The trip of a lifetime! (Pre-Hidenberg, assumably.)
Postcards used to be far far more popular than they are today. Possibly as a pre-television, pre-Internet way of communicating, and possibly due to their fairly cheaply reproduced but lovely art and extremely variable style, they once enjoyed a big place in popular culture, not just of vacation destinations but of everyday life. Because of that large volume of postcards produced in the late 19th and well into the 20th centuries, both photographic and purely illustrated, there are many amazing sub-genres, several of which have become highly sought for collectors. I’ve decided to start another irregular series of posts, featuring the art and design of postcards. Today’s post? Dogs, dude.
Dogs are obviously well loved pets and companions, perhaps because of that long history they also have a place symbolically with humans as well. I was surprised to find that despite being Man’s Best Friend, many of the images I came across were actually of women and little girls with dogs.
A flower dog and a flower girl.
There are also many many images in which children and dogs seem to be equals, as below where a young girl shields her dog from rain while they sit on the same bench:
Finding shelter together.
And this one, where one child is rollicking on the ground at dog-level, and the other pup is up on the bench, elevated with her friend:
All friends here.
Being a symbol of fidelity, I love the many subtle variations on a warm greeting and love letters that I found as well. Many featuring the blue flower Forget-Me-Not as an added layer of meaning:
Cute, but psycho.
There are many postcards which simply show off a specific breed’s characteristics, either in a straightforward way or more comically:
A noble Irish Setter in the field.
Poor little Dauchshund, he's only the way we made him.
Washing Day, hard-working Scottie style.
I expected to find postcards of dogs getting into all sorts of troubles, probably fed by the iconic Coppertone ad illustration, like the below little scamps:
And of course, I knew there would be some great and symbolic postcards of doghouses, to convey being in trouble, often with one’s spouse:
However, a surprising find was a plethora of postcards featuring dogs working in some traditional and other very surprising situations. We’re all familiar with the idea of Arctic travel and mobility using dog sled teams:
But mostly likely, if like me, you are also not familiar with the use of smaller dogs teams to haul milk carts, which was quite common in the 19th and early 20th century:
Pups taking a break.
A French milk dog cart.
But perhaps the most intense or emotional are the postcards featuring dogs and men in times of war. Of course the arguments can be made that animals shouldn’t be conscripted to serve in the wars of mankind. It seems absurd. And unfair. Perhaps that is why seeing images of dogs, such faithful and willing friends, in these scenes (both photographic and illustrative) is especially bittersweet.
A dog who saved this soldier's life and received a medal.
Rover, hatin' on the Enemy.
- A German Shepard medic.
And finally, but never ever least, there is this stunner:
Look! The bulldog is cheating!