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LOL Cats, Circa 1870s

[ 36 ] April 11, 2012 |

This is why I study the past:

Cat as an old-time photographer. Nothing more awesome has ever happened.


Comments (36)

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  1. firefall says:

    Cat blogging makes it to LGM at last, awesome!

  2. Ben says:

    . . . these cats are dead, right? How are they getting them to pose long enough for them long exposures?

    So Lolcats are an attempt to cheapen our discourse as revenge against what we did with the corpses of their forefathers? Makes about as much sense as anything else.

    • Erik Loomis says:

      I assume they are alive, but tied into place in some horrible way.

      The less I know about the treatment of animals in the 1870s, the better the state of my mental health.

    • UserGoogol says:

      The quote from Harry Frees would seem to imply they’re alive unless he’s just being spectacularly euphemistic, since he mentions the behavioral cooperativeness of kittens versus puppies versus pigs, and I’d have to assume dead animals would all be about the same.

    • Walt says:

      I once met a guy who was a cat trainer, he taught cats to do all kinds of weird things. He said that cats were perfectly trainable, but the secret was that only positive enforcement works on cats. You start by rewarding them constantly, and then slowly you switch to rewarding them conditional on behavior.

      • Uncle Kvetch says:

        I’ve actually seen one of the Russian cat circuses, and it’s quite amazing. Having been a cat-owner for years, I believe the trainers when they say that cats simply can’t be punished or abused or terrorized into cooperation. I normally don’t like the idea of performing animals, but I let this one slide because I knew that these cats had to be very well treated to do what they did.

      • Ken says:

        Which raises the question of who is training whom, but that always comes up when talking about cats.

    • rea says:

      these cats are dead, right?

      Well, the pictures were taken in 1870, so if they were alive they’d be at least 142 years old.

    • Bart says:

      Now, dead cat blogging might work!

    • Adam Bradley says:

      Frees claimed that his pictures were “made possible only by patient, unfailing kindness” on his part. I guess it’s up to you to decide how skeptical to be of that.

      In any case, I think io9 missed most of his best work.

  3. Jeremy says:

    The last photo in the article is an ad for a laughing cat photo, which cost a whole $2.00.

    Maybe we can append LOLcats to that statement about porn being a driver of technology.

  4. Warren Terra says:

    Given that they’re old postcards from Brighton, I expected an entirely different, and less family-friendly, sort of postcard.

  5. Bobby G. says:

    I really want to enjoy these but then the comments about tied cats and long exposures ring sadly true to me. Actually, that cats paw looks tied to the camera release and it looks like the cat has just resigned itself and is waiting to be freed.

    The other two…god only knows.

    I’m reminded of the “spectacle” 30 year’s later when Topsy the elephant was electrocuted at Coney Island. Edison wanted to prove that AC electricity was dangerous and she(Topsy) was considered “cranky” so it was a win-win. She also had to be tied in place. Edison’s finest moment, he filmed to whole thing too.

    Sorry for being dark dark. :-/

    They still make me smile a little in a sad way.

    (I like the Hump poster)

    • rbcoover says:

      Edison dabbled in the LOLcat as well.

    • laura says:

      Yeah. The first two images were things I really didn’t want to see — and convey about 100% “god, people suck” and zero percent “awesome”. The “dunce cat” posture in particular must be hell on their spines. (Though from other people’s posts, maybe it wasn’t so bad.) Then again, I get the same impression from about 20% of modern lolcat pictures: you you stuffed your cat’s head in a beer mug and snapped it. lol!

  6. Fats Durston says:

    LOLcats before Jesus.

  7. Colin says:

    And here I thought you studied the past to remind yourself how screwed we are in the present and going forward.

  8. muddy says:

    Henri the black cat stars in old style French films, the ennui has overwhelmed him:

  9. By 1870, exposures only needed to be a few seconds :

    Maybe less, with a flash apparatus.

    Still doesn’t look comfortable.

  10. Halloween Jack says:

    Not actually antique, but: Laugh-Out-Loud Cats.

  11. […] via, from the 1870s. I’m in the British Library as we speak. History […]

  12. Jay C says:

    That last pic with the cat and camera is definitely LOLcat avant la lettre: I saw something virtually identical to it online recently with he caption:



  13. Ginger Yellow says:

    Don’t you read Language Log, Erik?

  14. gocart mozart says:

    ooops, wrong link above, please ignore.
    Here is a link to a boxing cats short film from 1894.

  15. Auguste says:

    I have been trying to calculate

    Two possibilities:

    1) No you haven’t.

    2) People who live in glass houses of time-wasting shouldn’t throw stones of bullshit.

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