A pile of 5000 cats and kittens

Today’s letter can be found in the book, Letters of Note: Cats, copies of which can be bought here and sent pretty much anywhere.


Frederick Law Olmsted was born on this day in 1822. He is considered by many in his profession to be the ‘Father of American Landscape Architecture’—a title that seems, even to the least qualified of observers, to be fully justified, for Olmsted had at least a hand in designing some of the most famous urban parks in the US, including, most notably, New York’s Central Park. Other commissions consisted of major parkways, reservations, college campuses and government buildings too numerous to list. To his four-year-old son in May of 1875, however, these achievements meant nothing: Henry was miles away from home with his mother and just wanted to see the family dog, Quiz, so he wrote to his father and asked for Quiz to be sent to him. This was his father’s inventive reply.


13th May, 1875

Dear Henry:

The cats keep coming into the yard, six of them every day, and Quiz drives them out. If I should send Quiz to you to drive the cows away from your rhubarb he would not be here to drive the cats out of the yard. If six cats should keeping coming into the yard every day and not go out, in a week there would be 42 of them and in a month 180 and before you came back next November 1260. Then if there should be 1260 cats in the yard before next November half of them at least would have kittens and if half of them should have 6 kittens apiece, there would be more than 5000 cats and kittens in the yard. There would not be any place for Rosanna to spread the clothes unless she drove them all off the grass plot, and if she did they would have to crowd at the end of the yard nearest the house, and if they did that they would make a great pile as high as the top of my windows. A pile of 5000 cats and kittens, some of them black ones, in front of my window would make my office so dark I should not be able to write in it. Besides that those underneath, particularly the kittens, would be hurt by those standing on top of them and I expect they would make such a great squalling all the time that I should not be able to sleep, and if I was not able to sleep, I should not be able to work, and if I did not work I should not have any money, and if I had not any money, I could not send any to Plymouth to pay your fare back on the Fall River boat, and I could not pay my fare to go to Plymouth and so you and I would not ever see each other any more. No, Sir. I can’t spare Quiz and you will have to watch for the cows and drive them off yourself or you will raise no rhubarb.

Your affectionate father