Celebrate National Dog Day with Butch the Cocker Spaniel

Tuesday, August 26 is National Dog Day.  To celebrate, Modern Graphic History Library looks at one of magazine illustration’s most famous dogs — Butch the Cocker Spaniel.

mghl_dog

by Albert Staehle, Saturday Evening Post, June 23, 1945

Butch was the pet of artist Albert Staehle, who was famous for his animal illustrations.  Butch came into Staehle’s life after Saturday Evening Post art director Pete Martin contacted Staehle about drawing a cover.  Staehle said he wanted to draw a black and white cocker and soon after found Butch at a local pet store.  “He looked at me ; I looked at him, and we just knew we were meant for each other.”

mghl_dog 2

Butch helping Albert Staehle in the studio, unknown date

Butch debuted on the February 19, 1944 Saturday Evening Post cover, caught in the act of having just chewed up the war ration coupons.  The cover was very popular — readers wrote letters defending the puppy and some readers even sent in ration coupons.

mghl_dog 3

by Albert Staehle, Saturday Evening Post, February 19, 1944.

Butch was usually cooperative as a model in Staehle’s studio, and there was always beef liver (Butch’s favorite treat) to be used as incentive when needed.  Staehle liked to draw his animal models in person, but sometimes he would use photographs.  He would later marry the woman he hired to photograph some of the animals.

mghl_dog 4
by Albert Staehle, Saturday Evening Post, October 29, 1949

Staehle always would find homes for his animal models, even the chickens he bought from the kosher butcher.  After working with a chicken for a week, he did not want to then just eat it, so he would find a farm or country home willing to keep it.

mghl_dog 5

by Albert Staehle, Saturday Evening Post, June 18, 1949

Many of the covers featured Butch either getting in trouble for chewing something or “borrowing” something that did not belong to him.  Other covers just showed him in awkward but hilarious predicaments.

mghl_dog 6
by Albert Staehle, Saturday Evening Post, September 28, 1946

Butch would appear on 25 Saturday Evening Post covers and 30 American Weekly covers.  He also became the mascot of the American Kennel Club and the U.S. Navy.  In 1950, Butch was chosen as the official poster dog for National Dog Week, which ran September 24-30. In 1958, the toy company Steiff, made two versions of him — one 17 cm tall (approximately 6.5 inches) and one 31 cm tall (slightly over 12 inches).

mghl_dog 7

by Albert Staehle, American Weekly, February 19, 1956

Butch was not the only famous animal illustration created by Staehle in 1944.  That same year, Staehle was asked to draw fire prevention posters featuring animals.  He submitted posters with an owl, a squirrel, a chipmunk, and a bear. The campaign managers liked the bear poster, but thought it looked too naked without clothes, so Staehle redrew him wearing pants and a hat.  In August 1944, Smokey Bear (later to be called Smokey the Bear) made his debut.

While Smokey might like the rain, Butch on the other hand was not so sure…

mghl_dog 8

by Albert Staehle, Saturday Evening Post, April 24, 1948

Credits

All of the Butch illustrations and the photograph are from the Walt Reed Illustration Archive.

Information about Butch and Albert Stahle came from:

Barker, Rocky. Scorched Earth: How The Fires of Yellowstone Changed America.  Island Press, 2005, page 153.

Damkaer, Sharon. Albert Staehle (1899-1974). AmericanArtArchives.com, n.d.

Denny, Diana. Classic Art: Butch the Cover Dog. Saturday Evening Post.com, August 12, 2011.

Kaufman, Rebekah. Covering Steiff’s Rare And Wonderful Butch The Cover Dog. Examiner, June 17, 2012.

“Keeping Posted: Mr. Staehle and Butch”.  Saturday Evening Post, February 19, 1944.

The quote from Albert Staehle was from:

Brown, Sylvia, ed. “Presenting: Albert Staehle And Butch”. Friem’s Four Pages. February 1950.

About the author

Andrea Degener is the Visual Materials Processing Archivist in the department of Special Collections at Washington University Libraries.