Category Archives: doghouses

Bulldog humor: trade card commentary on watchdogs in city life

Advertising trade cards, the little slips of paper that businesses handed out to promote their products, are rich (and under-used) sources for studying animal-human relationships in the late nineteenth century.  Tens of thousands of Victorian trade cards survive because they were meant to be kept.  Many were pasted into scrapbooks, but “metamorphic” trade cards like this one were little comic books before the comic book was invented.  They probably survived because they got shut into drawers or boxes and forgotten.   The wear on the folds suggests that this particular example was unfolded multiple times, suggesting that it was viewed repeatedly.

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Comic trade card for Hold Fast chewing tobacco, Weissinger & Bate, Louisville, Kentucky.  Chromolithograph published by Culver, Page, Hoyne & Co., Chicago, between 1870 and 1883.  This is what is called a “metamorphic” trade card because it unfolds to tell a story, usually a comic tale. It is only about three inches in height.

The card  tells the story of an unfortunate thief who takes advantage of the dozing woman minding an outdoor booth selling “Hold Fast” chewing tobacco.  He’s poor, just a barefoot youth, and his works (“I’ll be after taking a plug of HOLD FAST”) suggest that the figure is supposed to be an Irish immigrant.  But he is foiled by a bulldog named “Tige,” short for Tiger.

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First foldout, comic trade card for Hold Fast chewing tobacco.

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Buster Brown and Tige “rebus” (puzzle) valentine postcard.  Chromolithograph, Raphael Tuck & Co, publishers. Mailed from Williamsport, PA, 11 February 1908.

This is the same name given in 1902 to comic character Buster Brown’s pit bull-type dog, seen in the postcard above. Buster Brown’s bulldog Tige looks a little scary with his round eyes, wide mouth and array of teeth, but he was a a friendly boy’s pet — and he could talk, at least to Buster and the reader.  The Hold  Fast trade card’s “Tige” is a homely brute who means business. “By faith the dog was awake,” cries the thief while the woman yells “Sick him Tige.”

In the fully open card, the policeman, seen in the distance in the second view, has the thief by the ear while Tige has his leg — and the woman has Tige by the tail (an unintended visual pun, I think) and cries “Hold fast.”  “Hold-Fast” was both an order and a traditional name for bulldogs, reflecting their instinct to bite down and hold on to a bull’s nose or another fighting dog to the death.  (Don’t ask me how I know this — I will have to root around in old note cards for hours.  I know a note about bulldog naming is in a folder somewhere.)  This may suggest something about the attributes of Hold Fast chewing tobacco, which was first sold in 1878.

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Second foldout, comic trade card for Hold Fast tobacco.

The back center panel for the unfolded card offers another interpretation of “Hold Fast,” a tug-of-war between a child and the family dog over a doll, while the cat looks on from a chair back.  This dog is a terrier, another popular dog type in Victorian America.  Terriers were regarded as good family pets, but they were also esteemed as rodent-killers.

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Back panel, trade card for Hold Fast chewing tobacco.

Watch dogs like the Hold Fast seller’s Tige were common denizens of city life, and both families and businesses relied on them as four-legged security systems. Bulldogs, the ancestors of the pit bull and other bully breeds today, were the most popular types for this purpose because of their reputation for being protective and fearless.  They are often depicted as chained to a doghouse in a fenced back yard or alley.  Further, the idea that they would attack and bite trespassers was wholly acceptable, and even the source of humor.  Notice that this bulldog is wearing a spiked collar and has dragged the doghouse behind him.

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“The Dog I Left Behind Me.” Comic trade card, lithograph, printer unknown, probably 1870s. This card was sold widely as a blank, and businesses added their names to the bottom.  The caption refers to a popular folk song, “The Girl I Left Behind Me.”

Humor about bully-breed watchdogs sometimes took strange turns. Some humorous cards survive showing innocently naughty boys dealing with savage-looking watchdogs as big as they are.  The card on the left, below, is one of these.  The dog’s eyes are deeply unsettling!

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Comic trade card, lithographs, around 1880.  Grauer & Almstedt, St. Louis.  In 1883, the company advertised that it sold chromolithographed trade cards in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch classified ads.

Americans liked bulldogs  — they certainly kept a lot of them, in a variety of shapes and sizes — but they were also afraid of them.  This was not without reason in the case of urban watch dogs.  In the case of the Hold Fast card, the bulldog was the secret weapon in a comic story about crime among the poor.  Yet the other images suggest other ways that people found humor in the discomfort that a large bully-type watchdog could create. This is a trade card that I reproduced in another post, on pet photography, but it encapsulates the tension nicely — and the drawing is still funny today.

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“Photographing the Prize Bull Dog.” Trade card for Pan Cake Flour. Lithograph, probably 1870s. Artist and printer unknown.

 

 

 

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Filed under advertising trade card, animal-human interaction, bulldog, Buster Brown, dog training, doghouses, dogs, pet humor, pets, pets in the comics

Doghouses: Daily Life for Dogs in the Past

Doghouses were once a common sight in the back yards of American households. Well into the 20th century, family dogs often spent their nights outdoors,  and quite a few dogs seem to have lived outside all of their lives.  Don’t assume that this meant that people did not love their dogs, or that outdoor dogs weren’t pets.  There are many reasons that dogs lived in separate houses. For instance, watch dogs were important for many households;  often, a barking dog was the only burglar alarm available.   Especially during the warm months, flea infestations were so hard to control that the best way to limit household infestations was to keep dogs outside.  (I’ll be doing another post on flea control later this summer.)  If a family had a stable or barn, dogs often slept there and did not have a doghouse.

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Advertising trade card for Charles Hall, Springfield, MA, undated (1870s). Chromolithograph, published unknown.  This image was purchased as a “blank,” and Charles Hall, who started his business in the early 1870s, added the store information, probably using a local printer.

A few doghouses from the nineteenth century survive;  there is a charming one in the collection of the John Quincy Adams house.  But most are long gone.  However, lots of images of doghouses, in a variety of media, show use what they looked like and  how they were furnished and used.  This trade card, from the 1870s, depicts a mother dog with her pups receiving a pan of milk from two children.  It’s a plain, unpainted structure with a peaked roof.  It looks like it may have a floor, too, and the adult dog lies on bedding of straw.

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Advertising trade card for W. Winslow, Peabody, MA, no date (1870s or 1880s).  Lithograph, Gies & Co, Buffalo, New York (c. 1871 – c. 1922).   This is another blank with the store information added later.

The trade card above, from around 1880, shows a doghouse that has been fashioned from a barrel.  In this domestic scene, the mother terrier has brought a rat to her puppies and seems to be instructing them on their duty as terriers to hunt and kill rodents.

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Advertising trade card for Prescott’s Universal Stove Polish, J. L. Prescott & Co., Berwick, Maine, undated.  Chromolithograph, publisher unknown. This card was distributed widely, and many copies survive.

Here’s another trade card image that shows an improvised doghouse made from a barrel steadied with bricks to keep it from rolling.  The adult dog is absent, but a collar and chain lies in front of the barrel, as does a pan containing a large bone.  Frances Butler, the author of Breeding, Training, Management, Diseases, Etc. of Dogs (first edition 1857), advised his readers, “If you are in the habit of keeping your dog on a chain, let him at least run a few minutes every day.” Perhaps that is what is happening here.

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“Beware of the Dog,” commercial photographic postcard.  Coryright 1907, Robert McCrum. Published by Bamforth & Co, New York, New York. This card was one of several comic photographic postcards  by Robert McCrum thar featured dogs.

Another crudely constructed doghouse from the early 20th century is depicted in this comic postcard from 1907. It shows a bewildered puppy chained to a doghouse that is raised on improvised legs nailed to the exterior and has an open roof line for ventilation.  The dirt yard suggests that this doghouse is in a city backyard or alley — not a great place to keep a dog, but a location where many city dogs lived.

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Two dogs, a cat and a doghouse.  Real photo postcard, photographer unknown.  Sent from Pleasant Lake, MA, on 16 June 1908 to Phoebe Cahoon of Sandwich, MA.

Advice books about dog keeping often included plans for making a good doghouse, but nothing I have seen looks remotely like this improvised structure.  Set well off the ground, it is covered with what were probably leftover shingles.  With its small entrance, it was probably cozy in winter, especially if two dogs slept in it.  Again, we see the straw bedding in the doorway.  Notice the cat keeping company with the two spaniels here.

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Plan for the “Vero Shaw model kennel,” published in William A. Bruette, Amateur’s Dog Book: A Treatise on the Management, Training and Diseases of Dogs. New York: Field & Stream Publishing Company, New York, New York, 1906.  My copy of this little book, which is only 4 1/2 by 6 3/4 inches, is inscribed “From Foley Dog Supplies, Inc. 119 So. 19th St. Phila. Pa”

Finally, here’s a plan for an improved dog house, published in a small paperback titled Amateur’s Dog Book, which was published in 1906.  Called the “Vero Shaw model kennel.”  It could be taken apart to enable thorough cleaning and had a bench front that allowed its occupant to “rest and enjoy the air.”   Notice the trim on the peak of the roof and the glass window!  This doghouse was intended to be a significant little outbuilding, an asset to the yard it occupied.

As a side note, Vero Kemball Shaw (1851-1921) was a British peer (I haven’t figured out his title yet) who was apparently active in the British dog fancy.  He published The Illustrated Book of the Dog (Cassell, Peter, Galpin & Co) in 1881.  The book featured beautiful chromolithographs of purebred dogs, and the images have often been pulled out of the book and sold for framing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under doghouses, dogs, material culture, pets, real photo postcard