Archive for March, 2015

Milson O'Boy Morris & Essex

Milson O’Boy, owned by Mrs. Gertrude G. Cheever Porter of New York City, took Best in Show at the Morris & Essex in 1935, defeating 3,175 dogs.

One of the most popular owners and breeders of championship Irish Setters in the history of show dogs was Mrs. Gertrude G. Cheever Porter of New York City. Over the years, she owned eight champion Irish Setters and numerous other show dogs. Her pride and joy was Ch. Milson O’Boy, whose career in the 1930s included 11 Best in Show, 46 Group Firsts, and 103 Best of Breed awards.

Gertrude G. Cheever was born in New York on May 3, 1889. She was the only child of John Dow Cheever and Anna Cheever of 14 East 30th Street. John was a successful banker and also the founder of the Rockaway Hunt Club.

Her grandfather, John Haven Cheever, was president of the New York Belting and Packing Co. and of the Mechanical Rubber Co. He was also one of the first businessmen to establish a country estate at Far Rockaway, then part of Long Island.

John Haven Cheever estate, Far Rockaway, Wave Crest

Gertrude’s grandfather, John Haven Cheever, was a pioneer in establishing Far Rockaway, Long Island, as a country home for well-to-do New York businessmen. He was a founding developer of Wave Crest, an 80-acre gated community of mansions on what was once the Clark estate on the western boundary of Far Rockaway (in the vicinity of today’s Spray View Avenue) The Cheever home was located on a five-acre plot about ¼ mile from the ocean, where the family farmed and raised horses.

In 1909 at the age of 20, Gertrude, a New York City debutante, had her coming-out party. About this time, or perhaps at this party, she met Seton Porter, a member of her father’s Rockaway Hunt Club. Seton was a graduate of Yale and chairman of the Board of National Distillers.

John H Cheever residence, Wave Crest, Far Rockaway

Gertrude and Seton Porter held their wedding reception in 1911 on the veranda of the John Dow Cheever country home in Wave Crest, Far Rockaway. This unusually shaped home was designed by the legendary architectural firm of McKim, Mead & White and built for $17,000 in 1886. The Cheever home was demolished in the 1940s.

The two were married at St. John’s Church in Far Rockaway on June 3, 1911, and lived at 884 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. Gertrude and Seton divorced in 1924. Gertrude never remarried and she continued to go by the name of Mrs. Cheever Porter while collecting $840 a month in alimony; Seton went on to marry two more times.

A Champion Ice Skater

Before she started showing championship dogs, Gertrude was a champion ice skater with the New York Skating Club. She started skating while still married to Seton Porter, and was often paired with Irving Isaac Brokaw, another member of the club. In later years, she was the executive director of the Skating Carnival, an annual benefit event that took place at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s.

Gertrude Cheever Porter and Isaac Irving Brokaw

In 1920, Gertrude Cheever Porter and Isaac Irving Brokaw were gold-medal champions in the 10 Step, an early set pattern ice dance. Brokaw was a four-time world champion and America’s first Winter Olympian (prior to the creation of the Winter Games in 1924, ice skating was part of the Summer Games).

Conservatory Pond Central Park

Founded in 1863, the New York Skating Club was the second skating club formed in the United States. In the 1860s, members skated at the Conservatory Pond in Central Park, shown here, and then at various private ponds on Fifth Avenue.

New York Skating Club

At each skating site, the members would build a clubhouse for their exclusive use. In early years, the club had an official meteorologist, Mr. E.B. Cooke, to report on the weather and skating conditions at the rinks. This particular clubhouse was located in 1868 on the southeast corner of Central Park, just off Fifth Avenue.

St. Nicholas Ice Rink, New York

In the 1880s, refrigerated ice surfaces replaced outdoor ice ponds, many of which had been covered over for office buildings and hotels. Members of the New York Skating Club skated at two rinks named Iceland, the first on Broadway and 53rd Street and the second at 239 West 52nd Street. In 1896, the St. Nicholas Rink, shown here in 1901, opened on Columbus Avenue and 66th Street. The area was used exclusively for ice sports until 1911, when prize box fighting moved in. The building was later used as a production center for ABC and Eyewitness News. It was demolished in the 1980s and is now the site of the network’s main offices.

Requiem for the Porter Irish Setters

When she wasn’t competing on the rink, Mrs. Cheever Porter was busy showing her championship Irish Setters. Her first two show dogs, Ch. St. Cloud’s Fermanagh III “Dixie” and Ch. Lord Palmerston II “The Woods,” were born in 1924. Ch. Peggy Belle was born in 1926, followed by Red Barney, who survived less than a year and never had the chance to show. Fermanagh IV “Dixie Jr.” was born in 1931 and Milson O’Boy was born in 1932. Next was Milson Copper Lad in 1935 and another great champion, Rosecroft Premier, who was born in 1938 and quickly rose to national fame.

Ch. Rosecroft Premier

Ch. Rosecroft Premier won 124 Best of Breed awards in the 1940s. Charcoal illustration by Gladys Cook, 1945

Milson O’Boy was the son of the champion Higgins Red Coat and Milson’s Miss Sonny. The Irish Setter hit his stride at the age of three, when he won the highest honor of the year — Best in Show at the Morris & Essex Show in Madison, New Jersey. At this show and many others, he was handled by Harry Hartnett, owner of the Milson Kennels at Harrison, New York.

Milson O’Boy had numerous offspring and sired 17 championship dogs, including Ch. Milson O’Boy II, who became the foundation stock for the Knightscroft Kennels in New City, New York. This kennel produced Ch. Rosecroft Premier, who reportedly “pushed Milson O’Boy from his thrown” and was purchased by Mrs. Cheever Porter for about $1,500 in 1940.

Cheever Porter Town Car

In 1940, the year Mrs. Cheever Porter purchased Rosecroft Premier, she reportedly had a luxury Cadillac town car built, shown here. An article in Special Interest Autos claimed that the mistress of legendary singer and band leader Vaughn Monroe had the car built and designed for him. This suggests that Gertrude Cheever Porter was Monroe’s mistress, but I can’t confirm this assumption.

Milson O’Boy died on June 29, 1945, and was buried alongside six of his champion Porter “siblings” at the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York. Rosecroft Premier joined the seven other setters at Hartsdale when he died on June 12, 1951.

Gertrude Cheever Porter continued showing Irish Setters and other breeds until 1979, at the age of 90. When she died on November 14, 1980, The New York Times published a very small obituary with no details about her death or burial. A gravestone with her name in Trinity-St. John’s Cemetery in Hewlett, New York, has no dates.

Gertrude Cheever Porter grave

A tombstone with the name “Gertrude Cheever Porter” suggests that she was buried at Trinity Cemetery in Nassau County.

However, she left as her legacy the Cheever Porter Foundation, which was started in June 1962 and has since made numerous grants to schools of veterinary medicine, veterinary hospitals, and guide dog foundations. In 2013, the independent foundation based in Huntington, New York, had $2.6 million in assets.






Cheever Porter graves, Hartsdale Pet Cemetery

Ch. Milson O’Boy died in 1945, and was buried at the legendary Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County. Eight of Mrs. Cheever Porter’s champion Irish Setters are buried here. Photo, P. Gavan

Topsy the Elephant

The elephant was stolen from her home, secretly smuggled into America, and called Topsy, after the slave girl featured in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. That says it all.

Warning: This story brought tears to my eyes, and was very difficult to write. However, I believe it’s an important story to tell in order to show how far we’ve come in America when it comes to treating both animals and humans, how far we still need to go, and how important it is for us to ensure that other countries catch up and keep pace with us.

Our sad story begins around 1875, when a 200-pound baby elephant was captured by elephant traders in Southeast Asia. Adam Forepaugh of the Forepaugh & Sells Circus smuggled the elephant into America and falsely billed her as the “first American born elephant.”

Topsy the elephant

Topsy quickly became the star of the circus and a fan favorite.

Like many circus animals at the time, Topsy was subject to harsh treatment and torture during her training and performances. Trainers often prodded her with sharp hooks between the eyes and in the head or used hot pokers to make her obey their orders.

Naturally, Topsy’s temper became shorter and shorter, and she turned on her trainers. She attacked several handlers and reportedly killed two circus workers in Texas (no records exist to prove this accusation). And then in May 1902 she killed a spectator in Brooklyn who went too far.

According to published reports, James Fielding Blount allegedly offered her whiskey, threw sand in her face, and then put a burning cigarette into her trunk. The man met his end when Topsy wrapped her trunk around him, tossed him into the air, and then smashed and trampled him on the ground. Payback is a bitch, as they say.

Frederic Thompson

Frederic Thompson and his business partner, Elmer “Skip” Dundy acquired Topsy in 1902 when they took over the long-term lease on Paul Boyton’s Sea Lion Park.

Following this highly-publicized incident, Topsy was sold to Captain Paul Boyton, the proprietor of Sea Lion Park at Coney Island. When his park went bankrupt a year later, Paul Boyton turned the elephant over to the new owners, Frederic Thompson and Elmer “Skip” Dundy, who were constructing Luna Park on the site.

Life before Luna Park was horrible for Topsy, but it was about to get much worse. For the rest of her short pathetic life, she was put to use hauling building and construction materials. Frederic and Elmer called it her penance for being so aggressive.

Trip to the Moon, Luna Park

One of Topsy’s biggest jobs was moving the massive “Trip the Moon” structure from Steeplechase to Luna Park.

One of her biggest jobs was moving the massive “Trip the Moon” structure from George Tilyou’s Steeplechase Park to Luna Park. The 80-foot tall, 40,000 square foot structure was placed on heavy timbers with big wooden rollers, and Topsy was put to work. She put her forehead against the building, and, with the help of only a few poor horses, pushed it nearly a mile down Surf Avenue to its new location.

Whitey the Elephant Beater

William Ault, better known as Whitey, was Topsy’s keeper and slave driver for over a decade. He was the only one who could handle her – but apparently he could only handle her if he tortured her. He often used a pitchfork on her, and was arrested at least one time after police observed “excessive” prodding. One time the ASPCA prosecuted Whitey for wounding Topsy’s eye, but unfortunately he was acquitted of animal cruelty because the abuse was deemed acceptable at that time.

Luna Airship, Trip to the Moon

The “Trip to the Moon” attraction at Luna Park featured a 30-passenger airship resembling a giant red canoe with wings. The “Airship Luna” was suspended from the ceiling by steel cables, permitting the ship to rock and swing lightly. Hundreds of lights and sound effects added to the experience.

The final nail in Topsy’s coffin came at noon on a December day when an intoxicated Whitey tried to ride the elephant down Surf Avenue. After about a half mile, Tospy stopped, causing Whitey to slide off. This angered him, and he began prodding her trunk in a savage manner as a crowd watched and cheered (Yes, if there were smart phones in those days, a video of this violent act would have gone viral).

Policeman Conlin of the Coney Island police force arrested him, whereupon Whitey said he would turn the elephant loose upon the crowd. Conlin in turn threatened to shoot the trainer if he let Topsy charge the crowd. Whitey acquiesced — temporarily. They made their way to the police station on West 8th Street, where Topsy mounted the broad granite steps and got wedged in the front door.

Coney Island Magistrates Court and Police Station, West 8th Street

Topsy tried to enter the new Coney Island police station and magistrates’ court, but got wedged in the door. Located on West 8th Street, the 1897 building was known as the Little Brown Jug at Coney Island. The court was shut down in 1958 and the building was torn down. A new station for the police (60th Precinct) was erected on the site in 1971.

Sergeant Levis begged Whitey to drive the animal back, but it took him a while to obey the order (Levis should have used a pitchfork on him!). Finally, Fred Thompson showed up, paid the bail, and ordered Ault to return Topsy to Luna Park. Whitey was ordered to appear in court on charges of disorderly conduct.

Whitey was immediately fired, but with no one left to handle Topsy, Fred and Elmer had to get rid of her. They tried to raffle her off and give her away for free, but no zoo would take her. With no other options left, the men decided to euthanize Topsy.

First the men announced they would kill Topsy by hanging her from the new Electric Tower, which was being constructed in the middle of the former park’s Shoot the Chute lagoon (the tower was only 75 feet high by this time). ASPCA president John Peter Haines quickly quashed that idea.

Erwin, Tennessee, elephant hanging

The ASPCA would not allow Fred and Elmer to hang Topsy from the Luna Tower in Coney Island. However, 13 years later an elephant was hanged to death in Erwin, Tennessee.

Next, they discussed charging a 25-cent admission to publicly electrocute the elephant. The backup plan was to feed her cyanide-laced carrots and strangle her with large ropes hung from the tower and tied to a steam powered winch.

For some asinine reason, Haines said no to the admission fee, but he was fine with a public execution.

On December 13, 1902, Luna Park press agent Charles Murray released a statement to the newspapers that Topsy would be euthanized within a few days by electrocution.

A “First-Class Execution”

“The affair is expected to be one of the most brilliant society features of the Coney Island season.”—New York Tribune, January 3, 1903

Topsy the elephant electrocution

The execution was set for January 4, 1903. Expecting a large crowd due to all the publicity, Fred and Elmer hired a caterer and a brass band for the event. They told the press it would be a “first-class execution.”

Fred and Elmer turned to Thomas Edison, who was then competing with Nikola Tesla’s alternating current (AC) method and trying to preserve his direct current (DC) method as the electricity standard for the United States. In his attempt to discourage the use of AC, Edison had been staging public demonstrations of its danger by electrocuting stray and unwanted animals, including cats, dogs, horses, and cows. Apparently he just couldn’t resist the opportunity to demonstrate the “dangers” of AC one more time.

Edison agreed to electrocute Topsy, and as an added bonus, he said he would document the event using a movie camera, another one of his inventions. (I guess you could say he got two bangs for the buck — major sarcasm). The electrocution was supervised by P. D. Sharkey, chief electrician with the Edison Electric Illuminating Company of Brooklyn.

You can watch Edison’s video here, but it is disturbing.

On January 4, 1903, a crowd of about 1,500 spectators and 100 photographers gathered in the Luna Park construction zone to witness the hours-long spectacle. First, elephant “expert” Carl Goliath and other handlers loaded her with chains and tried to coax her over the lagoon bridge using apples, carrots, and hay. (The men had offered Whitey 25 dollars to help with the execution, but he turned it down, saying he wouldn’t kill her for a thousand dollars.)

Topsy elephant execution

Days before the event, press agent Murray arranged media coverage and posted banners around the park and on all four sides of the makeshift gallows advertising “OPENING MAY 2ND 1903 LUNA PARK $1,000,000 EXPOSITION, THE HEART OF CONEY ISLAND”. You can see these signs on the unfinished “Electric Tower” in this press photograph of the electrocution.

After two hours, they finally got her in place, but then she wouldn’t stay still on the metal plates. She shook the copper-lined wooden sandals off her feet and refused to eat the cyanide-laced carrots. They say elephants are smart – she definitely knew what was happening to her.

Thomas Edison

Thomas Alva Edison, around 1903, was often associated with the death of Topsy. Edison was not present at Luna Park and it’s unclear what impact he had on the execution or its filming.

Eventually Topsy ate the carrots and Sharkey signaled for Joseph Johansen, the superintendent at Coney Island station nine blocks away, to pull the switch. At the same time, Luna Park chief electrician Hugh Thomas closed another switch at the park, sending 6,600 volts from Bay Ridge through Topsy’s body for 10 seconds.

There was a flash of fire and the odor of burning flesh. Her body shook violently and she fell to the ground. Then the steam-powered winch tightened two nooses placed around her neck for 10 minutes as an added precaution. An autopsy showed that that the poison did not have time to take effect.

Elephant Hotel, Coney Island

Originally intended to serve as a hotel, the elephant contained a cigar store in the front legs, a gallery in the “Stomach Room,” a grand hall through the diaphragm and liver, and a museum in what would be the elephant’s left lung. The elephant’s eyes in the “Cheek Room” had telescopes and served as an observatory.

Johansen was knocked out and nearly electrocuted himself, but he sustained only small burns from the power traveling from his right arm to his left leg. When you look at these photos, it’s amazing more people weren’t injured. (Let’s see: metal plates, 6,600 volts, a 5-ton elephant on a rickety bridge over a body of water — OSHA would have had a field day with this one.)

Topsy was about 35 years old at the time of her death, which is about half the expected life span for an elephant with a decent life in the wild.

Elephant Hotel and coaster, Coney Island

The fire also destroyed Lorenzo Shaw’s Channel Chute, a wooden roller coaster built in 1895 that encircled the hotel and was often called the Elephant Scenic Railway.
This ride featured cars that were taken by elevator to the top and then circled back down around the Elephant. The nearby Toboggan Slide survived the fire.

The Elephantine Colossus

Ironically, Topsy was electrocuted on the very spot that was once occupied by the iconic Elephantine Colossus, otherwise known as the Elephant Hotel. The 12-story pachyderm designed by James V. Lafferty stood above Surf Avenue and West 12th Street from 1885 until 1896, when it was destroyed in a spectacular fire.

Topsy elephant electrocution

A Coney Island Tragedy: Burning of the Historic Elephant: The prophetic cover from the October 10, 1896, issue of The Illustrated American.

Built two years before the Statue of Liberty, the Elephant Hotel was said to be the first artificial structure visible to immigrants arriving to America. Its manager often exaggerated the view, telling visitors they would be able see places like Yellowstone Park, Niagara Falls, and Paris from the elephant’s back.

In the 1890s, the giant elephant served as a brothel (male patrons would say they were “seeing the elephant”). However, when the structure caught fire on September 27, 1896, it had not been used for several years.

When the smoke cleared, all that remained standing was a part of the elephant’s foreleg. At least this elephant was not a living, breathing creature when it fried.

In recent years, several former employees of Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus have gone public by speaking out against the way elephants continue to be mistreated. Like Topsy, these animals are abused with sharp metal bull hooks and are kept on chains for most of their lives.

On March 5, 2015, the Feld family, which owns Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus, announced that it would phase out its 13 performing Asiatic elephants by the beginning of 2018. These elephants will join the more than 40 pachyderms already resident at the Feld family-owned Center for Elephant Conservation in Florida.

Luna Park Electric Tower

Luna Park opened on May 16, 1903, just four months after Topsy’s murder. The park was quite spectacular at night, with all the towers and minarets lit up by more than 250,000 incandescent lights. It’s more than ironic that Topsy was executed by electricity at the base of the park’s iconic Electric Tower.

Actor John Barrymore

Some sources claim that actor John Barrymore, a frequent guest of the hotel, changed Rusty’s name to Hamlet. Barrymore was a big fan of cats, and he did play Hamlet on Broadway, but every newspaper article from that era calls the cat Rusty. No news articles from the 1930s or 40s mention a cat at the Algonquin named Hamlet.

In 1936, a rather disheveled kitten about seven months old stepped into the lobby of New York City’s Algonquin Hotel on 44th Street.

Like most stray cats, he was fighting for survival on the streets, and a hotel lobby was as good a place as any to search (or beg) for food and shelter.

Frank CaseFrank Case, the legendary owner of the Algonquin, welcomed this feline hotel guest, even though he was just a ragamuffin street cat. Somehow he knew there was something special about this orange cat with the perfect tabby markings. Plus, the hotel needed a new cat to replace Billy, who had arrived at the Algonquin around 1921 and had lived there happily for 15 years.

Frank Case named the cat Rusty, and well, as they say, the rest is history.

Algonquin Hotel New York

The Algonquin Hotel was built in 1902 following the demolition of two brick stables and two frame buildings on land once occupied by the farm of John N. Grenzebach. When it opened on November 22, it was a residential hotel with apartments that could be rented for an annual rate of $420 for a simple one-bedroom and bath to $2,520 for a luxurious suite of three bedrooms, private dining room, parlor, library, three bathrooms and private hallway. Museum of the City of New York Collections

Almost 80 years later, the iconic 12-story hotel at 59-63 West 44th Street still has a resident cat. In fact, in all these years, the Algonquin has never been without a feline host or hostess to great the guests. All but one of the Algonquin cats have been rescues.

Matilda III is the current cat of the house. She took over when Matilda II retired at the age of 15 and moved to a staff member’s home in December 2010. A beautiful ragdoll cat (although she sometimes reminds me of Grumpy Cat), Matilda III was rescued after being abandoned in a box outside the North Shore Animal League in Port Washington, New York.

The Legend of Rusty

Rusty, the Algonquin’s “snooty cat…ignores more celebrities than the Social Register…it’s whispered around by those who claim to know that he really runs the place.”– Dorothy Kilgallen, the “Voice of Broadway”

Matilda III Algonquin Hotel

Rusty received numerous letters from his fans, and every year he was recognized for donating to the March of Dimes, but that’s nothing compared to the attention Matilda gets. As a cat of the digital age, Matilda is probably the most popular Algonquin Cat yet. She’s all over the Internet, and even has her own Twitter account, Facebook page, and email!



There’s not a lot of information about Billy — Frank Case gives him a cameo appearance in his book, Do Not Disturb — but Rusty often made the New York press headlines.

Over the years, Rusty grew into a very distinguished cat, weighing 18 pounds at his prime. He was a favorite among the actors and artists and writers that frequented the hotel, and he especially loved new guests.

Rusty would greet and nudge each new guest warmly and incorrigibly – he’d often have to be pushed off the register to they could sign it (what is it with cats and newspapers and books?).

Sinclair Lewis

In early years, the hotel allowed its temporary residents to have dogs, so Rusty had quite a few run-ins with canines. One time a French poodle that was staying at the hotel gave Rusty quite a tussle, and the poor cat hid under a bed for several days. He got sympathy cards from many famous people, including author Sinclair Lewis.

Rusty had a daily routine, which began every morning in the 10th-floor suite occupied by Frank and Bertha Case. Here, Bertha would prepare him for the hotel guests by grooming him. Rusty loved this ritual, and would run to Bertha as soon as he saw the brush in her hands.

Once presentable, Rusty would take the elevator downstairs to assist the Algonquin staff. For Rusty’s convenience, a little swinging door between the lobby and the kitchen was installed so he could help with the kitchen staff.

However, he spent much of the day in the Blue Bar with Louie the bar waiter, where he had a special stool reserved just for him. He’d show up for duty around 11 a.m. when guests began arriving, and keep guard until around 3 p.m. when the lunch crowd thinned out.

Blue Bar Algonquin Hotel

Rusty spent much of the day in the Blue Bar with his pal Louie the bar waiter.

When he finally had the bar and Louie to himself, Rusty would drum his front paws on the counter to demand his daily shot of milk. Sometimes Louie would whistle songs and Rusty would sort of sway to the music as if dancing.

Then promptly at 4 p.m. he’d jump off his stool and get back on the elevator in the lobby with his guardian, Mrs. Germaine Legrand, the Case family’s housekeeper (he always took the passenger elevator, never the service elevator!).

Back in the Case suite, Rusty would get a snifter of milk in a champagne glass and then take an afternoon cat nap. At 7:30 p.m., he’d appear at the bar again for his next tour of duty, and then head back upstairs for the night at 10 p.m.

Algonquin Hotel barbershop

In early years, the Algonquin offered an in-house physician, barber, hairdresser and manicurist who would make calls to rooms. It also had a barbershop for guests (I don’t know if Rusty had his own chair here, but I doubt he ever asked for a haircut!) Museum of the City of New York Collections


Summers at Southampton

Summers were extra special for Rusty, because he got to take a break from the big city and spend weekends at the Case family’s summer home, Shore Acre Farm, on Actors Colony Road in the village of North Haven (Southampton), Long Island.

Frank Case purchased the waterfront summer home in June 1919 from Mrs. Lilian Backus, the widow of Eben Y. Backus, who was the stage manager for the Empire Theatre on 42nd Street.

The home was located in a cottage colony of actors (hence the street name) and many famous thespians who also lived or vacationed at the colony, including Douglass Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, would often visit the family and their cat Rusty.

North Haven, Sag Harbor

The Case summer home – formerly the Backus cottage (middle right) — was located just north of the old Charles M. Goodsell cottage and farm, where Julian Hawthorne, the son of author Nathanial Hawthorne, had spent a summer in 1820. The 92-acre estate on the Shelter Island Sound was purchased by the Sag Harbor Estates Company in 1910, which built a cottage park that they called Hawthorne Manor. The colony was purchased by the Conservative Land Associates in 1925, with plans to subdivide the land further for “high-class small homes.”—NYT, November 18, 1925

Rusty Dies of a Broken Heart

On February 21, 1946, five years after Rusty won a long battle with pneumonia, Bertha Case succumbed to a year-long illness and died in the Case’s hotel suite. Four months later, on June 7, Frank Case died in the hotel.

Following his death, Frank’s body was laid in state in the suite. John Martin, manager of the hotel, held Rusty in his arms and let him take a last look at his master. Martin told the press that as he held him, a shudder appeared to go through the cat’s body. He also uttered a strange cry.

Ellin Prince Speyer Hospital for Animals

In April 1941, Rusty came down with pneumonia and had to spend some time in an oxygen tent at the Ellin Prince Speyer Animal Hospital for Animals at 350 Lafayette Street. Formerly known as the Hospital of Women’s League for Animals, the facility opened in 1914.

For several days, Rusty refused to eat or roam the premises. He no longer visited John Martin on Sundays, as he had done for years. John took him to the Speyer Hospital for Animals, where the depressed cat was diagnosed with jaundice complicated by leukemia.

Less than two weeks after Frank’s death, John found Rusty in the suite, curled beside the bed of his old master. The jaundice and feline leukemia were no doubt the cause of his death, but those who knew him, like Mrs. Legrand, said he simply died of a broken heart.

“Rusty was sick from missing the two people he loved best,” Mrs. Legrand told The New York Sun. “Always he was looking at the door as if he wondered why they didn’t come.”

According to the East Hampton Star (August 15, 1946), Rusty was buried in the place he spent many a summer day with the Case family and their famous theater friends — in the Case garden at their summer home in Southampton.

Ben and Mary Bodne, Algonquin Hotel

In 1924 Ben B. Bodne and his bride Mary (with Harpo Marx) honeymooned at the Algonquin. At the time, he promised Mary he would one day buy the hotel for her. Soon after Frank Case died in 1946, Ben Bodne retired from the oil business and acquired ownership and operation of the hotel.

Since Rusty’s passing, 10 cats have been king or queen of the Algonquin Hotel. Although most of the cats had full run of the place, that changed in 2011 with a directive from the New York City Department of Health, which required the hotel cat to remain in areas where food is not prepared or served.

I guess this 21st-century directive means there is no longer a special stool at the bar reserved just for the hotel’s feline and no longer a kitty door to the kitchen. Although he didn’t have a Twitter account, a Facebook page, or an email address, Rusty had it pretty good in those simpler, rule-free days.

Rusty was buried in the Case family garden at their summer home on Sag Harbor, somewhere in the vicinity of today’s Cedar Avenue. Considering the fact that all this land is now worth countless millions of dollars – even Richard Gere had a house nearby until recently – Rusty’s final resting place is pretty darn nice for a former alley cat.

Rusty was buried in the Case family garden at their summer home on Sag Harbor, somewhere in the vicinity of today’s Cedar Avenue. Considering the fact that all this land is now worth countless millions of dollars – even Richard Gere had a house nearby until recently – Rusty’s final resting place is pretty darn nice for a former alley cat.