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The Ithaca Kitty is Back!

In conjunction with the exhibition Come Play With Us: Early Toys from the Collection, The History Center (with the help of wonderful volunteers) have brought the Ithaca Kitty back into production.

Purchase your Ithaca Kitty from the Center's bookstore for $24.00 (includes tax).


The History of the Ithaca Kitty

Caesar Grimalkin, a gray tiger cat with seven toes on each white front paw (pictured to the right), lived with Celia and William Hazlitt Smith and their 2-year-old daughter at 116 Oak Ave. in Ithaca, NY. William was an attorney and Celia was skilled in sewing and toy design.

One evening in 1890, Celia pointed to where Caesar sat and said, "You know, I could make him, in three pieces." She set to work with scissors and muslin, and soon had a cat form. Her sister-in-law Charity Smith, an artist, painted the blank muslin.

The Smiths applied for a patent on the Ithaca Kitty, known first as Tabby Cat, and sent the design to Arnold Print Works in Massachusetts. The Tabby Cat was sold as a printed pattern on half a yard of muslin for 10 cents and made its nation wide appearance shortly before Christmas in 1892.

From the start, this sew-at-home toy was enormously popular, nearly 200,000 being sold that first holiday season. In 1893 the cat and kittens were displayed at the Chicago World's Fair and filled Wanamaker's Department Store window in Philadelphia. Advertisements and articles about the Ithaca Kitty appeared in newspapers and magazines around the world. Main Farmers told of using the remarkably life-like Ithaca Kitty to scare birds from their fruit trees, and the Central Park Police Station used one to frighten away mice.

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