About

About the Hatching Cat

Peggy Gavan

My living room is everything New York: history books, artwork, old photographs, and a display of police batons from my great-grandfather, a mounted policeman in Jamaica, Queens, in the early 1900s.

Ever since I started writing about animals in history in 2013, many people have asked me why I call my collection of stories the Hatching Cat. As I tell them, I chose this name because my project really began in 2002, after I first discovered the story of the French Hatching Cat in the book Palisades Amusement Park: A Century of Fond Memories, by Vince Gargiulo.

I originally intended to write a children’s book about the Hatching Cat, but as I started to dig into the history of Palisades Park, I realized that this was more than a children’s story. This was a really fun way to learn and share the history of New York. From that point on, I’ve been on a never-ending quest for animal tales in New York City history from the 1800s to World War II.

Many of these animal tales are amazing, some are curiously odd, and others fall under the file called “You just can’t make this stuff up.” My favorite stories, though, are the ones that make people say, “Wow, who knew!?”

When I was a child, my dad would often take me to Palisades Amusement Park, which was only a 15-minute drive from my home in Bergen County, New Jersey. Here I am on the Ferris wheel, about a year before the park closed forever.

When I was a child, my dad would often take me to Palisades Amusement Park, which was only a 15-minute drive from my childhood home in Bergen County, New Jersey. Here I am on the Ferris wheel, about a year before the park closed forever.

But every story I share on this site — whether it’s about a cat, dog, horse, cow, bird, or even a hyena — has something in common: They are all woven with interesting historical facts about the people, places, and events of Old New York. I spend about 15 hours a week researching and writing these stories, and although I do not post the sources on the site (that would take up a lot of space since I use so many books, newspaper articles, historical websites, etc.), you can always ask me for a reference list and I’ll gladly send it to you by email.

About Me

Warwick Fire Department

I’ve been a volunteer with the Warwick Fire Department since moving to Warwick, New York, in the 1990s.

I started my writing career in high school as a stringer news reporter for a biweekly newspaper in northern New Jersey. I graduated from Syracuse University with a BS in magazine journalism and landed my first real job as an editorial assistant at PC Magazine. I returned to my news journalism roots for a few years on a weekly paper in Greenwood Lake, New York, and then moved on to children’s book publishing as an editor for Troll Books and Scholastic Book Clubs.

For the past eight years, I have been working as a senior writer for a major pharmacy benefit management company in northern New Jersey. I received a Master of Science in health communications from Boston University in 2012. Writing materials to help people understand their Medicare and pharmacy benefits can be rewarding, but there’s nothing I enjoy more than learning and writing about my favorite city.

Outside of work, I am a volunteer with the Warwick Fire Department and a volunteer puppy sitter for Puppies Behind Bars. My husband and I have two cats, and we both love animals, New York, the Yankees, golf, and scuba diving. Now, if I could just get him to enjoy history as much as I do!

My two cats in a rare, loving moment.

My two cats in a rare, loving moment.

I hope the Hatching Cat will make history fun for everyone — come back often and enjoy!

Peggy

Cat1926

Comments
  1. Natacha I. says:

    Hello !
    I’m Natacha, I live near Paris and I’m very interesting in the story of The Lion Cub and the Princess Who Lived at The Plaza Hotel (1908) because she was my great great grand-mother.
    That’s why I want to know where have you collected all these informations ? If you can tell me where I can find these articles and informations it would be awesome. It’s very important for me.
    Thank you very much for this article !
    Natacha I.

    • P. Gavan says:

      Allo, Natacha. Qui, I will make a list for you. Do you have email? You can send me an email at pgavan@optonline.net and I will get back to you. I am glad you enjoyed the article. I am writing another story about your great great grandmother and her animals soon. I will let you know when I publish this story, too.

  2. Hi. I wish there was a way to reach you. I wanted to ask you if you had a copy of “Frank Leslies illustrated from September 7, 1889. I have had no luck trying to find a copy. Thanks.

  3. mikvan52 says:

    RE: 1894: The Last Cow Standing: Spingler ~> Looks like you’ve seen my site on Geni.com. Your photos mesh nicely with what I’ve posted there. Nice writing. regards, Mike van Beuren

    • I’m glad you enjoyed the story — please feel free to share with your family or share on your website. One of my goals for this site is to help people learn something about a long-lost relative that they never knew before (through a true animal tale, of course!). I get much joy knowing that someone, somewhere, is reading about a descendant in one of my posts.

      • Cemile (Gem) Bingol says:

        RE: 1894: The Last Cow Standing: Spingler. I just found your story; how delightful! I love the details, paintings and pictures about my family. You’ve provided lots more detail than I’ve had to date about their life in New York City and it’s so much more interesting than reading names in a genealogical record. Your love of researching and writing about New York animals undoubtedly has resulted in many grateful beneficiaries like me. Best regards,
        Gem

      • Thank you, Gem — I just love when people discover stories about their ancestors on my blog! I absolutely do love writing about the animals and people of Old New York.

        Please feel free to share this story on any genealogical site you have or print it out for family members. Enjoy!

  4. paul galbraith says:

    hi what happened to pt 2 of the NYPD mounted patrol story? I am related to William Galbraith and i was curious to what was to be mentioned..Thx

    • My plan was to write about both William Galbraith and Artemas Fish in one story, but the story about Artemas got so involved I just focused on him. My great-grandfather was a mounted policemen with the Richmond Hill Police in the late 1800s, so I’m very interested in this topic. I will notify you when I do a story with William Galbraith, as was my original intention.

  5. Veronica says:

    While doing a bit of news research for my owl facts, I came across your article on Newsweek! Congrats! Here it is: http://www.newsweek.com/old-zoo-york-blog-explores-new-york-citys-animal-past-325086

  6. Casey says:

    Dear Peggy and The Hatching Cat,

    I have been researching the NYPD Mounted Unit and Police Horses, which in contemporary times has happily enjoyed a wonderful safety record, due, no doubt to the extensive training and habituation program that is part of the horses’ education; the height of horse and mounted officer that makes these “10-foot-tall cops” so visible in traffic; and the strong bond of trust that grows between the officer and his or her horse during training and service, so that the officer can often sense a potential spooking incident in time to calm the horse by letting him see that the officer is not afraid of the scary stimulus, thus persuading the horse to give the benefit of the doubt until he can be led to safety–which only works when a horse trusts a human partner.

    I was so interested to read your three entries about NYPD Mounted Police and their Police Horses in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and particularly the history of heroic Harry, where you give us a wonderful glimpse into the work and lives of the Police Horses of that era.

    In “1919 and 1922: Bulb, the Bad-Luck Police Horse of the NYPD,” you mention “Since 1871, the year that the Board of Police established the first official Mounted Police Unit in New York City, more than a dozen mounted patrolmen have been killed in the line of duty in horse-related incidents.” The accidents you describe in detail took place no later than the 1920’s. Could you please tell me in what year the last, most recent of those accidents took place. I would be grateful to have that information.

    Thank you so much, and thank you for the fascinating histories you share in The Hatching Cat!

    All best wishes,
    Casey

    • Casey, thank you for writing me — I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed these stories. My great-grandfather was a mounted patrolmen in Queens in the late 1890s, so these stories are extra special to me.
      According to the Officer Down Memorial website, the last NYPD patrolman to die of a horse-related accident was Patrick Fahey, who died Sunday, February 12, 1928, after being thrown from his horse.

      Patrolman Fahey was on traffic patrol on West End Avenue and 60th Street, Manhattan, when his horse was frightened by a passing New York Central Railroad train. Patrolman Fahey was thrown to the ground and injured. He was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where he died the next day from his injuries. Patrolman Fahey was assigned to Traffic Precinct C.

      Here is the source: https://www.odmp.org/agency/2758-new-york-city-police-department-new-york

      Good luck with your research.

  7. Brooke Austin says:

    Hi there, My great-great grandfather was Tex Austin and I love the article you wrote up about his rodeo in New York. I loved the quote you used from him and I wish I could find a copy of the poster promoting the rodeo at Yankee Stadium. I would love if you could share any of the pics or other info with me. Thanks, Brooke Austin

  8. Brooke,
    Thank you for writing — I just sent you an email with a few details about the photos.

  9. Anita Baumann says:

    Dear Peggy,
    The presentation you delivered at the Wisner Library on New York history, and the furry members of society that graced its making, was su-purr-lative! Enjoyed every moment and have very fond memories of Palisades Amusement Park myself. Oddly enough, my own two cats at present bear a striking resemblance to your pair. I look forward to spreading the word among my friends about your talk so they can invite you to speak to their groups!

    • I’m so thrilled that it was a big hit with you and many others who also contacted me. Certainly, if you know of any other groups that may be interested, please let me know. For dog lovers, I’m also considering putting a presentation together on the Dignified Damsels of Old New York and the Dainty Dogs They Doted On, and I have another version of my cat presentation that focuses more on Brooklyn cats. I’m going to be sending some proposal letters to other New York libraries and historical groups — would it be OK to use your note as a testimonial (I’d just use your first name/last initial). Please let me know. Thank you!

      • Anita Baumann says:

        Peggy, Wishing you and your husband (and your “babies” – of course!) the very happiest of Valentine’s Days! I would be honored & pleased to have my note included in your proposals. I look forward to the “Dainty Dogs” talk, which I hope will be offered at Wisner – Warwick is certainly an area of pet lovers, and the audience should be extremely receptive. It is wonderful to reside in Orange County where domesticated and farm animals may be viewed all around you – staying grounded through a genuine love for any kind of non-human is a gift to be treasured.

  10. Matt Thoren says:

    Peggy,

    I have recently begun researching the history of Brooklyn’s Barren Island and I came across your posting “The Hogs that were Hunted…” Your essay is one of the best online sources I have read on Barren Island. I really enjoyed it. I see in your “About” section that you are willing to share your reference list for your work and I am hoping you would share your list for Barren with me. Thank you! Matt Thoren

  11. Hi, I just came across your post about the hog hunt on Barren Island. I’m beginning to research a history master’s thesis on Barren Island and Dead Horse Bay, and I’m hoping you can send me your reference list for that post. Thank you! mmsicherman@gmail.com

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