Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: I bought this earlier this week on eBay. I must say, I don’t exactly know what I was thinking, but no one was bidding on it and it was very original. Now that I have it I love it! It makes a loud beep that annoys the cats – as shown with Cookie below, which is always entertaining. I particularly like the sort of hand painted, not-quite-Felix on it.

The wood inside is interesting and have shown you so you can get a sense of it. This was a time when a cheap toy was really made of something! I assume it has seen some high old times – halloween parties, maybe the occasional New Year’s celebration. I intend to keep it handy for any celebration that comes along.

Mad Jenny


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Facebook followers may remember this unusual acquisition. The jest of what is written on the back, in French but somewhat obscured, seems to be Souvenir of … and … of Madame Jenny Bell Theatre 8. Oct. 1910. Jenny, looking quite mad indeed, poses with collaged cats and a monkey – what is that strange swing the one cat is on? (Photo collage is prized in my collection – see also Cat Photo Collage.)

A quick bit of sleuthing (and some good luck) reveals a notice in the October 9, 1910 issue of the  San Francisco Call announcing Jennie and Her Trained Angora Cats and Performing Dogs featured at the Wigwam. Dogs! And no mention of the monkey! This means that our French owner of the card must have been visiting San Francisco – since we know Jenny and her cats were there that week – evidently at the Bell  immediately followed by the Wigwam. I found a rather excellent photo of the Bell Theater which I share here from the Cinema Treasure website. While it seems likely to be the one in question I mostly see listings that say it didn’t open until 1911. Hmmm. October is late 1910.

Bell Theatre, San Francisco, CA

Back in 2005 I read a New York Times article about the Russian cat circus visiting Manhattan and I purchased tickets and dragged ever-patient Kim off before he knew what hit him. I can see online now that there is a fair amount of controversy about Yuri Kuklachev and his cat troupe. (Russians have an especially deep history of training animals – I remember being taken to see performing animals in Moscow one night when I was on a tour there in 1994.  Cats, dogs and much to my surprise, ducks and goats.) All I can say is, it takes a whole lot of cat treats to make a cat circus run. Speaking as someone who has trouble asking the cats to move so I can rollover in bed, I probably don’t have a future career in cat on-command trick training. I am shown with Yuri and furry performer below. Cookie and Blackie take note – this is a working kitty.

Series Q #4


Me and My Felix

Series Q #2Series Q #3Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  It doesn’t surprise me that, if you had a wonderful Felix the Cat doll, you would want your photo taken with it. As many of you already know, my collection in this area is fairly deep.  (Some of it was already immortalized and shared in an early posts, Felix Makes the Picture Better and more so in Ugly Children Good Toys.)  Shown here is a little girl dressed in her finest, holding a delightfully large Felix doll and looking mighty pleased with herself.  It is a photo postcard and nothing has been written on the back. Her Felix is a more pristine example of one I own – I am sparing you a photograph of me holding it!

The other card has a small holiday riff and I will use it as a tip of the cap to the newly launched 2014 holiday season. It is hard to see, but the tinfoil greetings has an impression of holly around it.  This little fellow had to pose in his winter clothes (and hat) in front of a very soft focus bit of outdoor scenery.  Note those snappy buttons on his trousers though! He’s dressed up too.  His Felix on the other hand is an absolutely whacky pop-eyed fellow.  Love those ears standing straight up – part bunny! This also unused and perfectly preserved.

I have wondered if these toys were just props at the photo studio. For some reason the little girl has always struck me as the owner of that Felix, the little boy perhaps not. Maybe because it is a bit less clear that the girl is in a photo studio – the portrait could have been made at home.

Those of you on Facebook know that I can’t resist posting a photo of me with new toy acquisitions. A natural impulse I think – representing a long tradition of proud ownership. On the other hand, who wouldn’t smile in a photo studio if they handed you a huge Felix doll?  I would!

Musical Meow!

Au ChatMeowBlack Cat Dance

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Welcome to my second installment of cat related sheet music.  As some of you know, early on I shared some of my sheet music collection in Meow Kitty Sing-a-Long, but I uncovered some great pieces when searching for the art to our wedding invitation recently. The Black Cat Dance is just a great image and sort of fun. I am afraid that the names of that and Au Chat! are not distinctive enough to find them on the internet – or much information about them.

I am fortunate to own two copies of the Me-ow music, one is on the wall. The second, the one pictured here, may have been a gift – or I found it some place and it was too inexpensive to resist. Always good to have a spare. It is the only one I was able to find a link to on Youtube and I have included it below.

I had hoped I would find a way to play the Felix the Cat fox trot by Sam Fox; sadly to date I cannot.  However, I did find an interesting 1928 snippet from the Music Trade Review on the International Arcade Museum website. This brief article says that Fred Waring introduced the song in Paris and that he cabled Sam Fox that he believed it would be a hit for him. It also refers to the speed with which Europe gets American dance numbers today, scarcely a month after their initial release. Felix was excellent at selling sheet music and therefore some wonderful images have proliferated on especially British sheet music. I have at least one more example I plan to share in a future cat music post.

Hope this put some spring in your step!

Here is the link to the pdf article from the Music Trade Journal should you be curious:



Wild Cats at Play


Pam’s Pictorama Post: This illustration hails from The Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News, February 26, 1881.  I purchased it as a single sheet for one pound sterling in London a number of years ago. I usually wouldn’t be attracted to such a violent image, but it is just so impressively drawn I couldn’t resist. Poor Mr. Rodent thing (woodchuck?) doesn’t have a chance. The cat fangs are very well done (Blackie likes to show his fangs too – luckily mostly when he smiles or yawns, which he does a lot for a cat) and you can almost feel the fluff of the tail.  There’s a latecomer kitten in the upper right corner. Just in time for a meal on the hoof, so to speak. Look at those claw paws!

One has to wonder why something called the Illustrated and Dramatic News would feature this particular illustration, and I have no answer. The articles above the illustration have nothing to do with it. There’s a mention of not very much thoroughbred stock in the market at present and a small piece, The Duke of Edinburgh on Swimming. The weekly paper existed from 1874 until 1945 under that name and continued under subsequent titles until 1970. On the internet I learned that Louis Wain graced the pages on occasion and Oscar Wilde was mocked there.

I purchased a number of things that day, the result of spending several hours happily immersed in the basement of a bookstore in the theater district of London. Most memorably I purchased a number of early film and other magazines for Kim I believe. It would be one of my first stops on a return trip, with the fervent hope it is still there and the boxes in the basement are brimming.


Ode to a Shrimp

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Our cats have been a well documented part of our family here in the Butler-Deitch household, but we have housed another pet for over 14 years – a shrimp.  Kim bought this shrimp and snail ecosystem for me in 1998 after I expressed fascination with it. The glass sphere came in a huge box – carefully packed for obvious reasons.  You’ve heard me express concern about kitties and breakables (Happy Life Toy and Fear of Celluloid) and this was a red alert concern.  My then cat, Otto, was absolutely entranced by it and Kim would take it down from a high shelf to show her occasionally (yes, Otto was a girl; that’s another story) until he decided it was undue stress on the shrimp.

And I do mean single shrimp! Due to either our own ineptitude, poor design, or bad luck, most of our shrimp died pretty quickly. We were ultimately left with one (suspiciously large) shrimp.  We put him on a darker shelf than what is recommended, so that the algae wouldn’t grow too quickly since there were no snails to help consume it. (Yep, they died too although it took a bit longer to figure that out as they are a bit inactive by nature.) So there he swam, year after year, living out his shrimp life. Kim was the best at tending him – taking him out and checking on him periodically.  As the years grew longer our amazement deepened.  He rapidly exceeded the expected lifespan and headed into uncharted longevity. A Methuselah of shellfish. Cats came and went and recently Cookie in particular was itching to get a little closer to this situation.

And then, the other day, Kim checked on him and alas, he had finally gone to the big shrimp round-up. As someone interested in Buddhism, I have to wonder if he (I always thought of the shrimp as a he) had some strange karma to work out. I know it is ridiculous to say, but I never really thought he was unhappy with his solitary existence. Perhaps even harder to believe, the house seems just a tad quieter and sad without his tiny shrimp presence.

A musical tribute below!

Or if you want to adopt some shrimp yourself you can buy one here.

Postscript: My mother was given one as a gift and is, frankly, sort of horrified by it. (She is such a fierce protector of animal welfare that she cannot stand the idea that the shrimps and snails are unhappy in their habitat. We differ in that I think it seems like a pretty good gig for a shrimp or a snail.) We will probably adopt hers if we can figure how to get it from NJ to NYC in one piece. Update to follow!

Up a Tree

Treed Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My personal experience with a cat up a tree is that it is an anxiety induing experience for both the human witness and the cat. To me it is a perfect metaphor for that dreadful mistake we all make once in a while – who hasn’t found themselves at least metaphorically up a tree? After all, everything about a cat is well designed for getting up the tree – and poorly outfitted for getting down. Having said that, many a cat’s hide has been saved by a quick run up a tree where a dog or other predator could not follow. While I have never had to resort to calling the fire department, nor even taking out a ladder, growing up with cats in the suburbs we periodically would find ourselves standing in the backyard trying to convince one kitty or another to make the slow trip back down the slippery trunk of a tree.  These fellows look like they might make the trip up this tree on a regular basis however. It did not excite my anxious nature.

The back of this photo postcard is a bit hard to read.  The postmark is Boston, November 3, 1909, 9:30 AM. It is address as follows: G A Orustredt, Bridgeport, Conn, general delivery.  It reads: J. P. 11/2/09; Friend Gus [sic] Received your Postal last evening and feeling o.k. Indigestion better, the girls are all feeling fine they all send Regards. [sic] So you are on the old camping ground again hope you wont stay too long. We will expect you back in Boston by xmas anyway. I am Forwarding Letter and Postal. hope you will receive them O.K. Friend G.A.G. I guess maybe the indigestion had a negative impact on his punctuation? And no mention of the cats in the tree in the photo.