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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
This is a fascinating post, Kasey. I bought booties for my dog Scout for the first time this winter. The musher’s wax that I use was no match for this year’s ice and snow. Her booties look like old fashioned monkey socks. 🐒
Correction: I meant to say no match for this year’s ice and salt.