Category Archives: pets

Sgt. Stubby and Owney the Post Office Dog: The Meaning of Mascots

My friend Bernard Unti recently made me aware of a new animated film Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero.  It tells the extraordinary story of Sgt. Stubby, a Boston bull terrier who followed his newly enlisted owner to France during World War I and, miraculously, survived to return to the U.S.  The website for this film is really wonderful, with lots of activities for kids and materials for teachers and families.

I quote the excellent film website here: “Stubby saw action in 17 different battles and received critical wounds during a chemical attack. When he recovered, his heightened sensitivity gave him the ability to detect incoming attacks and alert Conroy and his brothers-in-arms. He could also discern English from German speech, leading medics to wounded Americans on the battlefield. After catching a German spy in the Yankee Division’s trenches, Stubby was promoted to the rank of Sergeant, the first dog to be promoted in combat.”

Sgt Stubby
The dog lived a long and happy life (he died in 1926) as a mascot for the 102nd Infantry Regiment, marching in parades and having his portrait taken.  He met three presidents and also became the mascot of the Georgetown Hoyas.  He rode on a “Be Kind to Animals” float in a parade organized by the American Humane Education Society in Washington. Conroy lived in Washington, D.C. and, when Stubby died, he arranged for him to be mounted by a Smithsonian taxidermist, who mounted the preserved hide over a plaster cast of the dog’s body.  Scrapbooks documenting Stubby’s life, and the dog’s “uniform” seen in the photo above, were turned over to the National Museum of American History. Here’s a link  to the catalog record for Sgt. Stubby. Nowadays, he is on exhibit as part of the displays about World War I.  (That extraordinary spiked collar he is wearing was actually a pretty common type used on bulldogs.  Its origins are in collars made to protect the throats of hunting dogs centuries earlier, but the spikes and studs were more of a convention by the time Stubby came along.)

The story of Sgt. Stubby made me think about a second dog mascot, from a generation before Stubby,  whose preserved body is also in the collection of the Smithsonian.  Owney, whose portrait you see below, was a rough coated terrier mix who initially belonged to a mail carrier. Born around 1887, the dog became the mascot of the U.S. post office in Albany, New York.  Owney began to travel with the mail bags of the Railroad Mail Service and logged over 140,000 miles before his death in 1897.  Mail carriers often took him to the photographer for a portrait, sometimes together and sometimes alone, as in this example from Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Notice that Owney is on a mail bag.

Owney

Portrait of Owney, around 1890.  Cabinet card photography by Wheeler Jeweler and Photographer, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.  Collection of May Thurston, Animal image.

Owney did not meet as happy an end as Sgt. Stubby.  He allegedly attacked a postal clerk and was killed in Toledo, Ohio. (There are several variant stories about this, but it looks like he was being mistreated at the time —  a black mark on the Toledo post office forever, in my book.). And Owney’s body, like that of Sgt. Stubby, was taken to a taxidermist.  Today, Owney’s body is on display at the National Postal Museum.  The Museum’s  blog has a lot of excellent information about Owney, including an account of the conservation that made him “fuzzy” again.

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Owney and his jacket, National Postal Museum.

I’ve been thinking quite a bit about these two dogs and the paths that led to their lives as mascots for communities of work — soldiers (it is a type of work) and postal workers.  Both dogs “worked” alongside men who found some company and, clearly, some pleasure in their presence.  All accounts seem to agree that both dogs seemed to know that they were special, that they had public lives beyond their lives as dogs.  And the uniforms with medal and bags are also interesting to compare.  Sgt. Stubby’s medals were military, while Owney’s uniform was covered with mail bag tags and custom medals created by the mail workers who knew him.

Taxidermy of pet dogs is, and was, relatively rare (despite all the stories I’ve been told over the years).  Doting pet owners were, and are, much more likely to spend money on a gravesite and tombstone than a mount of their beloved companions.  A mascot is something else, however, because it is a public symbol representing a community.  in a way, preserving the dog was preserving the community.

I’d be interested to know from readers of this blog whether there are other mascot dogs that have been turned into taxidermy mounts after their deaths.  In the meantime, I’m looking forward to seeing Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero — and to visiting both Stubby and Owney on my next trip to Washington!

 

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Filed under Dog hero, dog photography, dogs, mascots, material culture, pet history, pets, taxidermy of pets

“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.

Crosby's Hungry Pets rppc

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.

Crosby's Hungry Pets rppc detail

 

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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

The Michigan Stove Company Pets, Chicago, 1893: “Garland” the fox terrier and “Garland” the Maine coon cat

Here’s a mystery I have not cracked, and I may never be able to solve it.  Below is a pair of oversized advertising trade cards (about 3 x 4 inches each) for the Michigan Stove Company’s famous “Garland” line of cast-iron heating stoves and cooking ranges.  The printing of these two little chromolithographs is very fine.  They were published, and I presume designed, by the Hughes Litho Co. of Chicago, a firm noted for its fine printing of birds-eye view maps as well as trade cards.

Garland Stove dog card front

Advertising trade card for Garland Stoves and Ranges, Michigan Stove Company.  Chromolithograph, Hughes Litho Co., 1893?

Having said that, I have been foiled in my efforts to find out more about these two images, both of which seem to represent store pets named “Garland.”  The “Chicago House” referenced in the cards is the company’s local sample room which was called, in an 1893 issue of Metal: A Practical Journal of the Stove Trade, “the finest of its kind.” Certainly the “Art-Garland” heating stove, seen below, was extraordinary, either fabulous or horrendous depending upon one’s take on popular Victorian design.  The card declares it “the most artistic of anything that has ever been attempted in stove decoration.”

The Michigan Stove Company of Detroit was founded in 1872, and access to both iron ore via the Great Lakes and transportation of finished stoves via ship and train meant that, by the 1890s, Detroit was regarded as the “Stove Capitol of the World.”  The Michigan Stove Company was one of the most adept at marketing, it seems, and the apex of its achievements was construction of a 25-foot-tall model of a Garland cooking range that was displayed at the 1893 Columbian Exposition in Chicago. (It survived in Detroit until 2011, exhibited outdoors at the Detroit History Museum, when it was struck by lightning and burned.) The all-out effort at the Exposition may have occasioned the fine sample room, and it may have inspired these trade cards.

Garland Stove cat card front

Advertising trade card for Garland Stoves and Ranges, Michigan Stove Company. Chromolithograph, Hughes Litho Co., 1893?

But back to the dog and cat.  Judging from the era’s photography of dogs, smooth coated fox terriers, or their close cousins, seem to have been pretty common by the 1890s.  The Maine coon cat, however, was regarded as a rare and noble beast at the time, and specimens always received press attention in early cat shows.  The Maine coon cat’s origins were the subject of some speculation, and occasional claims that the cat was a cross between a feline and a raccoon did appear in newspapers.  This fine fellow is clearly a house cat, depicted sitting on top of a table against a backdrop of wallpaper and a floral arrangement.

I wonder whether these animals were the pets of Frederic W. Gardner, the brilliant advertising manager for the Michigan Stove Company who lived in Chicago.  A 1905 biography of Gardner in The Metal Worker, Plumber, and Steam Fitter magazine noted his responsibility for the national advertising for the firm, and his spectacular success in sales.  Under his purview, the company produced an extraordinary array of booklets, trade cards, and even a free magazine full of uplifting advice, poetry and sheet music.  They are still common on auction sites and in collections of ephemera.

Garland Stove cat card back

Verso of the card for “Garland” the coon cat.  The back of the card for “Garland” the fox terrier is identical.

If you know anything about these cards, or about the circumstances of their creation, I’d love to share your information in another blog post.  In the meantime, enjoy these handsome “mystery pets.”

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Filed under advertising trade card, animal-human interaction, cats, dogs, fox terriers, Maine coon cat, pet history, pet portraiture, pets

Measuring Dogs: “Why Guess? Be Accurate!” (1944)

My post of January 26 shared two pairs of dog booties from the 1940s and 1950s.  The earlier pair was sold by the U.S. Specialties Co. of New York City, a rather mysterious firm that wholesaled a wide variety of pet products in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s.  As I learn more about the company, I’ll share it in future posts.  But here is an object that they actually sold to pet stores and “kennel shops” like the Macy’s Kennel Shop I mentioned in my post of February 13.

Dog Measuring Chart Front

Dog Measuring Chart, 1944.  U. S. Specialties, Co. New York City.  Cardboard and white metal.

The Dog Measuring Chart is a wheel with a cutaway that allows the user to select a specific dog breed (in the outer black ring printed on the card) and find the ideal measurements for collars, harnesses and coats for that breed.  The handy diagram of a rough-coated fox terrier shows the user where to measure the dog.  It also explains the differences in measuring collars made in England, as opposed to American ones.

The other side of the card offers an amazing array of illustrations for products sold by the U. S. Specialties Co. It shows toys, equipment and supplies for both cats and dogs.  The cat supplies include an early litter tray, catnip mice, a scratching post and a packet of “Vo Toys” catnip that I illustrated in my post of January 16.  (I know — amazing!)

Dog Measuring Chart Back

Back of Dog Measuring Chart.

The dog merchandise includes a nice wicker bed and another folding bed that looks like a small bed for people, leashes and collars, and an array of toys.  It also includes a number of pieces of dog clothing.  (I’m working some posts on dog clothing, and I’ll return to this chart in that.)  And in the upper left corner is the “Doggy Xmas” stocking, full of bones and toys.

There’s a lot to “chew over” in this interesting object!  It certainly makes me rethink the nuances of “wartime austerity.”   Meat may have been rationed, but dog clothing apparently was not!

 

 

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Filed under attitudes toward dogs, cat litter, cat products, cats, Christmas gifts for pets, dog advertising, dog clothing, dog toys, dogs, material culture, pet industry, pet supplies and equipment, pet toys, pets, U.S. Specialties Co.

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

Macy’s Kennel Shop at the Westminster Dog Show, 1956

The Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show is upon us, so I thought I’d share a photograph of some of the merchandise offered for sale at the 1956 edition of the show.  By the 1920s, many department stores had pet departments of one type or another;  Macy’s had a “Kennel Shop” featuring attractive collars and leashes, beds, bowls, toys, grooming supplies and equipment, and treats, too.  This is the booth Macy’s created for Westminster.  I wish I could find other photos from the vendor area!

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Macy’s Kennel Shop booth at the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, February 13 and 14, 1956. Photographer by Wm. Brown, “Photographer of Dogs,” Forest Hills, New York.

Take a look at the detail below and you’ll see the advertisement for Dog Yummies from Hartz Mountain.  The sign says, “REWARD YOUR PET WITH DOG YUMMIES THE VITAMIN RICH SUGAR FREE TREAT.”  Okay, stop and think about this.  We think that worrying about dogs eating too much sugar is something that goes along with our own current obsessions with diet and health.  Here is an avowedly sugar-free dog treat from more than sixty years ago.

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Detail of photograph.

In the display of collars in the front left case, I can see fancy collars.  In the 1950s and 1960s, these kinds of collars — examples from my collection appear in the photo below —  made dressing up poodles and other small dogs fun for owners.

dog collars fancy

Fancy dog collars, 1950s and 1960s. From the top: R. L. McEleney, Inc., South Hollar, MI; Poodle Town Manufacturing Co.; Richter Co; and George Miller (ACC) Ltd., London, England. Leather, artificial leather, glass gems; white metal, brass and plated brass. 

I have mixed feelings about the Westminster Kennel Club show and its role in promoting the global business of “purebred” puppies. But it’s interesting to see what the world of products for pets looked like in the 1950s, before the industry for pet supplies and equipment — and for the dogs themselves — really took off.

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Filed under animal-human interaction, attitudes toward dogs, dog advertising, dog food, dogs, material culture, pet industry, pet shows, pet supplies and equipment, pets

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