Category Archives: pet portraiture

A mysterious pet photograph, 1890

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Albumen print, photographer unknown, American, dated 1890 on reverse.

Here is a photographic mystery for you.   This is a photograph taken by a hobbyist in the era of dry-plate amateurs.  It is mounted on an unmarked cardboard card;  professionals generally included their names and locations on cabinet-card mounts.  It has no identification except for a brief inscription in pencil on the back (below).  I’m not sure of the first word, but I think that it says “Drie and Gyp Scofield 1890.”  “Gyp” is probably short for Gypsy, which was a common name for dogs in particular.

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Drie and Gyp have been posed outdoors with a table covered by a small oriental rug, but what is so mysterious and unusual is the tabletop display easel resting o the shelf below the table’s top.  It displays a framed photo portrait of a young woman.  I can see the round mat circling the portrait and her hair, but the details are faded. Someone with photo editing skills might be able to get more out of this image than I am able to.  Albumen prints from the 1880s and 1890s are notorious for fading like this;  the technical reasons for this need not bother us here, except that we can mourn the lost detail.

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Is this a mourning picture?  Are these the pets of the woman in the picture?  This picture represents a relationship, but we cannot know what exactly it means.

What do you think?

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Filed under cats, dogs, pet portraiture, pets

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

Lombard’s Musical Cats

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“Lombard’s Musical Cats,” photographer unknown; poem probably by Harlan P. Lombard.  Auburn Post Card Manufacturing Company, Auburn, IN, between 1913 and 1929.  Postally unused.

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!

 

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Filed under advertising trade card, cats, pet humor, pet portraiture, pets, real photo postcard, rppc

Posing for my Portrait is Such a Bore

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Carte-de-visite of a poodle, Wenderoth & Taylor, photographers. Philadelphia, between 1863 and 1865.

This little cdv of a small white poodle, who is unimpressed with the process of posing for his portrait on a tabletop covered with a dark cloth, presented a research puzzle that turned up a number of surprises.  I’m no expert on poodle grooming, but the web is a wonder for this sort of offbeat inquiry. So l learned that this little fellow has a traditional continental or hunting clip, which from what I can tell was quite rare in this country.  (Once upon a time, someone drew on the left ear with a pencil, and I have not tried to remove the marks.) Of course, poodles themselves were rare creatures, and the ones I have found in other early photographs are often left to be curly all over.  No one knew the conventions of grooming them, I think, and there were no professional groomers until purebred dog shows themselves became popular.  (While the first significant dog show in this country took place the the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, they were not all that popular until the early 1900s.)  The dark marks around the poodle’s eyes are probably the “tear stains” that light-colored dogs get.  Except for these, he’s quite fluffy and clean.

Most studio portraits of dogs depict them sitting on a chair or a tabletop, or looking alert on the floor next to their owners.  But a significant minority do feature this floppy “I give up” pose, which may have solved the problem of getting some dogs to hold still long enough for the exposure.  (By now, exposure times were short and easy to bear — unless the sitter was a small child or a pet.)

Then there is the photo itself, a product of the studio of Wenderoth & Taylor.  “Wenderoth” is Frederick A. Wenderoth (1819-1884), a painter of the American West, illustrator for Harper’s Weekly, printmaker and photographic innovator.  Born in Germany, Wenderoth joined the California Gold Rush in 1851 and is noted for his paintings and prints of mining life.  He apparently even had a sales gallery for his art in Sacramento, having failed to find much gold.  Wenderoth also became a daguerreotypist in the early 1850s, and he was known for his experiments with photographic processes.  In 1855, he invented a particularly laborious process, the “ivorytype,” that was intended to mimic painted miniatures.

By 1858, Wenderoth had settled in Philadelphia, and he appears in city directories as both an artist and a photographer. Around that time, he became joined a photographic studio headed by S. Broadbent. Locating in the 900 block of Chesnut Street, the business was in a prime location in a fashionable shopping district.  In the Philadelphia Inquirer for June 5, 1863, S. Broadbent announced his retirement. He assured readers that his partners Mr.  Wenderoth and Mr. Taylor (William Curtis Taylor) would continue to operate the business as before with Wenderoth as head of the “artists’ department” and Taylor in charge of business end, including the “reception rooms”.  Stylish photography studios of the time needed to have waiting rooms that recalled the parlors of respectable dwellings.  Wenderoth & Taylor promised clientele every conceivable kind of portrait, from cartes de visite to the “Ivorytype” and even oil paintings.

Pets Blog 22 March 2016_0010 This portrait was made right as the business turned over;  the back of the card reads “Wenderoth & Taylor, late Broadbent & Co.” The number “27370,” which was probably the negative number, is written on the back of the card, as is the scribbled notation “R H (the letters are crossed)  Bohlens.”  Could this be the owner?  I wonder whether this little poodle had been out promenading on Chesnut Street with his owner, who decided a photograph would be a nice way to commemorate a special dog.

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A Cat Fancier of the San Fernando Valley, 1960s

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An unidentified cat fancier with two of her prizewinning cats, undated (1960s). Photograph by Mil Fries, San Fernando, Caliifornia.

This fantastic photograph of a ’60s cat fancier and two of her prizewinning felines may have  appeared in the Valley Times, the newspaper of the San Fernando Valley between 1946 and 1970. It has editing marks on the back suggesting it appeared in the paper.  Milt Fries, whose stamp is on the back of the photo, mostly took photographs of local sports.  I’d love to get identities on both the owner and the cats.  I”m not sure whose birthday is being celebrated here!  There is a handwritten message on the lower right that says “Happy Birthday Sammy.”

The walls and shelves are bedecked with ribbons and trophies from the Cat Fanciers Federation, which was founded in 1919. The CFF and the Cat Fancier’s Association, which was founded in 1906, still run two separate breed registries and cat show circuits. I can read part of the text on the ribbon on the far right.  It was awarded in competition at the “Land of the Verdugos” cat show in Glendale, California.  (The Verdugos are a small chain of mountains completely surrounded by Los Angeles development.)

I believe that the cats are Birmans, a breed that had only been introduced to the U.S. in 1959.  Notable for their blue eyes and gentle temperament, the most famous Birman these days is Karl Lagerfeld’s cat Choupette, who has been featured in ad campaigns, travels with the fashion designer on his private plane and even has her own book.  If these two handsome creatures are Birmans, they would have been quite rare in the 1960s — and worthy of a newspaper “human interest” feature.

 

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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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