1893: THE MIDNIGHT BAND OF MERCY Vs THE NEW YORK SPCA
Collated 2014, Sarah Hartwell
“Band of Mercy” was the name used by small, independent groups of animal rescuers inspired by George T Angell of the Massachusetts Humane Society. The “Midnight Band of Mercy” in new York made it their mission to trap and destroy vagrant, homeless, starving and diseased cats. They accomplished this using chloroform; the most humane method available at the time. This brought them into conflict with the New York SPCA, known as the Bergh Society, who prosecuted Mrs Sarah J Edwards, of the Midnight Band of Mercy, and won a ruling that she was acting illegally. Mrs Edwards pointed out that the Bergh Society were not fulfilling their duty to suffering cats – neither destroying the starving and crippled strays, nor entering the poorer quarters even if requested.
This first article describes the impact of "singing" cats on the residents of Brooklyn. In those times few cats were castrated, spaying was unknown and consequently most nights would be a cacophony of cats involved in territorial battles or fights over the right to mate with females in heat.
A BIG PROBLEM IN CATS.
DWELLERS IN FIRST WARD, BROOKLYN, ALMOST IN DESPAIR.
CAN’T SLEEP NIGHTS OR LEAD CHRISTIAN LIVES – NOISIEST CATS ON EARTH, AND LOTS OF THEM – HOW TO GET RID OF THEM IS THE QUESTION – A SMALL START MADE.
The New York Times, March 16, 1893
The First Ward of Brooklyn is aroused.
As a matter of fact a large section of the First Ward has been aroused nightly to such an extent during many moons that there is a great deal of feverish excitement among-the residents of the word. Three dead cats have been found on Henry Street, between Orange and Montague Streets, Brooklyn, within the last few days, a fact which has caused great jubilation among the inmates of various boarding houses, and likewise aroused the hot indignation of numerous unmarried landladies in the neighborhood who own tabbies.
It is believed that the deaths of the cats referred to were caused by some person who has a mania for shedding blood, or by a resident of Henry Street who has the ambition to win the reputation of public benefactor by killing cats. As the bodies of the deceased musicians were removed from the street soon after their demise, and as it is not the custom of city authorities to remove dead animals promptly from Brooklyn thoroughfares, it is thought that the murdered cats were pets which have been buried by their owners.
It is hoped by a large number of people living in the First Ward. in the boarding-house district, that the killing of the three cats will cause the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Human Beings to come together and devise some means by which the peace of mind of human beings may be protected on the one hand, and the lives of cats on the other. The cat question is of more concern to denizens or the boarding-house district of the First Ward than tariff reform, the proposed annexation of Hawaii, the rivalry between Ward McAllister and Oliver Sumner Teall for society leadership. Or, in fact, any other matter of great public interest.
A few words concerning the character of the boarding-house district may make apparent the magnitude of the cat question in the First Ward. When the late Henry Word Beecher was pastor of Plymouth Church the First Ward was regarded as the aristocratic section of Brooklyn. The wealthiest citizens of the city lived in the ward; its society circles were the most exclusive in the city. Columbia Heights and Hicks, Henry, Montague, Clark, Pineapple, and Pierrepont Streets were lined with brownstone-front mansions. Within the last few years the character of the Ward has undergone a great change. Rows of once palatial residences on the streets named have been transformed into boarding houses, occupied mainly by clerks, salesmen, lawyers, and others doing business in this city. The big Arbuckle Building, on Columbia Heights; the colossal St, George Hotel, covering a large section of the block between Clark, Hicks, Pineapple, and Henry Streets; three immense flats and a hotel on Montague Street, and the Mansion House, on Hicks Street, shelter several thousand persons, many of whom spend their days in New-York and their nights in Brooklyn. And they all suffer.
It may be that the landlords and landladies have succeeded in seizing a large area of the ward, because thousands of persons doing business in this city are ready to pay well for the privilege of living in sight of New-York, and because they can get over here inside or twenty minutes. And yet there are a few of the old residents of the ward left who will say, as one said to a representative of The New-York Times Turns yesterday:
"The boarding-house people didn’t drive our wealthy people out or the Ward. It was the cats that did the business. If a cat census is ever taken in this ward, it will be found that there are more cats in this ward than in any two wards of the city."
Henry Street, between Orange and Clark Streets, has come to be known as “Cat Lane."
In speaking of the cats which congregate nightly in "Cat Lane," a Henry Street boarder, an inmate of the Wyndham, said to a reporter: “I’ve looked out of my window at 1 o‘clock in the morning and counted as many as a dozen cats on the steps and in front of the First Memorial Methodist Church. I don’t exaggerate when I say that some of those cats were as large us small panthers. And a laughing hyena wouldn’t be in it with them, so far as noise is concerned, when they got to screeching. They shriek like crazy women, and when a fellow hears them for the first time he will surely think he hears human beings. It is impossible to sleep while they are howling and screeching.”
"What do you do in the circumstances you have described?”
The boarder smiled grimly as he answered: “If you will get up some morning before the sexton has had the sidewalk cleaned, you’ll find a varied assortment of broken bottles, coal, fruit cans, and pieces of wood in front or the church. Every boarder that has lived about here more than a month makes it a rule to carry to his room nightly a few empty bottles, chunks of coal, or things that can be used as missiles. A fellow has got to do this by way of self-protection.”
The cat nuisance has grown to such proportions in the boarding-house district of the First Ward of Brooklyn that some of the sufferers have thought it would be advisable to invite the attention of Health Commissioner Griffin to the matter. Others have discussed the propriety of petitioning the Rev. Dr. Samuel L. Beiler to come to their assistance by advising his congregation of the First Memorial Church to get rid of their cats, and, in so doing set a commendable example to their neighbors. Dr. Beiler himself has suffered. He is a studious divine, one of the most scholarly and dignified or Brooklyn clergymen, and it has long been his custom to study late into the night.
But because the doctor is a clergyman he is debarred from opening his window and hurling bottles at the disturbers of his peace. He has had to suffer in silence, but, clergyman though he is, and humane, as he unquestionably is, he has not deemed it his duty to remonstrate with exasperated human beings who do hurl bottles at howling cats. As Dr. Bei1er leaves for Washington soon to assume the duties of Vice Chancellor of the American University, it is not expected that he will join in the movement to abate the cat nuisance.
Mr. Charles Cobb, who resides on Pineapple, near Henry Street, and has lost a great deal of sleep, and occasionally his usual good nature, said when questioned about the cat nuisance: “It seems to me that it would not be a bad idea to require owners of cats to take out licenses the same as owners of dogs do. The cats in this neighborhood are certainly numerous, and I shouldn’t be surprised if, in addition to preventing people from taking their natural rest, they cause a good deal of profanity, which is highly reprehensible. I don’t see how a man can lead a Christian life in this cat-infested neighborhood. The Henry Street cat differs from all other cats that have come under my observation. The Henry Street cat’s range of voice, his calliope-like notes, the capacity of his lungs, and the variety of his repertoire, his power to thrill a man's soul and raise the goose flesh on one’s back, has suggested to my mind the thought that he would better be confined in some barred cake in Prospect Park than allowed to roam the streets at night.”
"What do you do when the oats ere howling?” the reporter asked.
'”Well, I don‘t care to go into details,” said Mr. Cobb with a twinkle in his eyes. "I will say, however, that I do not think that stuffing one’s ears with cotton is any protection, and no quilt that I have ever seen is thick enough to shut out the dreadful sounds I have heard."
Then, reflectively and with a far-away look, he added: “ I have heard some of my neighbors say that an empty bottle applied in the right place is apt to produce e quieting effect on a cat. As for myself, I deprecate violence."
Mr. Caleb Acker, another resident of Pineapple Street, was asked if he could suggest any remedy for the cat nuisance. Looking cautiously over his shoulder, as if to make sure than no agent for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was listening, Mr. Acker remarked, in an undertone: " I have heard that strychnine was a powerful good medicine. Then again, some people will tell you that Flobert rifles are excellent things for howlin’ cats. l never used neither, for I gener'ly poke my head under the quilts when the cats get a-rackettln'. But they’ve get some roof-raisers in the way of cats in this neighbourhood.”
It has been suggested that the cats of the boarding-house distrlct are noisier at night than the general run of cats, because they do not get enough to eat. In speaking of this suggestion, Mr Val Schmitt, a hotel keeper residing in the First Ward said, “If the outs howl because they are hungry I’ll contribute my share of food for the purpose of keeping them quiet. Perhaps it would be a good idea for every boarding-house keeper to put some meat out in the front yard every night, so that their boarders can get the sleep they need. Of course, the cats may not be able to eat the meat that boarders haven’t the teeth to get away with, yet it will certainly keep the cats busy, and possibly quiet. Steaks that may make a boarder howl may affect cats differently.”Mr. Schmitt said further that he had been informed by Mr. Jack Drummond that the First Ward Republican Club would discuss ways and means for the suppression of the cat nuisance at its next monthly meeting. In the meantime the impression is spreading that there is a sort of “Jack the Ripper" abroad in the First Ward in quest of howling cats, and consequently owners of pet cats are keeping them home o' nights. But the tramp cats are as noisy and numerous as ever.
The issue of noisy cats at night was a divisive one. Many owners insisted their cats had a right to roam at night and some took measures to sedte their cats so that they wouldn't yowl or fight. At this point, the "Midnight Band of Mercy" is mentioned. They were and early form of trap-and-destroy control over homeless and starving cats. However their victims tended to be the easiest to catch cats - the friendly pets that were allowed to roam at night.
SHE'S A DEFENDER OF CATS; MISS E. McGARRAH DECLARES THEY HAVE THEIR RIGHTS. She Lives in Brooklyn, Has Cats of Her Own, and Objects to the Midnight Band of Mercy's Plan of Chloroforming the Feline Disturbers of Nocturnal Slumbers -- She "Subdues" Their Exuberant Spirits by a Potion and Employs a Regular Physician for Her Cats.
The New York Times, July 20, 1893
Miss E. McGarrah is a friend of cats. She owns many cats and she loves them as she would love her children, if she had any. She thinks cats have a right to roam at night. She even believes cats have a perfect right to sing at night. Miss McGarrah lives in Brooklyn. As told in THE NEW-YORK TIMES of June 30, an anti-cat crusade is going on over there, led by Mrs T De Witt Talmage, ably assisted by Mrs G G Devide, of Midnight Band of Mercy fame, in this city. The Midnight Band of Mercy plan of campaign is: First catch your cat, then chloroform him or her. Mrs Talmage and her associates say it has actually been possible to get a night's rest on Columbia Heights since this plan was put in operation.
All this Miss E McGarrah says is wrong, cruel, and an outrage on the cats. Miss McGarrah lives at 140 Stockton Street, Brooklyn, and there she keeps a large and interesting cat family. She has valuable Angoras, priceless tortoiseshells, Maltese cats, tiger cats, and plain cats. She is not only versed in the treatment nurture, and culture of cats, but she employs are regular physician to attend her cats. Miss McGarrah hailed with delight an opportunity to raise aloud her voice in defense of cats when a reporter for THE NEW-YORK TIMES called upon her. "I admit," she said, "that the howling, screeching, and yelling of cats during the midnight hours is unpleasant. But that is because people do not know how to prevent their cats from getting excited. Now, under my physician's orders, I give my cats a mixture of syrup of buckthorn. This calms them a great deal, and when turned out for the night their behavior is model as compared with our neighbors' cats. We cannot entirely obliterate the youthful spirits of the cat any more than we can curb the healthful merriment of our young boys and girls. We can, however, subdue them by moderate and proper treatment."
"But why do you not keep your cats locked up in the house during the night?" was asked.
"Well you see, we are afraid that the fleas will get all over the house." was the reply, uttered with great seriousness, "Why, I used to keep my cats in my bedroom at one time, until I found that I could scarcely put on my shoes and stockings in the morning. No, you must give the young ones a chance to roam around at night. I tell you, I have to pay a good-sized doctor's bill to keep my treasures in proper condition. They are always getting into trouble. I have a large number of them, and, like young people who stay out all night, they often appear in sad distress in the morning. Simple sprains and ailments I treat myself, but my physician deals with all the complicated maladies which attack the dear cats."
"Is your physician considered a specialist in the treatment of cats, Miss McGarrah?"
"Yes, indeed. he is Dr Holman, whose liver pads have made him famous the wide world over. But I really think he knows more about cats than livers. He is very clever, and can diagnose the ailments of a cat from toothache - which is very rare - down to fur-losing fevers. I wouldn't be without him on any account."
"Why are you so bitter against the new society formed to chloroform stray cats?"
"Because they murder the poor things indiscriminately. Some of my Angoras are worth $50 apiece, and they are just as likely to be chloroformed as any other cats. You can't limit a cat in his midnight prowlings. It is impossible to guarantee that he or she will stay in your own back yard. They will get upon neighbors' roofs and there is no stopping them, anyhow. Then again, you cannot prevent their howling occasionally, even with the subduing medication. Still, if every one treated cats as I do, there would be very little ground for complaint."
"Your father and sisters live with you, I believe, Miss McGarrah," said the reporter, "Have they no objection to your menagerie of cats?"
"My sisters, no. I am sorry, however, to confide to you that my father hates them nearly as badly as the new society. I live in hopes of converting him, however. He persists at times in throwing boots, tumblers, brushes, crockeryware, and anything he can lay his hands on in the dark at my poor dear pets. That is, if they are not quite subdued enough when they go out. But if that society attempts to murder any one of my cats, or harm a hair of their tails, I'll make the members smart for it."
Miss McGarrah then showed a number of her pets, which were indeed magnificent specimens. Some of them were so big and fierce-looking that to meet a strange bulldog casually at night would be preferable to encountering them. Still they all seemed somewhat subdued and evidently loved their mistress. Their eyes, however, denoted that they would inevitably take chances of getting chloroformed by the Midnight Band of Mercy.
CATS AND OLD MAIDS.
The New York Times, July 23, 1893
It appears that the nocturnal cat has risen in Brooklyn to the proportions of a public nuisance which it has become necessary to abate. The abatement has been undertaken, as readers of THE TIMES are aware, by members of the Midnight Band of Mercy, and they propose to show mercy at midnight to themselves and their neighbors, and incidentally to the cats, by tenderly chloroforming notorious performers into silence.
This to the generality of mankind and womankind seems most well, but it is not to be expected that it should be approved by the cats and the old maids. Why old maids should be found of cats, when the cleanliness of the cat is not more notorious than his cacophony and his moral delinquency, is an enigma which no philosopher has succeeded in solving. But it remains true that there is an alliance between them, offensive and defensive - defensive on the part of the spinsters and offensive on the part of the cats. It was therefore unlikely that a crusade of sleepless and merciful persons against the cats of Brooklyn could be accomplished without some other voice than the voices of the cats being raised in their defense. Their champion has appeared in the person of a lady whom it would be ungallant to call an old maid, though she is certainly called "Miss" and confesses to a fondness for cats. This lady suggests a modus vivendi for the cats, as if they were pelagic seals, whereas most Brooklynites whose slumbers have been broken will insist, with the French Judge that they do not see the necessity, and that what is really needed for cats is a modus moriendi. Of this, in her turn, the lady in question does not see the necessity. She herself owns and maintains a herd, drove, pack, chorus, or whatever the proper term may be for a collection of cats, and she insists that they can be reduced to silence and subjection without recourse to the heroic remedy of felicide.
Her recipe for this purpose is "syrup of buckthorn," which she administers to her own chorus. "This calms them a great deal and when turned out for the night their behaviour is model compared with the neighbour's cats." This is very interesting, and it would be still more interesting to know how the syrup of buckthorn acts. Does it merely relax the vocal chords so that the patient can no longer sing, or does it disincline the cat for feline society? In either case, if the recipe is effective it is worthy of being generally known. But even if it were applied by all owners of cats to their pets, it is obviously impracticable to apply it to the waif and vagous cats, whose home is the back fence and which is ferae naturae [untamed, in a state of nature]. Unless the patrolmen are to carry syrup of buckthorn and to "exhibit" the same to all cats on their beats, the stray cats will continue to sing, and the evil will be unabated. Besides, it will be difficult for the Midnight Band of Mercy to make distinctions. When the reformer - the chloroformer - is abroad she will naturally administer an anodyne more lasting that buckthorn to every cat she can catch; while the cats stupefied with buckthorn will fall her easiest prey. Obviously it will be necessary to appent to each treated cat a certificate that she has been treated, and is warranted not to explode in song; just as they do in Chicago with the sterilized water. This might perhaps be effective, granting the efficacy of the syrup of buckthorn; but it must be owned that it is simpler just to kill the cats.
The activity of the New York "Midnight Band of Mercy" is reported in detail in the following clippings. They insist they are doing the dirty work that the SPCA won't tackle. The SPCA insists that no-one has the right to kill cats, even humanely with chloroform. Yet the SPCA were unable, or unwilling, to get involved in controlling stray cats. Regardless of the outcome of the case, this lack of cat-control was not good publicity for the SPCA.
MRS. EDWARDS MEANS TO FIGHT.; She Will Insist on Her Right to Kill Homeless Cats.
The New York Times, October 7, 1893
When the case of Mrs. Sarah J. Edwards, the member of the "Midnight Band of Mercy" who was arrested Wednesday night for chloroforming a cat, shall come up in the Harlem Police Court this morning, Mrs. Edwards will be found ready to fight for her right to put an end to the existence of homeless felines. All day yesterday she was at work getting witnesses to testify in her behalf, while the members of the "Midnight Band of mercy" were individually and collectively doing their utmost to secure efficient counsel to bring a suit for Mrs Edwards, in which she intends to charge that the Bergh society does not do the work for which it is supposed to exist.
The full story of Mrs Edwards's arrest and her subsequent accusation against the Bergh society was printed in the New-York Times yesterday. Mrs Edwards says the principal reason why she spends her time in painlessly killing cats is that the Bergh society does not do it. This, she says, is the reason for the existence of the "Midnight Band of Mercy," and that as soon as the Bergh association shall do it as ought, the organization to which she belongs will disband.
A reporter for the New-York Times yesterday visited some of the places where Mrs Edwards said numbers of stray and half-wild cats were to be found. At 32 Cornelia Street the conditions were as cited in her interview of Thursday. In the rear of 32 is a courtyard, hemmed in by the walls of four tenements. The only way of communication is through the hallway of 32. The courtyard is about twenty feet square, but there were no less than seven cats, which one of the negro tenants said were ownerless, sitting around the place. One of the tenants said the cats were a perfect nuisance and that it was impossible to get rid of them. How the cats live was illustrated while the reporter was investigating this haunt of unhappy felines. A vendor was weighing a number of fish from a hand cart. Underneath the cart five cats fought for the refuse that was dropped from it.
St Briget's churchyard, at Eleventh Street and Avenue B is a cat-infested place. One hundred and twenty two felines have been taken from it during the past twelve months. But there are still a large number left. The old sexton says he finds it impossible to get rid of the cats, even with the help of a dog. He says he has cut off many cats' legs while mowing the grass in the churchyard.
One of the witnessed who will testify in Mrs Edwards' favor is Mrs Hanhan of 339 East Twelfth Street. She said yesterday, "I will be only too glad to testify in Mrs Edwards's behalf, because i am tired of the way the officers of the Bergh society are neglecting their work. I have sent to them again and again, but they pay no attention to requests concerning suffering animals. Some time ago there was a plague of cats around this neighborhood. Some one fed them rat poison and they crawled around half dead for weeks. I sent again and again to the officers of the Bergh society, and even went to them myself. Yet they paid no attention. The cats died off one by one. They crawled into cellars or wherever they could find refuge. over 150 cats have been taken off this block in the past year. The Bergh society did not dispose of them. Yet they were found here suffering for food. I should like to know if this alone is not good reason why the 'Midnight Band of Mercy' should continue in its labors."
Another lady whom Mrs Edwards will bring forward to testify has a shocking tale to tell of a cat which fell from a fourth-story window on to some spikes of an iron railing and after being taken off was allowed to live four days before death relieved its sufferings, although the Bergh society knew of the existence of the case all the while.
Mrs Edwards says she has sound financial backing. She says their friends are determined that she shall get some justice for her dumb friends, and she says she will never stop until she accomplishes her object.
"It may seem strange to many," she said, "why a woman should want to go about at night hunting cats, but if the people who criticise us could see what we have seen they would not wonder. Hunger is hunger, and starvation is starvation, whether in man or best, and the dumb brutes that appeal for succor at our doors are just as worthy of it as are human beings."
MRS. EDWARDS HAD NO WITNESSES.; Consequently the Cat-Killing Case Was Postponed in the Harlem Court.
The New York Times, October 8, 1893
Mrs. Sarah J. Edwards, the member of the "Midnight Band of Mercy" who was arrested Wednesday night for chloroforming stray cats, appeared before Justice Welde, in the Harlem Police Court, yesterday morning, to show what authority she had for so doing. When the case was called, it was found that Mrs. Edwards had not been able to collect the witnesses who were to testify in her behalf.
The Bergh society, which is prosecuting the case, was represented by Superintendent Hankinson, who charges Mrs Edwards with cruelty, and says she has no right to pursue the course she has.
Regarding the charges Mrs Edwards makes against the society, as to its neglect of numerous urgent cases, Judge Welde says they have nothing to do with the case. The only point to be settled, he says, is as to whether Mrs Edwards has authority for her actions. She asked for a postponement until she could produce her witnesses, and Judge Welde appointed Wednesday, at 2 o'clock, for hearing the case.
HER WORK NOT APPRECIATED; MRS. EDWARDS ARRESTED FOR CHLOROFORMING A CAT. She Is a Member of the " Midnight Band of Mercy," and Says She Was Doing a Merciful Act -- But a Citizen Complained and She Was Locked in a Cell Overnight and Taken to the Police Court Yesterday Morning -- Her Record of Cats Painlessly Killed.
The New York Times, October 6, 1893
Mrs. Sarah J. Edwards of 212 West Thirtysecond Street, a member of the "Midnight Band of Mercy," whose mission is to give to homeless cats painless death, was arrested late Wednesday night and compelled to occupy a cell in the West One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street Police Station until yesterday morning, because a well-meaning but misguided citizen detected her committing an act of mercy to a stray and starving animal. She was compelled yesterday to appear, with a number of drunken outcasts and vagabonds, in the Harlem Police Court.
It was charged that Mrs Edwards had wantonly taken the lives of seven or more cats, and thrown their bodies into the streets, where they would become a menace to public health. That this charge is not true, Mrs Edwards says, will be shown, but she will be compelled to reappear on Saturday to show why she should be allowed to continue her philanthropic work. Justice Welde paroled her in the custody of her counsel.
Mrs Edwards proclaims the whole affair an outrage, and says she will show ample reason why she should continue her work, and she promises, when she can get some statistics, to give some startling facts concerning the amount of neglect and abuse to which brutes are subject in New-York City. Mrs Edwards was seen yesterday by a reporter for the New-York Times at her home where she was found surrounded by cats of all ages and conditions.
"This affair is a perfect outrage," she said, "and when this case shall come up I will show that it is so. here I start out in answer to a request made to me by a respectable resident of the city, and because I chose to stop on the way to perform an act of kindness, I am arrested and locked in prison. It is a shame. Some time ago i was notified that there were fourteen stray cats in the yard of 32 Cornelia Street. Wednesday night I started to get some of them, but succeeded in getting only two, as the others were too wild and would not come near me. I got on the elevated cars and started for the home of Mrs G Smock, 262 West One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Street, to take away a sick cat which was there. I got out at the One Hundred and Thirty-fifth Street Station, and was walking along One Hundred and Thirty-sixth street, when I saw a poor little starving kitten running along near a hedgerow on an open lot near the house where I was going. I stooped down and did what under the circumstances was the most humane thing to do. I chloroformed it and placed it in my basket. Then i was arrested and locked up in prison.
"Now I would like to know which was better - to let that kitten slowly die of starvation or painlessly put it out of its misery? It is certainly remarkable, the attitude the general public takes toward a work which is productive of such good results as the Midnight Band of Mercy is accomplishing. If the public did but know it, there are thousands of cats slowly dying of hunger in New-York City to-day. In fact, hundreds die every night, when with a little systemised work much, if not all, of the suffering could be avoided.
"The Henry Bergh association is supposed to look out for all stray animals in New-York, but that they are neglecting their business is proved by the terrible state of affairs which is at present existing throughout the town. From the churchyard of St Brigid's Church, at Avenue B and Eleventh Street, I have taken in the last year 122 homeless cats. In the yard of 217 West Forty-ninth Street there are seventeen half-wild cats, of which i have as yet been unable to capture one. Running around the vacant lot at 430 Columbus Avenue are twelve or more cats, which are slowly starving to death. Out of the block on Thirty-fifth Street, between Ninth and Tenth Avenues, I have within a short time taken sixty-one cats. There are still twelve cats running wild around the yard of 32 Cornelia Street.
"Monday I chloroformed nineteen cats, Tuesday ten, yesterday eighteen. On the last day of July I chloroformed fifty-three cats. During the last three years I have painlessly put out of the way over 3,000 suffering animals which certainly would have died of starvation had I not done so. Now i am not the only one who is doing this. there are twenty of us who are doing a proportionate amount of work. I should like to know how it is the Bergh association happened to overlook these 'few' animals. They claim to cover everything in the line of prevention of cruelty to animals, but i hardly think they are covering this end of the business. it strikes me their neglect of the matter calls for criticism. They make a fine show with their wagons, and certainly if anybody notifies them of the sufferings of some overfed pet kitten or some cat dying of old age they will attend to it, but when it comes to going into the tenement district and preventing myriads of starving animals from dying, they do not do it. The work is too dirty for them, consequently they leave it to us, and simply because we are women and for the sake of suffering animals choose to depart a little from conventional methods, we are ridiculed and criticised, and 'funny' stories are written about us, until the first person that 'catches' us at our work has us arrested on a charge of inhumanity.
"It is not because of any pleasurable element in it that we pursue the work; it is simply because there is nobody else to take it up. If the Bergh society will promise to go and get the cats, I will give them addresses where at least 1,000 starving cats may be found. We will willingly resign the work. We are sometimes weeks accomplishing our object. We have to go where the cats are and feed them until they get to know us; then we capture them. Will the officers of the Bergh society do this? I think not. They have not the patience. and besides, it is too dirty. There have been times when I have gone down into Hester, Essex, Cherry, and other streets in the slums, and i have found dozens of cats in the gutters. You would think to look at them they were dead, but on touching them they would wriggle -too weak to run away. In the cellars of the tenements I find sometimes dozens of cats in all stages of disease. I find among the poorer classes a disposition to harbor half-fed cats that are compelled for want of food to seek the streets where they eventually die. These are the places to go if you wish to see what miseries cats are forced to undergo, and these are the places where the Bergh officials do not go.
"What this city needs is an organized band of cat exterminators, or better still, a pound, where the animals could be disposed of as dogs are now. And just here I should like to know why dogs should have a pound any more than cats. Mayor Hewitt advocated it and gave some very decided opinions concerning the necessity for it. Since his time the evil has increased, and the necessity his now greater than ever. We have been to Mayor Gilroy and others about it, but they pay no attention to our appeals. But we mean to keep pegging away until we get what we want, and then, when the 'cat pound' becomes a recognized institution, the public will see that perhaps we are not the cranks they once took us to be."
Mrs Edwards says she intends to make a test case of this, and will "push through to the last gasp." She is a little woman of unassuming manners, but of a determined character.
PAINLESS KILLING OF CATS APPROVED (Letters)
The New York Times, October 11, 1893
Permit one word in behalf of the ladies who are at present defending themselves for painlessly destroying the sick, disabled, and starving cats with which the poorer quarters of our city are overflowing. These noble women are not prompted alone by their instinct of compassion, but are called to the work by appeals from the people, in postal cards and letters received in great numbers from this and neighboring cities. It is a work requiring time, patience, and woman's tact, and not legitimate or possible to our Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, to which it forms a valuable auxiliary. For this work they choose the hours of night, not because their deeds are evil, but because only then can the poor, hunted animals - often diseased and blind - be lured from their hiding places. let us hope that these ladies will be found guilty - guilty of responding to appeals from the people, guilty of succoring poor, friendless creatures, and guilty of doing the works of mercy which we are too careless and indifferent to perform! And then let us offer them our acknowledgments and thanks. - JUSTITIA, New-York, Tuesday, Oct 10, 1893
WAR ON SEASHORE CATS.; Mrs. Edwards to Kill Stray Felines in Asbury Park and Ocean Grove.
The New York Times, November 1, 1893
Mrs. Sarah J. Edwards, the member of the Midnight Band of Mercy who was recently arrested in Harlem for chloroforming stray cats, has begun a crusade in behalf of the homeless felines left by visitors at the Summer resorts along the New-Jersey coast. She will start to-day for Asbury Park and Ocean Grove, with another sister of the Midnight Band, Mrs. Devide, to begin the work of extermination. Mrs Edwards made a visit to the seashore last week, and in talking of her trip yesterday, said, in speaking of the condition of the animals in which she is interested:
"If anything, it is worse than in this city. Here an occasional ash barrel affords a starving animal a chance to steal something to eat, but in Asbury Park the number of empty houses makes their chances of getting a living very slim. While I was there i saw dozens of lean, hungry, homeless cats chasing around the open street, so wild that you could not approach them. I heard some actually heart-rending tales of the sufferings of the cats left to starve there every Summer. Down in the colored settlement of Asbury Park, cats were running about by dozens. There were more cats than people.
"The people of Asbury Park told me it would be a godsend if the animals were disposed of. Chief of Police Smith was especially gracious, and promised to lend me all the assistance in his power. he says he has wished for something just of this sort. The agent of the New-Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals as Asbury Park is the Postmaster, and he has no time to look after the starving animals in the Park."
Mrs Edwards, in speaking of her trouble with the Bergh society in this city and the outcome of her arrest in Harlem, said:
"I do not think the officers of the Bergh society are very anxious to have this affair go to the higher courts. They withdrew their plea at the last moment and wanted the case dismissed. We shall push it, and we are going to make a test case. it comes up on Nov 14, and we are getting all the evidence we can. We have enough already to make a good case. I have received several letters from other cities offering assistance in various ways.
CATS' LIVES ARE PROTECTED.
The SPCA Will Prosecute All Persons Who Are Found Killing Them.
The New York Times, November 21, 1893
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is not a matron of nocturnal fence concerts. Not one of its members has ever been accused of opening a window after bedtime to listen with pleasure to these concerts. But personal suffering is one thing, cruelty to animals another. The courts have adjudged Mrs Sarah j Edwards, leader of the Midnight Band of Mercy, guilty of cruel extermination of cats. The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has issued a warning to the public based thereon.
The public should be warned in time. The massacre of cats, either by chloroform, as Mrs Edwards did it, or by bootjacks, pitchforks, old shoes, and blunderbusses, as the ordinary tortured mortal does it, is against the laws of the state. The society will be on the lookout for all such persons. it so announces publicly. Its agents are fearless. Misdirected missiles hurled at caterwauling concert cats have no terrors for them, and violators of the law will be arrested, whether seen from back yards, as the ordinary person is seen, or on the street, as Mrs Edwards was found. Prosecution will be prompt and vigorous.
A PLEA FOR THE CATS.
Or, Rather, for the Band of Mercy Which Chloroforms Homeless Felines.
The New York Times, November 22, 1893
The members of the band of Mercy are very indignant because Mrs Sarah J Edwards was arrested, locked up, and fined for chloroforming homeless cats that she had managed to get hold of. This letter gives the band's side of the matter, exclamation points and all:
To the Editor of the New York Times,
A few days ago the New York Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals descended upon a little band of women whose purposes are confessedly human, arrested one of the number, compelled her to remain all night in the station house and charged her in court with chloroforming a vagrant cat! Being found guilty, she was promptly fined $10, which with the fee of $100 demanded by her forensic figurehead, Mr Hummel, who offered no defense, completely exhausted the band of Mercy Exchequer.
It may naturally be asked, What is this "Band of Mercy"? The parent organization was founded by George t Angell, the honored President of the Massachusetts Humane Society and the foremost humane worker in this or any country. The branch societies number more than 15,000; the membership upward of 900,000. Their pledge is, "I will try to be kind to all living creatures, and to protect them from cruel usage."
Of this small branch, whose work the society has legally enjoined, one is a Christian woman of large means and broad sympathies. Another is a woman who for twenty years has worked untiringly and spent lavishly for the protection of all animals, and whose sympathy is drawn to vagrant simply because they are more despised than other creatures. The original intention was to maintain a refuge, but the numbers proved so great that the only solution was merciful extinction.
Cats are stoned, starved, turned into the streets to freeze. There they become diseased, crippled and often blind with mange. They become too, so wild that it is exceedingly difficult to rescue them until the awful weakness of starvation sets in. A dozen have been found dead or dying in one cellar. In one instance a cat was rescued which was saturated with kerosene and partly burned. Sometimes sticks are driven into the bodies of cats. In fact no one can conceive the tortures of homeless cats but those who have turned aside to investigate and relieve. Multiply such cases as the above, give to each a painless death, and you have the work of these women.
Since the Band of mercy has been enjoined in New-York it has responded to letters from citizens of Asbury Park, NJ, and attended to the merciful extinction of sixty five cats which had been left to starve and freeze under the piazzas of vacant cottages. Numbers remain; and in our own city there are thousands which the cold of Winter will torture and kill. They are not in evidence from the windows of luxurious homes, but at night in the poorer quarters of the city, in the vacant lots and churchyards, the poor creatures may be found by scored vainly seeking food and water. The Band of Mercy has taken upward of fifty in a single night!
Do you ask its equipment? A lined and covered basket, containing a sponge covered with chloroform. Into this the cats (when not too weak to resist) are enticed by various patient devices, and quickly become insensible. Repeated efforts have been made to secure a room where cats might be collected and handed over to the incorporated society to be put to death; but janitors and landlords invariably object. Repeatedly, too, has the incorporated society been importuned to take some steps in this unpopular branch of merciful work, but without fruit.
Boston and Philadelphia care for their homeless cats, and the great City of New-York should surely protect hers from the slow death of starvation, the persecution of street gamins, and, worst of all, from the sickening torture of amateur and professional vivisectionists whose agents are all abroad seeking "healthy specimens."
The remedy we have long sought is a simple one, viz, that the city should extend to homeless cats the same provision which is now made to dogs, (remembering that the former outnumbered the latter many times) with only this difference; that the licensed catchers should be rightly held to humane and conscientious methods, and we believe they should be women. We need advice as to the best means of obtaining this wise and necessary provision, and appeal first to all our merciful citizens, and also to Bands of Mercy and Humane Societies everywhere. Any suggestions addressed to "Band of Mercy," Box 360, 1,397 Broadway, will be gratefully received. - A WARM SYMPATHIZER
MUSTN'T KILL CATS.
Sympathetic Mrs Edwards,. Who Has Slain 3,400 of Them is fined $10 for a Single Offense.
The Illustrated Buffalo Express (reprinted from the New-York Commercial Advertiser)
In the Court of Special Sessions today Mrs. Sarah J. Edwards of No. 212 32d Street was fined $10 for chloroforming a cat in Harlem on the night of October 4th. Mrs. Edwards is a member of the Midnight Band of Mercy, and kills cats when she is satisfied that they are homeless and without
visible means of support
Mr. Abe Hummel appeared tor the defendant and ex-Judge Russell conducted the prosecution for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Policeman Joseph Connelly of the West 25th-street station, who arrested Mrs. Edwards, gave a description of the particular cat that figured in the case. He said It was s full grown white cat with black spots. It was a bad night
"there being a sort of dry rain."
"Was the cat in an emaciated condition?" asked Mr. Hummel.
"I don't know." said the witness.
"Do you know what the word emaciated means?"
"Then what made you say you didn't know?"
"Because I didn't know."
"Was the cat lean or fat?"
"Well, it was a medium-sized est."
These and other attempts of the witness to describe the act almost sent the spectators into spasms, and the court officers had all they could do to preserve order. There were many other witnesses, among them Charles F. Thompson, a conductor on the Elevated Railroad, who said he saw Mrs Edwards dump three dead cats from a basket into the street at 130th Street near 8th
Avenue on the night in question.
Mrs. Edwards, the defendant then took the stand. She is a middle-aged woman tall and shapely, with a pleasant face, and said she was a member of the Band of Mercy and also a member of the organisation known as the King’s Daughters. She admitted chloroforming the cats on the night in question because she had been requested to do so by a Mrs Smock of 262 West 136th Street. Mrs Smock was about to move and desert the cats who would be thrown desolate into the cold world. Witness said that during the last few years she. had killed about 3,400 homeless cats. She said 1.000 cats are born in this city every day. No men are admitted to the Band of Mercy, because men are cruel to cats, and the animals have a natural antipathy to them.
Miss Georgie Grace Divide, the next witness and a member of the organization created a sensation by remarking that she was the father of it. She said that cats lives are ended with chloroform, because death is thus made easy and pleasant. She said she had thus put to sleep some 3.000 cats in her time, and that she had the authority to do so from Henry Bergh. "He bought me my first chloroform” said the witness. Miss Divide was a small woman with clustering sunburn curls and very red cheeks.
After the decision in the case was rendered, the defendant was immediately surrounded by a host of women friends who tendered their sympathy.
FINED FOR KILLING CATS.; Mrs. Edwards Ordered to Pay $10 for Chloroforming Five.
The New York Times, November 16, 1893
As a member of the Band of Mercy it is the mission of Mrs. Sarah Jane Edwards of 212 West Thirty-second street to kill sick and homeless cats and dogs with chloroform. She took the lives of five cats on the evening of Oct. 4, and for doing so was fined $10 in the Court of Special Sessions yesterday. It being held that she acted unlawfully and wilfully in killing them.
Policeman Connelly, who made the complaint against Mrs Edwards, testified that he saw her kill one cat on the evening of Oct. 4, and that he afterward identified the animal. It was a white cat with black spots, and did not look like a vagrant. Mrs Edwards put something over the cat's head and placed it in a basket. Charles F Thompson, a conductor on the elevated railroad, said he saw Mrs Edwards empty four dead cats from her basket on a vacant lot on One Hundred and Twenty-fifth Street, near Eighth Avenue. he followed her to One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Street, and saw her entice other cats. He called Policeman Connelly's attention to the fact, and pointed out the house she had entered. The policeman went into the house and arrested her.
Dr Charles W Shaw and Samuel K Johnson of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals testified that they had made a post-mortem examination on Oct 5 on the white cat spoken of by Policeman Connelly. They found the cat healthy and apparently well fed.
Mrs Edwards said she had been called to the house in West One Hundred and Thirty-sixth Street by Mrs Smock to kill the cats in question. The family was moving and could not take the cats. The Band of Mercy, she said, killed 3,400 cats last year and 2,000 so far this year. There are no men in the society because, she said, cats are afraid of them. Mrs Claudia Graded Devica, founder of the Band of Mercy, said she had personally killed 2,000 cats in the last ten years.
THE CRUSADE ON CATS.
The New York Times, November 17, 1893
It is rather curious that there should at the same time be an organization in New-York for the suppression and in Brooklyn for the encouragement and diffusion of cats. Not long ago a lady of Brooklyn communicated to her fellow-citizens her recipe for the soothing of cats, and declared that felicide was entirely unnecessary to protect the community from the howling of cats at night. She pointed with pride to her own cats, which were nightly drugged with her nepenthe, and turned out, but which merely conversed through the night in low tones, and upon improving topics. She insisted that the extermination of cats was as wanton and superfluous as is, according to his friends, the extermination of the North American Indian.
On the other hand, a lady of New-York has been arrested for cruelty in putting to death a casual cat. The Brooklyn lady will be pained to remark that the New-York lady gloried in her shame, declared that she habitually killed homeless cats, and that she belonged to a "Band of Mercy," whose object it was tenderly and gently to destroy cats that seemed to have no homes and no means of support. To chloroform a stray cat does not, to the male mind, seem atrocious, but nevertheless two male members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals appeared to press the charge. The testified that they had made a post-mortem examination of the chloroformed cat , and that they found it "perfectly healthy." A perfectly healthy dead cat is not the least of the novelties of the case. The upshot of the case is another, for the prisoner was fined $10 for killing the cat, and it is thus held by the Court of Special Sessions that it is a crime to destroy a cat, even from the kindest motives.
The strange discrepancy between the female cat hunters of New-York and the female cat preservers of Brooklyn remains to be accounted for. The "Band of Mercy," according to its own report, killed 3,400 cats last year and 2,000 this, while the Brooklyn philaelourist maintains that it is an outrage to put any cat to death, except possibly, to put it out of its manifest misery, and that the cat has a right to existence and multiplication and the replenishment of the earth. The discrepancy may be explained by reference to the fact that the New-York lady is a matron and the Brooklyn lady is a made. Doubtless this explains it all, since not only is it a Mrs who was the assassin of the Band of Mercy in this instance, but it is a Mrs who is President of the board, and who declares that she has personally killed 2,000 cats in ten years. Common speech recognizes the difference between a woman whose friendship for cats takes the form of painless extinction and a woman whose friendship consists in keeping them alive and letting them out nights. In any case, it is desirable to have a more authoritative decision than that of the Court of Special Sessions upon the question whether the painless killing of a homeless cat from charitable motives is cruelty to animals within the meaning of the Penal Code.
A continuation of the saga of Brooklyn and its cats is in 1894 - The Brooklyn Cat Problem