Tire Talk from B.F. Goodrich” that discussed them specifically.

This unusual new product protects dog’s paws….The smart-looking boots slip on easily and comfort is insured by an adjustable ankle strap fastener….Marketed by Anne Ardmore’s Hollywood Dog Togs of Sherman Oaks, Calif., the  boots are molded from geon vinyl resins supplied by B.F. Goodrich Chemical Co.”

So both these little pairs of boots were part of the plastics revolution, although only the vinyl resin in the Hollywood Dog Togs boots has held up over time.

As people use more and more salt on their sidewalks and streets, dogs need foot protection more than ever. Does your dog wear winter boots?

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Filed under animal-human interaction, dog advertising, dog boots, dog clothing, dogs, pet supplies and equipment, pets

Vo Toys Catnip Leaves: “Makes Cats Playful”

This almost empty envelope for Vo Toys Catnip probably dates from the 1940s.  I have written before (16 October 2014) about the invention of the catnip mouse in the 1910s. When a household had an herb garden, catnip or catmint was a valued traditional medicinal herb used to soothe digestive upsets.  But people knew that cats were susceptible to its active ingredient, which we now call nepetalactone.   Loose catnip was sold in drugstores in the past; it is still sold in health food stores in bulk and in teabags as a tummy soother. (It works, too.) Around 1900, some companies that made over-the-counter veterinary remedies began to sell catnip for cats as a “tonic.”  Pet shops began to include catnip and cat toys in their stock, although  the real take-off point for cat products is the 1940s and 1950s, the era of this packet. (See my post of 26 December 2017, on the mail-order catalog from Felix’s General Store and the Katnip Tree Company of Seattle, Washington.)

For folks who no longer had access to fresh catnip, packets like this, sold in pet stores and five-and-ten pet departments, could be used to “recharge” the wooden and rubber balls with stoppers that were sold as cat toys, or rubbed on one of the new scratching posts offered for sale beginning in the 1930s.  A pinch of catnip could also be administered directly to the willing subject, of course.

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Vo Toys Catnip packet, 1940s.

Vo Toys (now Vo-Toys, Inc. ) was founded in 1939 and is still around as a distributor of pet products including, of course, catnip toys for today’s feline consumers.

But the main reason that I’m sharing this now is, I just REALLY like the design on the front of the packet!  Especially the red cat lounging across the word “catnip” while his companions play with catnip leaves.

 

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Filed under cat products, catnip, cats, material culture, pet history, pet industry, pet stores, pet supplies and equipment, pet toys, pets

Radio Orphan Annie’s Book About Dogs, 1936

My mother, who was a child during the Depression, recalls the radio program “Little Orphan Annie” with pleasure.  A serial directed to children, it featured the comic-strip  characters, who first appeared in 1924, although the plots of the show didn’t follow the stories, or include all the characters, of the print version.  The national broadcast was sponsored by the Wander Company, makers of Ovaltine, a powder that was added to milk to make it more nutritious — and delicious — to children.  (Ovaltine was first marketed as a food supplement for invalids.)

Beginning in 1925, the year after the comic strip first appeared, Annie acquired a sidekick, a mixed breed dog that she named Sandy.  Sandy was drawn so that he looked like he was least partly an Airedale terrier, a popular breed in the 1920s and 1930s.  He also had a very happy dog smile and the same round, empty eyes as his young mistress.  Unlike Buster Brown’s dog Tige, however, Sandy was no comedian, nor did he share his observations on life through thought balloons.  He was a hero, however, who saved Annie from various dangers.

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Front cover, Radio Orphan Annie’s Book of Dogs, showing Annie and her pal Sandy.  The Wander Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1936.

I had no idea that the radio show had spawned a booklet about training dogs.  When I saw this one in an online auction, I bid but assumed that collectors of Little Orphan Annie memorabilia would drive the price past my tiny collecting budget.  I was surprised when I won it.  And the booklet came with its original mailing envelope! The little girl who ordered the book carefully filled in her personal information on the back cover.

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Back cover of Radio Orphan Annie’s Book of Dogs.

 

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Inside front cover and first page.

Inside the front cover, Annie introduced Sandy, a “real All-American dog,” who “has about the best of every kind of dog in him.”

The booklet contained care and training advice by Michael von Motzeck, proprietor of the V. and M. Training Kennels of Chicago, Illinois (the city where the radio show originated).   Von Motzeck offered advice that was still relatively progressive at the time.  For example, he was a proponent of the folded newspaper as the only method for punishment and advised that patience, petting and praise were the true keys to training.

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Advice on dog care by Michael Von Motzeck.

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Instruction on teaching tricks.

The instructions for teaching dogs tricks showed boys interacting with their pets rather than adults.  Even though the booklet was a gift from Little Orphan Annie, girls were neglected as potential dog trainers. The advice on care and training was followed by information on 29 breeds punctuated with attractive small drawings, mostly of the characters in the radio show.  Below, in the page on Airedales, Annie and Sandy look on while Annie’s friend Joe Corntassel builds a dog house, presumably for Sandy.

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Advice on caring for dogs and a profile of the Airedale terrier.

Returning to von Motzeck, I discovered that he is another of these interesting characters who made some kind of living as a trainer, dog dealer, and kennel proprietor in the 1920s and 1930s.  (I wrote about another of these fellows, a Los Angeles go-getter named Richard Goodwin, in my 6 March 2017 post.)  Classified ads for von Motzeck’s V. &. M. training and boarding kennel appear in the Chicago Tribune in August of 1936.  He offered to train dogs for “obedience, protection and stagework” and listed “Dobermans, Airedales and Other Breeds”  for sale.  How the good people of the Wander Company found him is a mystery, but it is possible that someone attended von Motzeck’s demonstration of dog obedience at the Pedigree Shop of the Marshall Fields Department Store later that year.   It featured his champion Doberman-Pinscher “Major Von Motzeck.”

By 1939, Michael von Motzeck was featured in magazine advertisements for Red Heart Dog Food, offered by Chicago packing house John Morrell & Company.  (His dogs always ate Red Heart, of course.) That year he also appeared in a long article titled “How Smart is Your Dog?” in Popular Mechanics, the Bible of Depression-era do-it-yourselfers.  And finally, in 1945, von Motzeck’s dogs were featured in Life Magazine;  he had trained a dachshund named Sascha to be the seeing-eye for a blind collie from his kennel and was considering training more service dogs for disabled dogs!

 

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Noble Pugs of San Francisco Visit Famous Photographer I.W. Taber’s Studio

One day, probably in the 1880s, the owner or owners of these three noble beasts gathered them up for an outing to downtown San Francisco.  At the corner of Montgomery and Market Streets, the three dogs and their people may have entered an elevator that carried them to the famous photography studios of Isaiah West Taber (1830-1912), a photographer noted for his portraits of famous Californians and his large series of stereo views of his adopted state.

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Three noble pugs, owner unknown.  Cabinet card,  W. Taber & Co; Photographic Parlors, San Francisco, probably 1880s.  The image is an albumen print and has toned to this brown color over time.  On the body of the pug on the left, here is a scrape through the emulsion layer.

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Taber Photographic Parlors, 8 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, 1884 (?). Detail of advertisement, source unknown.  Courtesy California State Library.

The pugs probably passed through, or even waited in, a parlor like the one depicted in the image below — or perhaps even this one. Successful city photographers in this period often created elaborately decorated parlors — versions of parlors in the houses of well-to-do people — to attract clients.  In research I did for a book on Victorian parlors, I discovered that these rooms were not only a marketing tool, they also allowed waiting customers to imagine themselves as refined, cultivated people. I don’t think that the noble pugs cared about anything in the parlor depicted below;  still, they may have enjoyed the warmth of the wall-to-wall carpet on their little pug toes!

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Advertising cabinet photograph for Taber “Photographic Parlors,” ca. 1880.  Courtesy California State Library.

The studio where the noble pugs posed probably contained a number of different theatrical-style props — backdrops of architecture or natural scenery, drape-y curtains, posing chairs and carpets.  But the unknown photographer (I.W. Taber had a staff) who captured this image chose a setting of papier-mache rocks with an evident seam where two pieces were joined together.  Excelsior!  The detail below, which I have edited a bit to improve contrast, demonstrates that the pugs were not concerned about holding still for the camera.

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Verso of the original photograph.  The array of portrait work undertaken by I. W. Taber & Co.  was wide-ranging.

I’ve published quite a few studio portraits of dogs in this blog, and there will be more in future posts, but this is one of my very favorites.  As I go through my own smallish collection of nineteenth-century pet portraiture, I find that pugs are over-represented.  I’m not sure whether this is because they were especially treasured companion dogs, hence more likely to be taken to the studio for a portrait, or whether it is because they were a relatively new introduction to the array of dog breeds found in the United States in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  I’ll write about the fad for pugs in a future post.

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