Tag Archives: #doghistory

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.

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.

US2064566 Dog galosh 1936

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.


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.


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.


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?


Filed under animal-human interaction, dog advertising, dog boots, dog clothing, dogs, pet supplies and equipment, pets

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.


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.


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



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.


Advice on dog care by Michael Von Motzeck.


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.


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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Filed under advice literature on pets, attitudes toward dogs, dog advertising, dog food, dog training, dogs, pet history, pets, pets in the comics

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.



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