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Lot #180
P. T. Barnum Signed 'National Dog Show' Diploma

Rare 1862 diploma for Barnum's popular 'National Dog Show' competitions

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Estimate: $600+
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Rare 1862 diploma for Barnum's popular 'National Dog Show' competitions

Marvelous partly-printed DS, one page, 14 x 11, May 1862. A ‘National Dog Show’ diploma from Barnum's American Museum in New York, awarded by the judges to William M. Hyde “for his Bull Terrier.” Signed in the lower right in fountain pen by P. T. Barnum. This brilliant diploma is encircled with an array of artistic renderings of various canine breeds. Impressively matted and framed with a photo of Barnum with General Tom Thumb to an overall size of 32.5 x 20.5. In fine condition. A rare and fetching diploma from Barnum's wildly successful Dog Show competitions. From Ernest Freeberg’s 2020 book A Traitor to His Species: Henry Bergh and the Birth of the Animal Rights Movement: ‘Always keen to stage a spectacle that an American audience could not resist, in the early 1860s P. T. Barnum promoted the first of many ‘Great National Dog Shows’ at his American Museum. Expanding beyond the traditional focus on sporting dogs, he awarded cash prizes for the best specimens of ‘all sorts of dogs, from the Siberian bloodhound to the diminutive dwarf terrier.’ His first show offered customers the chance to mingle with four thousand dogs from four hundred different breeds, a showcase of canine diversity. As one paper described it, ‘So much dog merit has never been concentrated before.’ Compared to the European model, Barnum offered a more democratic and sensational version of the dog show, with a special day devoted to each breed, a ‘grand gala’ of all breeds, and daily shows featuring the ‘sagacity’ of ‘educated dogs’ that laughed, sang, and danced. Repeated many times over the coming decades, Barnum found this promotion quite lucrative, one measure of the American public’s love of dogs, its growing interest in purebreeds, and its fascination with any sort of contest.’

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts Featuring Presidents
  • Dates: #658 - Ended February 08, 2023

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