Are you a cat person? While historically, dogs were more popular as domestic pets in the United States, cats are currently the most popular animal in the United States today with 90 million cats in 34% of home.
Ohioans have long appreciated the physical and personality traits of this domesticated creature. In honor of #MuseumCats day, we are taking a look at a few items in our history collection celebrating the feline.
One of the earliest depictions of cats in our collection is a figurine. H 23508 was made in 1900 and used by a young girl in central Ohio. This felt tabby was well loved by its owner, perhaps because she was not allowed to own a cat in her house.
Another way cats were depicted in material culture was through samplers, quilts, and coverlets. H 20048 is a sampler made in 1927 by Mary Stofer of Mansfield, Ohio. Stofer was just a child when she created this intricate piece. The cross-stitched sampler shows a small brown and red house surrounded by trees, a red well, a brown fence, chickens, birds, a cat and a dog. At the center are two figures, a man and a woman with the words “Hame’s Best” underneath them. Stofer could have been portraying her own family and home, complete with a domesticated cat.
One of our most popular cat related objects (especially around Halloween!) is H 52235. This child’s wooden chair dates from 1930. Not much is known about the provenance and there are no markings indicating a company or artist. It was likely enjoyed by a child living near Marietta, Ohio. The black cats on the front legs of the chair stare into the eyes of the viewer; this has even frightened some visitors to the Ohio History Connection!
Ohio still has a strong cat appreciation today. The “Grumpy Cat” meme franchise started in Ohio and still has its corporate headquarters there today. The Cat Fanciers’ Association, started in 1906 after breaking ties with the American Cat Association, is based in Alliance, Ohio. Ohioans still collect cat related material culture today, including members of our own staff!
Do you own a cat? Do you collect any cat material culture?
Emily Lang, History Curator