Time for Coons




Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette, 21st June, 1903

catshows1903Cat shows and catteries are all the fad and any place that cannot boast an annual cat show nowadays must take a back seat, for these shows are not only stylish, but records are kept of aristocratic cats and their pedigree, and great is the pride of that city or town that can boast of the largest and choicest variety of feline inhabitants. All cats are eligible for these shows, medals are given for various classes and the finest cats as well as the children’s pet kitten and alley Tom have a fair chance. Cats of all color and sizes; native and foreign; cats of all degrees of nobility; cats from Asia, from Persia, from the Isle of Man, vie with cats of lesser repute, such as garden cats, house cats and alley cats. All shows are held under strict rules and at some the medals and ribbons of the Beresford Cat club of America are awarded. The pussies are arranged in little cages up and down the hall. Their coats are washed and brushed up, their little houses are fixed comfortably, a private detective guards them and everything except freedom contributes to their comfort.

It is amusing to see the cats submit gracefully to the inspection of admiring crowds. Some purr, others pout, the Angoras beat their tails against the bars of their cages while the kittens allow the visitors to stroke their warm fur. The proportions to which the cat fad has grown has interested the National Fanciers Association and this dignified body has spread its protecting wing over cats as well as pigeons and poultry. That the fad has grown is emphasised by the beauty and value of exhibits and by the fashionable names attached to entries, while all day long during cat shows, a string of smart turn-outs deposits society women and a goodly number of men at the cat show’s door. For months before and after the exhibition society talks cats and many whose knowledge is limited purchases the long-haired beauties and launch enthusiastically into the pleasure of a cattery and the nucleus of a cat family. Men no longer scoff at cats as a feminine weakness, for men are among the largest breeders of fine cats, and are prominent exhibitors, while merchants and business men offer prizes.

The cat industry in this country [i]s best represented by the Beresford Cat Club, named after Lady Marcus Beresford of Bishopsgate, Windsor England, who was the originator of the National Cat Club of England. The American Beresford Club is five years old and was started by Mrs. Clinton Locke, wife of the well-known Chicago clergyman of that name. Mrs Locke has been known for years [as] one of the best known breeders of Angora and Persian cats in this country. She is fond of pets and tried keeping various kinds before settling on cats. The canaries sang too loud, the parrots talked too much, the doves, cooing was maddening; dogs barked and were cross to strangers. Then she tried cows, calves, Texas frogs, squirrels, alligators. “Each came to dwell with me,” says Mrs Locke, “and finally the beloved cat was decided on as the pet par excellence.” So she started a cattery of her own. The fancy was not purely personal, for much charitable work has gone along with her cat culture, and St. Luke’s Hospital, church missions and clergymen’s families have been benefited from her Locke Haven cattery. Finally Mrs. Locke became such a believer in the industry for women that the growth of the club and the awakening of general interest is due to her enthusiasm.

The Beresford Cat Club now numbers nearly 300 members. It includes the names of many noted men and women, some of whom are so active in business life one would not dream of their interest in so domestic a thing as the cat. Mme. Henrietta Ronner, the famous cat painter of France belongs; so does Miss Agnes Repplier, the writer and lecturer; Mrs. Helen Winslow, the editor of the Clubwoman; Mrs. Ballington Booth, Minnie Maddern Fiske, and Horace White of the New York Evening Post. The club cares for sick and houseless cats in an infirmary kept by a doctor. It owns a cat refuge for friendless and disabled cats, and a feature which appeals strongly to the public is the effort to provide cats for invalids, cripples and poor women and those in need of some wav earning a livelihood. The club adheres strictly to its standard of pure breeding, though the common alley cat is by no means despised and prizes are offered for the best specimens of the common pussy. Children are also given prizes to encourage them in their interest in the felines. Some of the cats in this club are valued at $5,000, and many possess fanciful names, such as Sappho, Napoleon the Great and Lord Regent.

The uninitiated has no idea of the variety of cats bred and valued for their fine qualities. There are Angoras, Persians, Chinchillas, Abyssinian, Australian cats, Manx cats with no tails, little hairless cats from Mexico, cats with blue eyes, yellow eyes; blue, gray, black, orange and tawny cats. They are all gentle, intelligent, sensitive, aristocrats. One of the most valuable kind of cats is the coon cat. This term does not imply that these cats are any cross between the coon or a cat, but they are a species brought to America by the early French settlers of Canada. Thence they were brought to Maine, which is the only part of this country where they are numerous. They feed upon milk, liver and corn and catch mice like any other cat. They need a great deal of fresh air, are nervous and do not care for water. If they take a dislike to anyone they spit and snarl like a wild cat. Persons meeting them in this condition do not care for further acquaintance. Still they can be most tractable and are so beautiful that the Angora must take a back seat when they are neighbors. The difficulty in bringing these cats from Maine by express is that they are liable to die on the way. For this reason transportation companies will only take them at their owner’s risk. One man in North Anaen. Maine, raises these pets and asks from $100 a piece up for them, and a few years ago Bar Harbor shipped about 5,000 of them yearly. They are to be seen in every Maine village and enjoy a deserved popularity.

Another species of cat which is a favourite among fashionable women is the Siamese, with its curious markings and discordant voice. In many respects they are unique among cats. They follow their owners as a dog would, are affectionate and meow loudly as if trying to talk. They have much vivacity, but lack dignity and in color vary from a pale lawn, through all the shades of brown. Two varieties are popular, the temple cats and the palace cats with the only difference being that the palace cats are darkest. The only sacred temple cats that ever left the land of their birth were given as a special favour to his physician by the King of Siam. They were named by their owner Romeo and Juliet and are now the property of Lady Marcus Beresford. These cats are very expensive, moderate specimens selling for $50 and finely marked ones as high s $300.

The story of the development of the Whylo cat is somewhat curious. This cat is a large tiger, weighs 16 pounds or more, is somewhat like a bulldog in chest expansion, with [??] face and front legs bowed. At the time the famous Whylo gang was flourishing on the East side of New York, a politician named Mulqueen found a wretched cat which was being teased by boys and had no home. He detached the tin can [tied] to its tail and cared for it. The cat appreciated his kindness by following him everywhere, and Mulqueen named him after the famous gang and named him after the famous gang that had defied the police for years. He did not guess the name and breed would exist long after this gang was a thing of the past.

Met dank aan Sarah Hartwell

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