Regular readers of JI may remember a post that I wrote a few years ago about Joseph F. Smith’s beheading of a cat.
It was a fun post to write and remains one of my favorite posts that I wrote during my time at JI. I recently discovered, however, that Joseph F.’s hatred of cats may have been a family trait.
I am currently researching the life and thought of Ina Coolbrith, who was a first cousin of Joseph F. Smith and California’s first poet laureate. She hid her connection to the Mormon community as an adult but was a frequent correspondent with the Smith family. One newspaper even suggested that Joseph F. Smith may have proposed marriage to her.
According to her biographer Aleta George, Ina was a lover of Angora cats. Love was not on Ina’s mind, however, when she wrote a letter to the Mayor of San Francisco and the city’s Board of Health in 1913.
According to the July 16th issue of the San Francisco Call, Ina was annoyed with the noise of the cats of her neighbor, the famous actress May Robson. Nightly, the cats would scream “Not n-e-e-a-o-w, not n-e-e-a-o-w.” The noise “seared…. Miss Coolbrith’s artistic soul.” In response, she “jabbed her quill into ink and penned a protest.” A sanitary inspector came to her house and investigated the situation. He found that Robson fed her cats in the yard but was no serious public health violation. As a result, Coolbrith was “doomed to listen to feline fantasies the rest of her days, or rather nights.”
The story isn’t quite as dramatic as Joseph F. Smith’s, but it does raise the question: What is the deal with the Smith family and cats?