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Shutter Dogs: A Hook with a History

Perhaps there is more that meets the eye when it comes to the small metal structures that hold the shutters of a window in an open position. Shutter dogs are commonly known to offer function and decoration to shutters, but they also allude to the history of a house as well as the traditional architecture in certain regions of the United States. In fact, the material, shape and mount style of shutter dogs differ throughout the country.

Rat Tail Shutter Dog
Rat Tail Shutter Dog

The first shutter dog named the “rat tail shutter dog” was hand forged in Colonial Williamsburg. Made with a hammer and anvil, steel was formed into an elongated hook that spiraled at the bottom. The earliest method of mounting the rat tail shutter dog involved a wrought nail hammered in to a wooden structure. The wrought nail later evolved in to a threaded bolt.

Cat Star Shutter Dog
Star Casting Shutter Dog

In the Valley Forge area, the high availability of iron allowed people to use a new material for their shutter dogs. From Maryland and north up to New York, shutter dogs were cast in iron. In Philadelphia, it was common to see decorative cast iron shutter dogs. The shutter dogs boasted decorative themes and motifs such as stars, shells and grapes. These decorated shutter dogs have a left and a right shutter dog and are not interchangeable. Stone houses, common in Philadelphia, created the need for a different type of mount. Homeowners mounted shutter dogs on arms that attached to the bottom sill of the window.

S Shutter Dog
S Shutter Dog

The S shutter dog and the Curled shutter dog exemplify the type of shutter dogs originally made in the New England area. Created though die cut stamping, these steel dogs offer yet another beautiful ornamentation style. While the Curled shutter dogs are interchangeable the S shutter dog has a clear left and right. Homeowners of New England style houses with siding and shingles used a plate mount and stanchion. This square metal plate was screwed in to the siding and then the S or Curl shutter dog was put on the stanchion.

Bullet Catch
Bullet Catch

Over the years, the styles and methods of New England, Valley Forge, and Williamsburg mixed and crossed regional lines. Manufacturers such as Vixen Hill offer a wide variety of shutter dogs, shutter hardware and methods of mounting. People often worry about the stability of their shutters. Vixen Hill offers the option of ordering a bullet catch mounted on the back of the shutter in addition to the shutter dog to hold it in place.

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