Category Archives: snapshot

Happy Valentine’s Day from Arthur Edwards and His Dog Daisy, 1909

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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.

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Look at All My Toys!

I just purchased this snapshot of an unidentified Pomeranian and his stunning array of toys.  Fortunately, the image has a date. The film was developed and printed in December 1967. From the looks of this little fellow, he was well-loved, and the snapshot was clearly  meant to be funny.

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Unidentified Pomeranian with his squeaky and chew toys. Snapshot, photographer unknown, developed December 1967.

The 1950s and 1960s were decades when the array of products sold by the neighborhood pet store, along with the pet departments of local five-and-tens and the pet food aisles of large supermarkets, included a much-expanded array of toys, including squeaky toys of painted rubber or plastic  and chew toys made of nylon, hard rubber or rawhide.

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Detail of snapshot, showing the array of toys purchased for this dog.

Take a look at this incredible assemblage.  The squeaky toys are shaped like an opened pack of Winston cigarettes, hamburgers and hot dogs, a woman’s foot with painted toenails, a chicken head, a raw steak, an ice cream bar with a bite out of it and an array of cartoonish animal figures wearing clothing.  In the full photo, just behind the Pom’s head on the left side of the photo, there is a rubber toy shaped like a baby’s pacifier.  Along with rawhide bones in various stages of unraveling, hard rubber toys for chewing include a ball, a bone and a dumbbell.

After I looked at the snapshot for a while, I realized that I actually owned one of the toys in the picture!  Here it is, a dog in a Santa suit — in its original package, no less.

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“Squeaker” dog toy in original packaging, Stevens Company, United States, ca. 1967.  This toy appears in the right-hand side of the detail, above.

Of course, dogs don’t really care about the shape of their toys.  My childhood dog’s favorite toy was a pair of old socks that had been tied together, good for tugging and shredding and easily replaced in a house with growing children.  But since the 1950s, the people who own dogs have gotten a kick out of dog toys that are shaped like the everyday objects — often ones that dogs aren’t supposed to have — or that are visual puns.  Dog toys are as much fun for us as they are for our dogs.   A small dog carrying around an open pack of Winston cigarettes must have seemed pretty funny in a 1960s household where people smoked.  And the large pacifier was a self-conscious pun on the status of the dog as the household’s fur-covered baby.  I would love to know who thought up the shapes for these dog toys.

Further, there are parallels between the toys that babies have played from the mid-20th century to the present, and the toys that family dogs have enjoyed in the same era.  Rubber squeaky toys were common baby toys in the 1950s and 1960s.  Although I need to do more research on this, I believe that the same companies made both rubber baby toys and squeaky toys for dogs.  Nowadays, flexible rubber squeaky toys for babies have been largely replaced by other objects, including a much wider array of plush toys.  And now dogs often get plush-covered toys, too, in shapes that are funny to pet owners. My dog Stump  drags around a purple platypus that I bought for him because I thought it was cute.

I’ll write more about the origins of pet toys in future posts.

 

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Filed under animal-human interaction, anthropomorphism, Christmas gifts for pets, dog toys, dogs, pet humor, pet photography, pet portraiture, pet supplies and equipment, pet toys, pets, snapshot

It’s National Cat Day!

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“Fluffy Ruffles,” real photo postcard by “W.C.T.,” postmarked Boston, 1908.

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!

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Back of postcard of “Fluffy Ruffles.”

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A Cat Disturbed in Bed, 1906

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.

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“Oh! Oh! What a difference in the morning.” Real photo postcard signed “Lee.”  Posted from Waterbury, CT, 13 October 1906.

 

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.

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Back of postcard. Addressed to William L. Wooding of Bethany, Connecticut. Postmarked Waterbury, CT and New Haven, CT, 13 October 1906.

The unknown sender of this photograph was sharing a joke that went far beyond the wonderful photograph he took.

 

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Milk for the Barn Cat: From Producer to Consumer Direct

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.

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“From Producer to Consumer Direct,” publisher unknown. Postally unused, 1910-1920?

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.

 

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“The Morning Meal,” real photo postcard. Photographer unknown. Sent to Mr E. A. March, Cincinnati, Ohio, from East Saint Louis, 26 January 1915.

 

 

 

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Sewing with the Cat at Home

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Unidentified women with cat. Real photo postcard, American, ca. 1910. Photographer unknown. Not mailed.

This is such a lovely image;  I wish I could identify the women and the place where the snapshot was taken.  I think that the flowers in the glass on the windowsill are peonies; if so, the photo was taken in late spring.  The houseplants are looking a little scrawny, so they may have come through a long winter indoors.  The woman at the sewing machine seems to be involved in threading the needle.  She is being watched by the plump black cat seated at the right elbow of the older woman, keeping company on the sheet-covered chaise lounge as sun streams in the window.  It’s just a work day at home.

 

 

 

 

 

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Meet Wrinkles Vaughn — Happy National Dogs Day!

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“Wrinkles Vaughn,” real photo postcard, photographer unknown. Rochester, New York, about 1910.

Meet Wrinkles Vaughn, a very fine French Bulldog whose portrait was taken around 1910.  Quickie research suggests that Wrinkles’ owner was 37-year-old Ralph C. Vaughn, who shows up in the U.S. Census of 1910 as a bartender who owned a liquor store and lived in downtown Rochester at 119 East Avenue with his wife, Helen (age 28),  and his widowed aunt Mattie Durfie (age 58).  Vaughn’s fortunes seem to have been mixed.  in 1905, he showed up in the New York Census as a dentist;  by 1920, he was a machinist and his wife was absent from the household.  Since the card doesn’t say anything about the picture, I don’t know who took it, but it is an unusually good postcard portrait.  Whatever Ralph C. Vaughn’s personal tragedies,  he certainly owned a noble — and well cared for — dog!

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Message side of postcard depicting Wrinkles Vaughn. Mailed from Rochester, New York, by Ralph Vaughn 30 June, ca. 1920.

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