Moo Marvelous

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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.)