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Furry Friends of Music

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National Dog Day is August 26 - and that's a perfect time for a new blog series: Furry Friends of Music! Let's look at the important role furry friends have played in the lives of some music greats like John Phillips Sousa, Leonard Bernstein and more!
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Furry Friends of Music

The world’s greatest artists leave behind them legacies that we happily preserve in the Music Division’s archival collections. Scholars come to our reading room from all over the world to study creative process, be it the origin of a lyric in sketch material, a composer’s annotations in a publisher’s proof, or artistic collaborations via correspondence.

But our archival collections can also reveal the personal side of these great personalities – they document favorite recipes, correspondence with loved ones, and, of course, they document the important role that their furry friends play in their lives!

Sousa with dogs (photographer unknown, ca. 1920). Music Division, Library of Congress.

So we begin a new blog series featuring artists’ feline, canine and all other sorts of loyal companions. Today I offer four short examples, with a mental list of more in-depth stories to come!

John Philip Sousa, our revered American “March King,” began donating his music manuscripts to the Library of Congress in 1914.

Composer and conductor John Philip Sousa (1854-1932) with a dog and a woman, probably in Bryant Park, New York City (Bain News Service, publisher; between ca. 1915 and ca. 1920). Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

Over the years, Sousa family members and others have contributed additional Sousa-related materials to our collections, including photographs. The composer and bandleader certainly adored canine companions; one of his favorite sayings went, “A horse, a dog, a gun, a girl, and music on the side. That is my idea of heaven.” The Library’s Sousa photographs feature him visiting and posing with various dogs, from his neighbor’s dogs to a stranger’s pup in Bryant Park.

Geraldine Farrar, half-length portrait, facing front, holding dog (photographer Edwin F. Townsend, New York., c. 1922). Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress Prints & Photographs Online Catalog features this charming portrait of American soprano Geraldine Farrar posing with her Pekingese, Sniffles Tellegen (Farrar was married to actor Lou Tellegen from 1916-1923; the couple divorced after starring in three films together).

And Sniffles was a film star in her own right!

The Pekingese starred alongside Farrar in two 1919 films: Shadows and The World and its Women (check it out – Sniffles gets a cast mention on AFI’s record for Shadows in its catalog of feature films!).

American Kennel Club registration certificate for Irving Berlin’s dog (March 2, 1965). Music Division, Library of Congress

Irving Berlin is remembered as one of America’s greatest songwriters, but he too made room for a pooch in his personal life. In fact, the Irving Berlin Collection features the American Kennel Club registration certificate for the Berlins’ black and tan Manchester Terrier. The certificate was processed in 1965 when Berlin would have been 77 years old, and the owner is actually listed as Ellin Berlin, the composer’s wife. No doubt Irving took in just as much joy from their added family member!

Leonard Bernstein is remembered and celebrated as a renowned conductor, a major composer, and a masterful educator, but there’s another side to the great musician: Bernstein the dog lover.

Although there are far more stories that capture Bernstein’s love for his canine companions than I can hope to recount in this blog post, I will share just a few examples.

Bernstein with Felicia, Alexander, Jamie, and Nina. Photographer unidentified. (Music Division)

Bernstein’s family was used to him repeatedly coming home with an impulsively acquired puppy – a few Dachshunds (all named Henry), a Bichon-Frise (named Tookie, short for “Tuchus”), and a Sheltie called Honey. See Bernstein, his wife, and children running with Honey in a photograph from our online Leonard Bernstein Collection.

The Leonard Bernstein Collection also includes handwritten notes on the aesthetics of his pet dog Gaby’s “paw-raising prowess,” written ca. 1950. Bernstein seems to have written these brief notes on a blank page in a published copy of Stravinsky’s Poetics of Music in the Form of Six Lessons.

He reflects on successfully persuading Gaby to raise his paw on the command “paw!” and notes that “Gaby does not merely lift his paw: he lifts it as high as it will go, with a movement rapid yet discreet, carrying with it a sweep of triumph executed with perfect delicacy.”

Even when it comes to his pup, Bernstein writes with grace!

Bernstein’s affinity for dogs is reflected in some of his music manuscripts as well! The collection holds a trumpet score in the composer’s hand called Rondo (for Lifey) – Bernstein sent this copy to Judy Holiday, whose dog was named Lifey.

In addition, the music and lyric sketches for Bernstein’s Slava! include an alternate title on the title page: Puk – Puk being Rostropovich’s dog!

The finding aid to the entire Leonard Bernstein Collection is available online for researchers to consult.

I have many more stories of pets as featured in our archival collections mentally stored and ready to write up, so look out for more charming tales of furry friends to come!

Interested in visiting the Performing Arts Reading Room to research the collection in person? Contact our reference librarians with questions via the Library’s Ask A Librarian reference service.