Category Archives: post cards

Buster’s photos of his pets, 1916



Lots of children kept rabbits as pets in the 1800s and early 1900s. The child’s plate below, which dates from the 1830s, shows a girl caring for her “favourite rabbits.”  (I have been searching for the source of the verse on this plate;  any leads will be much appreciated and fully credited!)


Children’s plate. Creamware with transfer and enamel designs, 1825-1850.  Maker unknown.

I’m not completely sure why, but rabbits were regarded as perfect pets for children, perhaps because they could be kept outdoors in hutches; were gentle (although my rabbit-owning friends will tell you that they can and do bite); were relatively tolerant of over-enthusiastic handling; and multiplied quickly, offering replacements for casualties.  They could also be eaten, although many Americans seem to have been losing their taste for roasted or stewed rabbit by the time this card was sent in 1916.  While I can’t identify them for certain, Buster’s bunnies are probably “Rex” rabbits, a larger breed kept as both pets and meat animals.

Play with pet rabbits could become quite elaborate.  My book Pets in America offers a detailed account of the “Bunny States of America,” a pretend-play world of pet rabbits, chickens and other animals enjoyed by the children who lived at the house Cherry Hill in Albany, New York about a decade before Buster wrote this postcard to his friend John.

While I can’t say this for certain, I think that Buster was also the amateur photographer here, with access to a simple box camera and, I presume, the ability to print his negatives on postcard blanks.  Since he was studying geometry, he was probably a young teenager in 1916.  I also like the set-up for this photo shoot.  The “Friends” at the top were photographed on a tapestry carpet dragged outdoors for the purpose.  Commercial postcards that featured photography of pet animals sometimes included set-ups like this, where several animals were depicted together.  The handsome rabbit in the image below seems to be sunning him or herself on a worn tablecloth.




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Buster Brown and His Dog Tige Wish You Happy Holidays!


“A Merry Xmas.”  Giveaway postcard from the American Journal-Examiner, 1906.

Holiday greetings from the most famous cartoon dog of the early 1900s, Tige.  Tige, a bull terrier who could speak to his owner and to other animals (but not to adults), belonged to the cartoon character Buster Brown, the little boy in the Lord Fauntleroy suit with the blonde pageboy haircut.  Buster and Tige are accompanied here by Buster’s friend Mary Jane.

Created in 1902 by pioneering comic strip artist Richard F. Outcault (1863-1923), Buster Brown was the celebrity face of a popular line of children’s shoes. Buster Brown and Tige also hawked many other products; a quick web search suggests just how popular the character was.  (I remember Buster Brown shoes in the late 1950s, although Buster and Tige didn’t register with me.)  In fact, Buster Brown is still a brand name for children’s clothing, although the characters have disappeared from the labels.

Buster also appeared in the early Sunday comic pages, and some of the strips are really beautiful and are still quite funny today.  This particular card, printed on cheap paper, is not one of Buster and Tige’s finer manifestations.  It appeared in the American Journal-Examiner, a New York periodical that published many such postcards, along with joke books and early comics.  I think that this postcard was part of a comic-page giveaway.  This particular example was never mailed, and it is a small miracle that it even survived.

Buster was a sweet-faced jokester and naughty boy, but from what I can tell, it was Tige who really sold the strip. All sorts of bull terriers were popular pets in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  Unfortunately, dog fighting was a popular, albeit outlawed, betting sport at the same time that Buster and Tige appeared, and bulldogs like Tige were the dogs of choice for the pit.

It is hard to find collections of Buster Brown strips today, but here is a link to Buster Brown’s Autobiography, published in 1907.  It offers Buster’s story of meeting Tige at his grandmother’s farm and tells how Tige became his dog.  The pictures throughout are wonderful.

Buster, Tige, Mary Jane and I wish you a happy holiday season!


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Filed under advertising trade card, anthropomorphism, bulldog, Buster Brown, Christmas, material culture, pet humor, pets, pets in the comics, post cards

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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Do you smell something funny?

"D. Fleming Lucas and Trixie. From Will & Edna."  Studio photograph on postcard, 1920s.

“D. Fleming Lucas and Trixie. From Will & Edna.” Studio photograph on postcard. T. A. Morgan, photographer, Morgantown, West Virginia, 1920s.

When I purchased this postcard, I was especially taken by toddler D. Fleming Lucas’ onesie, which clearly covers a bulky layer of diapers and a woolen diaper cover.  (Latex or rubber pants for babies seem to have appeared on the scene in the 1920s but, from his profile, I would guess that young Master Lucas is not wearing them.)  I was also charmed by Trixie’s expression.  I think she looks as though she smells something funny and is fighting her canine impulses to investigate further. She’s not looking at the photographer, although the toddler is.  She is probably looking at her owner, Master Lucas’ mother or father, and notice how her ears are folded back. She’d like to get down from that chair, but she’s being good and holding very still.

It is remarkable how many studio photographs of babies with family dogs survive from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  I’ll share more in future posts and offer a consideration of the  posing conventions that had already developed by the 1860s.  For now, however, enjoy Trixie and her (probably) fragrant young friend.

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Two Old Dogs Taking the Air

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“Fannie.” Real photo postcard, between 1907 and 1914. U.S.A., photographer unknown.

Spring is here, and dogs everywhere are enjoying the sun on their fur and the air in their snouts.  Sometimes real photo postcards just speak for themselves, even if they contain little or no additional information.  These two images show well-cared-for, senior dogs enjoying the outdoors.  The old gentleman in this first image is unidentified, but the second one is labelled “Fannie” on the back side.    Fannie looks like a collie mix of some type.  The old gentleman is a bit more mysterious.  His ears have been clipped, which was usually done to bulldogs, but he has quote a prominent muzzle.  Yet I don’t see much German Shepherd in there, either.  (German shepherds were rare in the U.S. until after World War I.)   If you have any thoughts on the breeding of this fellow, I’d be happy to read them.

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A dog enjoying the sunshine. Real photo postcard, probably 1920s. Probably U.S.A., photographer unknown.


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Another Enormous Cat with a Postcard of His Own

When I published a 1907 postcard of McKinley, the 35-pound mascot of Farmingdale, Maine, I must admit that I never expected to see another like it.  Never say never.  Here is a portrait of another enormous cat, Feathers.  Somehow the name doesn’t seem to suit this handsome and pleasant-looking fellow, who beat McKinley by five pounds when this portrait was taken.

Fat cat pc 1952

“Feathers. World Famous 40 lb. Cat. 18 Years Old. Owners, Mr. and Mrs. James George, Colorado Springs, Colorado. Photographer Unknown. Postcard Postally used 15 October 1952.

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Back of the postcard of Feathers, postmarked 15 October 1952.

It’s the BACK of this postcard that is especially interesting, however, and I reproduce a small image of it.  The senders, Bill and Alice (their last names are unknown) actually report on a visit to see Feathers in October 1952.  “How will you like to have a cat like this one in this picture.  We went over to see it.  It is 19 years old now.  They say it weighs 46# now. ”  Bill and Alice sent the postcard to Mr. and Mrs. Magnus Wold of Madison, Wisconsin — so Feathers’ fame did reach the upper Midwest.

On the off-chance that someone else had a copy of this postcard and had posted it online, I did a quick search for Feathers and his (or her) owner.  No luck — but I did discover that extremely fat cats — in the 30 to 40 pound range — are the objects of a considerable amount of public interest today.  Numbers of them have turned up in shelters, where the are put on strict diets and are monitored by vets before they are put up for adoption.  Local papers and television news shows seem to love reporting on them.  How many enormous cats like Feathers and his “ancestor” McKinley are out there in the world is unknown.  Television commercials for high-end diet cat food suggest that there are lots of them.





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