Tag Archives: real photo postcard

“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.

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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.

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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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“Thought I’d send you some cats,” 1907

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Cats on a ladder, real photo postcard.  Postmarked 8 October 1907.

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Verso of real photo postcard above.

While I prepare some longer posts after some time off, here’s a terrific real photo postcard of a mother cat and four kittens posed on a stepladder. Two things are unusual in this image:  the entire family appears to be white, and there are four kittens.  It was often the case that, in the days before surgical spaying became available, all the kittens but one or two were drowned at birth.  Perhaps the little fellows all survived because of their unusual color.

Presumably the photographer is “Glen,” who sent the postcard with the comment “thought I’d send you some cats.”  However, this pose probably required more than one person: a cat arranger and a photographer ready with the camera before the subjects jumped down and ran off.

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“The Intermission”: a playful dog in a real photo postcard, 1910

Documenting the history of play with pet animals is a challenge.  Think about your own games with your pets.  They are casual, often lasting a few minutes in odd moments of leisure or pauses during housework.  They may take place while something else is going on: I often find myself throwing a small rubber ball for my dog while I watch television.  Nowadays, quick snapshots and short videos of play with pets record these casual yet pleasurable and emotionally satisfying moments for posterity — and in enormous numbers. (As I write this, a Google search for “dog video” yields 204 million results.) But finding manuscript sources that recount these games in an earlier era is a treat.  And this real photo postcard, sent in 1910, even includes a snapshot of the dog in question! What it does not include, however, is the name of the writer, the name of the dog, or information on who took the photo.  Oh, well.

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Real photo postcard with cyanotype snapshot, postmarked 20 October 1910, Sweetwater, Texas.  Unsigned, and photographer unknown.

Here is a transcript of the message: “The Intermission.”  “The scamp” paused for an instant on top of the storm-cellar, and, huffing and panting, “dared” me to romp with him some more!  I “snapped” him and then jumped at him – and off he dashed, plowing the dust up so that Arnold had to wash his paws again before taking him into the house.  His hair dries in tufts, as you see here, and I call him “an old porcupine” until he gets combed out!

The message seems to describe one of those spontaneous running-and-chase games where the dog tucks his butt and runs in circles; at my house, we call this “scudding.” I’m not sure about the breed of the dog.  He seems to be a collie or a collie mix of some kind.  And we know that he was a house dog.

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Verso of postcard of “The Intermission.”

The verso of the postcard, above, recalls a day spent with Mrs. Burnside, the recipient, and mentions an “S” who is apparently near the end of a fatal illness.  But it is unsigned.

So pause in your labors and make your dog (and  you) happy by inviting her to play.

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“Some pictures of Etta’s pets…”: a real photo postcard

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Real photo postcard, between 1902 and 1907.  Photograph by “Etta” (no other information available).

At this busy time of year, I’ll share a short post about a card I purchased a while ago.  Here is a real photo postcard that features a pair of images taken by “Etta,” who I presume was a young woman, perhaps a teenager.  I’ve written about these kinds of cards in earlier posts, but let me review some history quickly. Eastman Kodak began selling pre-printed postcard stock with photo-sensitive fronts in 1902;  they offered a camera designed for amateur postcard photography in 1903.  Other companies soon followed; some began to offer accessories such as sets of black paper masking frames that allowed printed photos to have different shapes and borders.  This one is interesting because Etta printed two round images on the front, masking them but overlapping them by accident.   I’ve been unable to identify the recipient, the sender, or the writer — but this card is evidence of a young woman taking up amateur photography.   The photo of the cat is particularly nice.  I like that the horse is her “pet,” too.  This suggests that, at a time when horses still were crucial sources of motive power, some crossed the line from worker to beloved individual — and that girls were riders, too!

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Back, postcard of “Etta’s pets.”  Sent to Ruth Daniels, Middlesex, VT, no postmark.

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It’s National Cat Day!

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“Fluffy Ruffles,” real photo postcard by “W.C.T.,” postmarked Boston, 1908.

In honor of National Cat Day, allow me to introduce you to “Fluffy Ruffles,” the poster cat for all the indignities we visit on our feline housemates, especially in our photographs and videos.  Not only was the poor creature given that embarrassing name, but poor F.R. was stuffed in a basket for this portrait.  And you can see how happy he (or she) is about it.   Happy National Cat Day!

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Back of postcard of “Fluffy Ruffles.”

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A Cat Disturbed in Bed, 1906

My collection of pet-related photographs has been pretty much assembled on the cheap, and I have missed a lot of great things in auctions because my budget just wouldn’t stand it.  However,  when I saw this real photo postcard on an auction site, I decided to go for it — and I even managed to outbid someone who tried to “snipe” me at the end.  Lee, the otherwise unidentified sender  — and, I presume, photographer — of this postcard notes that “This is an actual Photo taken from life” in the right-hand margin.

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“Oh! Oh! What a difference in the morning.” Real photo postcard signed “Lee.”  Posted from Waterbury, CT, 13 October 1906.

 

The annoyed-looking feline subject of this photograph is tucked into a doll bed that has a full set of linens, including the knotted quilt that covers him (or her).   I used to do things like this to one of the cats of my childhood, and I imagine that many unsung housecats in the past suffered similar indignities.

The caption is especially interesting because it references a long-forgotten but very popular theatrical song of the 1890s.  “Oh! What a Difference in the Morning!” is a comic lament about hangovers, women whose evening beauty is gone with the dawn, and others who are deluded by the romance of night life.  There are multiple copies available online, including in the digital music libraries of the Johns Hopkins University and the New York Public Library (http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47dd-edd6-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99).  It was popular in both English music halls and American popular theater; although I’m no music historian, my suspicion is that the American editions were knock-offs.  The song has an apparent association with Laura Joyce Bell, an English singer and comedienne who made a very successful career here in the U.S., including performances of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with her husband Digby Bell.  “Oh! What a Difference in the Morning!” inspired additional topical verses in American newspapers and magazines, and the title even shows up in advertisements for mattresses, suggesting that it was a widely-understood humorous reference.

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Back of postcard. Addressed to William L. Wooding of Bethany, Connecticut. Postmarked Waterbury, CT and New Haven, CT, 13 October 1906.

The unknown sender of this photograph was sharing a joke that went far beyond the wonderful photograph he took.

 

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Milk for the Barn Cat: From Producer to Consumer Direct

When I was a very little girl, I visited my great-uncle Norwood and great-aunt Eula on their farm in southwestern Virginia.  Uncle Norwood still milked his small herd of cows by hand.  When he did, the barn cats would gather and sit up with their mouths half-open, waiting for him to bend the placid cow’s teat and shoot some milk in their direction.  They’d clean the rich milk off their muzzles and come back for more.  When I saw this old postcard, I purchased it because it reminded me of milking time on Uncle Norwood’s farm.  I dug around a little and discovered that in the 1910s, the idea of direct marketing from farms to new urban consumers was a topic of Department of Agriculture conversations, hence the title “From Producer to Consumer Direct” is satirical.

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“From Producer to Consumer Direct,” publisher unknown. Postally unused, 1910-1920?

Then I saw this real photo postcard, which had been misidentified as a cat pulling on a string.  I knew what it was, a close-up view of the same technique that Uncle Norwood used and that’s depicted in the other postcard.  This is a snapshot of a well-established routine.  The cat is old and a little scraggly, but it is sitting on the milker’s lap.

Barn cats and other cats who worked to keep rodents out of barns and stables were sometimes both pets and workers.  They played important roles on the family farm, although their lives were often cut short by infectious disease and accidents.  It’s nice to see a little evidence of appreciation, a special “Morning Meal,” for these unheralded workers.

 

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“The Morning Meal,” real photo postcard. Photographer unknown. Sent to Mr E. A. March, Cincinnati, Ohio, from East Saint Louis, 26 January 1915.

 

 

 

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