By 1905, cat shows, catteries and certain breeds were well enough known to feature in fiction, in this case the tale of Steiff's grinning cat logo.
One cold bleak day in the early 40’s when snow was lying on the ground some 7 or 8 inches deep, a Kitten was discovered among the shavings in the boiler room at our factory. In fact the engineer had the little wee bit of dirty Kitten on his shovel ready to cast into the fire box when he made the discovery. It was too weak to make itself known, nearly frozen and the most forlorn little creature imaginable.
How it came to be in the fire room was never known. The only solution offered was that it had crawled into a hollow piece of wood brought in from the country for steam fuel. In those days coal was scarcely known, at any rate little Kitten was so nearly frozen and starved she could not have given any information even if she had the gift of speech. The engineer, a good natured German, warmed the little thing, and went to his dinner pail and gave it what milk he had.
All the men and boys in the factory came at noon to see the “good luck omen” as the engineer termed it, and agreed that ’twas the sorriest and dirtiest piece of kitten flesh that ever happened. But now that Kitty was warm and fed it didn't make much difference to her what they thought.
Next day the engineer gave Kitty a warm bath and rubbed her thoroughly dry. It was then he saw that Kitty was no common scrub. When nice and clean she was a puffy little roll of fineness, her fur was like silk and he named her “Puffy.” The engineer carried her all over the factory in his pocket and showed her to the boys but they didn’t take much to Kitty. A week or so later when all the hands were in the mill room eating their dinner, “Puffy” slipped in the door and as she came between two piles of lumber, smelt a rat, stopping perfectly still she waited. In a few seconds a rat larger than little “Puffy” came boldly from under the lumber and little puss, without hesitating a moment, jumped on the big rat. The squeaking and struggle brought the boys to see what was going on and it was a good thing they did, for the rat would have put Miss “Puffy” out of business if one of the boys hadn’t put his heel on the rat. As it was Kitty had several wounds, but it made her famous. Nothing was too good for little “Puffy.” Even the superintendent and Mr. Stieff made over little Miss Puss and she became the pet of the factory. All this petting didn’t spoil Miss Puffy, she had a fine disposition and was exceedingly bright. She grew to be a handsome cat and this caused her to meet with several unhappy accidents.
The fame of Puffy had not been confined inside the walls of the Stieff factory but had gone abroad, especially at the other piano factory, and a conspiracy was formed to steal Puffy. A few days later, word passed from man to man that Puffy had disappeared and sorrow mixed with indignation was plainly evident. Employees gathered in little knots and threats and resolutions passed for it was known Puffy had been stolen by an employee of the other factory. A demand was sent the superintendent and employees to produce Puffy, but they denied that she was there.
Our boys then decided to have one of Stieff’s apprentices apply for a position at the other factory, and in the course of a few weeks he had the position. Within two days he learned all about the theft of Puffy. They had to lock her in a room and she refused to eat or make friends with anyone and finally one day she made a rush for the door when it was opened by an employee, bringing her food and she made her escape. A week later our apprentice purposely had an altercation with the superintendent, threw up his job and came back to finish out his apprenticeship. As soon as it was reported to our boys that Puffy has escaped, a reward was offered for her return, notices appearing in all the daily papers.
When Puffy cleared the factory yard, she made a “bee line” for our factory — you can’t lose a cat or dog — when, coming around a corner, a brindle cur spied her and a free fight ensued. Puffy put the cur to flight. About that time a bull terrier put in an appearance and Puffy took to her heels and a race for life begun, but puss spied a hole in a wall across the street and made for it. The dog was too large to get through and Puffy was safe, but now Mr. dog began a death watch. All day long he watched and brought another dog to relieve him. About three o’clock next day a butcher wagon came along and the second dog followed this wagon thinking he might get a bone, forgetting all about Puffy. This was her chance and she was not slow to take advantage of it, and away she flew. She had only gone a few blocks when she met the bull dog returning. She thought her end had surely come, for he made such a lunge for her, she barely escaped by running up a telegraph pole.
Now it happened a lineman was sitting astride a beam on the pole fixing a telegraph wire. Puffy, in her fright, rushed right into his arms before she knew it and scared the lineman so bad he nearly fell off the pole, but he had read the notice in the paper of the reward for the return of Puffy to Stieff’s factory and thought he recognized the description in Puffy, even though she was very dirty, and when he called her Puffy, and she mewed, for this was the first time she had heard her name since she was stolen, he knew he was in for a $50.00 reward. He put her in his large tool bag, fastened it securely to the beam and finished his work. All this time Mr. bull dog was watching the pole and when the lineman came down and started home, he left the dog watching for Puffy.
Next morning he carried Puffy to the factory and received his reward, enough to buy many nice things for his family, which made them very happy. In the factory there was general rejoicing. Puffy was thoroughly washed and dried and she showed her happiness by visiting all the departments of the factory.
It must not be omitted that Puffy was a terror to rats. She did not eat them, but if one showed its face when she was anyways near he was a goner and the rats could never tell where she was. When they discovered Puffy was gone they became very bold.
Things went along all right with Puffy until there was a cat show in Baltimore. When the crates containing the many specimens of cats were being placed, the lineman who had secured the reward for returning Puffy, was employed to run a line to the building for one of the daily papers.
He locked at all the different cats, but not one was nearly as handsome as Puffy, and knowing there was to be given a premium of $100.00 for the finest and handsomest cat, he had a scheme in mind worth working. He would borrow Puffy, without asking anyone’s permission, exhibit her at the cat show, receive the premium and return Puffy to the factory, unless he could sell her for a fancy price, which was probable, yet to do him justice he could not make up his mind to do it, yet he did not think he was doing anything wrong to “borrow” her for the exhibit, and secure the $100.00 which he would use in his home.
At night Puffy was in the habit of following the night watchman over the building and yard once every hour. In warm weather between trips the watchman would sit on the front steps and smoke his pipe and Puffy would coil up and go to sleep. On this particular night Puffy had failed to awake when the watchman went on one of his rounds, until she heard her name called. She stretched herself, thinking it was the watchman, when suddenly she was grabbed and thrust into a sack and before she could recover from the shock and give the alarm, the lineman had her and was running as fast as he could.
Next morning Puffy was in a cage on exhibition with hundreds of other cats, but there might as well have been no others for the crowd of admirers was so dense about Puffy’s cage policemen had to be called in to move the crowd. All this admiration did not spoil Puffy.
At the factory the night watchman was held responsible and trouble was brewing, when one of the office boys came rushing in and stated he had seen Puffy at the cat show. A committee of three of the most trusted employees was appointed to act as detectives to watch in silence and find out who had taken Puffy and await results.
It didn’t take long and soon the lineman was brought to the factory — but one of the detectives was left to watch Puffy — and he confessed his scheme, declared he intended to return Puffy when the cat show closed, and it was finally decided that if the lineman would furnish Puffy with a handsome ivory and gold collar, stating she had received the premium, they would drop the matter. The lineman received the $100 and furnished the collar as agreed. The story got into print and not only did Puffy have the reputation of being the handsomest living cat, but fancy prices were offered for Puffy by cat fanciers all over the country. After this Puffy was so closely watched no stranger could lay hands on her much less carry her off.
It was not long after this until the proudest day in Puffy’s life dawned and that with six little “Puffies.” Talk about excitement, had six nuggets of gold been discovered in the factory yard, each one the size of a little Puffy, it wouldn’t have appeared more valuable. Each workman wanted a little Puffy so Mr. Stieff had to be called in to decide the matter. The men decided to give Mr. Stieff choice of one of the kittens and a second be retained in the factory so this left four to go to the lucky fellows who held the right tickets and after the drawing some of the boys offered a whole month’s salary to the drawer for his kitten.
A demand for these handsome kittens extended beyond the bounds of Maryland and Mr. Stieff often laughingly remarked that “the demand could not be supplied on account of the quality.” We have always had the same trouble, even now, with our greater factories, to supply the demand for our Artistic pianos. With us it has always been quality not quantity. The cat we show you today is the same breed of over 60 years ago. Notice how happy and contented he looks, always smiling. Every person who has purchased a Stieff piano during the past sixty years has never been out of humor but always smiling and happy. The addition of a Stieff piano to the home has made a paradise of it, and people who live in paradise never get out of humor.
Anyone wishing a picture in colors and story of Stieff’s cat can receive same by sending address and 2 cents stamp to C. H. Wilmoth, Charlotte, N. C.