Men and Cats

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I guess it wouldn’t surprise anyone to find out that I have a soft spot for photos of men and cats. There’s something about these big tough guys scooping up their cat when their photo is going to be taken that I particularly love. (Previous examples in this category would be my posts Men in Hats with Cats and Tricks) In this one the great little tuxedo is looking up at the man adoringly. Nothing on the back of the card, a bit grimy. There’s a strange symmetry – two of the men wearing matching hats (a third hat is strangely hung high on the fence, does it belong to the man on the end?) and the men on each side with his arms across his chest in an identical pose. Love me, love my cat!

While I was growing up, my father seemed to only have a passing interest in the parade of cats that populated our world and I cannot recall a photo or image of him holding one of them. There was one or two he was perhaps a bit more partial too – our first cat Snoopy comes to mind. And there was tell of a cat he and my mother had before us kids were born, named Nudge, another orange striped fellow, who would hide and jump out and attack my father. (Never my mother – orange striped cats tend to be one person cats. Having said that, my father ultimately took up with my orange tabby, Pumpkin, after I left home and fed him smoked salmon from the table on a regular basis. Needless to say, they were tight.) My father neither objected to, nor paid a lot of attention to the cats of our lives. The German Shepard, Duchess, was his dog though and would wait by the front door for him to come home – even from long trips.

However, after retirement my father has, in many ways, gradually become the center of the Butler cat universe in NJ. Sitting on his lap is a prize spot and several denizens expect brushing and other attentions. There is another great orange cat in residence presently, Red, who adopts me for the night when I visit, on leave from my father’s room, to spend the night on my bed. (Don’t the Japanese have inns where you can rent a cat with your room for the night? Or am I conflating something else with the tea houses where you can go and pet cats?) During numerous visits last year when my father spent some time in the hospital, my mother (Queen of the various animals, domestic and otherwise, of their house) and I tended to many of the various cat needs – a visiting cat outside who needed feeding twice a day, one example – but they missed my father’s presence very much. That was about the time Red first adopted me, I guess he needed me and he has not forgotten me since my father’s return. Below is a photo of him on my father’s lap, and another of him watching over me in bed in my childhood room in NJ. Good kitty!

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Felix Plays a Prime Prop

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This gem comes to me courtesy of my terrific husband, as a birthday gift. We were both very entertained by the photo – as well as the appearance of Felix and friends in it.  Sadly, there is no identification – someone has written German film? on the back in pencil. Otherwise, just the reprint credit information from something called, Culver Services.

Kim suspects that the actor is Dwight Frye. This gave way to another iPad internet search in bed one night and a lively discussion of whether or not we could figure out what movie this might be from his bio. I have failed to tie this out – the woman is not familiar to either of us and I invited anyone who knows about it to speak up. We are curious! Here are a few photos of Dwight from what must be more or less the same time. As you can see, the photo is identified as being from Universal, which is rubbed over in red for some reason.

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Meanwhile, the babe, surrounded by rather excellent stuffed toys, is letting all hang out in would could be a pre-Code or very European way. Dwight looks unconcerned by her state of undress and urges her to look at these plans or whatever those sheets of paper are. The maid just wishes to get on with serving tea it would seem.

Oh, but let’s talk about the toys! There is the glorious big Felix which is what caught my attention to begin with – oh, lucky woman! He’s a pip! Behind her head is a black cat pillow I would acquire instantly given half the chance. Then there are two of these somewhat mysterious stuffed dogs. As far as I can tell they are made by Dean’s Rag Co. of Britain (for some of my posts of praise for these fine toy makers check out my post Pluto) and here is an example of a similar dog that was recently for sale on eBay – didn’t sell if you are interested!

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And then below, my own acquisition of a similar odd duck dog in Paris a few years ago. He does not have a maker mark however. I do not know if the one above does or not.

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Felix is also probably a Dean’s Rag or perhaps a Chad Valley version. I can’t help but wonder where they all came from and who had the excellent eye for set design. Too much to hope that they were part of the plot – if we cannot figure out what film it is I will probably never know for sure either way!

Velox Demonstrations

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This great card is one that almost got away – not just at auction, but due to a prolonged detour through the mysteries of the US Post Office. I was greatly relieved when it arrived safely on my doorsteps after a nail biter of a week or so. (The eBay seller, lovesoldthingstoo, was wonderful and was ready to refund me when it showed up about ten days late and we both cheered!) Anyway, it landed safely in my hands and I must say I don’t have anything else remotely like it.

Not only does it have these wonderful bunch of kittens romping among photography equipment (two of my favorite things in the world), but it is an ad for the very Velox paper photo postcard were printed on!  And to think, on May 6 and May 7, 1907 you could go to the Chas. Kuhn Company at 500 Fulton Street and get a demonstration. Man, I would have been there with bells on! (I wonder if the kittens were working that day.)

This card was sent to Miss Anna Kuhn (a relative we will assume) in Woodstown, NJ on September 2, 1907. Brooklyn, NY is printed in pencil at the bottom and T.H. Tuohy in script, the same hand as addressed the back, at the bottom.

I was very entertained to learn that the Chas. Kuhn Company of Brooklyn had an exhibition space on the second floor. It can be found under listings of artist exhibition bios of the day. It is also mentioned in the context of photo suppliers of the day. One of the places to see and be seen in the Brooklyn of the teens.

Although photo postcards date back further, Kodak’s introduction of Velox paper in 1902 – the ability to print an negative right onto a ready postcard – is the beginning of the form’s real popularity. Collector’s Weekly has a handy history of real photo postcards, found at Real Photo Postcards, and they mention the Kodak 3A folding camera that was made for use with this film. Priced at $20 it was a princely sum – but very appealing either to wealthy amateurs or, more likely, those setting up shop as itinerant photographers. Suddenly everyone was a photographer and your blogger’s future as a collector crystalized decades before her birth. The format was available at least into the 1970’s, but I could not find a definitive end date for production. The postcards will bring endless pleasure.

Old Tommy

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  Meet Tommy, sitting by a fishbowl on a window sill, pretty as a picture. The back of this card has the following written on it, Dear Lina, here is a picture of old Tommy he is a live [sic] and well. Gay said he did not think he could get away tomorrow. Give our love to Mrs. Brady and sister. It is addressed to Mrs. Pauline Bauldwin, New Milford, PA Route no.1 Dated October (illegible date) 2 PM 1908. It is written in pencil, except the address which is in pen – it is a neat script. Unsigned – I guess Lina knew who was writing.

The photographer had an excellent eye and this is a great photo. Most notably the wonderful reflection in the fish bowl – a little universe unto itself showing a trim yard and house in tiny replica. I can’t actually see a fish, but there is a large and interesting shell evident in the fish bowl and I wonder what book it is sitting atop of, but nothing on the spine.

Old Tommy is a hefty fellow. He is dignified and not even giving that fish bowl a sideways look – at least not while the camera is on him. Another of my cat stories from my youth is about a tabby stray named Zipper. My mother rescued him as a tiny, malnourished kitten being abused by boys outside a laundry mat. Anyway, Zips was a hunter and feral fellow and, additionally, a great admirer of the large tropical fish tank we kept. Zipper liked to sit next to it, eyes shining with interest, and he would gently pat it intently, while looking at us innocently. To my knowledge no fish fell prey to Zipper (we did have a top on tank although it had an opening), but it was a large tank and who’s to say really if he had the occasional fish nip or not?

Felix is the Cat’s Pajamas – Zita Harrison and Pagliaccio the Cat

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I spotted the photo of the cat reading first on eBay. Oh man, what I wouldn’t give for those Felix pajama costume she is wearing! Lucky for me the seller wasn’t capitalizing on the Felix-ness of the photo. It was not cheap, but I bought it uncontested. The back reads, ‘Pagliaccio’ is said to be the best trained cat in the business. Zita Harrison has taught him how to spell and how to play the banjo while playing a mouth organ. CREDIT LINES MUST READ: BY ACME.

It is not often that Mr. Internet lets me down entirely. In fact I have become spoiled (and fascinated) by the ability to type in obscure and presumably long lost addresses and information about long forgotten stars of vaudeville (see for example Mad Jenny, an earlier post) into an internet search and generally turning up some information. It was with this in mind that I anxiously typed in Zita Harrison 1926, really wanting to know more about her cat act, and promptly turned up…nothing. A few other variations and searches several pages in and I found the second photo published here in The Plattsburgh Sentinel, but the only additional bit of information is that she is from San Francisco.

While waiting for the photo to show up in the mail I tried rolling the internet dice again and this time I notice not only was the other version of the photo online, but it was for sale on Canadian eBay. Needless to say, I purchased that one immediately, and I like it even more – although the Felix suit is not shown off to quite such an advantage.  On the back this one is inscribed, lars – S.F. to Cleveland and Acme  Feb. 11. ‘Pagliaccio’ is said to be the best trained cat in the business. Zita Harrison has taught him how to spell and how to play the banjo while playing a mouth organ. -vl- It is also stamped Feb. 18 1926. (It is a strange bonus that February 11 is my birthday, Kim purchased it for me, and arrived just in time for the day!) Unlike the first photo where Pagliaccio looks utterly content in his sweater and glasses, he looks decided less happy playing the tiny guitar. Fangy fellow.

Given the fact that Zita looks a tad long in the tooth, I tried some earlier periods – her name isn’t terribly common after all. Not even any listings in old newspapers that might have listed the act with others playing in San Francisco. So, I have to wonder. How did she achieve this one publicity push in winter of 1926? It doesn’t seem to correspond with any real articles on her or listings for her performances. I guess we will never know about that or where those great Felix pajamas came from.

Deitch Valentine Bonus Post

Pam’s Pictorama Valentine Post: Last Tuesday a neighbor accidentally flooded our apartment and despite Kim’s best efforts at mopping up, at 8:00 at night I found myself cross-legged on the floor in front of our linen closet throwing out sodden tax documents and, sadly, old snap shots and letters. However, among those things and utterly untouched was this Valentine Kim made me many years ago when we first got together. It is from a small box of chocolate which he covered with paper and drew on with colored pencil! Delightful!

Those of you who have followed on Facebook over the years know of our family tradition where Kim makes me a wonderful Valentine drawing every year. Since I started out as a big Kim Deitch fan before being a girlfriend or a wife these are really extra special for me. Over time they have become more elaborate and now they are almost mini-stories. Lucky girl – I get to star in my own Kim Deitch drawings! Yay Kim! I am the happiest fan ever – as well as the luckiest wife.

Below are some Valentines from recent past years. Enjoy!

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Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co.

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is the only Victorian trade card I own of this variety. It is a bit hard to see, but the top says, Ha! Tis Me. The Maltese Me Rival. I do not claim to understand it – I just liked the image of this great frowning striped kitty forced into this very flat perspective – look at his claw paws and an angry puffy tail! On the back, in tiny type, is an exhaustive list of The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Co.’s Branch Houses in the U.S. – with almost a third of them in New York City – and a notation at the bottom that the Principal Warehouse, 35 and 37 Vesey Street, N.Y.  P.O. Box 4233. It is a tiny card, about the size of a playing card.

The Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company, founded in 1859 as The Great American Tea Company selling tea and spices at discounted prices in New York City, changed its name in 1869 to commemorate the first transcontinental railroad. Much to my surprise, the company morphed first into the A&P tea company and ultimately A&P supermarkets of today. (Kim seems to have known this all along – fascinating man my husband.) All I can say is, they sure would get more of my business if they had kept this ad campaign. They were generous in their distribution of Victorian trade cards and there seem to be more than you could imagine once you go looking. Scores for sale on eBay at any time – their survival rate a reflection of their popularity during their heyday.

Our friend the Internet supplies us with much information on the specifics of the cards and story. The folks over at http://www.thepethistorian.com have a nice little essay on the subject. The cards were printed by A.B. Seeley, copyrighted 1881. This one appears to be the second in a group of six and represents the story of a girl cat, romanced by the street cat, but who waits for an upperclass Tom to come along instead. He beats up poor Mr. Street kitty – who ends the series bloody, but not bowed and trying to convince us that he won this fight. (I am snatching just that final image for your entertainment below – wouldn’t mind adding that one to my collection.) The language on the cards seem to be references to poems and other things that would have been recognized by people of the day – but overall it is a recognizable cat tale of love and love lost that is pretty easy to follow and appreciate.

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