Monday, December 31, 2012

Dickie and Dollie Canary (1947)

Good morning!

It's New Year's Eve's Day, and where does that find us? Holed up at the downtown library on a not-open-to-the-public Monday, reminding people who call the reference desk that the other branches are open normal hours today but will be closed all day tomorrow, and looking at the cutest canary couple man has ever seen. Guys, guys-- stop what you're doing! You'll want to meet Dickie and Dollie, from a 1947 Life magazine article profiling the self-same.

While Bernice Tuttle, the innovative mind behind these canary courtship photos, professed literary ambitions and had already used her famous birds in radio appearances and an educational film, I was unable to find hide nor hair of any subsequent celebrity Tuttle and her little dressed up birds may have enjoyed during their life times. Le sigh. At least there are all these crazy pictures to look at.

What really amazes me about the sequence here reproduced is that the birds are not dead. I know that makes me sounds like I'm looking at everything from a Danzig-like perspective, but I swear, after reading Still Life: Adventures in Taxidermy by Melissa Milgrom, I just somehow assumed that any animal postcard or quaintly posed collectible photograph was accomplished through skillful use of taxidermy (see Victorian-era taxidermy virtuoso Walter Potter's whimsy/macabre work...but not if you scare easily!). These birds are quite alive! Which begs the question: did she...dose them? How are they staying so still? From many the running-after-guttersnipe-french-fry-eating-McDonald's-parking-lot-birds incidents of my youth, I know that it's hard to get a bird not to take off at the slightest intimation of movement.

Above, in the caption, the mysterious line "Mrs. Tuttle will not tell how she keeps the birds so still" reminds me of nothing so much as Norman Bates. What are you hiding, Mrs. Tuttle. What are you hiding! Also, who wakes up in the morning with the idea to dress up canaries in a carousel setting, complete with gingham great coat for he and organza apron dress for she? I couldn't with complete confidence tell you. Look how sleepy their little beaked faces are.

This one may be my favorite picture. Also, for some reason, Dickie always looks at least twice as dignified as Dollie. What is it with men's wear that makes it oddly suitable to a canary?

Risqué, n'est-ce pas? Shouldn't each of these love birds, married or not, have a little claw on the floor or something to act like they're not sharing a connubial bed? I guess not! I wish she'd gone forth with her book, wouldn't it have been a perfect companion piece to The Lonely Doll and all those others way out there from left field children's books of the midcentury?

Here, you can (kind of) see that the birds are happy and alive...I think? I would prefer one of them to be holding up a newspaper with the day's date for proof of life, but I'll just assume they're both ok. And that any suffering they may have gone through was simply for art's sake! And a too ruffly pinafore! Note Mrs. Tuttle's hand just holding the lamp shade, and how we don't see a single other picture of her in the entire article. WHAT DOES IT MEAN.

But wait! There's a final revelation in the text of the article:

Dun, dun, DUUUUUUN! I love the complete disregard for gender, because honestly, how gendered do birds seem outside of the nest anyway? Yet still... what other secrets is Mrs. Tuttle hiding! Where is Mr. Tuttle while all this painstaking bird dressing is going on! We'll never know.

And how about you....which Dickie and Dollie snap do you think is the cutest? How do you think they get them to stay so still? Can you think of any creepy/compelling children's books like this from when you were a kid? Spill, spill!

A very happy New Year's Day Eve to you guys, and next time I see you, it'll be 2013! Yippee! :)


  1. This is just so... creepy to me. I've seen lots of dressed up animals in my time, but never birds. Kind of unnerving.
    If I have to pick a favorite, though, definitely the painting scene.

    1. The creepiest part of the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, hands down, is the bird exhibit-- thousands of taxidermied specimens, from tiny to huge, all in glass cases and all PERFECTLY STILL. It spooked me so bad when we went on a family vacation in my youth! Birds should be MOVING. Still, as weirded out as I am by their lack of motion, I am in equal parts attracted to the kitsch quality. Torn!

  2. These are cute it really makes you wonder what she did to keep the birds so still.

    1. It's a mystery! The text was so infuriatingly vague about it all!

  3. oh man! i LOVE these! especially the one of them in the bed! I bet she drugged them in some way. also, i am now obsessed with walter potter! did you see the rabbit funeral he did? that that kitten wedding! so creepy and cute!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...