In 1920-21, the "Boston Post" ran a delightful series of columns titled "Famous Cats of New England." Some of these cats were genuinely well-known, while others were simply fortunate enough to have proud and loving owners eager to show them off to the world. From time to time, I plan to share excerpts from this series, so those of you who do not share my fondness for felines (yes, I'm looking right at you, Dr. Beachcombing) may consider yourselves warned.
The first of the "Famous Cats" was the illustrious Von Hindenburg, pride of the "Boston Post" itself:
In a series of Famous Cats of New England, it is eminently fitting that Von Hindenburg's name should lead all the rest. "Hindy" is undoubtedly the best-known cat in New England today, because of the immense amount of publicity he has received during the past two years or more in the columns of the Post. He is known by name to millions, while hundreds every week recognize him on the street as the famous Post cat. He receives mail regularly from admirers and detractors. Von Hindenburg is a New England institution.Tragically, in May 1923 the valiant cat-about-town was seriously attacked by a dog. Although everything possible was done to save Hindy, his wounds developed a fatal infection. He was buried in the cat cemetery of Methuen, Massachusetts.
Were he human, "Hindy" would probably nearly own the Post today, through the medium of judgments rendered in libel suits. He has been slandered something awful in these columns. Unscrupulous reporters have written the most maligning and damaging articles about him, and careful editors have allowed the libels to pass. His escutcheon has been smirched by those whom he regards as his best friends. He has been pictured as a rowdy, and worse--a bully who is always looking for trouble and as a generally undesirable citizen. Apologies are due "Hindy" for them cruel words of the past. In this article we shall endeavor to tell the truth about him for a change.
"Hindy" is a magnificent, big, yellow cat who makes the Post his headquarters. He isn't very regular about coming home nights in the summer time, but when the weather becomes cook he can be depended upon to be somewhere about the building. He sleeps any place his fancy dictates. sometimes his couch is the managing editor's desk, sometimes the composing room attracts him, and often he peacefully slumbers close to one of the gigantic presses down cellar. He is likely to be around any time during the day or night, but he has no fixed hours. He comes swaggering in, waves his tail at his friends, submits to some petting and then gracefully retires to a favorite nook and goes to sleep. He will wait a little while to pass through some of the entrances to the Post building, but not too long, as he has his own entrance, which consists of climbing up to the composing room floor at the rear and tapping on a window to attract attention. This window is three stories up from the street. He gets out by the doors--at least he has never been seen leaving via a window.
"Hindy" doesn't eat in the Post building. He scorns the food that is offered him here. He picks his restaurants. Childs', underneath the Post editorial room, is a favorite place, while Wyman's, across Washington street in Spring lane, is another. His late dinners are often taken at Young's Hotel, while it is suspected that the Parker House is often visited by him. Now and then he will cross Tremont street and call at the Press Club in the Houghton & Dutton building. He is always sure of a meal at any of these places, where he is as highly regarded as he is at the Post.
He is at home in the entire district. He loafs around shoe shining establishments a lot, where a lazy wave of the tail is his answer to scores of greetings. He roams City Hall at will, and is no more awed by his Honor the Mayor than he is by the Post office boy. He is always sleek and well fed and, for one of his habits, a remarkably well-groomed cat.
"Hindy" is as independent as the famous Declaration itself. He is absolutely without fear. He walks majestically through the busy thoroughfares with his tail straight up. There is no slinking close to buildings for "Hindy"; the middle of the sidewalk for him; and when he crosses the street he does it in a calm, deliberate way that should shame Boston's frenzied jay-walkers. No dog can make "Hindy" retreat; nor any cat, either. He isn't looking for trouble, but he never dodges it. If it comes his way he is ready.
"Hindy" is a real gentleman cat. His only weakness is a fondness for catnip, which is one of the failings of his kind. He will become quite gloriously illuminated on catnip, and while under the influence his native dignity is lost as he tries to become kittenish. However, he soon goes to sleep when on one of these carouses, and when he awakes is the real, old, genuine, courtly Hindenburg again. He is some cat.
~December 7, 1920
However, his memory lived on. As a result of the "Post's" many whimsical columns about their mascot, readers demanded photographic portraits of the cat. The newspaper wound up sending out over 100,000 photos of "Hindy." In January 1945, "Popular Photography" magazine noted:
Recently new tenants in a home at Bartlett, N.H., prowling in the attic, came across the protruding corner of a rustic black walnut picture frame. Under the dusty glass was a photo portrait of that utterly calm, confident and world-famous feline champion of Pi Alley.
Remembrance of Hindy turned up again a few weeks ago in a letter from a "Post" reader in Norfolk, Mass--a collector of cat stories and pictures who rates Hindy's photo and clipping as "priceless treasures" which occupy two full pages in her mammoth scrapbook. Says her letter: "I am told Hindy had many honors such as appeals in his name for the Children's Hospital and special charities. I should be pleased to possess one of his signed stories...I should like to have had the honor of knowing Hindy..."
Thus does evidence continue to mount that Hindy's immortal reputation, with one photograph for the build-up, still is on the prowl although the last of his battle-scarred nine lives ended more than a score of years ago.
[Note: Photos of Hindy still turn up on Ebay.]