Tag Archives: advice literature on pets

Doghouses: Daily Life for Dogs in the Past

Doghouses were once a common sight in the back yards of American households. Well into the 20th century, family dogs often spent their nights outdoors,  and quite a few dogs seem to have lived outside all of their lives.  Don’t assume that this meant that people did not love their dogs, or that outdoor dogs weren’t pets.  There are many reasons that dogs lived in separate houses. For instance, watch dogs were important for many households;  often, a barking dog was the only burglar alarm available.   Especially during the warm months, flea infestations were so hard to control that the best way to limit household infestations was to keep dogs outside.  (I’ll be doing another post on flea control later this summer.)  If a family had a stable or barn, dogs often slept there and did not have a doghouse.

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Advertising trade card for Charles Hall, Springfield, MA, undated (1870s). Chromolithograph, published unknown.  This image was purchased as a “blank,” and Charles Hall, who started his business in the early 1870s, added the store information, probably using a local printer.

A few doghouses from the nineteenth century survive;  there is a charming one in the collection of the John Quincy Adams house.  But most are long gone.  However, lots of images of doghouses, in a variety of media, show use what they looked like and  how they were furnished and used.  This trade card, from the 1870s, depicts a mother dog with her pups receiving a pan of milk from two children.  It’s a plain, unpainted structure with a peaked roof.  It looks like it may have a floor, too, and the adult dog lies on bedding of straw.

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Advertising trade card for W. Winslow, Peabody, MA, no date (1870s or 1880s).  Lithograph, Gies & Co, Buffalo, New York (c. 1871 – c. 1922).   This is another blank with the store information added later.

The trade card above, from around 1880, shows a doghouse that has been fashioned from a barrel.  In this domestic scene, the mother terrier has brought a rat to her puppies and seems to be instructing them on their duty as terriers to hunt and kill rodents.

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Advertising trade card for Prescott’s Universal Stove Polish, J. L. Prescott & Co., Berwick, Maine, undated.  Chromolithograph, publisher unknown. This card was distributed widely, and many copies survive.

Here’s another trade card image that shows an improvised doghouse made from a barrel steadied with bricks to keep it from rolling.  The adult dog is absent, but a collar and chain lies in front of the barrel, as does a pan containing a large bone.  Frances Butler, the author of Breeding, Training, Management, Diseases, Etc. of Dogs (first edition 1857), advised his readers, “If you are in the habit of keeping your dog on a chain, let him at least run a few minutes every day.” Perhaps that is what is happening here.

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“Beware of the Dog,” commercial photographic postcard.  Coryright 1907, Robert McCrum. Published by Bamforth & Co, New York, New York. This card was one of several comic photographic postcards  by Robert McCrum thar featured dogs.

Another crudely constructed doghouse from the early 20th century is depicted in this comic postcard from 1907. It shows a bewildered puppy chained to a doghouse that is raised on improvised legs nailed to the exterior and has an open roof line for ventilation.  The dirt yard suggests that this doghouse is in a city backyard or alley — not a great place to keep a dog, but a location where many city dogs lived.

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Two dogs, a cat and a doghouse.  Real photo postcard, photographer unknown.  Sent from Pleasant Lake, MA, on 16 June 1908 to Phoebe Cahoon of Sandwich, MA.

Advice books about dog keeping often included plans for making a good doghouse, but nothing I have seen looks remotely like this improvised structure.  Set well off the ground, it is covered with what were probably leftover shingles.  With its small entrance, it was probably cozy in winter, especially if two dogs slept in it.  Again, we see the straw bedding in the doorway.  Notice the cat keeping company with the two spaniels here.

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Plan for the “Vero Shaw model kennel,” published in William A. Bruette, Amateur’s Dog Book: A Treatise on the Management, Training and Diseases of Dogs. New York: Field & Stream Publishing Company, New York, New York, 1906.  My copy of this little book, which is only 4 1/2 by 6 3/4 inches, is inscribed “From Foley Dog Supplies, Inc. 119 So. 19th St. Phila. Pa”

Finally, here’s a plan for an improved dog house, published in a small paperback titled Amateur’s Dog Book, which was published in 1906.  Called the “Vero Shaw model kennel.”  It could be taken apart to enable thorough cleaning and had a bench front that allowed its occupant to “rest and enjoy the air.”   Notice the trim on the peak of the roof and the glass window!  This doghouse was intended to be a significant little outbuilding, an asset to the yard it occupied.

As a side note, Vero Kemball Shaw (1851-1921) was a British peer (I haven’t figured out his title yet) who was apparently active in the British dog fancy.  He published The Illustrated Book of the Dog (Cassell, Peter, Galpin & Co) in 1881.  The book featured beautiful chromolithographs of purebred dogs, and the images have often been pulled out of the book and sold for framing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Three things that every home should have as pets…” The Henry Field Company, 1934

Pets Blog 1 July 15_0008In 1934, the Henry Field Company of Shenandoah, Iowa, published two spring catalogs. One was its seed and plant catalog, representing the largest and oldest part of the business.  However, the company’s “Fish and Bird Department” got its own catalog. The cover photo showed  Barbra Jane and Bonnie June Elson, daughters of two Field employees, enjoying their pet canary and a tank of fish.  “In my opinion,” wrote Mr. Field, “there are three things every home should have as pets, a dog, bird and some fish.”  Cats were left out of this equation;  since Mr. Field was an old farmer, it’s likely that he still regarded cats as workers rather than companions.

Henry Arms Field was born in Page County, Iowa, in 1871 and established a small seed company that he incorporated in 1907.  Known as a marketing innovator, he built a radio station KFNF (“Keep Friendly Never Frown”) on top of his seedhouse in Shenandoah, Iowa, in 1924. (Thanks to Mike Dunton of the Victory Seed Company for the information on Henry Arms Field in his  Seedsman Hall of Fame.)

I don’t know how long Field stayed in the mail-order pet business.  Let’s take a look at some pages from his catalog to see what the Fish and Bird Department offered its customers.   The first pages were devoted to Field’s Famous Bird Seeds. Proof of their quality and the good results they broughtPets Blog plus auction cat 5 July 15 could be heard on KFNF, where Field’s “canary songsters” performed on the air two times a day.  “We are rewarded in rich melodious songs here at the bird room from early morning until late at night.”Pets Blog plus auction cat 5 July 15_0007

The Field Company also shipped canaries by express to their rural customers, offering a fine selection of imported birds and their own trained “Crooners.”  You may not know that all birds, wild and tame, have to learn their songs, and canary breeders, especially German and English fanciers, used both “bird organs” and older birds that were exemplary singers to get the songs they wanted.  Probably the most famous singers were Andreasburg Rollers, originally from Germany, and Field offered these, too.  But what I like about the “Crooners” is that the name invokes the mellow singing style of Bing Crosby and others of his ilk.

Like any pet store, the company also sold special supplies, including a recording of singing canaries to help keep your own bird in good voice and several lovely bird bathtubs.  Note also the bird houses and a feeder for attracting wild birds to the back yard.  This hobby really took off in the 1920s, and I’ll write more about it another time.

Pets Blog plus auction cat 5 July 15_0002Finally, the Henry Field Company also offered set-ups — containers, plants, and ornaments —  for old-fashioned balanced aquaria, which I wrote about in previous post.  Goldfish, turtles and salamanders were a separate expense.  Thus the Henry Field Company provided two of the “three things that every home should have as pets.”  Customers had to come up with their own dogs.

The mail order pet business made use of this country’s extensive rail system, which reached very small communities, to ship uncounted numbers of fragile creatures by express to eager pet owners. The advent of Rural Free Delivery in 1895 also played a role, especially for the distribution of supplies and equipment.  I’ve collected a number of catalogs from these mail order businesses, and their heyday appears to have been the 1920s and 1930s.  Very few of them were also seed businesses, however. In this, Henry Field Company was in tune with the role that florists played as sellers of songbirds and goldfish  in the first half of the nineteenth century.

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Filed under advice literature on pets, aquarium, bird cages, canaries, goldfish, goldfish, mail order catalogs, pet supplies and equipment, pets

The New York Veterinary Hospital, 1900: An Early Small-Animal Practice

Small animal veterinary practices were uncommon until the 1920s, when the rapid disappearance of working horses in cities forced many large animal vets to either close their practices or learn how to care for pet animals.  The University of Pennsylvania was the first American vet school to open a clinic for dogs. (Until the 1960s, the majority of  vets still trained to be large-animal specialists.)  The earliest small animal clinics all seem to have been located in big cities.  I’ve discussed this in an earlier post, on a Los Angeles dog hospital from 1917; take a look at “Dr. Byles’ Dog Hospital, 1917”  from November 2014.

I recently came into a very rare — and very fragile — little booklet titled The Dog. Management in Health, Treatment in Disease by Dr. S. K. Johnson, the “Chief Surgeon” of the New York Veterinary Hospital, located at 117 West 25th Street in New York City.  Published in 1900, the booklet had several purposes.  First, it promoted Dr. Johnson’s Dog Remedies, a line of over-the counter medicines and a flea shampoo.   The text offered “principal symptoms in plain language” so that a sick dog could be “diagnosed and treated intelligently and promptly by any person.” The booklet also offered consultation with “canine specialists” through the mail for $2.00 (prepaid, of course).

Dr. Johnson introduced himself as the “consulting Veterinarian” to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. I’ll try to look into his career and will let you know if I find anything more.  He also used to booklet to promote the Canine department o the New York Veterinary Hospital, “under exclusive charge of canine specialists for the past Eighteen years,” suggesting that it was founded in 1882, two years before the University of Pennsylvania founded its dog clinic!  I wonder whether Dr. Johnson was trained in England or Germany, where small-animal medicine was more advanced than in this country.

It is needless to state that during that period an enormous number of dogs and cats have been treated….From the most trivial to the most serious cases, from the slightest to the most critical operations have been performed on dogs and cats.  This immense experience, obtained by our specialists in the treatment of diseases, has resulted in the most perfect methods and remedies…the best, surest, and safest cure…compounded in Our own laboratory under the direct supervision of able chemists and veterinarians.

To support these claims, and perhaps to attract new patients to 117 West 25th Street, the booklet also offered photo-mechanical images of the practice.  Their quality isn’t very good, but they are still a remarkable record of an early small-animal clinic.  The hospital still treated equine patients, too.  If you go back to my post on Dr. Byles’ Los Angeles dog hospital, you can see how much modern small-animal practices changed, partly to reflect improved sanitation and partly to appeal to owners who expected their pets’ medical practice to look as modern and clean as their own doctors’ offices.

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The Canine Ambulance of the New York Veterinary Hospital. Back cover of The Dog. Management in Health, Treatment in Disease, 1900. Early dog hospitals often had ambulances since urban pet owners had no way to transport their sick or hurt animals to the clinic.

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Inside cover of The Dog. Management in Health, Treatment in Disease, Dr. S. K. Johnson, author. 1900. The two dark lines are from old repairs with cellophane tape.

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Consultation and Reception Offices Canine Department. New York Veterinary Hospital. From The Dog. Management in Health, Treatment in Disease, 1900. Notice the display of medicines on the back wall.

 

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North Section of the Canine Department, New York Veterinary Hospital. From The Dog. Management in Health, Treatment in Disease, 1900. A couple of patients in kennels are visible behind the table with medicines.

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“The Normal Temperature – Pulse – Respiration.” The Dog. Management in Health, Treatment in Disease included information to help pet owners evaluate their sick pets. The illustration showed how to create a cloth tape muzzle to prevent a dog bite.

 

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Filed under cats, dogs, pet photography, pets, small animal medicine, veterinary history, veterinary medicine

Pets…for Assurance of a Fuller Life

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Pets for Assurance of a Fuller Life. New York: The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, 1956. Fifth in the series Assurance of a Fuller Life.

In 1956, The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the United States, purveyor of life insurance since 1859, published a series of booklets, the “Assurance of a Fuller Life” series.  Produced by the Medical Department of the Company as a public health initiative, the series focused on vacationing, health and safety in the kitchen, and “making the most of personal health resources at work, rest and play.”  Number Five in the series was this booklet, Pets for Assurance of a Fuller Life (hereafter PAFL).    

This booklet promoted pet keeping as a form of family leisure and another opportunity to cultivate close family relationships: “Owning a pet is like playing a good game.  It’s exciting, stimulating, absorbing, challenging, and above all — it’s fun!”    The text also assumed that its readers were pet-less and encouraged  a family meeting to determine what kind of pet would be “best-suited” to its circumstances:

If you feel a dog or a cat would burden your family too much — ADMIT IT!  You need not face a petless future.  You can get pleasure when your canary sings as you enter the room, when your tropical fish swarm to the side of the tank, when your white mice do wild acrobatics just to amuse you.  None of these pets scratch at the door and imperiously demand to be taken for a walk just when you’re deep in a mystery story or putting a souffle in the oven — and it’s raining outside.

As I discuss in Pets in America, advice about pet keeping from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries promoted the idea that children’s (especially boys’) moral development required the presence of  pets, who stood in for the human dependents every pater familias could expect to support: elderly servants or family members, invalids, and wives and children, of course.  Kindly stewardship to animals taught children the patience, restraint and sense of duty that would make them good family members and good citizens. These early books didn’t discuss having pets as an activity that parents and children could share; ideals of family life at the time viewed relationships between parents (particularly fathers) and children as being loving but hierarchical.

PAFL reflects a couple of important changes in both “domestic culture”  and the practice of pet keeping by the time it was written.  While it promoted kindness (each pet was “a playmate, not a plaything”), the text’s perception of the ability of children to care for pets was grounded in new understandings of child development.  Parents were advised to give each child “plenty of help” in caring for an animal.

IMG pet blog images_0007The booklet also promoted the use of small animal veterinarians.  It’s telling that an entire page was devoted to explaining what a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine actually was.  Prospective pet owners were admonished that “diagnosing disease in animals is not a job for amateurs.”  Veterinarians also provided advice on a relatively new concern, whether to spay or neuter.  In case there was any confusion on the topic, PAFL  advised, “neutering is final, and once it is done you have lost the chance of mating or breeding your pet.”

Pets for the Assurance of a Fuller Life is an artifact of the 1950s, in both its graph design and its contents.  It reflects the increasing popularity of pet keeping as part of suburban family life and an avenue for family fun, and it reflects an era  when more pet owners began to pay for professionalized services such as grooming and  medical care.

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