Archive for June, 2016

Grumpy's Grave

Unlike Grumpy Cat, the Internet feline sensation, Grumpy the bulldog didn’t rise to fame on social media, but his owners treated him to the tallest monument at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Wesetchester County, New York, when he died in 1926.  (Photo from the Douglas Grundy collection)

I recently made my annual pilgrimage to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery in Westchester County, New York. The Hartsdale Pet Cemetery is rich in animal tales and history, which is why I love spending a few hours there to see what stories of Old New York are waiting to be unearthed, so to speak.

Each pet monument is a treasure in its own way, but there are always a few that catch my fancy on every visit. As I’m always drawn to Grumpy Bizallion, I thought it time to explore the story of this beloved bulldog.

For years, Grumpy’s monument was the tallest at Hartsdale Pet Cemetery, standing just over six feet. Unfortunately, the foundation weakened over the years, putting the stone at risk of tipping over. For safety reasons, the cemetery cut the monument into two pieces.

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Here is Grumpy’s monument today, in two pieces. Photo by P. Gavan 

According to the monument, Grumpy was born on August 4, 1913, and died on September 20, 1926. We also know that his pet parents were Emma and Henry Bizallion, and that they loved him very much. Underneath the bronze relief bearing Grumpy’s likeness is carved, “His sympathetic love and understanding enriched our lives. He waits for us.”

But who were Emma and Henry Bizallion, and what is their story? Why was this bulldog so important to them – even though he was presumably a grump?

Henry H. Bizallion and Emma Loriett Coy

Henry Herbert Bizallion, the first of three sons born to Eugene Bizallion and Martha A. Seaver, entered the world on May 17, 1870, in a small town in Rutland County, Vermont. His father, a Canadian, excelled as a wood cutter when this skill was in great demand during the construction of the railroads, and then later worked as a cheese maker in Middletown Springs, Vermont.

Henry graduated from Saint Johnsbury Academy, and on June 13, 1893, he married Emma Loriett Coy, the daughter of Martin Coy and Susan Greene of Middletown, Vermont. At some point between their marriage and 1900, the Bizallions moved to New York City, where Henry worked in the banking industry.

From 1900 to 1910, Henry Bizallion moved quickly up the banking corporate ladder.

In 1900, while living with Emma at 32 Hamilton Terrace in the Hamilton Heights section of New York, Henry was working as an assistant cashier at the Riverside Bank on Eighth Avenue near Columbus Circle. Five years later, they were living closer to the bank at the new Hotel Lucerne, an upscale residential hotel at 201 West 79th Street constructed in 1903. By 1908, the year that Riverside Bank merged with the Hamilton Bank and the Northern Bank of New York, Henry was a full-fledged cashier (an officer position) as well as a director of the bank.

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In 1905, Henry and Emma were living at  the Hotel Lucerne on  the corner of Amsterdam Avenue and West 79th Street.

Just prior to the merger, Henry resigned from the Riverside Bank. He and a few banking friends collected $200,000 and formed the new Gotham National Bank organization, to accommodate the new automobile trade. They rented the store and basement occupying the Eighth Avenue front of William R. Hearst’s New York American Building at Columbus Circle, and in April 1910,  Henry was named president of new The Gotham National Bank of New York.

By this time, the Bizallions were living in one of the four-story brick apartments at 229-235 East 105th Street in East Harlem. Although they had been married for 17 years, they had no children. I’m not sure what Emma did to pass the time, but Henry kept busy with the bank as well as with his positions as an officer of the Central Park West and Columbia Avenue Association and the director of the Broadway Association.

The Dog Lovers’ Protective Association of America

According to published court reports, the Bizallions left their apartment in New York City and moved to Summit, New Jersey, sometime around 1912. It was here in the suburbs that they adopted a bulldog puppy named Grumpy.

Two years later, in 1914, Henry Bizallion joined Ellin Prince Speyer, Mrs. Vernon Castle, James Gardner Rossman, and several other notable New York and New Jersey dog lovers in forming the Dog Lovers’ Protective Association of America (DLPAA).

The DLPAA, created in response to a dog-phobic atmosphere, was primarily for the owners of “jes’ dogs” – in other words, ordinary canines that were not bred or considered to be pedigrees. It’s not that Henry and the over 100 other members frowned upon dog aristocracy; they just preferred to promote “ordinary, plain, everyday dogs” like Grumpy. (In fact, Agnes Rose Rossman, secretary and wife of association president James Gardner Rossman, raised Maltese terriers and had won “Best in Show” at the Westminster Dog Show.)

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From 1910 to 1925, the Gotham National Bank was located in the American Building at the junction of Broadway, 8th Avenue, and Columbus Circle. Through mergers and name changes, the bank was later known as the Chemical Bank, Chase Manhattan Bank, and JPMorgan Chase Bank. NYPL Digital Collections

The DLPAA also advocated for a special show for dog heroes – thoroughbred or mongrel — in response to pending legislation to address the large number of dogs running at large in New York City. Apparently, New York Board of Health Commissioner Sigismund Schulz Goldwater was trying to terrify the public regarding the menace of the dog, and wanted to make New York a dogless city. Here’s a snippet of what Dr. S.S. Goldwater wrote in the January 1915 edition of the American Journal of Veterinary Medicine:

“The dog must go. He must go where he belongs to his proper place — to the country. Assuredly I favor the exile of all dogs from Manhattan Island. I hope to see New York City a dogless town.”

He went on to say that although he was fond of dogs, “In a policed community, the pet dog is superfluous. No true lover of dogs will bring a dog into the wretched and unhappy surroundings of city life.” (Dr. Goldwater also wanted to ban all cars from the city, but that’s another story for another blog.)

In response to Goldwater, DLPAA president James Gardner Rossman wrote:

“Not until the emotions of love, courage, faithfulness, devotion, [and] companionship can be legislated out of the heart of man will man tolerate without resistance legislation which is simply persecution of his dumb companion and most faithful friend the dog.”

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Dr. S.S. Goldwater wanted to ban all dogs from New York City in 1915. In 1933, Mayor LaGuardia appointed him as the city’s Commissioner of Hospitals. I bet he’s rolling in his grave over therapy dogs in hospitals!

Obviously, this crazy proposal to ban all dogs from the city went down with the S.S. Goldwater ship, so to speak.

The Wicks-Brown Dog Licensing Bill

In the summer of 1916, New York Senator Charles Wells Wicks proposed new legislation titled “An Act of Encouraging the Sheep Industry.” The law was reportedly designed to help New York sheep farmers by protecting them from the alleged ravages of dogs roaming at large.

Often called the Wicks Law or Wicks-Brown Dog License Law, the law required dog owners to pay a $3.25 licensing fee for females and $2.25 for male dogs. Owners of dogs captured at large  would have to pay a $10 pound release fee. Supposedly, monies collected from these fees would be used to help farmers purchase new sheep to replace those killed by dogs.

The Wicks Dog Law also required that all peace officers kill dogs seen attacking or chasing sheep, fowl, or other domesticated animals (cats and other dogs), or when seen just roaming at large beyond its owner’s premises without wearing a mandated license tag (the officers would first have to make a reasonable effort to secure the dog and fail). In fact, anyone could kill, without recourse of law, any such dog committing these acts.

Many prominent people, including William O. Stillman, President of the American Humane Association, were openly opposed to the bill. Even some sheep farmers thought it was shear madness. As opponents noted, the bill offended nearly 200,000 dog owners in New York State in order to please a few hundred sheep owners who were hurt, not so much by roaming dogs, but by cheap Western grazing lands and foreign competition.

S.O.S. for Dogs in New York City

Although Wicks Law did not apply to New York City and other large cities in the state, it would affect those dogs whose families took them to places like Long Island, Westchester County, or other counties beyond Manhattan. If a city dog got loose in the country, he could be shot, simple as that.

Henry H. Bizallion and his friends at the Dog Lovers’ Protective Association of America called the Wicks Law “the most vicious dog legislation that has ever been attempted in the United States.” In response to the bill’s passage in the New York Senate (by a vote of 31 to 14), they filed a petition with Governor Charles S. Whitman in May 1917, asking him not to sign the bill into law. The title of their petition was S.O.S. for Dogs.

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Charles W. Wicks served on the New York State Senate from 1915-1918.

The association also proposed a new bill that would make dogs the personal property of their owners (so they would have the same status and protection as horses and cattle), and that would hold dog owners responsible through civil court action for damage done by their animals (instead of killing the dog).

Despite everyone’s efforts, Governor Whitman signed the Wicks-Brown Dog License bill into law on June 30, 1917. The final law included a provision requiring that all law-breaking dogs be held 10 days before being killed; also, toy dogs under 10 pounds were excluded from the killing requirements.  Eighteen months later, the New York World reported that $279,000 in fees had been paid to farmers to cover losses or damages to not only sheep but to horses, cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits, and goats. Some small-town assessors and constables also made out well with their share of the fees.

The Waiting Years

Following Grumpy’s passing in 1926, Emma and Henry Bizallion moved again, this time to a house on Brevort Farm Lane in Rye, New York. I’d like to think that they chose a home in Westchester County to be closer to the Hartsdale Pet Cemetery.

Grumpy did not have to wait long for Emma to join him in the afterlife. She passed away only nine years after his death on June 2, 1935, at the age of 64. She was buried in the Bizallion family plot at Pleasant View Cemetery in Middletown Springs, Vermont.

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 Lotta Van Buren Bizallion

Henry, however, hung on much longer. Sometime around 1940, he married Lotta Van Buren, a renowned ancient instrument restorer, collector, and musician, and the grand-niece of President Martin Van Buren. She had taught piano in New York for many years — perhaps she taught Henry — before retiring in 1940. She moved to California and married her “old friend, himself a musician,” in Maricopa, Arizona, on April 6, 1940.

Lotta V. Bizallion died in May 1960.  Henry joined his two wives and bulldog on September 4, 1960, when he died in Santa Barbara, California, at the age of 90.

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Although a monument awaits Henry Bizallion in the family plot in Vermont, he was buried at the Goleta Cemetery in California. 

 

 

 

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On January 9, 1912, just after 5 a.m., a careless worker tossed a lit match into a rubbish can in the basement of 12 Pine Street, located in the Equitable Life Building on Broadway at Cedar and Pine streets. Four hours later, when the fire was finally contained, six men, including two firefighters, were dead, and the once formidable Equitable Life Building was nothing more than a shell coated in thick ice.

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An actual photo of the Equitable Life guinea pig taken in March 1912.

Two weeks after the fire, workmen who were trying to salvage the contents of the cellar vaults and safe boxes rescued a cat named Kaiser. But the cat wasn’t the only animal that had survived the fire. A black guinea pig later named Miss Bacillus was also discovered during the salvage operation.

Somehow, the poor guinea pig had survived 16 days in the extreme cold, imprisoned in a small cage without any food or water.

Miss Bacillus had been brought to the Equitable Life Building by Dr. A.S. Wolf, who had an office on the third floor of the Pine Street side of the building. Dr. Wolf was reportedly conducting some “experiments” with the guinea pig for medical insurance purposes. (Dr. Wolf seems an appropriate name if this is true.)

Although this part of the building had not been destroyed by the fire, the office had been completely damaged by water and ice, and so no one thought to look in the room for survivors, human or otherwise. It wasn’t until Dr. Wolf heard a very faint squeak while recovering personal items from his office that the guinea pig was discovered.

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The guinea pig survived for over two weeks in an office of the Equitable Building without food, water, or heat. 

Dr. Wolf let the guinea pig out of her cage, and she immediately scampered across the office to where he stored her food. When he brought her back outside, hundreds of people who were waiting their turn to go into the building to retrieve their contents from the safe deposit boxes gathered around the cage in awe.

Dr.Wolf turned out to be a pretty good guy. He reportedly gave his guinea pig to Henry W. Ward of Washington, D.C., whose young son was mourning the recent loss of his pet guinea pig. In March 1912, Mr. Ward brought their new pet back to New York City, where “Miss Bacillus” shared the spotlight with Kaiser the Faithful cat at the Woman’s Industrial Exhibition.

A Look Back on Broadway at Pine and Cedar Streets

The acre of land on which the Equitable Life Building was constructed was previously just a small portion of a large farm owned by an early Dutch settler and trader named Jan Janszen Damen (or Dam). Jan Damen acquired the property through a Dutch land grant in 1644 from Governor William Kieft — just 9 years before the “great wall” was built.

The rolling property extended from present-day Pine Street to Fulton Street on the west side of Broadway, and from Pine Street to Maiden Lane east of Broadway.

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According to the Castello Plan for New Amsterdam of 1660, only six houses and a windmill stood outside the “great wall” (Wall Street) along the Heere Straat (Broadway). Two of those houses — #5 and #6 on the map — were owned by Jan Damen (the windmill may have been a very large haystack behind Damen’s farmhouse). The Equitable Life Building was constructed on this land in 1870. Click here to zoom in on the map for more details.  

Jan Damen erected a large farmhouse (the “great house”), a few outbuildings, and a “small house” on Heere Straat just north of what we call Wall Street. The great house was near the corner of today’s Cedar Street, and the small house occupied what is now Pine Street and Broadway.

According to the Key to the Castello Plan, “The great house stood diagonally across Cedar Street, on Broadway. If it could be reconstructed today, its south corner would probably touch the…Equitable Building.”

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According to the Key to the Castello Plan, the six houses “Beyond the Wall” were as follows: #1  was owned by Sybout Claessen (this is where 96 Broadway is today); #2 was a small cottage owned by Jacques Pyrn; #3-4 were owned by Hendrick Pietersen; #5-6 were the Damen houses. The formal garden on the west side of Broadway was laid out by Jan Pietersen Verbrugge and is today part of the Trinity churchyard.  

 

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Surveyors laid out Wall Street along the lines of the original stockade in 1685; the wall was dismantled by the British colonial government in 1699.

Following Damen’s death in 1651, his land was conveyed to his widow and her heirs.  Two years later the city — under the command of Peter Stuyvesant — erected a 12-foot tall stockade across the entire island to fend off attacks from Native American tribes.

In 1672, the Damen heirs sold the farmhouse to Dr. Henry Taylor. Their timing was perfect: A year later, the city ordered Dr. Taylor and all the other property owners north of the wall to demolish their homes because they were thought to be impeding the city’s walled defenses.

 

 

The Tulip Garden

In November 1664, Damen’s smaller house was purchased by Pieter Van Stoutenburg (aka Peter Stoutenburgh), another Dutch settler who came to New Amsterdam sometime around 1638. Stoutenburgh was at one time the city’s horticulturist, and is credited with bringing the first tulip bulbs to New Amsterdam. His half-acre tulip garden between present-day  Nassau Street and Broadway  was quite an attraction in those days.

In 1673, Peter Stoutenburgh was also ordered to demolish his home because it was too close to the great wall. However, Peter held onto the land until his death in 1699, when it was conveyed to his heirs.

Sometime during the early 1700s, the Stoutenburgh estate sold the former tulip garden property to the Dutch Reformed Church. The church constructed a parsonage on the site, which served as a residence for the minister of the Middle Dutch Church on Nassau Street between Cedar and Liberty Streets.

The Vauxhall Garden

Fast-forward about 60 years to 1797, when Jacque Madelaine Joseph De La Croix (aka Delacroix), a French caterer and confectioner, purchased the 37 x 140 foot parsonage plot from the Dutch Church for 3,950 pounds (less than $10,000). According to Delacrox, this was “a remarkable lot and large house…with large stone cistern, a very large ice house, handsome water works, and a fine garden of fruit trees.”

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Delacroix moved his Vauxhall Garden several times over the years, but I imagine his gardens between Broadway and the Bowery, pictured here, looked similar to those on Broadway between Pine and Cedar streets.  

Delacroix established a confectionery shop in the old parsonage at 112 Broadway, which he shared with John and M Paff, dealers in musical instruments. Behind the shop, he created a pleasure garden called Ice House Garden (later, Vauxhall Garden).

Opened on July 4, 1797, the garden was a popular resort that featured light refreshments and simple entertainment, including vocal and instrumental concerts. The admittance fee was 6 shillings, which included a glass of ice cream and punch or lemonade.

In 1825, Delacroix enlarged his shop at 112 Broadway to create the National Hotel (112-114 Broadway). Just next door, at 110 Broadway, was the Tremont Temperance House hotel. The New York Athenaeum, established in 1824, was on the corner of Broadway and Pine (from 1821-22, William Cullen Bryant edited the New York Review and Athenaeum in a building on this site). And at 120 Broadway, on the corner of Cedar, Francis Guerin, a celebrated restaurateur, operated a shop that was famous for its French cordials, bonbons, preserves, tarts, and confections.

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In 1830, when this illustrated was created, Broadway between Pine and Cedar Streets was occupied by several hotels, including City Hotel on the west side and the National Hotel and Tremont Temperance Hotel on the east side of the street. 

In 1836, Delacroix sold the National Hotel to Charles St. John for $100,000. Sometime between then and 1867, the hotel was conveyed to General Daniel Butterfield, the son of John Butterfield, a founder of the American Express Company.

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The Equitable Life Building was considered to be the first fire-proof building in the world. 

The Equitable Life Assurance Society Steps In

In 1866, The Equitable Life Assurance Society purchased No. 116 and 118 Broadway, and in 1867, they purchased No. 120 from the American Express Company for $300.000. It was on this site that the original Equitable Life Building was constructed in 1870. This white granite building was six stories and had two steam-driven passenger lifts.

Gradually, the Equitable purchased additional parcels, including No. 112-114 — which they acquired in 1876 from Butterfield for just under $303,000 — No. 12 Pine Street, and a 50-foot plot at Broadway and Pine, which they bought from the Metropolitan National Bank in 1885 for just over $760.000.  After getting control of the entire block — called the Equitable Block — additions and improvements were made to the building.

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In May 1868, seven buildings from the southeast corner of Cedar and Broadway downward were razed to make way for the original Equitable Life Building. This image from 1868, looking up Broadway from Pine Street, is the “last look” at these buildings before they were razed. New York Public Library Digital Collections

Life After the Equitable Life Fire

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Soon after the Equitable Life fire, the building was razed. This view of the empty lot is looking southeast at the corner of Pine Street and Nassau Street. New York Public Library Collections

In November 1912, ten months after the great fire, several leading bankers proposed turning the site of the former Equitable Life Building into a public park. At the same time, the Du Pont company was plotting to construct a 36-story building on the site.

Eventually, plans were approved for a new 36-story Equitable Building, which was constructed in 1913 on the same site. Noting its fireproof elevator shafts and doors,  the president of the contractors said “the new Equitable Building will be the nearest to an absolutely fireproof building in the world.”

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The Equitable Building still stands on Broadway, on what was once a tulip garden and pleasure garden.

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Kaiser appeared in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on March 12, 1912, just two months after her harrowing ordeal.

On January 9, 1912, just after 5 a.m., a small fire started in a rubbish can in the basement of the Equitable Life Building at 120 Broadway.

Four hours later, when the fire was finally contained, the Equitable Life fire was one for the books in the annals of the Fire Department of New York (FDNY).

As I mentioned in Part I of this Old New York fire cat tale, sometime during the fire, William Giblin, the president of the Mercantile Deposit Company; a clerk (Mr. Campion); and a watchman (Mr. Sheehan) became trapped in the cellar while searching for important documents in a massive vault.

Unbeknownst to them and their would-be rescuers at the time, a black and white cat named Kaiser was also trapped somewhere in that basement.

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As firefighters poured water on the Equitable Life Building, it changed to ice in the sub-zero temperatures, turning the building into an ice fortress. Museum of the City of New York Collections

For almost two hours, Fireman Seneca Larke, Jr. of Engine Company No. 54 cut away at the two-inch steel bars in the basement windows with a hacksaw. As hundreds of gallons of water from the fire hoses poured down on Larke, freezing in the sub-zero temperatures as it fell, he worked frantically to get through the bars.

As he worked, Reverend McGean stood by to give Last Rites to the three men if the rescue efforts failed.

While the firemen continued to pour water into the basement, Kaiser the cat no doubt sought higher ground. I also imagine she was terrified – perhaps she even saw all of her nine lives flash before her eyes.

Giblin and Sheehan were eventually freed after about two hours. Sadly, Campion collapsed in Giblin’s arms just before the bars were cut away, and he succumbed to the icy cold conditions. Kaiser continued to hide.

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When the flames were extinguished, there was nothing more than a shell of what was once a grand building. But inside that shell were two living creatures. Museum of the City of New York Collections

Kaiser Is Rescued and Adopted

On January 25, 16 days after the fire started, workmen who were trying to salvage the contents of the cellar vaults and safe boxes found a “sad wreck of a cat” in the front part of the lower floor. She was weak and hungry, and grateful for the warm saucer of milk and beef chop that they gave her.

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Born in Poughkeepsie, NY, in 1882, Miss Edna B. Lewis was a pioneer female insurance broker and real estate investor. In 1906, she formed the Women’s Insurance Department, which employed only women. She was also a supporter of the women’s suffrage movement.

For hours the men tried to lure Kaiser out of the building, but she wouldn’t budge from her charge. Even as one portion of the building after another collapsed or was demolished, she refused to leave. She simply moved from one corner to another until at last, there was nowhere left to hide.

Eventually, the men had to force her into a crate and carry her out of the building she had called home for the past five years. Miss Edna Blanchard Lewis, a pioneer female insurance broker (she was called “the only woman insurance broker in the world”) and former instructor at the New York Institution for the Instruction of the Deaf and Dumb, reportedly received permission to adopt the cat and take her home to Morningside Heights.

Kaiser’s brawny rescuers had tears in their eyes as they bade goodbye to their rescued feline friend.

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In March 1912, Kaiser made a guest appearance with Miss Lewis in the Woman’s Insurance Department Booth at the Women’s Industrial Exhibition. Also pictured are Mrs. Dimock (president of the WIE) and Mrs. Henry (directress).

Kaiser was taken to her new home at 480 West 119th Street, where she was given a bath and then brushed, petted, and hugged (not necessarily in that order). She was also given a new name: Kaiser the Faithful.

Over the next few years, Kaiser the Faithful enjoyed sunning herself in the window (this cat could take the heat!) and sleeping in her own roomy basket. She appeared as an “exhibition” at several shows, including the Woman’s Industrial Exhibition at the Grand Central Palace in March 1912 and 1914, and at the Empire Cat Club’s show of cats, held in conjunction with the Empire Poultry Association in December 1912.

Kaiser the Faithful’s Jeweled Collar

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Miss Grace Hazen, a jeweler who taught in her studio at the National Arts Club in New York, presented Kaiser with a new bedazzled collar (pictured above) that featured a hammered silver design showing high buildings, clouds, and flames. The collar was inscribed: Faithful, Through Fire, Water, and Air. On the back was a cat’s eye jewel, and on each side was a topaz (a topaz also hung from the buckle). The silver plate was mounted on a soft gray leather collar.

I do not know how long Kaiser the Faithful continued to live in the lap of luxury, but I do know that her human mom was quite wealthy, so I’m sure she purred through the final years of her tenth life. Just 21 years after Miss Lewis came to Kaiser’s rescue, she died at the young age of 51 on December 25, 1933, in her apartment at the Hudson View Gardens on 183rd St. and Pinehurst Avenue in Washington Heights.

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Kaiser the Faithful is wearing her collar in this photograph taken by New York City playwright Edith Ennis Furness. (I love the last name!)

Another Furry Surprise

In the final part of this Old New York fire cat story, I’ll tell you about another animal that was rescued from the Equitable Building after spending over two weeks in a cage without food or water. And we’ll explore the history of the Equitable Building site, going back to 17th-century Dutch New Amsterdam.