Had the Internet been operational back in 1925, the “Great Bowling Green Neighborhood Cat Roundup” would have been swarmed by overgrown children cornering frightened felines, Brooklyn bloggers hashtagging Instagram pics and Redditors on patrol for any potential karma-whoring.
These 1,500 fat cats on the loose near Wall Street, blamed for “the spreading of much illness,” could have been the nation’s first great meme.
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Here’s the original caption for this timeless photo: “Jack Jegerke, proud captor of three cats in the Great Bowling Green Neighborhood Cat Roundup, is pictured above after leading his pals in the cleanup campaign conducted by the Bowling Green Neighborhood Association. More than a thousannd [sic] homeless cats, ekeing out a filthy existence along the waterfront, were gathered in and made pets by the children. The cats are believed to have been responsible for the spreading of much illness.”
The Reading Eagle, on March 27, 1925, wrote up the event thusly:
Two quick points from the piece:
1. How awesome is it that “an entertainment” was used as a common noun back then? “Hey, kid, thanks for capturing this ownerless tabby — you want to have a fun? Here’s a coupon for an entertainment, then.”
2. Now the aspect of this that doesn’t make much sense: The picture’s caption says the kids can keep the cats they find, and Jegerke certainly looks like he’s keeping those three cats. The article says they will be given over to the SPCA in exchange for an entertainment. Which is it? After a search, there doesn’t seem to be any more info to go on. But if these filthy cats are spreading illness, even if the boys and girls can’t take them home, wouldn’t rounding them up pose a threat as well? Maybe that’s why the Great Bowling Green Neighborhood Cat Roundup is no longer an annual event.