The internet phenomenon of lolcats was around long before the world wide web it seems, with even the venerable Victorians letting out a wry chortle at funny felines, as these pictures show.
A picture by Harry Whittier Frees, an American photographer
Lolcats, for those uninitiated in webspeak, is the name given to funny ('lol' or laugh out loud) cat pictures accompanied with an amusing caption imagining what the cat would say, could it speak.
The term is believed to have originated in 2006, according to Lev Grossman of Time Magazine, who first covered the phenomenon a year later, naming icanhascheezburger.com "the definitive lolcats archive"
The modern lolcat
However it seems the concept of lolcats originated much earlier. These photographs were taken by American photographer Harry Whittier Frees, who had to wait patiently with his subject to catch the cat in just the right position.
I can make cheeseburger?
Frees also photographed rabbits and puppies too, but later said cats had the most appeal.
"Rabbits are the easiest to photograph in costume, but incapable of taking many 'human' parts.
"Puppies are tractable when rightly understood, but the kitten is the most versatile animal actor, and possesses the greatest variety of appeal," said Frees in his book Animal Land on the Air.
Put on postcards, calendars and later in children's books, these photos were made for sharing, just like lolcats are today.
Cats playing on a see-saw, in dresses
Even earlier than Whittier Frees, British photographer Harry Pointer took dozens of pictures of cats doing very human activies, as early as 1870. The hundreds of pictures of the felines are collectively known as the “Brighton Cats.”
Grainy and faded, all these photographs are highly collectible (and hugely expensive) today, but it is possible to buy a book of reprints. Frees himself committed suicide in 1953 after being diagnosed with cancer and was buried in a pauper's grave at Clearwater cemetry.
Take a look through the 19th century lolcatz below.