Category Archives: pet history

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.

Goldfish Lion Coffee card front

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under advertising trade card, advice literature on pets, animal-human interaction, aquarium, goldfish, pet history, pets

Sgt. Stubby and Owney the Post Office Dog: The Meaning of Mascots

My friend Bernard Unti recently made me aware of a new animated film Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.  It tells the extraordinary story of Sgt. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier who followed his newly enlisted owner to France during World War I and, miraculously, survived to return to the U.S.  The website for this film is really wonderful, with lots of activities for kids and materials for teachers and families.

I quote the excellent film website here: “Stubby saw action in 17 different battles and received critical wounds during a chemical attack. When he recovered, his heightened sensitivity gave him the ability to detect incoming attacks and alert Conroy and his brothers-in-arms. He could also discern English from German speech, leading medics to wounded Americans on the battlefield. After catching a German spy in the Yankee Division’s trenches, Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, the first dog to be promoted in combat.”

Sgt Stubby
The dog lived a long and happy life (he died in 1926) as a mascot for the 102nd Infantry Regiment, marching in parades and having his portrait taken.  He met three presidents and also became the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas.  He rode on a “Be Kind to Animals” float in a parade organized by the American Humane Education Society in Washington. Conroy lived in Washington, D.C. and, when Stubby died, he arranged for him to be mounted by a Smithsonian taxidermist, who mounted the preserved hide over a plaster cast of the dog’s body.  Scrapbooks documenting Stubby’s life, and the dog’s “uniform” seen in the photo above, were turned over to the National Museum of American History. Here’s a link  to the catalog record for Sgt. Stubby. Nowadays, he is on exhibit as part of the displays about World War I.  (That extraordinary spiked collar he is wearing was actually a pretty common type used on bulldogs.  Its origins are in collars made to protect the throats of hunting dogs centuries earlier, but the spikes and studs were more of a convention by the time Stubby came along.)

The story of Sgt. Stubby made me think about a second dog mascot, from a generation before Stubby,  whose preserved body is also in the collection of the Smithsonian.  Owney, whose portrait you see below, was a rough coated terrier mix who initially belonged to a mail carrier. Born around 1887, the dog became the mascot of the U.S. post office in Albany, New York.  Owney began to travel with the mail bags of the Railroad Mail Service and logged over 140,000 miles before his death in 1897.  Mail carriers often took him to the photographer for a portrait, sometimes together and sometimes alone, as in this example from Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Notice that Owney is on a mail bag.

Owney

Portrait of Owney, around 1890.  Cabinet card photography by Wheeler Jeweler and Photographer, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Collection of May Thurston, Animal image.

Owney did not meet as happy an end as Sgt. Stubby.  He allegedly attacked a postal clerk and was killed in Toledo, Ohio. (There are several variant stories about this, but it looks like he was being mistreated at the time —  a black mark on the Toledo post office forever, in my book.). And Owney’s body, like that of Sgt. Stubby, was taken to a taxidermist.  Today, Owney’s body is on display at the National Postal Museum.  The Museum’s  blog has a lot of excellent information about Owney, including an account of the conservation that made him “fuzzy” again.

Screenshot 2018-04-15 20.35.13

Owney and his jacket, National Postal Museum.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about these two dogs and the paths that led to their lives as mascots for communities of work — soldiers (it is a type of work) and postal workers.  Both dogs “worked” alongside men who found some company and, clearly, some pleasure in their presence.  All accounts seem to agree that both dogs seemed to know that they were special, that they had public lives beyond their lives as dogs.  And the uniforms with medal and bags are also interesting to compare.  Sgt. Stubby’s medals were military, while Owney’s uniform was covered with mail bag tags and custom medals created by the mail workers who knew him.

Taxidermy of pet dogs is, and was, relatively rare (despite all the stories I’ve been told over the years).  Doting pet owners were, and are, much more likely to spend money on a gravesite and tombstone than a mount of their beloved companions.  A mascot is something else, however, because it is a public symbol representing a community.  in a way, preserving the dog was preserving the community.

I’d be interested to know from readers of this blog whether there are other mascot dogs that have been turned into taxidermy mounts after their deaths.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero — and to visiting both Stubby and Owney on my next trip to Washington!

 

2 Comments

Filed under Dog hero, dog photography, dogs, mascots, material culture, pet history, pets, taxidermy of pets

The Michigan Stove Company Pets, Chicago, 1893: “Garland” the fox terrier and “Garland” the Maine coon cat

Here’s a mystery I have not cracked, and I may never be able to solve it.  Below is a pair of oversized advertising trade cards (about 3 x 4 inches each) for the Michigan Stove Company’s famous “Garland” line of cast-iron heating stoves and cooking ranges.  The printing of these two little chromolithographs is very fine.  They were published, and I presume designed, by the Hughes Litho Co. of Chicago, a firm noted for its fine printing of birds-eye view maps as well as trade cards.

Garland Stove dog card front

Advertising trade card for Garland Stoves and Ranges, Michigan Stove Company.  Chromolithograph, Hughes Litho Co., 1893?

Having said that, I have been foiled in my efforts to find out more about these two images, both of which seem to represent store pets named “Garland.”  The “Chicago House” referenced in the cards is the company’s local sample room which was called, in an 1893 issue of Metal: A Practical Journal of the Stove Trade, “the finest of its kind.” Certainly the “Art-Garland” heating stove, seen below, was extraordinary, either fabulous or horrendous depending upon one’s take on popular Victorian design.  The card declares it “the most artistic of anything that has ever been attempted in stove decoration.”

The Michigan Stove Company of Detroit was founded in 1872, and access to both iron ore via the Great Lakes and transportation of finished stoves via ship and train meant that, by the 1890s, Detroit was regarded as the “Stove Capitol of the World.”  The Michigan Stove Company was one of the most adept at marketing, it seems, and the apex of its achievements was construction of a 25-foot-tall model of a Garland cooking range that was displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (It survived in Detroit until 2011, exhibited outdoors at the Detroit History Museum, when it was struck by lightning and burned.) The all-out effort at the Exposition may have occasioned the fine sample room, and it may have inspired these trade cards.

Garland Stove cat card front

Advertising trade card for Garland Stoves and Ranges, Michigan Stove Company. Chromolithograph, Hughes Litho Co., 1893?

But back to the dog and cat.  Judging from the era’s photography of dogs, smooth coated fox terriers, or their close cousins, seem to have been pretty common by the 1890s.  The Maine coon cat, however, was regarded as a rare and noble beast at the time, and specimens always received press attention in early cat shows.  The Maine coon cat’s origins were the subject of some speculation, and occasional claims that the cat was a cross between a feline and a raccoon did appear in newspapers.  This fine fellow is clearly a house cat, depicted sitting on top of a table against a backdrop of wallpaper and a floral arrangement.

I wonder whether these animals were the pets of Frederic W. Gardner, the brilliant advertising manager for the Michigan Stove Company who lived in Chicago.  A 1905 biography of Gardner in The Metal Worker, Plumber, and Steam Fitter magazine noted his responsibility for the national advertising for the firm, and his spectacular success in sales.  Under his purview, the company produced an extraordinary array of booklets, trade cards, and even a free magazine full of uplifting advice, poetry and sheet music.  They are still common on auction sites and in collections of ephemera.

Garland Stove cat card back

Verso of the card for “Garland” the coon cat.  The back of the card for “Garland” the fox terrier is identical.

If you know anything about these cards, or about the circumstances of their creation, I’d love to share your information in another blog post.  In the meantime, enjoy these handsome “mystery pets.”

Leave a comment

Filed under advertising trade card, animal-human interaction, cats, dogs, fox terriers, Maine coon cat, pet history, pet portraiture, pets

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

Vo Toys Catnip Leaves: “Makes Cats Playful”

This almost empty envelope for Vo Toys Catnip probably dates from the 1940s.  I have written before (16 October 2014) about the invention of the catnip mouse in the 1910s. When a household had an herb garden, catnip or catmint was a valued traditional medicinal herb used to soothe digestive upsets.  But people knew that cats were susceptible to its active ingredient, which we now call nepetalactone.   Loose catnip was sold in drugstores in the past; it is still sold in health food stores in bulk and in teabags as a tummy soother. (It works, too.) Around 1900, some companies that made over-the-counter veterinary remedies began to sell catnip for cats as a “tonic.”  Pet shops began to include catnip and cat toys in their stock, although  the real take-off point for cat products is the 1940s and 1950s, the era of this packet. (See my post of 26 December 2017, on the mail-order catalog from Felix’s General Store and the Katnip Tree Company of Seattle, Washington.)

For folks who no longer had access to fresh catnip, packets like this, sold in pet stores and five-and-ten pet departments, could be used to “recharge” the wooden and rubber balls with stoppers that were sold as cat toys, or rubbed on one of the new scratching posts offered for sale beginning in the 1930s.  A pinch of catnip could also be administered directly to the willing subject, of course.

IMG_20171115_0008

Vo Toys Catnip packet, 1940s.

Vo Toys (now Vo-Toys, Inc. ) was founded in 1939 and is still around as a distributor of pet products including, of course, catnip toys for today’s feline consumers.

But the main reason that I’m sharing this now is, I just REALLY like the design on the front of the packet!  Especially the red cat lounging across the word “catnip” while his companions play with catnip leaves.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under cat products, catnip, cats, material culture, pet history, pet industry, pet stores, pet supplies and equipment, pet toys, pets

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.

IMG_20171115_0001

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.

IMG_20171115_0002

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

 

IMG_20171115_0003

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.

IMG_20171115_0004

Advice on dog care by Michael Von Motzeck.

IMG_20171115_0005

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.

IMG_20171115_0006

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!

 

Leave a comment

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

For “Extra Cat and Kitten Pleasure”: the Early Days of Cat Litter and the Changing Status of Cats after World War II

Cat “litter” and litter boxes are facts of life for cat owners.  Hauling heavy boxes and bags; finding a good spot for the litter box; monitoring litter-box behavior; sweeping up litter carried out of the box on busy little paws; scooping out poop and “clumps” of petrified pee; dumping used litter; and figuring out how to get rid of that distinctive litter box smell:  these constitute a considerable part of cat ownership, especially now that many pet cats are indoors-only.  (By the way, the word litter, which has its archaic origins in French for “bed,” was used mainly to describe either trash or livestock bedding until “cat litter” entered the lexicon.)  By 2015, cat litter was a $1.8 billion business in the United States.

Until the 1940s, keeping a cat indoors exclusively took more determination than  I could probably have mustered.  Cat owners had to improvise a latrine, filling a wooden box, probably a discarded shipping box from a store, with sand, cinders or torn-up paper.  As I did research on these early versions of cat-box filler, I was struck  by how little anyone talked about it.  Even a 1903 volume on breeding and showing cats, whose author was obsessed with cleanliness, failed to offer specific instructions for creating and keeping a sand box.

The story of cat-box fillers made from absorbent clays such as fuller’s earth begins with industrial-clay salesman Edward Lowe and Kitty Litter™, which Lowe first marketed under that name in 1947.  Here is an early Kitty Litter™ bag that I found online in a Washington Post article about Edward Lowe ,the inventor and brilliant marketer of bagged clay.

kittylitter-0011422569290

Early Kitty Litter bag, no date. 1950s? Courtesy the Edward Lowe Foundation.

The appearance on the scene of bagged granulated clay for use in cat latrines soon led to a number of competitors.  The little brochure below advertises Pet Pamper®, a short-lived litter-box filler marketed by the Southern Ezy-Mix Company of Memphis, Tennessee.  The firm was known primarily for its bagged cement mix, sold through regional hardware and feed stores.  The ads I have found for Ezy-Mix concrete mix suggest that it was marketed to do-it-yourselfers tackling home improvement projects. Pet Pamper® was a sideline product that competed for a short time with Kitty Litter™.  It seems to have disappeared by the early 1960s.

Pets Blog 29 June 2017_0002

Kitty Care and Training by NoKo.  Brochure promoting Pet Pamper litter-box filler, published by Southern Ezy-Mix Co., Memphis Tennessee, between 1952 and 1955.

Below, the 1958 newspaper advertisement for Pet Pamper® informs cat owners that the product replaces sand and sawdust and does a better job preventing “kitty odor.”

PetPamper1959

Advertisement for Pet Pamper, 1958.

A decade after launching Kitty Litter™,  Lowe’s branched out into other products for cat owners, promising a “Better Life for Kitty.”

IMG_20170816_0001

“The Better Life for Kitty,” brochure for Lowe’s Cat Products, between 1958 and 1963.

Along with litter box filler, Lowe’s offered toys, a dry shampoo, a laxative that was intended to help hair balls move through Kitty’s digestive system, flea powder and even a disposable cardboard litter tray.

IMG_20170817_0002

Inside of brochure for Lowe’s Cat Products.

IMG_20170817_0003

Inside of brochure for Lowe’s Cat Products.

What’s interesting about the pitches for Pet Pamper and Lowe’s cat products is that they promised a better life for cats, not just their owners.  And all these products were associated with keeping cats indoors rather than letting them roam freely: “Kitty Litter will keep your cat safe, clean, indoors.” I’ll be writing more about products for cats and the rise of the indoor cat in future posts.  The idea of keeping pet cats at home where they could be supervised closely couldn’t get much traction until dealing with cat waste became less unpleasant.

1 Comment

Filed under animal-human interaction, cat litter, cat products, cats, Kitty Litter, material culture, pet history, pet industry, pets