the cult of the black cat……
Art Chantry (email@example.com):
This is a small shopping bag (the sort of thing to put a few nails in) from Copeland Lumber – a local northwest hardware/lumber store. I believe they’re still in business, but I’m not sure.
I’ve always been fascinated by their logo. It was painted on the front (huge – just below the front eve) of their barn-like structure. I’m not sure, but I seem to remember the building was painted orange, too. As a kid I loved going to this place, just because I loved Halloween so much. It was like the ‘haunted hardware” or something in my mind.
As I grew older and traveled around a bit, I began to notice that there were other hardware stores sporting the same logo. I figured they were some sort of franchise – but, no. Nobody knew about Copeland Lumber and vice versa. In fact, they none of them really knew who or where the cat logo came from.
Then I began to notice that damned cat in other places, too. Optometrists, jewelers, plumbers, all sorts of businesses, all unrelated. Exact same cat. Usually with the orange. always in that circle. The only commonality between these businesses (aside form their logo) was that they were very old businesses established around the turn of the century. Was it some sort of antique ‘clip art’? I collect old clip art (i have one of the best collections of old clip in the country, I’ve been told). Yet, i’ve never ever seen that image in any of my catalogs or books. It was a mystery.
I finally figured it out when i was looking a at little ‘collectors’ book of cat figurines – one of those little books you find in the’ collector’ shelf of your bookstore alongside the price guides on Avon bottles and old stamps. There was a page in it about these little cat images. It turns out this was the logo of the “Concatonated Order of the Hoo-Hoo”! who knew?!? (or should i say ‘hoo knew?’)
Before the turn of the century (the last century), fraternal orders were extremely important community institutions. Orders like the masons, the eagles, the elks and moose lodges still survive today. Not so with the vast bulk of these organizations with names like the Woodsmen, the Odd Fellows, and the Hoo-Hoos.
Many of these organizations became closely associated with specific working groups and morphed quickly into trade unions – especially in small pioneer towns (like the mining and lumber towns here in the northwest). As time went on, many of the these images they used a mascots also became icons of the labor movement as it evolved over the coming decades. today, the long-inactive IWW (Industrial Workers of the World – the radical ‘one-world’ Union Socialist Union also known as “the Wobblies”) has been revived and actually has incorporated the hoo-hoo cat into their image lexicon. You can buy radical commie t-shirts with the kitty.
These fraternal groups also began to set up benefit systems for their members and their families (and extended to the entire community) like community showers (!) and eventually medical care. They offered the first real health insurance programs in the United States and some grew into the massive insurance monopolies we fight with today (those horrid money sucking greed machines.)
Since 1892, when that little kitty was adopted by the Hoo-Hoo’s, it has traveled from a group of men looking for like minds to hang out with into the farthest reaches of both ends of our economic and political spectrum. It’s almost a universal brand. You can apply it to anything.
How did this happen? well, originally, the Hoo-Hoo’s encouraged their membership to incorporate their kitty into their business identities (this was long before ‘logos’ and ‘branding’ existed.) It was more of a “good housekeeping seal of approval” to see that one of your fraternal brothers ran the business. It meant it was kept ‘all in the family.” Good for them.
It also was a secret way of communicating with their brethren. notice the tail of the kitty – it forms the numeral “9”. that’s one of their secret codes for ‘luck’. A magic number. It was also a magic blessing from the gods. Or something. hoo-hoo juju!
Don’t try to use it today, though. the Hoo-Hoo’s have re-formed (basically an effort by modern yuppies trying to grab the real estate holdings of these dying lodges. Their bet is that they will actually be the last living member and inherit millions in holdings). But, the hoo-hoo’s are also smart enough to protect their logo (they’re modern enough to be paranoid about copyright like all the new amateurs on the scene with their little computer thingies).
I actually tried to make a client into a branch of the Hoo-Hoo’s just so we could legitimately use their kitty as our logo (as per their old practice). No go. Lawsuits were threatened. Oh well. .
Yhis is a great classic piece of American graphic design history, stolen by greedy power-mad self-centered yuppies. So what else is new?
Royce Freguson:Yet, well before the Wobblies appointed the black
cat to be the symbol of disorder and chaos, the black cat had long been associated with witchcraft and the dark side.
American short story writer Edgar Allen Poe (1809 – 1849) wrote a short story called “The Black Cat.” Poe wrote that his wife got a black cat for them. It was . . .
“. . . a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. ”
“One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him, when in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body, and a more than fiendish malevolence, gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity. ”
Well, I can only hope that Poe’s story was not autobiographical. Poe did not soften the part of the black cat in the rest of the story, which of course caused him a lot of revenge and stress.
Maybe the Wobblies just wanted a little more sinister version of other black cats who were popular at the same time— Read More:http://royceferguson.blogspot.com/2009/02/black-cat-of-anarchy.html