When Thomas Edison forced the cats to box

These delightful boxing felines were equipped with miniature boxing gloves and set to brawling by none other than legendary douchebag Thomas Edison, as a means of promoting his newfangled moving picture device in 1894.

Thomas Edison - 1894 Boxing cats (Thanks, Isaak!)


  1. From what I understand, Thomas Edison stole the idea of cat boxing from Nikola Tesla.

    1. Well, Tesla’s Alternating Cats were eventually found to be far superior for boxing over long distances.

  2. Tesla wasn’t god and Edison wasn’t the devil. http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexknapp/2012/05/18/nikola-tesla-wasnt-god-and-thomas-edison-wasnt-the-devil/

      1. Mmmyep. Edison was well-known for being a patent thief who only paid out when he was blatantly caught doing it. Furthermore, though his “improvement” of the lightbulb was just that, he did run an ad campaign claiming it was his original invention and filed patents that were the equivalent of Joseph Swan’s. He didn’t give Joesph Swan credit or rights until Swan threatened to level suit. Even before you consider his electrocution of animals and the whole x-ray debacle, he wasn’t that great a guy.

        Tesla might not have been a god, and Edison might not have been the devil. However, The Oatmeal did get one thing right: No matter how you cut it, Edison was a giant douche.

    1. thanks for posting this. the oatmeal, and maybe Cory too, should find some temperance, if not the courage to apologize for, well, being douchebags in this matter.

    2. That offers some worthwhile balance to claims of Tesla’s omnicompetence. However, suggesting Edison might really have believed AC was deadly doesn’t really make it less cruel to kill an elephant and other animals to show that off, does it?

      Perhaps not a devil, but douchebag doesn’t seem so much of a stretch.

  3. The War of the Currents was no laughing matter. Here’s a brief summary I wrote a while back:

    “The late 1880s was the era of the “Battle of the Currents”, an increasingly bitter and occasionally macabre feud between Thomas Edison and George Westinghouse. Edison had established direct current (DC) as the gold standard for electrical distribution in America, when Westinghouse began to promote new European technologies centred around alternating current (AC). The currents provoked fierce emotions in their adherents; several former employees of Edison, including the shamanic Nikolai Tesla, defected to the Westinghouse camp.”

    “The War of the Currents quickly got dirty, if not downright diabolical. Edison organised an elaborate smear campaign designed to demonise alternating current. He had his assistants Arthur Kennelly and Harold P. Brown oversee an AC-driven animal killing spree: stray dogs, cats, and even unwanted horses and cattle were publically executed. Edison attempted to popularize being “Westinghoused” as a synonym for electrocution, and secretly insured that alternating current powered the first electric chair in New York. The spectacle reached its nadir on January 4, 1903, when an estimated 1,500 people gathered on Coney Island to witness the execution of Topsy the rogue fairground elephant. (When Luna Park went up in flames in 1944, superstitious denizens of the boardwalk called it “Topsy’s Revenge.”)”

    1.  Again, you’re thinking of Tesla. Sliced bread? Tesla. The transistor? Tesla. LOLcats? Tesla. Look at how much more I know about invention history than anyone else.

  4. The winning feature of alternating current was that it could be transmitted long distances with much less loss than direct current. But now we are approaching an era of generating electricity on every rooftop almost without cost via solar panels, so the transmission distance is negligible. Combine that with the fact that modern electronics run on continually decreasing amounts of direct current, and the future becomes clear: DC is the tortoise to AC’s hare.

    1. Oh yes, solar panels will power our two ton cars, melt our steel and aluminum, process out water, and so on. No need for power transmission at all  

      1. Who said there was no need for power transmission? My point is that tons of applications that at the moment are AC based are moving to DC. My house is full of AC-to-DC converters. And, by the way: cars are easily powered by solar panels via batteries, few steel plants melt their ore electrically, vast amounts of electricity are used for lighting which is perfectly suited for DC in the era of LED’s, water pumps were among the first applications for solar electricity, etc. And as Mr. Birch points out, HVDC can be used for short to mid-range transmission.  But let’s not let the facts short-circuit your snarkarhoids.

      2. Parabolic mirrors, like the ancient Egytian Thoth school used. Creating the ‘inert environment’ is another story…

          1. Exactly so. That throwback limbic brain makes it difficult for consumers to make a rational decision to downsize.

    2. As long as we approach an era of not building anything in factories, we’ll be OK.

  5. I got so mad when I read that Oatmeal comic, I smashed all the lightbulbs in my house… and sent General Electric the bill!

  6. You know considering how my cats like to ‘play’ with each other at times this gives me an idea on how to make it even more amusing.

  7. But we don’t measure anything in Edisons.  We do have Teslas, however, and that is what will stand the test of time, as incandescent bulbs, moving pictures, phonographs and telephonic technologies all fall by the wayside.

  8. Not to mention, the House of Morgan paid for the filmography. As well provide for Tesla in his early American years. 

    Perhaps what the ‘boxing cats’ demonstrate are applications , bio-electric manipulative motion, for greater use from the theatre of cat boxing’s. 

    DC makes the muscles contract, a lot of old school, from way back,  plumbers died on the job grasping lead pipes that where grounded to DC outlets. Holding a live DC feed, the person can not let go of their grip, it gets stronger. The amount of ions flowing from the ground connection increases their hold on positive lead. AC current will allow the person to loose the grip of the positive feed. In either case, the amperage is key maintaining mortality or locomotion.

  9. “Henry Welton presents two of the trained cats that appear in his vaudeville performances.”   Edison didn’t put the cats to fighting – his studio just filmed a vaudeville show.  This is what passed for entertainment in those days.  In this particular case it probably was chosen because it could be filmed using the primitive equipment available (they were very limited on available space and had a special studio for the sun).

    Edison did invent the phonograph without copying anything which is an utterly amazing device.  And while he may have stepped on patents this was a very different world.  Its not surprising that one of the toughest bastards is the one who came out on top.   The world is still like that actually.  

  10. Hey moderator! What happened to my comment and the replies? I wrote “Romney 2012!” because a supporter of cat boxing would probably vote Romney…geddit? jeez

  11. Wait a minute. I thought it was impossible to ‘force’ cats to do *anything*? Anyone who could force them to box had something going for them…

  12. Sure, when Michael Vick makes dogs fight, everybody wants to lynch him.  But if Edison makes cats box each other, it’s cute or funny.  What an unjust world!

    1. Not everyone, I’m in the screw Edison camp. It’s funny that we use a word derived from “human,”  “humane” to mean “treat with kindness.” 

  13. Edison invented things and didn’t even taken the credit for it. For exemple he invented film piracy at industrial level when the talented George Melies shows his “Voyage dans la lune” in 1902, way ahead of its time. Edison was so jealous he printed pirate copies and distributed throughout USA, bankrupting Melies.

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