The year 1902 was just underway. Locked in winter’s icy grip, the nation was still mourning the death of President William McKinley, assassinated just three months earlier. That a man who could have heroically survived the carnage of Antietam as a mere boy soldier would be cut down by a single lunatic’s bullet boggled the nation’s collective mind.
The Klondike Gold Rush was ending, and a nervous country turned its focus eastward to Washington for signs of how economic prosperity would be maintained. A young and untested Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House, tasked with taming the financiers that had twice wrecked the American economy in the recent past (and would soon do so again). The nation watched and prayed that he would be up to the challenges he faced.
What they found was a man up against seemingly insurmountable enemies. Congress, long wedded to the financiers and corporations, resisted change in the face of the need to reform. And making matters worse, if that were possible, the White House itself was in a shambles, badly in need of restoration and plagued with rats, or so the press reported.
Where would salvation come from? Just when it seemed despair would engulf the nation, from the small city of Beverly, Mass., like the Rough Riders of old, came the saviors of the day: The Six Massachusetts Cats Who Saved the White House (and quite possibly the world).
It was the former mayor’s idea. Perry Collier heard of the rat trouble and reached out to his friends. He was presented with 100 potential recruits to lead the charge and from this group he selected the six ablest fighters. Renamed for past mayors of the city, John I., Freeborn, Captain, Perry, Bennie and Sammie were dispatched to Washington to rid the White House of rats.
“Massachusetts cats are unequalled as rodent hunters,” he informed the president, “and, provided they are not overfed, will clean the rats out of the White House in short order.”
Others suggested (laughingly) the use of dogs to combat the scourge. But the White House simply downplayed the urgency of the need until the Massachusetts cats, nicknamed the “ridders” arrived.
Little of their brave exploits were recorded, but they without doubt completed their mission with no difficulty. The new president was free to take on Congress.
– This has been a History Cat News Network Update.