Oodles of Poodles

Saturday, October 5th is Poodle Day


by Harry Beckhoff, from an unidentified story, Today’s Woman, date unknown

if you happen to live in Carmel, California.  It’s an annual event, including a big parade with poodles and their owners marching in the streets.

For everyone else outside of Carmel, it’s just an ordinary October 5th.

The poodles here at Modern Graphic History Library have decided that they would like their own Poodle Day, complete with a parade and marching band.  Other dogs are invited to attend.

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by Fred Banberry, from Parade Day, Colliers, July 14, 1951

The poodles have presented a very convincing argument for this event (after all, poodles are the second smartest breed of dogs, second only to sheep-herding border collies).  So, here at MGHL, we’re going to let the poodles have their day.  Otherwise, we’ll end up with some very sad and mopey poodles.

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by Jon Whitcomb, from Pom-Pom’s Christmas, McCall’s, 1951.

This is Pom-Pom, who we met back on National Dog Day in August.  Pom-Pom is the creation of Jon Whitcomb, who wrote the children’s story featured in McCall’s.  Whitcomb also wrote about a miniature brown poodle, Coco The Far Out Poodle.  Poodles come in many colors in addition to white and brown, including grey, champagne, red, and apricot.  However, most illustrations of poodles are black.

Even Whitcomb’s Coco, due to the black & white printing, looks like he has black fur.  Since the brush strokes of the black ink can effectively create many different styles of curls in the poodles’ fur, perhaps this is why illustrators choose to draw black fur.

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by Austin Briggs, from Anything Can Happen, McCall’s, November 1961

Poodles have natural curls, but when blown-out with a hair dryer, the fur can look poofy like this. Here is a rare gray poodle illustration, yet the black brush strokes still contribute to the motion effect of the fur bouncing along while walking.

Poodles often show up in fiction illustrations to convey a glamorous mood or when the characters have a sense of sophistication.  In the 1950s and 1960s, glamor was sought after in fiction illustration : in the image above, both the woman and the poodle convey a glamorous style as they simply walk down the street.  In this story, the poodle is on a very important mission : to help its owner find a way into her locked house so she can change out of her nightgown.  Ask any poodle, and they will tell you, this type of task is much more challenging than herding some sheep.

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by Al Parker, from unidentified story, Ladies Home Journal, April, 1943

In this 1943 Al Parker illustration for an unidentified story in Ladies Home Journal, it is unknown whether or not a poodle was mentioned in the scene for Parker to illustrate.  Parker was known to be an expert at creating perfect scenes, with every element tying in to the main theme of the picture.  Parker didn’t just add elements to fill space — every element had a reason to be included.  Since poodles represent glamor and sophistication, it makes sense that there is one next to the woman staring at the poster.

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One reason Parker stood out from other illustrators was his attention to tiny details.  Notice how  Parker added another dog to the scene, staring at the poodle, as the woman stares at the poster.

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by Lynn Buckham, from Off Limits Affair, January 23, 1948

Poodles also were included in fiction illustration when the story included French themes.  Above is a Parisian poodle with its owner and the general who is romancing her.

In addition to the French-themed fiction stories, poodles also show up in fashion advertising.  Fashion advertisers want customers to think of sophisticated French fashion.

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ad from St. Louis Globe Democrat, from Volume Dressvertising, April 14, 1967

This teacup poodle, known to have a “yappy” dog reputation, is surprisingly calm, especially since the woman holding him is standing on one leg and looks about ready to fall over.

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Macy’s ad by unknown illustrator, date unknown

Often poodle illustrations feature the distinctive “full continental” cut, with long fur around the chest and head and the rest of the body shaved.  This cut is based on the fact that poodles were originally water retrievers for waterfowl hunters.

Poodle comes from Pudelhund : a combination of the low German word Pudel (puddle) and the German word for dog.   Since their fur got heavy in the water, the dog was shaved, except around the chest, so the fur could protect its organs from the cold.

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by Jack Unruh, date unknown

Now imagine the scene this way …

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No, it just doesn’t have the right effect.

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Butterick advertisement by Thelma Mortimer, Women’s Home Companion, Jan. 1937

We’d best leave the the poodles available for the glamorous, sophisticated situations and the French fashion shoots. despite the irony that poodles are actually German.  You never know, poodles could help open the door for other German dogs to enter into the world of fashion.

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Butterick advertisement by Thelma Mortimer, Women’s Home Companion, Aug. 1936


About the author

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