Category Archives: pet stores

A Canine Supermodel of the 1970s: Meet Pooch of Du Say’s for Pets

I recently purchased a very interesting mail-order catalog of dog (and a few cat) supplies from about 1975.  Titled Everything for the Pampered Pet, the catalog was published by Du Say’s, a New Orleans pet business.  Here’s the cover:

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Du Say’s for Pets (originally Du Say’s Pet & Seed Company) was founded in the 1930s by Charles Albert Dusse;  the store name is the phonetic pronunciation of his surname. Charles was an enterprising fellow who sold both animals and their supplies and equipment.  Details about his operation are hard to come by, but my research located one article in the 29 July 1947 edition of the Texas Panhandle daily the  Amarillo Globe Times titled “New Orleans Pet Shop Would Buy Panhandle Pests.”  This was on the front page!  It reported that the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce had received a letter of inquiry from C. A. Dusse of the “Du-Say Pet Supply Company” expressing his desire to purchase prairie dogs “trapped when babies and hand raised, as we understand it is rather difficult to tame old, adult ones.”  Subsequent activity on this matter by either  the Chamber or Dusse is unknown, but it does offer a glimpse into the enterprising spirit of the pet shop owner.

By the 1960s, the business had two retail locations, one in downtown New Orleans — the building apparently still stands, now occupied  by a restaurant called “Ye Olde College Inn”  — and the other at the Lakeside Shopping Center in nearby Metaire.  Around that time, one of Charles’ three sons, Richard, took over the business.

Richard’s was the hand behind the Pampered Pets catalog.  I share a few pages in this post; others will appear later.  The array of novelties was directed primarily to the owners of small dogs, as in the case of the elegant dog bed on the cover with its happy Pomeranian demonstrator.  But as you look through these pages, I want you to focus on one particular thing: the unsung canine model who was pressed into service.   Meet Pooch, Richard Dusse’s own dog.

Sometime after the catalog was published, Richard Dusse’s remarkable catalog was highlighted in a wire-service newspaper article that was picked up in newspaper around the country.  Sometimes the article included the photo below; sometimes the photo appeared as filler alone. Here it is.  Richard Dusse’s expression doesn’t look much like that of a warm-hearted dog lover.  He holds out his dog “Pooch,” a chihuahua-terrier mix who sports a hat, shades and a collar that looks like a shirt collar with a bow tie.

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Now look at the picture promoting the “Ivy League” hat below.  Don’t you think that Pooch looks fetching (no pun intended)? Pooch also models a “Jewish Yamulka” (sic), a “Calypso” hat adorned with tiny fake fruit and appears as Santa Paws, a cowboy and a French sailor.  Like any good supermodel, Pooch kept his face deadpan for the photographer.

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Pooch also appears above demonstrating the “Piddlin’ Plug,” a red vinyl “fire hydrant” intended as a house training aid.  Below, he was pressed into service as the model for the “Rain or Shine Coat” and the “Fisherman’s Raincoat,” below. He was loaded into the “Pet Tote Basket” to demonstrate its size.  At least Pooch didn’t have to wear the Doggie Life Jacket.

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In the two-page spread below Pooch models a “Happy Hound” bed, the “Curl-Up Bed” and the four-poster bed on the catalog cover. He is stuffed into the “Doggy Bathrobe,” a “Pet Playsuit” and a pair of “Doggie Pajamas.”  The identity of the Pomeranian in the high chair is unknown — just another catalog model.

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There are more treasures to be had in the pages of the Du Say’s catalog.  It represents the full flowering of the modern pet industry.  I’ll be sharing pages on dog fashions and collars in the future, along with a feature on the evolution of dog toys.  But for now, let’s think fondly of little Pooch, the unsung canine supermodel of  Everything for Pampered Pets.

 

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Filed under Christmas gifts for pets, dog clothing, dogs, Du Say's of New Orleans, fire hydrant, mail order catalogs, material culture, newspaper articles on pets, pet furniture, pet humor, pet stores, pet supplies and equipment, pets

A trip to the Milk-Bone Factory, 1938

Corporate magazines can be useful sources for historians interested in business and American consumer society.  Of course, the obvious interest of public relations departments in presenting firms in the best light possible has to be taken into account.  Even so, they often contain information and pictures that can’t be found anywhere else.

Studying the history of companies that made pet food has lots of obstacles; the absence of business archives from the many small firms operating in the first half of the 20th century is a big one.  I was lucky to find this issue of the National Biscuit Company’s corporate magazine from 1938.  The cover story was about Milk-Bone dog biscuits   Taking readers “behind the scenes,” the article stresses the modern, clean, mechanized facility, providing “good, wholesome nourishment, made with such scrupulous care.”  I especially like the last photo and caption, introducing the group of women who handled requests for free samples of Milk Bone and a booklet on dog care, received through mail-in coupons published in magazine advertisements.  “These girls keep busy….”

Remember that this dog-biscuit factory was in successful operation during the Great Depression.  My research on the history of dog food has suggested that the 1930s were actually a break-through decade for the use of commercial dog food, especially among urban and suburban households.  My post on the Canine Catering Company and its sales giveaway, the Puppy Puddle, discusses another Depression-era dog food business, one focused on a very well-to-do clientele in the greater Philadelphia area.

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Filed under dog food, dogs, material culture, pet food, pet stores, pet supplies and equipment, pets

Doggie Glamour of the 1950s and 1960s

Dog clothing interests me.  These days, our canine housemates have protective rain coats and boots, down vests, Christmas sweaters, and Halloween costumes.  Some years ago, I saw a “wiener dog parade” in New Orleans that included cheerleader outfits, superhero capes and — best of all — dachshunds dressed as wieners in buns with mustard and ketchup.   The humor that we dog owners seem to get out of canine dress-up seems unbounded by anything except our budgets and the tolerance of our foot-footed buddies.

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Catalog page of dog accessories, Von Lengerke & Antoine, Chicago, IL, ca. 1910.

In an earlier blog post, I discussed a pattern for a crochet dog coat that was publishined in Godey’s Lady’s Book in 1873.  It was ornamented with a fringe and small jingle bells.  However, dog clothing of the late 1800s and early 1900s was simpler than that Victorian fantasy.  Here is a page from a catalog by Von Lengerke & Antoine, a Chicago sporting goods company that was in business between 1891 and 1938.  The page dates from around 1910, I believe. Dog owners shopping in the store or via the mails could purchase sweaters, “dog blankets” that looked like miniature horse blankets, and rain slickers.

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Dog coat, maker unknown, American, ca. 1950. Wool, buttons and metal buckle.

By the 1940s, the appearance of dog clothing increasingly paralleled human dress.  This little coat, which dates from the late 1940s or early 1950s, is made from a woolen fabric woven in a version of a “buffalo plaid.” In clothing for people, buffalo plaids are fabrics  woven in large-scale red-and-black checks; the patterns date back as far as the 1850s.  Buffalo plaids were  popular for mens’ and boys’ jackets in the 1940s and 1950s — and here it is made up the family dog.

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Dog coat, faux fur, cotton and metal buttons, between 1965 and 1974.  Made for Gigi Herman (1964-1974) by Lynda Herman Chaney.

The 1950s and 960s were the glamour decades  for doggy dress — just as they were for women’s clothing.  Most of the dog coats and accessories from the era that I have found were scaled for very small dogs — another fad of those decades.  This was the heyday of the miniature poodle in particular.

Lynda Herman Chaney  made this  faux fur coat for Gigi, the miniature poold owned by her mother Juanita Herman of Kansas City, MO.  Mrs. Herman was a fashionable dresser and, since Gigi needed protection from the cold winters, she dressed her in coats with boots and even matching hats.

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Pattern 4219, Dog collars and coats, size small. Dated in pen “1963 April.”

Lynda Chaney could have used this pattern for Gigi’s coats. This copy of Simplicity Pattern 4219 is dated in pen “1963 April,” but the pattern itself dates from the 1950s.   I like the array of dogs illustrated on the envelope:  poodles, a boxer, a Boston terrier, a beagle and a miniature schnauzer.  Most of these breeds were represented in my childhood suburban neighborhood in the 1950s and early 1960s.  Notice that the all-American beagle is wearing a manly plaid coat, rather like the one illustrated above.

There’s more to say about doggie glamour of the 1950s and 1960s.  From rhinestone-encrusted collars to nail polish, the developing pet products industry capitalized on the new prosperity of many Americans in those decades.  I’ll share some of those products with you in a future post.

 

 

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Pets for Christmas 1906: Lathrop’s Pet Stock Shop, Rochester, New York

IMG_5868Grading papers and all the other business of ending a semester temporarily halted my writing, but expect some Christmas items over the next week.

On December 18, 1906, Lathrop’s Pet Stock Shop in Rochester, New York, mailed this postcard to a local customer.  The message on the back offered “the best appreciated Holiday gifts,” including “Canary Birds of all varieties,” other song birds, gold fish, parrots, dogs, cats, and squirrels.  The shop also carried “Medicines for every known pet” and offered free advice to pet owners, who for the most part did their own doctoring.

 

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Here’s a detail of the central part of the image.  On the left, fish bowls are stacked all the way to the ceiling, while aquarium ornaments crowd the shelves below.  Lathrop’s promised its customers the “Largest assortment of Bird Cages,” and  you can see them in the picture, hanging from the ceiling and perched on an improvised shelf on the right side of the long, narrow shop.  On the right, an “illusion cage” sits on a round table.  These had been available since the late eighteenth century.  A double walled fish globe surmounts a bird cage.  A perch extends up into the globe, so that the bird will appear to be singing underwater, while fish swim around it.  This was not a great environment for a goldfish; I can’t imagine that they survived very long in the narrow confines of the double-walled globe.  By the early 1900s, goldfish were cheap enough that they could be given as inexpensive gifts, and they were, as they are now, disposable pets.

To the right of the “illusion cage” hang dog leashes, and the small boxes behind may be the dog medicines sold by the shop.  To the left of the illusion cage is a large parrot stand with two cups for food and water.  Notice too that the store offers supplies for urban chickens and for pigeons.

Where are the animals?  Probably in the back of the store, away from the drafts from the the front door. Or perhaps they were upstairs. This was the time of year when fresh shipments of canaries arrived in pet stores, many shipped all the way from Germany.  Notice that Lathrop’s, which sat in the heart of the downtown on prestigious East Avenue, also earned money by using the space right inside the door to sell magazines, newspapers, postcards and cigars, all of which are visible in the full card.  But the fact that the animals themselves are invisible suggest one of the fundamental truths of the pet supplies business:  buying the animal is just the first step in a long series of purchases of equipment, supplies and services.  These are what Lathrop’s highlighted inside the entrance to the store.

 

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Filed under advertising trade card, aquarium, bird cages, goldfish, pet stores, pet supplies and equipment, pets, small animal medicine

Those Unfortunate Little Green Turtles

When I was a child in the late 1950s and early 1960s,  I looked forward to a trip to Woolworth’s with great anticipation.  I loved sitting at the lunch counter for a tasty hot dog on a buttery toasted bun and an orange drink or even a milk shake delivered in a metal container with a separate glass.  This bliss was followed by time spent perusing the aisles with my allowance or birthday money clutched in my hand.  Miniature bottles of “Evening in Paris” perfume, tiny tea sets, small stuffed animals and elegant (to my eyes) costume jewelry, novelty pencil sharpeners and ceramic cats for my collection…and the Pet Department! You could hear the squaking parakeets  the minute your entered the store.  The hamsters and white mice running on their wheels, the large tanks full of goldfish and guppies….bliss to an animal-crazy child like me.

My mother didn’t want birds in the house, so I was unable to wheedle her into a noisy green and yellow parakeet.  I did, however, bring home a number of small green turtles (juvenile red-eared sliders, with pretty markings), none of whom lived very long although I tried my best to take good care of them.  They lived in a container like this one, which I purchased some years ago and which traveled as part of the “Pets in America” exhibition.c24 The condition of this example suggests that the residents didn’t live too long….which I’m afraid was the fate of most of the little green turtles that other children carried home from Woolworth’s or a souvenir shop at the beach.  (Those little green turtles often had designs painted on their back, similar to what you see on the shells of hermit crabs sold as “souvenir pets” in beach towns today. This probably killed them off even faster….)

This container is more complex than it seems at first glance.  It is designed so that the turtle has an “island,” and the ridges on the slanted approach make it easier for the turtle to climb up.  The island also has a palm tree, a whimsical touch that has nothing to do with red sliders’ preferred habitat of mucky ponds with rotting logs for perches.  The palm tree reminds me of those “desert island” cartoons published in Life and The New Yorker, and there is a certain metaphorical rightness about this.  The turtles were indeed marooned —  in suburbia, on a kitchen counter or in a child’s room.

 

Because the turtles could go without food for a few days and could retract into their shells to protect themselves, someone got the bright idea that they could be shipped through the U.S. mails as premiums.  The High Turtle Food Company sent painted “good luck” turtles through the mails, advertising its turtle food for 10 cents.Live Turtle Box  Buying a pet generally initiates a series of expenditures that soon outstrip the initial cost of the pet. In this case, I wonder whether the turtles were advertised in the back of comic books; I’m going to look into this.  Since most of them died quickly, I doubt that High Turtle Food was a big money-maker.

Where did the small green turtles come from?  By the time I made my purchase, they were captive-bred in turtle farms in the deep South, particularly Louisiana where turtle farming still thrives, mainly serving the Asian food market.  Woolworth’s pet departments had been limited to goldfish until 1935, when price limits on the cost of items ended and more expensive creatures  could be offered for sale along with cages, collars and leashes, pet toys, and packaged food and medicines.  While Woolworth’s pet departments survived until the entire chain closed in 1997, little green turtles ceased being part of the stock in 1975, when the Food and Drug Administration banned pet stores from selling turtles smaller than four inches in length because children picked up salmonella from playing with their pets and failing to wash their hands.

Does anyone out there own a reptilian survivor from Woolworth’s?  Send me a photo, and I’ll post it.

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