National Cat Show Catalog (1895)
The early development of the cat fancy in North America consisted of shows held in conjunction with the local poultry associations, mainly in the upper northeast area of the United States, with the earliest one being held in Boston in 1878. In 1895, the first cat show to be held at Madison Square Garden in New York City was a four day show that spanned from May 8th through May 11th.
The first National Cat Show at Madison Square Garden, was not the first National Cat Show in the United States, nor was it necessarily the biggest. Boston, another east coast port city, was also a significant centre for cat shows and there is empirical evidence to show that this was where the first American cat shows styled as 'National Cat Shows' were held. The Boston shows of 1878 and 1880, were both styled as 'National Cat Shows' and we could endlessly debate what in fact constitutes the criteria upon which such an accolade or title is based. In the simplest terms, it is any show open to entries from the entire country, plain and simple. So, in fact, the shows from both these great cities were National Cat Shows in the simplest understanding of the term.
Nevertheless, this does not take away from the fact that the cat show held at Madison Square Garden in New York, in May of 1895, is seen by most American fanciers as the most significant show held in North America, duly considering it as a hallmark moment in a newly burgeoning cat fancy in the United States.
In more recent times, a collaboration between The CFA Foundation and The Harrison Weir Collection has allowed both to combine considerable historical resources, making significant additional information on our earliest cats more readily available.
During a routine process of purchasing feline based antiquarian books, John Smithson, (curator of The Harrison Weir Collection), unwrapped an item that had been delivered and found a hand-written note from the seller asking if he would be interested in a 19th century show catalogue. He responded by email and asked the seller to send details about the Catalogue, plus one or two images related to it. You can imagine his surprise when he discovered it was that of the 1895 Madison Square Garden show! This was a case of simply choosing not to dilly-dally or quibble, but to close a deal on this item of feline historical significance! Consequently, an agreement to purchase was struck that same day!
A Most Important Entry
It is at this show that the famous "Cosey", a brown tabby Maine Cat, was a winner and awarded a silver collar and medal, which is now on display at the Feline Historical Museum in Alliance, Ohio. While 'Cosey' may not have necessarily been named as the Best Exhibit in the Show, this entrant was declared to be the Best Long-haired Cat in Show and had the awards to prove it.
Acquiring the catalog of this Madison Square Garden show also gives us information on the donor of the collar and medal. The silver collar, to be awarded to "the Best Long-Haired cat in the Show irrespective of Class" was donated by Mrs. Richard F. Carman. The silver medal, also awarded to Cosey, was donated by the cat show. Other prizes offered at the show included a "Silver Bowl for the Largest and Heaviest Cat in the Show" donated by the Hotel Grenoble, and a "Silver Fruit Spoon for the best Short-Haired Cat in the Show, irrespective of Class", donated by Mr. James T. Hyde.
The ownership of 'Cosey' is one factor that has never been in question. This cat was always known to have been the property of Mrs. Frederick Brown, but now, with the official catalogue in hand, we have the definitive proof, as well as an official address of residence, which was 240 East 27th Street, New York.
A number of scans from this catalogue are now featured in our article about 'COSEY' and of course, has helped us to confirm a more correct possible date of birth, match the spelling of his name to the silver collar, confirmed ownership and place of residence, as well as confirming his competitive classes and that of every other exhibit at that show.
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