Mitten Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These inquiring little fellows caught my eye and I liked how the writing was stenciled into the negative of this very old card. Clearly something entertaining was used to capture their attention just off camera. The tabby in the middle has moved a bit and is a tad blurry as a result. I suspect this handful of kits was used again and again as models at the studio. The feet of the two tuxies are huge and those must have grown up to be some big cats.

Kittens and mittens to back at least as far as the Mother Goose poem which has verses where the kits in turn loose their mittens, find their mittens, soil them and then wash them. The verse ends oddly however with Mama smelling a rat nearby. I suspect ratty was dinner, however the thought is never finished and an odd one to end the poem on. (In its entirely it can be found here.)

My copy of The Fur Person by May Sarton.

The term making mittens refers, as far as I know, to a cat kneading with claw paws. I didn’t grow up with that term however. That action was always starfish paws to us, or mushing when we were very little. I call them claw paws these days especially with my kitties whose claws have grown too long I’m afraid. The term starfish paws came to us via a volume by May Sarton, The Fur Person, a wonderful book chock-a-block with cat love and lore which I have written about previously and that post can be found here. Blackie has a bad habit of doing it while sitting on my lap and my knees are scarred with his ongoing and intense ministrations.

There are many photos of be-mittened cats on the internet, the indignities which I will ignore except to say that folks have hung onto the idea over time.

Although this card has a somewhat homemade look, it is the product of a large professional studio. Stenciled neatly at the bottom is Pesha Photo. This turns out to be Louis James Pesha who owned the eponymous Pesha Postcard Company of Michigan. His work is largely known best for his photos of the Great Lakes region and enjoys some ongoing popularity today. To my knowledge I have not purchased other cat cards made by him previously. A quick Google search reveals mostly the aforementioned landscape and water views.

Pesha Photo not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Mr. Pesha was born in Ontario, Canada in 1868 and moved to the United States in ’01 starting his photo studio then. Evidently at first he specialized in cards like this one, popular subjects and trick photos. He had long photographed the landscapes, railroads and scenes around him and began printing and selling those as postcards later on.

An automobile, seating what are believed to be his wife and son [?], is parked in front of one of Louis Pesha’s photo studios. Dave Burwell Collection, Sarnia Historical Society.

Pesha dies tragically young in a car accident (he owned a luxury steam engined car purchased from the White Automobile company and I wonder if the one shown above is the car in question) in October of 1912 while visiting his parents. He was only 42 and he leaves a young daughter (no mention of a son in his online bio) and widow who continues the business until postcards pass out of fashion in the early ’20’s.

My card has an indicia pressed into the lower right corner which I assume also marks it as a Pesha card but is illegible and I depended on the writing on the bottom, Pesha Photo 1517, etched into the bottom.

This card was sent at 3 PM on January 21, 1911 from an unidentified location to Mr. Elmer Rosbury in Toledo, Ohio under General Delivery no less, and received by the post office at 9 AM the next day. (Much better delivery than we can hope for these days I might add.) The writing is in pencil and it is difficult to read. As far as I can tell it reads, Dear Elmer: – Will write tomorrow had a girl Friend down from Minders (?) and we went to this Farmers Blow Out last night. With love from Ethel.

With my best Caturday wishes to all!

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