Pam’s Pictorama Post: I guess given my predilection for black cats, it isn’t surprising that Halloween of days gone by greatly entertains me, and therefore so does dressing up, and for a time I was buying black cat novelty and Halloween books and items. In addition to this original one shown above, I purchased a number of lovely reproductions of the Dennison’s Bogie Books – color xerox copies of the catalogues Dennison’s holiday paper product company put out annually to encourage costume making and elaborate party decorations – made of their crepe paper, of course, and eventually morphing into wrapping paper and decorations.

Although they had booklets (and decorative paper) dedicated to various holidays, of course Halloween was the zenith of the dress up holidays. In addition to the decorations, they detail costumes that could be put together and even party games that could be played. It appears that they were the first on the market with holiday crepe paper – and certainly the first to have such comprehensive marketing.

Dennison’s was around for just over a century – 1897-1998 and was housed in Framingham, MA. They were a significant employer for the area and an important part of civic life there, right up until it was sold in the late 1990’s and moved to California. In addition to being a community leader, contributing to hospital drives and local causes, but also was known for not laying off any staff during the Depression. Some of this information, as well as information about how the Dennison’s archive was saved by a former employee, can be found here in Framingham Unearths Decades of Dennison Memories.

Below are some choice pages from my run of reproduction books, ’14-’17.

Bogie Book 1Bogie Book 2Bogie Book 3

I want that Cat Hat! Which reminds me of a pretty great photo of Kim below:

Kim in Cat Hat

An Odd Felix

Doggy Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As our Halloween posts begin to come to a close, prepare yourselves for the first in a long line of Felix posts – I say let the Felix fiesta begin! I have been busy on eBay and there will be several new Felix items coming to Pam’s Pictorama. However, today I am starting with this fine fellow which is not a recent eBay indulgence, but one from several years ago. I admit to an absolutely extraordinary weakness for these strangely deconstructed Felix toys, the weirder and more off-model or homemade the better.

As I learned from researching my prior post, East London Toy Factory Ltd., these really were handmade by women in factories in London. I can’t quite explain the appeal, but the stranger and more bizarre these toys are, the more I must have them. Luckily for me, I seem to be singular in this passion and the really odd guys often come reasonably cheap.

This one has wide-set eyes, a strangely square body with a tail that oddly reads like a third leg, and the one turned down ear seems to wave at us. He is somewhat doggy. He has been well-loved and has a patch or two and some bald spots to prove it. I do not believe he was ever designed to stand, and in all his tatty glory, he resides in a reclining pose on a top shelf in the bedroom. He has a friendly expression however and he lives a happy existence, here with the many other variations of Felix the Cat.

The Devil is in the Details

Devil card

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Halloween happiness continues on Pictorama! This is a rare case of a card that I have absolutely no memory of having purchased. I have owned it for a fair amount of time, and suspect someone must have given it to me. Halloween cards are frequently too expensive to purchase without real commitment.

This card was sent from Madge Bush of Branchport, NY, tardy for Halloween, on November 5 at 5 PM, 1909. Written in a virtually unreadable child’s hand is the following: Hellogertrude wasyouinto mischief halloween Howdoyoulike yourteacher? It is address in the same hand: Gertrude Bush Westfield PA R.F.D. #2. An adult with beautiful penmanship has added with flourishes: Gertrude Lulu Bush and under the child’s writing her name, Madge Bush. In addition, and somewhat inexplicably, Bush, G.B.x M.B. L.B. and again, Madge Bush.

I think this card is hotsy-totsy! Although it is missing the ever-desirable black cats, it is a worthy, goofy image. For some reason the Devil has entered into a party favor tug-of-war with Mr. Pumpkin Head. (I confess, Pumpkin Headed figures have always vaguely terrified me.) The Devil has put down his pitchfork in order to really put his back into it. We will assume that maybe Mr. Pumpkin Head was carrying those two oozy looking small pumpkins – a strange potential form of Pumpkin cannibalism he was about to commit?

I have long waited to be invited to a party where favors like this party cracker were given out – what on earth great thing could have been inside? Perhaps I will never know, but these guys consider it worth fighting for. Another thing that appeals to me about this card is the way the candle gives everything a scale – the Devil and Pumpkin Head are party cracker/candle size!

Let’s all get out there and mail a few Halloween cards – and don’t forget the party crackers in my trick or treat bag please.

Two of a Kind

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As we continue on with our Halloween theme, I present two splendid kitties from my collection. The first of these cats was among my very first purchases in the world of black cat toy collecting, and it is still among my very favorites. He, along with another excellent, much earlier cat (a future post) were scored in an antique store in Red Bank, New Jersey – near my ancestral home, while on a weekend junket to visit my parents. The second was purchased on eBay. That seller told me that it had been a prize his or her grandmother had won on a push pin board game in a store, and that it was from the 1930’s, which seems about right. This seemingly appropriate example of one of these prize boards is below, grabbed off of the internet.

punch board

There was great excitement from Blackie and Cookie when I took these cats down to be photographed! The arched back, tail and ears is enough for them to read angry feline and react in-kind. In addition, these cats in particular, still carry the irresistible smell of attic and mysterious old things. The combination really wound these guys up this morning.

Both toys are in pretty superb condition – one maintains his bow – and sport magnificent fluffy tails, and virtually no bald spots on their plushy fur. The eBay one has a few condition issues – he does not really stand on his own any longer and his tail lists permanently to one side. Pretty good for a couple of elderly fellows though. They are the cheerful guardians of my cat shelf. I admit, I couldn’t pass one up and would contentedly buy additional ones if I found them. I mean, who wouldn’t?

black cat w/ bowebay cat


bat ring

Pam’s Pictorama: Our Halloween theme continues and stretches a tiny bit to cover this wonderful oddity I bought at a flea market several years ago. Shown on my hand here, this ring sits on a single finger, although it covers several. I purchased it thinking I would give it away to a friend at some point, but somehow never did. I wore it the day I bought it, but it does have the distinct disadvantage of being so heavy that it made my hand tired quickly. The pain of interesting fashion.

I have a bit of trouble imagining exactly what the early life of this ring was. It is a nicely made piece of costume jewelry, but it is hard to imagine the audience. Was this an exotic cocktail ring of the ’60’s? Or just something for any old Saturday night out? It certainly is a statement piece and has something of a more black leather, maniacal feel to it -yet oddly cheerful and essentially very fun.

Because of the weight I have not worn it. However, some day I will be invited to the right Halloween party and will happily sport it for the evening and be the belle of the ball.

Kitten Women

Kitten Women

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Who can resist taking a photo of new kittens? Clearly the instinct goes back pretty far, as shown here. This card is very beaten up, but I do love it. The alternating height of the women, black and white of the skirts – and in fact kittens! – is wonderful. It is a well composed and thoughtfully executed photo, in addition to the design of the women and cats, the foreground divides against the rising background nicely. It could almost be a set, but is not.

For all of that, it is very poorly printed – negative unevenly placed and black edges showing on two sides, and printed upside down on the postcard stock. Sloppy. Makes me assume that the person who took it was not the person who printed it. Either that or they couldn’t help having a great eye, even if they didn’t much care about the end product of their work. Nothing is written on the back and it was never mailed.

The shorter women of the four, #2 and #4, have tiny, nipped-in waists and are the more fashionably dressed. The women in white seem to be a bit tattier – especially their shoes. No one really looks a lot alike among the four, although if you really study them a case could be made for them being sisters or otherwise related.

Among the kittens, of course I have a soft spot for that black one, #3, curled up contentedly in the hands of the one woman. Cat #1 has annoyed ears, #2 napping, and #4 is the action one – poised for adventure. Let him get at it!

Clowning Around

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  I have owned this jolly photo for a long time and it sits on a shelf in our living room. It is unused and undated and sort of just slips in under the wire for a Halloween-theme month post. I associate this genre of costume with the teens or twenties, and the extraordinary enthusiasm for dressing up that never seems to fully resume after the thirties – when clearly people were too poor and things too somber for such frivolity. I have a fascination for this kind of long-gone dress up and it is one of the things I regret I missed being born into the age that I was.

As I examine this card I wonder anew, what is the aviator doing among the matching clowns? I admire his individuality, and can’t help but wonder if there is a story there. (Fly these clowns to the moon, right away!) The clown woman in the upper left corner is the only one who didn’t even manage a semblance of a smile; she appears pensive. I can’t tell if the bower of roses is real (I think it is) or fake, and there is what seems to be confetti on their costumes and on the ground below them. A fair perhaps? Halloween? Whatever it was, looks like a good time was had by all and I wish I could have been there!

Uninvited Guests

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: If you are a cat or a dog, is there anything better than an unattended table of food? Nope – it is the best. I particularly like the way the two dogs are seated in their chairs, very polite. Sadly, the bright sun seems to have lead to an over-exposure and the precise nature of the treats is a bit obscured.

It brings to mind a stolen food story – one of many, as I am sure all of us with pets can recount. One morning I had set a small bowl of cooked asparagus out on the counter to use in an omelet. I left the kitchen briefly and when I returned the asparagus was entirely gone. Turns out my cat Otto (who loved asparagus) had stolen each and every stalk – and piled it up, neatly, behind the bathroom door.

On the back of this card, written in an absolutely perfect, looping handwriting, it says, Dec. 9, 11- Very many thanks for the Bucks paper. I hope you had a fine day for your visitors yesterday. It was a wet afternoon here, but lovely today. With much love, Sophie. It is addressed: Mrs. Jarvis, 10 Waterloo Crescent Dover. It appears to have been mailed from St. John’s Wood. (I was surprised that it came from Great Britain originally.) The year is obscured on the postmark.

Notes like this, dropped in a mail that was picked up and delivered no less than two times a day, remind me of today’s email. Just a few lines – and you knew the recipient would receive it shortly. In Paris there was a system of pneumatic tubes which worked in conjunction with a staff of messengers well into the 1970’s. This fascinated me when I learned about it a few years ago. Faxes seemed to have skipped the more social aspect of communication, but email and IM have more than made up for it, except you don’t get the great postcard image with it.

Lucky Black Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Is this YOUR Lucky Day? Pictorama is featuring Halloween, and black cats in particular, throughout the month of October. Our first installment is this great Lucky Black Cat Curio Catalog of novelties for sale. (Items listed here are sold as Curios Only.)

I purchased this more years ago than I can remember off-hand, attracted by the great graphic on the front. I believe I came across it at a flea market. Following in the great tradition of the Johnson and Smith catalogues, this advertises an array of supernatural and superstitious must-haves. I can’t really show it here, but this was printed on one very long piece of paper, red and black throughout, and folded so it can be read as a booklet. Kim has scanned one spread for me, shown here.

Lucky Black Cat interior 1    Lucky Black Cat interior 3      Lucky Black Cat interior 2

I am especially amazed and horrified by the ad for Black Cat Ashes. (Blackie, don’t read this!) Evidently this ancient practice enabled you to make successful number combinations. And while they remind you that they make no preternatural or supernatural claims or magical representations they do however remind you that it was prepared according to an ancient formula. Draw what conclusions you will.

Listed on the back panel is more than a hundred Other Curios that can be ordered. Ranging in price from 25 cents to a dollar the list includes some of the following highlights: Devil Oil, War Water (followed by Peace Water), Devil’s Shoe Strings (?), Black Cat Holy Water, Black Cat Wishing Bone (ouch!) and Lucky Floor Wash. Buying it was my lucky day.