Category Archives: pet photography

“Crosby’s Hungry Pets”: breakfast with the dog, cat and parrot, around 1907

I don’t know about meals at your house, but even when I dine “alone” I am actually not — I’m being observed intently by my dog.  And this is the case here, in this remarkable real photo postcard labeled “Crosby’s Hungry Pets.”  This is the only text on the postcard, which was taken between 1902 and 1907 but was never sent as a postcard.

The photograph shows a couple at home,  with three animals joining them at the table.  I’ve included details so that you can get a good look at the trio of pets. The picture seems to have been taken in a dining room.  It’s a middle-class household, and the space is decorated with a framed print, lace-trimmed shelf  drapery and a two-panel screen behind the man. There are lots of interesting details, including the stacked champagne glasses behind the man.  I think that the meal might be breakfast. The photographer is unknown, but the woman and the dog  (and maybe the parrot) are looking at someone.  The cat and the man are focused on whatever is in the bowl.  The woman actually has a tidbit in her hand to attract the dog’s gaze.

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Real photo postcard of unidentified couple with cat, dog and parrot, location unknown. Between 1902 and 1907.

Until photography became easy and inexpensive enough for lots of people to try their hands at it, many everyday behaviors with pets were undocumented unless people mentioned them in writing.  Along with evidence of mealtime with pets, this postcard suggests peaceful coexistence among the animals, who look very well cared-for.  Let me note here that there are some odd reflections behind the woman’s head;  I think they are an artifact of the exposure.

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Enjoy looking at “Crosby’s Hungry Pets.”  I wish we knew more about the subjects of this wonderful real photo postcard!

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Filed under cat photography, cats, dog photography, dogs, parrots, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets, real photo postcard, rppc

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!

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Postcard of unidentified boy and girl with dogs pulling cart — wearing glasses and top hats. Velox postcard, possibly Canadian, about 1920.

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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.

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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

Victorian Pets in 3-D: Two Early Stereographs of Dogs

By the late 1860s, looking through a stereoscope (like the one below) at the striking three-dimensional images of historic places, world travel, current events, local scenes, and even comical stories was a common form of home entertainment.  (My undergraduate students always find this hard to imagine, until they are reminded gently that television, or even radio, was still a way off.) The first stereoscopes (the earliest was invented in 1838) were expensive and large, and the array of images available was rather small.  But after Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr., a Boston physician, poet and amateur inventor, developed the handheld viewer in 1861, the world of stereoviews expanded dramatically.  The image below shows a late nineteenth-century stereoscope with the view in place.  The holder for the view could be slid back and forth to accommodate the user’s eyes.

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A handheld stereoscope of the late 19th century.  Thanks to the terrific blog That Belongs in a Museum!  for this image.

When you’ve looked at enough collections of stereoviews (there are many online although you don’t get to experience them in three dimensions), it is clear that photographers made pictures of anything that they thought might sell.  Take the one below, where a very handsome spaniel dog is depicted sitting in a gothic-style reception chair with his paw on a small, draped table.  He is wearing eyeglasses and a scarf and is holding a Meerschaum pipe in his mouth.  What a good dog!  Why he is posed across a river or canal from what seems to be a sawmill is a mystery, of course.  I am only showing you one side of the card so that you can see the view in more detail.  It’s an albumen print and has faded.

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“606. Coloring the Meerschaum.” D. (Deloss) Barnum, photographer. Cortland, New York. About 1870.

Deloss Barnum (no relation that I can find to Phineas T.) was an early practitioner of stereo photography.  Only 48 years old when he died in 1873, Barnum apparently had studios in New York City and Boston, but this view is labeled as being from his studio in Cortland, New York.  Barnum’s views of New York buildings and foreign scenery are represented in a lot of libraries, but I have not found a catalog entry for this humorous view.

Below is an interesting homemade stereoview, photographer unknown.  It doesn’t work well in a viewer; I believe that this is simply two prings from the same negative, put together on a card. The two images have faded differently, suggesting that they were processed at different times. The photograph is interesting because the woman’s head is cut off — it feels like a snapshot at a time when candid photography was very rare.

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Homemade stereoview, photographer and location unknown. About 1880.

I guess that the image is from around 1880 on the basis of the cut of the woman’s bodice and skirt. She is wearing an apron and her sleeves are pushed up: she’s been working.  The dog is sitting on a kitchen chair, turned backwards to keep him from jumping down.  The woman may be holding him steady.  The image looks like it was taken by a back door, where houseplants are grouped for the summer.  I can imagine the hobbyist photographer trying to get the unwieldy camera —  on its tripod with its “wet plate” inserted carefully and the dark fabric hood in place so that the photographer could see the image through the lens — set up and the chair in place before luring the dog onto the chair.

I have some other stereoviews of pet animals, all posed in studios, which I’ll share in a future post.  Enjoy these two early ones!

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Filed under animal humor, attitudes toward dogs, dog photography, dogs, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets, stereoview

Noble Pugs of San Francisco Visit Famous Photographer I.W. Taber’s Studio

One day, probably in the 1880s, the owner or owners of these three noble beasts gathered them up for an outing to downtown San Francisco.  At the corner of Montgomery and Market Streets, the three dogs and their people may have entered an elevator that carried them to the famous photography studios of Isaiah West Taber (1830-1912), a photographer noted for his portraits of famous Californians and his large series of stereo views of his adopted state.

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Three noble pugs, owner unknown.  Cabinet card,  W. Taber & Co; Photographic Parlors, San Francisco, probably 1880s.  The image is an albumen print and has toned to this brown color over time.  On the body of the pug on the left, here is a scrape through the emulsion layer.

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Taber Photographic Parlors, 8 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, 1884 (?). Detail of advertisement, source unknown.  Courtesy California State Library.

The pugs probably passed through, or even waited in, a parlor like the one depicted in the image below — or perhaps even this one. Successful city photographers in this period often created elaborately decorated parlors — versions of parlors in the houses of well-to-do people — to attract clients.  In research I did for a book on Victorian parlors, I discovered that these rooms were not only a marketing tool, they also allowed waiting customers to imagine themselves as refined, cultivated people. I don’t think that the noble pugs cared about anything in the parlor depicted below;  still, they may have enjoyed the warmth of the wall-to-wall carpet on their little pug toes!

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Advertising cabinet photograph for Taber “Photographic Parlors,” ca. 1880.  Courtesy California State Library.

The studio where the noble pugs posed probably contained a number of different theatrical-style props — backdrops of architecture or natural scenery, drape-y curtains, posing chairs and carpets.  But the unknown photographer (I.W. Taber had a staff) who captured this image chose a setting of papier-mache rocks with an evident seam where two pieces were joined together.  Excelsior!  The detail below, which I have edited a bit to improve contrast, demonstrates that the pugs were not concerned about holding still for the camera.

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Verso of the original photograph.  The array of portrait work undertaken by I. W. Taber & Co.  was wide-ranging.

I’ve published quite a few studio portraits of dogs in this blog, and there will be more in future posts, but this is one of my very favorites.  As I go through my own smallish collection of nineteenth-century pet portraiture, I find that pugs are over-represented.  I’m not sure whether this is because they were especially treasured companion dogs, hence more likely to be taken to the studio for a portrait, or whether it is because they were a relatively new introduction to the array of dog breeds found in the United States in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  I’ll write about the fad for pugs in a future post.

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Filed under animal-human interaction, cabinet card, dog photography, dogs, pet antiques, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets, pugs

A cdv portrait of a poodle from the Pennsylvania coal country

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Unidentified dog, probably a poodle.  Carte-de-visite photograph by Kirby & Brothers Fine Art Gallery, Carbondale, Pennsylvania, probably late 1860s.

Here’s a handsome fellow who decided to pose at the Kirby & Brothers Fine Art Gallery by of Carbondale, Pennsylvania, by lying down.  This little dog is probably a poodle or a poodle mix, which made him unusual and special at the time this image was made.

William E. Kirby and John B. Kirby were probably the Kirby & Brother on the back of this card.  William was listed in as a Carbondale photographer in the 1868-69 edition of Reilly’s Pennsylvania Business Directory.  John appeared as a photographer in Susquahanna Depot, Pennsylvania, in the same book.  At the moment, I can’t say for certain whether they had been working together but had severed the partnership prior to 1868.  I do know, however, the William went on to become a merchant of rugs, fancy goods and furniture in Scranton in the 1870s, while John’s subsequent whereabouts are unknown.

Carbondale, 15 miles northeast of Scranton, played an important role in the early decades of the Pennsylvania coal industry.  It was the site of the first deep vein anthracite coal mine in the United States, and by 1829 it was a terminus for the young Delaware & Hudson Railroad.  Incorporated as a city in 1851, it was a city of immigrants:  Irish, Welsh and German at the time this image was made.  The individual or family who had this photograph made was almost undoubtedly well-to-do, probably a local businessman or, perhaps, a manager for a mining company or the railroad or someone from his family.

Just a reminder:  cartes-des-visite, or “cdvs” appeared on the scene in the mid-1850s and were generally printed in multiples.  They were originally intended as photographic visiting cards to be shared, and they are the first type of photographs collected into albums.  Because they were contact prints (the negative was as large as the printed image), the resolution of these little photographs is often very high.  It’s fun examining them closely, using a magnifying glass of some kind.

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Verso of the carte-de-visite.

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Filed under animal-human interaction, carte des visit, carte des visite, dog photography, dogs, pet photography, pet portraiture, pets, poodle

Dog Toys: Amusement from Two Points of View

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Lemony with her toy basket, 24 October 2017.  The bedraggled Horton, at her feet, is a favorite.

How many of you have a basket or bin (or just a pile) of these bedraggled objects:  the toy box for your dog(s)?

When I was a child, our first dog, Gussie the basset hound, had a much smaller collection of possessions including an old tennis ball, a well-chewed soup bone that was periodically replaced by my mother, and — her favorite — a smelly toy made from two worn-out sweat socks, one stuffed in the toe of the other and tied off with a knot.  The sock toy was good for both playing fetch indoors (no danger of breaking a lamp) and for games of tug.

Beginning in the early 1970s, our family dogs began to have a larger collection of toys, all purchased from pet stores.  Rubber squeaky toys were especially popular.  Our Lab/Golden Retriever mix, Jenny, had a very soft mouth, and she had one squeaky toy, a rubber peanut that had a  face like a cartoon “bandito” and wore a sombrero. We called the peanut Roy, after the friend who presented this treasure, and Jenny played with it until just before she died.  Roy is still somewhere in a drawer at my mother’s house; my father saved it along with Jenny’s collar.  If I can find it, I’ll put it into this post.

The cover of my book Pets in America: A History (the hardcover edition) features a photograph from the 1880s of a man getting ready to throw a ball for a dog who is absolutely rigid with anticipation.  The ball may be a baseball.  It is certainly not a ball made just for the dog.  I own a number of trade catalogs and photos that suggest the evolution of toys produced intentionally for the amusement of dogs.  Let’s look at some of them.

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Cover, Catalog of Dog Furnishings. Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc., New York City, 1937.

Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc. seems to have begun as a distributor of pottery, but by 1905 the company sold chain and leather dog collars wholesale.  The company existed until 1976, although it moved away from a focus on dog “furnishings.”

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Catalog page of dog toys offered by Walter B. Stevens & Son, Inc. in 1937.

There are many interesting things about this catalog, which offers a wide array of products in the heart of the Depression.  The pages of toys are our subject today; I’ll share more of this catalog later.  Notice that the rubber balls are shaped to look like animal heads.  This is the beginning of marketing dog toys that are meant to be equally amusing to owners.  The rubber rat relates back to the traditional role of terriers as vermin-catchers in barns and households.  The “Sani-Bone” and “Happidog Bone” reflect new concerns about the health of dogs.  (As I have noted elsewhere, the 1920s was the decade when small animal veterinary clinics proliferated, and concerns about the impact of germs on treasured pets appear in the popular literature.  And they also imply that consumption of said bone would take place indoors, rather than out in the yard.  No grease spots on the carpets!

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Counter-top dog toy display and Christmas stocking, Walter B. Stevens & Co, 1937.

The counter-top display box, depicted above, suggests that pet store owners present toys as impulse purchases.   And the Christmas stocking is the earliest holiday packaging  I’ve found so far.

Now let’s look at some dog toys from 1947, ten years and a world war later.  Below is a catalog page from Lehman Bros. of Cleveland, Ohio, a company that I have not been able to find out much about.  The  letter to store owners in the June 1946 wholesale catalog and price list for “Sterling Quality Dog Furnshings” states that the firm had been in the pet supply business since the mid-1920s.

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Page of dog toys from Lehman Bros., Sterling Quality Pet Supplies, Dog Furnishings. Catalog No. 41. 1830-1838 St. Clair Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.  June 1946.

This page depicts rubber “squeaky” toys (which would not have been available when rubber was a strategic material) and tug toys. The rubber toys look like, and may be, identical to squeak toys for babies marketed at the time.

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Rubber dog toys, maker unknown.  Probably 1960s.

The rubber dog toys in the photo above , which I discussed in a post in January 2016,  are a more complete expression of the trend toward toys taking shapes that dog owners would find amusing.  Here the toys represent things that dog are NOT supposed to chew.  In the pages of toys from Du Say’s, a mail-order pet business that has been the subject of a previous post, whimsy continues to shape the latex rubber toys.  By now they include a Smurf called “Flower Boy,” Hillbilly Bears and even Magilla Gorilla.

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Dog toys, Everything for Pampered Pets.  Du Say’s, New Orleans, around 1975.

The “All Time Favorite” Collection, at the bottom of page 12 above, recalls the simple toys of the 1930s and 1940s:  tug toys, burlap squeaky toys and rubber ball and bones.  Compare them to the Stevens catalog pages.

It’s clear that dog owners shared their postwar prosperity with their dogs by buying them lots of new toys. Take a look at the post titled “Look At All My Toys” from 26 January 2016.  It analyses two snapshots of a black Pomeranian dog with all his prized possessions, dated December 1963.  Here’s a detail of one.  The rubber hamburger and steak, disembodied feet, and rubber pack of Winston’s cigarettes, along with the sheer number of toys, suggests how funny the photographer (presumably one of the owners) found the whole accumulation of squeaky things.

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Detail of snapshot of Pomeranian dog and his toys, December 1963.  Photographer unknown.

Dogs like to chew, tug, chase and carry the objects we give them to play with.  My dog Gussie was happy with an old pair of sweat socks.  While Lemony enjoys chewing on and tossing around toys from her basket, she doesn’t care that one depicts Dr. Seuss’ elephant Horton and another is a long purple snake with bug-eyes.  Dog toys make us happy.

 

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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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