Flashback Friday: Anthropomorphism Edition

Anthropomorphism: the attribution of human characteristics or behavior to a god, animal, or object.

We humans have an innate tendency to project human traits on animals to make them seem friendlier, more relatable and well, more human. In contrast, we often use animals to point out the worst traits in our peers. Call someone a snake, a weasel, a pig or an ass and we know he’s no good but, thanks to anthropomorphism, snowmen dance, fish sing and people get it into their heads that polar bears need hugs.

Some pictures of monkeys this past week reminded me that it used to be possible to buy monkeys through the mail and the advertisements emphasized how much the monkeys were just like us. Sometimes all it took was to give the monkey a lollipop, like this ad in Field & Stream’s June, 1963 issue.

"Almost Human"

“Almost Human”

Another monkey dealer advertising in that same issue took a different approach, using a drawing instead of a photograph. This could have been a cost-cutting measure, allowing him to sell his monkeys for three dollars less. We can only assume the instructions included how to get a ruffled collar over a squirrel monkey’s head.



For those who had a hard time relating to lightning fast primates with dagger-like canine teeth wearing ruffled collars, Aqua-Land Pet offered up something a little different.

Hours of Fun

Lightning-fast primates with dagger-like teeth carrying tiny rifles. How cute! Aqua-Land Pet also offered baby alligators as an amusing hobby for children. Apparently, alligators were also helpful and friendly.


Wally Gator is a Swingin’ Operator in the Swamp …

A smile goes a long way in making an animal seem human. Even bunnies and turtles could happily endorse motor oil in 1963.

hare and tortoise

Valvoline, 1963

A smile is one thing, but extreme anthropomorphism involves more than a little emotion. How about a hat?

elephant driver

A Jaunty Driving Cap but No Pants

I wonder how he got that reminder ribbon on his trunk, seeing that he had no fingers, but he’s driving a car so who am I to quibble? It may be a good thing he didn’t have fingers or he would have been able to flip to Field & Stream’s advertising section to see ads like these:

Get One Before They're All Gone

Get One Before They’re All Gone

No need for guides or skill in Ontario, according to an ad in the April, 1948, issue of Outdoorsman Magazine:

The Way It Ought to Be

The Way It Ought to Be

But what did the fish in 1957 do when not lining up for the chance to be caught and jump for joy?

Doesn't Say Much for the Lure

Doesn’t Say Much for the Lure

The makers of Coral King lines admitted that fish can’t really talk but let the poker playing stand. The fish in an ad for Airex tackle that same year would never have stooped to such a thing. He was much too sophisticated, although he did seem to enjoy the occasional cigar.

He has Fin-gers

He has Fin-gers

Out in Wyoming, the fish didn’t play poker or wear top hats and the style of the anglers was decidedly casual.

Go Broncos!

Go Broncos!

Horses in waders,elephants in cars, fish in tuxedos and playing cards; anthropomorphism makes animals seem human. If only we could do the same for more people.





Categories: Flashback Fridays, Humor, nature | Tags: , , , , , , | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “Flashback Friday: Anthropomorphism Edition

  1. hey, i like being called a Snake ! 😆

  2. Heard a report on NPR this week that they are finding Neanderthal DNA in present day humans. That might help explain a few things for you.

    This revelation came as no surprise to me. I could have just introduced the researchers to a few neighbors. Possibly a treasure trove of Neanderthal DNA.

  3. I’ve been told, “Don’t worry about it, he’s just an a**hole,” like it made what happened okay. Now, with new genetic research, he won’t need his friends to explain that he just can’t help it. I can hear it now: “Get over it. I’m a Neanderthal. It’s what I do.”

    Protected Class status can’t be far behind.

  4. Bob Stanton

    Wow, I guess I never realized that Miami was such a hotbed of monkey rearing. I wonder too how ironclad the live delivery guarantee was. Nothing sadder that a dead monkey on your doorstep, C.O.D…or D.O.A.

    • Miami was a hub of the wildlife trade for a long time. Legal and illegal. I wonder how much the guy got paid for stuffing monkeys into boxes?

  5. Sara Lyn Stanfield

    Hello, Quill!

    My brother & I had a pet Alligator when I was about 8 years old. He was…… extremely interesting; more so than most people as far as I was concerned. It is not a compliment for animals to be ascribed human characteristics rather people are more attractive when given animal traits.

    Loyal as a Dog! Sweet as a Bunny! Smart as an Elephant! Strong as an Ox! And the Heart of a Lion! Now, THAT is the man every woman wants!

    Have Fun! Sara Lyn =)

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