Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals photographs, complaint books, and posters
Held at: Philadelphia History Museum [Contact Us]15 South 7th Street, Philadelphia, PA, 19106
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Overview and metadata sections
"In 1866, Colonel M. Richards Mucklé, a Philadelphia businessman, was disheartened by the violence he witnessed against animals. Horses pulling over-laden carts and streetcars were often beaten unmercifully or worked to death. Many, if not most, of the city's work horses were lame, sore and weak from carrying heavy cargo and passenger loads across cobbled streets during icy winters and sweltering summers.
"Outraged at the abuse animals endured on a daily basis, and frustrated that the authorities were not enforcing the few anti-cruelty laws that existed at the time, Mucklé decided to follow in the footsteps of Henry Bergh, the father of the humane movement in the United States, and take action. On April 27, 1866, he inserted a notice in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin announcing his intention to form a government-sanctioned humane law-enforcement society like the one Henry Bergh had founded that very same month in New York City. After more than a year of campaigning, the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was organized on June 21, 1867 and officially chartered on April 4, 1868. The Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) was officially the first humane society in the state and only the second in the country after Henry Bergh's American SPCA (note: The PSPCA is not associated with the ASPCA).
"Support began trickling in, led by early donations from S. Morris Waln, J.B. Lippincott, George H. Earle, William Porter and others. Their generosity made it possible for the new Society to launch an offensive against animal cruelty, specifically aimed at the city's horse population. Reforms for the horses took place gradually. The Society brought about corrective actions such as the availability of watering troughs for work horses, frequent rest periods, curtailment of whips and blanketing in the winter.
"...[C]onsideration of animals' needs was not a universal trait...[at that time]. Gradually, protective measures became part of the culture. More and more, people felt that treating horses properly was only common sense.
"As the Society gained successes in helping horses it was able to further expand its attention to other areas. Working with the Pennsylvania railroad, the Society helped design a new and humane livestock car that made travel easier for cattle, sheep, swine and poultry. Securing the humane treatment of agricultural and pet animals became a natural part of the Pennsylvania SPCA and was enforceable under its legal jurisdiction.
"With the reduction of the use of horses in daily life, the Society continued to shift its focus. Investigations and prosecutions of the abusers of dogs and cats curtailed the violence in the lives of these innocent animals. Shelters were erected to house, feed and care for homeless or unwanted animals. Over the years, the Society launched programs focusing on humane care such [as] low-cost veterinary care for companion animals, adoption of homeless animals from shelters and spay & neuter [programs] to prevent unwanted births; programs that [continue to] exist...[as of 2014]."
Quoted text from: Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. "Our History." Accessed October 20, 2014. http://www.pspca.org/about/pspca-history/.
The collection consists of over three hundred photographs, nearly one hundred lantern slides, two complaint books, and approximately twenty posters. The images depict animals showing signs of abuse or neglect, SPCA clinics and offices, press photos, and pets entered into photo contests. Most frequently pictured are horses, but there are also a large number of dogs, many cats and chickens, and some other animals. The complaint books, which date from 1868 to 1872, log complaints submitted by citizens as well as reports of officers following up on the complaints. The posters range from educational (how to identify horse diseases), to promotional (garnering support for PSPCA), to documentary (depicting PSPCA actions).
The collection has a strong Philadelphia focus, although the PSPCA's coverage area includes the entire state of Pennsylvania.
An item-level inventory is available on-site. The Philadelphia History Museum also owns objects associated with this collection.
Gift of Pennsylvania SPCA, 1987 (accession 87.9)
Summary descriptive information on this collection was compiled in 2012-2014 as part of a project conducted by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to make better known and more accessible the largely hidden collections of small, primarily volunteer run repositories in the Philadelphia area. The Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories (HCI-PSAR) was funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
This is a preliminary finding aid. No physical processing, rehousing, reorganizing, or folder listing was accomplished during the HCI-PSAR project.
In some cases, more detailed inventories or finding aids may be available on-site at the repository where this collection is held; please contact Philadelphia History Museum directly for more information.
- Philadelphia History Museum
- Finding Aid Author
- Finding aid prepared by Celia Caust-Ellenbogen and Sarah Leu through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories
- This preliminary finding aid was created as part of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania's Hidden Collections Initiative for Pennsylvania Small Archival Repositories. The HCI-PSAR project was made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
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