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We Have Always Loved Cats

June 20, 2016

This post is written by former archives student assistant, Alex Iacono.

In February of 1941, The San Antonio Light published an article titled “Cat, 12, Eats Birthday Cake,” a surprising addition to news coverage at the time. With World War II already underway overseas, and national anxieties high, San Antonians turned to our feline friends for a small break from such tension. The short article remarks on the notoriety of local favorite Bob Magee, the cat, who was often seen in the windows of the Perry-Magee flower shop.

Cake-Eater: Bob the Cat celebrates twelfth birthday.

Cake-Eater: Bob the Cat celebrates twelfth birthday. Feline likes to smell the flowers at floral home. Printed in the February 28, 1941 issue of the San Antonio Light.

Photograph of Bob the cat.

Photograph of Bob the cat. Circa 1941. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-1673HH-132.

This was not the first time The San Antonio Light gave its readers a chance to turn to the relaxing power of cat pictures. In November of 1937, the Light ran a short, whimsical narrative of a cat named “Inky” with photographs of his escapade when he stole milk left sitting on a doorstep.

Red-Handed: "Inky" pilfers some milk

Red-Handed: “Inky” pilfers some milk, but evidence is all against him what with the camera being right on the job during “crime.” Printed in the November 3, 1937 issue of the San Antonio Light.

Lighthearted, silly, and cute, we still seek out cats to take breaks from the humdrum of our daily lives. Indeed, it seems we always have. The Light was definitely no stranger to cat photos, where stories of women and their feline companions appeared frequently. Newspapers often employed this trope because of the gendered connotations it represented. If a woman was portrayed with a cat it reinforced the idea of domesticity and motherly qualities.

Portrait of Eulalie Foster.

Portrait of Eulalie Foster. Circa 1937-1939. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-1828-K.

Portrait of Mrs. L.G. Siebrecht and Cecil (Cat).

Portrait of Mrs. L.G. Siebrecht and Cecil (Cat). Circa 1937-1939. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-1594-N.

Not all of these photographs were part of lighthearted stories, but they still show our attachment to pets. In 1939, San Antonio read the story of Mrs. M. E. Candall as she visited the gravesite of her cat who once saved her life from a home intruder.

Mrs. M.E. Crandall kneeling at grave of her cat

Gone Are The Nine Lives: Mrs. M.E. Crandall observes first anniversary of kitty’s death. Once it saved her life and met sad demise in the maze of city traffic. Printed in the March 12, 1939 issue of the San Antonio Sunday Light. San Antonio Light Collection, MS 359: L-2055-F.

Clearly our pets mean a lot to us as individuals, and can bring us joy, laughter, comfort, and even grief. The way that we as a society interact with them says something about the ideas and feelings of our time. As a genre, these photographs give a unique insight into our own culture and attitudes about the way we live.

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