"Mr. Frees attributes his success to kindly treatment of his models"
September 22, 2018 10:47 AM   Subscribe

One hundred years before e-mail inboxes crowded with pictures of cats adorned with text like “I CAN HAS CHEEZBURGER?” and “CEILING CAT IS WATCHING YOU,” lolcats (and loldogs and lolrabbits) were already at the height of fancy. The rise of postcards at the turn of the century enabled Pennsylvanian Harry Whittier Frees to build a career out of photographing cute animals donning hats and britches.
posted by Johnny Wallflower (9 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
"Mr. Frees attributes not having his face scratched off to kindly treatment of his models."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:11 AM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I love cats.

Everything I know about cats suggests they don't like being dressed up in tight fitting clothes.

I can't decide whether the happiness these photos provide to the world makes up for the unhappiness they cause in their models.

Is there a 1930s emoticon that combines "yay!" and "WTF!?"

That's a stuffed chicken, right?
posted by eotvos at 11:58 AM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

The chicken is turning it’s head so it might be real? I think if you give kittens (these all look like fairly young cats) enough warm milk and prop them up you could probably take these pictures without too much trauma. Also cats totally can be trained it’s just super difficult because... cats. I just really want to believe this was done kindly.
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 12:09 PM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

I just got rid of these books in the last move! I'm pretty sure many of them are kitten heads sticking out through cardboard, with posed doll bodies.
posted by sageleaf at 12:13 PM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

To a kitten, they look utterly bewildered.
posted by droplet at 12:50 PM on September 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Frees admitted to using very stiff clothing as well as needles and forks to hold his subjects in place.

posted by GenjiandProust at 1:43 PM on September 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

Even though he never married or had children that shared his surname, I have to wonder if he was related to Paul Frees, the great voice artist who did Ludwig Von Drake, Boris Badenov, Burgermeister Meisterburger and many others (as well as doing enough "re-looping" of famous actors' voices that he later made an album 'singing' 1970s hit songs as 1940s stars), but no notable cartoon cats. Sadly, like Harry Whittier Frees, he died of suicide. I never knew Paul, but got to know KROQ disc jockey Sam Frees in the 1980s. He died a couple years ago from "a heart attack while being treated for cancer"; tragedy seemed to run in the family (which I did not expect to find when googling the other Freeses for factoids).
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:35 PM on September 22, 2018

No dogs in that article!? I know Frees did pups too, 'cuz my facebook user icon for over a decade has been this dog reading the newspaper in a rocking chair.
posted by moonmilk at 4:48 PM on September 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

I distinctly remember my grandparents having Four Little Kittens in their home when we visited when I was young, and I was quite fond of it. It was published the year after my dad was born.
posted by drlith at 8:59 PM on September 22, 2018

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