Pony Pictures – An Urban Child’s Dream Come True

I was captivated by a a 1920s photograph of my Mother in Law, Harriet, 6 years old at that time with her dog in her arms on a pony. I asked if she had a pony and she told me the story that thousands of children of her generation knew about these photographs and that special day.

Pony pictures are photographs taken from about 1915 into the 1950s of a child, siblings or even a baby on a pony. This is a unique genre of photographs with an interesting backstory. A pony owner and photographer would bring a pony into urban and suburban areas to pose for a low cost child’s portrait. Sometimes it was one person who brought the pony and was the photographer as well. Some brought cowboy and cowgirl props with them to entice the local kids to go scurrying home to get a dime to pose. The ponies often had nice tack and were carefully groomed which gussied them up for their part of the portrait. The photographer kept a record of each child so that when the picture was developed it would go to the correct child. I have a photograph of a chalk number 99 on a stirrup cup that could identify the shot and the model.

These are such sweet and innocent photos and would make a nice collection. Please note in my little collection here that in every instance a house or building is in the background. There is a book by a local historian, Emily M. Bancroft titled “Pony Pictures Photographs of the 1900s”, filled with photos and reminiscences of the children who got to have their pony picture taken. You might just enjoy her book as much as she enjoyed making it as a self published tome. What a magical day for them and for us!

Do you have a pony picture of an elder member of your family? Ask them to tell you the story of that day and watch their face because you will easily see the child still in them! (By the way, if you don’t have any pony riding relatives in your immediate family, you can start building a collection by adopting the ones I’ve found. The photo of Harriet isn’t for sale but the others are. Just click on the pony rider you love and you’ll be taken to the owner’s shop.) Enjoy. 

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4 comments

  1. i have a picture of my Dad when he was young on a pony. I didn’t realize the story behind the picture. thank you!

  2. These are so fun, and I love the story behind them. I will have to looking through old family photos for pony pictures.

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