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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Winter’s here! Vintage Dog Booties from New York City and Hollywood

I have a small collection of vintage dog clothing, and I recently returned to it to see if I could learn more about the makers and the circumstances that inspired them to offer these novelties for American dog owners.  I’m especially fond of several pairs of dog booties, so let’s take a closer look at these.

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Pedigree Dog Bootees.  U.S. Specialties Co., New York, New York.  Probably 1940s.

I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out the material of these little boots.  They aren’t made of a woven material, so I finally came to the conclusion that they are  cut from some kind of early plastic sheet, or a sheet impregnated with a plastic, that has become hard and brittle over time.  The bottoms are made of a different plastic that is shiny, black and imprinted with an “alligator scale” design.  It too has become stiff and brittle.  Even in their original condition, they probably didn’t conform completely to the dog’s foot, and they had to be laced on, which must have been inconvenient.  This pair didn’t see much, if any, use.  There is no documentation that they were made elsewhere, so I’m assuming that they were made in this country for U.S. Specialties Co., which distributed a wide array of pet supplies in the 1940s and 1950s.

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Original box for the Pedigree Dog Bootees.

So I looked around to see if I could find some kind of pattern or patent for these odd little boots, and I found a very similar design.  David Richman of New York, New York, received the patent in 1936 for a “dog boot or galosh” that was supposed to be made of an unspecified “flexible waterproof sheet material.”  Richman wrote, “It is thus possible to protect the animals from adverse weather conditions and to keep their feet clean so that they do not soil articles of furniture in the home when entering from the street.” Richman’s design has a single snap fastener at the top.

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Although David Richman’s dog booties look stiff and uncomfortable in the drawing, I have seen pictures of old leather booties used to protect the feet of sled dogs (sorry that I do not have a good one for this), and there are quite a few similarities in the design — except that the sled dog boots, because they are leather, with rawhide laces, seem to have been soft, conforming to the paw.  Richman’s justification for his patent design is interesting because it is very much directed to house dogs.  And the box for these booties suggests that the dogs who wore them were riding in cars and living indoors.  Further, in the 1940s, city dogs’ feet were exposed to a new material for making sidewalks and roads less slippery —  rock salt.  According to the National Geographic, Detroit was the first city to supply rock salt to its roads, in 1940.

The pair of dog boots below represent a couple of breakthroughs in the protection of little dog feet.  Many pairs of these, made by Hollywood Dog Togs, survive “out there” on sites like eBay.  This suggests that they were popular, but that some owners found them too troublesome to use.

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Hollywood Dog Togs, Inc., was incorporated in California in 1958 and existed until 1983.  It had been in operation by 1944, founded by Anne Ardmore and her husband Albert.  Mrs. Ardmore designed and sewed dog clothing. There is another interesting story here about the new enthusiasm for “fashionable” clothing for small pet dogs, and I will share it a separate post about the company Hollywood Dog Togs.

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Four little soft booties with their black elastic straps.

The boots are still soft and pliable, although the elastic straps have lost much of their stretch.  They were sized — mine are extra-small — and the box side below includes a nice picture of a happy pooch strapped into his boots.

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I was even able to locate some information about the material of these boots.  On 5 January 1958, the Miami Daily News-Record of Miami, Oklahoma, published a column called “Tire Talk from B.F. Goodrich” that discussed them specifically.

This unusual new product protects dog’s paws….The smart-looking boots slip on easily and comfort is insured by an adjustable ankle strap fastener….Marketed by Anne Ardmore’s Hollywood Dog Togs of Sherman Oaks, Calif., the  boots are molded from geon vinyl resins supplied by B.F. Goodrich Chemical Co.”

So both these little pairs of boots were part of the plastics revolution, although only the vinyl resin in the Hollywood Dog Togs boots has held up over time.

As people use more and more salt on their sidewalks and streets, dogs need foot protection more than ever. Does your dog wear winter boots?

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Vo Toys Catnip Leaves: “Makes Cats Playful”

This almost empty envelope for Vo Toys Catnip probably dates from the 1940s.  I have written before (16 October 2014) about the invention of the catnip mouse in the 1910s. When a household had an herb garden, catnip or catmint was a valued traditional medicinal herb used to soothe digestive upsets.  But people knew that cats were susceptible to its active ingredient, which we now call nepetalactone.   Loose catnip was sold in drugstores in the past; it is still sold in health food stores in bulk and in teabags as a tummy soother. (It works, too.) Around 1900, some companies that made over-the-counter veterinary remedies began to sell catnip for cats as a “tonic.”  Pet shops began to include catnip and cat toys in their stock, although  the real take-off point for cat products is the 1940s and 1950s, the era of this packet. (See my post of 26 December 2017, on the mail-order catalog from Felix’s General Store and the Katnip Tree Company of Seattle, Washington.)

For folks who no longer had access to fresh catnip, packets like this, sold in pet stores and five-and-ten pet departments, could be used to “recharge” the wooden and rubber balls with stoppers that were sold as cat toys, or rubbed on one of the new scratching posts offered for sale beginning in the 1930s.  A pinch of catnip could also be administered directly to the willing subject, of course.

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Vo Toys Catnip packet, 1940s.

Vo Toys (now Vo-Toys, Inc. ) was founded in 1939 and is still around as a distributor of pet products including, of course, catnip toys for today’s feline consumers.

But the main reason that I’m sharing this now is, I just REALLY like the design on the front of the packet!  Especially the red cat lounging across the word “catnip” while his companions play with catnip leaves.

 

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Radio Orphan Annie’s Book About Dogs, 1936

My mother, who was a child during the Depression, recalls the radio program “Little Orphan Annie” with pleasure.  A serial directed to children, it featured the comic-strip  characters, who first appeared in 1924, although the plots of the show didn’t follow the stories, or include all the characters, of the print version.  The national broadcast was sponsored by the Wander Company, makers of Ovaltine, a powder that was added to milk to make it more nutritious — and delicious — to children.  (Ovaltine was first marketed as a food supplement for invalids.)

Beginning in 1925, the year after the comic strip first appeared, Annie acquired a sidekick, a mixed breed dog that she named Sandy.  Sandy was drawn so that he looked like he was least partly an Airedale terrier, a popular breed in the 1920s and 1930s.  He also had a very happy dog smile and the same round, empty eyes as his young mistress.  Unlike Buster Brown’s dog Tige, however, Sandy was no comedian, nor did he share his observations on life through thought balloons.  He was a hero, however, who saved Annie from various dangers.

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Front cover, Radio Orphan Annie’s Book of Dogs, showing Annie and her pal Sandy.  The Wander Company, Chicago, Illinois, 1936.

I had no idea that the radio show had spawned a booklet about training dogs.  When I saw this one in an online auction, I bid but assumed that collectors of Little Orphan Annie memorabilia would drive the price past my tiny collecting budget.  I was surprised when I won it.  And the booklet came with its original mailing envelope! The little girl who ordered the book carefully filled in her personal information on the back cover.

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Back cover of Radio Orphan Annie’s Book of Dogs.

 

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Inside front cover and first page.

Inside the front cover, Annie introduced Sandy, a “real All-American dog,” who “has about the best of every kind of dog in him.”

The booklet contained care and training advice by Michael von Motzeck, proprietor of the V. and M. Training Kennels of Chicago, Illinois (the city where the radio show originated).   Von Motzeck offered advice that was still relatively progressive at the time.  For example, he was a proponent of the folded newspaper as the only method for punishment and advised that patience, petting and praise were the true keys to training.

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Advice on dog care by Michael Von Motzeck.

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Instruction on teaching tricks.

The instructions for teaching dogs tricks showed boys interacting with their pets rather than adults.  Even though the booklet was a gift from Little Orphan Annie, girls were neglected as potential dog trainers. The advice on care and training was followed by information on 29 breeds punctuated with attractive small drawings, mostly of the characters in the radio show.  Below, in the page on Airedales, Annie and Sandy look on while Annie’s friend Joe Corntassel builds a dog house, presumably for Sandy.

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Advice on caring for dogs and a profile of the Airedale terrier.

Returning to von Motzeck, I discovered that he is another of these interesting characters who made some kind of living as a trainer, dog dealer, and kennel proprietor in the 1920s and 1930s.  (I wrote about another of these fellows, a Los Angeles go-getter named Richard Goodwin, in my 6 March 2017 post.)  Classified ads for von Motzeck’s V. &. M. training and boarding kennel appear in the Chicago Tribune in August of 1936.  He offered to train dogs for “obedience, protection and stagework” and listed “Dobermans, Airedales and Other Breeds”  for sale.  How the good people of the Wander Company found him is a mystery, but it is possible that someone attended von Motzeck’s demonstration of dog obedience at the Pedigree Shop of the Marshall Fields Department Store later that year.   It featured his champion Doberman-Pinscher “Major Von Motzeck.”

By 1939, Michael von Motzeck was featured in magazine advertisements for Red Heart Dog Food, offered by Chicago packing house John Morrell & Company.  (His dogs always ate Red Heart, of course.) That year he also appeared in a long article titled “How Smart is Your Dog?” in Popular Mechanics, the Bible of Depression-era do-it-yourselfers.  And finally, in 1945, von Motzeck’s dogs were featured in Life Magazine;  he had trained a dachshund named Sascha to be the seeing-eye for a blind collie from his kennel and was considering training more service dogs for disabled dogs!

 

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Noble Pugs of San Francisco Visit Famous Photographer I.W. Taber’s Studio

One day, probably in the 1880s, the owner or owners of these three noble beasts gathered them up for an outing to downtown San Francisco.  At the corner of Montgomery and Market Streets, the three dogs and their people may have entered an elevator that carried them to the famous photography studios of Isaiah West Taber (1830-1912), a photographer noted for his portraits of famous Californians and his large series of stereo views of his adopted state.

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Three noble pugs, owner unknown.  Cabinet card,  W. Taber & Co; Photographic Parlors, San Francisco, probably 1880s.  The image is an albumen print and has toned to this brown color over time.  On the body of the pug on the left, here is a scrape through the emulsion layer.

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Taber Photographic Parlors, 8 Montgomery Street, San Francisco, 1884 (?). Detail of advertisement, source unknown.  Courtesy California State Library.

The pugs probably passed through, or even waited in, a parlor like the one depicted in the image below — or perhaps even this one. Successful city photographers in this period often created elaborately decorated parlors — versions of parlors in the houses of well-to-do people — to attract clients.  In research I did for a book on Victorian parlors, I discovered that these rooms were not only a marketing tool, they also allowed waiting customers to imagine themselves as refined, cultivated people. I don’t think that the noble pugs cared about anything in the parlor depicted below;  still, they may have enjoyed the warmth of the wall-to-wall carpet on their little pug toes!

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Advertising cabinet photograph for Taber “Photographic Parlors,” ca. 1880.  Courtesy California State Library.

The studio where the noble pugs posed probably contained a number of different theatrical-style props — backdrops of architecture or natural scenery, drape-y curtains, posing chairs and carpets.  But the unknown photographer (I.W. Taber had a staff) who captured this image chose a setting of papier-mache rocks with an evident seam where two pieces were joined together.  Excelsior!  The detail below, which I have edited a bit to improve contrast, demonstrates that the pugs were not concerned about holding still for the camera.

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Verso of the original photograph.  The array of portrait work undertaken by I. W. Taber & Co.  was wide-ranging.

I’ve published quite a few studio portraits of dogs in this blog, and there will be more in future posts, but this is one of my very favorites.  As I go through my own smallish collection of nineteenth-century pet portraiture, I find that pugs are over-represented.  I’m not sure whether this is because they were especially treasured companion dogs, hence more likely to be taken to the studio for a portrait, or whether it is because they were a relatively new introduction to the array of dog breeds found in the United States in the last quarter of the nineteenth century.  I’ll write about the fad for pugs in a future post.

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More About Cats in the 1950s: Felix’s General Store, Seattle, Washington, 1956

Welcome to Felix’s General Store!

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Felix’s General Store. Front and back covers of catalog, 1956.

Imagine my surprise when I found this catalog, the first one I’d seen that was devoted completely to products for cats.  It was published by The Katnip Tree Company of Seattle, Washington.  The firm seems to have operated a wholesale and mail-order business.  The company offered an array of products designed specifically for cats, and its text includes long passages of advice that read like books on pet care today.  The Katnip Tree Company’s business reflected the evolving status of cats as pets that lived either exclusively or mostly indoors.

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Products offered by Felix’s General Store, 1956.

On the page to the left, above, business owner Dan Yoder explains how The Katnip Tree Company got its start, with the arrival of Felix, a black-and-white kitten, in 1933.  Felix was the “inspiration for the development of the useful and unique things we produce for cats.” (Felix’s photograph appears on the same page.) Yoder recalled, “When Felix first gave me the incentive to make things for cats there was little one could buy for these pets except a stuffed mouse or a few cents’ worth of catnip.”

As I read the catalog, Yoder’s name reminded me of something I’d written about in Pets in America: A History.  The first cat scratching post I’d been able to find was patented in 1935 — and who was the inventor but Dan Yoder, the owner of this company!

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Illustration for U.S. Patent 2,005,817.  Cat Scratching Post, invented  by Daniel D. Yoder.

The original design evolved into a number of options, shown below, covered with heavy  canvas and made more desirable by the inclusion of container holding catnip inside the pole.

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Two-page spread on the company’s own “Katnip Tree,” its signature product.

The catalog is full of other accommodations for the new “indoor cat,” including “Furnishings for Kitty’s Powder Room.”  The litter box kit consisted of an enameled metal tray with a decorative cover along with sheets of waterproof paper that were intended to keep moisture in the layer of sand or granular litter, which was finding its market in the 1950s.  (See my post of 15 November for a discussion of the “invention” and marketing of cat litter.). I especially like the optional “Powder Room Screen,” intended to shield the litter box.  This was probably intended for settings such as city apartments, where litter boxes occupied space in bathrooms or kitchens.

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A page from the “Sanitation and Hygiene” section of the catalog.

Indoor cats required “education,” according to Dan Yoder.  The training kit below was intended to teach the cat to come when the owner called.  (The catalog also offered a water pistol for use in training cats to leave household furnishings and plants along; this is a method that to be recommended for training cats today.) And the catalog also offered a special set of clippers for the claws of indoor cats.  Around the time, the practice of declawing was being introduced in some small-animal clinics, but Yoder did not mention it and would probably not have approved.

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Equipment for training and trimming claws.

Finally, the Katnip Tree Company catalog promoted the idea of traveling with cats using its Felix C-Vue Deluxe Carrier.  Noting that some veterinarians already used this product, the catalog pointed out that the plastic top and ventilation holes made cats more comfortable for car, train and airplane trips.

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Inside back cover of Felix’s General Store catalog.

The price list below shows the entire range of products offered by Dan Yoder’s small business in 1956.  Add in cat food and cat-box filler and you have a pretty complete  picture of the material culture associated with the changing home lives of pet cats in the mid-twentieth century.

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A cdv portrait of a poodle from the Pennsylvania coal country

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Unidentified dog, probably a poodle.  Carte-de-visite photograph by Kirby & Brothers Fine Art Gallery, Carbondale, Pennsylvania, probably late 1860s.

Here’s a handsome fellow who decided to pose at the Kirby & Brothers Fine Art Gallery by of Carbondale, Pennsylvania, by lying down.  This little dog is probably a poodle or a poodle mix, which made him unusual and special at the time this image was made.

William E. Kirby and John B. Kirby were probably the Kirby & Brother on the back of this card.  William was listed in as a Carbondale photographer in the 1868-69 edition of Reilly’s Pennsylvania Business Directory.  John appeared as a photographer in Susquahanna Depot, Pennsylvania, in the same book.  At the moment, I can’t say for certain whether they had been working together but had severed the partnership prior to 1868.  I do know, however, the William went on to become a merchant of rugs, fancy goods and furniture in Scranton in the 1870s, while John’s subsequent whereabouts are unknown.

Carbondale, 15 miles northeast of Scranton, played an important role in the early decades of the Pennsylvania coal industry.  It was the site of the first deep vein anthracite coal mine in the United States, and by 1829 it was a terminus for the young Delaware & Hudson Railroad.  Incorporated as a city in 1851, it was a city of immigrants:  Irish, Welsh and German at the time this image was made.  The individual or family who had this photograph made was almost undoubtedly well-to-do, probably a local businessman or, perhaps, a manager for a mining company or the railroad or someone from his family.

Just a reminder:  cartes-des-visite, or “cdvs” appeared on the scene in the mid-1850s and were generally printed in multiples.  They were originally intended as photographic visiting cards to be shared, and they are the first type of photographs collected into albums.  Because they were contact prints (the negative was as large as the printed image), the resolution of these little photographs is often very high.  It’s fun examining them closely, using a magnifying glass of some kind.

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Verso of the carte-de-visite.

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