Tableta Okal

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This very odd bit came up on eBay recently and it was decidedly more interesting than good. There seems to be something of an influx of Spanish related Felix items being sold be an American seller or sellers and I have dabbled a bit, but mostly watched from the sidelines. I did purchase and write about Periquito, the Spanish Felix of Chocolate Cards awhile back, and recently a different line of chocolate cards has also appeared which may eventually lure me in. There’s also a brand of very appealing and rarified off-model Felix decorated tin toys which is extremely high end. Unlikely I will add any of those to my collection, although I never say never. I have wondered if the item featured in The Strangeness of French Betty and Felix (and shown below) while purchased in Paris and wooden, not tine, wasn’t actually of this origin, but it is without maker’s mark so I cannot say for sure.

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As many of you Spanish speakers probably already realize, this card actually advertises a children’s laxative. Ick! It has employed the double whammy of invoking Mickey Mouse’s shape along with (a version of shall we say?) of Felix playing an accordion. Since children, Spanish or otherwise, don’t tend to buy their own laxative I wonder a bit at the practice.  We will assume if asked Disney and Sullivan wouldn’t have approved of it. I have devoted many posts to the various ways that Felix was pressed into service by ambitious advertisers of generations past. Meanwhile, this item is also a clear descendent of the Victorian trade cards I have written about, although clearly not so lovingly lithographed as those in Bogue’s Soap.

Gratefully I do not remember a parallel item in my childhood. I do remember bubble bath in child friendly character containers, which is clearly far more benign. By the time my brother, almost seven years younger than me, arrived on the scene advertising tie ins had graduated to child themed cereals – Count Chocula being an example and vitamins in the shape of, if I remember correctly, The Flintstones. Of course we live in a different world of advertising (well, of almost everything I sometimes think) and we now have everything from Gummy Bear Hair Vitamins and melatonin (thank you Eileen for pointing those out recently) to Choco Chimps Organic cereal, which I guess has taken the place of the aforementioned Count Chocula? Caveat emptor I say! But let the collecting continue.

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Curiosity and the Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I remember many years ago blithely quoting, “Curiosity killed the cat” to my brother who rejoined without missing a beat, “and satisfaction brought him back!” I had never heard the second part and loved it, so perfectly does it describe the intense nature of a curious kitty. Wikipedia pegs the origin of this saying in print to the early 20th century, however one can’t help but feel it goes back to a much earlier time.

If I remember correctly, the Butler cat in question was a long, svelte, but querulous orange tabby named Squash. He bore this rather inelegant name as he was the second, smaller orange tabby in the house. The elder was our massive cat Pumpkin, therefore Squash was a little Pumpkin. He was a sweet natured cat if a bit of a doofus, best remembered for being so long that he appeared to have extra vertebrae and was able to sit vertically like a human in a chair. He was also very attached to one of the other cats and could most often be found piled on him at any given moment. I don’t remember what it was that Squash was investigating at the time of this discourse. As we had a pile of cats I’m surprised I remember it was him.

These three-of-a-kind kits also appear to be orange tabbys too – stripers as Kim likes to call tabbys. Each of them is wearing a matching collar and what I think of as a bird alert bell. Whatever they are eyeing is going to have a fair chance of getting away thanks to those bells, assuming it has ears. However, as cat observers know well, a cat’s deep attention can be devoted to something we humans can’t divine or see. On numerous occasions I have found Cookie, sometimes alone often with Blackie, staring hard at one of the walls, unwilling to have their concentration broken or to be easily distracted. One can only assume that their finely tuned cat ears are focused on activity within the wall – oh my! And then there are occasions when you can tell they think something is alive and of vital interest – and it is not alive at all. Kim’s shoe laces seem to frequently fall into that category in this house, as does a recently revealed nail in the wall which drives Blackie to distraction almost daily.

These three feline beauties are sitting on an nice stone wall in a warm looking cascade of light and their fluffy fur coats shine. I have the changing light of fall on my mind these days and it could well be a sultry fall afternoon, but that could just be me too. Regardless, the person behind the camera not only caught this trio of cats at a great, unified moment, but also with bold shadows that echo them below. It is a photo postcard, although it seems like a late runner to the genre, not as old as most of what I purchase, and probably but not definitely professional. In addition, it is in perfect condition, but the nubbly scalloped edges do peg it to a certain period. There is no writing on the back and it was never sent.

Each cat tail is curled around the kitty in a different stage of unfurl and it has to be said that our friend to the far left with the largest white bib and the chap in the middle are far more intent than their brother on the far right. He is looking at whatever it is, but also appears like he might just yawn and head for a nap shortly too. Maybe he is just fooling me though. All have their ears pointed forward and precise cat toes lined up at the ready.

Orange tabby cats run predominantly to the male – Google tells me about 80/20 to males – and I have referred to them thus. However, out of the four orange cats I lived with over the course of my childhood it should be noted only three were male, so we Butlers defied the odds somewhat. Meanwhile Calicos run to virtually all female. I have found that both run toward certain personality types, but perhaps more about that another Pictorama day.

Rough on Rats

Pam’s Pictorama Post:  Might seem hard to believe, but I have been hunting the purchase of this card diligently for several years. It is more popular than it is especially rare, and on the occasions it came up for auction it sold high. I decided to wait it out and see if I could acquire it for a reasonable price. Last week I must have caught most of the rest of the cat advertising collectors napping and scored it at long last. The image will not be new to any of you who have poked around in the area of Victorian advertising cards, however I don’t think anyone can blame me for feeling that it is a high water mark of sorts for its type.

Ephraim S. Wells, a Jersey City resident, invented said rat poison in 1872, and his wife jokingly called it Rough on Rats and the name stuck. (This story may be apocryphal, but we at Pictorama never underestimate the influence of clever wives on the endeavors of their husbands.)  The E. S. Wells story is a good one. He started with a patent medicine business out of a storefront. It did poorly and in those early years he was generally always barely one step away from financial ruin. The rat poison in question was developed and used first, with great success, in his own rat-ridden shop. He took advantage of the new federal trademark law and cleverly patented the Rough on Rats name – as well as multiple variations. He eventually abandoned the retail business and put serious money on the line for advertising the mail order business.  (Please note that for this background I have made use of a great online source by Loren Gatch and for those of you who want the whole story I suggest having at look at E. S. Wells was Rough on Rats.)

Wells had a good eye for copy and imagery and he made a fortune. The general theme of the advertising played along the lines of cats plunged into unemployment by the brilliant rat ridding product, and also of rats trying to educate their offspring in offensive maneuvers to avoid it. There was evidently even a song Wells produced, which included the dubious lyrics, R-A-T-S, Rats, Rats, Rough on Rats/Hang your dog and drown your cats! Please know that we at Pictorama cannot endorse such tunes. I am sorry, however, that I was unable to locate the sheet music illustration which is probably a pip.

On my card we see these shocked pusses, posed in front of the now useless rat traps hung up on the walls, above the caption Our occupation gone “Rough on Rats Did it. I am greatly enamored of these multicolored cats (a blue one front and center) who are giving this container of rat poison a wide-eyed and mostly open-mouthed, toothy frowns. Tails are neatly curled around cat feet in what is mostly a repetitive cat design formula. They are a great and colorful group.

Here are my other two favorite examples from the more rat-centric versions of the advertising. I especially like the line at the bottom of the top version, This is what killed your poor father. Shun it! Avoid anything containing it throughout your future useful careers. We older heads object to its especial roughness

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Rough on Rats Lecture, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

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Rough on Rats card, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

The back of my card, shown below, features some of the other products offered by Mr. Wells which include, perhaps a bit terrifying Mother Swan’s Worm Syrup which states if worms not expelled by it you may depend they do not exist. Never does harm. Always does good…It is sweet and nice. Taking into consideration that it was ultimately confirmed that Rough on Rats was nothing more than largely unadulterated arsenic, the thought of his patent medicines may take on a darker perspective. Nonetheless, Wells died a wealthy man in 1913 and the company continued with popularity through the 1940’s; it was subsequently sold in 1950, and later went out of business.

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Back of Rough on Rats card, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

In conclusion, having explored the darker side, I offer you a Van Buren cartoon I stumbled across as I did my research. It provided me with a splendid giggle this morning and I hope you will enjoy it as my parting offering as well. It can be found on Youtube here as Rough on Rats.

 

Itsy Bitsy Photos

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: To start with we at Pictorama must acknowledge a significant debt to the modern miracle of Photoshop as well as Mr. Deitch who was at the controls. These photos suffered miserably from ham handed amateur printing – and perhaps equally unskilled shooting of the original photos as well. This trio of photos are pallid and over-exposed in their original forms, and have undoubtedly faded additionally with age as well. Nonetheless I saw the potential when they went on sale. While it is sad to have photos in my collection that cannot really be enjoyed on their own, it is nice for them to have another life here at Pictorama. They appear to have come out of albums and none of them have any information along with them. Clearly they meant enough to the people in them to have kept them all these years, overexposure not withstanding.

Meanwhile, I am just mad for the Felix the Cat costume! It is just the sort I have always hoped to find on eBay and snatch up for myself. It is hard to see, but this little girl has her pageboy cut hair tucked smartly into the cat-eared cap – those ears are the best part of the costume for me! However, worth noting that there are girl and boy Felix-es dancing on the front, smaller supporting white cats in each corner, and the capper of a long tail draped behind her. It is a splendid costume and she is very pleased with herself, as she should be. No less notable are the spiffy, shiny, Mary Janes both are sporting here with their costumes. Our Miss Moffett is no less pleased with herself and this dress, which I hope ultimately saw additional wearings because it is so beautiful. It is so cleverly designed and beautifully made, and the big fat spider tied with a ribbon bow to her arm is a perfect finishing touch. (Full disclosure, there is another photo of just her, an 8″x10″ sold with the group, but it is blurry and it didn’t seem worth including.) I like the almost haughty expression on Miss Moffet’s face too – she is embodying her role fully.

Our little Mother Goose below appears a bit younger, but no less costume proud. Nor should she be with her delightfully frilly dress and this nice stuffed white goose. She has a sweet, shy smile in her photo, peering out under the brim of her peaked hat. If only the photographer had been as skilled as the talented soul who made these costumes. It must have been very frustrating to only have these poor faded remembrances of them and this magical Halloween celebration!

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Last in this group and appearing to have been taken by someone else entirely, although perhaps even a different day, are these youngsters dressed up like the graces. As Kim said, this photo appears to be moments before a better one was taken in which they organized themselves a bit better in their poses. Still, there is plenty of charm in this candid photo of these girls, costumed up and enjoying themselves in this long-ago, overgrown backyard, all of which probably lived on in memory for each of them as a very fine time indeed.

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Margate Holiday

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Continuing on from last Sunday’s British invasion with a photo from the resort of Bognor, our UK holiday larks continue today with this souvenir postcard which appears to hail from Margate. There is no indication of date on the back, and the only writing is in pencil in one corner On 1/2 stilts, but printed at one end is Sunbeam Photo Ltd., 82 Sweyn Road, Margate, For all orders by Post. When searched Google Earth photos shows the back of a brick building facing another road at approximately as 82 Sweyn Road is today – in the other direction one can see the ocean and beach at the end of a block of brick row houses.

If our bubble-headed friend in the striped pants is on half stilts, he must be pretty short to start with. And yet there is something about his legs that makes the stilt argument a logical one – oh, but walking on sand on stilts? Yikes. While he certainly isn’t a jaunty, giant stuffed Felix the Cat doll, he is a jolly fellow and I can see why these ladies are smiling and enjoying their photo op with him.

I guess I could stretch a point and say that his is a cat head, but I think we won’t try to put too fine a point on it. From the clothes of the women I would date this at the early 1940’s. Behind them a dandy looking ice cream shack and a man, set up in a beach chair, who appears to be leaning into the photo act as well.

For those of us in the New York area, summer seems to have come to a quick end into fall. It is often like that here – suddenly there are events everywhere, exhibition openings and concerts. Folks have returned from vacation and it is the adult version of buckle down back-to-school. Still, even the weather took a cool turn quickly this year, and although we are almost assured of an Indian summer we find ourselves eyeing the wool in our closet already. For me, this card grabbed me back for one last look over the shoulder at summer and vacation, cotton print dresses and kicking up our heels with a bubble-headed fellow on this long-ago beach.

Mousetown

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Photos of off-model, hand-rendered Mickey and Minnies could make up an entire sub-genre of collecting. I have one other notable acquisition in my collection which I featured awhile back in Lost and Found Photo. While that barn-side painting was the whole show, this grinning Mickey and Minnie are using their come hither (and reasonably accurate) appeal to lend credence and atmosphere to this intriguing mini-mouse circus attraction. No traveling circus this – it appears to be a fairly solid, permanent sideshow feature somewhere.

On the back, written in red pen is, Ken Roden Decorator and Conjurer in Bognor for 50 years. In addition there are some handwritten notes in pencil which seem more contemporary, Bognor R5lE and in a different hand R12154. Bognor was a bit of a mystery at first until I found a seaside resort with a (rather splendid looking) continuously running sideshow several decades old in a town called Bognor Regis in England. It appears to be across and on the mainland from the more famous resort area the Isle of Wight. (The sort of seaside digs that would have featured the opportunity to pose for a photo with Felix? I like to think so!) A place called Butlin’s there claims to have a continuous sideshow that is 80 years old which takes us back to the late thirties and it could even be that sideshow I believe. I purchased this photo postcard from a US dealer, but there is additional evidence below that this is likely from Britain. Frankly I was surprised it turned out to be British – there’s something very American about it in my mind. Sadly, numerous searches for Ken Roden did not turn up a period reference to a person – it appears to be a common name. Decorator and conjurer is a fascinating combination as well. I wonder, he would decorate my house like Mousetown? Not an entirely unpleasant thought, but I may be in the minority on that one.

Having blown the photo way up I can read the signs pretty much in their entirety. The one over the door reads, Bring Daddy In (?) above the, Real Live Mice and below that, Showing All the Time. Behind the really scary clown lurking in the doorway is a sign that says MOUSE TOWN top entertainment…charging for…LITTLE SHOW with BIG APPEAL. Obscured over to the left is part of a sign which seems to read Fun for All and one at the bottom which alludes to something allowed – might I suggest perhaps cats not allowed? The entrance fee for Mousetown is noted as 6D, as per the sign on the upper left and the one below the seated clown, which appears to offer some sort of discount for children I cannot make out. At first I thought this meant $6 (way too expensive!), but then realized it is the British notation for their equivalent of 6 cents.

And finally – the tiny little mouse stage which we can just about see behind the clown! We cannot quite make it out (even blowing the photo up) except there are tiny ladders and some sort of stage/obstacle course for said talented, trained and performing mice. I feel I must confess that I belong to a category of people who perversely and illogically think mice are fine if they are pets, but they generally make me want to scream and execute a cartoon climb onto a chair, calling for Cookie and Blackie, if found in nature – such as our apartment, or an eating establishment as happened recently. I can however, easily imagine paying up and happily having a look at Mousetown’s offerings. Undoubtedly, I would have been treated to a performance of Busby Berkeley-like precision and mouse perfection, racing through their paces and end with a chorus line and perhaps even eking out a squeaky tune?

Ding Dong Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Nothing like a toy post as a shot in the arm after a hard week of returning to work, summer already a fading memory! This splendid roly poly toy turned up in one of my searches and I was just nuts to get a hold of him. Much to my delighted surprise he still makes a jolly ringing noise when you move him back and forth. The cats and I were as charmed and entertained as small children when this arrived. For those of you who are not familiar with the term, roly poly toys are those that are weighted in the bottom in such a way that they pop back up when you push them down. I own a Felix roly poly I wrote about in my post Felix Roly Poly awhile back, and although he is splendid, he doesn’t make a wonderful chiming noise like this fellow.

He is so dapper! I love that he has that little walking stick, cravat and nice suit. The paint around his mouth has faded in such a way that he sports and big red grin. Cookie and Blackie especially like the sound he makes and come running to see what I am doing when they hear it. They aren’t sure how they want to play with (reads as destroy) this charming object, but they are very interested indeed.

As you can see from the label on his back, shown below, he is a pre-occupied Japan toy. Hard for me to pinpoint and I am open to suggestions. I feel like he could date anywhere from the ’20’s to the ’40’s from appearance. While I have had some luck with Google Image search on toys, all I got when I tried this photo was a bunch of (somewhat frightening) images of cats dressed up in Elizabethan style ruffs. Yikes!

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Long time Pictorama readers may remember my having professed some hesitation about collecting in the world of fragile celluloid (such as the aptly named post Fear of Celluloid), but this fellow actually seems fairly sturdy, despite his years and fragile material. Roly polys had largely gone out of fashion by the time I came on the scene in the mid 1960’s. However, I was entranced by a toy that worked on the same idea, a large blow-up clown (at least that is the one I remember), about as tall as I was, with sand weighting the bottom. You could push him over and he would pop right back up. I adored it. It seems a bit violent perhaps upon reflection. But still, when I look back on it, his refusal to stay down was probably a good message for me as a little kid.