What Was the Big Deal With “Kid-on-a-Pony” Photos?
Looking through old photo albums, it's a sure bet that you'd find at least one picture with a kid on a pony, sometimes wearing a cowboy outfit.
Growing up in Michigan, I remember these pony pictures and many of my acquaintances getting theirs taken atop a Shetland pony.
Photos of this type seemed to be very popular many decades ago...but why?
Did parents think their kids were fascinated by ponies?
Were parents fascinated by seeing their kids on ponies?
Was it part of America's 'cowboy' fad of the 1900s?
Did kids whine until their picture was taken with a pony?
Was a pic on a pony the “in” thing to do at the time?
Who knows...maybe all of the above.
No doubt there were many a parent who hauled out their pictures to exasperated guests: “oh, ya gotta see this pic of little Johnny on a pony” etc.
Truth be told, the kids loved it.
But where did the ponies come from in the first place?
There were the usual pony photographers in those small-town carnivals that would pop up every summer, but the main source were the traveling salesmen/photographers. They would go from town-to-town with a pony or two and a kids' wardrobe that contained many cowboy clothes. Then they would get out, walk through neighborhoods, and sure enough – the kids would come running. Once told they could have their picture taken on the pony, they'd run home to mom and beg to get a picture of themselves.
So here would come mom, with little 'whoever', to get the deed done. They'd plop Junior on the pony, and get it done.....kids were so proud of these! Once the pic was taken, it was time to pay up.....if mom didn't have the right amount, the photographer would sometimes rip the picture up and throw it onto the ground. Many moms who experienced this would pick up the pieces and tape them together. Free picture!
Pony pictures were going on from the late 1800s well into the 20th Century, as old vintage photos prove. The photographers were so good at luring children for a picture, that they began calling themselves “kidnappers”.
Below are a handful of these children's 'pony pictures', with a few others thrown in. Got any of your own?
KIDS ON PONIES