Home / General / LOL Cats, Circa 1870s

LOL Cats, Circa 1870s


This is why I study the past:

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

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  • firefall

    Cat blogging makes it to LGM at last, awesome!

    • We’ve had the occasional catblogging, like the HUMP image over there on the right.

    • DrDick

      I LOLed.

    • Fiske

      …. your argument: it is invalid.

    • Barry Freed

      Don’t ever say they’re not aware of all internet traditions.

  • Ben

    . . . 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.

    • 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

      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

      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

        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.

        • Here I thought I was being clever just giving kitty attention and a treat whenever he walked on the piano.

      • Ken

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

    • rea

      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.

      • Warren Terra

        So, nine lives, sixteen years per life … just barely possible (assuming certain incorrect superstitious beliefs, of course).

    • Bart

      Now, dead cat blogging might work!

    • Adam Bradley

      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.

  • 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.

  • Warren Terra

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

  • Bobby G.

    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

      Edison dabbled in the LOLcat as well.

    • laura

      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!

  • Anonymous
    • Anonymous

      You can’t the the *real* Anonymous. Henri the Cat has had me ROTFL all day. Thanx.

  • Fats Durston

    LOLcats before Jesus.

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

  • muddy

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



  • By 1870, exposures only needed to be a few seconds : http://inventors.about.com/od/pstartinventions/a/Photography.htm

    Maybe less, with a flash apparatus.

    Still doesn’t look comfortable.

  • Halloween Jack

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

  • Pingback: Victorian Lolcats « Left Outside()

  • Jay C

    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:



  • Ginger Yellow

    Don’t you read Language Log, Erik?

  • gocart mozart
  • gocart mozart

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

  • Auguste

    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.

    • Auguste

      Argh. I swear I hit the reply button.

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