The Black Dog

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The Black Dog
FoundedJanuary 1, 1971; 50 years ago (1971-01-01)
FounderRobert Douglas
United States
Number of locations
26 Stores, 2 Outlets, 5 Restaurants & Cafes
Area served
United States
ProductsClothing and accessories
OwnerThe Douglas Family
WebsiteThe Black Dog
The Black Dog in Mashpee Commons

The Black Dog is a restaurant and tavern in Vineyard Haven on the island of Martha's Vineyard. The restaurant was founded in 1971, and became well known for its souvenir T-shirts, featuring its logo of the eponymous black dog. They subsequently expanded to sell other products with the same logo.[1][2][3]

The Black Dog T-shirts became well known during the 1990s as photographs of celebrities wearing the shirts began appearing in national publications. For example, a photograph of then-President Bill Clinton jogging while wearing one was distributed by national wire services. Black Dog merchandise became part of the Lewinsky scandal, as items from the store were purchased by Bill Clinton and given to Monica Lewinsky.[4][5]

Marketing at The Black Dog was effective. During the early 1990s, the merchandise was only sold at the Martha's Vineyard location. Only a limited number of people were allowed in the store at one time, so lines formed down the wooden fenced ramp that ran from the front door. While waiting in line, visitors were given catalogs to browse. Nowadays, the merchandise is also available at "mainland" stores on Cape Cod, in Mystic and Newport, and online.

In 2000, The Black Dog released a cook book called The Black Dog Summer on the Vineyard Cookbook (ISBN 0316339326).[6] In 2006, The Black Dog recalled approximately 9700 children's sweatshirts because they had a drawstring that poses a strangulation hazard.[7] When Black Dog continued selling the clothing, the CPSC hit the company with a $50,000 fine.[8] The New England Multihull Association and The Black Dog host a 22-mile yachting race from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown and back called the Black Dog Dash.[9][10]

It inspired author, J.B. Spooner, to create a children’s book series, consisting of three stories, about the story of The Black Dog. The first book, The Story of the Little Black Dog, is about how Captain Douglas got the black puppy. The second book, The Little Black Dog Buccaneer, is of the adventures the Captain and his dog have together. The third book, The Little Black Dog Has Puppies, is about The Black Dog and her love for her new puppies.[11]


The Black Dog currently has many locations on Martha's Vineyard and one on the island of Nantucket, as well as in the mainland Massachusetts towns of Falmouth, Mashpee, Provincetown, Newburyport, and Chatham. They currently have two outlet locations in the mainland Massachusetts towns of Wareham and Wrentham. Outside of Massachusetts, they have stores in Newport, RI, Portland, ME, Portsmouth, NH, Mystic, CT, Annapolis, MD, Savannah, GA, Charleston, SC, and Sarasota, FL.[12]


The story of how The Black Dog got its name:

Robert Douglas was an Air Force pilot who spent his summers on Martha’s Vineyard. He made himself three promises after watching the ferries take people to and from the Island:

  1. He would build his own boat
  2. He would get a dog that would sail with him, no matter the weather
  3. The Vineyard would be his home

The Black Dog got its name in 1967 when a black lab-boxer mix boarded Douglas' very own ship. She was named The Black Dog after a character in Treasure Island. In January 1971,[13] the captain opened an inn for sailors, and The Black Dog was a constant fixture. From there on out the legacy of The Black Dog continued.[14]


In 2005 The Black Dog was awarded the Retailer of the Year Award by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts.[15]


  1. ^ Rick Fleury. "The Dog That Became a Symbol of the 'Simple Life'. Brandweek. July 15, 1993. 18–19.
  2. ^ Erica Levy Klein. "Cute logo: Gifts Evoke The Black Dog Tavern". Sacramento Bee. December 17, 1995. E2.
  3. ^ Ruth Marcus. "Martha's Vineyard, putting on the dog". The Washington Post. August 31, 1994. C1.
  4. ^ " Special Report: Jones vs. Clinton". The Washington Post. 1998-03-13. Archived from the original on 2000-08-18. Retrieved 2008-10-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  5. ^ "Starr Report". CNN. Archived from the original on 2000-01-15. Retrieved 2008-10-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  6. ^ Jude Mahoney. "The Black Dog Tavern Yankee hospitality in Vineyard Haven :[ALL Edition]. " Telegram & Gazette [Worcester, Mass.] 23 Aug. 2000,C1.
  7. ^ "Black Dog recalls sweatshirts :[All Editions]. " Boston Herald [Boston, Mass.] 16 Feb. 2006,035.
  8. ^ [1] Archived February 21, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ "2008 NEMA Summer Event Schedule" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2008-12-01. Retrieved 2008-10-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  10. ^ Michael O'Connor. "Hull raisers :[01 Edition]." Boston Herald Boston, Massachusetts, 23 July 1995, B.32
  11. ^ Works. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2014, from J.B. Spooner website:
  12. ^ "The Black Dog". The Black Dog. Retrieved 2013-06-04. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  13. ^ "Our History".
  14. ^ Legacy. (n.d.). Retrieved October 1, 2014, from The Black Dog website:
  15. ^ "2005 RAMAES Winners - Retailers Association of Massachusetts". Archived from the original on May 13, 2008. Retrieved 2008-10-13. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°23′21″N 70°30′37″W / 41.3892°N 70.5103°W / 41.3892; -70.5103