LOLCats From Yesteryears: Photographs by Harry Whittier Frees


LOLcats, for those uninitiated, is an Internet meme of funny cat pictures accompanied with an amusing caption, often idiosyncratic and grammatically incorrect, as a cat would say could it speak. LOLcat is a combination of two words – LOL which means “laughing out loud” and cat. While the term is believed to have originated in 2006, the concept of lolcats originated much earlier. These photographs were taken by American photographer Harry Whittier Frees (1879–1953), who dressed his cats, Rags and Fluff, as well as the pets of his friends and neighbors, and posed them in human situations with props, often with captions.


Frees utilized specially designed outfits, sewn by his mother, to hold the animals in standing poses waiting patiently for the shot he wanted. In Mr. Frees' own words, "These unusual photographs of real animals were made possible only by patient, unfailing kindness on the part of the photographer at all times."

“Speed is essential in securing these pictures, but very often it is impossible to be quick enough. Young animals cannot hold a pose any better than human babies, and the situation is complicated when they are called on to be precocious in situations naturally foreign to them," said the photographer.

Frees's career as a photographer of dressed animals began at a birthday party in 1906, when a paper party hat was passed around the dinner table and landed on the pet cat's head. Harry took a picture and a career was begun. He took others and sold them to a postcard printer, who clamored for more. As time went on, his props and scenarios became more and more elaborate. His animal photos were featured on post cards, calendars, books, advertising materials, and articles for "Woman's World" and "Child Life" magazines. In addition, he wrote the stories to accompany his pictures for the books and magazines.





















Source: One More River, Electric Biscuit Online, Museum Syndicate


  1. Love of felines and familiarity with them, along with a bit of common sense and research, reveals that these poor cats and other animals were dead, stuffed. That's how the cats were able to "stand" in such an unnatural position on their hind feet/legs, and that's why their paws were limp. I finally researched this when I noticed deep pain and sadness in a closeup of the face of a kitten dressed and posed as a baker ready to knead dough. So sad...

  2. To quote the photographer Harry Whittier Frees: "These unusual photographs of real animals were made possible only by patient, unfailing kindness on the part of the photographer at all times,". He borrowed pets from neighbors and rented animals from nearby pet stores.

    The most popular model for his work was his cat Rags, who was later joined by Fluff, an Angora kitten. Rags was an ordinary short-haired cat and the model Frees photographed the most. According to the article in Little Folks, Rags evidently enjoyed being photographed and was a good model. "Rags possesses an unusual intellect for a cat. He has been known to keep a pose for several minutes without as much as the flicker of a whisker. When the very limit of his endurance has been reached he will give a protesting little murmur. A short romp on the ground, together with a choice bit of meat as a reward, will at once restore him to his former amiability."

    These animals were treated with the utmost kindness and respect at all times.


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