Pick of the Litter

     I suppose someone out there in the world of postcards knows a whole lot more than I was able to learn about Vincent V. Colby, an artist responsible for a LOT of postcards in the 1910s or thereabouts.  Anybody with this body of distinctive work must have had a fan who dug out information about his life, but whoever that person is has not yet posted it and what I could find on the Interwebs was discouragingly small.  I hate it when geniuses are forgotten.  It gives me doubts about my own legacy.

     I suppose there’s a good chance that he is the same Vincent Colby I have found on a number of art sites as a landscape painter who was active in the Southwest around 1912.  It seems certain that he is the same man who did a few jobs for Bray productions and their early animated cartoons.  Imdb gives him credit for directing two cartoons: I Should Worry (did he do any of THOSE postcards?) and, more importantly for our meanderings today, Seven Cutey Pups (or Seven Cutey Puppies.)

     See, Mr. Colby was an artist of dogs, or, more specifically, puppies.  Especially one little white puppy with black ears, who is bold enough to proposition you (as seen above) but also timid enough to admit he doesn’t like dark nights. (below.)

     The timid side of the puppy was the cute one (the one that sold) and he must have produced dozens of pictures of this particular puppy trembling on the brink of some new crisis.  It wasn’t that M<r. Colby COULDN’T draw grown-up dogs.  He just saved that for special occasions, to act as straight man to his puppy’s comedy.

     He did sometimes draw postcards featuring just children, but a child with a puppy in the picture fit his line more particularly.

     And he could draw other animals.  (If he IS the Vincent Colby active in the Southwest, there is a World War I food production poster he did featuring cows and pigs.)  This led to one of the puppy’s dark secrets: his mad crush on a member of another species.

     This romance had its ups and downs, and he recorded all of these.

     From time to time, a puppy of his made reference to current events, as this puppy did in 1909 when rival Polar explorers Cook and Peary were racing to the Pole.  Plenty of people who didn’t care about explorers at all just bought this card because it showed another one of Vincent Colby’s puppies.  These were becoming so popular that genuine Colby puppy postcards had his special monogram on the back.

     See, more than one artist could draw little bulldog/beagle puppies.  This example, as timid as a Colby puppy, shows no Colby signature nor Colby trademark.  If that weren’t enough of a hint, those ears don’t seem to have the Colby pizzazz.

     While this puppy, rather more bulldoggy in his loneliness, is under the copyright of A. Bklue.

     As is this fellow, who seems to have the same problem with his master or mistress having other interests in life.

     Cute puppies abounded on postcard racks throughout the nation, possibly more even than the omnipresent Dutch kids.  This artist, whom I call “Black Box” always has HIS puppy speaking in a well-defined box somewhere in the corner.  (There was another artist of this time who seems to have specialized in dogs wearing muzzles, but we can save that for another day.)

     While a Colby puppy is the gold standard for cute puppies in this era of postcards, other artists succeeded in putting canine cuteness on paper.  After all, puppies are eternal in their struggles, so like our own, to deal with the complexities of an existence they only kind of understand.

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