The Farnsworth Pets

Janice Kasper, former Farnsworth Curator of Historic Sites

In Victorian fashion the family of William A. Farnsworth considered the company of pets essential to complete a home. We know of at least three dogs connected to the Farnsworths. A small white terrier was photographed with Fannie Farnsworth in the 1860s and later, in the 1930s the same dog was fondly remembered by Lucy Farnsworth to her housekeeper Irene’s son as having a fondness for cake. James Farnsworth registered a “large, black New Foundland male dog” in 1877.

In his bedroom at the Homestead on Elm Street is a carte-de-visite from the Singhi Studio in Rockland of a handsome, spotted sporting hound. Evidence of cats in the house is less specific. There is also Waldo Pierce’s satirical watercolor, done in 1957, of Lucy Farnsworth surrounded by cats. The most touching account of a family pet comes to us from a young Fannie Farnsworth who wrote in an 1863 school essay:

“Did you ever see my Canary bird? He is a cunning little fellow. I think he is a pretty good singer. He is light yellow. Sometimes we let him out in the room and he feels pretty big about it. I take all the care of him because he was given to us by a lady. He has pretty eyes they are dark brown. And he is a female.”