Believe it or not but it turns out the very first cat memes were created over 100 years ago, thanks to a photographer named Harry Whittier Frees. Harry Whittier Frees dressed up cats and posed them with props, just the way one would photograph a human. He basically did what people do today before it was cool.
Frees was born in 1879, Reading, Pennsylvania. In an interview with LIFE magazine, it was told he took his first "lolcat" photo completely by accident! The year was 1906 when his family gathered for dinner and brought a paper hat. They passed around the hat from head to head until it was placed on the head of Frees' cat. At that moment he took a photo of a cat with a hat. The source mentions how admired the shot was so he began to take more photos of cats in outfits and props.
These photographs were taken in the early 1900s with a camera speed of 1/5th a second. As as we all know, cats (especially kittens) move constantly. Especially when you're trying to take a picture of them! So you can imagine how difficult it must have been and reportedly, two-thirds of the negatives had to discarded due to their blurriness.
Honestly, it just makes the following images that much more impressive! Feast your eyes on the world's earliest cat memes: