Postal Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post comes with thanks via Christina Valenza, a west coast Facebook friend of Deitch Studio. I am sorry to say it had disappeared into a nook with a cache of photos and was just rediscovered as I was pushing cats and photos aside to make a desk for myself to use during the course of our current captivity. It found its way to Deitch Studio from Oakland, California last year and while I usually don’t find contemporary cards of interest I do love the documentation of this artwork.

As you can see, someone has painted a cheeky tongue out Felix on the side of one of those boxes that the post office uses to hold the mail on the street. I don’t claim to really understand that process – actually I should ask Kim as he did a brief stint with the post office in the East Village in his youth. This one is a rusty brown – they are generally army green in New York City. What I really like about it is that he is an old style toothy Felix and reminds me of the early dolls of the 1920’s.

The photo is identified as having been taken by Albert L. Morse in 1971. Christina Valenza has a book of his photos available here. It appears that Mr. Morse was an attorney in the Bay Area, as well as being a self-taught photographer. A young Albert was given a camera by his father and started taking photos at the age of 12 and as an adult he took it upon himself to document that early ’70’s comics scene. Below is a page of photos which includes a sort of mug shot-ish one of Kim and a less than flattering one of Simon on the end of the top row.

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Albert Morse acted in a legal capacity on behalf of numerous cartoonists in the greater Bay Area in the 1970’s. According to Kim, if you asked a favor of Morse he would ask you to do a page for his anthology Morse’s Funnies, shown below with a Crumb cover. Kim tells me that there is an interesting Simon Deitch page within, but that he never did a page for him because (imagine Kim here, deadpan) he never asked him for a favor.

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Without getting too specific or colorful, suffice it to say that Kim was not a fan of Mr. Morse (who it appears died in 2006) as he feels that Morse took advantage of some of his comics colleagues. Enough said, just in case some of the litigious relatives of Morse roam the internet today.

So with thanks to Christine and apologies for the long wait for a Pictorama nod. Wowza! I thought I was going to spend the morning on Felix, but instead was taken down an entirely different tributary of Kim’s life, long before me.

Judy Bolton Mysteries: Part 2

Pam’s Pictorama Post: While bunker-style living here in Manhattan during our modern plague has not resulted in an increase in reading time (quite the opposite as days seem to somehow blur into seven-day-a-week, 14 hour day work-a-thons), I do make time every night for a bit of Judy Bolton before bed. With the last few volumes looming on the horizon I know I will miss her and the dollop of her 1940’s daily life when I eventually finish the last volume. However, today I offer this next Judy installment as suggested reading for those of you hunting a little escapism from your current reality.

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I have always believed that in stressful times that one should be extremely thoughtful about what one is reading. (Kim is currently deep in Max Brand – I thought he’d already read all of him – and of course Little Orphan Annie on weekends, but none of this is different, just business as usual for him.) These days I read only what I feel is necessary of the newspaper in the morning and quickly move on.

In the evening, I need something to lead me into a relaxed enough state to sleep. Therefore, I try to put down the phone (Wynton Marsalis, please take note) and pick up my Judy Bolton novel to read a chapter or so. I am finishing up volume 20 currently, The Warning on the Window, and am fascinated by the fact that my copy, with a 1949 copyright, sporting a dust jacket and purchased on ebay, had never been read! I found several pages that had never been split. Imagine this book being passed from hand to hand over seventy years and never read. Extraordinary!

 

As I mentioned in my first post about Judy (which can be found here) about halfway through the series Judy marries one of her two suitors throughout the earlier volumes. While Judy’s role is not diminished to one of housewife, some of the aspects of 1940’s pre-feminism jabs at me in these latter volumes. Judy’s husband leaves his nascent law practice to join the FBI after one of their adventures and somehow the series that was about her with him occasionally helping becomes about her helping him. Although hers always does end up being the star role the author now feels the need to work at storylines that allow for this. (Meanwhile, reality has never been a strong suit of these books, but the evidence of this sticks in my crawl a bit.)

Meanwhile, Judy and Peter have acquired a child along the way, Roberta, whose father is mysteriously “at sea” and from what I can tell they have never heard a peep from him. As a result they now have a ready made family and Roberta’s mystery solving abilities, given her age, somewhat make up for Judy’s post-marital status.

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As part of this shift in storyline, I was a bit worried about Judy’s black cat, Blackberry, who seemed to be meeting his demise in The Living Portrait. A puppy, Tuffy, was introduced in this volume as Roberta’s pet and I was quite peevish when it seemed that Blackberry would be sacrificed for him. I hope I am not giving away too much plot when I assure readers that he makes a strong eventual comeback and remains part of the family. (In fact up next, The Black Cat’s Clue.)

The thing that interests me most about the second half of the series is that Margaret Sutton’s writing style seems to morph in tandem with Judy’s role as wife. Almost immediately the books become a bit more complex. The mysteries go from being excuses for a storyline with unreal plots to more logical storylines. They are still stuffed with really bad criminals and if anything Judy appears to be in actual danger in some of these stories. In particular The Secret of the Musical Tree managed to have me a bit worried about her at one point. (Even if harrowing at times, all is of course viewed from the safety of knowing that Judy appears in another volume, waiting patiently for me next to the bed.) Judy as an adult clearly meant that Sutton could step out a little in a different direction.

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Undated photo of Margaret Sutton

 

To both Judy and Sutton’s credit, Judy spends little if any time worrying about her appearance (Judy’s attire is only ever noted if it is a plot point) and only glancingly makes mention about things like cleaning the house or cooking a meal. Judy’s mother tends to worry about Judy’s mystery solving ways and one gets the sense that this is the evolution of young women of the times moving yet another notch out of the home and into the working world.

Still, plot devices are needed in order to get Judy away from her husband and let her do her stuff, which by today’s standards is unnecessary and even insulting. Peter can therefore expect to be conked on the head unconscious, or to find that somehow Judy is off in another town, unable to phone, and turns out to be knee deep in trouble. Despite being dated in this way, these books are a more or less perfect antidote for the stresses of the spring of 2020 for me. Just intriguing enough to lead me peacefully down the garden path, again and again each night. I highly recommend them if you like me need a bit of evening escapism.

 

 

Letters from a Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today feline dedicated post was a birthday gift from my good friend Eileen Travell. She acquired this precious, slim volume at a store I long to experience one day and that I wrote about in an earlier post, 3 Little Kittens, which can be found here, and describes that gift purchased there as well, The Salem, New York shop is 1786 Wilson Homestead (1117 Chamberlin Mill Road, Salem, NY; their website which can be found here). It has set me to dreaming about a future summer day digging through their wares. My copy is stamped School Library, Saranac Lake, N.Y. on both front and back fly leafs.

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While this book is clearly meant for children, complete with very large and easily read text, I am not sure I would say race out and grab this book to read to your small child. Suffice it to say life was cheaper and harder in 1879 and that is evidenced in this book. The overall premise of the book is that while a little girl is away visiting her aunt she receives a series of letters penned by her puss in her absence. (Yes, the remarkable nature of a cat writing letters, however sloppily printed, is covered in the story, although never fully explained. The methods of post are detailed however.)

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Sadly kit has a hard time of it in the absence of her mistress with everything from a spring cleaning of the house, which terrifies her, to an accident with a barrel of soft soap, which I assume is either lye or the lye and fat makings for soap, which almost does her in. All about the plot is is given away in the first part of the book which is penned in the voice of the young mistress now grown.

However, when the little mistress describes how much she loves her kitty and what a glorious cat she is you know that H.H. was herself a cat lover and an understander of the feline nature. (Kim speculated that the timing is right for this book to have inspired Archy and Mehitabel, first created by Don Marquis in 1916 and collected first in 1927. As many of you know, it is best known for being illustrated by George Herriman of Krazy Kat fame.)

Letters from a Cat Published by Her Mistress for the Benefit of all Cats and the Amusement of Little Children has an original copyright of 1879. My edition is from 1930. It has seventeen illustrations by Addie Ledyard. The author H.H. turns out to be Helen Hunt Jackson (b. 1830 and d. 1885, née Helen Maria Fiske) a famous poet and writer of her day.

Jackson was the daughter of a minister, author, and professor of Latin, Greek, and philosophy at Amherst College. Her mother having died when Helen was 14, she and her sister were fully orphaned three years later. However, the father had provided for Helen’s education and she attended a boarding school where she was the classmate of Emily Dickinson with whom she corresponded throughout her life. Helen Hunt Jackson was very much a part of the interesting and broad group of writers and thinkers in the greater Amherst area of the day.

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Jackson begins writing after the loss of husband and sons over a handful of years and before she was much more than 30 years old. (Hunt was the surname of this husband, she eventually remarries while taking the cure for TB in Colorado years later and takes the name Jackson.) Her earliest works are published under the H.H. nom de plume. She became interested in issues surrounding the poor treatment of Native Americans after hearing a lecture in Boston by Chief Standing Bear in 1879 (interestingly, the year Letters from a Cat was published).

Her best known work, Ramona, published in 1884, is a story of a young woman of mixed Scots and Native American heritage, was hugely popular and spawned five films and even was thought to expand the tourism industry of Southern California at the time. While it may have been the romance of the story that made it so popular, Jackson wrote it as a way of showing the plight of the native people. She kept up a very real and fierce lifelong battle with Washington over the treatment of the Indians and fighting for the return of their land and rights.

Of the illustrator, Addie Ledyard, there is really no information except for the trail of books she illustrated which are still available. At a glance I would say cats were a specialty, although she seems to have illustrated at least one volume of Louisa May Alcott stories. Following my nose on her illustrations may lead to some other interesting discoveries.

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This illustration shows Ceasar, the handsome, huge black cat who arrives in town and is an  important plot point.

 

I am reminded of an obscure, antique volume I had years ago and gave to my mother, written by another poet who also wrote from the perspective of her cat. If I can remember it and find it I will share it in a subsequent post. I always think of it when I see a cat watching out a window as her cat called that reading the newspaper daily.

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Letters from a Cat is available on Project Gutenberg (with illustrations) and Google Books, as well as in reproduction and various earlier reprints over time. With renewed thanks to Eileen, I suggest all you cat collectors get on this one.

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Earlier volume of the book.

 

 

 

A Cat in Gloves

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The bottle featured in today’s post was a gift from Facebook (and real) Friend, Dan Theodore. Dan faithfully shows up at many of Kim’s speaking engagements and before a recent one he told me he was going through some things that belonged to a family member and did I want this bottle as it had a cat on it? I happily accepted which brings us to today’s post. (I realize as I take photos of this that I could use some advice from friend Eileen Travell who shoots glass routinely for the Met. I did the best I could!)

As it happens, in addition to cats, I have long been fascinated by blue glass. Since my childhood days of beach combing and hunting for sea glass, glass colored blue has attracted me. If you have hunted sea glass you know that green and clear opaque are the common colors. Blue and red are very rare. When Loren or I found a piece we would crow and lord it over the other.

It lead me eventually to the logical question of, why is there so little blue glass to begin with and then the exercise of keeping a weather eye for blue glass bottles in their original whole state – assuming of course that somehow those bottles had to find their way into the Atlantic ocean, often broken, to ultimately make their way into my glass collection. Aside from some medical bottles I did not find too many in use. I assume this is because cobalt is a somewhat more expensive color and unless you had a reason for using it why add expense. As a child I had the sort of naive idea that all the glass in the ocean was from ships – ocean garbage dumping had not occurred to me.

Without really knowing much about what I am talking about I am vaguely aware that some of the chemicals I used for my early process photography warned that they had to be stored in dark amber bottles because exposure to light would damage them. There might be something to this for the use of blue glass which seems to have a limited use primarily for medical purposes. Furthermore, Wikipedia has informed me that what I call sea glass should be called beach glass and while I stand corrected I will continue, as I always have, to call it sea glass. In addition, the internet informs me that more rare than blue are the previously alluded to red, but also yellow and lavender which frankly I don’t remember having ever seen in person.

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Cat bottle from animal series by Clevenger Brothers, in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Sliding back to today’s bottle which has an interesting story in its own right. This bottle, with an image of a cat on one side, reads Cat, The Cat in Gloves Catches No Mice. This is evidently a known saying. The meaning is, you cannot be too cautious and get what you want. I am not sure I endorse this saying, and right now I am looking at Cookie’s white paws (the gloves to her perma-wear tux fur) and thinking they do not hamper her in the least.

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Curled up kitty on Clevenger bottle, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

I was surprised how quickly the history of this particular bottle was revealed to me online as the only markings are a C and a B on the bottom. The bottle is the product of the Clevenger Brothers, an eponymous  South Jersey enterprise founded by brothers in the 1930’s. They were seeking to revive a much older glass industry in the area and their bottles are generally reproductions of these earlier designs. Some of their own early efforts, those that are handblown and also the efforts of some of their more creative employees executed off hours, are of some value. Ones like mine are collectible for their charm and have a market.

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Elephant bottles by Clevenger Brothers. Not in Pictorama collection.

 

This cat bottle is evidently part of a series on animals they produced. It is unclear to me if these were original designs or also copies of earlier ones. Although I found references to it I did not find much of substance or many examples aside from this elephant version below which I like. These bottles were made from molds and could have been made any time during the company’s history. There is an interesting brief history of the company which can be found at this link, 1987 Clevenger Brothers Glassworks the Persistence of Tradition, at the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center site. It would seem that the factory remains in existence as a quasi-museum today and it is on a list of historic sites in South Jersey.

Growing up in Jersey I have long been aware of the history of the area and in my childhood there were sites where you could visit amateur excavations to search for such things as early glass. Although we drove through the Pine Barrens a few times in my childhood and I was regaled with these stories, we never stopped at any of these sites to dig. However, I do appreciate this gift and even more now that I know that like me, it comes from my place of origin, the Garden State.

 

 

Three Piggy Pail

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This sharp little number is the other pig purchase made on in honor of my birthday, also from The Antique Toy Shop, New York. It is little, only about six inches high and is just the right size for a pint-size person.

This is a very sturdy little pail and, although it looks fairly pristine, it was well built for days of sand castles at the beach and the like and may have seen days of service. As a former sand castle building aficionado I note only that although the handle moves it does not go all the way down. This would be very inconvenient for the making of towers from piles of wet sand and the like. It looks as if it is nicely water tight however, which is another important feature, hauling water from the ocean to your construction site and all.

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Unlike the mug featured yesterday (see that post here) which shows the pigs having firmly trounced the wolf, this one shows two irresponsible pigs at play and the stolid one with his bricks, building, with the Wolf in his full glory. Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf ?is around the top. The responsible brick laying pig has wolf proof paint (something I think we could all use, right?) and the other two dance a jig in front of the half finished straw house. (This shoddy straw house looks a bit like one of the shacks from the Gilligan’s Island reruns of my childhood. I watched them every afternoon, The Flintstones on one side or the other of it. If I ever saw those again I could probably recite parts of dialogue.)

The stick or wooden house is absent. I have remarked before that the swift collapse of the wooden house confused me as a child who lived in a wooden house. My parents failed to supply a sufficiently comforting explanation to me and I can only hasten to point out that you will find Deitch Studio located in a large brick high rise building.

This pail has a mark from the Ohio Art Company, a tin lithography company still in existence today. It’s a good story and I share an excerpt from their history, from their website:

Dr. Henry S. Winzeler, a dentist in Archbold, Ohio, who sold his practice because he was convinced novelty manufacturing held great promise for him. Renting part of a band hall and employing 15 women, the company was soon shipping picture frames to all parts of the country, as well as Canada and Mexico. Business grew rapidly and Dr. Winzeler needed a larger plant.

Through the efforts of local citizens and the Chamber of Commerce, enough money was raised to build a new factory and lure The Ohio Art Company to a new location – Bryan, Ohio. With larger quarters and better shipping facilities, the firm continued to grow…Soon after the move to Bryan in 1912, the company installed metal lithography equipment, an addition that would shape the company’s future. New items began to appear; advertising signs, scale dials and a few small wagons, representing the beginning of a long and successful run in the toy business.

When WW1 halted the flow of German toys to this country, American manufacturers had a tremendous opportunity to surge forward. Quick to realize this, Dr. Winzeler increased his line of toys and toy parts and business boomed. A quality (and very popular) tea set line was introduced, and in 1923, sand pails appeared. In the early 1930’s, Ohio Art was one of the very first companies to license a character from Walt Disney for a toy; Steam Boat Willie, the precursor to Mickey Mouse. Other successful early metal lithographed toys included tops, shovels, farm houses, drums, globes, checker sets and more.

Once plastic takes over in toys the company diversifies again and makes the film canisters for Kodak and premiums for companies like Coca Cola and Budweiser even today. The mark on this pail, Ohio Art Co Bryan O USA, refers to the company’s post-move location in Bryan, Ohio.

So, my advice is always be mindful of construction materials, build thoughtfully and work hard – and then you too can dance a jig and sing, Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?

 

 

The First Little Piggy

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s a porcine weekend here at Pictorama starting with this Three Little Pigs mug I purchased for my birthday. Much like mice (mostly Mickey) and dogs, pigs seem to make up a sub-genre of the Pictorama collection. I’m fond of the little fellas. I keep a particularly nice plastic one on my desk at work (a post that includes him can be found here) and I purchased a very snappy wind-up version from my same beloved toy vendor in Chelsea a few years back. (Pause to advertise for the Antique Toy Shop New York whose website can be found here.) Like this mug, that wind-up, shown below (the post can be found here) is a marketing tribute to the Disney animated classic of The Three Little Pigs and the juggernaut of toys that came out of that film.

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Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

 

And of course there was the recent unexpected purchase of my (absolutely splendid) stuffed Wolf recently. He has the honor of sitting on my bedside table and I will say, I like to sleep at eye level with his clever little, hoary paw feet. The Wolf has quickly become a favorite item. (That entire post is here.)

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

When I went to pluck today’s mug off a high bookcase shelf this morning I realized it is virtually identical to the Little Orphan Annie mug I keep up there as well. (China lives on high cat-proof shelves here at Deitch Studio!) I show them together below.  The Little Orphan Annie mug (detailed in a post here) was a Kim find and gift to me. While its markings, Manufactured exclusively for the Wander Co., Chicago, Makers of Ovaltine, fail to identify S.C. Co Patriot China as identified on the Pig mug, it is clearly the same company.

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Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

 

A quick search turns up plenty of Disney related items (I feel a Mickey Mouse version of this mug coming on for me) there was not much history about the company itself easily found. Clearly they had a significant Disney contract as well as the Ovaltine novelty one. As per my post, the Little Orphan Annie mug predates this one by a few years. However, the style and molds are identical.

This Pig mug is pretty raucous. The Piggies are standing atop of a firmly trounced Wolf, looking like a Wolf-rug here, singing their Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf song. (I like this Sing-Along version on Youtube, here.) A look at the lyrics below are a reminder that the story is a bit of Ant and the Grasshopper tale of the pig who works hard to build his house of bricks as opposed to his brethren who slap theirs together out of straw and sticks. Luckily the brick house building pig is charitable and rescues the others and they defeat the Wolf.

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Written by Frank Churchill with additional lyrics by Ann Ronell and featured in the 1933 cartoon, the song had long legs of its own and was recorded by numerous artists. It is one of the most popular to come out of the Disney canon.

Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf
The big bad wolf, the big bad wolf
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf
Tra la la la la
Long ago there were three pigs
Little handsome piggy wigs
For the big, bad the very big, very bad wolf
They did not give three figs
Number one was very gay
And he built his house with hay
With a hey hey toot he blew on his flute
And he played around all day
Now number two was fond of jigs
And so he built his house with twigs
Hey, diddle diddle he played on his fiddle
And danced with lady pigs
Number three said, “Nix on tricks
I shall build my house with bricks”
He had no chance to sing or dance
‘Cause work and play don’t mix
Ha, ha, ha, the two little do little pigs
Just winked and laughed ah, woo
Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf
The big bad wolf,…
More porky pleasure to follow tomorrow!

The Contest

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have what I consider a very entertaining detour today which I hope serves as a sort of Pictorama pick me up for readers. The photo I am featuring today is one I have owned now for a very long time, I think it is safe to say it has been on our wall for more than a decade. (In fact I just found evidence that it was on sale on ebay in 2008.) I do not remember what I paid for it, however I do remember it came dear and it was a real dog fight at the time. It holds something of a place of honor on the walls here at Deitch Studio.

In researching yesterday’s post I stumbled across a photo from the same session. We took our photo off the wall to have a better look and since it stubbornly refused to allow itself to be hung again, I decided it was telling me it was time to tell share it and tell the story.

Clearly Pat Sullivan and a woman I am informed is his assistant and wife, Marjorie, are sorting through this enormous pile of submissions for a Draw Felix the Cat contest. If you look carefully in the pile you can see ads for the contest as well as drawings. The Felix in the corner is a large cut out which appears to be made of wood. The real treats in this photo are what is hanging on the wall behind them to the extent we can see it.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Aside from that great poster for the cartoon Gym Gems featured on the back wall, we’ve looked at it under magnification and have found the following – above the desk and nearest Sullivan there is: a portrait drawing of Mabel Normand, signed; a photo of Sullivan and wife in a car with an enormous Felix (I really want that one!); two signed photos of Charlie Chaplin; a drawing of a woman in a dancing costume and two other signed photos of male actors we can neither recognize nor read.

There is a reproduction of the Met’s painting by Pierre-August Cot, The Storm, of a young couple dashing through the rain. (Kim also had a color reproduction of this on our wall for many years until it faded into blurriness.) There is a piece of cartoon art under the poster for Felix Minds the Kid but the information is no longer retrievable. Lastly, there is a photo of two wooden Felix toys which appear to be writing, Hello Pat and a drawing of a nude woman from the back which is ornately signed, but I cannot make that out either.

While researching yesterday’s post, I stumbled across another version of that photo, clearly taken the very same day, with Marjorie and Pat in the same clothes. In this version, they are virtually buried under the drawing entries now, as is the desk and if you were to ask me I would say Marjorie is getting tired of this. (A poster for Felix Revolts has been revealed as well as two more drawings which I cannot make out. The top one, just revealing Felix, might be sheet music?) The nice composition statue of Felix which is barely visible in my photo is nicely revealed in this one.

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Collection of the State Library NSW

 

The most interesting thing that I noted is that the Felix in this photo appears to be drawn in, unlike the wooden one placed in the earlier photo, complete with shadow and all. It was clearly used for newspaper reproduction with the telltale sign of the gray paint to emphasize and edit the image.

Meanwhile, written at the bottom of this photo it states: George Taylor’s old Sydney cartoonist friend – Pat Sullivan and his wife Marjorie wading through some of the final selections from hundreds of thousands of entries in the “Draw Felix” competition in New York in 1923. He was already acclaimed ‘the most popular American Cartoonist’. But he was born in SYDNEY! This photo is identified as being from the State Library in New South Wales.

I don’t know where the writing at the bottom originates, but the date on the contest is wrong because Gym Gems doesn’t come out until 1926. A quick search on George Taylor of Sydney in the 1920’s points to a journalist and aviation pioneer of the time as a likely candidate of the origin of the photo and whose dates are fairly parallel to Sullivan’s.

It was the image below, also from the State Library NSW, that inspired my entire collection of photos of people posing with giant stuffed Felix-es – and eventually this blog. It was the first one I ever saw and years later when I had my first chance to snatch one up I snapped to it.

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State Library NSW