Dec 11
Monday
Radio Stratosphere
THE “CAT IN THE STRAT” MYSTERY

Over the years radio collectors have wondered if the cat that appears in the 1930’s advertisements for the Zenith Stratosphere was sold with the radio or created specially for Zenith for the Stratosphere ads.

The infamous "CAT IN THE STRAT" is always a fun topic to discuss in the world of Zenith collecting.

  

These cats were part of a phenomenon due in part to the Great Depression. The cat was a Chalkware figurine, which was a low cost form of art produced from the early 1900's through the 1940's. Because it was cheap to produce, Chalkware boomed during the Depression era.

The cat figurines were primarily used as prizes at the traveling carnivals, and most likely at the 1933-1934 Chicago World's Fair.

The irony is that the Zenith Stratosphere was one of the most expensive and elaborate radios made in 1935 and the Chalkware cat, used as a photography prop in a print advertising campaign, was about the cheapest piece of art you could find in 1935.

  

I find all of this funny because I've been in the advertising agency business for over 28 years and in that time I've stuck all kinds of stuff into photo shots to solve an artistic problem on the fly. Many times I've gone into a photography studio with layout for the client's product and brought props to use in a product shot. There are times I don't like the setup for a shot that the art director sketched out and I look for miscellaneous items in the photography studio that can be used as an additional or substitute prop. I envision that this is what happened with Zenith's famous cat.