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by Maureen A. Taylor

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# Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Pet Photos: Our Ancestors Loved Their Dogs, Too!
Posted by Maureen

This photo belongs to Lorie Zirbes. On the back is a simple caption, “Maude’s dog.” That signifies this charming pooch belonged to her great-aunt Maude Houser, who never had children. Houser married twice, was widowed young and died in 1902, when she was only 22.

Lorie asked, “Was it unusual to take a dog to a studio to be photographed?” The answer is no. The desire to have a lasting remembrance of the family pet is nothing new. It dates back all the way to the daguerreotypes of the early 1840s.

In the early 20th century, around the time Houser took her pooch to the studio, photographic magazines frequently published articles on how to photograph dogs.

For instance, photographer George Oliver advised studio owners that “in certain sporting or training districts the photographing of animals should prove as important an adjunct to the business as does the photographing of students in some college towns.”

Oliver spoke of his own business, “For a long time I have made quite a specialty of dogs, being rather fortunately situated in a district where there are not only many bird dogs, but where, in addition, many lady summer visitors bring their pet dogs." He added, "In studio work of the first class I find ladies the easiest to take, but the hardest to please."

Oliver’s technique for photographing dogs with their owners was to use a noiseless shutter, and enough light to reduce the exposure to a fraction of a second. For pet portraits without owners, he posed the dog on a table and used a treat to get it to stay still. This is likely the method used for the photo of Houser’s dog. It's alert, with mouth open and tongue out waiting for its reward.

Any photographer who wants to photograph a dog should follow Oliver’s advice, “Right here let me say that it is no use trying to photograph dogs unless you were born a friend of them. If you think that dogs are just ugly brutes, you will have about as much success as a surly misanthrope would have if he tried to photograph children—dogs know.”

You can read the rest of Oliver’s article “Photographing Dogs” in Wilson’s Photographic Magazine (volume L), 1913. It’s full of interesting tips that are still useful today.

A small volume, The Dog Album: Studio Portraits of Dogs and Their People (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, $14.95) by Gary E. Eichhorn and Scott B. Jones is a fun collection of 19th century pictures of folks and their dogs. The authors say it’s difficult to tell the breed of dog in old photos due to the more generalized categories of dogs at teh time, rather than the specialized breeds common today. The American Kennel Club only dates back to 1884.

Anyone want to guess on the breed of dog in this picture? Post in the Comments section.

Do you have a picture of an ancestor's pet? E-mail it to me. I’d love to see it and feature it here next week. I think it’s too bad no one in the family included the name of Houser’s dog in the note on the back of the photo.


Pets
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 4:22:29 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)  #  Comments [8]
Tuesday, January 13, 2009 7:16:58 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Hello Maureen,
This dog looks like a terrier to me, but what kind? Maybe a Wheaten (if they were an actual breed at that time). My husband and I have three dogs so I recently started a new blog titled "The Four Dog Blog" to honor them and share information. They, indeed, are part of the family.
Sue Edminster
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 8:27:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The dog looks like a West Highland Terrier or possibly on that ancestry. It is definetly a terrier. Probably also a terror as my Wire Hair Fox Terrier was, but he was a good dog.

Claudia
Wednesday, January 14, 2009 9:16:34 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Thank you Sue and Claudia! I just love this photo probably because I just became a dog owner. She's a lovely Maltese with a great disposition.
Maureen Taylor
Thursday, January 15, 2009 12:50:01 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
The story turned out great, and it was informative too! Nice to know our ancestors considered their pets "family" too, and not just as simply animals.

I knew one person, who lived in a rural area, who didn't feel that way, saying "it's just an animal" and it seemed like they considered animals "a dime a dozen"....I was disappointed in that attitude.
That's why I asked if it was unusual to take a dog for a studio portrait in those days.
Also have a photo of my maternal Grandfather with a family dog, but it's not a studio portrait.
Another one with a family hunting dog, but not a studio portrait either.

I'm sure this dog was a terrier. My family always had terrier type dogs of some kind.
He reminds me of "Toto" in the Wizard of OZ!

It is too bad that the name of the dog wasn't written on the back. I think my Grandmother wrote that....and she was a very tight lipped woman.
She died when I was just 5, but from what my Mom tells me, she never spoke about her younger sister Maude, who died so young.
I'm sure she loved her though, as we had the old, yellowed obituary, where I learned about her short life.
Thursday, January 15, 2009 4:50:17 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
It could also be a cairn terrier. Our family has had several of those, and this pooch looks similar - especially the coat.
Jennifer Boyle
Thursday, January 15, 2009 10:00:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This has to be a Cairn Terrier. Have had quite a few over the years. Have a little Wheaten colored fellow now that looks like it could be a photo of him. Westys are a bit heavier and blockier, but similar.
Dolores Hickernell
Friday, January 16, 2009 7:26:08 PM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
This definitely looks like a cairn terrier. I have two of them myself. His coat, his size and his black lips all point to the fact that he is a cairn and proud of it!
Ruth Hiller
Saturday, January 17, 2009 2:53:33 AM (GMT Standard Time, UTC+00:00)
Looks like a Cairn Terrier to me.
http://www.cairnrescue.com
R
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