Fellow James Thurber-addict Carol [FrogDogz] has pointed out that for Thurber's generation — not to mention his parents' generation — the monster dog that tore people to shreds, that took hold with its fearsome jaws and never let go, was the bloodhound. Really: the friendly, slobbery bloodhound.
Remember when a girl could be ruined by a book? Back in the 1800s a dog could be ruined by the theater. The bloodhound's reputation tanked after the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin: a book I
Matt Morgan, a leading lithographic artist of the period, joined the firm [Strobridge, "synonymous with circus posters"] in 1878, after spending five years with Leslie's Weekly as a cartoonist. Morgan's arrival brought the creation of the first Strobridge multiple-sheet poster, in the form of a 16 sheet [outdoor poster]. The subject was "Eliza Crossing the Ice."I can find no reproduction of this poster online, and will have to scan it the next time I'm downtown. The book's reproduction of the poster is in black and white. The dogs are big, entirely lifelike and and vividly believable, with close-cropped ears and the slick coats of a pit bull or an American bulldog. They look absolutely ferocious, even if you are not an impressionable eight year old. The caption: Eliza's race across the Ohio River, shown in an Uncle Tom's Cabin theater poster, was often duplicated in real life. One Negro woman who was caught on the Ohio side cut her baby's throat as they were carried back to slavery. [Author Harriet Beecher Stowe exaggerates the separation of slave children from their families, complained a critic: Louisiana law clearly states that “Every person is expressly prohibited from selling separately from their mothers the children who shall not have attained the full age of ten years."]
In the book, as it turns out, there are no dogs chasing Eliza across the frozen river. Stowe never mentions bloodhounds in Uncle Tom's Cabin [thank you, Project Gutenberg and Control+F], and she refers to Simon Legree's slave-chasing animals as bull-dogs, a familiar type. But theater impresarios of the 1800s guessed correctly that nothing would sell tickets like man-eating bloodhounds, with the possible exception of Genuine Man-eating Siberian Bloodhounds, so the dogs became central to stage productions of Uncle Tom's Cabin, and the breed became famous for viciousness and unpredictable savagery.
All images in this post are from the web site Uncle Tom's Cabin & American Culture: A Multi-Media Archive.
Another scene not found in the book. Are those Mexican bandits up on the cliff? Because that would be awesome.
From the NY Times, May 29, 1883:
You had to be there: