Detail of girls' team photograph with bulldog mascot.

There are at least five photographs from the early 1920s in the Community Archives’ collection which feature the same bulldog. Usually he appears as the mascot of some sports team or other, and in only one of the photographs is he identified by name. That name is Muggins.

There are some overlaps in the surnames of team members between the photographs, but no one family name appears in all five, creating a small mystery as to who Muggins belonged to, and why he starred so frequently in group photographs of the time.

Now that we have so many newspapers available online and searchable, it is possible to search for an uncommon word like Muggins to see if any information about this popular pooch was ever published. And…success! On December 19th, 1922, some letters to Santa Claus were published in The Daily Ontario, including one from Ernest McCormick. He wrote:

Letter about toys and Muggins the dog

Dear Santa.—

A letter to say I am thinking of you. I would like you to bring me a top, mouth organ, sugar cane, a lollypop, some raisins, a ball, a Jack-in-the-box, and a balloon, and oh! please bring my little bull dog Muggins a bone.

Dunbar Street

While other letters on this page were all from children, it is noteworthy that Walter Ernest McCormick was at this date 40 years old. Perhaps the letter was written by (or on behalf of) his 12-year-old son, Empson?

Belleville's city directories tell us that Ernest McCormick worked for the photography business owned by his father, Robert McCormick. There are many examples of the studio’s work in the archives’ holdings.

Now we know that Muggins was owned by a family of photographers, his presence in so many of the group photos of the early 1920s is suddenly entirely understandable. The McCormicks, it seems, were determined that Muggins would earn his place in Belleville’s recorded history!