Saturday, August 4, 2018

On This Date in Minnesota History: August 4

August 4, 1906 – A poor, hungry looking vagrant cat, which had been living in Minnesota’s $5,000,000 state capitol since before it was completed, caused excitement today which was not subdued until the cat was shot.

The cat had made its way into the building while operations were in progress. It was petted by the artisans, and when the structure was completed, it remained in the marble palace.

Minnesota State Capitol during construction 19041

She never went to the main floors of the building, but devoted her time to rummaging around the sub-basements.

For months the employees attempted to chase the cat out of the building, although it did little harm. Each attempt to eject the feline resulted in failure. The cat would always escape in the recesses of the foundation of the building. Otto Sommers, the superintendent of the building, decided last week that the cat must be removed if he had to organize a posse to get the job done.

Saturday afternoon, while the state officers were absent, Supt. Sommers called together the dozen janitors and announced that the cat must leave or forfeit her life.

The janitors looked at each other in dismay. Had they not tried for almost two years to get the cat out of the building and failed? What was the use? Sommers, however, asserted his authority and announced that if that cat was not driven out this afternoon, some of the employees of the scrubbing force in the building would lose their jobs.

Thus admonished, the whole force armed with mops, brooms and other utensils went into the basement.

Sommers stood at the top of the stairs and after a short time heard the shouts of the army below. Finally one of the most daring made a swat at the cat, which only gave the feline renewed courage. Instead of driving her out into the open, it resulted in her taking refuge on a ledge of one of the pillars that sustain the rotunda.


After almost an hour of coaxing, driving and swearing, Sommers decided to shoot the cat. He went to the janitor’s room and secured a Winchester rifle. With this armament he marched to the cat’s location. Telling the janitors, who by this time had been reinforced by all the charwomen in the building, to stand back, Sommers stood about 20 feet away, and while the cat was not looking, pulled the trigger. The shot hit the target and the cat fell, mortally wounded.

It was picked up gingerly by one of the crew and carried to an ash heap in a barrel. That the cat was dead there was no doubt in the mind of Sommers, but when the janitor returned after performing the funeral services, he told Sommers that the cat still showed signs of life when he dumped her out, but that he had killed her with a brick.

The Minneapolis Tribune; “Superintendent Kills A Cat In State Capitol. Otto Sommers, Flanked by a Dozen Janitors and Charewomen (sic), Shoots Feline From Ledge of One of Rotunda Pillars—Bullet Takes Away Its Nine Lives.”; Aug. 5, 1906; p. 7.



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