Beautiful Joe

Beautiful Joe is one of a number of animal “autobiographies” published during the time period that this exhibit focuses on. The author, Margaret Marshall Saunders, was from Nova Scotia, but was inspired to write this story after a visit to Meaford, Ontario in 1892. As the preface to this book states:

“BEAUTIFUL JOE is a real dog, and “Beautiful Joe” is his real name. He belonged during the first part of his life to a cruel master, who mutilated him in the manner described in the story. He was rescued from him, and is now living in a happy home with pleasant surroundings, and enjoys a wide local celebrity.”

Beautiful Joe, written in 1893 by Margaret Marshall Saunders. Collection of National Museum of Animals & Society.

The manuscript for this book was submitted to a contest sponsored by the American Humane Education Society (AHES) in 1893. It was selected as a winning entry and was subsequently published the following year. Many comparisons have been made between this book and Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty. For example, in the January 1895 issue of Our Dumb Animals George T. Angell noted that Beautiful Joe “bids fair to rival in usefulness” to Black Beauty, a book which he saw as having tremendous success in the goal of converting “the world to humanity.” (87)

By 1939 over 7 million copies of this book had been published, and it had been translated in to several different languages. Beautiful Joe has been digitized and is available through the University of Pennsylvania’s digital library.

The Beautiful Joe Heritage Society in Meaford, Ontario is involved in a number of projects to keep the memory of both Margaret Marshall Saunders and Beautiful Joe alive.

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