When I read that article about the first character balloons in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, I got to ruminating about how Felix the Cat used to be ubiquitous in American culture.

1. Felix was the first character balloon in that parade. “The first giant balloon made an appearance at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1927. Puppeteer Tony Sarg developed an inflatable Felix the Cat balloon to march down Broadway on a series of poles held by handlers.”

2. Felix was the very first image ever broadcast on TV. “In 1928, the first television broadcast was shown to the public by RCA. The broadcast featured a Felix the Cat doll on a base, with lights shining on it. The Felix doll was used to substitute an actor, so they wouldn’t have to endure the heat of the lamps and the length of the broadcast.”

3. “Felix was the first fully realized animal character in the history of American film animation.” He was introduced in the silent era (1919), nearly a decade earlier than Mickey Mouse.

Mickey Mouse debuted in Steamboat Willie at Universal’s Colony Theater in New York City on November 18, 1928. By that time, Felix was already so popular that he had been selected to be the first character in the Macy’s parade the following week.

That’s how important Felix used to be in pop culture: he was the first everything in his field. Despite that, he’s nearly invisible today. I doubt that many children today could recognize him at all. (I guess that could change. DreamWorks has acquired the rights to Felix, but they did that a decade ago and have done nothing significant with it so far.)