Posing Puss


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: “I am ready for my close up!” This fine fellow must have been a much beloved pet. Here he poses, between desk and (my guess is) cash register. Perhaps a guardian of a family owned establishment, mouser and greeter, a cat of many talents. He – I am going to guess its a he – is a nice stripped guy and clearly a cat who knows how to show off his attributes. This is a cat for posterity – you could put him on a coin or a postage stamp to represent all fine, upstanding and noble kitties.

This photo has no writing on it and it is entirely clean, front and back so it probably didn’t live in an album. From what we can see of the desk and the register it appears to be early in the last century, however, it is printed with a white margin and therefore it was printed after the use of enlargers began.

Living in the internet age, we certainly are familiar with cats performing for the camera. This is proof that it is a skill, an instinct perhaps, that goes back well before the days of Youtube.

Toy Cat



Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This cat is the sort I imagine I would have very much loved to own as a small child. He is sturdy, neat and bold in his black and whiteness, with round edges and a friendly face. There is a cheerful durability to him, small and convenient for a child to carry. I think I would have been very pleased to wander around with this guy clutched in my arms as a toddler. I feel compelled to report (Mom and Dad please take note) that I never had a toy stuffed cat as a child. Clearly I have been making up for lost time.

It is strange the toys that we do end up fixating on as kids. I have written about a soft black and white dog named Squeaky who went everywhere with me (featured in Felix on an Outing), but I also had a hard kuala bear my father brought back from a news junket to Australia, which I carried around when I was a little bit older. The bear did not have a name, just kuala bear, and he was made of some sort of real fur. That is a bit shocking to me now, however I was only about 6 and only thought that it was very soft. While the fur was soft the bear itself was stuffed with something very hard and he had spiky plastic claw paws. I no longer have him and have no idea what happened to him, but he seemed to belong more or less to the same family as the toys shown below from the Google image file.


The question of the type of fur these bears sport seems to be open for debate online even now. The obvious guess is kangaroo fur since that country seems to have a surplus of kangaroos and no great love for them. I am sure that these days my mother (animal rights activist Butler) would never have approved it now. However, he was my constant companion for a very long time, eventually losing a claw or so and his ears and some other spots worn to baldness. We were inseparable.

This new toy cat has no maker tag for identification, but he came to me from Great Britain (a fine toy-making nation) and I assume it is his ancestral home. He does bear some resemblance to a small dog toy that came to me via Kim years ago, shown below. Perhaps not the same maker, but kissin’ cousins nevertheless. All of these are toys that have seen many miles and years, and much child love.


September 1889


Pam’s Pictorama: By some luck of the draw, I purchased this card about a month shy of its 127th anniversary, advertising the Hancock County Fair in Britt, Iowa which that year was featured on September 17, 18 and 19. Although I thought it might have been a weekend, as it is this year, it was instead Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It is too late to attend this year, the fair was held on September 2-4, but yes, I am pleased to report that it is still around after all these years.

Somehow this wacky bubble-blowing cat is a fitting image for a fair reminder. I’m not sure about the I’ll Blow it Bigger or Bust tag line, but he is a great crossed eyed feline using a very old-fashioned method of blowing bubbles from a clay pipe and mug. I like the way he has it clutched in his kitty paws.

My own childhood held two annual fairs, bookending either side of the summer. A local church, St. Georges, had a splendid fair which kicked off the summer in late May. It was more of the jumble sale variety, with some small, easy games and all the carnival food and local baked goods you could want. It was within walking distance of where we lived and it heralded the start of the summer season each year. However, end of August or early September, where our town melded into the next, the Firemen’s Fair was held. Although on a small plot, in front of the firehouse and large enough for the trucks to line up there when necessary, it was chock-a-block full of rides and carnival amusements. There was a ferris wheel, cotton candy and candy apples (I have an admitted weakness for both) as well as games of skill and goldfish to be won.(Sadly, none of those goldfish enjoyed much longevity. Cannot even blame the kitties, although our cat Zipper had his way with a few fish in his time, but that is another story.)

Of course when we were little, we insisted on at least one night at the fair and reveled in its glory. As we got older, it was the place where you went with your summer boyfriend/girlfriend in tow and showed off your summer tan as you reacquainted yourself with people you had not seen over the summer. It may be a false memory, but I think there were years in college I was able to go before heading back to school. I have a fiendish love of candied apples and cotton candy.

I checked up on the fair online and it turns out that ours is one of the largest fireman’s fairs in the state of New Jersey and the last time I was in town in July there were already signs up, announcing the dates for the last weekend of August where it merged into September this year. As you read this, I am likely in the South of France dining on good cheese and wine so no complaints, but my mouth is watering a bit for a candied apple, freshly made with the first apples of the season.


Cat Show…Next


Pam’s Pictorama: Okay, so you might think this is sort of crazy, but I have wanted this photo for a very long time! The first time I lost it for a very high sum, outbid on eBay in a sniping dogfight. The second time, the card had some blue ink writing on it which was disappointing, but I did bid – and was again, outbid for a sizable sum. Strangely, almost immediately, this fairly pristine copy turned up…for very little. I bid…and won! It was a very good day to be a cat card collector.

I don’t know exactly why I kept going to war to get this card, but I am not disappointed. The pretty woman, holding this fine specimen of a dog, both posing for the camera, appear to be coming from the dog show. One wonders if Cat Show Next means this way or next week, for example.  Then, down at the bottom where I didn’t notice it for a long time, in tiny white drop out print Beastly Affairs. And apropos of nothing, can I just note how much I love this woman’s whacky hat? It is like a tiny, flowering garden perched on her head.

This card was mailed on September 9, 1909! It arrived in my mailbox almost exactly 107 years after it was originally postmarked in Winthrop, MA. In a not especially neat hand, written on the back is, I see Alic [sic] today and addressed simply, Mr. Gilford Martin, Amherst, New Hampshire. Also on the back the following is printed at the bottom, This card is a REAL PHOTOGRAPH on bromide paper. The Rotograph Co., N.Y. City, Printed in England.

For whatever reason, this photo also reminds me of one of my favorite Our Gang shorts, the one with Pete and the dog show, Pups is Pups which of course ends with dozens of dogs let loose and racing around in a wonderful doggy melee. The kind which is magnificent onscreen, but would of course, be quite something else in reality. Speaking of reality, while looking for the link to Pups is Pups above, I found this very nifty short of Pete with his trainer which I had never seen. Enjoy! Pete Rare Training Film, Little Rascals’ Pete the Pup

Effie Myers


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This year, several posts are photos or advertising that, freakishly and by coincidence, have September anniversaries. This card which has the date September 17, 1911 written on the back is celebrating its 105th anniversary today – to the day! In the same hand is written Miss Sofie Myers, in pen. In another hand, in pencil, Effie Myers and the old home place is scrawled at the top. It is stamped with Photo by E.F. Baker, Siddonsburg, Pa. It was never mailed.

In a sense I keep buying this photo again and again. Seems I cannot resist someone posing with their pets in a garden, sun streaming down on them. Effie, in her beautiful white dress and locket pendant, holding a splendid black kitty and with her lovely pooch laying in front of her, is an optimal version. She is on a blanket and seated on some fluffy large pillows, the white picket fence behind her, sun hitting it. It is as beautiful a September afternoon as any of us could wish for, even 105 years later. (Although I cannot complain, we in New York City seem to be enjoying one almost as nice today.) She has her beloved pets and is in what we will assume is the yard of the family’s old home place. However, there is a hint there of eventual change and dislocation in that note, triggering homesickness too. Where was the new homestead? Was everyone happy there too?

As I send some of these missives honoring September weekends long passed, I will be traveling far from home, in Europe. It will be beautiful where I am going, but I will be missing that fast changing September light of New York which reminds us of back-to-school in years passed and the approach of the shorter days of fall, only about a week away. I am already a bit homesick for Kim and cats and have not even yet packed my bags!

Kitty Sextette Singers


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I concede that I have been completely unable to find a trace of what the heck this item is and any information about Amos of Hollywood, let alone the charming cat sextette represented here. The cat chorale is made up of largely striped cats, but there’s one stand out white kitty and of course my favorite is the all black cat which is represented almost entirely and solely by his glowing eyes. Another black kit is the maestro conductor, perched on his hind legs to add a purpose to his position. The illusion is, of course, to a noisy bunch of backyard felines driving hopes of sleep away, but I would love to find these songsters on my fence.

If you look carefully you will realize that the photo is a composite of numerous photos, six as far as I can tell. (It is easiest to see if you look at the sidewalk.) I cannot entirely identify, but I believe the cats on top of the fence were all stripped in later as well. There is some loss to the photo where you can see bits of white. A nice, tiny moon has been placed in the upper left corner. I am sure that the conductor cat holds his baton only through the magic of the darkroom. The poster for the Hollywood Bowl shows a date of July 7-August 28, but no year appears any place on the card to identify it. And what are the dogs up to? Are they appreciative audience? Chorus as back-up to the cats? Or are they getting ready to chase them?

And finally, does Amos of Hollywood refer to the black conductor cat? I cannot find anything, but Amos and Andy when I attempt to search it. T.K. Hastings has also disappeared as far as I can tell. This card is about 8″x 5″ and I assume it was some sort of lobby display, although a bit small for that. I purchased it off of eBay and admit I was the only taker, but I am delighted. I stumbled on it under an obscure listing. With the damage to the corner I will try to get it framed as soon as possible and up on the wall. In the meanwhile, I offer it to you all for your delectation. May dreams of cat choruses dance in your head tonight.

Felix Trinket Tray


Pam’s Pictorama Post: As someone who trolls ongoing through online listings for Felix the cat related items, I have seen a number of odd household items devoted to Felix, almost exclusively produced in Great Britain. Some of these items are practical and usable and many are strictly decorative – this one is sort of between those categories – and everything from car hood ornaments and bedwarmers were made from brass. The sheer quantity and imaginative offers of household items has long fascinated me and I believe I have opined on the subject in both Living the Felix Life and A Cuppa Felix, among other posts.

As a person who collects lots of small bits and pieces and a generally disorganized one, I am always a sucker for catch all trays, boxes and cabinets. Not that any of these has ever organized me or my collections, but hope does spring eternal. This one is quite shallow and I think it may head to my office to hold paperclips and the like. Felix is poorly and clumsily cast, yet he is undeniably our man the cat. It has been poorly cleaned and the brass has stained in places – maybe rubbed through if this is a brass overlay, although looking under it the appearance is solid brass. For some reason this item annoys Cookie. She is sitting with me while I write this and every time she looks at it, her ears go back.

Moo Marvelous

Scan(1) copy 12

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For some reason it seems that there have always been folks who were willing to put on a costume and join forces to portray a four legged critter. It is easier to find references to people, usually kids like these, in pageants playing horses, although Christmas pageants would probably need cows like this one too. Obviously, there are jokes and references aplenty to playing the back end of a horse – as well as one rather entertaining description of actually doing it which I found online. To me this costume looks like a well executed homemade one. I suspect for comfort sake however, the boy we see leading the duo probably lucked out.

This is a photograph, not a photo postcard although about the same size, and it has the black bits of paper on the back that show it was in an album. There was something written on the back that starts with cow, but is now obscured. It is hard to say but my guess is the late 1930’s or early 1940’s for this photo, but I am open to suggestions.

I have a well documented affection for animal costumes. For my money, the film of The Dancing Pig 1907 is the very best example of the genre. However, I will always perk up at the sight of a good animal costume or mask in play. I recently published a Pictorama Post on a book I bought years ago, How to Put on a Circus, and it was chock-a-block full of step-by-step instructions for constructing a myriad of animal costumes at home. This clearly required that you were at least a very capable seamstress, comfortable wielding a hammer and nails, and not a stranger to other somewhat esoteric crafting skills so building those costumes is likely to remain a pipe dream for us here at Pictorama.

Alfred Latell, also a blog post of the same name based on an early photo postcard, rose to fame in vaudeville as a one-man version of a dog and poking around on the internet leads me to believe that, perhaps for obvious reasons, vaudevillians most frequently embraced solo portrayals of even the largest animals. However, recently Kim and I watched the film Varieties on Parade 1951 (a shout out to friend Bruce Simon who sent it our way) and there is a hot five minutes where two guys dance in a horse costume. They are remarkably light on their feet and for me, worth the price of admission right there. Bring on more dancing animals I say!

Cat’s Eye on Parade


Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Portland, OR is penciled on the back of this card and given the great history of the cat parade float there I would assume it is true! (The seller seemed to be offering a number of Portland Rose Parade related photo postcards so perhaps it was an album of them.) For those of you who have been here since the beginning of this blog know that some of my earliest photo postcard posts hailed from this auspicious location where extraordinary parade floats – sporting Felix and black cats of other kinds – seem to have been the norm at the early part of the 20th century. This card, with its enormous glowing cat eye and cat outline alight in bulbs was not clear to me at first. Once I looked carefully and realized what it was, I was utterly enamored.

This precious card was never mailed and there is no obvious way to date it. If I knew a bit more about the history of printing these cards I might be able to make a more sophisticated guess, but I would say the aughts or the teens looking at the costumes and how the card is made.

This enormous kitty, arched back, has his own bright eye and spiky lit-up whiskers, big bow around his neck, and then there’s that huge single cat eye glowing in the middle of the float. In reality it is amazing that in the dark with just the kitty float for light that they were able to get such a good photo. Written in a neat hand at the bottom it says, The Catseye, 15 ft high, 60  yds black velvet, bows [sic?] up back, lifts its tail opens & closes its mouth. How I would have liked to see it in action! Oh lucky costumed few who got to ride on it. Can’t help but wonder what it all meant. Perhaps a secret society like the Hoo-Hoos as outlined in my post Spirit of the Golden West? Could be that very one. I have never belonged to a secret society, but if I could find one that promoted parade floats like this one I would be very tempted indeed – it would have to be some kind of interesting. I will pull Cookie and Blackie into a huddle later and see if we can come up with a plan. A good project for me and the kits this winter. (We’ll let Kim join too I think.)