FRANCES SIMPSON AND THE SELFRIDGES CAT AND DOG SALON
FRANCES SIMPSON AND THE SELFRIDGES CAT AND DOG SALON
In April 1913, Frances Simpson approached Mr. Selfridge and suggested his store open a “Cat and Dog Salon” – a pet department. She would superintend the venture and Miss Goddard would be the department manager. Breeders could rent a space in the Salon for their puppies or kittens and these were offered at fixed prices – no haggling as was the custom at the time with animal dealers – to the public. The department was bright, scrupulously clean and no animals were kept there overnight. It gave breeders a way of selling to members of the public whom they might not reach at cat or dog shows or in newspaper small ads. It also became a public attraction because of the puppies and kittens playing in the window displays.
A person could also order a particular breed of cat or dog through the department, and staff would contact an appropriate breeder. It was not only pedigree animals that were sold, pretty non-pedigree animals were also sold there, although the most popular cats were Blue Persians and Siamese, and the most popular dogs were Pugs and Pomeranians. The window displays soon became a popular attraction and members of the public also went to the Salon to ask for advice on their pets’ health. Soon, little boys were asking if the Salon sold mice, while other members of the public were asking about rabbits, guinea pigs and other fancy pets.
The newspaper extracts below are a mix of advertisement and article, mostly by Callisthenes the “house writer” for the House of Selfridge (now simply called Selfridge’s) although one, describing the origin of the Cat and Dog Salon was written by Simpson herself.
THE CAT AND DOG SALON - Pall Mall Gazette, 22nd May, 1913
By CALLISTHENES. The very newest innovation at Selfridge’s is a Salon for Dogs and Cats. I visited it yesterday and found it an entrancing place. Just behind the Store, in Duke-street, at No. .32, the Catteries and Kennels have been established. There are few people who are not fascinated by these delightful little pets. Even if one knows nothing of the technical points of a well-bred animal, one is charmed. What is more beautiful than a Persian kitten at play, or more touching than the wistful eyes of a little fox-terrier sitting gravely in his kennel?
My visit left me with one dominant impression— that this Salon ought to be an unqualified success, for one very simple reason. It will combine the knowledge of expert fanciers with the clear-headed organization of the modern Store. This is already noticeable in those features which make the establishment unique. There will be, for instance, reasonable dealing terms, fixed prices, which is the only really honest method in any form of trading. The old idea when selling dogs or cats was to price them at something like double the figure that the dealer expects to get. The customer who is conversant with the methods of the business then proceeds to knock it down as much as possible. It was an understood thing that he should do so. The ignorant customer, however, paid the sum asked without a murmur. It is a strange relic of ancient times when bartering of this sort was de rigueur. These methods, needless to say, are totally tabooed. Cats and dogs, kittens and puppies, will all be properly valued; and the sum asked will be the one to be received.
Another Selfridge rule which will be as strictly observed is the one which welcomes everybody whether they are Customers or visitors. And the usual guarantee of good faith in every transaction will be, of course, a sine qua non. The Store has been fortunate in obtaining the services of two of the greatest Dog and Cat experts in England. Everyone in the Fanciers’ world knows Miss Frances Simpson by name. She is the authoress of Cassell’s Standard Book of the Cat, a constant writer on this subject in The Queen, and she judges at all the big shows. This lady will superintend the Salon and be present two or three days a week to give advice. Miss Goddard, who will manage it, is also a great expert. She has gained her experience in the breeding of all kinds dogs with the best -known dog Fanciers in London. To see her handling the most formidable-looking bull-dogs is an education.- The section, therefore, should be controlled with that consummate skill which the Store always tries to maintain in every one of its Departments.
THE SALON FOR CATS AND DOGS - Pall Mall Gazette, 26th May, 1913
Pall Mall Gazette Note - This article is by Miss Frances Simpson (Authoress of the “Book of the Cat” etc), who superintends the recently opened animal salon in Duke Street, two or three doors north of the Somerset Street entrance.
The above is the announcement in the shop window at 32, Duke-street. The opening day was Monday last, and since then there have been crowds gazing in at the windows where kittens are gambolling with balls and puppies are playfully fighting. Heads are strained to catch a sight of what the white-painted kennels beyond the windows contain, and some of the crowd, more venturesome than others, have peeped in at the doors and asked if they might look round. When we have not been very busy, and during a lucid interval I have told the young folk they can just pass up and down the pens. It has been amusing to hear the remarks and the exclamations of genuine admiration of the animals which are placed in such comfortable, clean quarters.
The rooms at the Salon are most suitably and tastefully arranged and decorated. The scheme is buff-coloured walls and brown-painted wood-work. The hangings are of blue linen. There are pots of pink flowers and graceful palms. I told Mr. Selfridge that blue was a lucky colour, and so chose blue linen for the kennel coats which we wear to protect our clothes and also for our curtains! Beyond the front room there is a little office fitted with writing tables, and leading out of this is a spacious square room with parquet floors and comfortable seats, where visitors can sit whilst appointments are made and animals are trotted out. The dogs’ night nurseries are downstairs, and the cats’ sleeping apartment is upstairs. We keep all rooms well aired and sprayed with disinfectant. The animals are fed twice a day by our excellent kennel boy, who handles a little Persian kitten or massive bulldog with equal care and caution.
And how came it about that this Animal department has been opened? Well, it was only six weeks ago that I asked for an interview with Mr. Selfridge, and propounded my plans for a salon for dogs and cats. It was evident that doubts and difficulties presented themselves to his master mind; but the doubts were dispelled and the difficulties dispersed during our twenty minutes’ conversation, and I left the office feeling that we should have an animal department in connection with the house of Selfridge in the month of May. And so it has come to pass with speed and energy for which this business is noted.
I think that this new departure has been a revelation to some of the managers at Selfridge’s. I must say I have found them one and all most courteous and obliging, but at the same time not quite conversant with what was and was not required in an animal department! However, I found the executive prepared to co-operate with me to the fullest extent, and the various articles I desired were duly transferred to our Department 168. The chief difficulty I have experienced is finding the right man in the right place to sign my transfer and thus give permission to the sale attendant to provide with the required articles. When I want sawdust and bedding for the animals, I find perhaps I am addressing the gentleman who looks after the advertisements, or when requiring comfortable chairs and tables for our salon I walk into the office of the manager of finance! Occasionally one is able to get hold of the busy Mr. Best, a man of few words but many deeds. As staff manager he seems to pull a number of electric wires, and the human machinery in all the departments is set working.
If, in conclusion, I mention the fact that Mr. Selfridge instructed us to supply Teddy bears and balls for the puppies and kittens, it will be readily understood that “the chief” is a real animal lover, and such, indeed, he has proved himself to be by his frequent visits to the Salon and by the keen delight he takes in the dogs and cats. He insists on moderate and fixed Prices, and the amount are asking appears in plain figures on the pen of each animal.
When customers realise these straightforward and unique methods of animal dealing they will have a feeling of security in purchasing a good pedigree dog or a kitten in Duke-street – where the ladies in blue welcome all visitors to the Salon de Luxe. Don’t “wait and see,” but “come and see.”
THE ANIMAL DEPARTMENT 32, DUKE STREET. By Frances Simpson. (Authoress of Cassell's “Book of the Cat.") - Pall Mall Gazette , 18th June, 1913
How are we getting on? Well, splendidly, and we are delighted with the success of the Cat and Dog Salon. We have just been a month in existence and it is astonishing how many animals have passed through our hands and found new homes. And our visitors! What a number have “just looked round” and expressed their great satisfaction at the arrangements for the welfare, comfort, and cleanliness of the animals. We have had an inspector from the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, who was loud in his praise of our large separate pens, and declared that it did his heart good to see the way the animals were kept, and that he would not have known there was a dog in the place.
One lady visitor, after spending some time in the Salon, came to me and said : “There is a mental touch here that can be felt everywhere, and I am sure that you and your lady friends must be devoted animal-lovers. May I come again, because it a real joy to see these creatures so thoroughly happy, in spite of their captivity?” I felt the truth of what our visitor said regarding the “mental touch,” for animals have an instinctive knowledge of whether they are handled by those who love them or otherwise.
Our shop windows are a great attraction. We generally occupy one side with about half a dozen little Pekinese puppies. Several people step in and inquire if they are very expensive. We tell them the prices, and then, perhaps, we are asked why some are dearer than others. We draw attention to their faces, and explain that the shorter the nose the longer the price! The other window is filled with variety of kittens - with occasionally some little Pom puppies to show that cat and dog life is not always an unhappy one. A pair of Siamese kittens have attracted a great deal of attention and curiosity, and very frequently I have been asked, “What are those funny little dogs?” I tell them they are descendants of a race that was formerly called the Royal Cat of Siam, as the original breed was kept in the Palace of the King of Siam. I remark that when born they are quite white, and that the points of ears, legs, and tail darken to a deep chocolate as they grow older. Their bright blue eyes are a distinctive feature of this quaint variety.
We have been asked to procure canaries, pheasants, rabbits, guineapigs, parrots, and white mice. We book any orders and make appointments. I assured one gentleman that we could even re-tail Manx cats!
We might fill our Salon three times over each week with the number of animals that people wish to place with us on “sale or return,” but, as experts, we have to use our discrimination, and make varied and choice selection as possible. Our clients have to book their pens, as they would their theatre stalls! We like to have a fair number of Pekinese, as this is at present a very popular breed with ladies. We find that gentlemen desire the terriers, rough and smooth. The larger breeds we obtain only by appointments. A lady purchased a fine English bulldog, but she brought it back- or, I should say, he brought her back at the end of his chain. We exchanged him because his mistress complained that when he wagged his tail her tea-tables toppled over, and that he had a great partiality for public houses!
Male kittens of various breeds are greatly in request, but the gentler sex are the wallflowers of our Salon.
As experts in dogs and cats, we have many inquiries regarding the points of the animals, and also ladies have brought their ailing pets for advice, which is readily given gratis. We watch our animals very carefully at the Salon, and the slightest indisposition is quickly taken note of, and if we deem it necessary the owner is communicated with by wire. If food is refused, keep the animal under observation, for lack of appetite in any animal is a sure sign of being out of sorts when they are regularly and moderately fed.
The great satisfaction expressed by clients and visitors has been an immense incentive to us in our work. The courtesy and kindness shown by all connected with the House of Selfridge is a link which seems to bridge over the little space between the main building and the Salon at 32, Duke-Street. - Frances Simpson.
THE CUMULATIVE EFFECT - Pall Mall Gazette, 7th July, 1913
By Callisthenes. A Selfridge advertisement invariably has an astonishingly prompt result, but when the sudden rush of buyers ceases it does not mean that the full-tide of its effect has been felt. For example, the little Cat and Dog Salon recently inaugurated has done extremely well. But when, a little time ago, it was given a small paragraph in the big Monday Full- Page Advertisements it took, in one day, the sum that had been taken in the whole week before. That was the instant effect, but the whole impression that little paragraph produced cannot be traced so definitely. It is still simmering in people’s minds, ready to become articulate at any moment. Having gained, as it were, its individual ends, it has joined the great volume of publicity associated in the public mind with Selfridge’s.
THE ADVENTURES OF ALPHONSE XXXIX – HE VISITS THE SELFRIDGE CAT AND DOG SALON - Pall Mall Gazette, 12th July, 1913
“But you are no true sport,” said mon ami Gustave to ze other day, “for you ‘ave not got ze British bulldogue! You should ‘ave a British bulldogue, my friend, for ze week of ze Entente Cordiale. That is, assuredly, the least which la politesse requires of you!”
Gustave, ‘e ‘as come over to Londres from Paris to see ze ver’ cordial reception given to our President Poincare. ‘E love much to what you call “pull my leg,” but all ze same ’e 'as reason in what say about ze bulldogue. I like well this idea of ze bulldogue. I consider it; I discuss it with Angelique. Angelique, she shake ’er ’ead at first. ” truly, my little old one,” she say, “do they not bite, these bulldogues, and forget to leave go? It would painful if this British bulldogue which you to purchase were to forget ze entente cordiale. Not so?” I agree with my Cabbage, but I say to ’er that one can purchase ze guaranteed bulldogue of' excellent character. "Ah voyons, voyons!” laugh Angelique, “you begin now to speak! Let us then see this good-charactered, guaranteed dog!”
We take then ze taxi-auto and go to Selfridge's, for by this time we ’ave got into ze custom always to go first to Selfridge’s when we ’ave need of things. There, if anywhere, we know we shall get what we want, or at least ze necessary renseignments. At Selfridge’s we enquire at ze Bureau for ze best place at which to purchase ze bulldogue of domestic ’abit. ‘‘But surely, Monsieur Alphonse,” say ze Mademoiselle, you ’ave already visited our Salon for Dogs and Cats? Not so? But at once you must visit ’im. ‘E finds ’imeclf, this Salon, in Duke Street, at numero trente-deux. It is but two steps, across ze road at ze side of ze Store!”
My Cabbage and I, in a little minute, we find ourselves at ze Salon for ze Cat and Dog. ’Ere we are received as ze welcome guests by two Iadies, ze Superintendent and ze Manageress, and are shown kittens, but I tell you! Of ze mos’ adorable. For a moment I forget my bulldogue, for I can see that my Angelique she ‘as envy of a little Persian of smoke grey who play on ze floor with a little coloured ball. Then there are also ze mos’ chic Siamese cats, there is every sort of cat ‘ere. My Angelique she ‘as difficulty to make ‘er choice, but at last I buy for ‘er ze smoke-grey Persian that we first admire. And now then for ze bulldogues!
We leave ze cats, and we proceed to where ze dogs live as comfortable as in ze first-calss hotel. Mon Dieu! But they are of a breeding, of a beauty, of a strength. At first (if it is necessary for me to admit it) I did not figure to myself that these bulldogues ‘as ze polite expression. “Mais voyons donc, mon vieux,” say my Cabbage to me, “these dogs, they ‘ave ze mos’ unkind faces!” But when I see ze young mademoiselle opening theirt mouths with ‘er ‘ands – all among ze so ferocious teeth – I know that my suspicions were unworthy! They are truly of a good-nature, these formidable British dogs, of an intelligence! I purchase one of them, mos’ beautiful-ugly, and now when I walk with ‘im in ze street every one can see I am friend of ze entente cordiale, that I am of a truth a perfect Sport.
ABOUT CATS AND DOGS - Pall Mall Gazette, 24th September, 1913
And in that town a dog was found.
As many dogs there be,
Both mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound,
And curs of low degree.
So wrote Goldsmith in his funny little “Elegy,” and if he could only have visited the Selfridge Salon, where so many specimens of the canine and feline aristocracy are to be found, he would doubtless have been inspired to a poem on “curs of high degree.” For, though the company is very jolly and sociable - even mongrel, puppy, whelp and hound ” are admitted - yet it is to be supposed that Goldsmith would certainly have thought the perky little Pekingese Spaniel worthy of a sonnet!
Since it was opened last May, the Cat and Dog Salon has proved itself well worthy of inclusion among the most energetic Departments of the House. The number of visitors has, from the first, steadily increased, and many a household now includes a four-footed inmate which once upon a time anxiously scanned the faces of every visitor to the Salon, wondering who its future master or mistress might be. The success of this Department is no doubt due great part to the policy of charging fixed and moderate prices for the animals. The need for such an arrangement was the greater, as it had almost become a recognised principle of most Cat and Dog dealers of the past to haggle and bargain over the prices of their animals. Such a plan would not, of course, be tolerated for an instant at Selfridge’s; there are no fancy figures asked, but every animal has its unalterable price, which is, also of course, as low as possible.
Another great factor in the progress of this, the youngest of the Selfridge Departments, is its perfect hygienic arrangements. There is never the slightest trace of the unpleasant atmosphere so often in evidence, as the pens are kept scrupulously clean and the zinc trays are constantly being changed and disinfected. None of the animals remains the Salem overnight.
The person who wants a really thoroughbred pet and yet doesn’t understand enough about points to be able to make a final choice, will be glad to ; avail himself of the services of the experts 'in charge of the Department. Miss Goddard, who manages the Salon, is a well-known expert on the subject of dogs and cats, and her opinion and advice on the choice of a Pekingese, “the dog of the moment,” or the equally popular Ruby Spaniels or sporting terriers, is at the service of every visitor, whether he be a doggy individual, or one of the many perplexed people who are trying to choose between the mysterious charm of Siamese kitten and the fascination of a fluffy, Blue Persian lump of mischief.
Any prize-bred specimen, if not in slock, can be obtained and seen by appointment, but it is not only the connoisseur of animals who is supplied. The bachelor who wants a four-footed chum, the little girl who has been allowed to have dear little kitten for a birthday present -all those who care nothing for pedigrees, but only want a pet, are also well catered for. There is generally a small crowd of these most human people laughing at the antics of the kittens and puppies as they frisk about behind the windows of the Salon at 34, Duke-street (just behind the Store). And the animals are no less pleased to see visitors than are Selfridge’s themselves.
CAT AND DOG ANECDOTES – Globe, 15th January, 1914
By Callisthenes. Now and again, in this great Distributing House of merchandise and anecdotes, one hears of an incident that somehow seems be the essence of Selfridge’s.” Such an one was furnished by the Cat and Dog Department, the busy little off-shoot of the Store which has been attracting many visitors to 32, Duke-street (just behind the building).
One day, the story goes, elderly lady, (somewhat out breath, entered the Cat and Dog Salon, and unconcernedly seated herself on chair in the middle of the cages and pens. Instantly every canine and feline eye was fixed her, and various mewing criticisms were exchanged as to her capacity for kindheartedneas and generosity. Every visitor to the salon has to undergo this ordeal. One feels that those perky Pekingese puppies are “sizing one up” the moment one enters; the frisky blue Persian kittens stop playing and regard every visitor with an intensity that is positively embarrassing. But the old lady of the story sat placidly in her chair, and did not look once at her four-footed critics. The manageress of the department approached. Would madam care to see any cats, was she interested more in dogs?
“Cats? Dogs?” was the vehement rejoinder, “I don’t want any cats and dogs. I hate the sight them! Take’em away! I came in here to rest!! “ And the old lady stayed hour. Why not? “Selfridge’s” was written over the window. This was a Selfridge department, and the lady very rightly felt that she was as welcome to go in and placidly rest for an hour among the Persians and bull-pups as she would be in the Lounge or the Silence Room. And so she was! Although the incident has a somewhat humorous aspect, the lady was doing exactly what Selfridge’s wish ail their customers to do —making herself thoroughly “at home.”
Among the curious requests that have been made to the department was one for a “real live Teddy Bear,” and more than one schoolboy has come with a pocketful of well-hoarded pennies and the query, “Please, do you sell mice ” But for the present, Selfridge’s are confining themselves to Cats and Dogs. The fame of this department has spread so far since its opening, nine months ago, that requests for four-footed companions come from most unlikely and distant quarters. Almost everyone likes some sort of cat or dog, and the variety kept at Selfndge’s ranges from the pretty little nondescript kitten costing only a few shillings to the most expensive Pekingese. There are some beautiful white Samoyede puppies - the dogs which are used on Arctic expeditions - now ; these animals are most intelligent and affectionate, and make excellent companions.
The Winter Sale spirit has even penetrated the Duke-street Salon, and during the continuance of the present Sale, all animals will be offered at 2s in the £ off usual prices. Next time you are in the Store, pay a visit to this interesting section; a most amusing ten minutes may spent in “talking” to the animals - they are always delighted to see you; and so are Selfridge’s. Or why not follow the example of the lady referred to above, and go and rest among the mowing and the yapping?
WHICH CAME FIRST - THE EGG OR THE KITTEN - Pall Mall Gazette, 30th March, 1914
By Callisthenes. It is an old and well-worn riddle – “Which came first, the egg or the chicken?” People are so used to hearing it asked that it is like to go the way of all over-popular conundrums, and be lost in the dusty records of the past. If it is to be saved, it must be disguised and given a fresh start in life. The approach of Easter, when Easter eggs are so popular a feature of present-giving, seems an opportune time to revive the fallen fortunes of an ancient and honourable riddle, and at the same time give some specially selected friend an original and charming surprise. This is what you should do: Go to Selfridge’s Cat and Dog Salon (at 32, Duke-street, just behind the main building) and ask to see some kittens; you may substitute puppies, if you prefer, though “kitten” sounds more like “chicken.” Anyhow, that’s small detail. Whether you choose a kitten or a puppy, you will have no difficulty about getting the most delightful little pet procurable. If you want to do this “in style,” you should get a Blue Persian or Siamese kitten, or a Pekingese, or Pomeranian, or Toy Black and Tan puppy. If by any chance you can’t find just the right size, shape, or colour to suit you, just mention to the assistant what sort of bundle of mischief you require, and she (the assistant, not the bundle) will make an appointment with you to see one or two likely animals. When you have “picked your fancy,” cross over to the main building and go to the famous Confectionery Department on the ground floor. There, ask to see some large, empty Easter eggs. . . . Caught the idea ? You surreptitiously convey the egg and the kitten or puppy, as the case may be (under separate cover, as even the best kind of Easter egg would be rather stuffy quarters for a journey), to the house of the recipient, and, at the critical moment, before he or she enters the room, you pop the kitten (or puppy, as the case may be) into the egg. Then ask the fatal question : Which came first, the egg or the kitten ?” (or puppy,” as the case may be). Be very careful to keep the egg the right way up.
Of course, if you want a large dog, the thing would be more difficult, but for a lady or little boy or girl, no more delightful Easter gift could be thought of than a pet dog or cat. The ribbon tied round the animal’s neck would, naturally, match the ribbon round the egg. The whole colour scheme could be thought out, due regard being paid to the colour of the eyes and coat of the “yolk.”
The Cat and Dog Salon has achieved a high reputation among animal lovers and fanciers. The perfect conditions under which the animals are kept make this little offshoot of the parent house as unique a feature as any connected with the business. The pens are kept scrupulously clean and disinfected, so that the Salon is always quite sweet and fresh. Fixed prices are rigidly adhered to in every case, and this has, in no small measure, made the Salon so successful. Although the finest pedigree animals can always be seen, either by appointment or “in stock,” the common or garden puss and the intelligent and faithful mongrel are accorded places in the light, airy cages. As in every Selfridge department, visitors are as welcome as customers in the Cat and Dog Salon
PHYLLIDA BUYS A DOG. Globe, 17th June, 1914
By Callisthenes. [. . .] Phyllida interrupted me by placing my hat upon my head (without the least regard for the accuracy of the angle) and, thrusting my stick and gloves into my hand, had hypnotised me into a taxi before I realised where I was. “It’s all right,” she beamed at me as we spun along, “we’re going to buy a dog at Selfridge’s.”
I had a vague idea that one bought dogs from greengrocers’ boys for sixpence per dog (or ninepence per big dog). “Dog? Dog?” I echoed blankly.
“Who’d think of going away for a holiday without a dog?” she enquired contemptuously.
I hazarded a guess that I would, for one,, but the taxi had stopped at a little shop, No. 32, Duke-street, which Phyllida explained was just behind Selfridge’s. “I thought we were going to Selfridge’s! ” I protested.
[. . .]”This is Selfridge’s,” she explained, and I saw the magic name in the window. Phyllida was by this time explaining to a pink-overalled lady that she wanted an intelligent dog; one that one could make companion of. . .” I felt a poor substitute, for Phyllida and the assistant went from pen to pen, feverishly discussing the points of, now a Staffordshire bull-terrier, now a Welsh collie, varying their criticism by an occasional inspection of a blue Persian kitten.
“ . . all the prices are fixed, and, of course, quite moderate,” I heard Her-of-the-pink-overall remark, “that has been one of the most appreciated features of the department. And the pens and cages are kept so scrupulously clean that no visitor could tell there was an animal anywhere near. . . . You know, we’ve only been open just over a year, and we have become quite well-known throughout the country for the fine selection of cats and dogs we always show. Of course, we can arrange for any specially desired breed to be shown by appointment. “ [. . .]
THREE INCOMES - Pall Mall Gazette, 18th July, 1918
By Callisthenes. To-day none of us is quite so haphazard about money and its purchasing powers as in normal times, and some friends of mine were discussing the matter of expenditure the Club the other night with some considerable interest. . . . It seems that the wives of these three men have all of them steadily, but surely, transferred a greater and greater proportion of their daily, weekly, or monthly purchases from various stores or shops to the Departments of the House for which I write. They commented freely on this fact. The best off of them said his wife had dealt at Selfridge’s for several years. “Her first transaction with the firm,” said he, “was about a little dog she purchased at the Cat and Dog Salon there - and it seems to me that the dog and our custom at the Store grew side by side - until now we buy practically everything we need there for ourselves and the home.”
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