Exhibition Examines America’s Passion for Dogs and Other Pets

Touring exhibition looks at dog and pet ownership in America over the past three centuries.

Posted: August 16, 2007, 5 a.m. EDT

Dogs and cats occupy two-thirds of America’s homes, and now pets of all kinds – from dogs to hamsters – are the focus of a touring museum exhibition that examines the special bonds between Americans and their pets.

Pets in America: The Story of Our Lives with Animals at Home, currently showing at the National Heritage Museum in Lexington, Mass., looks at the history of Americans’ relationships with their pets from the 1700s to the present. “While we don’t have statistics for pet ownership in the 1700s and 1800s, we do know that pets have been part of everyday life in American households for hundreds of years,” says Katherine C. Grier, a professor in the Winterthur/University of Delaware Program in Early American Culture, curator of the exhibition, and author of “Pets in America: A History,” just released in paperback by Harvest Books.

The Pet in America exhibit also examines the changing role of pets in family life, the development of veterinary care, and pets as celebrities. It features more than 200 objects and photographs, including pet portraits from the 1800s and a dog treadmill from the 1890s. “If I had to choose a favorite object, it would be either a Christmas stocking given in 1948 to a dog named Sinbad, or a wonderful custom-made dog coat from the 1960s, worn by a Poodle named Gigi who was just as stylish as her owner,” Grier says. 

The exhibition moves to the Winterthur Museum & Country Estate in Winterthur, Del. from Nov. 10 through Jan. 20. For more information and a complete tour schedule, visit www.petsinamerica.org


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