Category Archives: pet humor

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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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 Canine Supermodel of the 1970s: Meet Pooch of Du Say’s for Pets

I recently purchased a very interesting mail-order catalog of dog (and a few cat) supplies from about 1975.  Titled Everything for the Pampered Pet, the catalog was published by Du Say’s, a New Orleans pet business.  Here’s the cover:

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Du Say’s for Pets (originally Du Say’s Pet & Seed Company) was founded in the 1930s by Charles Albert Dusse;  the store name is the phonetic pronunciation of his surname. Charles was an enterprising fellow who sold both animals and their supplies and equipment.  Details about his operation are hard to come by, but my research located one article in the 29 July 1947 edition of the Texas Panhandle daily the  Amarillo Globe Times titled “New Orleans Pet Shop Would Buy Panhandle Pests.”  This was on the front page!  It reported that the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce had received a letter of inquiry from C. A. Dusse of the “Du-Say Pet Supply Company” expressing his desire to purchase prairie dogs “trapped when babies and hand raised, as we understand it is rather difficult to tame old, adult ones.”  Subsequent activity on this matter by either  the Chamber or Dusse is unknown, but it does offer a glimpse into the enterprising spirit of the pet shop owner.

By the 1960s, the business had two retail locations, one in downtown New Orleans — the building apparently still stands, now occupied  by a restaurant called “Ye Olde College Inn”  — and the other at the Lakeside Shopping Center in nearby Metaire.  Around that time, one of Charles’ three sons, Richard, took over the business.

Richard’s was the hand behind the Pampered Pets catalog.  I share a few pages in this post; others will appear later.  The array of novelties was directed primarily to the owners of small dogs, as in the case of the elegant dog bed on the cover with its happy Pomeranian demonstrator.  But as you look through these pages, I want you to focus on one particular thing: the unsung canine model who was pressed into service.   Meet Pooch, Richard Dusse’s own dog.

Sometime after the catalog was published, Richard Dusse’s remarkable catalog was highlighted in a wire-service newspaper article that was picked up in newspaper around the country.  Sometimes the article included the photo below; sometimes the photo appeared as filler alone. Here it is.  Richard Dusse’s expression doesn’t look much like that of a warm-hearted dog lover.  He holds out his dog “Pooch,” a chihuahua-terrier mix who sports a hat, shades and a collar that looks like a shirt collar with a bow tie.

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Now look at the picture promoting the “Ivy League” hat below.  Don’t you think that Pooch looks fetching (no pun intended)? Pooch also models a “Jewish Yamulka” (sic), a “Calypso” hat adorned with tiny fake fruit and appears as Santa Paws, a cowboy and a French sailor.  Like any good supermodel, Pooch kept his face deadpan for the photographer.

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Pooch also appears above demonstrating the “Piddlin’ Plug,” a red vinyl “fire hydrant” intended as a house training aid.  Below, he was pressed into service as the model for the “Rain or Shine Coat” and the “Fisherman’s Raincoat,” below. He was loaded into the “Pet Tote Basket” to demonstrate its size.  At least Pooch didn’t have to wear the Doggie Life Jacket.

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In the two-page spread below Pooch models a “Happy Hound” bed, the “Curl-Up Bed” and the four-poster bed on the catalog cover. He is stuffed into the “Doggy Bathrobe,” a “Pet Playsuit” and a pair of “Doggie Pajamas.”  The identity of the Pomeranian in the high chair is unknown — just another catalog model.

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There are more treasures to be had in the pages of the Du Say’s catalog.  It represents the full flowering of the modern pet industry.  I’ll be sharing pages on dog fashions and collars in the future, along with a feature on the evolution of dog toys.  But for now, let’s think fondly of little Pooch, the unsung canine supermodel of  Everything for Pampered Pets.

 

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Filed under Christmas gifts for pets, dog clothing, dogs, Du Say's of New Orleans, fire hydrant, mail order catalogs, material culture, newspaper articles on pets, pet furniture, pet humor, pet stores, 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.

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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….

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

“Thought I’d send you some cats,” 1907

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Cats on a ladder, real photo postcard.  Postmarked 8 October 1907.

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Verso of real photo postcard above.

While I prepare some longer posts after some time off, here’s a terrific real photo postcard of a mother cat and four kittens posed on a stepladder. Two things are unusual in this image:  the entire family appears to be white, and there are four kittens.  It was often the case that, in the days before surgical spaying became available, all the kittens but one or two were drowned at birth.  Perhaps the little fellows all survived because of their unusual color.

Presumably the photographer is “Glen,” who sent the postcard with the comment “thought I’d send you some cats.”  However, this pose probably required more than one person: a cat arranger and a photographer ready with the camera before the subjects jumped down and ran off.

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Filed under cats, pet humor, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets, real photo postcard, rppc, snapshot

We Will All Be at the Cat Show!

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

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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

 

 

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

“The Intermission”: a playful dog in a real photo postcard, 1910

Documenting the history of play with pet animals is a challenge.  Think about your own games with your pets.  They are casual, often lasting a few minutes in odd moments of leisure or pauses during housework.  They may take place while something else is going on: I often find myself throwing a small rubber ball for my dog while I watch television.  Nowadays, quick snapshots and short videos of play with pets record these casual yet pleasurable and emotionally satisfying moments for posterity — and in enormous numbers. (As I write this, a Google search for “dog video” yields 204 million results.) But finding manuscript sources that recount these games in an earlier era is a treat.  And this real photo postcard, sent in 1910, even includes a snapshot of the dog in question! What it does not include, however, is the name of the writer, the name of the dog, or information on who took the photo.  Oh, well.

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Real photo postcard with cyanotype snapshot, postmarked 20 October 1910, Sweetwater, Texas.  Unsigned, and photographer unknown.

Here is a transcript of the message: “The Intermission.”  “The scamp” paused for an instant on top of the storm-cellar, and, huffing and panting, “dared” me to romp with him some more!  I “snapped” him and then jumped at him – and off he dashed, plowing the dust up so that Arnold had to wash his paws again before taking him into the house.  His hair dries in tufts, as you see here, and I call him “an old porcupine” until he gets combed out!

The message seems to describe one of those spontaneous running-and-chase games where the dog tucks his butt and runs in circles; at my house, we call this “scudding.” I’m not sure about the breed of the dog.  He seems to be a collie or a collie mix of some kind.  And we know that he was a house dog.

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Verso of postcard of “The Intermission.”

The verso of the postcard, above, recalls a day spent with Mrs. Burnside, the recipient, and mentions an “S” who is apparently near the end of a fatal illness.  But it is unsigned.

So pause in your labors and make your dog (and  you) happy by inviting her to play.

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Filed under animal-human interaction, dogs, pet humor, pet photography, pets, play with pets, real photo postcard, rppc, snapshot

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