I was having a very grumpy day. Looking back, I remember that the one thing that can almost always cheer me up--my cat Oscar--didn't seem to do the job before I left for work. Even a day of going through photograph folders, which is a calming, productive, and fun activity, couldn't erase my glum mood. The Brooklyn Collection has been conducting a photo inventory for the past few weeks. We've found lots of photographs, some that we look at in puzzlement -- ("Why would someone take four photos of someone pointing?") --many of checks and awards being received, taken from different angles, and the rare photograph of something so fantastic that we have to write a post about it.
One folder full of discoveries was labeled Clubs: Social IX.
The folder that my colleague and fellow blogger Leslie brought over to my desk seemed nondescript. We've seen lots of interesting and strange photographs and sometimes share them with others working on the inventory. Leslie knows of my love for cats and shared the photographs of the Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Club's annnual show. They brightened my mood considerably.
The Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Club was co-founded in 1941 by Mrs. Silas M. Andrews (quoted in an article in 1948 as being "crazy about cats") and Mrs. Edward D. Mudge.
The club's first meeting was held at the Hotel St. George and those encouraged to attend were editors of pet magazines and "other authorities on felines". The club hosted cat shows to raise money to establish a shelter in Brooklyn for homeless cats. This shelter would also provide medical attention for stray animals and for animals whose humans could not afford medical treatment.
The Brooklyn Collection has an envelope full of articles about the club that spans almost a decade, during the 1940s. In those years, the club purchased war bonds, and wrote a fascinating article about the benefits of having a cat in your home:
A Cat in Your Home? Plea made for Tabby
Women whose men have gone to war and who have taken a war job for the duration need not come home to a lonely apartment or house these days, according to Mae Wagner Carlysle of the Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Club, whose headquarters are in the Hotel St. George. The well-known cat's meow might well be the feline version of the hit, "I'm so nice to come home to," it is claimed. Cats are easily trained, can be left alone for many hours, are scrupulously clean and are most affectionate, said Miss Carlysle. Mrs. Elsie Collins, manager of the Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Show, which will be held in the St. George on Oct. 19 and 20, said that it does not matter whether a cat is a Persian, Siamese or just one of the "alleys," women will get a lot of comfort and companionship from such a pet. Proceeds of the coming show will go towards building an animal shelter and clinic in Brooklyn. (Brooklyn Eagle, October 6, 1943)
I like this article for so many reasons -- but mainly, I know what it is like to come home to a fantastic little cat! The Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Club's shows were not just about showing purebred cats. There were awards for the most heroic cat, the funniest cat, the oldest and ugliest cats (I've never seen an ugly cat, so handing out that prize must have been a challenge). The photo below shows the prize-winner Prince. His category? He won the prize for "cat of distinction" because "he keeps mice away from the door at the Norwegian Seaman's Home, 62 Hanson Place". Prince is photographed with his owner, Sugar Miller.
The Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Club also hosted lectures on various topics. These lectures ranged from the proper care of cats to leaving legacies for cats. In 1949, the club hosted Milton Fisher, Instructor in Business Law at Long Island University. He spoke to club members about the "intricate problems involved in leaving a legacy to a feline". The rather cheeky journalist notes that "500 bored pets listen calmly as he cites difficulty of buying them annuities". The audience was encouraged to ask questions. One member asked how many scratches a cat was entitled to, since she heard a dog was entitled to one bite. According Mr. Fisher, back in 1949 the owner was not liable for damage done by a cat unless he or she knew beforehand that the cat was vicious.
It is not clear from these clippings whether the cat shelter was ever built or when the club disbanded, but I think it would have been fun to belong to it. My cat Oscar, who waits for me at the door when I come home after work every day, is my purring alarm clock in the morning, and lets me take pictures of him wearing a homemade witches hat, would be my credential for membership. That said, I'm pretty sure that I wouldn't have entered him in the Brooklyn-Long Island Cat Club cat show and I'm pretty sure he wouldn't have wanted me to either.
Photo Credits: Brooklyn Collection--Brooklyn Public Library