Category Archives: animal humor

A Funny Postcard of Dogs Wearing Top Hats and Glasses Hitched to a Carriage — Really!

Once upon a time, the ultimate luxury in childhood play was having a small cart or wagon that could be pulled by a trained goat or the family dog. Shetland ponies were rare and rather expensive until the early 20th century.  This funny postcard, which may be Canadian, shows a boy with a very nice small carriage that was, in fact, probably intended for use with said ponies — but he is “driving” a pair of very funny dogs.  The little girl, who looks to be his sister, is pretending to use an old-fashioned spinning wheel.  Take a look at the detail below!

dogs pulling cart rppc Velox

Postcard of unidentified boy and girl with dogs pulling cart — wearing glasses and top hats. Velox postcard, possibly Canadian, about 1920.

dogs pulling cart detail

Detail of photograph above.

 

I think that these two long-legged dogs are siblings. And not only are they wearing top hats and eyeglasses, but they are holding clay pipes in their jaws!

I have no idea of the circumstances. I certainly wish that I had identities for these children and dogs!  In any case, this is just one more example of the humor and play that was, and is, often associated with pet keeping.

1 Comment

Filed under animal humor, animal-human interaction, attitudes toward dogs, dog training, dogs, pet history, pet humor, pet portraiture, pets, play with pets, real photo postcard, rppc

Victorian Pets in 3-D: Two Early Stereographs of Dogs

By the late 1860s, looking through a stereoscope (like the one below) at the striking three-dimensional images of historic places, world travel, current events, local scenes, and even comical stories was a common form of home entertainment.  (My undergraduate students always find this hard to imagine, until they are reminded gently that television, or even radio, was still a way off.) The first stereoscopes (the earliest was invented in 1838) were expensive and large, and the array of images available was rather small.  But after Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., a Boston physician, poet and amateur inventor, developed the handheld viewer in 1861, the world of stereoviews expanded dramatically.  The image below shows a late nineteenth-century stereoscope with the view in place.  The holder for the view could be slid back and forth to accommodate the user’s eyes.

Screenshot 2018-02-06 11.43.53

A handheld stereoscope of the late 19th century.  Thanks to the terrific blog That Belongs in a Museum!  for this image.

When you’ve looked at enough collections of stereoviews (there are many online although you don’t get to experience them in three dimensions), it is clear that photographers made pictures of anything that they thought might sell.  Take the one below, where a very handsome spaniel dog is depicted sitting in a gothic-style reception chair with his paw on a small, draped table.  He is wearing eyeglasses and a scarf and is holding a Meerschaum pipe in his mouth.  What a good dog!  Why he is posed across a river or canal from what seems to be a sawmill is a mystery, of course.  I am only showing you one side of the card so that you can see the view in more detail.  It’s an albumen print and has faded.

Pets Blog 30Apr2015_0006

“606. Coloring the Meerschaum.” D. (Deloss) Barnum, photographer. Cortland, New York. About 1870.

Deloss Barnum (no relation that I can find to Phineas T.) was an early practitioner of stereo photography.  Only 48 years old when he died in 1873, Barnum apparently had studios in New York City and Boston, but this view is labeled as being from his studio in Cortland, New York.  Barnum’s views of New York buildings and foreign scenery are represented in a lot of libraries, but I have not found a catalog entry for this humorous view.

Below is an interesting homemade stereoview, photographer unknown.  It doesn’t work well in a viewer; I believe that this is simply two prings from the same negative, put together on a card. The two images have faded differently, suggesting that they were processed at different times. The photograph is interesting because the woman’s head is cut off — it feels like a snapshot at a time when candid photography was very rare.

Dog amateur stereo Windsor VT

Homemade stereoview, photographer and location unknown. About 1880.

I guess that the image is from around 1880 on the basis of the cut of the woman’s bodice and skirt. She is wearing an apron and her sleeves are pushed up: she’s been working.  The dog is sitting on a kitchen chair, turned backwards to keep him from jumping down.  The woman may be holding him steady.  The image looks like it was taken by a back door, where houseplants are grouped for the summer.  I can imagine the hobbyist photographer trying to get the unwieldy camera —  on its tripod with its “wet plate” inserted carefully and the dark fabric hood in place so that the photographer could see the image through the lens — set up and the chair in place before luring the dog onto the chair.

I have some other stereoviews of pet animals, all posed in studios, which I’ll share in a future post.  Enjoy these two early ones!

Leave a comment

Filed under animal humor, attitudes toward dogs, dog photography, dogs, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets, stereoview

Dog Toys: Amusement from Two Points of View

gSw3aUAjbeXNQPrv0YPyJ6lmW9yXupw7em989VWWBeA

Lemony with her toy basket, 24 October 2017.  The bedraggled Horton, at her feet, is a favorite.

How many of you have a basket or bin (or just a pile) of these bedraggled objects:  the toy box for your dog(s)?

When I was a child, our first dog, Gussie the basset hound, had a much smaller collection of possessions including an old tennis ball, a well-chewed soup bone that was periodically replaced by my mother, and — her favorite — a smelly toy made from two worn-out sweat socks, one stuffed in the toe of the other and tied off with a knot.  The sock toy was good for both playing fetch indoors (no danger of breaking a lamp) and for games of tug.

Beginning in the early 1970s, our family dogs began to have a larger collection of toys, all purchased from pet stores.  Rubber squeaky toys were especially popular.  Our Lab/Golden Retriever mix, Jenny, had a very soft mouth, and she had one squeaky toy, a rubber peanut that had a  face like a cartoon “bandito” and wore a sombrero. We called the peanut Roy, after the friend who presented this treasure, and Jenny played with it until just before she died.  Roy is still somewhere in a drawer at my mother’s house; my father saved it along with Jenny’s collar.  If I can find it, I’ll put it into this post.

The cover of my book Pets in America: A History (the hardcover edition) features a photograph from the 1880s of a man getting ready to throw a ball for a dog who is absolutely rigid with anticipation.  The ball may be a baseball.  It is certainly not a ball made just for the dog.  I own a number of trade catalogs and photos that suggest the evolution of toys produced intentionally for the amusement of dogs.  Let’s look at some of them.

IMG_20171008_0003

Cover, Catalog of Dog Furnishings. Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc., New York City, 1937.

Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc. seems to have begun as a distributor of pottery, but by 1905 the company sold chain and leather dog collars wholesale.  The company existed until 1976, although it moved away from a focus on dog “furnishings.”

IMG_20171008_0007

Catalog page of dog toys offered by Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc. in 1937.

There are many interesting things about this catalog, which offers a wide array of products in the heart of the Depression.  The pages of toys are our subject today; I’ll share more of this catalog later.  Notice that the rubber balls are shaped to look like animal heads.  This is the beginning of marketing dog toys that are meant to be equally amusing to owners.  The rubber rat relates back to the traditional role of terriers as vermin-catchers in barns and households.  The “Sani-Bone” and “Happidog Bone” reflect new concerns about the health of dogs.  (As I have noted elsewhere, the 1920s was the decade when small animal veterinary clinics proliferated, and concerns about the impact of germs on treasured pets appear in the popular literature.  And they also imply that consumption of said bone would take place indoors, rather than out in the yard.  No grease spots on the carpets!

IMG_20171008_0009

Counter-top dog toy display and Christmas stocking, Walter B. Stevens & Co, 1937.

The counter-top display box, depicted above, suggests that pet store owners present toys as impulse purchases.   And the Christmas stocking is the earliest holiday packaging  I’ve found so far.

Now let’s look at some dog toys from 1947, ten years and a world war later.  Below is a catalog page from Lehman Bros. of Cleveland, Ohio, a company that I have not been able to find out much about.  The  letter to store owners in the June 1946 wholesale catalog and price list for “Sterling Quality Dog Furnshings” states that the firm had been in the pet supply business since the mid-1920s.

IMG_20171008_0011

Page of dog toys from Lehman Bros., Sterling Quality Pet Supplies, Dog Furnishings. Catalog No. 41. 1830-1838 St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.  June 1946.

This page depicts rubber “squeaky” toys (which would not have been available when rubber was a strategic material) and tug toys. The rubber toys look like, and may be, identical to squeak toys for babies marketed at the time.

c34-35-36

Rubber dog toys, maker unknown.  Probably 1960s.

The rubber dog toys in the photo above , which I discussed in a post in January 2016,  are a more complete expression of the trend toward toys taking shapes that dog owners would find amusing.  Here the toys represent things that dog are NOT supposed to chew.  In the pages of toys from Du Say’s, a mail-order pet business that has been the subject of a previous post, whimsy continues to shape the latex rubber toys.  By now they include a Smurf called “Flower Boy,” Hillbilly Bears and even Magilla Gorilla.

IMG_20170821_0024

Dog toys, Everything for Pampered Pets.  Du Say’s, New Orleans, around 1975.

The “All Time Favorite” Collection, at the bottom of page 12 above, recalls the simple toys of the 1930s and 1940s:  tug toys, burlap squeaky toys and rubber ball and bones.  Compare them to the Stevens catalog pages.

It’s clear that dog owners shared their postwar prosperity with their dogs by buying them lots of new toys. Take a look at the post titled “Look At All My Toys” from 26 January 2016.  It analyses two snapshots of a black Pomeranian dog with all his prized possessions, dated December 1963.  Here’s a detail of one.  The rubber hamburger and steak, disembodied feet, and rubber pack of Winston’s cigarettes, along with the sheer number of toys, suggests how funny the photographer (presumably one of the owners) found the whole accumulation of squeaky things.

Pets Blog 9 January 2016_0017

Detail of snapshot of Pomeranian dog and his toys, December 1963.  Photographer unknown.

Dogs like to chew, tug, chase and carry the objects we give them to play with.  My dog Gussie was happy with an old pair of sweat socks.  While Lemony enjoys chewing on and tossing around toys from her basket, she doesn’t care that one depicts Dr. Seuss’ elephant Horton and another is a long purple snake with bug-eyes.  Dog toys make us happy.

 

1 Comment

Filed under animal humor, animal-human interaction, attitudes toward dogs, dog toys, dogs, Du Say's of New Orleans, material culture, pet antiques, pet humor, pet industry, pet stores, pets, play with pets, snapshot

My 100th Post! Reader Feedback Welcomed.

This is my 100th post as The Pet Historian!  I’ve got lots of plans for  future posts — next up is one on dog toys — and plenty of new objects and images to share.  I’d love to hear from you about what you especially like and want to see more of.

Family Portrait with Dog

Amateur photograph three children and the family dog, after 1900. Photographer unknown.

My goals in creating The Pet Historian were three-fold:  1) to share my still-growing collection relating to the history of keeping pets in the United States; 2) to use my posts to show how close study of these items can inform our understanding of the complexities — both past and present —  associated with living with animals in and around our living spaces; and 3) to keep practicing my writing during a period  in my professional life when finding long stretches of time has been a challenge.  I’ve tried to share my own delight in the collection, and my sense of humor, in my posts, and I hope that you enjoy them.  I don’t pretend to be a disinterested observer;  my own daily experiences with animals underlie everything I write about.

Pets Blog 30Apr2015_0002

Postcard for Sharkey’s Tropical Fish and Pet Supply Company, 1940s?

So what would YOU like to see more of?  Has anything in particular pricked your curiosity?   I am also thinking about putting together a self-published book on my collection.  If I do, what would you especially like to see?

Kasey Grier

DSC_0086

Bird cage with “japanned” stenciled base, maker unknown, United States. Wood, brass and plated tin.

P. S.   And look for a redesigned site in the next couple of months, with new features.

3 Comments

Filed under animal humor, animal-human interaction, bird cages, cats, dogs, material culture, pet antiques, pet history, pet humor, pet photography, pet supplies and equipment, pets

A Victim of Cat Hypnosis (1904)

Meet Sport, whose cross-eyed portrait graced the Indianapolis News On June 11, 1904.

img

I was doing research on something else entirely (a future post) when my combination of keywords led me to this treasure. I had to share it!  The tongue-in-cheek article reported that Sport, a Scotch terrier owned by an Indianapolis grocer, had suffered a youthful encounter with a cat:  “Long did the cat hold his frightened gaze, the pup powerless to break the spell.  Since then, people who know Sport say, he has been cross-eyed.”

All cat owners have experienced the efforts that our household adversaries and master manipulators make to hypnotize us.  It’s a well-known hazard of cat ownership.  Poor Sport never had a chance….

Leave a comment

Filed under animal humor, anthropomorphism, attitudes toward dogs, dogs, newspaper articles on pets, pet humor, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets

We Will All Be at the Cat Show!

Pets Blog 9 January 2016_0008

Trade card for G.B. Bunnell’s cat show, chromolithograph, printed by Sefford (?), Boston & New York, 1881.

Pets Blog 9 January 2016_0009

A while back I was able to purchase this trade card, which intrigued me because it was an early advertisement for a cat show.  I had never seen a trade card or broadside for a nineteenth-century cat show, and I decided that I needed to learn who G. B. Bunnell was, and when and why he held one.

“Exhibitions” or “Congresses” of cats, dogs and other small animals were a sideline of the for-profit museums that dotted American cities in the nineteenth century.  The most famous of these, of course, is P.T. Barnham’s American Museum, which burned in 1865.  In 1863, Barnum held, and promoted the dickens out of, the “Great National Dog Show,” which offered cash prizes.  After that, dog shows popped up in many settings, including local agricultural fairs (where dogs were shown alongside fancy poultry) and the Centennial Exposition in 1876.  By the 1880s dog breeding was organized through kennel clubs, the most important being the American Kennel Club (1884).  Dog enthusiasts quickly established breeding registries and standards for judging;  they imported dogs from Europe and even created new breeds of dogs such as the Boston Terrier.

Cat shows were another beast entirely.  By the early 1870s, newspapers reported on cat shows in Great Britain, which probably encouraged the organization of American events.  However, cats did not (and still don’t) come in a large variety of distinctive breeds.  Reportage on cat shows in the late nineteenth century reveals that they were mainly an attraction created by for-profit museums or charitable groups as fundraisers.  As I was tracking Mr. Bunnell, I found this brief article on a cat show in Philadelphia, printed in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 30 November 1877: “Philadelphia is enjoying a cat show.  The exhibition is being held at the Museum [another for-profit attraction], and the display is varied.  The competition is principally as to weight and age, and the largest weighing from fourteen to thirty pounds.  The ages of some run up to twenty years, and there are animals two yards long.”  That’s the entire article. It does suggest that some Americans were already feeding their cats much too much, however.  Shortly thereafter, the Daily Eagle reported bad news about a cat show at the American Museum in the Bowery: “There was nothing about any of them [the cats, that is] that particularly excited attention.”  G. B. Bunnell was the operator of this attraction, and this was his first run at showing cats.

By 1878, the Daily Eagle began to report on cat shows in Brooklyn. A cat show at the Music Hall in January of 1878 received coverage because there was “little of note” in the “world of amusements.” The 271 cats in this display were displayed because of “their large or small size, color and condition of fur, species, deformities, and so forth.”  Some were trained to perform tricks.

In March of 1881, TWO cat shows competed for the attention of Brooklynites, and this is where my trade card comes in.  On the 13th, James Jukes, manager of “Brooklyn’s New Museum” at 424-426 Fulton Street, announced the impending opening of a cat show including “some of the finest specimens of the feline species in this country.”  Jukes invited Brooklynites to enter their own pets in this display.  The next day, Jukes took out a classified advertisement announcing that his “Great Cat Show” would open on March 21.  Ten cents bought not only this display but a “pantomime of Puss in Boots”…”to amuse the children.”

Right below this ad, G. B. Bunnell advertised his “Annex” at 325 Washington Street in Brooklyn, starring “Signor Giovanni’s Performing Canaries and Musical Glasses” for a ten-cent admission.  Bunnell was apparently worried that Jukes’ “Great Cat Show” would outdraw the musical canaries, however, and on March 21, he opened his own cat show at the Annex. In fact, he imported specimens from a cat show he had opened at his Manhattan location on March 7.  That 180-animal show, which was covered by the New York Times in a very funny article on March 8, continued the “anything goes” approach to cat display:  “Tom is a tiger cat, weighing 18 pounds and valued at $150.  He…has the heavy chops and expression of untutored intelligence of a Tammany Alderman.”  The imports to the Brooklyn show were similarly various and included a couple of three-legged cats — and Tom, one hopes.

My trade card is part of the publicity for Bunnell’s recycled cat show.  It was a freebie, the kind of card that a young person would keep to put in a scrapbook along with the other chromo trade cards that puffed brands of coffee, over-the-counter medicines,sewing machines and shoe stores.

The terrific blog The Hatching Cat of NYC also discusses Bunnell’s museum and his 1881 and 1882 cat shows in more detail in this post of 28 February 2016:  Featured Felines of the Cat Congress on Broadway

 

 

Leave a comment

Filed under advertising trade card, alley cat, animal humor, animal-human interaction, cat shows, cats, pet antiques, pet humor, pet shows, pets

Comic Cats on Victorian Trade Cards

Nineteenth-century advertising trade cards are wonderful on so many levels, but my particular favorites are the comic ones.  Predating the appearance of comics in newspapers by decades (the “Yellow Kid” strip first appeared in 1895), the quality of trade card artists’ drawings can be as good as any of the more famous early comic artists.  Some comic trade cards even tell a story in series.  On July 6, 2014, I published a post on the story of a disastrous feline courtship told through six cards; you can take a look at this in the archives for the this blog.  Some comic trade cards are offensive today — they traffic in all sorts of stereotyping — but others are benign, as in the case of the comic cats I share with you here,

Dr. Thomas Lectric Oil tc_0022

Advertising trade card for Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric Oil, around 1890. Chromlithograph, publisher unknown. The corners have been trimmed; they may have been glued to a scrapbook page.

The Excelsior Botanical Company, which began to sell Dr. Thomas’ Eclectric Oil (yes, that’s “Eclectric”) in the 1880s, published a series of comic trade cards featuring anthropomorphic animals that was made specifically for the company.  Eclectric Oil, which was sold until at least the 1940s, was recommended for everything from insect bites to earaches. The artist for these is unknown, but the card in my collection, “Grandma’s little Wootsy Tootsy” features a cat scrubbing her “grandchild” in a basin with a sponge. A proper linen towel with a red band hangs nearby. I love her glasses, neck ribbon (she is a proper house cat with a clean white bib and tummy ) and determined expression.  And you get all this detail in 3 1/2 inches of paper….

“All Promenade” features the Cat and the Fiddle, who is now performing for two sets of dancing kittens in an alley.  They all wear big smiles.  I love the pink and blue dresses worn by the girl kittens.  This card was copyrighted by Philadelphia printer George M. Hayes, who was probably the artist, too.  He copyrighted a number of trade card designs in the early 1880s.  They were sold as blanks; the “Presented by” caption was added by E. & H. Dilworth.

cat and fiddle trade card_0008

“All Promenade.”  Advertising trade card for E & H. Dilworth Hardware, Beloit, KS.  Published by  George M. Hayes, Philadelphia, 1882.  Hayes was probably also the artist.

The practice of attributing human characteristics to animals, called anthropomorphism, is an ancient practice; think of Aesop’s Fables, for example. It has had many uses, some quite serious — imparting moral lessons to children, stigmatizing marginalized “others” and critiquing the powerful are just three of these.  However, sometimes anthropomorphism was intended simply to delight both children and adults.

These cats delight me, and I hope that they delight you, too!

Leave a comment

Filed under advertising trade card, alley cat, animal humor, anthropomorphism, cats, material culture, pets