Arts & Culture

Southern Pets Through the Centuries

A new exhibit at the Charleston Museum explores the bond between people and the animals they love

 

As collections manager of the Charleston Museum, Jennifer McCormick has spent a lot of time organizing the more than 40,000 photos in the archives, and over the past few years, she started to notice something: Even in the mid-1800s, people wanted to capture images of their pets. That realization inspired the exhibit, In the Company of Animals: Pets of Charleston, which opens this week and will run through the end of the year. It gives visitors a glimpse into the lives of Charlestonians and their beloved companions from 1897 through the 1930s. “There are a few cats and other animals, although not as many as dogs,” she says. “The same as it is today.” Also the same: the universal feeling pets inspire. Photos in the exhibit include a sharecropper’s son with his puppy taken at Magnolia Plantation in 1926, Charlotta Drayton and her terrier on what would have been a two-or-three-day automobile trip to Asheville, North Carolina, and Franklin Frost Sams, a physician and amateur photographer who captured many of the other photos in the collection, with his goat in his South-of-Broad backyard.

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Morton Brailsford Paine photographs his two-year-old niece, Harriet, as she looks through the camera lens at his American Staffordshire Terrier, c. 1903.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

A devoted dog lover poses with his Boston Terrier on the Fort Sumter pier, undated.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

A boy and his puppy at Magnolia Garden Plantation photographed by Chansonetta Stanley Emmons, 1926.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

Miss Charlotta Drayton and her dog “Nipper” photographed by Morton Brailsford Paine,  July 5, 1917.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

The Paine family sits and reads after dinner as their pet parrot looks on, undated.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

The cat was the only subject that could sit still for the photographer in this attempt at a family portrait, c. 1898.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

Bath time, photographed by Morton Brailsford Paine, c. 1920.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

Lizzie Sams captures her husband petting a goat in their backyard on New Street, April 9, 1905.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

The Sloan sisters take tea in their garden with their poodle at 64 South Battery, undated, unknown photographer.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum

Agatha Aimar poses with her cat, “Mut”, January 1913.

photo: Courtesy of Charleston Museum