Category Archives: advice literature on pets

Lion Coffee and “How to Care for Domestic Pets”: The Goldfish

It’s a busy time of year, and I’m very behind in my blog posts — but here’s something for the fish lovers out there (including my friend Jacqui, fish enthusiast extraordinaire).  The Lion Coffee Company apparently put out a series of trade cards on ‘How to Care for Domestic Pets.”  Here’s the first I have been able to acquire, advice on keeping goldfish.  I’m guessing that it dates from around 1900.  The card itself  has seen better day — it was clearly handled a lot and has pencil scribbles on the back. I’d like to thing that a child handled it and enjoyed looking at the pictures.

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Trade card for Lion Coffee, no date (c. 1900).  Chromolithograph, printer unknown.  Probably United States.

This history of Lion Coffee comes from the website of the current roasters of Lion Coffee, who purchased the rights to the brand after it had been dormant for years.

Lion Coffee started in 1864 as a small company that offered pre-roasted beans at a time when many housewives purchased the green beans and had to do the roasting at home.   By the 1870s, the company sold its beans in one-pound bags with the lion’s head trademark that is still in use. In 1882, Alvin Woolson of the Woolson Spice Company purchased the company.  He was an aggressive anda creative marketer who made use of all the avenues available at the time, including the a premium program that offered prizes for wrappers.  The company also blanketed the U.S. with advertising trade cards, including paper dolls and other toys, which were probably given out at the point of sale.  Type in “Lion Coffee” on eBay, and you’ll be rewarded with hundreds of items, including some wonderful paper toys.

The images on this card are interesting because they are of “fancy” goldfish rather than the common carrasius auratus found in most fish globes or aquaria.  And the advice is of interest since it includes such home doctoring advice as giving an expiring fish “a tiny drop of brandy down its throat.”  I’m wondering what the source is for this text, since it feels like it was copied from an advice book on pets.  Goldfish Lion Coffee card back

At the time this card was published, people who wanted to keep fish only had a few options, including trying to keep small pond minnows in what was called a “balanced aquarium” of still water since small electric pumps did not yet exist.  Goldfish are so tolerant of poor water conditions that they were the most popular choice, however, and they were widely available in the shops of florists and the pet stores that that were beginning to thrive in larger towns and cities.  There was also a thriving mail-order trade in goldfish, about which more on another occasion.

 

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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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Atlas Obscura Tackles the Origins of the Bone-Shaped Dog Biscuit

Atlas Obscura, one of my favorite websites, occasionally publishes articles on dogs.  In this piece, from 30 June, Michael Waters reveals the origins of bone-shaped dog biscuits.

In 1907, organic chemist Carlton Ellis came up with the recipe for what became the “Milk-Bone,” a dog biscuit that was designed to use waste milk from cows sent to slaughter. Waters reports that at first the biscuits were square, and Ellis’ own dog rejected them.  He tried the same recipe, this time shaped like a little bone, and the dog ate it with enthusiasm.  Ellis always wondered whether the shape made the difference, but in any event, the biscuit that became the Milk-Bone was born.  Ellis sold the patent to the National Biscuit Company, an important early commercial bakery.

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I’m quoted in the article, talking about the diet that most dogs still enjoyed (or not) when the Milk-Bone was invented.  On April 4, 2016, I wrote a post about a behind-the-scenes tour of the Milk-Bone factory from this May-June 1938 issue of the National Biscuit Company’s NBC Magazine, which seems to have been directed to store managers and owners.  This is the cover image.  By then, Milk-Bones were regarded largely as dog treats, although the company still suggested that dogs could live off them alone.

Thank you, Atlas Obscura!

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Fleas and Other Itches, Part III: The Comb-A-Flea Atomizer, 1950

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Counter-top display, Comb-A-Flea atomizer, Comb-A-Flea Company, Seattle, Washington, between 1950 and 1952.

Flea season is back upon us, and pet owners everywhere are emptying their wallets for those expensive, but very effective, topical monthly treatments.  There is also a thriving online community of pet owners who share less expensive and chemical free approaches to managing fleas, from feeding dogs brewers yeast and garlic to spraying pets and their beds with solutions made from the herb pennyroyal.

I’ve written a couple of posts on “Fleas and Other Itches” (10 May 2014 and 5 October 2016).  These will give you background on the traditional use of flea combs, which I still use to check whether my pets are showing evidence of infestation despite my best efforts, and on the origins of commercial flea powders.

This entry focuses on the “Comb-A-Flea Atomizer,” a patented novelty that attempted combine the traditional flea comb with an atomizer that delivered powder close to the skin of the cat or dog.  My collection includes this unused counter-top display of ten Comb-A-Flea Atomizers. The comb head of each is carefully sealed in cellophane and contains a small instructional pamphlet.  The head of the comb is plastic; the bulb appears to be rubber and the material has become too stiff to squeeze.

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Detail, Comb-A-Flea atomizers in their display package.

The Comb-a-Flea Atomizer was patented in 1952 by John L. Sullivan, who assigned it to the Comb-A-Flea Company of Seattle, Washington.   Here is the drawing for his patent. The cutaway diagram shows how the powder was pushed up the neck of the comb when the pet owner squeezed the bulb.  Comb A Flea 2017-06-24 at 9.56.49 PM

It took almost three years between this application and the issuing of the patent, and around the same time, several other people also applied for patents for combs that dispensed flea powder.  Here is another patent drawing for an “Insecticide Comb-Applicator,” which was actually received two years before the Comb-A-Flea applicator.

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I have no idea why this kind of insecticide applicator became a topic of interest by more than one inventor, and so far I can find no evidence of contact among the inventors, or lawsuits about patent infringement.  This may just be one of those things — several minds facing the same problem and coming up with similar solutions.  One thing that almost certainly made the Comb-a-Flea possible is the proliferation of plastics after World War II.  Molding a hollow comb with a little hole at the base of each tooth was easy with plastics.

Each Comb-A-Flea came with an instruction pamphlet, and I was able to work one of them out without damaging the cellophane cover.

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Instructional brochure for Comb-A-Flea applicator. Front side, unfolded.

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Instructional brochure for Comb-A-Flea applicator, reverse side.

The Comb-A-Flea suggests a couple of interesting things to think about.  First, it is one example of the sudden increase in products for pet keepers in the two decades following World War II.  Examining magazines like All-Pets, which was aimed at pet-shop owners and wholesalers, suggests that small companies, perhaps associated with other post-war novelty businesses, pumped out many novelties intended to improve the experience of owning dogs, cats, parakeets and other creatures.   (I’ll discuss the novelties associated with the 1950s craze for keeping parakeets in another post.)  The Comb-A-Flea was intended to be convenient, a sales pitch used for many kinds of household goods at the time. This was because it combined grooming the animal AND treating it for flea, ticks and lice with one implement.  If you go back and read the instructions, however, you’ll see that the applicator wasn’t really any easier to use than a comb and a shaker of flea powder.  For one thing, the text suggests that it clearly had problems with clogging.

Second, the Comb-A-Flea did NOT make use of DDT, the toxic but ubiquitous insecticide that was introduced into many household products including flea powders. Pulvex, which made a line of over-the-counter remedies for dogs, introduced DDT into its flea powder as early as 1946.  The Comb-A-Flea powder contained Pyrethrins, Rotenone and Piperonyl, all of which had been around for a while and which are still in use in garden sprays and, in the case of a variant of Piperonyl, lice shampoos. Notice that the Comb-A-Flea brochure makes a point of assuring pet owners that the insecticidal powder is safe, and that it has been approved by veterinarians and dog breeders.

The Seattle-based Comb-A-Flea Company didn’t last long, and I haven’t yet been able to learn anything about it.  In 1951, the “Atomizing Comb-A-Flea” did appear in advertisements in a few East Coast newspapers;  here is a 1951 ad from Gimbel’s in Philadelphia. But the company seems to have been gone by 1953.

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Advertisement for Comb-A-Flea Atomizer, Philadelphia Inquirer 19 August 1951. The pet department of the Comb-A-Flea

The next innovation in flea control for pets, was the invention of the flea collar, a thick plastic strip impregnated with a flea-killing chemical.  I’ll discuss this, along with the use of DDT in flea powders, in a future post.  In the meantime, we might think about the balancing act in which we pet owners engage as we struggle between the desire for relief  (for both our animals and ourselves) from biting insects and the potential dangers  of prolonged intimate contact with potentially toxic chemicals.

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Dog repellents: suburban gardens, free-roaming dogs and Dogzoff

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“Dogzoff” repellant in an aerosol dispenser.  Bohlender Plant Chemicals. Inc.  Tippecanoe City, Ohio, ca. 1955.

Behold another of my unusual acquisitions — a 60-plus year old empty aerosol can!  Even as I work to de-clutter my own living spaces, I am grateful that so many Americans are such pack rats — or that they just can’t face that stuffed-full garage or basement workshop.  Their sloth is my gain — with a little help from flea markets, garage sales and online auction sites. ( Of course, my gain is also my ongoing storage problem….)

This can contained Dogzoff®, a popular repellent used by gardeners in towns and suburbs who wished to protect their prized shrubbery from blasts of dog urine.  The 1920s and 1930s were decades when the longstanding practice of letting dogs run free was challenged by changing attitudes toward the status of animals in towns.  These were the decades when family cows and backyard chickens were finally pushed out of many towns and cities by public health concerns, and wandering dogs and cats, but especially dogs, were also subject to renewed attention from the beefed-up ranks of animal-control officers — the dreaded dog-catchers. (1932 was the year that the Little Rascals films included one where Petey was nabbed by the dog catcher and almost “gassed” as an unwanted stray.)

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Back of Dogzoff aerosol can, circa 1955, showing the active ingredient, 2.75 per cent Oil of Mustard.

Dogzoff® repellent was the first marketed in 1933, and it appears in newspaper advertising all over the United States by the mid-1930s.  “DOGS — keep them away from shrubs and flowers — Dogzoff will do it,” promised an ad from Kadotani & Son, Florists in the 7 April 1935 edition of the Santa Cruz Sentinel.  The company that made and marketed Dogzoff, Bohlender Plant Chemicals, Inc., was an outgrowth of the nursery business started by Bavarian immigrant Peter Bohlender (1837-1914) and continued by his family.

Peter Bohlender is an interesting fellow.  His obituary in the Florists‘ Review says that he came from a “family of gardeners” that arrived in Ohio when he was only six, and that he started first nursery when he was quite young.  In 1889, he relocated his growing wholesale business to Tippecanoe City (now Tipp City), Ohio, just outside of Dayton.  According to the obituary, Bohlender had been an advocate for Arbor Day, and he was able to pass on his sizable business, which included nurseries and orchards in Oklahoma, Missouri and California, to four sons and a son-in-law. By 1912, Peter Bohlender & Sons had been rechristened Spring Hill Nurseries, the name it operates under today, and it had begun to shift its operations to mail-order rather than wholesale.  What, Where, When and How to Plant, a 1913 booklet written by son E. E. Bohlender, focused largely on suburban gardens with illustrations of large houses with spacious grounds, and included plans for long perennial borders, small domestic orchards, evergreen wind breaks and plantings of ornamental shade trees.

This is another context for the Bohlender family’s experiments with repellents, although I have not been able to find out more  about the decisions that led to the product.   Middle-class householders now enjoyed gardening as a leisure activity rather than a requirement for provisioning the family, and their ornamental plantings were apparently under assault by their neighbors’ dogs.  This June 20, 1931, letter to the editor of the Muncie Evening Press sums up the position of these avid gardeners:

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Dogzoff®, used mustard oil to irritate sensitive canine noses.  It was sold as a concentrate in a small bottle,  to be diluted and applied around the base of plantings using a hand-pump sprayer.   An instructional advertising flyer (below) pointed out that the solution also could be used to drive off rodents and keep cats away from birds (presumable nesting in the garden), but its primary use was to break dogs of “bad habits,” even away from the garden.  In the flyer, the repellent also cures dogs of dumping trashcans, chewing shoes and sitting on the porch furniture.

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Brochure for Dogzoff, interior spread, no date (1930s – 1940s).

Putting Dogzoff® into an aerosol can made it possible for an outraged gardener (or shoe lover) to reach for the product on impulse, and it also made more money for the firm since the product was premixed and sold only in 11-ounce cans.  Aerosol cans have a complex history, and you can click on the link to take advantage of Wikipedia’s thorough article on the subject For our purposes, the important thing to know is that the “crimp-on” valve was developed in 1949;  it made possible the creation of low-pressure aerosol cans for household use.  During the 1950s, a decade of innovation and expansion in the pet products industry, aerosol flea sprays and dog shampoos also appeared on garden center and pet store shelves.  (These novelties are a subject for a post in the future.)

Dogzoff® had a sister product Mosquitozoff®, about which little is known at present.  I theorize that both products relied upon the oil from mustard seeds, and I have found recent recommendations for the use of mustard oil in both “green” mosquito repellents and one element of garden sprays. Mustard oil has a number of traditional medicinal uses, too.  It is used in anti-inflammatory ointments; women in India use it as a tonic that stimulates hair growth.

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Advertisement for Dogzoff, Sedalia (MO) Democrat 1 May 1953.

What I’m struck by in the advertising for Dogzoff is how candid the text is about shooting dogs.  I also found this in a number of letters of complaint about dog damage to gardens.  I wonder how many of these gardeners actually carried out summary execution, or whether it was mostly a devout wish.

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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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Richard Goodwin, Dog Specialist, Part II

When Richard Goodwin published his book on the care of dogs and cats in 1927, he joined a group of small businessmen — druggists, dog breeders, old-time vets trained by apprenticeship and younger practitioners who attended the growing number of “veterinary colleges” — who made and bottled  their own over-the-counter medicines and remedies for pets.  They all left paper trails in the form of booklets distributed free to points of sale.  pets-blog-7-jan-2017-goodwin

A handful of these fellows —  veterinarian George Clayton of Chicago and the druggist Polk Miller of Richmond, Virginia, for example — published many editions of their advertising booklets; since the point-of-sale is often stamped in a space on the back cover, it’s possible to see where concerned dog owners obtained the remedies. These  texts suggest the presence of worried people dealing with an array of chronic problems — sarcoptic mange, worms, digestive diseases — and infectious diseases like distemper for which there were no effective vaccines.  As I have written elsewhere, most pet owners were their own veterinarians until the second half of the twentieth century.  “Tonics” and “blood builders” for dogs were also common offerings, reflecting the wide use of similar products for people and the uneven quality of the canine diet.  And the core products for any line of dog remedies were the flea powders that I’ve written about in other posts, along with kennel disinfectants using carbolic acid, an ingredient used to clean human sickrooms, too.

“From a Mangy Wreck to a Blue Ribbon Winner.”

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Richard Goodwin offered seven “preventatives” for the pet owner’s medicine chest;  their formulae are unknown, but practical wisdom among pet store owners, dog breeders and early vets probably included exchanging observations on what worked and what didn’t, just as it did among stablemen treating horses.

What sets this little booklet apart from the others is its use of southern California testimonials throughout, and the implication that Richard Goodwin had connections with the growing film industry. Excerpts of testimonial letters are often found in most advertising for dog remedies, but Goodwin doesn’t seem to be interested in a national market for his products.  Along with the story of Pal, above, readers saw proof of efficacy in photos of patients like Fritsie, below, with invitations to visit the recovered patient and actual street addresses for so doing.                           pets-blog-7-jan-2017-goodwin_0008

Goodwin also used Hollywood’s preoccupation with stardom, no matter how slight, as a promotional tool.  Phyllis Haber, one of Mac Sennett’s original Bathing Beauties (she worked steadily through the 20s and left the movies to marry a millionaire), got a full page glamour shot  along with her testimonial.

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Put together the practical tips such as how to make a homemade flannel coat for nursing a dog with a fever (below); the promotional bluster associated with Goodwin’s own trained “advertising dogs;” testimonials of Californians on the fringes of the growing film industry, and the photos of Goodwin himself as a practical “dog man” in a sharp suit, and you get a glimpse of a pretty interesting life.

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The 1920s was the decade of the new canine movie star, with Rin Tin Tin at the apex of public recognition.  Richard Goodwin doesn’t seem to have been able to capitalize on this directly — perhaps he was didn’t want to.  But there is some unusual evidence of his ongoing preoccupation with promotion.  And the inspiration for this may have been Mrs. Richard Goodwin, who was — as they say — a looker.

Stay tuned for the next exciting chapter….

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