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12

The Civil Service Cat

In 1911, the New York City Tenement House Department (now the NYC Housing Authority) was busy enforcing regulations to improve the slums that housed several million people. The office also had a cat.

The THD office cat was just “a plain yellow cat” that had somehow managed to get on the city payroll even though he did not take the required civil service exam. For the cat’s services as office mouser, he was rewarded with five cents’ worth of meat and five cents’ worth of milk every day.

When the cat’s total expenses had reached $2.30, Commissioner Murphy submitted a bill to City Comptroller William Ambrose Prendergast. The bill, which covered a period from April 5 to April 31, was delivered to the comptroller by James McKeon, a messenger.

The comptroller responded with a letter questioning the legitimacy of the expenditures, which made the papers and amused New Yorkers of the day. Was a the cat indigent, or was he an employee? One newspaper pointed out the lack of competitive bidding for the cat's services. Read the story of the Tenement House Department and their cat at The Hatching Cat. -via Strange Company


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