Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Just last week when I was writing about the (thrilling) acquisition of my new Dean’s Rag Eugene the Jeep toy (he is lovingly immortalized in a post that can be found here) I opined on the evident difficulty of toy companies in converting some characters from two dimensions to three. Krazy Kat is the most extreme example of this in my opinion – although don’t even get me started on his compatriot Ignatz as that is an odd design situation as well.
Perhaps there were other reasons why Krazy was never made into a toy which better represented his joyful, pudgy, sexually ambivalent embodiment. (Readers of the strip know that Krazy seemed to morph somewhat between male and female identity, but I do think it is fair to say Krazy is the first they I would have known.)
Most notably Krazy Kat never enjoyed the universal popularity of Felix or Mickey. British factories were not turning out off-model Krazy Kats on the East End of London. (The amazing story of those Felix dolls can be found here in one of the most interesting posts I ever researched!) Ratty looking Mickies proliferated. However, due to only a somewhat rarified audience for the strip there was less demand for toys and other collectible items. A handful of early cartoons exist (with an impressive executed Krazy) but it is a later (again utterly re-designed) Krazy who makes a series of nevertheless excellent cartoons which seem to have nothing to do with the strip, alas.
The toy these gentlemen in my photo have grasped between them is one of the few contemporaneously produced stuffed toys of Krazy Kat and while the face makes a sort of reasonable stab at him, the body is oddly flat – like he was squished by a roller into a space that is not quite three, but more than two dimensions.
And I have one of these dolls (of course I do!) which came in a variety of colors, but otherwise are identical in design. (I understand there were four sizes although mine at about 12.5″ is the most common as far as I can tell.) I wrote about the acquisition of it (a gift from Kim but with its own story), in a forerunner to this blog which was published in a book about Krazy Kat with illustrations by Kim. (The book is just called Krazy and was a catalogue for an exhibit. It seems utterly unavailable at the time of writing. I will perhaps share that in a future post in one form or another sometime.) These dolls tend to be quite dear and therefore sadly I have not ventured to collect them in the less available acid green, bright purple, black or orange colors and made of felt – although it would be jolly to have them all lined up together.
This doll was produced by Averill Manufacturing here in NYC (Union Square!) according to an ad on Mel Brinkrant’s site which can be found here. (His brief tale of acquiring his first one of these dolls is great and I recommend it.)
As an aside, Averill is a company that operated under several names and in addition to Krazy, produced some fairly dreadful looking large-eyed dolls although this Whistling Dan, below, caught my eye while I was looking. A whistling doll! Talk about what you always wanted for Christmas! (There was a Whistling Rufus and a Whistling Nell as well.) Wonder exactly how this worked?
Eventually a more rounded version of Krazy appears and I own one of those as well. (See below.) I cannot read the faded tag on the sole of his foot, nor can I find confirmation online that these were also made by Averill, but the design seems to have morphed from this earlier one.
I went much further down the toy rabbit hole than intended before turning our attention to the photo in question. It is a snap shot and only measures about 3″x4″ and bears the evidence of having been in a scrapbook, black paper clinging to the back. One can’t help but wonder what enticed these two gentlemen to pose as such, but I think if we look hard at the shadow of the photographer we will note that it is a woman and I will assume they complied at her behest. One of our fellows is neatly attired in nice trousers and sporting a tie, while the other is a bit grimy and looks like perhaps he was working in this yard before this was snapped. They look a tad sheepish about the whole affair.
The negative suffers from overexposure and the white shirts of the men melt into a white, cloudless sky, unintentionally somehow giving the impression that it was an oppressively hot summer day. Some light seems to also have sneaked into the side of the camera and exposed the film along the lower right corner, contributing to this affect. These dolls were produced starting back in the late teens (Mel’s ad appears in a 1916 magazine) so it is possible that she was using fairly early and primitive brownie and film.
Despite its evident flaws I had to have this jolly photo. Not only are photos of these dolls rare (I have only one other I can think of in my collection and it can be found here) but it has charm too. Kim said, and I agree, that Krazy looks like he is being reluctantly marched off somewhere by these gents, under citizens arrest, more than looking like a kid out for a stroll!