Mrs. Broadmoore’s Amazing Painting Cat

Back in 1994, Heather Busch published Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthestics. I was aware of it at the time and thought it sounded like a fun book to browse through at some point. It’s languished on my To-Read list ever since, mostly forgotten until I came across this postcard on the Intertubes this week:

1887 poster advertising Mrs. Broadmoor's painting cat. (Via Tales from Twisty Lane)

1887 poster advertising Mrs. Broadmoor’s painting cat. (Via Tales from Twisty Lane)

Looks like Cats Who Paint have been a thing for much longer than I thought.

Apparently, back in the day, a rather portly gentleman named James Blackmun would dress up as a cat lady, and entertain audiences by having her cat paint “paw-traits” of various people in the audience. Portraits would sell for as much as one pound each–a huge amount in 1887. All things considered, not a bad way to earn a living.

The original for this postcard is reputed to be found in Museum of Animal Acts in Wisconsin.

All of which got me very excited. What an interesting bit of history to file away for use in a book sometime, right? And what a fun museum to take The Six-Year-Old to this summer.

Sadly, the story didn’t hold up.

While Wisconsin has its share of unusual museums, Dr. Google couldn’t find any website for The Museum of Animal Acts. But he did find this — a blog entry on Cat Art by artist Rene de Loffre that describes Mrs. Broadmoor’s act in great detail as being one of the more amusing bits in, you guessed it, Heather Busch’s book Why Cats Paint: A Theory of Feline Aesthetics.

Oh well, looks like we’ll be going to Circus World instead.

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About Shala Howell

Writer of things ranging from optical network switching white papers to genetic testing patient education materials to historical fiction set in an 1880s asylum. When I’m not scratching my head over pesky characters who refuse to do things how I want them done or dreaming of my next book (which will of course be much easier to write than the current one), my writerly self can be found blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, or musing about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.wordpress.com.
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