Some write for pleasure,
Some write for fame,
But all I can do
Is write my name
--Autograph verse, 1930-1940
Most people associate autographs with celebrities. Autograph collectors will go to great lengths to acquire a star's signature because they admire the person or believe his or her signature is valuable.
This is not the only form of autograph collecting, though. Beginning in the 15th century, university students gathered the autographs of their peers and mentors. They frequently used the interior covers or blank pages in Bibles and other books for signatures. While the main function of this activity was to have a memento to remember each other by, it also gave the students a list of references they might call on in future endeavors.
This tradition continued into the mid-20th century. Many students kept autograph books often given as birthday or Christmas gifts. Each book was filled with blank pages that the children had friends, teachers, and family members sign. The signers typically covered the pages with sketches, cartoons, and short, often humorous, poems. In one such book a student wrote:
You love yourself,
You think you're grand,
You go to the movies and hold your hand,
You put your arm around your waist,
And when you get fresh, you slap your face!
In the 1950s and 1960s, autograph books took on a new form, that of the stuffed animal. Dogs were particularly popular. The dogs served the same purpose as books, but gave children a unique way to display their collections.
The stuffed dog shown here belonged to Kandy Kraemer Shortle. She received the toy in 1960, before her family moved from Marysville, Kansas, to New York. The dog is firmly stuffed and has a smooth white cotton cover, allowing it to be signed easily. Kandy took the dog to a Brownie Day Camp and had her friends sign it. Their autographs helped Kandy remember her friends even though they were apart.
Though Kandy's purpose wasn't to collect celebrity signatures, she did get one of note. The dog's right rump is autographed by Forrest C. "Phog" Allen, who coached basketball at the University of Kansas from 1919 to 1956. Allen also played basketball at KU under James Naismith, the game's inventor. The Kraemer family knew Allen well. Kandy's father attended KU in the 1920s and played basketball under Allen. Before the family moved, Allen visited them and autographed Kandy's dog.
Kandy kept the souvenir of her Marysville friends for 50 years. In 2010, she donated the dog to the Kansas Historical Society, where it was added to the collections of the Kansas Museum of History.
Entry: Autograph Dog
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: September 2010
Date Modified: December 2014
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.