Blanchette and Romano by Emile Bujon, 1831


Puppies, Ponies & Pussycats:

Tails of Southampton

May 4 thru December 31, 2022


The Southampton History Museum opens the 2022 season with a new exhibit that combines historic photographs of people with their pets from its historic collection along with digital images of caretakers and their animal companions. Also, pet inspired artwork by three professional Southampton artists will be shown.

People living in Southampton began taking photographs of their animal companions in the 1870s and continue to do so today. Animal themed artwork and furnishings were either hand-made or manufactured for 150 years – objects in the exhibit are either donated or on loan to the Museum by local residents. A wide variety of pet themed toys, dishes, banks, pillows and doorstops from the Museum’s collection can be seen along with recent submissions of recently taken digital photographs.


The exhibit was designed by executive director Tom Edmonds with a lot of help from his staff. He says, “My intent was to show how our deep love of animals has changed little over the past 150 years. The exhibit brings together our shared romance with those amazing beings that are in our care.”


Artists in the Exhibit

Kimberly McSparran is a Southampton-based designer who sees the unique beauty of nature as the inspiration for her art and design work. She can be commissioned for portraits and decorative work on wallpaper, textiles and ceramics.

Rachelle Oatman is an International pet portrait painter who lives and works in both Europe, New York City and Southampton.  Her portraits of dogs continue a historic tradition found during the 18th century in England and France. Since 1995 she has painted numerous commissioned pet portraits for owners for their personal collection or as an extraordinary gift.

Dinah Maxwell Smith was born in NYC, graduated from R.I.S.D with a BFA in painting. She has lived in Southampton for decades and has exhibited extensively in New York, the Hamptons (including the Parrish Art Museum), Paris, and Germany.


Puppies, Ponies and Pussycats: Tails of Southampton will be open to the public beginning Wednesday, May 4 and will be on exhibit through December 31, 2022 at the Southampton History Museum. For more information go to southamptonhistory.org.


Puppies, Ponies & Pussycats: Tails of Southampton

Southampton History Museum, 17 Meeting House Lane, Southampton, NY 11968

 Wednesday, May 4, 2022 thru Saturday, December 31, 2022

MEMBERS PREVIEW:    Saturday, April 30, 4:00 to 5:30 PM, RSVP  lmizzi@southamptonhistory.org

Wednesday through Saturday, 11:00 AM to 4:00 PM

$10 adults, free for members and children 17 and under.


Ponies as Butterflies, c. 1910


Exhibit Narrative by Mary Cummings



The Human-Animal Bond

“Unless one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

Anatole France

We love our pets. We need them as much as they need us, though our bargain with the Animal Kingdom was not always the lovefest it is today in our pet-mad society. It was once a more practical matter: in exchange for food and shelter, animals hauled, herded, gave up their milk and sometimes their lives to be cooked and consumed at the dinner table. Which is not to say that the farmer never grew fond of his cow or his loyal, hard-working pooch. Animals were respected assets with their jobs to do, but they were not yet today’s pampered members of the family, sleeping on comfy beds, showered with  toys and perhaps groomed for a crack at Instagram fame.

The human-animal bond has tightened and the list of species, adored and sometimes obsessed over as pets, has expanded.  One survey found that 68 percent of American households have a pet, a figure that is likely to increase as the pandemic slogs on. Since it began in 2020, a reported 23 million households have acquired a pet.

Dogs and cats, unsurprisingly, rate first and second in popularity. Rabbits are an unexpected third–all the more striking since Americans once ate a great deal of rabbit stew without shedding a tear. Then, around 1900, a craze for raising Belgian Hares altered attitudes toward butchering bunnies and people lost their taste for rabbit stew. That saved many a humble rabbit from the stew pot, while the sleek, long-eared Belgian hares were living large in the gilded cages of plutocrats like J.P. Morgan who could afford to invest $5,000 for a pet hare. In 1904, Beatrix Potter’s “Benjamin Bunny” clinched the upgrade.

A similar chicken mania in the mid-19th century lifted the barnyard chicken from its lowly status when the Cochin, an ornamental variety of chicken imported from China, captured the hearts of thousands. Recently, in Southampton, it was a wandering Paduan cockerel rooster that proved that chickens can be prized pets. One day the errant rooster–a handsome fellow with ornamental tufts and colorful plumage–followed the artist Hope Sandrow to her home in Shinnecock Hills. Captivated, she named him Shinnecock, took him into her heart, incorporated him into some of her art, and showed the world that chickens can be beautiful, intelligent and companionable.

Horses can’t be far behind the top three in the popularity contest. They’ve made the transition from hauling, plowing and carrying loads on their backs to carrying chic equestrians on their backs and showing off at high-toned horse shows. Still, it’s easy to see why dogs lead the list. Their long association with humans has taught them a thing or two about what people want–loyalty, commitment, protection and unconditional love–which they seem always eager to deliver.

Cats, on the other hand, ration their favors. They have a mysterious inner life that intrigues, and a self-sufficiency–even indifference–that for cat-lovers is part of their charm. Bunnies are docile and irresistibly cute, which makes them ideal pets for the young and the creature-cautious. Canaries are also cute and unthreatening, plus they can sing. For a more adventurous choice, there are trash-talking parrots–always crowd pleasers. With some outdoor terrain to offer a pet, the choices expand. Mary’s lovable little lamb, with its fleece white as snow, would make a fine friend. And who could resist a little donkey’s sad, soulful gaze?

Not that every pet must be a suitable subject for a Hallmark card. There are people who are passionate about their pigs, love-struck by their lizards and besotted by their not-so-cute frogs, spiders and snakes. Even some beekeepers bond with their bees!


Puppies, Ponies and Pussycats: Tails of Southampton will be on exhibit through December 31, 2022 at the Southampton History Museum. For more information go to southamptonhistory.org.


Southampton History Museum



AAQ / Resource

Bruce Nagel + Partners Architects