More Margate Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am fulfilling yesterday’s promise of more photos to come with another hotsy totsy postcard which also entered into the Pictorama collection this week. My singular passion for this rarified specimen of photo postcards has been well documented and is in fact responsible for this blog which subsequently burgeoned into a much larger pastime. I contend that I may have the largest collection of these photos, but since I rarely meet anyone with even one (unless they are selling it) may claim goes largely uncontested. Most, but not all, have made appearances here on Pictorama.

I know there are other folks who own some Felix cards in the world because I occasionally to my horror (and admittedly not often), lose an auction for one. My fondness for these photos has inspired some purchases of what I think of as subcategories – people posing on enormous black cat “chairs” and then the random posing with or on other cartoon characters including (usually small) Mickeys or in one case atop Barney Google’s horse Spark Plug. (That post can be found here.) Some are tintypes, but most are photo postcards. In general, the thrust of individuals recording their madcap day at seaside or an amusement pier of some sort appeals to me.

Another pint-sized Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This family certainly defies the definition of madcap or even happy go-lucky. They are depicted in somewhat mugwamp fashion, be-hatted, bundled and all except for the little nipper on the end, engaged in industrious forms of leisure if there is such a thing – reading and knitting or sewing as far as I can tell. (Dad has a sheepish grin – perhaps the whole thing was his idea.) Clearly it was not one of Margate’s sunnier and warmer days, the third woman has an umbrella tucked under her feet which is easy to miss. A stray hat (it looks a bit large but probably belongs to the little girl) is in the foreground. The little girl’s shoes are tucked between mom and dad in the sand.

The card is marked just Margate in pencil on the back, but it was never mailed and nothing else is written on it, somehow these folks were talked into a photo with Felix. Margate, a long-standing seaside destination, is the locale of many of my photos. I wrote about its history once here. (And among the other times I have had posts of postcards from there are examples here and here and one from earlier this year with Felix here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As posing Felix-es go, he is a smallish model, only coming up to the waist of the little girl who is standing behind him. Upon close inspection he sports both a small bow on his left shoulder and a large button in his ear which I will hazard a guess says Chad Valley – it is the first time I have seen the button in the ear of one of these posing Felix toys and now I am wondering if I can find it on others. I have a sort of 18 inch model that has one – the first in my collection to still have it.

I must say, as backdrops go the photographer didn’t have much to work with here – the patch of sand and unromantic wall behind them. They could be anywhere. He has centered them however and consciously or not, they make up a good photo, their hats lining up and the little girl on the end just a bit taller than the seated adults. Something about the white stockings and shoes on the third woman adds something to the effect. If their repose was greater they might be the Whistler’s Mothers of Margate, but instead there is that nagging sense of diligence. Their Sunday afternoon in the parlor transported to the beach briefly.

A very similar Felix at an undisclosed location – possibly Margate and the very same Felix? Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix remains jolly in the face of their dour and somewhat gloomy affects. He rolls his eyes a bit maniacally, looking up coincidentally toward the little girl – she is his potential partner in crime, and they are in it together to get this party started and have some fun! One arm (paw?) up, he’s ready to lead the way. Meanwhile, he is at the beginning of a long day of posing, cheerfully, with an array of folks on the beach in Margate, some more fun than others, waving to me a hundred or so years later.

Felix Keeps on Walking

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was thinking this morning that Pictorama is seeming a tad Felix deficient so I will swell the Felix quotient with two “walkers” that are currently in residence here. One I bought earlier this year from my antiques friends down in Texas (@curiositiesantiques) and the other which just wandered into the apartment from a Pictorama reader who contacted me and sold a few items to me recently, others to appear in future posts. So if you are inclined, settle in for a bit of contemplation on Felix and his favored mode of locomotion.

Youtube video of the cartoon, available at the time of publication. Perhaps the origin of the phrase.

Felix and his walk have always been a matter of some interest. His trademark hands behind the back walk as he thinks and dreams up tricks is a significant aspect of his devilish charm. It has been celebrated in song and film (the very funny lyrics to Felix Kept on Walking can be found here, and an early post I wrote on some of my cat sheet music including this one can be found here), but also graces everything from dishes to postcards. It was used for advertising and sometimes took on a more adult meaning – usually involving an enticing girl cat and sometimes batches of kittens.

Felix Keep on Walking plate, Pams-Pictorama.com

I share two recordings of the tune which were available at the time of publication. The Savoy Havana Band does a jolly instrumental illustrated with great photos, below. While a rendition with the lyrics sung by Clarkson Rose can be found on Youtube here.

Meanwhile, I found an interesting essay which discusses the dialogue between Buster Keaton and Felix from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (which can be found here) noting that Keaton’s film Go West could have been inspired by a Felix cartoon a year earlier, Felix Goes West, and Keaton pays that off with a bit of the Felix walk while contemplating his situation.

The walker from Texas is a somewhat more available model and mine is missing the stick with which to animate it. This one is a simple toy and a stick would have affixed to it for a child to push it forward. There are no indications of where the stick attached and no evidence that this fellow ever had arms. His feet are the only bits animated, head and tail do not move. I like his simple stenciled face – and there are two mysterious purposeful sort of holes in his eye which I cannot image what they were for. His silhouette is a bit bottom heavy rotund. He is made of a light balsa type wood.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

A very similar item is for sale on eBay with the stick in place and as far as I can tell there is a space between back of head and tail where it would have gone. The item on eBay has a date of September 8, 1924 scribbled on the back. I would have thought this was a bit later myself. I think these days we might be a tad concerned about toys for small children that are animated with large sticks out of the back, but as I do not have any small children I cannot say if this is a fact.

The more recent acquisition is by far the more substantial of the two toys, made from thick wood and with a hefty roller and even the stick is a more finished item with a handle making it seem like it is less likely to poke an eye out. This Felix animates with arm movement and he seems to have had a moving tail at one time, there is a slot for it. One arm on mine still moves but the other is disengaged – it would be easy enough to reattach with a tiny nail although I don’t think I am that person. Nonetheless, this fellow does indeed keep on walking.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The Antique Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I always like to look at old children’s books and juvenile fiction given the opportunity. Pictorama readers know that I enjoy early chapter books that would be called young adult fiction today. (There are the posts devoted to girl detective Judy Bolton, Honey Bunch and of course several devoted to The Camp Fire Girls, Red Cross and Ranch Girls. A smattering of those can be found here, here and here or search the site for books.) And I have written about some of my childhood favorites, including one illustrated by the great Garth Williams called Push Kitty (post here) which reminds me a bit of this volume. Still, it is rare that a true children’s book that I had no prior knowledge of zooms into a place in my heart as this one has. It is great for kids but a winner for the cat lovers too.

The illustrated cover which my copy does not have.

I stumbled across this title while searching for information on another one on Goodreads. The description was appealing and on a whim I purchased a (much) used library copy, sans cover and with a heavily taped spine, (stamped throughout as from the School of the Japanese Martyrs, Leavenworth, Minnesota!) for a nominal amount. With an unexpected trip to my mom in New Jersey and other pressing life matters I didn’t have a chance to read it until last night and it is a gem! I can only say I am sorry I didn’t know it when I was a kid, it would have been a favorite in rotation and my parents would have loved it too.

Solomon in the store window at night entertaining passersby.

The story is a simple one – a skinny stray (all black) cat is taken in by the owner of an antiques shop. It is told from the cat’s point of view and he has some simple adventures – most involve his love of eating fish – and all ends well with him installed as the beloved master and mascot of the establishment. An antique store makes for an interesting setting for cat adventures – while fear of breaking fragile items is mentioned, claw paws and scratching are not. However his nemesis ultimately is an antique doll who receives too much of his mistress’s attention and affection. Fortunately his human loves him above all else and forgives some minor feline transgressions.

Undeniably great cat poses!

The all black protagonist of our story, Solomon (we are not told how he acquired his moniker), looks like my own Blackie and the early drawings of him as a street cat sadly corresponding to our boy recovering (shaved and thin) from his recent stint of illness. (No mention of black cats and bad luck are mentioned and Bradbury gets points for me with this.) Solomon progresses to shining glory although I guess some of his battle scars around the ears and whatnot remain as badges of feline honor.

I easily could have found this book as a child. The copyright in this edition, the first, is 1945. It was published by The John Winston Company of Philadelphia and Toronto and the copyright notes that it was also copyrighted in Great Britain (Dominions and Possessions as well) and in the Philippines. It was written by Bianca Bradbury with drawings credited to Diana Thorne and Connie Moran.

Front papers.

Bradbury was born in New Milford, Connecticut in 1908. A brief online bio outlines that as a young wife she published verse and short pieces in magazines and eventually, after her sons were born her worked morphed into children’s books and ultimately into young adult chapter books. She evidently wrote realistically about the issues of the day for kids in those later books, not balking at difficult subjects. This book and that bio intrigues me enough to look into some of her other books. (One Kitten Too Many may be where I start, but I will look for the longer ones as e-publications perhaps.) She was prolific and wrote 46 books in her 40 year career.

Solomon thinking back on his stray cat compatriots!

Meanwhile, Diana Thorne gets top illustrator billing here and she deserves it. Her cat illustrations are perfect. It seems she is best known for her illustrations of dogs (these seem to be well known and collected), but she certainly lived amongst cats as the poses are spot on for us cat lovers. Her illustrations are pitch perfect and absolutely put the story over. While her illustrations and drawings are widely available on the internet, there is little biographical information about her. It seems, oddly, that she was either born in Odessa, Ukraine, or as she was later to claim, on a ranch in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1895 (d. 1965) – her love and knowledge of animals would argue some time on a ranch I think. Her work is collected in numerous museums in the United States and Great Britain including the Smithsonian.

Something “fishy” about this doll…

The other illustrator credited, Connie Moran, seems to have teamed up with Thorne on a number of similar illustrated children’s books. I can only assume that Thorne was only interested in the animals and left the humans (and in this case some antique furniture) to Moran. She is from Chicago, born in 1898 and dies in 1964 so she and Thorne are contemporaries. Her illustrations are, for me, more commonplace and would be forgettable without the Thorne cats among them.

Solomon loves his dish of fish.

The Antique Cat is much shorter than May Sarton’s The Fur Person, (you can find that post here), but reminds me of it in tone and the way it is told from the cat’s perspective. It is a very worthy entry into cat related literature and certainly deserves a place in the Pam’s Pictorama library.

Blackie this morning. Hopefully on the road to recovery.

Has Anybody Seen My Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’ve seen this sheet music come and go and I finally grabbed it up. It occasionally turns up in my cat searches and I finally landed on this copy earlier this week. There’s another version with an equally good cover, but very different cover which I will still snatch up given the opportunity.

Pictured on the front between these two great black cats is, I assume, Emma Carus. Emma was a vaudeville performer who was the face and voice for putting this song over. According to the American Vaudeville Museum site (University of Arizona, here) although she was pleasing looking, she generally opened her act with the line, I’m not pretty but I’m good to my parents. However, her songs were incredibly popular and she sold reams of sheet music. She hit the big time as a performer in 1900 so when this sheet music (copyright 1922, but more about that in a moment) she was a well established star and money maker.

This Black Cat Hosiery Cat of the same period at seems to be a kissin’ cousin of the ones on the sheet music.

Emma gets the top credit, followed by Dan Blanco (of whom I find no real tracks) and then J. Walter Leopold. I am not sure I see real evidence of her actual song writing as I read her bio. J. Walter Leopold has numerous song credits, but was also a performer and he and Carus teamed up in 1918 and worked vaudeville until the end of that particular line. He drifts to radio and then manages some bands. She lived hard starting in her teems, has two failed marriages before she is 25, and dies in failing health at 48.

Emma Carus in all her glory in an undated photo, on Ziegfieldfolliesgirls.com

Sadly I cannot find a recording of her singing this song, nor can I find a recording of her singing at all.

While credit is given as above on the front of this sheet music, the internet reveals that the original song was song was British and was written and composed by TW Connor in 1899 for George Beauchamp – probably as a sequel to an earlier successful song Puss, Puss Puss (1897). A 1901 recording of the song can be found here with the slightly different name of Has Anybody Seen Our Cat, but virtually the same lyrics. There are recorded versions going back to 1897 under this name so I don’t know how to make that jibe with the claim of the 1899 authorship above – was it acquired and reacquired multiple times?

The copyright page tells us that Dan Blanco acquired the rights in 1916 and they were transferred to Emma Carus in 1922. So maybe Dan’s only claim to fame is acquiring these rights and selling them.

Children’s Book which claims to have roots in one of the versions of this song.

The song goes on to inspire a Tex Ritter tune, Has Anyone Seen My Kitty, (listen to it here) and eventually a recent children book, Anybody Seen Our Cat by Kenneth Griffin, illustrated by Brandon Weiner.

Below are the lyrics which bear their British roots and age, but produce a chuckle. Enjoy!

I'm upset now; let me tell you why,
Our old tom cat has been and done a guy (run away)
My old gal declares that it's a sign
Somebody's number's up and two to one it's mine
I've been wondering why I am to blame
For sneaking the bacon and the brawn
And the young man lodger's two-eyed steaks (bloater)
When they're missing on a Sunday morn.

Chorus: Has anybody seen our cat?
Has anybody seen our cat?
He's got a bit of black on the end of his tail
And the skin's all off where he's been fighting
Last Sunday morning we missed him from the mat
Puss! Puss! Puss! Meat! Meat! Meat!
Has anybody seen our cat?

How we loved that cat nobody knows
Put butter on his feet and pepper on his nose
When he caught cold gave myself a job
When the toothache troubled him so bad
And I found little Tommy couldn't eat
I tied up his face, put baccy in his ear
And got another cat to chew his meat.

Chorus:

I never thought he'd leave his happy home
Though after the gals he often used to roam
I've sent tripe hounds out upon his track
I'm doing everything to try and get him back
Got two cods heads stuck up on a pole
And nailed up a kipper on the door
And written underneath it ‘Welcome home'
And a promise not to kick him any more.

Chorus:

A (Felix) Cat Book

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’ve actually been in possession of this slim volume for a few years since purchasing it on eBay. I think it went to the shelf and somehow never made its Pictorama debut. But I was emailing about all things Felix with a fellow Felix-o-file and dug it out to show him. I have not seen it around much, but some digging shows that you can currently acquire a copy if you are willing to pay up. My copy is inscribed twice. The first is in a childish pencil scrawl which, oddly, reads, Elizabeth Butler, 1021 Craggmont. The other, in a neat pen, To Martha, from Mabel Crowe. Neither is dated.

Titlepage, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It is a somewhat odd book. To start with, across the front it announces that it was Published by Harper & Brothers – Established 1817. A quick check and Harper & Brothers, which started life as J. & J. Harper publishing in 1817 (brother Jay and John at the helm) until more brothers from the clan joined and the name changed in 1833 to recognize them. Then it changed again in 1962 and became Harper & Row, before later finding its 21st century moniker, Harper Collins. However, while new printing methods made them a leading publisher of books and textbooks, the influence of the famed Harper’s Magazine could evidently be felt through their publishing empire and its influence is felt in this volume.

Felix himself travels under an American passport and Harpers a US publisher, however the author is British essayist, E. V. Lucas, giving this something of the feel of a British product like one of their comics annuals. While this Felix volume was published in 1927 there is an earlier, 1902, version which has different and more traditional cat illustrations by someone named H. Officer Smith and in fact published in Britain. The illustrations have a whiff of Louis Wain to them.

The earlier version of the book with illustrations by H. Officer Smith. Not in Pictorama collection.

Lucas was a lifelong Punch author whose prodigious output of essays, commentary, verse, plays and was legendary in his day. His biography is sprinkled with references to hobnobbing with friends Barrie, A.A. Milne, Arthur Conan Doyle and the likes of his day, playing cricket and billiards. He has written the copy in simple verse with a sly eye to the beloved tricks, maneuvering and manipulation of cats.

Our volume (ostensibly illustrated by Pat Sullivan who signed each illustration, however we’ll assume it is of course Otto Messmer ready at the dip pen) is a slim one at about 30 pages, writing on each left side and illustration on the right. Felix takes on the role of a sort of every cat persona rather than doing a star turn as his famous film self here – although he seems to have some of the Felix wiliness and trouble-making charm as played out in the pictures.

The drawings show Felix in fine fetter and I can only imagine that for a pro like Messmer it didn’t take him long. However his skill shows in making every line count for maximum entertainment and raises it to the level of a Pictorama worthy Felix investment.

Ed. Note: After this was posted @judd_kid and @tomatitojose sent word that they think it was drawn by Dana Parker who drew many of the Felix theater posters and advertising art! Fact for the day!

Tooting My Horn

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a first day of vacation Felix party post today! This splendid item came in the door just as I was leaving for Denver on a business trip so I hardly had time to even look it over. As it happens I had lost a more or less identical one in an auction on eBay a few days before I saw this one – the first one went for a whole lot more so maybe I was the only one bidding who saw this version.

I wish I knew more about this horn. I have seen perhaps one or two others over time but they are not very common. He’s made of a sort of cardboard-y paper mâché-esque stuff and the end you toot is a light wood of some sort. A few years ago I wrote about a black cat Halloween horn I found, it too had a wooden end. (That post can be found here and it has a funny few seconds of Cookie reacting to the sound of my blowing it!) The sound of this item is remarkably similar, although that horn was somehow more substantial in design.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Because the poof of air comes out Felix’s mouth he looks like he is frowning or yelling – an angry Felix? I don’t know why the string is there – it is on all the few I have seen. His ears, a light cardboard paper are bent and are a clear weak spot in the design and admirable really that they have lasted all this time.

I can only say that I would have liked ringing, let’s say, 1926 in with this fellow, but instead I blow it in tribute to the first day of a much needed vacation here at Deitch Studio.

Meanwhile, for those of you who have been following the saga over the past week or so we here at #teamblackie are pleased to report that our poor puss continues his recovery and is eating more. Hopefully he will start to gain some weight, but he is bright eyed again and fighting Kim hard getting his gloppy meds administered so he must be feeling better. We intend to rest and recreate with the kits and each other. Ice cream will be eaten. I promise to keep you all up to speed with the highlights.

Match

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a strange relationship to matches. I tend to burn myself on lighters and cardboard matches often fail me. I would have made a very lousy smoker – or perhaps conversely my skills would have improved over time. It seems unlikely at this age that we will ever know. Perhaps it comes of being a well behaved child who accepted her parental advice not to play with matches – I didn’t and as a result I never really got the hang of using them.

Among other things, living with a gas stove means the occasional lighting of a pilot light and at some point I invested in a box of wooden matches for this and other fire lighting jobs. The tiny wooden sticks have a timeless quality. As you strike one you have the comfort of knowing you could easily have done exactly the same 100 years ago.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This nifty black cat stands by a pot which I believe was designed to hold the spent matches more than those awaiting use, although I guess you could have gone either way. It entered Deitch Studio earlier this week from Great Britain. I was in East Hampton for work on Fourth of July weekend when I noticed it in an idle IG scroll of a jewelry account I frequent, @therubyfoxes. I was in the middle of too much to execute the purchase and asked Mia to hold it for me and I was pleased to buy it later – and even happier with it when it arrived.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It shows pleasant signs of some wear from years of use and probably sitting near a stove. I would describe it as being made of pot metal. Meanwhile, it’s a fang-y black cat if you look carefully, exclaiming for attention, mouth open. He or she sports a yellow bow around the neck. Kitty’s back is arched, although not really threatening, and tail is looped over on his or her back.

In a way it would be nice if this could sit in my kitchen, but there is no space in that crammed corner for such an item to be displayed effectively. Instead it joins the cat congregation on the shelves in the living room, matchless, although perhaps eventually it could find a place on my desk and graduate to paperclips instead. Either way he’s another great black cat find.