Opinion: Misconceptions about the origins of furry fandom
Contrary to popular belief, the furry fandom did not originate before the 1970's, nor were we the first anthropomorphic fandom.
Before the furry fandom originated there was another fandom called "funny animal lovers". Unlike the furry fandom, funny animal lovers viewed it as a hobby and there wasn't any porn of the characters, sexual aspect came later on
Funny animal lovers were less of a fandom and more a fanbase. The general consensus is that it originated in the early 20th century and that works such as Redwall were created by writers who were funny animal lovers. No these works are not furry, they are funny animal lovers though.
1974 was when the Star Trek cartoon first aired, with M'Ress of the Caitians. Before, fan-drawn characters were completely funny animals; afterwards, fan art of the character and original characters began to be drawn with sexual appeal. Thus furry started out as a subgroup of funny animal lovers.
The 1980's were the peak for funny animal lovers with a massive amount of content, it helped jump start what later became the furry fandom as the timing couldn't be more perfect. The subgroup saw works like Omaha The Cat Dancer, Cutey Bunny, Albedo, Usagi Yojimbo, and Critters. A great factor in the formation of the furry fandom was the APA, Vootie. Reed Waller and his underground comics drew together a loose group of fans.
The furry fandom originated as a sexualized subgroup of the chaste funny animal lovers and the first ConFurence was held. The fandom gained popularity quickly with Further Confusion being held and other conventions, no longer just a part of funny animal lovers. Anthrocon too was created.
While it is debatable what exactly caused at ConFurence for it to get so out of hand; personally I think it was a bit of bad marketing and not having foresight to think of the consequences, aka Mark Merlino had a "derp" moment.
Also fursuits were created originally based off of mascots; the first ones were not made of faux fur, but rather anything available - some were made out of newspaper and paper-mâché.
Over time the furry fandom has gained new members, often through subgroups the fandom already has; another way is giving things already in existence a furry spin e.g. pokefurs. Another way is importing groups, just as fursuiters were originally based off mascots but since have become far better.
The last way is merging; not too many groups have done this; the only group currently going through this is kemono - though they developed separately from furry, the groups have become synonymous. In America there are fans that call themselves kemono instead of furry and in Japan there are fans that call themselves furry instead. It has gotten to the point where you can pretty much call yourself either.
The 1990's saw the coming of Burned furs cause of bestiality proponents. However the problem with the burned furs was that they should have broken down their group into each individual platform.
The fandom has acted like a machine in the ways that is has grown and developed, following the four ways of growing constantly and without fail. Then the vanity fair article, followed shortly by the CSI episode being aired, however it was ten years ago, get over it, if someone brings it up just blow it off by saying, "you do realize that CSI is a fictional show right?"
The problem with the CSI episode and the ConFurence drama is that people joined the fandom specifically looking to engage in those acts. This second generation of furries defined the fandom for years after the original group of furries, until recently during the 2008 spike in growth.
In 2000–2008 we saw alot of people join the fandom and stay in the fandom for the sexual aspect. 2005 saw the founding of Fur Affinity by Alkora. More information about this period of time is available since it has only been a couple of years
For some odd reason the middle of 2008 saw a massive influx of new members compared to other years, I still have no clue what caused it and I've been trying to figure this one out myself for the last three and a half years.
The next generation
After the 2008 spike the new members in the fandom are different from previous ones, it is not yet known how this will effect the fandom in the future as they have become the majority. However these new members seem highly compartmentalized, interacting with the fandom through their own subgroups.