SAINT AUGUSTINE, FLORIDA

Lighter Museum – the Cat’s Meow

The Lightner Museum celebrates National Cat Day, October 29, 2015!

National Cat Day, which is Thursday, October 29, was founded ten years ago by animal welfare advocate, Colleen Paige, to make the public aware of how many cats need to be rescued and to celebrate the cats in our lives who give unconditional love and companionship.

Cats are the most popular house pet (sorry dogs) with about ninety million domesticated cats in 34% of US Homes. Even though it has been said that no one “owns” a cat, they have been domesticated for over 12,000 years. Ancient Egyptians revered cats and killing a cat in Egypt could mean a death sentence.

 

At the Lightner Museum, we celebrate cats all year around!  See if you can find these cats next time you visit the Lightner Museum:

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Piano babies, c. 1890, located on the fourth floor of the museum.

Ceramic Bisque piano babies can often be seen lounging on pianos and mantels. This popular collectible was also used to hold down the decorated piano shawls on the piano. The cute chubby babies were often paired with adorable puppies or kittens. Who could resist?

 

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Cat with Kittens, by Marie Yvonne Laur (1879-1943), c. 1900, located in the Ballroom of the museum.

French Painter Marie Yvonne Laur’s specialty was cat paintings. Many people “owned” cats in the 19th Century, and Laur’s paintings were very popular with her animated kittens, jewelry caskets and rich colors. She signed her paintings YO.

 

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Pussies Brigade cat calendar, 1898, located on the 4th floor of the museum.

We think of cat and dog calendars as a modern phenomenon, but here is a “Pussies Brigade” calendar fan from 1898 with sayings and cute kittens for each month. (Donated by Mrs. Melanie Forker)

 

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Rota the lion, located in the Science and Industry room on the first floor of the museum.

Rota is an African lion that was presented to Sir Winston Churchill, the English Prime Minister, in 1943 to commemorate victories in North Africa during World War II. Now stuffed, we can see his ferocious teeth and can almost hear him roar. Winston Churchill once said “Dogs look up to us, cats look down on us, but pigs treat us as equals.” Stuffed Rota was first exhibited at the Lion Hotel in St. Augustine, but after children started to play with him and pull his fur, the owners donated Rota to the Lightner Museum.

If you would like to view Rota in his living state, click here.

 

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Cat humidor, 1870, Bronze, located on the first floor of the museum in the Victorian Village.

A humidor is any kind of box (or room) with constant humidity that is used to store cigars, cigarettes or pipe tobacco. The museum has a bronze desktop humidor in the shape of a cat made by Alfred Barye, (1839-1882).

 

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Cat Tobacco Jars, c. 1880, Majolica, located on the first floor of the museum in the Victorian Village.

Tobacco jars have been used since the 1700’s to store tobacco. They have been made with a variety of materials, including tin, wood and pewter, but most are pottery jars made of porcelain, majolica or bisque.

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Dick Whittington Clock, mid 19th century, located near the front desk of the museum.

The Dick Whittington clock is twelve feet high and made of English oak. Its weights alone weigh 315 pounds and the total weight of the clock is 1800 pounds. The clock’s carvings show the children’s story of Dick Whittington and his cat. There are many versions of the fairy tale, but Dick was an orphan and very poor. He made his way to London because he thought it was paved with gold. He found out that it was not. He bought a cat for a penny to help get rid of the rats at his meagre room. He gave the cat to a ship captain to sell and later the cat was sold to a King in a foreign land who had a major rodent problem. His cat and its progeny were able to eradicate the rats and the grateful King gave the Captain a ship full of gold. The honest Captain gave Dick the gold. The real life Dick Whittington, a merchant and politician, (1354-1423) was Mayor of London four times. He bequeathed his fortune, not from the sale of his cat, to form the Charity of Richard Whittington, which continues 600 years later to assist people in need.

 

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Blue majolica cat by Emille Galle’, (1846-1904) c. 1880, located on the 4th floor of the museum.

This beautiful blue and yellow cat is made with a ceramic tin glaze. Emille Galle’ is a well-known French artist who worked mostly in glass and was at the forefront of the Art Nouveau movement. There are several Galle’ vases on the second floor.

 

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White cat figurine with cracked glaze c. 1950, located on the 4th floor of the museum.

See how this whimsical cat’s legs are spread out as if it is going to pounce? It is actually made to fit on a tree branch. (Donated by Mrs. D.J. Shaffer, Dumbar West Virginia)

 

whitecat

 

White Parian Cat, c. 1880, located on the 4th floor of the museum.

This sleepy white cat is made of Parian, which is a type of bisque porcelain named after Paros, a Greek Island renowned for its fine textured marble of the same name. Basically it is a ceramic substitute for marble, which was fashionable at the time. Parian is composed essentially of kaolin and feldspar and usually unglazed.

 

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Cat salt and pepper shakers, located on the 4th floor of the museum.

The Lightner has over five thousand pairs of salt and pepper shakers. Here is a sampling of some of our cat shakers.

*The fourth floor of the Lightner Museum is closed to the public.

 


 

For more information about National Cat Day, visit their website www.NationalCatDay.com.

P.S. If you are a dog lover, don’t feel left out. We will highlight the dogs at the Lightner Museum for National Dog Day, which is on August 26.

 

Written by Mary Greenwood and Photographed by Jennifer Jordan.

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