Lindbergh’s Cat

In mid-1927 the entire world, and certainly St. Louis, celebrated Charles “Lucky” Lindbergh for his daring flight across the Atlantic.  The flight won him not only fame but also fortune—the $25,000 Orteig prize which had gone unclaimed since it was first offered in 1919.  But had it not been for a Spanish Air Mail stamp issued in 1930, we might never have known of Lindbergh’s cat, Patsy.

The 1 Peseta air mail stamp commemorating Lindbergh’s flight was issued October 10, 1930 in Seville, Spain; one of a series of eight for the Spanish-American Exhibition, or World’s Fair, held that year.  It features a vignette of Lindbergh, the Statue of Liberty, the Spirit of St. Louis, and Patsy’s silhouette–what is thought to be the first domestic cat featured on postage– looking on at the departing plane.

Spain #C56, perf 14

Numerous articles assert that Patsy was a frequent passenger on Lindbergh’s flights and could often be found curled up in his plane’s tail in the hangar.  When asked why Patsy did not join him for the famed trans-Atlantic flight, however, Lindbergh stated, “It’s too dangerous a journey to risk the cat’s life.”  Instead he opted to take a “Felix The Cat” doll (from the 1919 Feline Follies cartoon) as his mascot.

The air mail stamp itself was created using two plates; one for the vignette of Lindbergh, with the second plate containing the remainder of the design.  This resulted in the printing of many unauthorized versions, including these examples:

Left to right:  Lindbergh vignette missing, double-print with upside down vignette, upside down vignette.

It was 22 years later before the next cat appeared on a postage stamp.  In fact, cats did not become common on stamps until the 1960s, although the American Topical Association now lists 2,968 cat stamps in 37 categories (mostly based on breed).

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