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The interesting history of pet supplies

Updated on January 1, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.


From Humble Beginnings Come Old Faithful Pet Supplies

I was looking through some of my older writings when I came across an article I had written in 2006 based on information in the September, 2006 edition of Pet Product News, a trade publication I subscribe to.

They were celebrating their 60th anniversary and did a feature on the time line of the pet industry. Many of the companies whose products we buy today were established by the late 50's, so the feature ended there.

Therefore, my apologies to fledgling companies, you know, the ones that are only 40 or 50 years old now, for not being included here. No slight intended. I hope you find this as interesting as I did.


11,000 B.C.: Fishkeeping documented in China. Apparently there weren't a lot of other details.

Not a whole lot happened for the next 9,000 years so we skip, now, to 1843 when George Brown opened F.M. Brown's, a flower mill in eastern Pennsylvania. Today, F.M. Brown's makes a line of premium and gourmet cage bird and wild bird feed and treats. If George started it, where does the F.M. come from, he wondered?

In 1850 Robinson's House of Pets opened in San Francisco, in 1854 the first amateur aquarium is brought to the U.S., and circus magnate P.T. Barnum puts the first live fish on display. In 1866 Nicholas Knauf starts a feed and grain business in Sheboygan, Wis. Today, we call it Kaytee Products, Inc., makers of premium feed and treats for wild and caged birds and small animals.

Two years later Polk Miller begins selling remedies and medications for dogs at his drugstore, creating Sergeant's Pet Care Products. Also in that year Henry Webster rented a small grist mill in Lawrence, MA to produce horse feed. Wanna guess what it is now? Blue Seal Feeds, which is now based in NH.


In 1870, New Yorker John Spratt got a patent to make dog biscuits. Eight years later Albert Daniels created Dr. Daniels Co., with medicines for companion and feed animals.

I don't know what became of John Spratt, but we're still buying Dr. Daniels pet products today.

In 1881 Chelsea, MA residents John W. Ricker and Tristram S. Lewis applied for a pet flea collar patent.

In 1888 the American Kennel Club was founded in PA, and in Manhattan, Harold Feed Supply creates Eight in One Song Food.

Today, Eight in One is a major player in the pet supplies business. Rounding out the 19th Century, Oster Professional Products markets a sheep-shearing machine in 1890.

In 1904 the Fromm family began making pet foods and they're still at it today.

The Associated Humane Societies of Newark, NJ was founded in 1906. In 1908 the F.H. Bennett Biscuit Co. introduced Malatoid, the predecessor to Milk Bone. Still no sign of John Spratt.

In 1917 Sandy Memorial Animal Hospital opened in Hartsville, SC and Essex County Co-Op of Topsfield MA begins.

Today, the Topsfield Fair continues to be one of the northeast's most popular autumn attractions. In 1919 the Wahl Clipper Corp. enters the beauty and barber trade. Today they also make animal clippers.

In 1920 American Leather Specialties began making collars, leashes and harnesses, in 1921 Mid-West Metal Products begins making switch box supports for the construction industry.

Today, one of their subsidiaries, Mid-West Homes For Pets, is an industry leader in the manufacture of dog crates and similar products.

That same year, The Andis Co. began producing clippers for barbers and today they also make pet clippers.


In 1922, P.M. Chappel introduced canned dog food (it was horse meat). In 1924 Bentonite Mining and Manufacturing Company opened in Deadwood, SD and three years later American Colloid Co. (makers of Premium Choice and Cat Tails cat litter) was formed.

In 1926 Nunn Milling Co. opened in Evansville, IN. Today, one of their offspring, Midwestern Pet Foods, makes Sportmix Dog and Cat Foods and Sportmix Biscuits, Pro Pac pet foods and treats and Earthborn Holistic dog and cat food.

1926 was also the year Old Mother Hubbard of Lowell, MA baked her first dog biscuit. Today, they're still baking them, although OMH has morphed into Wellpet LLC. and may be better known for Wellness holistic dog and cat foods and treats, as well as Eagle Pack pet foods.

In 1927 Rumford Pet Center began in East Providence, RI, and they're still going strong. Moving to the decade of the 30's PetAg was formed. Today’s pet owners probably know them best for Espilac and KMR puppy and kitten milk replacement formulas. The 1930’s was also when Evanger's Dog and Cat Food Co. began in Wheeling, IL.

In 1939 the Marshall Family began raising ferrets and started Marshall Pet Products. That same year, Kurt Vogel turned his living room into Vo-Toys, makers of a large variety of toys for pets, and also accessories such as bowls.

The decade of the 40's saw the beginning of Reliance Pet Products. Today we know them as Preview Pet Products, makers of premium pet cages. We also said our first hellos to Van Ness Plastic Moldings (litter boxes, bowls, etc.), Royal Pet Supplies (a large distributor), The Iams Company (food and treats for dogs and cats), and the Farnam Company, a huge manufacturer of supplies for pets and livestock.




"California Psittacine Breeders Preparing For Court Fight." Psitticine refers to small and large hookbilled birds such as parakeets, cockatiels, cockatoos and parrots. "Obstreperous Zoo Inhabitants Exiled To Island." I don't know what obstreperous refers to. Oops. Wait. Yes I do: hostile or quarrelsome (thanks, Google).

"Japanese To Export Goldfish to U.S.A." and now backyard garden ponds are full of them. "You Can Jail Your Neighbor's Cat." In Chicago in 1947 stray cats could be turned over to police. It would cost the owner a buck to bail them out. "Trend Toward The Small Dog." People startin’ to luv them little yippy lap dogs.

THE 50’S

"Friskies Makers Stress Desire To Cooperate With Pet Shops." The headline was about the company's concern that their advertising was believed to be detrimental to the sale of horsemeat in pet shops, so they agreed to eliminate the reference to horsemeat. The year was 1951.


"Ed Sullivan Named '54 NDWG Head." Refers to the National Dog Welfare Guild. Ed Sullivan, for you post-baby-boomers, was the host of the TV variety show of the day. Ed Sullivan owned Sunday nights!

He introduced the Beatles to America, and when Elvis performed on his show, they only showed him from the waist up.

At the time, I was just one of those giggly pre-teens who called him “Elvis the pelvis” thinking we were being pretty brazen.

"Life Insurance Firm Pays First Claim." In 1958 The Animal Insurance Co. of America, devoted exclusively to life insurance for pedigreed dogs, paid out $200 for a German shepherd killed by a hit and run driver in Wappingers Falls, NY.


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    • Bob Bamberg profile image

      Bob Bamberg 5 years ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi Ann, thanks for stopping by. Many companies are "merging resources" with (interpret that as "being taken over by") other companies.

      Usually when that happens they keep each product name exclusively on the label for a while, then after a year or two, they get both names on the label, then the smaller or weaker company's name disappears off the label and becomes a fuzzy memory. You see this more with treats.

      Thanks for commenting and for the votes. Regards, Bob

    • Ann1Az2 profile image

      Ann1Az2 5 years ago from Orange, Texas

      Interesting information. I wonder how many of these will still be around 20 or 30 years from now?

      Voted up.