Centenary of First Ever Air to Ground Radio Message: "Come and Get this Goddam Cat"

2010 marks the centenary of a number of great events, including the first air to ground radio message.

Exactly 100 years ago, a gray tabby named Kiddo became the first cat to cross the Atlantic Ocean by dirigible. Kiddo belonged to one of the crew members of American explorer Walter Wellman's airship America. In 1910 Wellman attempted to cross the ocean, leaving from Atlantic City, New Jersey on 15 October that year. kiddo-vaniman.jpg Kiddo stowed away in one of the lifeboats, and was after his discovery turned out to be as big a pain as only an angry, claustrophobic cat can be, scratching, mewing, and howling and generally bugging the heck out of everybody on board. The America carried radio equipment -- the first aircraft so equipped -- and apparently the historic first, in-flight radio message, to a secretary back on land, read: 'Roy, come and get this goddamn cat'

More information on this momentous event is here.

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  1. “Come and Get this Goddam Cat” certainly deserves to be as well-remembered as “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you,” and is a far better turn of phrase.

    1. If it was a dog he would’ve crapped everywhere and bitten people. Give me a cat anytime.

      Ironic captcha: mewling

  2. Aww yay! I have this man with his kitty as my wallpaper for about a month now.
    Such a brave unsuspecting kitty!

  3. If it’s anything like the telegrams of old, I’d hope “ROY, COME AND GET THIS GODDAMN CAT” was in all caps. Never eschew the all caps when it can be exploited for lulz.

  4. The formal portrait with the fellow in the bowler is wonderful: Kiddo looks so dignified, poised and you just know he knows he’s accomplished something great.

    My cats have done nothing of significance. Shame on them.

  5. Although the America did attempt to cross the Atlantic, the crossing was far from successful, and the first dirigible that made the trip was not until well after WWI. From my book “101 Hours in an Airship”:

    After once again enlarging America, and with the support of the New York Times, the Chicago Record-Herald and London’s Daily Telegraph, and the concomitant spilled ink, Wellman set off on October 15, 1910. The America was fitted out with a radio and the record shows that the very first message sent was “Roy, come and get this goddamn cat,” referring to Kiddo, the America’s mascot.
    Things went well for the first 33 hours, after which, as so often before, the engines failed – Zeppelin more than once had to land ignominiously for just such a reason. Unfortunately, this was not an option for Wellman and his crew, having only water underneath their keel, and after drifting for another 33 hours, and having now covered 1,370 miles, the Royal Mail steamship Trent came into view, was hailed and the luckless aviators ditched themselves into the Atlantic. They were picked up shortly thereafter by the Trent’s crew, while the America, now unfettered by its heavy cargo, sailed off over the horizon and was never seen again.

    The first transatlantic flight was by the British airship R34:

    The R34 was one of two dirigibles the British started building during the war. Planning for these ships had begun in 1916, when the German Super-Zeppelin L 33 (LZ76) crashed during a raid on England. The remains were closely examined, and in­sights gleaned assisted the British in the design of their new airships. The R34 made her first flight on March 14, 1919. In late May, she was taken to her base in East Fortune, Scotland and a month and a half later made a test flight of 34 hours over the Baltic. The real test came, however, came in June, 1919, when she was flown to Mineola, New York (on Long Island). The trip took 108 hours, and the distance covered was about 3300 miles, the return trip took only 75 hours. Two years later, bad weather forced the crew to leave R34 outside for the night. By morning, damage done was too great to repair, and the ship that had completed the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic was ignominiously scrapped.

  6. @Marghy,

    How can the cat be both brave and unsuspecting?

    Time for a Simpsons reference:

    Homer: That Timmy is a real hero!
    Lisa: How do you mean, Dad?
    Homer: Well, he fell down a well, and… he can’t get out.
    Lisa: How does that make him a hero?
    Homer: Well, that’s more than you ever did!

  7. “Two or three times when we thought we were ‘in’ he gave most decided indications that he knew we would be shortly getting it in the neck.”

    (evil cat laughter)

  8. Remember that back in 1910, the state of the art for radio was spark-gap transmitters and morse code. There is no upper/lower case in morse code, so it is generally written in all capital letters.

    Kiddo is lucky he didn’t accidentally board an Italian airship, as I have read about a certain chef who has recipes for broiled cat.

  9. The America tried to make it across the Atlantic, but failed:

    After once again enlarging America, and with the support of the New York Times, the Chicago Record-Herald and London’s Daily Telegraph, and the concomitant spilled ink, Wellman set off on October 15, 1910. The America was fitted out with a radio and the record shows that the very first message sent was “Roy, come and get this goddamn cat,” referring to Kiddo, the America’s mascot.
    Things went well for the first 33 hours, after which, as so often before, the engines failed. Zeppelin more than once had to land ignominiously for just such a reason. Unfortunately, this was not an option for Wellman and his crew, having only water underneath their keel, and after drifting for another 33 hours, and having now covered 1,370 miles, the Royal Mail steamship Trent came into view, was hailed and the luckless aviators ditched themselves into the Atlantic. They were picked up shortly thereafter by the Trent’s crew, while the America, now unfettered by its heavy cargo, sailed off over the horizon and was never seen again.

    The first to make the transatlantic flight was the British airship R34:

    The R34 was one of two dirigibles the British started building during the war. Planning for these ships had begun in 1916, when the German Super-Zeppelin L 33 (LZ76) crashed during a raid on England. The remains were closely examined, and in­sights gleaned assisted the British in the design of their new airships. The R34 made her first flight on March 14, 1919. In late May, she was taken to her base in East Fortune, Scotland and a month and a half later made a test flight of 34 hours over the Baltic. The real test came, however, came in June, 1919, when she was flown to Mineola, New York (on Long Island). The trip took 108 hours, and the distance covered was about 3300 miles, the return trip took only 75 hours. Two years later, bad weather forced the crew to leave R34 outside for the night. By morning, damage done was too great to repair, and the ship that had completed the first East-West crossing of the Atlantic was ignominiously scrapped.

    (Both quotes from my book “101 Hours in an Airship”)

  10. Miles from land, no witnesses… that cat was darn lucky the crew didn’t just decide on the “Cat? We never saw any cat.” solution.

  11. Cool story, but the linked-to article erroneously claims that a 1911 photograph can only be used by permission. The copyright has, of course, expired.

  12. Ah, my hero Kiddo! Thanks for celebrating him, William. I can’t resist mentioning that the linked site, Purr ‘n’ Fur, got Kiddo’s saga from my book “Animals Aloft” (still in print, ahem…), which has a few more fine Kiddo portraits.

  13. All hail our kitty aviator heroes!

    Good thing Kiddo didn’t try to use the dirigible’s gas bags a scratching posts.

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