Arnold Genthe | Miss Helen Chamberlain with Buzzer the cat, May 28, 1918 | Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

“It is told that at the age of four, when I was taken by the nurse to look at my newly arrived brother Hugo, I seriously remarked, ‘I’d like a little kitten better.’ I am fond of dogs, but cats have always meant more to me, and they have been the wise and sympathetic companions of many a solitary hour.”

 –Arnold Genthe, As I Remember (1936)

Arnold Genthe is best remembered for his photos of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake, and his portraits of notables, from celebrities to politicians. Maybe that list should also include cats.

A self-taught photographer, Genthe opened a portrait studio in San Francisco in the late 1890s. His clientele grew to include personages like silent actress Nance O’Neil, theater legend Sarah Bernhardt, poet Nora May French, and author Jack London. In 1911 Genthe moved to New York City, where he concentrated primarily on portraiture, photographing such towering figures as Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and John D. Rockefeller. And all the while, he was photographing cats. Among the more than 1,000 images of Genthe’s photographs in the Library of Congress Collection in the Artstor Digital Library, there are 82 that include cats, usually accompanying women, but occasionally alone. More than half of these feature his beloved cat Buzzer (or perhaps that should be “Buzzers,” as he used that name for four cats).

Arnold Genthe |Miss Pell with Buzzer the cat, April 11, 1916 | Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

Our slide show is made up of some highlights featuring Buzzer; search the Artstor Digital Library for Genthe and cat to see all of the photographer’s feline friends.

–  Giovanni Garcia-Fenech

Arnold Genthe | Buzzer the cat, 1912 | Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division