Category Archives: dog food

Macy’s Kennel Shop at the Westminster Dog Show, 1956

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is upon us, so I thought I’d share a photograph of some of the merchandise offered for sale at the 1956 edition of the show.  By the 1920s, many department stores had pet departments of one type or another;  Macy’s had a “Kennel Shop” featuring attractive collars and leashes, beds, bowls, toys, grooming supplies and equipment, and treats, too.  This is the booth Macy’s created for Westminster.  I wish I could find other photos from the vendor area!


Macy’s Kennel Shop booth at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, February 13 and 14, 1956. Photographer by Wm. Brown, “Photographer of Dogs,” Forest Hills, New York.

Take a look at the detail below and you’ll see the advertisement for Dog Yummies from Hartz Mountain.  The sign says, “REWARD YOUR PET WITH DOG YUMMIES THE VITAMIN RICH SUGAR FREE TREAT.”  Okay, stop and think about this.  We think that worrying about dogs eating too much sugar is something that goes along with our own current obsessions with diet and health.  Here is an avowedly sugar-free dog treat from more than sixty years ago.

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Detail of photograph.

In the display of collars in the front left case, I can see fancy collars.  In the 1950s and 1960s, these kinds of collars — examples from my collection appear in the photo below —  made dressing up poodles and other small dogs fun for owners.

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Fancy dog collars, 1950s and 1960s. From the top: R. L. McEleney, Inc., South Hollar, MI; Poodle Town Manufacturing Co.; Richter Co; and George Miller (ACC) Ltd., London, England. Leather, artificial leather, glass gems; white metal, brass and plated brass. 

I have mixed feelings about the Westminster Kennel Club show and its role in promoting the global business of “purebred” puppies. But it’s interesting to see what the world of products for pets looked like in the 1950s, before the industry for pet supplies and equipment — and for the dogs themselves — really took off.

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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.


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.


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



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.


Advice on dog care by Michael Von Motzeck.


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.


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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Filed under advice literature on pets, attitudes toward dogs, dog advertising, dog food, dog training, dogs, pet history, pets, pets in the comics

“Runt.” An Epic Poem about an Epic Piddling Dog from the Miller Dog Food Company

This masterpiece of doggerel (sorry, I couldn’t help myself….) is a promotional brochure for the products of the Miller Dog Food Company of Battle Creek, Michigan.  The company started out as the Battle Creek Dog Food Company, and I am not yet sure when it changed its name, but the typography and design suggest the 1920s to me.  Located in the same community where Kellogg’s cereals were produced and where Dr Kellogg had his famous sanitarium, the early ads I have found for Miller’s Dog Food promoted it as health food for dogs.  I’m having trouble imagining this as a pet shop giveaway, given its barroom tone. But I leave you to peruse it.  In fact, I suggest reciting it out loud!

Pets Blog 22 March 2016_0014

Pets Blog 22 March 2016_0015


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A trip to the Milk-Bone Factory, 1938

Corporate magazines can be useful sources for historians interested in business and American consumer society.  Of course, the obvious interest of public relations departments in presenting firms in the best light possible has to be taken into account.  Even so, they often contain information and pictures that can’t be found anywhere else.

Studying the history of companies that made pet food has lots of obstacles; the absence of business archives from the many small firms operating in the first half of the 20th century is a big one.  I was lucky to find this issue of the National Biscuit Company’s corporate magazine from 1938.  The cover story was about Milk-Bone dog biscuits   Taking readers “behind the scenes,” the article stresses the modern, clean, mechanized facility, providing “good, wholesome nourishment, made with such scrupulous care.”  I especially like the last photo and caption, introducing the group of women who handled requests for free samples of Milk Bone and a booklet on dog care, received through mail-in coupons published in magazine advertisements.  “These girls keep busy….”

Remember that this dog-biscuit factory was in successful operation during the Great Depression.  My research on the history of dog food has suggested that the 1930s were actually a break-through decade for the use of commercial dog food, especially among urban and suburban households.  My post on the Canine Catering Company and its sales giveaway, the Puppy Puddle, discusses another Depression-era dog food business, one focused on a very well-to-do clientele in the greater Philadelphia area.

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Pets Blog 1 July 15_0023Pets Blog 1 July 15_0024Pets Blog 1 July 15_0025

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The “Puppy Puddle” and the Canine Catering Company

On December 2, 1938,  Roy Goff & Company of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, received a copyright associated with the “Puppy Puddle,” a   9 1/2 by 13 inch paper advertising blotter presented for use as a house training aid.  “When an emergency occurs, place this “Puppy Puddle” on the wet spot. Press down lightly with the foot — the job is done.”  The text commented helpfully that “time is an element in the efficiency” of the blotter. When the mishap occurred on an absorbent surface such as a rug, the directions recommended that several of the blotters be kept in a “handy place” in “every room in which the puppy plays,” ready for use at a moment’s notice. The drawing of the puppy, who is sitting in his own puddle hollering as only puppies can, looks like a rough-coated fox terrier, a popular dog at the time.  (Remember Asta, the urbane canine star in the “Thin Man” films?)

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“Puppy Puddle” training blotter.  Roy Goff & Co., Ardmore, PA, copyrighted 1938.

The “housebreaking” directions also suggested that a used “Puppy Puddle” could be left on a tile floor as an attractant, the way that  “wee-wee pads” are used by some dog owners training puppies today.  This also recalls house training instructions that suggested using a newspaper already soaked with piddle to the same end.

The text on the Puppy Puddle didn’t only offer advice on house training, it also promoted Roy Goff’s “WHITE LABEL BEEF” as the foundation of an elaborate puppy diet prescribed by “a famous University Veterinary School.”  This reveals that the Puppy Puddle was actually an advertising giveaway.  It even had a blank space at the bottom right where a pet shop or veterinary clinic might stamp its name and address.

Looking for more information on  Roy Goff & Co. led me to an unexpected story.  LeRoy Goff, Jr., the president of Roy Goff & Co., was more than the inventor of a novelty for training puppies for life indoors. He founded the Canine Catering Company in his garage in Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in 1933. Goff, who was born in 1903 and graduated from Princeton University in 1926, is listed in the 1930 U.S. Census as a well-to-do young insurance broker, owner of a house valued at $85,000, married with a toddler daughter, and cared for by two live-in house servants. Did his insurance business collapse? I don’t know yet.  Yet, in the heart of the Depression, Goff built a successful business preparing and delivering high-quality fresh meals for dogs.  This was a time when the canned dog food business was expanding, but it was also the unregulated stepchild of the meat and livestock feed industries.  Many dog owners viewed canned food with rightful suspicion.

The November 1934 issue of Popular Mechanics, a magazine that was full of uplifting stories about successful home-based  businesses, featured Goff’s young enterprise in a one-page story titled  “Catering to Dogs Becomes a Real Business.”  It opened by noting that “dogs appreciate a fresh, neatly presented meal and their masters like to have them properly fed and healthy.  That is why a depression-time business, started by LeRoy Goff II, of Philadelphia, in his own garage with no capital, has grown so rapidly that it numbers 6,000 animal customers…and is now housed in a modern plant in Philadelphia with branches in eight cities.”

The article reported that Goff began by working up a diet for his own dogs with the help of a veterinarian.  By 1934, the company’s offerings included a”veterinary meal,” a “kennel meal,” and “a la carte special meals, vegetables and beverages.” Subscribers placed orders from “attractive menu cards,” and the food was delivered to households three times a week.  Local veterinary hospitals also used the service for convalescing animals, sending their cars to the Canine Catering Company daily.  One-pound meals cost 13 cents for raw food (presaging today’s interest in raw diets for dogs) and 14 cents for a cooked dinner.

By 1938, Roy Goff & Co. offered canned food, the White Label Beef promoted by the Puppy Puddle giveaway.  There is more to be learned about LeRoy Goff’s Canine Catering Company of America, Inc. –and apparently the National Archives branch in Philadelphia holds some records relating to inspection of the company’s processing activities. (Here’s a link to information on the records group in the form of a Facebook post on Canine Catering Co. ) I also know that the company was  actually not alone in offering home-delivered pet food at the time.  Advertisements and other giveaways survive from pet businesses that offered  delivery of fresh meat, including horse meat, from the 1930s through the 1950s, when self-service supermarkets developed large pet food aisles and the nature of the pet food industry moved toward increasing consolidation.  By the 1960s, Roy Goff & Co. was no longer packing dog food; instead, it became a distributor of pet food and products, providing “professional retail guidance to small independent retailers,” according to a short profile on the website

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Faced with an automatic pet feeder….1939

Kenl Mastr auto dog feeder

Publicity photograph for the Kenl-Mastr automatic pet feeder. Photographer unknown. Undated (1939).

As I went back into my files for another look after  I researched the Kum-Pet Dog and Cat Feeder, I discovered that I owned two publicity photographs associated with another early automatic feeder, the Kenl-Master.  I did a web search for the firm, expecting to find absolutely nothing on this object, when up popped a reference from the June 3, 1939, issue of The New Yorker (p. 64), which I have excerpted below:

“our native inventors have been as busy as little bees.  At Bloomingdale…there is Kenl-Mastr, a covered food plate for dogs which pops its lid at feeding time if you remember to set its alarm-clock timer ($5.59).”

This reference was in one of the New York City shopping surveys that the magazine still occasionally publishes.  Incredible!

Upon closer examination,the Kenl-Master feeder seems to be the “Time Controlled Feeding Device for Domestic Pets” illustrated in a 1939 patent drawing in my previous post on the Kum-Pet Dog and Cat Feeder of 1947.  (Kenl-Mastr and Kum-Pet. Is anyone out there collecting gadget names?  Someone needs to work on this!)

Kenl Master feeder 2Notice the alarm clock in the second photo is set for a few minutes past six o’clock. The people who set up the shot are suggesting that six is the normal dinnertime for city dogs.   Now go back and look at the first picture.  The clock is set for ten minutes after five o’clock, and the handsome wire-haired fox terrier is shown already waiting at the feeder.  This is apparently intended to suggest that dogs in the 1930s tried to push dinner time up a bit, just as every dog I have ever owned has tried to do.

The feeder does not turn up in any of the trade catalogs or magazines in my collection.  The Kenl-Master Manufacturing Company is listed in a 1939 Los Angeles phone directory I found online — but here the trail ends for the time being.



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The Kum-Pet Dog and Cat Feeder, 1947

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Kum-Pet Dog and Cat Feeder. Brooklyn, New York. Lorraine Metal Specialties Company, a division of Lorraine Lighting Products Co, late 1940s.

The Kum-Pet Dog and Cat Feeder is one of several automatic pet feeders in my collection.  Its mechanism is simple.  A wind-up alarm clock, mounted flush into a galvanized metal frame, is set with the time for the pet’s meal.  When mealtime is reached, the tension unwinding spring that operates the clock’s alarm also spins a metal spool that winds up a string.  The string is attached to the underside of the metal feeding dish under the cover, kept in place by a cut-out in the metal base.  The pan of food slides into view and — voilá! — dinner is served.

Like the V.I.P. Pet Brush, the subject of my very first blog post, the Kum-Pet Dog and Cat Feeder is a gadget from the “Populuxe” era, when peace and increasing prosperity led Americans to some giddy purchasing decisions.  In the decades after World War II, people with extra money to spend began to direct some of this cash toward all sorts of  powered kitchen gizmos including ice crushers and blenders, electric carving knives, meat grinders and mixers.  Some gadgets were supposed to help housewives save money by taking on tasks as home, while others were intended to make routine tasks easier.  Others, such as automatic pet feeders, responded to consumer interest in convenience, suggesting that even the most ordinary tasks could be enhanced by novel applications of simple technologies.

As part of the family, pets became proxy consumers in postwar America.  The expanding array of products intended to nourish, heal, house, entertain and ornament them suggests how ordinary people understood and accommodated the needs of their charges.  In this case, automatic feeders were promoted as improving the lives of both pets and their people.  Timed feeders allowed the designated caregiver to be away from home when it was dinnertime for Trixie or Pal, who could still expect grub to arrive at the usual time.

The Kum-Pet feeder received its patent as a “Feeding Device for Animals” on 25 February 1947.  This seems to be the only patent issued to Jerome Frankel, who I have been unable to track so far. Several men with this name lived in and around New York City at the time the Kum-Pet Feeder was offered  for sale.  The patent’s text suggests that the invention responded to problems with some existing feeders:”One of the objects of the invention is to provide an automatic feeder of simple construction having few parts which can be cheaply produced and assembled….of neat and attractive appearance, and which will be fool-proof and positive in operation…sanitary and easily cleaned.”  The food pan in the Kum-Pet is an 8-inch metal baking pan, and the alarm clock is a Gilbert.  The William L. Gilbert Clock Corporation had been in business since 1828 and was known for its alarm clocks at the time the feeder was made by Lorraine Metal Specialties Company of Brooklyn, new York.

Farmers had been interested in automatic feeders for livestock for several decades when the Kum-Pet was patented.  However, the first patented feeder that I have been able to find relating specifically for pets is a “Time Controlled Feeding Device for Domestic Pets (US 2157682), patented by Raymond V. Sweeny in 1939.  Notice that this one also makes use of an alarm clock!  At least five applications for automatic pet feeders appeared between 1946 and 1966. The timing of automatic pet feeders is congruent with wide consumer acceptance of packaged pet food, another convenience for busy households.


R. V. Sweeney, “Time Controlled Feeding Device for Domestic Pets,” U.S. Patent 2,157,682. Patented 1939.




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