The Easter Kitty

Scan copy

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Of course every day is a cat holiday in my book, but I have been holding this card for an Easter nod. Mr. Bunny is certainly the picture of calm and cool and fluffy at a dish (must be water because I can’t think of a food cats and rabbits share) with not one but three kitties. Granted, two are juniors kits, look about eight months old, not quite full size yet. They look like they could stir up plenty of trouble, yet somehow the bunny is not what they have in mind today. Something has the attention of the black one (Blackie’s great-great-grandfather?) off camera. Senior cat seems to be contemplating something too.

I can’t decide if what we see in the upper right corner is someone in a long dress – perhaps making sure everyone plays nice? I also like what we see of this yard. It is pleasantly run down and lived-in, but in a cheerful way with the potted plants and worn stairs. Clearly there was meant to be some sort of pre-fab decorative border, although on this one it has gone awry. (More sloppy printing! How disappointing for the recipient of the photo!) This card was never used and I assume just kept to commemorate a lovely afternoon with the pets outside; everyone enjoying themselves on a sunny day.

I have never known a rabbit very well. My colleague Morgan has a small black and white named Petunias, and I enjoy video clips and photos of his antics. I knew a woman who adopted her neighbors miniature rabbit, Bun Bun. He was extremely affectionate and holding him was the first time I realized that rabbits purr! Fascinating! My brother had a magnificent, enormous rabbit, Juliette. She deserves her own post really. He was an excellent rabbit parent – and later adopted a bird. Edward is pet-less now – a fact I think he should remedy.(Edward, consider this a public rebuke for your petlessness!) Eventually another animal will adopt him and his girlfriend, I’m sure. After all – he’s a Butler and they have a way of finding us.

Old Tom, the Washington Post Office Cat

Scan(4)Pam’s Pictorama: This old press photo has revealed a world of cat lore I knew nothing about prior to researching it. Evidently cats by the dozens were employed by the US Post Office at the turn of the century to catch rodents that were especially attracted to the glue used on envelopes and packages at the time. In short order it took me to this splendid blogging colleague, The Hatching Cat, (I subscribed immediately) wherein his post, 1904: The Feline Police Society he outlines the fascinating society specifically of the New York post office cat force. It is a very jolly read, and I won’t steal much thunder from it except to say, the New York Post Office had a very large and extremely well organized force of felines for this purpose. There were first-class cats and second-class cats – they even knew to assemble and take the elevator when chow was served. Brilliant!

Back to our friend who seems to be a rather singular member of the Washington force, residing in the nation’s capital circa 1922. The back of this 5″x7″ photo reads, ‘Old Tom’, who has been catching rats in Post office [sic] department at Washington for 17 years. A14 Reference Dept September 11 1922 N.E.A. In pencil cats has also been scrawled, as well as the rather cryptic 1/2 cal Levs. Tom, this old, old timer as we’d call him in our house, was pretty famous.

Tom appears to have been featured in numerous articles period articles – some in what appear to be postal newsletters to the trade, others in newspapers of the day. The Spokane Daily Chronicle featured a story on Tom receiving a box of catnip for Christmas from one admiring Kittie (yes, Kittie) Thomas. This article appears in the September 14 issue, so perhaps she responded quickly to an article which accompanied the photo in another article? Coincidence? Below is a more comprehensive version that appeared in the Postal Record, volume 35, ’22.

Old Tom on a Rampage Old Tom the veteran Post Office Department cat is on a jag. Meanwhile the few remaining rats and mice that have escaped his relentless pursuit are relaxing the eternal vigilance that is responsible for their present existence. The mail man recently brought Old Tom a package neatly wrapped and bearing a 7 cent stamp It was addressed to The Postoffice at Tom Washington DC and was from Mrs Kittie Thomas 433 Shiawassee street Lansing Mich. Being a long ways from Christmas Tom’s superiors the watchmen began a spirited speculation as to the contents of the package. Not so Tom His sense of smell caused him to fall in love with it immediately and he could hardly restrain his impatience until it was opened. Yes. It was catnip and Tom is enjoying his first time off since the Roosevelt administration when he came into office. The watchmen at first were inclined to be resentful of ‘outside interference’ with Tom’s duties but when the increasing boldness of the rodent colony was observed the became general that when Tom recovers he will be able to capitalize the boldness and more than make up for the time lost of his spree. So far as is known Tom is not acquainted with his benefactress but that is not surprising in view of the fact that he has received more publicity than many public men and has been heard of in all sections of the country.

The Hermitage museum is well known for the generations of cats, ratters and mousers, in the basement. (I had hoped I might catch a glimpse of one when visiting – I even got lost and wandered out of the galleries and into a private space, but no. Those cats know how to stay behind the scenes I guess.) Many of you know I work for a large (and very old) museum in New York City. I have been suggesting the employment of cats for years, sadly to no avail. Perhaps this post will change their minds.

Well, wouldn’t this make you exclaim!


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I can only feel fortunate that there was a cat on this card which allowed it to turn up in one of my searches. As it is, I have a soft spot for photo collage/montage cards, but the loopy handwriting all over makes it a really rare find. (Just a few examples of photo collage posts you can check out include, Cat Photo Collage and Dawn of a New Year.)

As you can see below, on the back, in the same decorative hand, it is addressed to Miss Mable Chandler, 402 Lincoln Ave, Eau Claire, Wis. c/o Miss M. Hammond and sent with a penny stamp, 8 PM, August 28, 1907 with a departure from a place in Wisconsin I cannot read (it appears to be BPM?) and it arrived in Eau Claire at 11 PM that evening. There is a small cryptic symbol – initials? – in the upper left corner.

I hardly know where to start with the image. The original card seems pretty cryptic to begin with. The woman at the top of the exclamation point is holding something – was it a bowl? – that our sender has inked over into a sort of smiley face. The decorative ferns and leaves in the background work visually, but what the heck are they there for? Then the woman with a white cap and finally, Mr. Kitty staring out, over the edge to the embracing couple below, a bit critical if you ask me. They, of course, are snuggled up and the writing nearest them reads, What is the fine definintion of a “Kiss and next to it, Ans: 0÷2 Can you make it out if not ask me Jean. Next to the couple she has written in a dialogue balloon, This is an Illustration of the ans.

I wonder if the card itself was a one off? If not – what the heck was it all about? I guess I may never really know, but I am pleased to have this dolled up example of someone’s handiwork in connection with it.




Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is a silly little photo and it came out of an album with several others taken in the same spot in this year – Mom, a little sister – them together. The others are just random family photos, but this one charmed me.

It speaks entirely for itself – the lawn animals are entertaining in their own right. However, the addition of the little boy, in that miniature, grown-up chair holding that splendid stuffed Scotty – that so perfectly matching the lawn ornament – is what makes it great. The fact that the lawn cat is a tuxedo does not hurt in my estimation either.

Although I collect toy cats, I am the first to say that there is a superior variety and selection of stuffed dogs in the world and sometimes I can hardly contain myself. However, there may be something a bit telling in the fact (ahem) that they also generally seem to sell for less. (While that is the cat collector in me speaking, it is an honest observation.) It must be said, and as devoted readers may remember, my own favorite toy as a child was a stuffed dog, Squeaky, who has featured in two prior posts. (For the curious, one of those can be found here at Felix on an Outing.) My only cat companions were living ones, as much as I wish I could share a photo of a tiny me with a stuffed cat toy.

I have been enticed by dog pull-toys, Bonzo (who I have given into collecting in a small way) and of course various just nice stuffed ones. And I remember being very tempted indeed by a Scotty dog much like this one, in splendid shape, being offered for a reasonable price at an antiques mall in Red Bank, NJ. Toy collectors who live in small studio apartments must be very thoughtful about expanding their sphere of collecting however. Perhaps buying this photo has satisfied that latent yen. On the other hand, much like mice, maybe the cat toys need a dog or two to keep them on their toes.

Springtime with Kittens


Pam’s Pictorama Post Post: This photo postcard is just so neat and tidy – I love it. A woman settled into this leafy patch, perfect white picket fence behind, with two wonderful kittens and a dog who appears to be very happy to guard all involved. The little handful of striped kitten on her shoulder seems a bit smaller (younger) than the one on her lap, but perhaps that is because we cannot see him or her clearly and they are siblings. The gray kitten is all happy sleepiness although that striped one looks like trouble. What is it with those tabby cats?

The woman looks like she is pleased to be posing with her pets on her mossy seat – and she is nicely turned out. I especially like those print stockings. This is an odd question, but is that a small photo sticking out of her hair? Keeps catching my eye. The gray kitten looks just like a pair of identical kittens I had when I was a kid – Ping and Pong, the offspring of Winkie. I can easily imagine being this contented woman – posing with my precious pets!

The back of this card reads, Kind regards & best wishes, Yours Sincerely, L. Scrugg 13.8.13. It is written in a beautiful, looping hand in red pen. It was never mailed. Like many, it must have been given to the recipient and treasured, as it remains today in our house.

Betty Jewel – and Felix!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Betty poses here with this sprightly Felix strolling on a stick – a toy I have bid on, but not won to date. In pencil on the back it reads, Betty Jewel 1927 Arizona Bound (followed by something I cannot read which might be C/SE7). This photo has been cut down to its current, approximately, 8″x 10″ form as you can tell from the white margin at the bottom. Another actress is almost, but not quite, cut out of the photo. Since no other women are credited on the film I can’t even make a guess.

Betty is very perky here indeed. This film, currently lost, starred an as yet relatively unknown Gary Cooper. The Wikipedia entry has a brief plot from the film which seems to portray Gary’s character as spending all his time looking after his white wonder horse Flash – love that. White wonder horse – hotsy-totsy I say! The IMDb database has a review by someone who says that saw 90 feet of it at the Library of Congress. (Unfortunately, it would not appear to be the piece with Felix in it I will add.) I have slipped in another still from the film – this one between Betty and Gary, although again, sadly minus Felix.


Betty Jewel, born Julia Baroni, on April 29, 1899 in Omaha, Nebraska died in 1963. She has eight acting credits between the years of 1923 and 1927 – with three of them in 1927 and she disappears from the scene after that. Betty seems to have started in the biz as a Ziegfield Girl in the teens. (As Kim pointed out, this means that there is a nude photo of her bouncing around as there is of each Ziegfield girl – and sure enough Google images complied. There is a semi-nude photo of her by the Ziegfield photographer Alfred Cheney Johnston. I was unable to grab a usable image so you will  have to search on your own if you are interested.)

Meanwhile, Gary Cooper was bursting forth on the scene and ’27 was a turning point for him with seven films. Not many of these seem to survive however. Kim contributes that Cooper’s big break was in the 1926 film The Winning of Barbara Worth. He is not the star, Ronald Coleman is, but instead a supporting role, competing for Vilma Banky. The film does survive in good condition and a great looking clip that has Gary in it can be found on Youtube here: The Winning of Barbara Worth. Obviously, Gary continues to work and moves into more leading roles. As one review points out though, maybe it wasn’t until you could hear his rather wonderful voice in sound films that he really takes off.

I digress however. Getting back to Felix who brought us here in the first place. Those of you who have frequented Pictorama in the past know that in his day, everyone posed with Felix and that he made such guest appearances as this in numerous films and with many stars of the day. By way of reminder, these former posts are part of the genre and I have linked to some of them below. For those of you these posts are new to – enjoy!

Felix Plays a Prime Prop
Felix is the Cat’s Pajamas – Zita Harrison and Pagliaccio the Cat
Mistinguett – Felix Goes to the Dogs
Felix Makes the Picture Better!



Conga Line with Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This was one of those second chance images that I recently caught up with on eBay. The row of toothy, grinning black cats behind this series of come hither girls is an image that I love.

I do not remember seeing the KAO Stunt Show 1911 (75 encircled) that is printed on the negative at the bottom on the first card. This card was pasted into a black paper album according to the evidence remaining on the back. Also printed on the back is, Strauch’s Student Life Series University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana. I cannot seem to find a full history on this, but it would seem that this series of photo postcards just illuminated the fun and games of being at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, in the teens. This one below was recently sold on eBay and May Day in particular seemed to be a wild and wooly time there. (It is numbered 10 I see and mine is 75 so we will assume it was a substantial set.)


I must say, between May Day and dancing girls in front of a line of smiling black cats, it certainly would have attracted me to attend U of I. (Connecticut College was just never that interesting.) Another card recently sold on eBay, just called May Day 1913, shows a couple of hundred people seated in bleachers, presumably watching the festivities. Someone has circled part of the crowd to point out themselves and a group of people they knew. It too was in an album. So it seems it was a series of pro photos issued annually by the school, highlighting the year at the school. You have my assurance I will be keeping an eye out for more.

Irving, Gertie and Ellie

Dad as toddler

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Last week I was helping my mother go through some closets and drawers in preparation for an eventual move out of their now-too-large house, the home I spent a large portion of my childhood in. In my old bedroom, in a box in the closet, we found a number of framed, old photos. I have seen them all at one time or another, but not in many years and saw them differently with adult eyes. There were requisite black and white 8×10’s of me and Loren when we were babies; my mother and her brother in hand-tinted graduation photos that hung in the living room of my mother’s family home, where I remember them until my grandmother moved out shortly before her death; and this interesting photo of my father as a toddler, holding a toy truck, with his mother and father.

I just took a quick picture of the photo with my phone so it isn’t the best reproduction. I cleaned the dust off it and while, watching the endless loop of CNN with my dad, I tackled polishing the silver frame. The container of silver polish they had was a bit ancient or I might have gotten better results, but I did get it clean enough to realize that someone’s initials which did not belong to the Butler family, were featured at the top of the frame. I’m sure it was one of my grandmother’s auction house finds – she never would have let something like initials interfere with a silver frame for a good price.

I get my collecting gene from her, Gertrude Butler, nee Rosensweig – a haunter of auctions, collector of costume jewelry which she piled into jewelry boxes I loved to dig in as kid. She was always perfectly turned out, gorgeous brocade patterned dresses of another era, hair carefully waved, make-up done and most certainly red lipstick on. Still, even with that memory I am surprised by how much of a babe she is in this photo – hair and clothes styled  to the moment, sleek and elegant, intelligent widely spaced eyes. There’s something a bit steely in them I don’t remember – but she died when I was very young and of course she only ever looked adoringly at her grandchildren.

My grandfather is a good looking man and very dapper here – more so than I remember although he was always handsome. Although I think of my father looking like him, I can see here he has a lot of his mother in him too. He is holding something between his fingers I can’t identify – not a cigarette, looks almost like maybe a piece of another toy or what you use to click the camera shutter, which doesn’t really make sense.

And then there’s my dad, Elliott, Ellie to his parents – and only to them. He is an only child although he had cousins who were close, like a brother and sister. I remember my grandmother showing me one of his long golden curls she saved. (My sister got that curly hair, but always chestnut brown, lighter than my own straight, darker hair.) This was especially remarkable because as an adult he has virtually black hair, still curly, and a dark, swarthy complexion. Ironic that he’s holding a toy truck – I can’t imagine anyone with less interest in cars than my father. He’s looking off, at the photographer, who I imagine is holding a birdie in his hand. Maybe he’s thinking about a future filled with cameras like this one.