A Pip of a Pip

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It’s been quite a stretch without a toy post – mostly because I have not acquired any since my adventures in Shanghai, and that was more about the trip than the toy. I have written on the subject of the (now obscure) British comicstrip which emerged post-WWI, Pip, Squeak and Wilfred. My post Pip Squeak and Wilfred Perform, based on a postcard purchase, examines the strip in depth and my more recent Close Quarters which kicks off with my acquisition lust for a piece of furniture based on one of these characters.

Nonetheless, it was a splendid Pip toy that lead me to discover the strip in the first place, although I was unable to purchase him. Subsequently, I have bid on numerous versions of this toy and to my surprise I won this one and for a quite reasonable price. Pip is in such good shape I think buyers might have wondered if he was a re-issue of some sort. (The same seller is in fact selling a knitted version which may very well be newer – much to my shock patterns were sold for such things. I cover this strange DIY opportunity in a post here Homemade Mickey. Kim assures me, after having a sniff, that he does indeed have the smell of nostalgia.) Pip has a vaguely, early Felix-y air here, I believe.

Before we get too far into this post let me outline the comic strip for you a bit. Published in Britain’s Daily Mirror, written by Bertram Lamb (and signed as Uncle Dick) and elegantly drawn by A.B. (Austin Bowen) Payne, it is the ongoing story of Pip the dog dad, Squeak the penguin mom, and Wilfred the bunny boy-child, who form a family and live in a magnificent mansion called The Grange. (Where they are theoretically cared for by the aforementioned Uncle Dick, and a human housekeeper Angeline.) Pip was said to have been purchased for a half-crown from a dog’s home, where he was sent after being “arrested” for begging on the Embankment; Squeak was found in the London Zoological Garden although hatched in South Africa; and Wilfred who was found and adopted by them. (There are other characters and I am especially fond of Auntie penguin who is a bit frowzy with age and who has a penchant for money schemes.) Launched in 1919 one can easily imagine why a fatigued post-war England would embrace these characters and their whacky and low-key ongoing tales. It ran until 1959, although with the death of Lamb in ’38 and the subsequent defection of Payne in ’39 the heyday ends there.

I supply a sample strip from the ’30 annual below.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection, from a 1930 Annual

 

For the few (really guys, two or three) people who read the earlier Pip, Squeak and Wilfred post you know that it has been a long held desire to have (at a minimum, let’s be realistic) one each of these stuffed toys. I have achieved two out of three for now with the acquisition of Pip. I have made many attempts at purchasing a Squeak which have yet to bear fruit – stay tuned on that. Meanwhile, I share a photo below my then recently acquired Wilfred rabbit during my recovery from foot surgery a few years ago. (Hence the large, red cast in the background – that’s me.) He is perched on one of my nice annuals – more on those below.

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Wilfred rabbit toy, recently arrived. Blackie and toy shelf in background!

 

While I have labored to no effect to work up much interest in this strip they were, in their day in Britain, as big as Mickey Mouse – spawning early merchandise which included not just stuffed toys and various figurines, but postcards, furniture, recreations of The Grange, records of songs, as well as annual competitions and gatherings across Britain. (My previous posts above include some Youtube footage of a parade and a short on the making of the strip.) Here I include a photo of the badge from their fan club, the GUGNUNCs below. WWI medals were also issued in the names of each of the pet family. The club was in existence until fading with Britain’s entrance into WWII.

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Pip, Squeak and Wilfred fan club pin, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

I have collected several of the annuals, my 1930 one below. I read them while trapped in bed, doped up with pain meds, after foot surgery a few years back. Still, to know me is to know that I have a tremendous capacity for enjoying juvenile literary fare – take my posts on Honey Bunch and Grace Harlowe, the Automobile Girls and the Moving Picture Girls Novels. It is a great avenue of relaxation for me. Kim began his vacation last week, so I am playing catch up and trying to quickly free my mind from my new job and responsibilities during this week running into Labor Day weekend – the most vacation I could manage with the new gig. Re-reading some of these seems like it might just do the trick and help relax my work-addled brain

For those of you who would like a bit more background on them, you might try Forgotten Comic Charaters; Pip, Squeak and Wilfred, an excellent online article. In addition, many of the strips are available online. I say perfect for these last, lazy days of summer.

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1930 Annual, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Saucy Felix

Pam’s Pictorama: This pattern of Felix china has long attracted me and I have very much wanted to own at least a specimen example and now I do. It is Royal Rudolstadt made in 1925, or so it appears from what I read online, although this dish is unmarked. While the Felix-es around the edges look very regular and professional, there’s something sort of wonderfully wonky about the Felix face in the middle. I have always liked the way the figures around the edge look almost as if they would animate if you spin the plate. (They don’t.)

This set of dishes brings the tally of Felix china that I am aware of to three different designs. The others range broadly, from the one I wrote about in Living the Felix Life which is very professional looking and Felix is exactly the same on each to the one in the post here, Dishing Felix, which looks very much like it was copied freehand.

Today’s dish falls soundly between the others aesthetically and I assume it is a tea cup saucer. What a racy tea set this must have been! I have seen cups and creamers from it, but oddly never a tea or coffee pot. I believe pieces are also trimmed in yellow, green and blue and in fact this may be the first pink one I have seen. None of these dishes impresses me as having been made for children. I do believe I would be more inclined to have tea parties if I owned this full set!

I briefly considered buying these as high end cat dishes which, among other things, would make poor Kim a nervous wreck as he is often the one handling the dishes at feeding time. (I neither get up early enough, nor do I get home early enough for Mr. Blackie and Ms. Cookie it seems.) The kits have rather splendid cat dishes anyway and I have decided to show them here as well while we are on the subject. They don’t rise to the level of Felix Royal Rudolstadt by any means, but I think are definitely a step above plastic – and C&B are always happy to see them.

Three White Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is another item dug out of the Pictorama archive. As you can see, it is quite fragile and frankly even the amount of scanning we did, as feared, seems to have injured it further. I do not have a clear memory of how I acquired it. At first I thought I bought it at a flea market, but no, it was a birthday gift from my friend Eileen shortly after I met her. It is odd in that the pages are not printed on both sides, so you have spreads of blank pages between those that are printed. Therefore it was unclear if it was complete with all its pages – in addition they are not numbered – however some quick research found a copy on Abe’s Books (you can own your own in significantly better condition for $75 at the time of writing this) and my copy does appear to be complete.

Three White Kittens was published in 1880 by McLoughlin Bros. Publishers, New York. McLoughlin was a publishing company founded in 1858 based on the new color printing methods for children’s books. They also produced board games and were eventually purchased and made a division of the Milton Bradley Company in 1920. Their game production ceased, but they continued to produce children’s books, paper dolls, linen books and the like for several more decades. A quick search on images shows a vast amount of this colorful material surviving in collections and archives today. The kitten theme was popular with the company and I supply another cover below. (I find it an interesting coincidence that both this one and my copy have handwritten notes at the top of the cover. This one a gift, and mine indicating ownership.)

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3 Little Kittens, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The writing, however, is quite not aimed at children. As Wikipedia expresses it, these are slightly bowdlerized or retold versions of children’s tales for a more adult audience. As a result, these kitten stories, told in rhyme, are of kits trying to eat someone’s bird, or gold fish. They have titles such as The Greedy KittenThe Cross Kitten, and The Disappointed Kitten. By way of example I offer a verse from The Disappointed Kitten below:

I flew to save my darling,
The dreaded foe in view, –
Oh! never fear, my birdie dear,
No kitten shall dine upon you!

Alas, for those of us who worship at the alter of the fluffy and adorable kitten perhaps not the feline attributes we most prefer to be reminded of. For the record, the kittens appear to be named, Tit, Tiny and Tittens, which appears at the top of each page of verse. Below are some of the illustrations from inside the book, a slightly different look, highlighting the hijinks of those naughty white kitties.

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The Greedy Kitten (?) Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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The Foolish Kitten, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Finally, this is clearly a deep area of collecting and I offer a few highlights of other covers and games, pulled off the internet and into a slideshow below.

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High Five Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There are lazy times when I like nothing better than to take a long stroll through ancient press photos on eBay. As Pictorama readers know, I purchase the occasional one, but I also enjoy the trip along the way. Comic and human interest photo filler for newspapers appears to have been more prevalent and somewhat more freewheeling than today – although perhaps I am just reading the wrong papers now. Strangely these photos are generally dated with a month and a day and not a year, so we don’t know exactly where in the early part of the 20th Century this one falls, but we do know that it was set for publication from the Acme Roto Service for release Sunday, May 29 or Saturday, May 28, to papers not having a Sunday edition.

The caption was to read, ‘Big One for Me’ ‘What’ll you have, Fifi?’ asked a visitor at the bar who was buying drinks for the house. ‘Make mine a long, tall, cool one,’ answers Fifi, using his forepaws to show the bartender the size. I raise an eyebrow at Fifi being a he, but will have to let that slide I guess. Fifi, if indeed that is his name, has a great look of intensity and some annoyance in this photo. Clearly he was born decades too early and should have been doing cat videos on the internet during today’s generation of kitties. Most memorable for me are the patti-cake playing cats who do a slo-mo fight to a narration of patti-cake, but a quick search turns up numerous others. Cats are standing up and gesturing with their paws all over the world and we love recording it with gif’s and on youtube. (This of course leads to cat boxing, a subject previously covered in my post Powo! Cat Boxing and Cat Boxing, Round 2.)

Since I never had a cat do this before Cookie and Blackie, I assumed it was perhaps an evolutionary advancement in 21st century cats. However this photo is here to remind me that, once again nothing is new that isn’t also old as well. To my surprise both our cats do this spontaneously, but Cookie much more than Blackie. She especially likes to hop on a small rocking chair and let it rock gently (adds urgency perhaps?) and reach up with a star fish paw for your attention and bam, a little high five along with a chirp. Blackie much more likely to reach the occasional, languid paw up, almost more of a stroke, for your attention. (And that says all anyone needs to know about their personalities and the differences.) When the cats were tiny they would stand on their haunches in unison chattering, paws outstretched, when Kim would exercise with an old paint pole, back and forth over his head.

This barmen cat is a solid citizen so we will assume he was the recipient of many complimentary bits off the blue plate special of patrons at lunch time – or there was a plentiful rodent population at his disposal, my guess is both. This photo pre-dates the high five as we know it, and so our friend the bartender doesn’t quite know what to do in response and gestures unconvincingly. I do like the idea that Fifi is requesting a large, perhaps frothy drink. “No, I want it this high!”

This photo reminds me of a restaurant I used to frequent when I lived in London. It was in Holland Park and was sort of upscale so I didn’t go so very often. However, in the bar area there was always a rather amazing buffet of various foods including a beautiful plate of salmon trout. Same bright orange as salmon, but a much smaller fish that I only ever saw in Britain. (Turns out that it is of the rainbow trout family and is also, less attractively, known as steelhead.) Anyway, the beautiful and well mannered cat of that bar was always parked provocatively under the plate of salmon trout. I inquired and was told that kitty was very well-behaved and never helped him or her self, although was known to have a portion slipped to him now and again. So there he remained, ever hopeful.

Black Cat Town

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: You can imagine my happiness at finding this little gem, while searching for tax documents, tucked away in our flat files a few weeks ago, Doin’s and Styles In Black Cat Town. Have to love that! I remember buying it (I believe I paid up for this one), but a long time ago. While it isn’t terribly fragile, it is hard to display and so I tucked it away until now. I have given you select highlights above, not the entire booklet. While the ribald and wonderful early Black Cat Hosiery advertising items are extant and sought after today, much to my surprise it was not so easy to find a history or timeline of the company online.

What follows is what I have pieced together. However we here at Pictorama are prepared to stand corrected by the more knowledgable of you out there in Readership Land. It appears that the Black Cat Hosiery Company of Chicago-Kenosha, Wisconsin was founded in the 1897 by Samuel T. Cooper. (He’s interesting enough in appearance that I have snatched up and included his photo below as well.) Its black cat icon became an immediate favorite. (See my version of the stand alone cat advertising at bottom – this item was previously featured in the post found here – Time Out for Our Sponsor.) It was beloved and exploited to maximum effect, such as this 1906 booklet. I believe the use of it, to a greater or lesser degree, continued at least into the 1920’s, although I could not find any confirmation of that. In addition, if I understand correctly, this company started manufacturing underwear (union suits) in 1901 under the name White Cat. Their white kitty mascot never caught on or became as fleshed out as the toothy and wonderful black kitty fellow. I show White Kitty and Mr. Cooper below. Ultimately, the company eventually evolves into Jockey underwear of today.

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White Cat Union Suit advertising, not in Pictorama collection

Samuel T. Cooper

Samuel T. Cooper

 

Our amazing little booklet has credits for both author, E. Brate Rogers, and artist, Frank Swick. A search on Mr. Rogers turns up a fairly entertaining letter he wrote to a trade journal called The Inland Printer in 1902, where he complains about copywriting correspondence courses – how these rogues cannot even put together a sentence and want to charge $30 to teach people how to copy write. As per this letter, Mr. Rogers outlines how he was well experienced writing about socks, hose and other mercantile endeavors, and therefore was already vastly experienced when he penned the verses for this booklet in 1906. Meanwhile, Swick seems to have been a popular illustrator of the day churning out work for magazines like Collier’s, posters, prints and advertising work such as this. I don’t know if he is responsible for the iconic smiling Black Cat or/and the more straightforward White Cat, but he does not stint on his illustrations and goes to town here, as does Mr. Rogers. This booklet was designed to go straight to the consumer and the back pages assure, If your dealer does not handle ‘Black Cat’ Hosiery, note the styles and following prices, and send to us with price, stating style and sizes desired, and we will forward them free of charge. (An early free shipping campaign.)

The entire booklet is written in verse and closes with, Mothers dear, just lend an ear – Stockings, none to mend! Black Cat Brand the games withstand, When children tear and rend. Peep! Peep! Fast asleep: Stockings right in sight: ‘Bless my soul! Not a hole!’ Ho-o, um!…good folks…Good night! I especially love the back cover, shown at top, with a photo of the factory (too small to see if it is decorated with black cats – I assume it must be!) and best of all, this photo of one of Blackie’s ancestors, curled up in front!

 

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Black Cat Hosiery Display card, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

 

Isle of Man, 1924

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: When I started collecting photos of people posing with enormous Felix the Cat dolls, taken at resorts across Britain and Australia, it was the sheer boffo wackiness of their existence that enticed me. (If you are a new reader there are many of these posts as I have a fairly substantial collection and you can see a sample in these posts:  Vacation FelixAnother Aussie FelixFelix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1 for starters.) However stranger still in some ways, is the existence of photos like these, where people are posing with a lovely, large but not huge, Felix doll – about the size of one (or two or – okay, several) I own. The Isle of Man is, of course, a resort area and these appear to be vacationing folks. But even as a devotee of stuffed Felix toys (a connoisseur you might even say) exactly how and why a photographer was handing over a large Felix for folks to hold when they were having their photo taken does mystify even me a bit. I am sorry I wasn’t there to enjoy it, and it certainly speaks to Felix’s extraordinary world fame and how beloved he was at the time. Everyone wanted to memorialize that memory of hanging with Felix I guess.

In my post Felix Family Photo it is a similar case and I show the photo featured in it below as well. Another family that scooped up Felix and posed. Just seems to be something people did – not just kids posing with their toys! A family affair.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Our photos, at top, today are quite small, snap shots that barely even seem to have been taken and printed by a professional photographer except for the commercial set in the one. Poorly printed and over-exposed (I somehow imagine that the fellow taking these was tippling a bit) we are once again depending on the magic of Photoshop to improve upon them. Less than perfect though they may be, they were treasured and kept by someone, or numerous someones, for many years before coming to rest here.

It is clearly the same couple and despite the man’s disappearing cap, one assumes the same day and session. I cannot read the jaunty sign behind them on the photo set. (Almost looks like Free Weight?) It took a fair amount of study to realize that, in both photos, Felix is holding a little Felix doll! (Kim managed a detail of it from one of the photos.) Wow! Amazing! On the back of each picture, written neatly in pencil is, taken at Douglas I. of Man and additionally on one 1924. Douglas is the capital of this resort locale. This makes a fine entry into a casual examination of summer vacation photos, as I head toward my own well-earned vacation at the end of August. I can only hope that somehow it too will be Felix filled.

23 Months

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It occurs to me that my purchasing of early Mickey centric toys, which seemed an exception, has now formed a proper sub-genre in my collection – perhaps earning a whole section of their own in the imaginary book of my photo collection I edit in my mind. Recently I have added the tintype I wrote about in Riding the Big Bear and Say Cheese!, but this photo reminds me a lot more of my recent post found here – She Who Has the Most Toys Wins. That one featuring a Felix instead of a Mickey. Still, the same idea – let’s take a photo of the kid with all her toys in the yard. Heck, if I had a kid and a yard I would probably do it too.

I like my Mickeys early and this one is, and he’s also a fine, large and pristine looking example. This lucky child has not only him, but that lovely bunny, a doll she is clutching, a bike (or more likely trike) lurking to one side behind her, a large lamb-y looking toy in the front corner and even a bit of a toy carriage peering out behind that. The yard is also neat although not hugely prosperous looking, aside from the wealth of toys.

The photo here is about the same size as the original, smallish but not tiny. In addition to 23 mos written here on the front, on the back it says, 23 months She was afraid the wind would blow her hair ribbon off – I am a bit sad that for all of this we do not know her name. Clearly she was a precise child, one who cared so specifically about her hair ribbon not be blown off. I love that about her, she herself looking a bit perfectly doll-like here perched on this small table. (I myself was a messier child and my toys hard loved, I must admit.) Somehow it is easy for me to assume it was a trait of hers that didn’t change as she got older. And if she remained as tidy and careful about her toys, perhaps some of those pristine items are being treasured by the likes of me today.