Vernacular Photo Tuesday: Pets & Wildlife

Today’s installment of Vernacular Photo Tuesday features images of our furry friends, including the ‘standard’ pets like cats and dogs and the more unusual like the photos above and below. While humans have kept pets since the time of the Egyptians and dogs/birds/fish were a popular subject in painting and illustration, animals did not become prevalent in photography until the 1920s and 1930s. As I discussed in last week’s post, this was the era when cameras and film became cheaper and easier to use and photography became widespread outside of the studio. Since pets tend to be on the move, and bulky photo equipment and long exposures were required pre-1920s, it makes sense that not many photographic examples exist from the 1800s and the turn of the century. The horse, however, showed up early on– the most famous example being Eadweard J. Muybridge’s 1870s stop motion photographs of a horse that proved all four of its legs left the ground while galloping.

All of us likely have had at least one pet in our lifetime, whether it be a fish, hamster, dog, cat or rabbit. Then there’s the creatures we get the chance to see at the zoo, wildlife sanctuary, woods or farm. Did anyone else take field trips to a farm? When my family lived in Maui, Hawa’ii I took at least 2 different trips to a farm in grade school, I just remember how large the pigs were and petting the sheep.
A handsome fellow and his cuddly friend, looks a capuchin monkey? Albert gave me the first image of the woman with a baby chimp (?) and this image– they’re by far my most ‘exotic’ animal/pet/wildlife photographs. I’m wondering if the people actually owned the animals as pets or if they were visiting some kind of wild animal sanctuary.
One of my first pets was a parakeet, my grandma and I rescued the kindergarten class pet, Sweetie Pie. He was green.
All my friends and family know that I ADORE kitties. Unfortunately I do not have any pets at the moment (am just not home enough) but when we moved to Arkansas from Hawa’ii my parents allowed me to get 2 kitties. My kitties have sadly since passed away but as an only child they were my best friends. My kitty Lady was a tortoiseshell cat (brown/cream/orange) and Fluffy (yes I was 10 when I named her, haha) was a calico. I’d often wander into my bathroom to find one or both of them happily lapping water out of the bath tub faucet or sink, just like the 1960s Siamese kitty above. Albert found the photo in NYC and I bought it off him as I knew I had to have it for my collection.
A 1950s kitty lounging on a swankin’ fern print sofa in a room with Midcentury Modern furniture– wish I could see more of that coffee table. Notice the huge stuffed Easter bunny creepin’ in the corner too.
Two summers ago at the Rosemont Flea Market I discovered a dusty photo album from the early 1960s (judging from the cars in a few of the pictures) that documents the beloved pets of an elderly couple. Upon opening the album to inspect its contents I was surprised to find row after row of Polaroids of one dog– on the couch, eating, playing with a ball and generally hamming for the camera. Flipping through the pages I found more pets, two kitties, a parakeet and documentation of wildlife found both in a suburban backyard and in the woods.

Who was this couple? On one of the few non-Polaroid images I found the name ‘Camille’ scrolled across the back. Thus I’ve dubbed them Louis & Camille and named their dog Buddy and their kitties Marble and Coco. My theory is that A) They clearly loved animals B) Were probably empty nesters so lavished all their attention (and Polaroid film) on their pets rather than children/grandchildren.

Marble the kitty… she looks like Lady, my childhood kitty. Aw! Isn’t that double food dish bowl on LEGS amazing?? I never see vintage pet items, only metal cat/dog tags at estate sales.

My favorite photo of the entire album, the pose of the dog makes the photo as does the fact that Camille is completely oblivious, she seems to be engrossed in making a list of some sort. Look at that cracked ice formica and metal kitchen table! The overly ripe bananas in the foreground and fruit are also fun.

Action sequence of Coco the kitty frolicking on a groovy patterned bedspread. It looks like she’s playing with a Tom & Jerry toy in the top image.
I came across a family’s archive of photos in an antique mall in Tontitown, Arkansas (30 minutes away from my hometown) a little over year ago. This little black and white puppy appears in several of the photos, usually with the little boy. The only information I have about the family is that they were from Nebraska and this set of pictures seems to have been taken in the late 1950s or early 1960s.
Anyone reading this blog knows that there are regional differences in thrifting/vintage shopping– logical as people who live in a city would have different needs than someone from a small town. Now our culture has become fairly homogeneous (and in my opinion bland) due to big box stores like Wal-mart and malls but prior to the 1970s every town and city had its own flavor and its inhabitants only had access to whatever goods were available at the nearest general store or downtown department store.
Thus when I thrift/vintage shop in a more rural area I come across items that I’d never find in Chicago– for example, on the Indiana & Ohio trip photographs of horses, cows and other farm life kept popping up. The above set of photos were found on that trip and although they are in pretty bad shape decided they were still valuable as a record of farm life in the Midwest.
Look at this steer’s horns, I wouldn’t want to get anywhere near him! I’m wondering if this photo was taken in another country as the thatched roof behind the steer doesn’t look American.
Albert came across the most amazing album packed full of farm life scenes at a little junk shop in Indiana when we were on the way back to Chicago. I’m not sure what time period the photographs are from but I’m guessing the 1930s. A sweet family pretty much frolicked with their animals in all the pictures, including baby chicks, rabbits and roosters. I’m surprised they were able to get shot of all the chicks on the stairs, it doesn’t seem like they would be so well behaved!
It’s a hat. It’s a chicken. No, it’s a CHICKEN HAT. It would have been even more amazing if this woman had been holding an egg… [Photo from Albert’s collection]
There will definitely be another installment of pets/wildlife in the future as I have many more examples in my vintage vernacular photo collection. As I took the time and effort to scan these images, please post a link back to Thriftaholic if you repost them on your tumblr/blog/etc. Thanks!

Comments 0

  1. Oh my gosh!!! I absolutely adore these photos. I collect vintage photographs and I have a couple with horses and dogs but not this many with such a verity of animals. What a fantastic collection you have!! I think the little black and white puppy is a Boston Terrier. I have a Boston Terrier and French Bulldog mix so I really love that picture. 😀 Thank you so much for sharing these. They really made my day.

  2. Absolutely love this feature on your blog! How wonderful! Pets are a great subject matter and I adore all of the photos you have of people with their pets. Though all are great (can anybody say chicken hat–hee, hee) especially love the one of the dog snuggled into the crook of the owner's leg while both napping on the couch. My Boston does that all the time so it really made me smile.

  3. I seriously love this feature!! Jesse has a photo of an army man with a similar smaller monkey, however he is on a leash which the army man is holding. So when I saw your second photo, I thought of that! I totally got him into collecting photos.

    Thanks for reminding me about the close-ups with the jewelry. I always want to do it, but always forget! 🙂

  4. These photos are just amazing. My favorites include the parakeet and that adorable scotty dog. I also had a green parakeet when I was younger. She was my best friend( well, as much as a bird can be) and I would take her on walks with me because she was surprisingly tame. LOVE all of these pictures! xoxo

  5. I love vintage pet photos!! Animals are just the best anyway, and when you throw extra-stylish classic homes and people in the background, it really makes for an amazing picture! These are really wonderful; thanks for sharing.

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