A grey tabby cat named Kiddo made history on October 15, 1910, when he became the first of his species to undertake an airship crossing of the Atlantic Ocean.
During his trip, Kiddo marked aviation history even further. The first-ever radio message emitted from air to shore wasn’t about science, technology, or a similar matter.
It was about a hilarious topic: Kiddo acting out on the vessel, a typical cat move.
How it all began
In 1910, an American publisher and explorer named Walter Wellman put five other people on the airship America, a giant air balloon with a wooden cabin and a boat attached to it.
Together, they tried to fly over the Atlantic Ocean. Even though the mission would fail and not cross the Atlantic, it would still be historic because it would set several firsts and records.
The air balloon crew decided to bring a radio system on the pioneering trip. Additionally, they took Kiddo the puss, who lived in the airship hangar, for good luck.
A superstitious crewman named Murray Simon, in charge of the navigation, said:
” We can never have luck without a cat on board.”
Kiddo the cat is outside his comfort zone
According to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, the tabby was possibly a former stray feline. While the crew was thrilled about this novel adventure, Kiddo, on the other hand, didn’t share this excitement.
The kitty didn’t take to air travel too well. Consequently, he had a meltdown during the first part of the experience. Simon recounted in his log that the cat was running around the cabin “like a caged squirrel.”
Kiddo started meowing loudly, crying for help. The America’s crew members thought the kitty had gone completely mad.
The crew’s radio engineer Melvin Vaniman, who wasn’t particularly fond of cats, got fed up with the kitten’s antics. So he sent through the radio the first ever airship-to-shore radio message stating:
“Roy, come and get this goddam cat!”
Since the tabby kept disturbing the crew, they put it in a sack and tried to send him down to a boat following them below.
However, Kiddo was quickly hauled back to the airship because the conditions didn’t allow the handoff.
Luckily, the moggy became more relaxed as the hours wore on and the ship sailed toward its intended destination. However, the flight didn’t improve.
We are mighty reported that Kiddo and the rest of the crew endured a 71-hour trip beset by storms and engine difficulties.
Finally, after reaching more than 1,300 miles from their launch point, the America issued a distress call.
The crew decided to leave their floating vessel and head for the safety of the lifeboat, with Kiddo in tow. The abandoned airship floated away near Bermuda.
A superstitious mind would think that the feline had the intuition this trip wouldn’t fare well, hence his initial reluctance.
Fortunately, the SS Trent, a passing steamer owned by the Royal Mail, found the castaways.
They all made it back to New York, including Kiddo. Kiddo was treated like a hero and became a fixture at Gimbel’s department store for the rest of his days.
The America airship lifeboat, Kiddo’s escape craft, was donated to the Smithsonian Museum in 2010 and is now on display there.