No, this is not a post bemoaning the sultry heat of late summer (sometimes referred to, apparently for astronomical reasons, as the “dog days”). The Prints & Photographs Division’s dog days are prompted by the realization that various staff members highlighted portraits of dogs (some with accompanying humans) on the division’s “Caught Our Eyes” wall, where we share with our colleagues pictures that made us look twice.
Here are the canine “finds,” presented in order by when the photographs were made:
I recently added to the sharing wall this portrait, which I ran across while looking for something else in the Civil War photographs online.It reminded me just how much this body of photographs, which was intended to document the war, often provides a view of other aspects of life in the 1860s. I wondered why the photographer took the time to photograph General Rufus Ingall’s coach dog. He had to go to some trouble to set up this shot, recording it on a stereo glass negative that could ultimately yield a 3-D view. Was he trying to curry favor with General Ingalls? Or did he just like dogs himself? And what is a coach dog? (A quick look at Wikipedia and other sources suggest that they were also referred to as “carriage dogs,” were trained to run beside carriages to protect the passengers from bandits, and were often Dalmatians.)
Digital Library Specialist Anne Mitchell was delighted to discover this canine among the thousands of turn-of-the-twentieth century portraits in the C. M. Bell Studio Collection.
Drawing on her knowledge of the original captions that accompanied the photographs (and her love of dogs), she noted: “The sparse captions sometimes mention the presence of a dog. As a dog owner, I totally get why people would want to pose with their dog. During the Victorian era, however, dogs were not only beloved family members but were also fashionable accessories. I love how this dog is looking straight at the camera; the owner, with a mysterious Mona Lisa-like expression seems satisfied posing there with her pooch.”
Reference librarian Jon Eaker likewise responded to the poses struck by the dog and human in this slightly later portrait by Harris & Ewing, Inc. which operated in Washington, D.C., between 1905 and 1945: “I just liked how they were posed. An elegantly dressed woman, turned, with her hand on her hip, looking directly at the camera. Meanwhile her dog is draped across her lap (even though it’s much too large to be a lap dog), legs outstretched, and its head turned just enough to get a perfect profile.”Whatever the season or era, these photographs suggest how dogs have played a variety of roles in humans’ daily lives and self-presentation.
Note: We also have plenty of cat lovers on our staff. Stay tuned for a post about delightful discoveries in the realm of feline visual documentation!
- Take a walk through every breed of dog and dog-inspired art in these search results from the Prints & Photograph Online Catalog.
- See how many additional dogs you can find in the collections from which we fetched these:
- Civil War Glass Negatives & Related Prints. You can also gain perspective on what it took to make a photograph in the Civil War–and that’s without taking into account the challenges of persuading a Dalmatian to stand still for a slow exposure!
- C. M. Bell Studio Collection (collection overview). To find the photos in the Prints & Photographs Online Catalog, combine your search word(s) with “bellcm” or view them all!
- Harris & Ewing Collection.
- As testimony to the fact that we trip across dogs at every turn, have a look at a previous “Caught Our Eyes” post, “Canine Cart Trip.”
- Sample dog pictures across the collections in this selected free to use and reuse set.