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The History of Le Chat Noir -- As Told by Merchandise

Though "The Black Cat" French cabaret is long gone, the stylized feline image lives on.

 |  Jan 23rd 2013  |   2 Contributions


You've seen his fierce feline features many times, including on the classic poster and on mugs and tote bags. Even sourpuss Henri pays tribute to one of the first fine-art felines (though Henri himself would never admit it).

This image has been around so long it's in the United States public domain -- which means it's everywhere.

We're talking about Le Chat Noir -- French for "the black cat." A web search shows Le Chat Noir was a 19th century cabaret in Paris. Opening in November 1881 (even back then people understood the appeal of cats), Le Chat Noir might have been the first modern cabaret, inviting folks to watch live entertainment hosted by a gregarious master of ceremonies as they sipped beverages. Le Chat Noir was known as a scene of artists, musicians, and other subculture populations.

The cabaret closed long before any of us were born, but its iconic poster by Théophile-Alexandre Steinlen remains, and here are just some of the coolest, most useful, and strangest items you can find adorned with the image of the stoic black cat.

For the sophisticated cat lady.

A tote bag is a totally reasonable incarnation of Le Chat Noir -- especially in San Francisco, where shopping bags cost you extra. It makes you look extra cool to whip this one out to carry off your organic, locally grown produce. Want this bag for your own? You can find it on Amazon.

Considering that Le Chat Noir was the first venue of its kind to serve drinks to patrons while they were being entertained, coasters seem like a fitting vessel for this kitty -- after all, no one wants red wine rings on the coffee table! Get these also on Amazon.

Nice and organized -- and artistic!
And because Le Chat Noir boasted one part artist salon, of course an inspired caddy would be a great gift for the artist in your life (and a gentle hint to help organize her materials). It can be purchased on Amazon, as well.  

Now, there's nothing inherently strange about a Le Chat Noir clock, nor is there anything outlandish about a holiday-themed Parisian feline. However, combine the two, and you've got a timepiece that's most appropriate at a certain time of year! However, we certainly won't judge if you must have one

Only correct about once a year.

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