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!
Category Archives: real photo postcard
On this very hot Saturday (a day when all wise pets are taking naps someplace cool), allow me to introduce you to Lombard’s Musical Cats. I looked for information about this postcard on and off for months, and this pair, a mother and son team according to the poem, and their owner remained as mysterious as when I purr-chased the card. (Sorry, I couldn’t help myself….)
I can tell you something about the Auburn Post Card Manufacturing Company, the publishers of this card. The company began as the Whitten-Dennison Post Card Company in Maine, but L. G. Whitten, one of the founders, moved it to Auburn, Indiana, and renamed it in 1913. The company made cards for businesses, cities, and tourist destinations. They were also known for their “comic” postcards on subjects like courtship and holiday cards. This, however, seems to be unique in their output. It is clearly a commission from someone who felt that he could make use of the minimum 500-card order required by APCMC.
And now I think I know the identity of the man behind “Lombard’s Musical Cats.”
Harlan P. Lombard (c. 1862 – 1942) was a composer of spectacularly obscure popular songs in the 1910s and 1920s. He lived in North Eastham, Massachusetts, according to copyright records. The 1920 U.S. Census listed him as a widower and a “music composer.” His works survive in a few pieces of sheet music in public collections. “If You’re a True America, You’re All Right” was self-published in 1917; a copy can be seen in the digital catalog of the Library of Congress. The caption above the song title is “‘Harmony Harl’s’ Patriotic March,” suggesting that he was a recognized local character with a presence as a performer known as Harmony Harl.
So let’s raise a glass of iced tea to the memory of Harmony Harl, Baby, and Thomas Boy!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
My work obligations are interfering a bit with my blog posts, but I didn’t want to miss Valentine’s Day, especially when I had such a nice homemade valentine to share. Arthur Edwards mailed this “funnie little valentine” of himself and his cocker spaniel Daisy on February 10 from Detroit, Michigan, to Ruth Coddington of Auburn, Nebraska. I’m guessing that he’s about twelve years old here. I haven’t yet been able to find out anything more about Arthur and Daisy, but his sober expression, and her patient one, are touching. The photographer is unknown.
In honor of National Cat Day, allow me to introduce you to “Fluffy Ruffles,” the poster cat for all the indignities we visit on our feline housemates, especially in our photographs and videos. Not only was the poor creature given that embarrassing name, but poor F.R. was stuffed in a basket for this portrait. And you can see how happy he (or she) is about it. Happy National Cat Day!
My collection of pet-related photographs has been pretty much assembled on the cheap, and I have missed a lot of great things in auctions because my budget just wouldn’t stand it. However, when I saw this real photo postcard on an auction site, I decided to go for it — and I even managed to outbid someone who tried to “snipe” me at the end. Lee, the otherwise unidentified sender — and, I presume, photographer — of this postcard notes that “This is an actual Photo taken from life” in the right-hand margin.
The annoyed-looking feline subject of this photograph is tucked into a doll bed that has a full set of linens, including the knotted quilt that covers him (or her). I used to do things like this to one of the cats of my childhood, and I imagine that many unsung housecats in the past suffered similar indignities.
The caption is especially interesting because it references a long-forgotten but very popular theatrical song of the 1890s. “Oh! What a Difference in the Morning!” is a comic lament about hangovers, women whose evening beauty is gone with the dawn, and others who are deluded by the romance of night life. There are multiple copies available online, including in the digital music libraries of the Johns Hopkins University and the New York Public Library (http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-edd6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99). It was popular in both English music halls and American popular theater; although I’m no music historian, my suspicion is that the American editions were knock-offs. The song has an apparent association with Laura Joyce Bell, an English singer and comedienne who made a very successful career here in the U.S., including performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with her husband Digby Bell. “Oh! What a Difference in the Morning!” inspired additional topical verses in American newspapers and magazines, and the title even shows up in advertisements for mattresses, suggesting that it was a widely-understood humorous reference.
The unknown sender of this photograph was sharing a joke that went far beyond the wonderful photograph he took.
When I was a very little girl, I visited my great-uncle Norwood and great-aunt Eula on their farm in southwestern Virginia. Uncle Norwood still milked his small herd of cows by hand. When he did, the barn cats would gather and sit up with their mouths half-open, waiting for him to bend the placid cow’s teat and shoot some milk in their direction. They’d clean the rich milk off their muzzles and come back for more. When I saw this old postcard, I purchased it because it reminded me of milking time on Uncle Norwood’s farm. I dug around a little and discovered that in the 1910s, the idea of direct marketing from farms to new urban consumers was a topic of Department of Agriculture conversations, hence the title “From Producer to Consumer Direct” is satirical.
Then I saw this real photo postcard, which had been misidentified as a cat pulling on a string. I knew what it was, a close-up view of the same technique that Uncle Norwood used and that’s depicted in the other postcard. This is a snapshot of a well-established routine. The cat is old and a little scraggly, but it is sitting on the milker’s lap.
Barn cats and other cats who worked to keep rodents out of barns and stables were sometimes both pets and workers. They played important roles on the family farm, although their lives were often cut short by infectious disease and accidents. It’s nice to see a little evidence of appreciation, a special “Morning Meal,” for these unheralded workers.