Crystal Palace Prize Winning Cat (1872)

ArtifactCarte de Viste Photo card of Prize-winning Cat
ConnectionThe Crystal Palace Cat Show, Refreshment Vendors stand.
CollectionThe Harrison Weir Collection
DescriptionA small original Carte de Viste copyright photograph by H. Albert, of London, produced in Sepia tones for use as a promotional trading card.
Brief HistoryBusiness or Trading cards were a popular device used by Victoria era vendors; in this case, the Prize-winning cat
AcquisitionPurchased by John Smithson for The Harrison Weir Collection, 2019.

Photo: H. ALBERT, London. Archive of The Harrison Weir Collection

There were always classes in the earliest cat shows for the Heaviest Cat, which most of us find today to be a tenuous honour at best! Today, pride in a cats level of obesity would be considered tantamount to cruelty, but that is because most cats living in a home loving environment are already well fed and we are more conscious today of the negative effects of obesity both in man and beast.

But in Victorian times, the lot of the domestic cat, was not so favourable, and one of the original purposes behind cat shows, was to bring to the attention of the public, that cats deserved to be treated as family members, and not treated as vermin, or discarded on a whim, or treated with indifference, which was the case in a majority of cases. Therefore, if others saw you had a cat which was overweight, with a good gloss to its coat, it was generally accepted that you were looking after your cats every need.

The weight classes at these early shows, were therefore common, and highly competitive. Yet, cats had been known to be celebrated for their expansive size in English culture, even before the advent of cat shows. This is perhaps best demonstrated with the below image of a cat from Oxford Street that was featured in the Illustrated London News of August 17, 1850 and the accompanying short article:

The Illustrated London News, August 17, 1850
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection
"This noble specimen of a Cat is domesticated at No. 175, Oxford-street. He is a beautifully-marked Tabby, and is very docile, though his unusually large size conveys to the beholder, at first sight, a contrary impression. He weighs 25 lb.; and measures 27 inches round the body, and 36 inches from the tip of the tail to the end of the nose; height, 11 inches to the top of the shoulders. The Cat has gained 7 lb. in weight within the last two years; he does not eat so much as an ordinary cat, and is extremely active, and rarely appears to be inconvenienced by his great bulk. He is seven years old, and was born in a building known as 'the old Palace at Chelsea'."

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