Samuel C. Perkins Scrapbook

One of the earliest dated artifacts of the CFA Foundation is a leather-bound scrapbook containing newspaper articles, illustrations, letters, photos and other memorabilia dated between 1880 and 1897.

While the content is in very fragile condition, research has determined that it was compiled by Samuel C. Perkins of Philadelphia, known to be an avid scrapbooker during this time period .... and an admirer of cats.


In 1953 Roger Butterfield, in The Cats on City Hall (PDF), wrote:

"Samuel C. Perkins was fond of cats. When he was not attending to his large law practice or his duties as president of the Commission for the Erection of the Public Buildings of Philadelphia, Mr. Perkins was likely to be found at home, pasting up clippings about his new City Hall in leather-bound scrapbooks, while a feline pet or two arched against his legs, or nestled happily in his lap."

The scrapbook itself is filled with a multitude of newspaper articles, each one dated and source identified in Mr. Perkins' own handwriting, that even so much as mention the subject of cats. Among the many articles about 3-legged cats and miscarriages of justice regarding cat ownership are gems of immense interest to the history of the Cat Fancy, such as a review of the Madison Square Garden Show in 1896, that mentions Mrs. Brown and her cat "Cosey" being a big winner at the previous years' show, along with notations about the importation of English Shorthairs and Persians from Eng lend, reports on cats shows held in the UK and USA, etc. Also found in the scrapbook are several personal letters, addressed "Dear Sam" or "Mr. Perkins", which only confirms the origin of the scrapbook.

The Historical Society of the City of Philadelphia owns several of Mr. Perkins' scrapbooks, all related to the erection of City Hall. To our knowledge, this is the only scrapbook that has been located on the subject of cats.

Thanks to Mr. Perkins, and architect John McArthur, Jr., there are carvings of Mr. Perkins' cats (all eight of them) carved out of stone in a chamber in Philadelphia's City Hall. If you live in Philadelphia, or visit that city, be sure to go to City Hall, enter from the south and the cats can be found inside the chamber with "JUSTICE" above the doorway.

More on Mr. Perkins' carved cats, again from The Cats on City Hall:

That is why today one can walk into Philadelphia's City Hall from the south and see Mr. Perkins' cats—eight of them—carved out of stone around the walls of a chamber which bears above its doorway the single word "JUSTICE." Just why Justice and eight cats go together is something that has baffled casual observers ever since a writer for the Evening ^Bulletin strolled into that same southern entrance one day in 1876—a round quarter of a century before the Hall was "finished"—and reported what he found:

'In the interior of the judiciary vestibule, which is made up of marble, granite and sandstone not harmoniously arranged, the sculptor's art has made greater strides. Eight times around the walls, nearly on a level with the eye, is what is called an 'ornament on pedestals of columns.' This is an oblong block of sandstone on which is carved the head of a fierce cat about to spring through a hole upon a mouse hiding in a flower. The symbolism of this work as a multiplied ornament for a temple of justice, has not been explained. Perhaps the cat is the Building Commission, the hole a Ring, and the mouse the helpless tax-paying people that it preys upon.'

This scrapbook was discovered at a cat show vendor booth in Erie, PA by Karen Lawrence in 1999. The vendor confided that if he didn't sell it that weekend, his intention was to take it apart and sell individual pages on eBay. It was immediately purchased by Peace Bridge Aby Fanciers and donated to the CFA Foundation. Heaven forbid such a treasure should have been disected!

Because of the fragile condition of the scrapbook, the Foundation has had the individual pages photographed by Larry Johnson to preserve the information they contain. Read more about the scrapbook on The History Project page.

Text: Karen Lawrence

 

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