Category Archives: pet photography

“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

Dr. Hyde, Pet Vet, 1939

I try to purchase paper items relating to early small-animal veterinary practices when they come my way. (Check out my post from July 2015 on the an early New York City animal hospital, based on a 1900 pamphlet that promoted the practice.)  I was pleased to be able to purchase this group of snapshots of a veterinarian and his practice, all dated 1939.  I’m still trying to figure out who Dr. Hyde is.  I made the mistake of not quizzing the seller of these snapshots about the source, and I will try to contact him as time permits.  If I learn more, I’ll revise this post.

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The office appears to be in a residential neighborhood, and it looks like a converted two-car garage.

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The operating/examination room is very simple, but it follows the ideas about small-animal practice that took hold in the 1920s, when many large-animal vets in cities and towns reoriented their practices toward the care of pets.  It has a white enamel sink on the left side and the operating table has a white enamel surface.  There’s a locker, perhaps for supplies, beyond the sink and a cabinet of medicines  on the upper right.

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And here is Dr. Hyde with either his own dog or one of his patients, who looks serious — perhaps at the prospect of getting a vaccination.  Dr. Hyde has his arm around the little fellow and they both look into the camera, like a studio photograph of a man and his dog.

I’m only sorry that there was apparently no photo of the waiting room.  I’d like to see whether Dr. Hyde followed the advice of the American Animal Hospital Association (founded in 1933) to create an office environment that paralleled that of the family physician.

If you know anything about Dr. Hyde, please share it with us!  I’d be happy to credit you as co-author of this post.

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Filed under dogs, pets, small animal hospital, small animal medicine, snapshot, veterinary history, veterinary medicine

Buster’s photos of his pets, 1916

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Lots of children kept rabbits as pets in the 1800s and early 1900s. The child’s plate below, which dates from the 1830s, shows a girl caring for her “favourite rabbits.”  (I have been searching for the source of the verse on this plate;  any leads will be much appreciated and fully credited!)

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Children’s plate. Creamware with transfer and enamel designs, 1825-1850.  Maker unknown.

I’m not completely sure why, but rabbits were regarded as perfect pets for children, perhaps because they could be kept outdoors in hutches; were gentle (although my rabbit-owning friends will tell you that they can and do bite); were relatively tolerant of over-enthusiastic handling; and multiplied quickly, offering replacements for casualties.  They could also be eaten, although many Americans seem to have been losing their taste for roasted or stewed rabbit by the time this card was sent in 1916.  While I can’t identify them for certain, Buster’s bunnies are probably “Rex” rabbits, a larger breed kept as both pets and meat animals.

Play with pet rabbits could become quite elaborate.  My book Pets in America offers a detailed account of the “Bunny States of America,” a pretend-play world of pet rabbits, chickens and other animals enjoyed by the children who lived at the house Cherry Hill in Albany, New York about a decade before Buster wrote this postcard to his friend John.

While I can’t say this for certain, I think that Buster was also the amateur photographer here, with access to a simple box camera and, I presume, the ability to print his negatives on postcard blanks.  Since he was studying geometry, he was probably a young teenager in 1916.  I also like the set-up for this photo shoot.  The “Friends” at the top were photographed on a tapestry carpet dragged outdoors for the purpose.  Commercial postcards that featured photography of pet animals sometimes included set-ups like this, where several animals were depicted together.  The handsome rabbit in the image below seems to be sunning him or herself on a worn tablecloth.

 

 

 

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Filed under pet photography, pet portraiture, pets, post cards, rabbits, real photo postcard, rppc, snapshot

Richard Goodwin, Los Angeles “Dog Specialist” of the 1920s, Part I

Meet Richard Goodwin, Dog Specialist.  This is a face that looks like its owner has been around and seen a few things….stylish fedora and bow tie aside.

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I purchased this small book (it’s only 5 inches by 4 inches in size) a while ago, and over the holidays I began to look into the story of Richard Goodwin, whose photograph suggests that he was what might be termed a “character.”   What I’ve discovered so far says says something about the improvisational nature of much of the nascent pet industry, but it’s also an entertaining — if incomplete — story of an opportunistic guy who clearly worked on the far edges of show business and had enough talent for self-promotion.

Richard Goodwin left a thin, but intriguing, trail of newspaper articles and advertisements from his apparent arrival in Los Angeles in 1915 until his death in 1931.  He first appears in the 16 April 1916 issue of the Los Angeles Times, in an article titled “How to Treat Animals:”

Richard Goodwin, whose four trained dogs have been features on the streets of Los Angeles for months past, as they carry advertising costumes, pipes in their mouths, etc. spoke before the Loreto-street school Friday on “Proper Care and Treatment of Animals.”

The talk, which included dog tricks (not the usual kindness-to-animals public lecture, this)  was by invitation of the Parent-Teacher association, which also “requested” that Goodwin speak at other schools and “in the orphanages.” The images below, from the 1928 booklet, suggest what both passersby and the audience for this talk saw.

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One of the dogs, “His Master’s Choice,” was featured in a 13 January 1918 Los Angeles Times article under the headline “Dog Helps to Sell the War Savings Stamps.”  The dog, whose name was actually Spike, wore a signboard.  Goodwin made at least some of his living from the “world’s champion advertising dog,” but was donating his services to the war stamps sales effort.

“The Nation’s Pride” and “His Master’s Choice” were either Boston terriers or a related cross. In 1917, Goodwin began to run periodic ads for stud services from purebred Boston terriers with the address 1668 W. Washington Street, a relatively new residential neighborhood in the 1910s (now a poor, predominantly Latino neighborhood in central Los Angeles).  From this kennel, Goodwin apparently also did dog doctoring, and he got his hand slapped for this. In 1919, the Society of Veterinarians of Southern California filed a complaint against Goodwin for “practicing veterinary medicine without a license,” and he was fined $60 after pleading guilty (“Veterinary Practice,” Los Angeles Herald 9 April 1919, p. 17).

This temporary setback did not prevent Richard Goodwin from developing and publicizing his business. In December 1919, he donated a “$1000 Puppy,” which looks like another  Boston terrier in the blurry online newspaper photograph, to the Police Relief Association auction. An advertisement in the Automobile Club of Southern California’s driving guide Spanish California and the Gold Rush offers a sense of the scope “Richard Goodwin’s Sanitary Kennels” and the ambitions of their owner: “Dogs Trained, Boarded and Treated.” “Three Expert Veterinarians in Attendance.” “High School for Dogs.”  The idea of a “sanitary kennel” was important to well-informed  dog owners at this time:  there was still no remedy for distemper, for example, and advice books of the era are universal in recommending cleanliness as especially important to successful rearing of puppies.

A scattering of classified advertisements track Richard Goodwin’s Sanitary Kennels through the mid-1920s, but none of these mention the line of remedies that are promoted in little book and I have been unable to learn anything more about this period.  Things start to change in 1927, however, when yet another small advertisement in the L.A. Times urges readers to send for “Richard Goodwin’s Dog Book.”  And this is when things start to get especially interesting, as the book’s text and illustrations suggest.

I’ll offer Part II of Richard Goodwin’s story as my next blog post.

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Filed under advice literature on pets, dog training, patent medicines for pets, pet industry, pet photography, pet supplies and equipment, pets, small animal medicine, veterinary history, veterinary medicine

Pretty “Fido” the Ladies Pet: Pugs and Studio Portraiture

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“Pretty ‘Fido’ the Ladies Pet,” advertising trade card, signed “W” on the stone, probably 1880s.

This cross-eyed pug appears on a “stock” chromolithograph advertising trade card.  This seems to have been a popular card;  numbers of them survive in collections.  Mine is not printed on the back, so the business that gave it away is unknown. The front images on trade cards orten didn’t have much to do with the businesses giving them out. I found one example online that was distributed  by a company that sold trusses!

While this is specifically targeted to pugs, the genealogy of this kind of image lies in the satirical representations of tiny “lady’s dogs” (spaniels, little poodles, and others of uncertain breed) in eighteenth-century comic prints.  The pug became a target for trade-card satire when the breed enjoyed a burst of popularity in the U.S. beginning in the 1870s.  It was admitted to the stud book of the American Kennel Club in 1885, the year after it was founded.

The trade card satire is intended to represent a studio photograph.  The subject is dolled up with a ribbon collar and looks into the “camera.”  The number of studio photographs of pugs surviving from the last quarter of the nineteenth century suggest how much their owners prized them, and why.

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Portrait of an unidentified gentleman pug. Cabinet card, ca. 1890. Edgecomb photography studio, Stoneham, Massachusetts.

Take this pug, for example.  Leaning against the back of a photographer’s “posing chair,” the well-fed subject (male or female, it’s impossible to tell) looks serious, even worried.  I’ve always thought that this photo, which I purchased many years ago, is of a little human trapped in a dog suit!

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Unidentified girl and her pug.  Photograph by Prezeau & Tougas, San Francisco, California, dated 1904. Prezeau & Tougas seem to have been photographic itinerants who worked in New England after 1906.

Not all pugs were portly members of the bourgeoisie, however.  This San Francisco pug, a young male, looks like an energetic fellow;  his mistress has to hold his collar to keep him in the chair for a photo that seems to have been taken in the family’s back garden.

In both these portraits, I’m struck by how different the pugs’ faces look compared to pugs today.  While the trade card satirizes the short muzzle of its subject, the pugs in these photos actually have much longer snouts than the ones I see today.  This is one more tiny piece of evidence about how much dog breeders have been able to reshape the appearance of purebred dogs since the “fancy” for them arrived in Victorian America.

 

 

A very busy semester and a bout of the flu have meant that I’ve been unable to post as often as usual, but with the break of the holidays approaching, I will share some new artifacts in my collection of the material culture of pet keeping.  Stay tuned!

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Filed under cabinet card, dogs, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets

Tiger Summers. A Dignified Cat Visits the Photographer’s Studio, ca. 1870

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“Tiger Summers,” carte des visite (cdv), no date (ca. 1870).  William A. Judson, New Britain, Connecticut, photographer. Judson was active in New Britain between 1856 and 1880.

Meet Tiger Summers who, at the time of this formal portrait, weighed 18 pounds, 3 ounces. Or so the penciled notation on the front of this carte de visite informs us.  The back, however, has a note that Tiger Summers weighed 19 pounds and 10 ounces.  In either case, this is a cat of substance.

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Tiger is posed in a child’s Windsor chair.  This plays with the scale of the image.  Without the notation of his weight, and therefore his implied size, Tiger could be the size of a human being — or a real tiger, for that matter.

Remember that this image was made at a time when a trip to the photographer’s studio was required.  I like to imagine Tiger’s owners arriving at William Judson’s studio with their prize cat in a large travel basket. If I can find out about Tiger Summers or his owners, I’ll update this brief post.

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Filed under anthropomorphism, carte des visite, cats, pet humor, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets

“Some pictures of Etta’s pets…”: a real photo postcard

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Real photo postcard, between 1902 and 1907.  Photograph by “Etta” (no other information available).

At this busy time of year, I’ll share a short post about a card I purchased a while ago.  Here is a real photo postcard that features a pair of images taken by “Etta,” who I presume was a young woman, perhaps a teenager.  I’ve written about these kinds of cards in earlier posts, but let me review some history quickly. Eastman Kodak began selling pre-printed postcard stock with photo-sensitive fronts in 1902;  they offered a camera designed for amateur postcard photography in 1903.  Other companies soon followed; some began to offer accessories such as sets of black paper masking frames that allowed printed photos to have different shapes and borders.  This one is interesting because Etta printed two round images on the front, masking them but overlapping them by accident.   I’ve been unable to identify the recipient, the sender, or the writer — but this card is evidence of a young woman taking up amateur photography.   The photo of the cat is particularly nice.  I like that the horse is her “pet,” too.  This suggests that, at a time when horses still were crucial sources of motive power, some crossed the line from worker to beloved individual — and that girls were riders, too!

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Back, postcard of “Etta’s pets.”  Sent to Ruth Daniels, Middlesex, VT, no postmark.

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Filed under cats, horse photograph, horses, pet photography, pets, real photo postcard, rppc