[Ads-l] dog-catchers and the like

Peter Reitan pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 31 16:28:15 UTC 2017

I've updated my post about the "dog-catcher" insult<https://esnpc.blogspot.com/2017/10/president-trump-president-cleveland-and.html> with supplemental examples of other dog-control officer titles used in place of dog-catcher.

Common titles included, "dog skinner," "dog pelter," "dog killer" and "pound-master."

"Dog-skinner" dates to at least 1749:

On Tuesday Morning early as an old Woman, who lived at the Bible at Fleet Ditch was leaning out of a Window three stories high, to see the Dog-Skinner, after whom a great Number of Dogs were barking, she unhappily miss'd her Hold, and, falling to the Ground, dash'd her Brains out on the Spot.

The Penny London Post (London, England), March 8, 1749, page 3.

"Dog-killer" dates to at least 1802:

The dogs by natural instinct ran away from the Borough Dog-killers (and even went so far as to growl at the Common Council.)

Said to be from a Norfolk, Virginia newspaper, reprinted in The Waterford Mirror (Waterford, Ireland), October 25, 1802, page 4.

"Dog-pelter" dates to at least 1814:

Miss Kentucky [(the state, not the contestant)] is becoming intolerably rude and disobedient; and we wonder the President's dog-pelter and whipper-in Joe Gales, does not birch the young b---h's b----m for her.

Louisiana State Gazette (New Orleans), July 26, 1814, page 2.

"Pound master" dates to at least 1816.  It was a standard town officer established under New York State law.  But it was originally responsible for taking care of stray cattle, horses and sheep - no mention of dogs.  Only later did the "pound" become generally associated with dogs.  The early "pound masters" worked closely with "fence viewers" who were responsible for inspecting and getting property owners to mend their fences.  I could not find "couldn't get elected fence viewer" in the 1800s, but there are surprisingly a few instances much later.   In 1975, for example, the syndicated columnist John Roche said that "R. M. Nixon couldn't be elected fence-viewer in the strongest Republican twon in the country."  How or why "fence viewer" was revived is anyone's guess.

The earliest example of "dog-catcher" I could find is from 1830.  In an article in a New York paper about the invention of a dog-powered treadmill for running factory machines:

We wish our ingenious, enterprising friends at the East, would send an order to Mr. Watson, our Corporation dog-catcher, for a few thousand of the large Newfoundland and Bull breed.  They are quite a nuisance with us, and may be had dog cheap, and thank'ee into the bargain, if applied for before the dog-days set in.

The Evening Post (New York), June 26, 1830, page 2.

All of these titles were used from time to time in the "can't get elected dog-catcher" insult.  THe text strings "elected dog-pelter" and "elected dog catcher" appear nearly exactly the same number of times from 1850 through 1900 - 77 for catcher versus 76 for pelter.  During the same period, "elected poundmaster" comes about 60 times, but quite a few of those are the results of actual elections.

I may post a more detailed history of dog-catching laws, systems and culture.  It is a fascinating peek into early government beauracracy, unintended consequences, casual daily brutality of the day, and evolving public morals.

And, they really did walk around with giant nets - as well as clubs or wire nooses.

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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