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Dogs Playing Poker

Posted by on January 9, 2012

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Corrupt Canines

Cassius Marcellus Coolidge invented those amusement park plywood cartoon cutouts of muscle men or bathing beauties.  The cutouts have a hole for you to put your face. Your stick your face in the hole. Your friends take a picture. Instant memory.

Cassius was a bachelor until age sixty-four. In 1909 he married the twenty-nine year-old (Dang, bro!) Gertrude Kimmell.

He also created the dogs playing poker paintings.

His Station and Four Aces

C.M. Coolidge is the Thomas Edison of fun.

If you’re looking at one of Coolidge’s paintings with a group of buds the conversation should turn to which one of you is which dog within four minutes. If it doesn’t, seriously consider getting new buds.

Seriously.  Get. New. Buds.

In 2005 two of his paintings from this series sold for $590,400. Bargain.

The Great Man’s Life
(Complete with in-depth analysis)

Cassius Coolidge was born on September 18, 1844. His nickname was “Cash”.

Now before we go any further, look at his nickname again. Cash. Next to Snake Pliskin, this may be the coolest nickname of all time.

His home was a farm between Antwerp and Philadelphia, New York. After taking courses in bookkeeping, math, and commercial law at Eastman College, he opened the first bank in Antwerp.

Wait. His nickname is Cash and he opens a bank? Oh, that all of our lives had that kind of consistency.

In 1889 Cassius’s bank was sold. (Today it’s known as the Jefferson Bank.) Shortly after the bank sale, he was commissioned by Jefferson Bank to do a self-portrait. The new manager of the bank… the person that commissioned the portrait… was named Richard Dog.[1] D-O-G!!!

His art

Coolidge had very little formal art education. As a child he would often sketch portraits and scemes from the farm life around him. Years later a coworker saw his drawing and suggested he develop his talents further, so Coolidge traveled to New York and received several art lessons from a portrait painter. Coolidge came home a few months later after being unable to find a employment in New York. His artistic talent appears to be the result of natural talent and his own hard work.

Between 1906 and his death in 1934, Coolidge produced pictures of dogs playing poker for the Brown & Bigelow company. Big dogs gather around green felt covered poker tables. Cigars are smoked. Whiskey is imbibed.

The titles in the “Dogs Playing Poker” series are:

  • A Bold Bluff (originally titled Judge St. Bernard Stands Pat on Nothing)
  • A Friend in Need
  • His Station and Four Aces
  • Pinched with Four Aces
  • Poker Sympathy
  • Post Mortem
  • Sitting up with a Sick Friend
  • Stranger in Camp
  • Waterloo (originally titled Judge St. Bernard Wins on a Bluff)

Coolidge’s work is often dismissed with terms like “kitsch” and “cornball”.  So be it.

If I knew that nearly eighty years after my death my work still brought a smile to people’s faces, I’d be a happy man.

Keep it Old School, my friend

The Old Man

[1] OK, I made that up. But it would have been so cool…



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