The Smart Set

PHS16-23 Eva Fenyes with dog
Eva Fenyes with “Fairy,” one of her many Chihuahua dogs. (Photograph by Albert Hiller, Pasadena, California. Main Photo Collection, PHS16-23)

 

PHS16-24 c Mrs Fenyes Chihuahuas
Eva Fenyes’ Chihuahuas, 1904. Left to right: Prince, Fairy, Pinta, and Non se sa. (Photographs by Kohler Photo Studio, Main Photo Collection, PHS 16-24c)

When Eva Fenyes took her four little dogs to their photo session at Kohler Photo Studio on East Colorado, Fairy, Prince, and Non se sa were composed and cooperative, sitting up nice and straight before the camera. Pinta, however, fidgeted and became distracted by something on the floor below his pedestal. His attention could not be diverted, and even when commanded by his mistress, he would not pose properly. The photograph of Pinta crouched and peering at the floor would have to do for the Chihuahuas’ upcoming media debut.

On January 17, 1904, the Sporting Section of the Los Angeles Sunday Times presented Pasadena’s “social favorites” under the headline “Smart Set of Dogs; the Joy of a Pasadena Home.” The section’s front page article, complete with individually framed portraits, included an interview with Mrs. Adalbert Fenyes who lovingly described each of her little dogs. 

Pinta, the “Imp of Satan”
Pinta, the “Imp of Satan”

Pinta was her favorite, a mischievous imp, “almost as bad as a billy goat,” who chewed up her husband’s favorite tie, her best pair of bedroom slippers, and a pair of white kid gloves.  “I got him on my last trip to Mexico...He was the liveliest bundle of nerves I ever saw and I gave a good round sum for him. He was, oh, so dirty, and as soon as I got to the hotel I ordered a tub and gave him a bath. Poor little thing, he had never had a bath in his life before, and it took all the tuck out of him at the same time. All his gaiety was gone and he just moped and pined for his native dirt for days.” But, she lamented, Pinta had his revenge, for when they brought him home to Pasadena, he ripped to pieces all the animal skin rugs in the main hall of their South Orange Grove mansion.

Fairy, the “Little Angel”
Fairy, the “Little Angel”

Fairy, on the other hand, was “the ‘Little Angel’...an appealing, innocent little heroine.” She had, however, one annoying quirk which Eva revealed to the reporter. “Fairy...incongruous as it may seem, snores very badly at night and I can’t find a way to cure her.”

Prince, the “Czar”
Prince, the “Czar”

Prince was the “Czar.” As Eva proudly presented her troupe of tiny canines, who were “all huddled up in the further corner of a large luxuriously-cushioned couch, a mass of tangled legs, tails, and blinking, sparkling eyes,” she singled out the czar. “Prince is a haughty little ruler, is very indifferent, and repulses familiarity...He walks as if he were treading on hot irons and sleeps as little as the birds do, and I always think of him as a little bird, for he has feathers on his tail and legs and is always chirping.”

Non se sa, the “Saint”
Non se sa, the “Saint”

Non se sa, the reporter explained, was nicknamed Nancy. She “is the ‘Saint,’ who mothers them all.” According to Eva who studied Italian, Non-se-sa means “nobody knows it.” Nancy, she said, was meant to replace another Chihuahua, the aging Chi lo sa who had since passed. Chi lo sa, translated as “who knows it,” had been Eva’s travel companion in Europe and Egypt during the 1890s. This constant little friend, no longer with her, held a very special place in Eva’s heart, and no doubt Non Se Sa kept her memory alive.

PHS16-22 Chi lo sa 1896
Chi lo sa was Eva’s first Chihuahua to be called the “Saint,” 1896. (Photograph by Siegel Cooper, New York, New York. Main Photo Collection, PHS16-22)

Mrs. Fenyes Abroad (2000.019.0119)
Portrait of Eva Fenyes with Chi lo sa nestled in her lap. Alphonse Birck (1859-1942), Mrs. Fenyes Abroad, Cairo, Egypt, 1895. Watercolor on paper, 24 x 18 in. (Fenyes Collection, 2000.019.0119)

In summing up his visit to the Fenyes home, the Los Angeles Times reporter sang the praises of the four Chihuahuas he dubbed the Smart Set. “This quartette has been taught all manner of tricks. They are all singers, can march on their hind legs, sit up and play circus generally...The four put together would not make a small fox terrier, but in point of cunning and action they would equal a pack of hounds.” Eva was of course responsible for their excellent training and she held a local reputation in Pasadena for the “mastery of her hobby.” As the reporter observed, Eva Fenyes, elegant and clever, gracefully communicated her commands to her little dogs with “the quiet gesture of a bejeweled hand.”

- Julie Stires

Special thanks to PMH volunteer Robert Bennett for his work locating and digitizing these wonderful photographs of Eva Fenyes’ dogs.

This article was originally published on the Hometown Pasadena website in 2015.