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The Making of the "First Dog": President Warren G. Harding and Laddie Boy

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This paper traces the history of the cultural icon of the "First Dog" of the United States back to the administration of President Warren G. Harding (1921-1923). It briefly explores technological and socio-cultural factors—including the early-twentieth-century cult of human and nonhuman celebrities—that laid a basis for the acceptance of Laddie Boy, Harding's Airedale terrier, as the third member of the First Family and a celebrity in his own right. Following Laddie Boy, First Dogs would greet and entertain visitors to the White House, pose for the press, make public appearances, and "talk." While recognizing that Laddie Boy's personality was essential to his success at the White House, the paper also documents the steps taken by President Harding, his wife Florence Kling Harding, and the American press to establish Laddie Boy as the First Dog of the land. The paper argues that the construction of the cultural icon of the First Dog was not simply a political ploy to humanize the President but more a calculated attempt by President Harding to further animal welfare.


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