Note: the phrase “Be Kind to Animals Week”® is a Registered Trademark of the American Humane Association and is used with their permission in this exhibition. Similarly, the phrase “Be Kind to Animals”™ is used with permission from the American Humane Association for this exhibition.
Be Kind to Animals Week® began in the United States in 1915. It was started by the American Humane Association with the support and encouragement of other like-minded advocacy groups, most notably the American Humane Education Society (AHES).
In the weeks leading up to Be Kind to Animals Week® & Humane Sunday, posters, lantern slides and other visual materials were widely distributed. The visual material used in this promotion ranged from text-only posters to elaborate color lithographs. Artists involved in the promotion of Be Kind to Animals Week® in the first half of the 20th century included: Edwin Megargee, Dan Osher, and H. Armstrong Roberts. It was, however, the work of the American artist Morgan Dennis that came to visually define Be Kind to Animals Week® for many during this era.
Special events including speakers, exhibits, and parades were held during Be Kind to Animals Week.® Each city or town that celebrated brought its own local flavor to the event, but there were some common elements. Local churches (of all denominations) were asked to speak on the theme of kindness and compassion to all species in their weekly sermons, the origin of the “Humane Sunday” concept. Poster and essay competitions were frequently held, with the winning entries featured prominently in the week’s festivities.
Be Kind to Animals Week® was typically celebrated in the spring (and this continues to be the case!), but there have been some exceptions.
For example, in 1923 the Canadian SPCA held Be Kind to Animals Week® from September 10-15th. This was done because the Montreal-based Society was “in imperative need” for money so that an Inspector could be hired, and so this event was held as a way to raise much-needed operating funds. Publications focusing on Humane Education were sent out to members of the Canadian SPCA. In addition, “prominent citizens” of Montreal and surrounding areas were asked to support the Society during a campaign called “Hear the Silent Call.” Just like Be Kind to Animals Week® events happening elsewhere, there was a poster competition in which cash prizes were awarded to the winning entries. The submitted posters were displayed in storefronts to further promote the work of the Canadian SPCA.
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