This article is from the Summer 2000 AFRMA Rat & Mouse Tales news-magazine.
By Nichole Royer
June 1919, Vol. 3, number 10
Published monthly by Outdoor Enterprises Publishing Co., Kansas City, MO
For years I have collected old books about the subjects I love. I’ve always been fascinated by the history behind how things are today, and a great way to learn about history is to read what was written back when the events were actually taking place.
I’ve always thought it very unfortunate that we do not have any clear record of the history of domestic rats and mice in the United States. England is far ahead of us in this matter, partially aided by the ongoing presence of an active rat and mouse fancy. What history we do have is tiny vignettes out of time seen though the eyes of period writers.
While old references to rats and mice are rare, they do exist. I have always found them extremely interesting and thought others might as well. In this series of articles I’ll share some of the pieces I have found. If anyone has happened across other references, I’d love to hear about them as well.
Outdoor Enterprises and Domestic Pets (June 1919, Vol. 3, number 10. Published monthly by Outdoor Enterprises Publishing Co., Kansas City, MO.)
It was by chance that I happened across this old magazine. Published in 1919 it represents the earliest American reference to keeping rats and mice that I have found. This magazine is aimed at the small stock owner and clearly represents an American version of England’s Fur and Feather magazine.
Though heavily geared towards rabbit fanciers, this publication does devote one section to rats and mice. In this issue the topic was housing for mice. As you can see, things have changed dramatically over the years!
Of as much interest as the article are all the advertisements of rats and mice for sale. These give a clear picture of what colors and varieties were available at that time and how much money they were commonly sold for. Noted are both albino and hooded rats, as well as numerous colors of mice (agouti, spotted, and others). During this time period the most common way for laboratories to acquire mice and rats was to purchase them from breeders such as those advertising here. I also found the prices they ask for their mice to be very interesting. They are similar to what “feeder” mice cost in pet shops today.
There are abundant ads for various products interspersed throughout this publication. While it is interesting to see what products are available, I’m drawn to an ad that advertises a book on rats and mice. Though I’ve searched, I have as yet been unable to find any reference to Rats and Mice for Pleasure and Profit by H.A. Boies. I’ll continue searching and if anyone has come across a copy I’d love to hear about it.
Throughout this magazine the term “small stock” is commonly used and it’s clear that they are including rats and mice under this heading. Of note is the number of “pet and small stock” organizations, most of whom were holding shows. Is it possible they were showing rats and mice back then? There is no proof, but it’s certainly an interesting thought.
Coming Next Time: “A Glance Back in Time”: Wealth in Rats and Mice.