Time for Coons

Lewiston Journal, 1953

Lewiston Journal, 1953


The Lewiston Journal, Magazine section pages 6A-7A, saturday april 18, 1953:

Central Maine Cat Club To Restore The Maine Coon Cat

By Eloise M. Jordan

ClUB PRESIDENT - Miss Alta L Smith, assistent trasurer of Good Will Home at Hinckley, is president of the Central Maine Cat Club

ClUB PRESIDENT – Miss Alta L Smith, assistant treasurer of Good Will Home at Hinckley, is president of the Central Maine Cat Club

The world is divided into two classes of people: cat lovers and, alas, those who do not succumb to felix domestica. To cat lovers there is no pet so satisfactory as these intelligent, highly independent and undemanding creatures who make the most delightful companions imaginable.

It is this group of people who like cats who have come together this year to establish the Central Maine Cat Club, with headquarters in the Skowhegan-Hinckley region. It is high time, indeed, that the State of Maine does something to show its interest in cats, to perpetuate in particular that handsomest and most unusual of all felines, the Maine coon cat.

Just founded in March of this year, the Central Maine Cat Club owes its inception to two zealous cat fanciers who are not content to let Maine remain forever in the limbo of forgotten felines, but are anxious to revive the interest in Maine cats that was rife almost 100 years ago.

Miss Alta L. Smith of Hinckley is the president of the newly formed organization. Miss Ruby F. Dyer of Skowhegan functions as the secretary-treasurer of the Central Maine Cat Club.

The Purpose

This slogan of this brand new organization is “To promote appreciation, understanding and good care for all Maine cats.” The twofold purpose of the club as set forth by its founders is (1) “To exchange information on the habits, care and breeding of cats,” and (2) “To promote measures to alleviate the abuse of cats.” “There will be mutual cooperation between this club and the Augusta Humane Society and S.P.C.A.,” stated the first release of information about the Central Maine Cat Club from Miss Dyer, the secretary.
Nearly all of the club activities will be handled by mail via the bulletins which will be issued frequently to club members. All will receive the same attention regardless of their location.
A flyer sent to all who inquire states that “Anyone who is interested in cats, or the welfare of cats, is invited to join the Central Maine Cat Club. The club has no full time or paid workers; its activities are carried on as a non-profit hobby. Money from club dues will be used to finance printing, postage and publicity; the treasurer will issue a statement at the end of the club year.”

Plan A Show
THIS IS RUFUS This tiger-marked cat is the office cat at Good Will Home. He lives in the administration building there, the lord of all he surveys, spending much of daytime catnapping on the desk of Miss Alta L. Smith, president of the recently formed Central Maine Cat Club.

THIS IS RUFUS This tiger-marked cat is the office cat at Good Will Home. He lives in the administration building there, the lord of all he surveys, spending much of daytime catnapping on the desk of Miss Alta L. Smith, president of the recently formed Central Maine Cat Club.

These two enterprising women and cat admirers, Miss Smith and Miss Dyer, attended the Boston Cat Show last January and decided then and there to organize a Maine cat club and put on a Maine cat show. To plan was to accomplish, with the result that on March 16th the Central Maine Cat Club was mentioned publicly for the first time via newspaper and radio releases.
Cat shows in Maine are no innovation, although there has not been one held here for many years. It is stated with Maine coon cats were the prize specimens exhibited at cat shows held in this state as early as 1860 and 1870, when these beautiful creatures were considered a rarity. As Maine has always been the coon cat’s paradise, it seems eminently fitting that interest and enthusiasm in this unusual breed should be revived while there are still cats of this variety to be found in Maine.
June is slated as the month in which the Central Maine Cat Club will hold its first cat show. The leads in this anticipated exhibition will be Maine cats naturally enough, domestic short hair and Maine coon, pedigreed cats, while novelty classes will also be featured.

Members Joining Fast

The Central Maine Cat Club was hardly organized before 59 members’ names appeared on its roster, and not all central Maine residents either. Their charter members come from Augusta, Waterville, Fairfield, Hinckley, Skowhegan, East Madison and Madison, but others living in Westbrook, Fryeburg, Brewer and Bangor have signified their interest in the newly formed group and are becoming members. The aim of the Central Maine Cat Club is to achieve at least 300 members, and it is sincerely hoped that the membership will expand to 500 when people who like cats realize that such an organization is underway.
The officers of the Central Maine Cat Club rejoice to say that they have been literally swamped with calls from cat lovers who want to know more about this deserving and noteworthy group which will publicize the cats of Maine. The response to the cat club has been overwhelming.
It is surprising to find that Maine is one of the very few states in the Union which has been without a cat club or a cat show, but, as we have seen, this neglect is now being remedied.

Revives a Custom

In the Central Maine Cat Club’s first news release for March 16, 1953, it is stated that the “organization of this club revives an early Maine activity. The Maine cat was originally considered the most choice cat in the United States, and cat clubs and cat shows used to be featured in current events. Even today, after generations of haphazard breeding, Maine cats are noted for their beauty, docility and intelligence, as witnessed by the many kittens which are taken annually to new homes in other states. Many Maine coon cats are erroneously being called angoras or persians by owners familiar with the newer long-haired breeds but unaware of the original coon cat rating. Professional cat breeders, however, are concentrating nowadays on more recently imported stock and no class has been provided for Maine cats either domestic short hair or coon, at the shows.”

MAINE COON CAT - This shaggy fellow goes by the name of Uncle Pat. He is characteristic of the breed generally referred to as the Maine coon cat. His long fur, plumelike tail and white chest are common to the breed.

MAINE COON CAT – This shaggy fellow goes by the name of Uncle Pat. He is characteristic of the breed generally referred to as the Maine coon cat. His long fur, plumelike tail and white chest are common to the breed.

It is a well known fact that visitors from away are eager to acquire Maine coon kittens, and one woman, who lived on a much traveled state highway, was frequently visited by out-of-state tourists who wanted to purchase her pair of gray and white coon kittens playing on the lawn. No amount of money could buy these little cats, although a goodly sum was rufused.
“I promised a friend that I would bring her some Maine coon cats,” declared the visitor. “How can I go back without them?”
Once this same lady was offered a pair of exceedingly shaggy white coon kittens by a friend who knew her penchant for cats. Regretfully she was obliged to refuse this generous offer because she already owned more cats than she knew what to do with. Later the friend, who ran a summer place at one of the Maine island resorts, told her that he sold the kittens for $25 to a tourist who was willing to pay any price for these ravishing Maine coon cats.
Yet another instance of interest in Maine cats transpired some time ago when this writer received a letter from a resident outside New England, who had read her article about Maine cats and was anxious to know where he could purchase one.

The Coon Cat

What is the Maine coon cat? What is his history?
This eagerly and frequently asked question is difficult to answer. Every one differs as to the definition of the word. In order to discover exactly what a Maine coon cat is, a good deal of research has been done on this subject, with the result that answers are many and usually vary. Each writer is emphatic in refuting the statements made by others and assures his readers that he has the one and only answer to this problematic question.
When appealed to for a definition for Maine coon cats, Miss Dyer responded with excerpts taken from several books about cats. For the edification of cat lovers some of these quotations are given.
Doris Bryant, writing in “The Care and Handling of Cats,” 1944, states that “The Maine cat is a long-haired breed found mostly in the New England States. These cats are beautiful and make excellent pets. They are seen in almost all colors and all combinations of colors. Most of them are the results of haphazard matings. No class has been provided for them at shows.”

Brought from Abroad
"WHAT WAS THAT?" - This short-haired kitty sat right up when something attracted his attention. This woodchuck-like pose is not taken frequently by cats, but occasionally when their view is obstructed they will sit up like this in order to see more clearly.

“WHAT WAS THAT?” – This short-haired kitty sat right up when something attracted his attention. This woodchuck-like pose is not taken frequently by cats, but occasionally when their view is obstructed they will sit up like this in order to see more clearly.

“Cats” by Eleanor Booth Simmons, published in 1935, has this to say about Maine coon cats. “The captains and crews of trading vessels that plied between the Orient and our Atlantic ports brought the first long-haired cats to this country. They throve best in Maine, probably because of the cold climate. . .They are known as Maine coon cats, and there is a legend that the Adam and Eve of the tribe were brought here by a certain Captain Coon and got the name from him: but I have not been able to run Captain Coon’s record to earth.”
That writer goes on to say that the gebnerally accepted story about the name coon cat concerns a farmer who came upon one of these heavily furred cats with a long bushy tail in his poultry yard and supposed it to be a raccoon.

It has erroneously stated that a cat mated with a raccoon, and that the Maine coon cat resulted. However, there is no foundation in this legend, as the coon cat has no raccoon blood.
Captain Clough of the “Sally”, the Wiscasset and Westport marineer, who hoped to bring Marie Antoinette to an exile in Maine, is also attributed with being the first man to import coon cats to Maine. Be that as it may, no proof has been established yet in his favor.

An interesting sidelight on the history of Maine coon cats is the one stating that New England traders brought long-haired cats to Maine from Ankara (hence the name angora), this capital of Turkey being famed for its shaggy cats, goats and dogs. Other long-haired cats came from the Persian Gulf, India, while Maine shags (a name also given to these creatures) were imported from Northern Manchuria.

Still Survives
HANDSOME IS AS HANDSOME DOES Suki, a seal point Siamese owned by Miss Ruby F. Dyer of Skowhegan, secretary-treasurer of the Central Maine Cat Club, posed willingly for this picture.

HANDSOME IS AS HANDSOME DOES Suki, a seal point Siamese owned by Miss Ruby F. Dyer of Skowhegan, secretary-treasurer of the Central Maine Cat Club, posed willingly for this picture.

Charles A. Kenny, author of “History of the American Cat Fancy,” 1949, writes that exhibitions of cats, held as early as 1860, were mostly centered in the State of Maine … “due no doubt to the famous Maine cats, now little more than a paragraph mention in the majority of cat books today.” He calls these cat shows a “feature peculiar to Maine alone.” He states that by 1904, when the popularity of the coon cat had begun to wane they were eliminated from shows. He says that they failed to thrive in warmer climates and therefore were peculiar to Maine with its cooler weather.
The strain of coon cat blood appears vigorous today. Despite the fact that these cats have intermingled with common varieties, the shaggy haired cats still persist. A coon kitten will often appear in a litter of ordinary cats, proving that the indefatigable species can be handed down to successive generations. Likewise short haired cats have been born of coon cat parents.
Real persian cats are all one color, while the Maine coon cat is often seen with white markings. His coat is more wirey than the persian’s, his legs are short and sturdy, his head is broad, his tail is long and plumelike.

Common Cat

If the common cat has seemed to be slighted in this article, he is equally loved by cat fanciers. After all his history is as old as the Pharaohs, around whose thrones cats crouched, and is known far and wide, whereas the Maine coon cat is a rara avis, known only to a small part of the world. The peerless Siamese cat will also be featured at the Central Maine Cat Club show. Persians, too, will be highly acceptable, pedigreed entries at the exhibition.
Cat lovers in paying tribute to their favorite felines are joining a distinguished line of worshippers who have been vocal in their praise of felix domestica. There was the Frenchman Montaigne who questions whether he or his cat was diverted most by their play together; Agnes Reppher whose essays on cats are delightful reading; William Lyon Phelps who placed the cat first in his affections among all animals; and Michael Joseph, author of “Charles, The Story of a Friendship” which is so much more than just the tale of a cat.

KITTENS IN A BASKET - It doesn't make much difference how you photograph kittens, they always look cute. Here the kitten at the left appears to wonder what it is all about, while his twin at the right seems to have in mind some playful action - possibly a quick pounce upon his twin and resultant fast action.

KITTENS IN A BASKET – It doesn’t make much difference how you photograph kittens, they always look cute. Here the kitten at the left appears to wonder what it is all about, while his twin at the right seems to have in mind some playful action – possibly a quick pounce upon his twin and resultant fast action.

Two Books

Miss Alta L. Smith, the first president of the Central Maine Cat Club, is assistent treasurer of Good Will Home’ Hinckley, is the founder of the Wood-Shed Theatre, and is a co-author of two recently published books, “As Maine Goes” and “Heads ‘N Tales”
This last named book which Miss smith authored with Esther J. Dunham, is a cat calendar or engagement book with a special appeal for cat lovers. This is what the publishers have to say about it: “They’ve done it again. The team of Smith and Dunham have been collecting cats . . . candid camera shots of neighborhood felines and in old-fashioned album style they have presented them in photos and prose. Grandpa, the battling preacher, Aunt Fuzzy-Wuzzy, the glamour girl; Katura Katz the school teacher, and the many unique and endearing cat creations are strongly reminiscent of the people and scenes in “As Maine Goes” by the same authors. These cats have salt air in their whiskers and hayseed in their fur. There’s a twang in their purrs and a drawl in their meows. Black and white sketches by the late Charles D. Hubbard enliven the photos of cats.
Rufus the big handsome office cat at Good Will Home, lives in the administration building and spends a great deal of his daytime on Miss Smith’s desk, according to report from the Central Maine Cat Club’s president.
Miss Ruby F. Dyer of Skowhegan, the secretary-treasurer of the newly formed cat club, is the manager of Dyer’s Dry Cleaning Shop. Formerly she was copywriter in New York City, New York. Miss Dyer is a Siamese fancier, whose Suki is an attractive representative of this celebrated breed of felines.
The official photographers for the Central Maine Cat Club are the members of the Skowhegan Lensmen’s Club.
All cat lovers will watch with interest the doings of the Central Maine Cat Club. It is certain that the cat show in June will be the cynosure of all eyes, when these silky creatures, aristocrats of the animal world, are on display before their legion of admirers. Maine cats are well on their way to becoming famous once more.



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