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Pre 1980s Media

Page history last edited by aricaloyd 12 years, 7 months ago

The All-American Dog


In the first half of the 20th century, the American Pitbull Terrier was the All-American Dog. People and organizations will change it's social construction by undergoing a name change in order to change the perception of the dog. The dog was America's first war decorated war dog. It was used as World War I propaganda, as a symbol for America because the dog is strong and very obeident and eager to please. It was used in television and comic strips as a playful, trusting character, but not menacing one. It was a trusted companion in real life for such people like Helen keller and Teddy Roosevelt.



"The American Watch-Dog"

"We're not looking for trouble.

But we're ready for it."




World War I Propaganda - 1915

Each breed represents its respected country. The art shows America's neutrality during the war.

England: English Bulldog

Germany: German Dachshund

USA: American Bull Terrier

France: French Bulldog

Russia: Russian Wolfhound



In these two pictures, the American citizen is portrayed by the "American Bull Terrier". The connotations of "American", "Bull" and "Terrier" each have a separate message. "American" sparks feelings of power and wealth. "Bull" connotes that America is strong and powerful in strength, which might relate to military power. "Terrier" generally relates to two things: energy and determination. By selecting the "American Bull Terrier" it shows that America is powerful. Comparing America to the rest of the other dogs in the picture, all the breeds selected are powerful breeds. Except for the Russian Wolf Hound, all the other dogs are smaller than the American dog. This might signify how the countries, in relation to landmass, are smaller. It explains why Russia is the only one larger than America.


What's in a Name?


"Yankee Terriers"


As a part of transforming the dog in the early 1930s from a "pit" dog to an "American" dog, American Pit Bull Terriers were advertized as "Yankee Terriers". The connotation of Yankee versus Pit bull is positive. The word yankee draws a direct link to America. It means American and depending on if it is referenced to history, it means someone who lives in the New England area. "A name change can seem a superficial gesture, or the disrespectful, willful dismissal of a significant past, or it can function as the dignifier of something more positive" (Radway 224). This will also occur when the American Kennel Club will not recognize the American Pit Bull Terrier under that name, but will register American Staffordshire Terrier. It is as if to cover up the "pit" past and attach the breed to a nonconformational, repectable name. The United Kennel Club recognizes the dog as the American Pit Bull Terrier.

The Book of Dogs by James Gilchrist Lawson, published in 1935. Note that the book shows "formaly known as American Bullterriers or American Pit Terriers". The page references that it's not recognized by the American Kennel Club, but according to the AKC website, the American Staffordshire Terrier was recognized in 1936, one year later.

America's First War Dog

Sergeant Stubby


Sgt. Stubby led an amazing life. He was found on the Yale University campus in 1917 by Private J. Robert Conroy. He was named Stubby because of his cropped tail. He became the mascot for the 102nd Infantry, 26th Yankee Division. He even learned a modified salute where he raised his right paw to his right eyebrow. He had become accustomed to bugle calls and drills. Conroy didn't want to leave Stubby behind, so he smuggled Stubby on the ship, SS Minnesota, that was deploying for France. Conroy stowed him in coal bin. Conroy smuggled him off the ship but his Commanding Officer soon discovered the dog. Animals were forbidden from being kept, but when the CO saw Stubby salute, he made an exception.


Stubby reached the front lines on February 5, 1918. He was trained to handle loud noises like rifles and explosions. His first injury was during a gas attack. Stubby was injured and had to be nursed back to health. This allowed him to become sensitive to the gas, which enabled him to become a detector of the harmful gases. This proved to help when his Division was attacked during the night with gas. Stubby alerted many sleeping soldiers by barking and nipping at them to wake up, saving many. Stubby also was able to sniff out wounded men. He would sound an alert for the paramedics to arrive to treat the wounded.


Stubby was recognized with catching a German soldier who was mapping out the area's trenchs. As the German soldier began to run, Stubby bit the man, knocking him down and continued to attack him until American soldiers apprehended him. He was recognized for capturing an enemy spy and was promoted to Sergeant. He was the first canine to hold an official rank within the Armed Forces.

Stubby is important because he is an example of what is not highlighted in today's media. Stubby was a dog that wasn't supposed to even be in the Army, not because of his breed, but because he was simply a dog, and because he was allowed to stay, he was able to save the lives of the members of his division.


The photo on the right is of the Sergeant. He is standing on the lawn. His ears are drawn back, as if listening to something. Overall the photo is positive. He isn't standing in a threatened manner. Generally, one could determine the mood of the dog in which the position of it's tail is. If it was rigid, he is tense; errect: he is alert, you might even see motion ghosts if it were wagging but since Stubby's tail is a stub, hence the name, it is hard to make an assessment. His vest/shirt with all his metals makes him look distinguished and respectable.


[yes, the Sgt. is on display at the Smithsonian]



Early Celebrity

The All-American Pooch

Buster Brown Shoe Company


Buster Brown was a comic strip that first appeared in 1902 by "New York Herald cartoonist Richard Outcaust" (busterbrown.com). It was about a mischievous little rich boy. At the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, "Outcault licenses the character to several dozen companies. The 25-year-old Brown Shoe Company buys the licensing rights to Buster Brown for $200" (busterbrown.com). Buster Brown's dog, Tige, was his faithful companion. He was able to talk, but never did around adults. Tige seemed to be Buster's voice of reason.


Our Gang / Little Rascals

A series of short films debuted in 1922 - Hal Roach's Our Gang. In the 1950s, Hal Roach marketed these under the title of "The Little Rascals". The gang eventually got an American Pit Bull Terrier with a ring around his eye. His original name was "Pansy", later known as Pete the Pup. Buster Brown is credited with the inspiration for Petey. He was the most memorable of the Gang's pets.


Helen Keller's Dog: Phiz

It appears to be a mixed breed: Pitbull and Boston Terrier. Many websites cite that it is a Boston Terrier, but it is too large for the Bostonian breed.



President Theodore Roosevelt even had a pitbull in the white house.


The American Pit Bull Terrier (Also known as American Staffordshire Terrier), was a prized icon for the American people. It also was used as a symbol for the American people because it is a strong animal and the connotations of "American", "Bull" and "Terrier" each have a separate, strong and powerful message. In the early 1900s it was seen as a family dog, both in and out of the media and trusted around children but not as a menace to society.



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