cool cats of the '40s

George Thompson george.thompson at NYU.EDU
Mon Dec 19 17:58:31 UTC 2005

This is apropos of nothing much, but this message reminded me of an ad
I saw in the mid/late 1960s, or thereabouts.  A full page ad in a mass-
market magazine, a photo of 2 cats, one a solid black and other a
solid white.  The black cat was wearing a wide, wildly colorful
necktie (though a black & white photo), and looking nonchalantly at
the camera.  The white cat was wearing a narrow, drab necktie, and was
looking at the black cat with astonishment and envy.  The caption
was "Whoever thought that white cats would be imitating black cats."
The ad was for Ebony Magazine, and was directed at advertising
executives, inducing them to buy space in Ebony.


George A. Thompson
Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
Univ. Pr., 1998, but nothing much lately.

----- Original Message -----
From: Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
Date: Saturday, December 17, 2005 3:29 am
Subject: cool cats of the '40s

> When did "cool cat" collocate? OED has it from 1955 (NYT, "cool
> Brothers cats"), and I don't see anything earlier in HDAS. The
> Defender has some interesting cites from the '40s. There are a few
> pre-WWII cites from gossip columns, with "cool" apparently used in
> HDAS sense 2a ("urbane; suave; sophisticated, esp. in ways attractive
> to the opposite sex"):
> -----
> Chicago Defender, Apr 5, 1941, p. 8/7, Doc ID 740922572
> Who is that cool looking cat that is taking Lucinda H---- around
> these days.
> -----
> Chicago Defender, May 23, 1942, p. 10/6, Doc ID 746488542
> Perry Givens played a cool cat at the May dance Friday.
> -----
> Chicago Defender, Jun 6, 1942, p. 10/6, Doc ID 741157902
> One of Gary's cool cats, Davage Minor, has just got back from New
> York.-----
> (The 1942 cites are from "Kid Harris' Gossip Column" by Fred Harris,
> Jr., who called everyone "cats" and "chicks".)
> After the war there appeared a band called "Abbey Brown's Cool Cats"
> (also shows up in online sources as "Abbey Brown & His Cool Cats",
> mostly referring to the band's appearance on recordings by Anita
> from the late '40s).
> -----
> Chicago Defender, Mar 2, 1946. p. 16/8, Doc ID 741728092
> [ad for Rainbow Music Shop, "Harlem's Greatest Record Store"]
> Milkin' the Goat -- Abbey Brown's Cool Cats.
> -----
> Chicago Defender, May 18, 1946, p. 9/7, Doc ID 741763112
> [ad for University Studio, "The World's Largest Negro Record Mail
> Order Company"]
> Flamin' Mamie; Serenade To A Jitterbug -- Abbey Brown's Cool Cats.
> -----
> --Ben Zimmer

More information about the Ads-l mailing list