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Thomas County Cat
The premier issue of the Thomas County Cat was published in Colby, Kansas, on March 12, 1885. It was the first newspaper in Thomas County, which was not officially organized until October 8, 1885. Although the number of pages in each issue fluctuated between four and ten, the Cat maintained a six-column folio format, weekly publication on Thursdays, and a Republican affiliation. The Cat proclaimed it was “celebrated for its originality” and acknowledged itself as the “Official County and City Paper.” In 1885, Thomas County had only 981 inhabitants, two-thirds of which were single and male. From a rather inauspicious beginning of fourteen subscribers during its first month, circulation swelled to 960 five years later in 1890, exceeding the population of Colby by at least one hundred and equaling one issue for every six residents of the county.
A motto appeared on the first issue only: “It purrs for Thomas County.” General interest and adoration towards the newspaper’s chosen mascot led it to be referred to as simply “the Cat”. In the first address to subscribers, publishers D.M. Dunn and Eugene P. Worcester wrote: “The Cat will purr for Thomas county, and what we deem the best interests of all her people…The Cat has velvet paws, but will not allow the fur to be stroked the wrong way. To all concerned it would be well to remember that a Cat has nine lives, and farther [sic] that a Cat is greatly attached to a place where located.” The Cat was printed in a 12’ x 14’ sod structure, which was also used as a boardinghouse. The newspaper readership expanded when “the editor agreed to take anything but native fuel as payment for subscriptions.” Later, the Cat moved to the first frame building in Colby, located at 452 N. Franklin Street.
The Thomas County Cat experienced frequent administrative changes in the mid-1880s. During its short six-year tenure, the paper had at least nine known editors and publishers. In November 1890, the Cat absorbed the Brewster Gazette, also published in Thomas County. A few months later in February 1891, the Cat was absorbed by the Colby Tribune, which continued until 1925.
Provided by: Kansas State Historical Society; Topeka, KS