Editor’s note: This piece was originally published as an artifact spotlight for Discover Richmond, a magazine published by the Richmond-Times Dispatch. It is posted here with additional images of the Fredericksburg Dog Mart, which are part of the Virginia State Chamber of Commerce Photograph Collection. These photographs from the Fredericksburg Dog Mart capture the heyday of an event that traces its roots to 1698.
At that time, one day a year was set aside by law to accommodate trade between the Manahoac Tribe (and later, the Pamunkey and Mattaponi) and English settlers in the area that later became Fredericksburg. The Native Americans would provide furs and produce in exchange for English hunting dogs. This practice occurred annually until the start of the Revolutionary War.
An annual dog mart resumed in 1927, known then as the Dog Curb Market, and coincided with the start of hunting season — the event gave hunters an opportunity to purchase hunting dogs. The dog mart also drew wider attention: it was featured in a Pathé Newsreel in 1928, and Time magazine wrote an article about it in 1937. By the following year, the dog mart drew a crowd of 7,000 people and 641 dogs.
The event was suspended during World War II but was restored in 1948 by the Fredericksburg Chamber of Commerce. In 1949, the dog mart attracted an estimated 15,000 people to the Maury School stadium — that included a delegation of 100 Pamunkey Indians and visitors from 30 states, Canada, Mexico and England.
The photographs in the library’s Visual Studies Collection are from 1938 and 1950 and feature the parade of dogs through downtown Fredericksburg and the showcase of hunting dog breeds.
Today, the dog mart features more of a fair atmosphere — with games, crafts and historical re-creations and contests — along with a dog show. This year marks its 318th anniversary, and it is the oldest such event in the United States.
A history that long features some curiosities, including this one: In 1980, the dog mart was held without dogs because of a canine epidemic.
-Dana Puga, Prints & Photographs Collection Specialist