The Cat Who Lived in the Museum

You are here –> 1960s-1970s

It was a distinctly different time at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate, historic house museum…

One highlight of visiting Ashland in the 1960s and ’70s was Gypsy the cat. She came to Ashland in 1962 and lived for fourteen years in the mansion.  She became quite well-known and “people…are disappointed if Gypsy does not meet them at the door…,” Director Lorraine Seay told the Louisville Courier-Journal in 1973.

Mrs. Seay considered Gypsy a person and a relative (“She must be related to Henry Clay, because he was such a charmer”) and dubbed her “Assistant Curator.”  Gypsy had her own special chair by Mrs. Seay’s desk and she would take Gypsy home with her every night.

Gypsy followed tours through the house and would “tug at the draperies” for attention, distracting visitors: “I’d lose them,” Mrs. Seay said of her tour groups, “they would want to know about the cat.”

Gypsy’s picture postcard was the largest selling after tours.  But this living novelty— as Mrs. Seay called her, “‘Henry Clay’s cat ‘in her ninth life’”—was good for attendance.  Mrs. Seay told Southern Living in 1968 that Gypsy served as surprise entertainment for “people who may have thought they were just going to tour the 157-year-old home of the distinguished Kentucky statesman.”

Gypsy died in 1976 and her sad fans raised money for a small tombstone, erected where the popular cat was buried under the larch tree on the front lawn, as if she had been a member of the Clay family.

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