Cats on Stamps


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Patrick Roberts

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From the Archive

March/April 2000 Review
Part 1

[ go to Part 2 ]


The first in a series of articles about cats on stamps that I wrote for The Cat magazine in the UK from 2000 to 2003. The series has since been continued on this website.
This article sets the scene by describing the first stamps to appear showing cats (part 1, this page), and then continues with the new issues at the beginning of 2000 (see part 2). All the printed articles are now available here and fully illustrated, whereas only selected stamps could be pictured in the magazine.

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Welcome to what is planned as a regular feature to keep you up to date with domestic cat stamps; I'll include as many as I can, of all types. In this first article, we'll take a quick look at the story of cat stamps, before moving on to new issues.

Spain, 1930: first stamp to show a cat - Charles Lindbergh's Patsy

The very first stamp showing a domestic cat dates back to 1930, from a Spanish set picturing famous aviators of the period. The 1-peseta value (above) shows Charles Lindbergh's departing plane Spirit of St Louis, with his black kitten Patsy sitting in one corner wistfully watching it leave. The stamp has been reprinted many times, and it's difficult to find an original.

Toddler with kitten: Netherlands child welfare set, 1952 Cuba, 1957: Band of Charity 50th anniversary - boy with cat and puppies France, 1956 Red Cross issue: Jeune Paysan painting includes cat There was no other cat on a stamp until 1952, when the Netherlands included amongst its annual child welfare stamp designs a toddler and kitten playing (left). In 1956, the annual Red Cross issue from France had a painting called 'Young Peasant', including a little cat peeping out from under a bed (inner right). Paintings quite often include a cat but, at stamp size, they aren't always easy to spot! Cuba came next, issuing in 1957 a tribute to Jeanette Ryder and the Band of Charity she founded; one stamp shows a boy holding two puppies and a kitten (outer right).

East Germany, 1959: Metsu's painting, The Needlewoman, includes a cat Belgium Carnivals set, 1959: Ypres town jester juggling toy cats In 1959, East Germany produced a Dresden Gallery painting with another cat tucked away in a corner (left), and there was also an interesting set from Belgium depicting various floats and features from carnivals around the country. The 3fr. value (right) shows a jester, apparently juggling tiny cats; it took me some time to find out what this signified. In earlier times, cats were used at Ypres to control the rodents in the huge Cloth Hall, where wool was collected and stored before sale. But when the wool was all sold, the unfortunate cats that were no longer required were thrown from the town belfry, a job delegated to the town jester. This barbaric custom, which mercifully ended in 1817, is remembered today at the Ypres Cat Festival each third May, a colourful occasion which ends with little toy cats being thrown from the tower to the crowd below.

Hungary fairy tales, 1959: Sleeping Beauty includes a cat Hungary fairy tales, 1959: Babes in the Wood with witch's cat Hungary fairy tales, 1960: The Big Turnip - includes a cat Hungary fairy tales, 1960: Puss in Boots

A colourful series of fairy tales began from Hungary in 1959 too. From left to right above, Sleeping Beauty has a small cat sleeping at the foot of her bed, and the witch in The Babes in the Wood is accompanied by her black cat. The following year, a second series included two cats: one sitting at the very end of The Big Turnip, and the other a dandy Puss in Boots. (Charles Perrault's famous Puss has appeared in many different guises on stamps; you can see some of them here.)

Belgium: porcelain cat from Arts and Crafts set, 1960 Timor, 1962: cat sitting on native dwelling Luxembourg, 1961: cat from Animal Protection set Belgium showed a porcelain cat in a 1960 crafts set (left), and Luxembourg a grey striped cat in 1961 in an animal preservation set (inner right). And there was a splendid set from the then Portuguese territory of Timor, illustrating native art; the top value (outer right) shows a hut on stilts, with what seems to be a cat sitting on the platform. This was not an easy set to find.

Germany, 1961: Hansel and Gretel - includes witch's cat Bulgaria, 1964: Big Turnip fairy tale - includes cat Germany / Berlin, 1964: Sleeping Beauty - includes a cat Roman cat sculpture from Netherlands Humanitarian Funds set, 1962 Netherlands, 1964: kittens, from Humanitarian Funds set

In the early 1960s, more fairy tales featuring cats appeared on stamps: from left to right above, Hänsel and Gretel from Germany, The Big Turnip again from Bulgaria, and another version of Sleeping Beauty — the same design from West Germany and West Berlin, which issued its own stamps between 1948 and reunification. Another whole series of tales came from East Germany later in the 1960s, with stories shown in blocks of six; several have cats (not pictured). The Netherlands welfare sets added to their earlier cat with a Roman cat sculpture in 1962, and some kittens in 1964.

Poland, 1964: one example from the first all-cats set of 10 But the big event of 1964 was the first-ever set dedicated entirely to cats, a marvellous group of ten from Poland, showing our feline friends in poses familiar to all cat people. I still think these are some of the best cat stamps ever. And with them, the number of cat stamps started to multiply . . . and so we'll leave the history and move on some 35 years. Maybe I can review some from these years later on.


Continue to Part 2 of this review


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Our featured feline Chico (see head of the page) belonged to a lady in the Swiss village of Chesières who lived near the ground-floor office where I worked in the mid-1980s. Every so often he liked to pass by, spend a little time with us and check we were doing everything properly.


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Article written and first published during 2000: reproduced here by the author from February 2006