Curator’s Favorite: The Story of Bob

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[av_heading heading=’Not an Ordinary Dog: The Story of Bob’ tag=’h3′ style=” size=” subheading_active=” subheading_size=’15’ padding=’10’ color=” custom_font=” av-medium-font-size-title=” av-small-font-size-title=” av-mini-font-size-title=” av-medium-font-size=” av-small-font-size=” av-mini-font-size=” admin_preview_bg=”][/av_heading]

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Page from Carson R. Draucker photograph album. Gelatin silver photographs, ca. 1912.
Page from Carson R. Draucker photograph album. Gelatin silver photographs, ca. 1912.

Alerted by a Library Company member of an upcoming Bucks County auction selling the work of Philadelphia photographer William Rau (1855-1920), the Library Company was recently able to acquire approximately 40 additional works by the commercial Philadelphia photographer.  These new images to the market had been put together in an album by Naomi Welsh who had worked in Rau’s studio.  Despite the auction house selling the album as individual pages, the Library Company was fortunate to acquire some wonderful images, including a selection relating to Rau’s dog Bob.

We first became aware of Rau’s pet Bob when Associate Curator Erika Piola cataloged the photograph album of Carson Draucker as a recent acquisition. The Western-Pennsylvania native worked in Rau’s studio before embarking on a career as a portrait photographer in Syracuse, New York in the early 1920s. Along with views of Philadelphia sites, shots of friends and family relaxing on vacation, and images documenting Draucker’s training as a World War I recruit is this comically-charming page devoted to Bob and his owner.

William Rau. Holiday card, gelatin silver photograph, ca. 1910.
William Rau. Holiday card, gelatin silver photograph, ca. 1910.

The genial Bob allowed Rau or his associates to costume and pose him for photography shoots with the resulting images sometimes used to promote the studio. A dapper Bob, for example, celebrated the holiday season with a glass of sherry while making an amusing eye-catching card for Rau.

Another of the recent acquisitions shows Bob dressed up in a protective work apron and posed with a tin oil can on his head. The model canine also posed a number of times on the pedestal pictured here.  A postcard showing Bob on the pedestal taken from a slightly different angle was even used by Rau to advertise the many services offered by his studio.

Sadly, another postcard from our newly acquired material announces the death of Bob at the youthful age of five acknowledged through a memorial stone superimposed over the same image of Bob that appeared in Drauker’s album.

William Rau. Bob as a Working Man and Bob when a Baby, gelatin silver photographs, ca. 1910.
William Rau. Bob as a Working Man and Bob when a Baby,
gelatin silver photographs, ca. 1910.
William Rau. Memorial for Bob, gelatin silver photograph advertising card, ca. 1913.
William Rau. Memorial for Bob, gelatin silver photograph advertising card, ca. 1913.

Rau additionally memorialized his canine actor and beloved pet with a photograph of Bob’s gravestone in situ adorned with a wreath. This special dog was obviously a cherished companion whose memory, like the other pet portraits in the graphics department, will now live on in the collections.

Sarah J. Weatherwax
Curator of Prints and Photographs
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