National Geographic’s anxiety-free April Fools’ joke–a proclamation that the publication will no longer publish nude photos of animals–is really just an excellent excuse to take a break and scroll through a slideshow featuring clothed critters.
Among the black and white treasures is a bulldog subjected to a flowered cap, and kittens in checkered dresses sitting in a wagon drawn by a toy horse and a dog, who walks on its hind legs in a jumpsuit.
The pictures were all taken by Harry Whittier Frees, a photographer who delighted the Internet-less masses of the first half of the twentieth century with his clothed animals: They’re just like us collections.
It seems the process wasn’t as enjoyable as the final product, according to Mary L. Weigley, writing in Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine:
The work was challenging, time-consuming and nerve-wracking. It caused Frees so much anxiety that he photographed his furry subjects for only three months a year. To make the situation even more difficult for Frees, only about 30 negatives out of every 100 could be used. Consequently, he needed the remainder of the year to recuperate from exhaustion and formulate new ideas.
The life the creator lived wasn’t in the same merry orbit as his creations, and Frees’ final years were a tragic combination of poverty, illness and loneliness:
While his illustrations for magazines were popular, his postcards seemed to sell well and his commissions enviable, they evidently did not guarantee Frees financial stability. He never married, devoting his life to his photography and caring for his parents. After their deaths in the 1940s, Frees moved to Clearwater, Florida, where he lived in isolation. Suffering from cancer and nearly destitute, he took his own life on March 6, 1953.