To be fair, it doesn't predate Aloysius "Gorilla" Koford's classic 1912-1913 comic strip. But this image, from the March 1929 issue of Parents' magazine,
could be the first captioned photograph version of the LOLcat. Unearthed by> digital archivist Jason Scott, The photo was advertised as the perfect decoration for a child's nursery. Although, in that context, I personally find it a little nightmare inducing. I can haz yer soul for to nom?
UPDATE: Digital archivist Jason Scott says, "I didn't unearth it - a helpful person off Flickr had hundreds of scans of magazines from the 1920s and this was one of the scans. It's from a 1929 issue of Parents' Magazine. It has well been established that Harry Whittier Frees predates this by at least 20 years. I would call this an "Early" LOLcat but hardly the first."
See the full vintage ad over on the Mental_Floss blog
Maggie Koerth-Baker is the science editor at BoingBoing.net. She writes a monthly column for The New York Times Magazine and is the author of Before the Lights Go Out, a book about electricity, infrastructure, and the future of energy. You can find Maggie on Twitter and Facebook.