Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: So many delightful Felix photo posts, however it has been a long time since I acquired a card that was a cat photo like this one. (Although full disclosure, another is racing its way to me for a future post as I write this.)
Unlike many of my recent posts with cards reaching our shores from Britain, this one was both written and received in the state of Kansas, USA. Although I cannot read the indicia clearly, December 22 is legible and the author of the note on the back has added the year 1913, very near the precise 100 year mark. Clearly the photo was taken on a sunny, warmer day than December in Kansas implies.
On the back, in an uneven, elderly hand with a blotting ink, it reads, My Dear Friend Tillie, This was taken in our front-yard, my daughter and I, and our cat – and my large plant we have had for many years. I hope this will find you well and happy. Lena. Upside down at the top she added, will write you before long. Also added appears to be the town send from, Waterloo and December 1913. It was addressed to Mrs. Lillie Hartzell, Rossville, Kansas.
I love this extraordinarily enormous plant, although not exactly sure what it is, maybe a Yucca? Google assures me that those grow quite large and are willing to grow in Kansas. It is magnificent, but made all the better by this the spotty nosed pet puss who has pertly perched there. Kitty looks right at the camera.
Although the dresses of both women are long there is a generational difference in style, the older woman recalling the 1880’s or ‘90’s rather than a reasonably fashionable woman of 1910.
The yard is lovely – leafy and sun dappled on a beautiful afternoon. There is a deep porch with decorative woodwork and a less ambitious potted plant. curtained windows are barely visible and off behind them is smother house or building. I could be wrong, but I vote for another building because maybe there is something similar about it. I can happily lose myself in imaging spending a sunny afternoon like this one in this lovely yard.
This outsized plant reminds me of a snake plant my mom has which currently must reach about five feet high. It has spawned numerous offspring (including this recently, shown below), including a cutting which is now well in its way, residing here at Deitch Studio under the care of Kim’s green thumb. The odd origin story of that plant was that it came to the hospital in a small decorative container in 1962 – sent to my mother (by who she has long forgotten) – in honor of my older sister Loren being born. The plant and its siblings continue to thrive at Mom’s and now here too at Pictorama.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For some the heart of Pictorama is in the toys, but for others it is the pictures and we are on a Felix-y photo tear. This was a must have pic once I spied it on eBay as I knew it was unlikely I would see it again. Like yesterday’s photo this one took weeks to make it here from Ipswich, England (others have zipped through from Britain in days – so much for the once great and dependable British post) until I began to worry that it was lost.
However, when I arrived back in Manhattan last night after my extended sojourn in New Jersey (yes, I still have a nasty cold but am much better), it had arrived at our door and was safely awaiting me here at Deitch Studio. (As were Kim and the kitties – Blackie dispensed with his typical several hour moratorium on recognizing me and followed me into the bathroom immediately upon arrival. I was missed!) I was not disappointed with it among a satisfyingly large haul of other future post photos.
Notably today’s is not a photo postcard, but instead a photo, printed on surprisingly thin paper making it potentially a bit fragile. Written on the back is Kite/Felix £25. If that was what the seller paid then they did not turn much of a profit, but perhaps that is just what she had it marked to sell somewhere which would mean it paid for her to auction it.
I assume that this intrepid looking group constructed this brilliant Felix kite and I do wish we could see it flying. There is an air of adventure and expedition about them. The gentleman in the suspenders on the far left, with his sunglasses and hat, really looks a bit like he is off on safari. The other fellow sports a vest and tie no less; both men are mustachioed. It is impossible to be certain, but I think the women are wearing matching dresses and do they have ribbons (like awards?) pinned to them? Everyone wears hats on what appears to be a rare hot sunny British day. Someone more knowledgeable about period clothing could probably date this better but I would guess the late twenties.
Felix has taken to the air in a variety of ways of course – we know of various enormous balloons that his likeness has graced as per a few from my collection below. (Those balloon posts can be found here and here.)
Felix of course is splendid. He stands shoulder high on the smallest of the women, hands on hips. He is reduced to a basic geometric design, but has his signature grin and pointy ears. The kite design is a bit hard to discern, but appears to be a variation on a box kite with wings off each side. He is a pip!
I went through a phase of kite enthusiasm as a child and I would have loved this one. However my father, a child of the city, did not have a well of kite flying or construction experience to draw on. Ever intrepid however as I remember he purchased one or two more fragile models we attempted to construct before bringing home an inflatable one. (We never went for a box model sadly.)
What this kite lacked in romantic visual appeal, it made up for in ace flying ability. Dad attached it to a fishing pole with plenty of line and it went off! I believe we had several splendid runs with it on the beach and in the backyard before one day, flying very far away over the water, it came down and was lost. My kite mania was assuaged however and, likely to my father’s relief, we did not seek to replace it.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This weekend finds me unexpectedly in New Jersey, a captive of a sudden onset bad head cold following a series of migraines which made travel back to Manhattan beyond my short term ability.
The tables were turned and mom was ordering me to bed, to drink fluids and to consume quantities of soup. Mom has remained firmly in charge of her domain, but less so over my health these days. However, I did as instructed and, despite some mighty sneezing which remains, I am on the road to repair and hope to return to Kim and cats (and running for those of you who are tracking that) soon.
Nevertheless, onto this rather spectacular photo I share with you today. I stumbled on this beauty, waited out the auction, paid a princely sum for it and then waited for it to arrive from Britain. And I waited, and waited. Somewhere in there it went astray in a postal strike and it was longer than a month before it arrived on our shores.
Identified by the seller as J. Easton Clifton Baths, Margate the card is unused and completely unmarked on the back. The seller puts the image at having been shot in 1920 and puts the period of manufacture at 1920-1929, I wonder if he or she knows something of the specifics of these cards that I do not.
This card fits neatly into my collection of postcards posing with the giant stuffed black cat – sometimes astride him, other times beside as here. However, this has the significant bonus feature of the heretofore not seen enormous Steiff-like teddy bear! In my mind this leads to the question – did Steiff perhaps actually produce both the giant black cat and the bear? A quick internet search does not immediately turn up more of these outsized bear pics as I suddenly wondered if I had just been missing them. The giant cat chairs are more prevalent. (My previous posts featuring my collection of these cards can be found here and here for starters.) This leads as always to the question I ask – where have all the giant toys people posed with gone? Still I stalk the big kitties!
There is a reasonable argument to be made that is in indeed the same Margate kitty as below, although the tail is going in a decidedly different direction – perhaps a tail could change direction over time? These are more Steiff-ian than some of the others, another from my collection shown below.
Margate was the happening place to have your photo taken at the time. Many a Felix was there for posing as well as these swell kits. Here is a post devoted to a Margate Felix for starters.
These lucky little girls, sporting their matching dresses, get to pose with both these prime props. One little girl has teddy’s arm around her, perched on his leg. Teddy has a boutonniere, a sprightly collar and jolly row of buttons down his chest. His head is at a pert angle. Kitty has a lovely large bow and sticks his tongue out at us. Those matching dresses are spring weight with knee socks rather than tights. However, behind them, the adults in their beach chairs are dressed a bit warmer in jackets and hats – for that typically not quite warm day at a British beach.
So, it is time for me to reluctantly leave Margate of the 1920’s once again and figure out my way back to Manhattan. Kim, I hope to see you, Blackie and Cookie soon!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Those of us who dabble in the world of toy effigies of cartoon and comic book characters are well aware of how, contemporaneously anyway, Krazy Kat lagged a bit in the bid for toy fame and remunerative reproduction and merchandise. Even in animation, there’s appears to be a smattering of ancient silent cartoons that provide a reasonable representation of Krazy – and a mass of later cartoons which bare no resemblance to him in appearance or temperament, but which are great fun nonetheless.
And in parallel there are a very thin number of toys dedicated to or derived from the strip. There is one stuffed toy figure of Krazy from his hey day which is oddly (appropriately perhaps?) abstract and came in several different colors ranging from acid green to an equally shocking purple. (There is another which attempts a greater three dimensional reading of him. I own examples of both, shown below.)
However, all this to say that while the two dolls (yes, two, the man on the end holds one as does the girl in the middle which is harder to see) bear an interesting resemblance to those dolls they are somehow even further abstracted. Homemade versions of those already odd dolls? They look slightly demonic and the mystery as to why these folks had their photo taken with them as part of the family (while taking a mountainous hike) is a mystery lost to time indeed. (Although I do have other photos with folks featuring themselves with Krazy Kat dolls and those can be found here and here.)
This photo postcard was sold to me by someone in Massachusetts and it is unused and unmarked on the back. Without knowing definitively we can probably assume that this was taken in the United States. The older woman on the end and the young one next to her are smiling, but frankly the rest of the group is a bit grim, toys on display or not. Visually I like the contrast of the one woman in black tights and the other in white, both in plaid dresses. One doll is dark and the other light as well.
The seller identified these dolls as Felix and said he is in the process of selling off his Felix collection in retirement. I guess it’s a fair argument that these were intended to be Felix rather than Krazy as they don’t really look like either. Meanwhile, these dolls appear to have been designed to (arguably?) address us with a raised middle finger – a strange choice for a toy. Huh. The other hand points down. The simple toothy grin and the pointy ears contribute to the somewhat malevolent look which is born out more in the expression of the light one rather than the dark.
Obscene gesture or not, I would happily snatch these fellows up for the Pictorama collection should they ever turn up.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers know that the Kim Deitch Valentine post is one of the highlights of every year and today is the great reveal day. For those of you who are new to the practice, it goes back to the very first February Kim and I were together and I asked for a drawing for Valentine’s Day. This is not surprising as I came into our relationship as a fan first and clearly my very own personal Kim Deitch drawing made just for me – I mean what could be better?
Over the years they have gotten to be full blown, hand colored productions. Kim plans an annual pause in his work for about ten days to produce them and discussions about the content start early in the year. Last year he had an idea in mind and usually we would go with that, but I had an unusually strong desire for a portrait of Cookie and Blackie and Kim complied handily with the wonderful picture below – a real favorite! (That post can be found here.)
So this year it was clear that it would be Kim’s concept from last year and a splendid tribute to my tin toys was conceived! Tintinabula (a Deitch almost word of wonder) it declares, marching across the top, the letters growing to an exclamation.
Of course, we drift into the realm of fantasy and (sadly) I do not own that splendid Tik Tok man in the middle – although I will put him in the category of maybe this drawing can wish him into my collection! This has lead to a search for a premium one and a discussion around him this morning. I share the best version below.
Also, below is an example of the luscious looking Oz volume it comes from. Beautiful! I never read these and Kim says they are better to read when you are a small child, but they are undeniably an illustrated feast for the eyes. In my picture a tin newsgirl is fabricated at the bottom waving an issue, hot off the press, of the Tin Town Topics in her hand.
Meanwhile, many of my actual toys make an appearance. My Butter and Egg Man (read the original post here) has a nice bit of real estate and figures prominently on one side of the drawing. (It is he who has come to town after all!) His suit is a bit more zooty in the drawing than below – bright red stripped trousers and Kim’s version wears a hat which is also a nice addition. The tune of Butter and Egg Man blasts out from a wind-up phonograph at his feet with bits of the lyrics around him.
My splendid tin turkey has a spot in the bottom left with a slightly maniacal expression on his tin turkey face! An excellent wind-up dog I stumbled onto recently gets a spot below him – just about perfect the way he is. (Posts dedicated to the dog and turkey can be found here and here.)
A tin Felix from a scooter toy rides a Deitchian airplane in a flight of Felix fancy. Those who are carefully observant won’t miss the cheerful tin pig marching across the back. He was a birthday gift from many years ago and I have never seen another like him. I am pleased with his inclusion.
Each corner of the picture bears my name in a heart. At the top Kim has picked up my favorite expression when I see something I really like and which I leave you with for now, Wow, wow, wow!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: A colleague I am very fond of said that she believes that all Aquarians like to celebrate their birthday. I generally believe that Susan knows best about just about everything, but I am not sure about this. The secret about me and birthdays is that by nature I actually do not like them, however early on I decided that it was better to put some effort into turning that around and finding the best way to enjoy them.
Over time I have found a number of methods for cheering the sometimes bleak days of February – mostly filling the days with seeing friends and especially other Aquarian celebrants of my acquaintance. The pandemic made that a bit harder although there was at least one birthday dinner outside in the snow in February of ’21. At the height of this practice I think I had five or six folks I would see for lunch, drinks or most often dinner.
This year mom had a glorious coconut cake with pineapple filling made for the occasion. Luckily there were many folks on hand in New Jersey to help consume it, although I will admit to having made a few meals more or less of it myself. Mmmm! As you can see above – we had munched half of it before I thought to take a photo. (I did manage a piece home for Kim to try.) Also, there was breakfast at Edie’s Luncheonette (which I wrote about previously here) with a friend which also kicked the birthday week off right.
Yesterday on my birthday on an unseasonably warm day, I caught up with one of my favorite fellow Aquarians, Eileen Travell, and she joined Kim and I on a Manhattan mini-adventure to The Grolier Club. Founded in 1884 this club is an institution devoted to all things library, books and paper. It has had several New York homes over its long life and currently resides tucked neatly in a beautiful building on 60th Street between Park and Madison. (More information on it and these exhibitions below can be found here.)
As it happens two exhibitions I was interested in aligned and we were able to enjoy both, Pattern & Flow: A Golden Age of American Decorated Paper, 1960s to 2000s and Animated Advertising: 200 Years of Premiums, Promos, and Pop-ups. The decorated paper exhibition was based on the collection of the Met Museum’s Thomas Watson Library and curated by a former colleague, Mindy Dubansky. She did a splendid job and the exhibit is full of wonderful papers, but also tools of the trade and other fascinating bits. For you in New York or passing through, it is around until early April and I highly recommend it.
Oddly, these beautiful hand-painted papers seem to end up being used for very pedestrian ends – a familiar Kleenex box design, a box for a liquor. Kim and I agreed that somehow they have not yet really been employed in a way that fulfills their promise.
This exhibit reminded me of one years ago at the Cooper Hewitt on wallpaper. Kim and I started discussing that and while I could not find exactly what I was looking for I did find this post from them, based on their collection, and can be found at Wallcoverings. Fascinating!
Next up was pop-up advertising exhibit. Featuring a portion of Ellen K. G. Rubin’s collection, a note online about the exhibition had caught my eye just in time as Saturday was its final day and it was fairly crowded as a result. I gather that Ms. Rubin is interested in all things pop-up and an online search reveals that her collection has somewhere between 9,000-10,000 pieces – so this was a small and select slice. The objects covered in the exhibition ranged over 200 hundred years, although it seems she has items that are far older in her collection.
While the exhibition has closed it is still available by catalogue (which Kim purchased for me and represents the exhibition well), but also on their website. The nice aspect of the website version is that it also shows some of the objects moving as intended. This was also available in the exhibit by QR code but somehow watching the tiny image on my phone in the gallery was a bit frustrating.
Finally, we were super intrigued by their shelves of Grolier Club publications for sale. Kim dug in and spent some time examining the lot. Not surprisingly considering their mission, their publications are expertly executed and an interesting lot and although not inexpensive, we may be returning for some of them.
For the record, I gave Eileen an Edie’s mug and she gave me a stunning daguerreotype which I will attempt to photograph and share at a future time – photographing dags is notoriously hard. This a a lovely image of a young girl.
The day wrapped with a trip down to 24th Street to nose around the flea market a bit. A few purchases were made (we did not purchase the photograph above, nor the bird statue behind it which was really calling Kim’s name), but more about that perhaps in a future post too. Eileen headed home and Kim and I settled down for a late lunch before heading back uptown, home to Deitch Studio, the cats and naps.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Yep, today is a Happy Birthday to me post and I have been saving this card for a bit to share on my birthday. I stumbled across it for sale on Etsy while searching Google for something else Felix related and scooped it up. Like almost all of my Felix photo cards it arrives at our US shores from Britain. It has inspired a bit of stretch of the imagination post today – hang on for the ride and enjoy.
This card is inscribed on the back, but not mailed. In a clear hand it reads, To My Chicken Wishing you many Happy returns of the day from Grandad & Grandmas XX. Perhaps it was mailed in an envelope or included with a gift.
The poem on the front reads, If this toy could speak I’m sure he’d say “Many Happy Returns of the day”; He’d love to join in your romps and fun To make your Birthday a joyous one. Felix appears to hold her and and she is looking affectionately at him. (Were it me I would probably be more excited at the prospect of a birthday romp with Felix and at least given him a big hug!)
This birthday Felix card has a slightly higher production value than most of the posing with Felix cards I own (for new friends, one example can be found in a post here), which are the product of itinerant Felix photographers and seaside photo studios and therefore sometimes of mixed results. The hand color tinting, which gives this little girl a nice pink dress. A yellow floor turns her Mary Janes almost gold and some blond added to her hair gives a nice contrast. They went the extra mile and gave a blue detail to her collar and cuffs. Felix’s sepia brown (the underlying color) may have a bit of the yellow in it too.
It’s a bit hard to see, but the edges of the card are raised in a floral relief – a bit grimy now. It took some magnified looking, but the credit at the bottom left of the photo made me raise my eyebrow, in tiny type it reads Photo by P’cess Yvonne. A search of P’cess or Princess doesn’t turn up much (although who could resist looking), but it did toss out this signed photo below, of Princess Yvonne. Aka Mary Ellen Norris she performed a magic and mind-reading act with her husband, Doc Irving who signed it as well. It’s a stretch but I am going to pretend that she took this photo. (Unlikely, but because it is my birthday and because I can.)
Meanwhile, Beagles & Company, the noted maker of the card, was a well-known photo postcard producer in Britain. The founder, John Beagles (1844-January 1907), had already died and the eponymous company passed into other hands by the time this card was made. The company was one of the prime real photo postcard producers, but also published some of Louis Wain’s cat postcards – all as noted in a brief Wikipedia entry.
In a cursory search I could not find more cards photographed by P’cess Yvonne, although many of the portrait ones seemed to be photographed by a Rita Martin. (I will also choose to imagine that Beagles photo postcards were largely produced by an enclave of women photographers. Indulge me please.)
Kim (who is currently hard at work producing the annual Valentine slated for grand reveal next Saturday!) and I are zipping off to a fun filled day which will include an exhibit of pop-up advertising and another of wall paper at the Grolier Club and maybe some poking around the flea market too. Pam’s Pictorama Birthday Post Part Two tomorrow!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: So those precious few Pictorama readers who are in it for the Felix postcard photos, hold onto your hats for the next week or so because I have a small backlog of Felix and other photo postcards I will be sharing. Starting with this one I share today which is a very recent acquisition.
These three kids appear to have just run outside for a quick pic with Felix which makes me wonder if itinerant Felix photographers just wandered the streets like hurdy gurdy players with their monkeys. The oldest of the three appears to be dressed for weather entirely different than the younger two which lends some credence to my theory.
Unlike most of the folks posing with Felix photos I own, this is in the smaller category of ones that don’t appear to be at an amusement pier, resort or photo studio. There is a subset of photos like this one that appear to be on a residential street somewhere, but the Felix doll is usually a bit smaller. (If you missed them, the posts for the photos below can be found here and here.)
This Felix is nice and big (oh wouldn’t I like to own him!) so it was a commitment if someone was carrying him around, not just tucked under an arm. He has a spectacular large bow, but his ears are flat down and he’s listing a bit. The little girl on his right seems to be holding him up. The youngest child is utterly unimpressed with Felix or the situation. She looks off at something or someone to one side of the photographer. The pose in front of a combination picket and lattice work fence in front of a brick building facade.
The interesting thing about this photo, which I could not see until I held it in my hands, is that it appears to be a dupe. If you look carefully at the top left side of the photo you can see the edge of the original photo before it bleeds into a fade at the bottom. It is a well worn and much handled photo with bent edges and folds and tears at the top. Because it is in rough shape (it is a bit grotty) it is hard to tell that as a result of the generation lost, the image is a tiny bit soft.
In addition, it has a photo postcard back bearing a makers mark, EX-SERVICE MENS NOVELTY PHOTO OR 65, ELMHURST RD., FOREST GATE, ESSEX, followed by a series of numbers which are serial numbers sometimes used to track an image. So someone must have brought the original photo to them to copy and they took a photo of the photo and printed it. The photo studio put their stamp on it so I guess they were reasonably pleased with their handiwork.
Ex-service Men’s Novelty Photo is an interesting piece of its past. I assume it was run by former service men and attempting to attract the same in this post WWI England which provides a sense of time and place. This photo, like many if not all in my collection, has a past of its own which it holds onto and we can only guess at – however there is something about this one which is especially evocative. However, I think it has come to rest in the right place here in the Pictorama collection.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have always found the term notions as applied to sewing paraphernalia rather romantic. These days your basic notions are getting harder and harder to find, at least here in New York City. Sewing baskets house your tools – pins, needles, thread, scissors, tape measure, hooks, chalk, buttons and the like and they still exist but were more prevalent in the first part of the 20th century I think.
These days kits are sold for the likes of us who may only sew the occasional button – needles, some thread and a needle threader (I needed one of those even before my eyes went bad), which can cover your need for executing the basics, but back in the 20’s sewing was more of necessity and the ever popular Felix might hold your yarn, needles or thread. (Recently I wrote about a Felix curi-oddity that came my way which appears to be meant to hold needles, thread and the like. You can find that post here.)
Pictorama readers may remember that my adventures in stitching tend to be ham-handed at best. With a little luck I can get the occasional button back on. I have stopped short of doing any sewing on my toys however and certainly a hem is beyond me. However, sewing tools and notions do charm me and a few of my other sewing related posts can be found here, here and here.
This fragile small item showed up on eBay recently and intrigued me. I have never seen it before which accounts for a number of years of Felix looking, although things certainly do still turn up. It is plastic and mass produced – there is a crack in the top which means it doesn’t screw on tightly any longer. There may have been many produced, however the thin plastic seems to mean the survival rate is low. A worried, early blocky Felix paces across the front. It has a very hard to read Made in France embossed on the bottom.
Clearly the top can be used as a thimble (I understand the need for and practicality of the thimble, but have never effectively employed one) and inside is a spool which I assume held thread. The top of the spool unwinds and that’s where you could keep a few needles. The thimble top screws on to hold everything together, perhaps the bright orange color helped you keep track of it in your sewing box or maybe even your purse. There was a bit of room inside and perhaps there was a small tape measure or more importantly an edge or some kind that would help you cut the thread. Doesn’t seem to be room for one of my beloved needle threaders however, alas.
Interestingly, a note came with the sewing kit and it reads, Dear Ms. Butler, Thanks for bidding on this unusual cat sewing kit. My best guess is that it was acquired by my mom, who was born in Berdstown, IL 1921. I hope you have a collection of eccentric objects to which this is a welcome addition! Julie Johnson. I am anxious to introduce Julie to the Pictorama collection which I think I can fairly say houses its share of eccentric objects. I will keep her note with it – I love knowing a sliver of history associated with it.