Boston Cat Show Medal - Levi (1883)
The Boston Cat Shows were among the earliest in the United States which catered exclusively for cats of any and every breed. They were usually held over multiple days, to allow and cater for considerable public interaction. They often featured rare and unusual breeds and/or varieties, many with unique physical traits. As early as 1878-1883, hairless cats, tailless cats, cats with folded ears, cats with extra toes, cats with three legs, etc, cats imported from other nations, and other curiosities were being found and exhibited competitively for awards.
The featured medal comes from this specific show, which was held in the Horticultural Hall, Boston, beginning on Monday 15th October 1883. In this case, a review of the Catalogue held in our collection for the Monday, does not provide us with a link to the winner, 'Levi' but that does not come as a surprise, as only 70% of the cats are actually named in the catalogue and the rest are simply described either by colour or a special trait. Additionally, the show only opened on the Monday and ran for several days and our catalogue only covers the opening day. Below, are images of the promotional card marketing the show, and a copy of the cover of the catalogue for the opening day.
The name of the recipient 'Levi' is clearly engraved on the obverse side of the medal, which has a hole in the top, which might suggest that it was hung from the cat's collar for him to wear. Any physical links to these early American Shows are of immense historical value and from this specific show, four items have so far been found and preserved; including an original copy of the promotional card, an original copy of the Show Catalogue for the Monday opening, this medallion won by Levi, and the main prize, a superb silver nut bowl, presented to the overall winner, the latter which is housed in the CFA Foundation's Feline Historical Museum at Alliance, in Ohio.
A significant aspect of these early Boston Shows is the disproportionate number of polydactyl cats that were exhibited as opposed to shows in other centres. It has long been known that port cities based on the eastern seaboard of the United States tend to show larger concentration of polydactyl cats than elsewhere, simply because cats with extra toes were popular as 'ships' cats, highly desirable as ratters, and with the added ability to better grip the deck and fittings in rolling seas! Their genetic origin would appear to be the United Kingdom, many of them likely to have left that country via the port at Southampton.
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