This early carte-de-visite shows a white Bull Terrier. Its ears are cropped, a practice which became illegal in Britain and Ireland from the 1880s. Bull and Staffordshire terriers are now distinct breeds, however, they were both known as Bull Terriers in the 1860s. Interestingly, the man credited with refining these breeds was Mullingar-born, James Hinks. Perhaps, he was on a return visit to his native town and brought along one of his prize-winning white terriers? Or it might just be a coincidence? I’ve been in touch with fellow librarians in The Kennel Club and they hope to explore the connection.
The photograph is very stark with none of the usual backdrops and accessories that we associate with Victorian portrait studios. However, this is an early image and the owner was probably keen to show off the dog’s features. You can just about make out the variegations of the fabric upon which the dog sits.
The studio is named as Wallis, Mullingar. This is most surely owned by the printer and later newspaper owner, Sampson Wallis (1836-1903), a Wexford man who is listed in Pigot’s Directory of 1870 as a stationer, bookseller and printer. He lived on Earl Street, Mullingar and was the owner and editor of the Westmeath Guardian for over a quarter of century from 1874. He was also listed as a local agent for the scheme offering ‘Free and Assisted Emigration to Queensland, Australia.’
The style of card, thin paper stock and brown tones of the albumen print lead me to believe that this image dates from between 1860 and 1870, most likely in the middle of this period.