I may be getting closer to the truth of the matter, thanks to two vintage magazines I found at a recent estate sale. I'm beginning to think, having perused the ads in these two old magazines, that the Irish Setter retreated from popularity in the United States due to violations of Truth In Advertising laws. Setter owners thought they were getting one kind of dog, but they got another instead.
Take this ad in the December 1957 issue of Good Housekeeping, for example. It shows a loyal Irish Setter sitting with his handsome master on Christmas Eve, watching the man contemplate the wisdom of buying his wife more sterling silver flatware for Christmas. All is calm, all is bright.
Don't kid yourself, Non-Setter Owner. The dog in the picture is not admiring the silver spoon for its beauty. Anyone who has ever owned a Setter -- or indeed almost any dog -- knows that the rapt facial expression clearly demonstrates that the dog thinks the red Christmas stocking holding the spoon is a Dog Toy. Destruction of the stocking probably began minutes after the dog's owners turned the lights out.
The Setter, while fond of holidays, is more likely to be found on Christmas Eve curled up on the pillows in the master bedroom, catching 40 winks before he is kicked out to finish his nap on his dog bed in front of the tree. Below is an actual, unretouched photograph of an Irish Setter on Christmas Eve. So much for the Bambi-eyed adoration of his master's wisdom in choosing gifts; the advertisement clearly did not tell the whole story.
Another advertisement from a July 1959 Los Angeles Times Home supplement (f0und at the same estate sale), shows other possible reasons for the Irish Setter's retreat from popularity. The little girl in the ad is washing the dog while her parents laugh uproariously in the background.
The child is using the same liquid to wash the dog, that her mother used to clean the inside of the stove and her father used to clean his golf bag. Indeed, "Mr. Clean" was originally developed by a guy who had a marine ship cleaning business. People actually used the same stuff to wash their dogs that they used to wash their cars and boats. No wonder Setters didn't last long.
And this ad didn't tell the whole story of the Wet Setter. The illustration of the dog in the advertisement is smiling, happy, smooth-coated and holding still. Note that it's an illustration, not a photograph. Anyone who has ever washed a dog knows, that's not what they look like soaking wet.