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Jan. 1, 1911: Wanted oats, he got cats

Posted by: Ben Welter under Minnesota History, Disasters Updated: December 31, 2010 - 11:06 PM
Could this story, which appeared in the Minneapolis Morning Tribune, have been the inspiration for Wanda Gag’s beloved “Millions of Cats,” published 17 years later?

Wanted Oats, He Got Cats

Error of Grain Merchant’s Typewriter Brings Swarms of 5,000 Felines
 
Neligh, Neb., Jan. 1. – (Special.) – The substitution of a lower case letter “c” for the letter “o” in an advertisement in the Sioux City, Omaha and local newspapers has caused John C. Trothers, a grain merchant here, all kinds of trouble.
 
 
  Wanda Gag with one of the cats -- not oats -- she used as a model for her book "Millions of Cats." (Photo courtesy mnhs.org)
Trothers, wishing to replenish his supply of oats, concluded to advertise. Writing his advertisement on a typewriter, he manifolded it and sent copies to the newspaper as follows:
 
“Wanted – Delivered on track at Neligh, 10,000 bushels of cats. Will pay highest market price.”
 
Not noticing the error, he awaited results, which came sooner than he expected. Within a week cats of all kinds and descriptions commenced to arrive, consigned to Trothers. Some were sent prepaid and others collect. They came from the East, the West, the North and the South. The agent of the Northwestern road became alarmed. He was being swamped by cats and wired the superintendent for instructions. That official, not knowing what else to do, wired back:
 
“Release all casts not accepted.”
 
Still cats continued to arrive, and still Trothers refused to accept the felines, but his troubles did not end there. Boys about town had learned that he was in the market for cats. They commenced to catch the strays and take them to his place of business. Some days last week he refused as many as 500 cats brought in by boys and three and four times as many coming in by rail.
 
It is estimated that fully 5,000 cats have been shipped into Neligh and the end is not yet. They are becoming a nuisance and the city council is about to take action and order a slaughter of the animals.
 

Harvesting oats -- not cats -- in Beltrami County, Minn., in about 1910. (Image courtesy mnhs.org)

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