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Animals of Nashua and Their Humans

Black and white photograph of a cat napping in a basket near a bookshelf.
A cat relaxes in its own basket placed in a sunny spot, c.1920s-1930s
Black and white photograph of two children wearing winter coats posing on either side of a dog.
Portrait of two children with a dog, date unknown

Humans have been depicting pets and other animals for thousands of years, whether in paint, sculpture, mosaic, photography, or other media. The earliest-known photograph of a living animal was a daguerreotype of a cow taken in 1842 by the French photographer Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey while visiting Rome. The first known photograph of a cat was taken between 1840 and 1860, while the first known photograph of a dog was taken in the 1850s.

Photograph of Judge Hoitt and family, including three younger women, an older woman sitting in front, an older couple standing in the back, and hired help, including a woman on left and a young man on right with dog in wheelbarrow. All are posing in front of porch of house.
Detail of Judge Charles and Harriet Hoitt (standing, back row) and family on porch of home at 78 Concord Street, c.1890s-1910s

Pet photography became popular

among pet owners who could afford posed, artistic portraits taken in photography studios. Portrait photographs of people might also include pets. As cameras became smaller, more mobile, and more accessible, photographs could be taken more often outside of formal studios. This also allowed people to take family photographs at home, and to take photographs of animals in their own environments. From the earliest nineteenth-century animal photographs to modern cat photos on the internet, pet photography has remained popular.

Clerk, smiling, holds cat on counter of grocery store.
Clerk at Walches Store with cat on counter, c.1920s

Nashua residents, both present and past, are no exception. The Nashua Historical Society has in its collection prints of various animal-related photographs, from formal portraits with cats and dogs, to family group photos, to casual shots of barnyard chickens or horses pulling vehicles, to the man tasked with cleaning up the streets after the horses passed by. Many of these photographs are on display in the rotating exhibit space in the Nashua Historical Society’s Library, alongside some animal-related objects, through the end of May 2024.

Black and white photograph of two horses pulling a wagon and backboard. Seated on the wagon are a man wearing overalls and a dog.
Horse-drawn wagon team and backboard, c.1910

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