The Cat in 20th Century History (Part 1-Background)

THE CAT IN 20TH CENTURY HISTORY

By the beginning of the twentieth century, the cat had risen in popularity at a phenomenal rate.  Now even less stigmatized by the evil mantra it had carried throughout time, the cat in 20th century history would become even more ubiquitous.  Its breakthrough into the literary and art worlds, which had started centuries ago, opened new doors, providing the cat with a continued spot as symbol and celebrity in the century’s greatest works.  From canvas, to TV and films, music, advertising, books, and even war, cats would continue to be the mascots of those independent thinkers who would make world history. 

Vintage Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade felix the cat cat in 20th century history

Vintage Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade felix the cat

Cat welfare organizations begun in the 19th century would flourish in the 20th , and expose incidents of animal cruelty like they had never done before.  New laws and a sympathetic legal system would punish such abusers.  The anthropomorphic photographs begun in the 19th century had allowed the cat to become not just a pet, but a true member of the family, an individual of its own merit to be cherished and looked after.

ASPCA vintage poster by Morgan Davis (1935) - The cat they left behind Cats in 20th century history

The first cat shows in the 19th century paved the way for even more interest in cat breeds in the 20th, and The Cat Fancier’s Association (CFA) founded in 1906 now maintains the world’s largest registry of pedigreed cats. 

Mrs. R.F. Armstrong with the winner of a cat show, ornamenting her hat. cats in 20th century history

Mrs. R.F. Armstrong with the winner of a cat show, ornamenting her hat.
1915

 

In the wars of the 20th century, soldiers facing the grim reality of mankind’s propensity for self destruction found solace in the untainted and unconditional love of a kitten or cat.  Cats kept men company in the damp and muddy trenches of WWI and became heroes in their own right in WWII. 

WWI A French soldier with his kittens on the Western Front, Argonne 1916 cat in 20th century history

WWI A French soldier with his kittens on the Western Front, Argonne 1916

Plowing the seas as ships’ mascots just as they had been ordained to do thousands of years ago by their association with the Goddess Isis Pharia, courageous felines were decorated for their bravery and exemplary service.  Much like the Romans who often carved images of cats into the bows of their ships, up until 1975, British ships were required to carry black cats on board as good luck charms.   With advancements in technology came man’s attempt to explore the universe, and it makes sense that cats should be at the forefront of that endeavor as well.  

WWI 1918 Mascots of the Vindictive, a British warship damaged in Zeebrugge and back at Dover. cat in 20th century history, ships cats, WWI cats

WWI 1918 Mascots of the Vindictive, a British warship damaged in Zeebrugge and back at Dover.

 

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