Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.
Illustrations by Guy T. Schafer


"... the day the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, Japan."

"'Man created the checkerboard; God created the karass.'"

The circles represent karasses, ignoring all man-made borders.

"I showed her the blueprint of the doghouse I proposed to build...."

"... the publication of my fraternity, The Delta Upsilon Quarterly...."

This is a stylized version of Delta Upsilon's Coat of Arms.

"'His fingers made the string figure called a "cat's cradle."'"

"'Frank had fighting in the jar ... red ants against black ants....'"

"'And the last we heard of my brother Frank, he was wanted by the Florida police, the F.B.I., and the Treasury Department, for running stolen cars to Cuba on war surplus L.S.T.'s. So I'm pretty sure "illustrious" isn't quite the word you're after.'"

Based on FBI posters from 1950's & 1960's.
The photo is of James Earl Ray.

"... outside the stage door with a dozen long-stemmed American Beauty roses."

"... the Reasearch Laboratory of the General Forge and Foundry Company...."

"'... one of those kids who made model airplanes....'"

"'They found out something about protein.'"

This is a molecular diagram of guanine (2-amino-1H-purin-6(9H)-one).
C is green, N is purple, H is pink, O is blue.

"'... in a hollowed-out pineapple....'"

"'That was where they held the public hangings....'"

"'It had little cut-glass vases on the doorposts....'"

"... the main gate of the company's Illium works...."

"... flasks bubbled...."

"'... chocolate bars for the Girl Pool....'"

"I had little Newt's letter with me, and I showed it to him...."

"'... there was a Marine general who was hounding him to do something about mud.'"

"... ways in which oranges might be packed into a crate."

"'[United States Marines] trucks and tanks and howitzers....'"

"'When [the rain] fell, it would freeze into hard little hobnails....'"

"... put the chip in a little bottle...."

"... chips, in a manner of speaking, off the old block.
What was to become of those three chips...."

"Her orders were to show me to the door."

"'"God is love."'"

"A purple cord had been stretched across the doorway...."

"All Knowles had to do to close the door and get us to the first floor was to press a button, but he wasn't going to do that yet. He wasn't going to to it, maybe, for years."

The action in this scene occurs in an elevator on "the sixth floor,
the top floor of the building" (from chapter 27)

"I wanted to get a photograph of the old man's tomb. So I ... picked up my camera...."

"... a marble cube forty centimeters on each side...."

The quote refers to the small FATHER stone.
The MOTHER stone is first described in chapter 29, but the inscription is a surprise. My illustration would be a spoiler if it headed that chapter.

"... a necklace of Christmas tree lamps."

"'Nobel invented dynamite.'
'Well, I guess it takes all kinds . . .'"

"'I smashed up my seventy-five-dollar violin ... I put the busted fiddle in the box, and I sent it to her by Western Union messenger boy.'"

Assuming 1930's purchase, approximately $1,000 - $1,300 today.

"'He raised his thumb at the first car that came by. It was
a new Pontiac with a Florida license plate. It stopped.'"

Frank became a Major General in 1959 (age 26);
he would have been picked up after Christmas, 1956.

"... a spaghetti pattern of railroad tracks...."

"... killed my ... avocado tree...."

"... military blouse with some sort of jeweled sunburst hanging on it."

"The principal exports were sugar, coffee, bananas...."

"'The dorsal fins of man-eating sharks were cleaving the warm seas around me....'"

"[Julian] Castle's hospital was called the House of Hope and Mercy in the Jungle."

"... the airplane, bound ultimately for San Lorenzo...."

Based on photos of commercial airliners from 1963.

"... he owned a bicycle factory...."

"'... a great big kind of iron fishhook....'"

"... the Communist dupes...."

"Minton and his wife exchanged another of those pitying
duprass glances. Then Minton said to me, 'Yes.
The pot of gold at the end of the rainbow is ours.'"

"'Read your passport. You can't lead the kind of
funny-paper international romance that Frank has
led and still have Uncle Sam for a mother chicken.'"

"It was the belief of Bokonon that good societies
could be built only by pitting good against evil, and
by keeping the tension between the two high at all times."

"His family's wealth derived from the discovery by Bokonon's grandfather of one quarter of a million dollars in buried pirate treasure...."

"... his little [sloop] was used by [a German submarine] for target practice...."

"'They live in Indianapolis.'"

"He held a glass of champagne...."

"'... back into the village for more Christmas tree bulbs...'."

"She was holding a clarinet in the picture, wearing
the marching uniform of the Illium High School band."

"He was liberated by Italian parachutists...."

Parachute troops in WW2 had insignia with a chute over wings, a design still in use today. The Italians didn't seem to have military insignia specific to parachute troops during WW2, but their more modern insignia has the regular chute over wings plus a center star. I added the color (the real medals are unpainted) to make the Italian connection obvious.

"'... xylophone virtuoso, 71.'"

"'The San Lorenzo Cathedral, dynamited in 1923...'."

General shape based on early cathedrals
in South America and Mexico.

"Cortes...1519.... France...1682.... Denmark...1699.... Dutch...1704.... England...1706.... 1786...independent.... McCabe and Johnson...1922...."

Flags are correct for the eras.
I invented the 1786 flag (yellow over red) using the crest from the Costa Rican flag.
The 1922 flag is described in chapter 62.

"So we did hoist and topple a few...."

"'Three Cornellians—all in the same plane!'"

"... twigs, tin, crates, and mud...."


"... carried two banners, the Stars and Stripes and the flag of San Lorenzo. The flag of
San Lorenzo consisted of a Marine Corporal's chevrons on a royal blue field."

"On the fuselage of each plane was painted ... a pitchfork...."

"The weapon in [his shoulder holster] was a chromium-plated .45."

A .45 caliber pistol from before 1963 is more likely a revolver than a semi-auto.

"... bellowed out at the crowd through doomsday horns."

"... took the microphone from its mount...."

Based on an actual microphone from 1960.

"... a 1939 Chrysler limousine with jump seats. The name
on the side of the cab was Castle Transportation, Inc."

"... the Boulevard of the Hundred Martyrs to Democracy."

"We were the first to sign the register of the Casa Mona."

"'How about miracle drugs?'"

"'... a nice picture on the wall over there....'"

"A huge mosaic on the fresh plaster" (from chapter 69)

"There wan't even a pillow on the bed.
There was simply a bare, brand-new Beautyrest mattress."

"I found that Philip Castle—mosaicist, historian, self-indexer, pissant,
and hotel-keeper—was installing a roll of toilet paper in my bathroom."

"The painting on which Newt had been working was set on an easel...."

"He lit a big cigar."

"And he threw the painting off the cantilevered terrace. It sailed out on an updraft, stalled, boomeranged back, sliced into the waterfall."

The painting is described: "'It's black. What is it—hell?'"

"'I couldn't possibly run that hospital of mine if it weren't for aspirin and boko-maru.'"

"'... ate good things his disciples brought him.'"

"As young men, they had been pretty much alike, had both been half-angel, half-pirate."

"'General Forge and Foundry gave him a forty-five-dollar
bonus for every patent his work led to.'"

The bonuses would have been paid in the 1950's.
These are 1950 series notes.

"Newt now put a long-playing record on the large phonograph in the room off the terrace."

"He telephoned, and insisted on talking to me and to no one else."

"[Newt] was sitting on a sort of folding high chair he took with him when he went visiting. It was made of aluminum tubing and canvas."

"There was a great, illuminated cross on the top of the administration building of Monzano Airport. It was motor-driven, turning slowly, boxing the compass with electric piety."

"'She always sends a Christmas card,' said Angela.
'With a picture of a giant schnauzer on it,' said little Newt."

"... they both carried little Thermos jugs, identical red-and-gray jugs
capable of holding about three cups of coffee."

Three modern ventis is more than a half-gallon of coffee.
In 1963, "three cups of coffee" was about a pint.

"'And you'd drink out of gold goblets every night and eat off of gold plates....'"

"Frank made his fingers into gears again.
'We'd work together. I'd be backing you up all the time.'"

A stretch, but the chapter has a dearth of non-personal concrete nouns.

"'I was going to Jack's Hobby Shop.... They would have been really surprised—especially the girls—if they'd found out what really went on.'
'What really went on?'
'I was screwing Jack's wife every day.'"

"And 250,000 cigarettes and 3,000 quarts of booze, and two wives and no wife . . . ."

"And she removed her sandals with the utmost grace."

"My soles, my soles!"

"'Good-bye, man-with-no-religion.' She went to the stone staircase."

"'What is sacred to Bokononists?' I asked after a while.
'Not even God, as near as I can tell.'
'Just one thing.'
I made some guesses. 'The ocean? The sun?'"

"Antique cannons still lolled on the battlements."

"He had a brass dinner bell and a hatbox with holes drilled in it...."

"Around his neck hung a chain with a cylinder the size of a rifle cartridge for a pendant. I supposed that the cylinder contained some magic charm. I was mistaken."

"And he climbed into the golden boat with 'Papa.' He sat in the stern. Cramped quarters obliged him to have the golden tiller under one arm."

The gilt "lifeboat of Bokonon's old schooner, the Lady's Slipper" (from chapter 97)

"'"See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."'
'"See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."'"

"'Good! So one of my first triumphs as President will be to restore electricity to my people.'"

"So I wrote my speech in a round, bare room at the foot of a tower. There was a table and a chair. And the speech I wrote was round and bare and sparsely furnished, too."

"The targets were cardboard cutouts shaped like men....
'And there's old Hitler,' chuckled Hazel, delighted."

"He was looking at targets ... through a huge pair of Japanese binoculars."

"'I'm thinking of calling a general strike of all writers until mankind finally comes to its senses.'"

"'There's only one aspect of progress that really excites them.'
'What's that?'
'The electric guitar.'"

"I was compelled to canter down the stone spiral staircase in search of a bathroom. I availed myself of one adjacent to 'Papa's' suite."

"Von Koenigswald went to a basin of water, meaning to wash his hands."

"I closed the door and put my back to it."

"'What did you tell him—that you had something better than the hydrogen bomb?'"

Based on the B-28 hydrogen bomb design from 1958.

"'Brooms, dustpans, blowtorch....'"

"... whose plant in Indianapolis was understandably surrounded by electrified fences...."

"... every pot and pan was out on the kitchen countertops. A meat thermometer was out, too, so the old man must have been taking the temperature of things."

"... Newt had treasured his mother's gold reticule. I gathered that it was a little evening bag."

"'We put him in the oven,' Frank told me. 'It was the only thing to do.'"

"He opened the case and showed us the scarlet lining and the golden wreath. The wreath was made of wire and artificial laurel leaves, and the whole was sprayed with radiator paint.
The wreath was spanned by a cream-colored silk ribbon on which was printed, 'PRO PATRIA.'"

"The planes were no larger than grains of black pepper. We were able to spot them because one, as it happened, was trailing smoke."

"Out came a bedside table in a crazy race with a bounding blowtorch."

"... and there were bound copies of the National Geographic going back twenty years."

Probably 1942-1962. Volume numbers are correct.

"As for the radio—there was crackling, fizzing static and that was all."

"a short-wave radio" (from chapter 117)

"And then we filled canteens from our water tank and we went above."

Based on 1950's Boy Scouts of America canteens.
Girl Scouts' canteens were identical but had different cloth covering.

"'Daddy, what makes the sea so hard and still?'"

This illustration would be a spoiler if it headed chapter 116.

"They were in Bolivar's one taxicab...."

The 1939 Chrysler Imperial from chapter 67.

"They had found a can of white paint...."

"... a stew in an iron pot over a wood fire...."

"He was watching an ant farm he had constructed."

"... he asked me if I would drive him into Bolivar to forage for paints."

"Let us start our Republic with a chain of drug stores...."

"In one hand was a pencil. In the other was paper."