Cat Paperweight

where can i find out about a Blenko ruby red cat paperweight?

i have a Blenko owl and a cat. i found the owl but can't find any info on the cat could anyone help me?

~William Blenko tried to open a glass factory in Kokomo, Indiana in 1893 but went bankrupt and returned to England in 1903. In 1909, he emigrated to Point Marion, Pa., and he tried again. Once again, his venture went belly-up so he tried a third time, now in Clarksburg, West Virginia. Three times was not charmed and Blenko was blanked again. He hooked up with Louis Tiffany for a spell, made a little money and started to make a name in the business.

When he had saved enough, he decided to make a fourth go of it. His wife, Estelle Hotchkiss, great granddaughter Adam Smith, reminded him of a conversation they had had with P.T. Barnum in 1892 when Blenko was organizing the Kokomo operation. Barnum told them that anyone could be an artist, but to be a success, he (Blenko) needed a gimmick (There's a sucker born every minute, remember?) This go 'round, Blenko took Barnum's advice to heart.

Back in March, 1854, Matthew Perry took the fleet of Black Ships to Keelung and extorted a trade agreement with the Kanagawa Shogunate. To commemorate the agreement (and probably to keep Perry's cannons quiet) Kanagawa presented Perry with a jade crane (the emporer's sacred bird) to take back to President Millard Filmore.

On April 29, 1920, Emporer Hirohito turned 20 years of age, the age at which, under Samuri code, Hirohito could rule on his own without "guidance" of the Shogun regency. As a birthday gift (and a publicity stunt) Blenko made a cat from the Schoenklopf Ruby, which he had obtained on the black market after the Bolsheviks had looted Katherine the Great's Winter Palace in St. Petersburg Russia in 1917. The gift was intended to celebrate the opening of Japan, Matthew Perry, and on a more mercenary note, to establish an oriental market for his new business. The yellow journalists of the day, most notably William Randolph Hearst (Estelle Hotchkiss' mother's cousin) picked up the story and Blenko was on the front pages across the country. He then introduced glass paperweight replicas of the Schoenklopf Ruby cat and marketed a few in Tiffany's stores initially, then in greater quantities through other outlets. The Tiffany cats bear Blenko's signature. The cats sold through Saks Fifth Ave bore Blenko's monogram until the merger between Saks and Gimbel's was completed. The cats sold through Bergdorf Goodman bear Japanese characters representing Blenko's name. All others were unmarked and unsigned.

If you have an original, it could be quite valuable, particularly if it includes any of the signatures. The US market is limited, (and ttraditionally undervalued by Western appraisers and insurance adjusters) but the Tiffany cats are particularly rare and there is a huge demand in Japan for these. I don't think I would use it as a paperweight if I were you. I would keep it in a safe deposit box at the very least. Unfortunately, Hirohito didn't value his too much after December 7, 1941, and it was stored in the Imperial Warehouse (something akin to the Smithstonian warehouse outside Washington) in Nagasaki in August 1945. The ruby was presumably melted to glass under the blast of "Fat Man" on the 9th, as it has never been found after the bomb was dropped. My father's uncle was part of the detail assigned by Gen. Douglas MacArthur, under orders of Harry Truman to look for it during the reconstruction and return it to Washington.

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