By Mary Theisen
Long before there was a National Dog Day, there was a two-year national craze over a family of toy pups called Snuggle Pups.
What is a Snuggle Pup?
Snuggle Pups are 3-1/2-inch tall painted hollow dog figurines with a removable head. They were the brainchild of cartoonist and entrepreneur Frank W. Hopkins. His company, “Pup Toys Co.,” produced the pups.
The pups were manufactured by the Greenduck Company of Chicago and introduced in 1922. Most were made of smelter metal, though some were made of wood and others of plaster. The metal ones have bodies that appear to have identical castings; only the heads and the paint of the pups set them apart from each other. The metal pups are marked on the bottom of the body “PAT. PUP TOYS CO. SNUGGLE PUPS MFD. BY GREENDUCK CO. CHICAGO.”
The Snuggle Pup Family
My first sighting of a Snuggle Pup was when I visited the Raleigh, North Carolina, home of Joseph and Nancy Zawadowski. I had come to see Joe’s large collection of miniature cast iron pups, but I was immediately taken by these other charming figurines — the Snuggle Pups.
Some Snuggle Pups were sold as good luck charms or “mascots.” “Lucky” with a Rotarian medal attached to his collar was offered to Rotarians, and “Pep” was similarly offered to members of the Kiwanis. Thousands of Chicago-area flappers also carried Snuggle Pups.
Even more popular and prevalent than those Snuggle Pups, however, were the eight members of the Snuggle Pup family that were primarily offered by businesses as promotional giveaways.
The two parents were “Sweet Papa” and “Mother Snuggles.” Together they had six pups: “Vamp,” “Lucky,” “Dumbbell,” “Snuggle,” “Cuddle,” and “Jazz.” Each Snuggle Pup had its own defined personality.
Mother was said to be related to the dog that Mother Hubbard left behind when she found her cupboard bare. Daddy claimed as a relative “a famous Victrola pup who sits all day and all night with his ear cocked in to listen to the voice of authority.”
Dumbbell Jr. was the naughtiest; he was most like his Uncle who had spent time in a “dog hospital for the foolish.” His antics would likely cause him to end up in the “dog pound.”
Snuggle resembled Mother except he had a black eye. He was said to admire his older brother Dumbbell Jr., which kept him in “more or less dawg-gone hot water.”
Vamp was the only daughter. She helped to keep her brothers on the “straight and narrow.” She was the head of the “family secret service and barked a mean bow-wow in her mother’s ear.”
Lucky was a happy pup born under a lucky star. His life’s ambition was to be a bank president or automobile bandit. Brother Cuddle was a bookworm and had aspirations to be a poet.
Jazz looked like Daddy, but he was a bit egotistical. “Somewhere on the Dumbbell family tree there must have been a dogfish, and Jazz looks just like him.”
The Snuggle Pup Craze
Businesses — especially newspapers — used the Snuggle Pup family figurines to increase circulation and attention. They were an immediate hit; wildly popular with both children and adults.
Newspapers gave Snuggle Pups to winners of daily “frolic” contests and puzzles that ran for a series of weeks. The contests often accompanied a cartoon or a maze or puzzle drawn by Hopkins. Pups were also given away to new subscribers; newspapers encouraged children to recruit new subscribers to win a Snuggle Pup.
There were Snuggle Pup dances and dinners. Actor and musician Eddie Cantor wrote a song about the Snuggle Pups. “[S]nuggle Pup singer and dancer” Dolores Mason performed her song-styling of the Cantor Snuggle Pup “blues” song and danced the Snuggle Pup dance: an “exotic dance breathing the rhythm of Pharaohs.”
After just a few years in the United States, however, the craze burned out as quickly as it had started. By late 1924, the Snuggle Pup fever was dying down; one newspaper began selling its inventory of Snuggle Pups at wholesale. Just as quickly as their popularity surged, the pups were gone.
Finding Snuggle Pups
It is unknown just how many of the Snuggle Pups were produced between 1922 and 1924. Joe watches for them; finding them most frequently on eBay and Etsy.
As the metal pups are stamped on the bottom with the Snuggle Pup marking, they are fairly easy to identify.
Mary Theisen is a vintage cast iron cookware enthusiast and blogger. Find her stories at vintagecastironllc.com