Monkeys in Connecticut

September 10, 2013 · Collections ·

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What’s the monkey doing in this picture? When I started working on a talk about nineteenth-century prints of monkeys by Hartford’s Kellogg brothers, I was surprised to find that most of the monkeys in these pictures were domestic pets. Monkeys were often featured in the traveling menageries that toured Connecticut during the first half of the nineteenth century. Sailors sometimes brought monkeys home from long voyages, and some people kept them as pets. But they were always rare and exotic, never common, like cats and dogs, or even parrots. Most people in nineteenth century Connecticut would known about monkeys chiefly from books: travel books, natural histories, and books of fables. People were interested in monkeys and found them entertaining because their antics recalled men in miniature. This monkey is dexterously using his fingers—which appear remarkably human—to remove fleas from a plump kitten. Though the picture in which he appears was printed and published and sold in Hartford, Connecticut in the 1830s, this particular monkey probably never visited the state. D.W. Kellogg’s print is based on a composition by the British artist J. M. Burbank. Burbank’s monkey and cat, assuming they actually existed at all, probably belonged to a family in England.

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