A Cat Orchestra

Frank Wendt, [Cat Orchestra], ca. 1900 (2011.47.101)

Notes from the Pawnee Bill Show. This season, notwithstanding the bad weather, has been the most prosperous season on our tour. Through the State of Maine we encountered almost incessant rain, and the drawing power of this show cannot be questioned, as day after day we stood them up in the rain. The privileges have all done well. The roster of our side show is: H. G. Wilson, manager and orator; Jos. Ferris and Chas. A. Downey, ticket sellers; John Conant and W. A. Hundley, ticket takers. The attractions are: Mme. Van Buskirk, mind reader; Beatrix Roderico, snake charmer; Ruth Parkinson, sword walker; Cisco, the Australian wonder; Prof. Burkhart, Punch and magic; Geo. Devers, tattooed man; Sundhoo, Hindoo wonder worker; Escalona, Mexican feather worker; J. James, human crucifixion; Jerry Thompson, cowboy whittler; Prof. Antonio Latrano’s Cat Orchestra
New York Clipper, October 25, 1902, pp. 763, 764, 765, from circushistory.org

Perhaps the “Prof Antonio” that’s scribbled on the back of this photo the is the same Professor Antonio Latrano who led a cat orchestra in the Pawnee Bill show in the beginning of the last century. There’s a great book about Frank Wendt, Hoofers and Sweethearts: The Little Women of Frank Wendt, by Jim Linderman, from Dull Tool Dim Bulb Books, more information here.

Apparently, musically, cats prefer “species specific” music and not improvisational, lo-fi, DIY, post-industrial, sludge, shoegaze, freak folk, minimalist, nor Musique Concrete. (Few things in life are better than Terry Fox’s “The Labyrinth Scored for 11 Cats,” 1977). Getting this orchestra to rehearse was probably like hearding cats. Would love to hear the music this orchestra made, it must have sounded purrfect.

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