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!

It’s Bimbo

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am celebrating a somewhat forgotten character of animation via this really nice little ceramic figurine which traveled here from Texas earlier this week. It came from our Instagram pals @curiositiesantique (and getcuriosities.com – I have written about them and Sandy who is my thoughtful contact in a post that can be found here) who were very nice and sent me a photo asking me if I was interested in purchasing him – and I definitely was.

I quick check on Wikipedia this morning (which cost me a donation to them, got me at a weak moment) reminds me that Bimbo, an animated perpetual pup of sorts made his debut as KoKo the Clown’s sidekick in the Fleischer Studios Out of the Inkwell series before becoming Betty Boop’s paramour as she rose to fame in the early 1930’s. Bimbo was the first animated character to invite everyone to follow the ball and sing along in the 1926 cartoon, My Old Kentucky Home. (All cartoons mentioned here are linked to viewing on Youtube available at the time of posting.) Oddly they note that his name comes out of a reference at the time to men who like to fight which is a fact for the day.

From Bimbo’s Initiation.

A loosely designed Bimbo stars in the 1930 cartoon Hot Dog where he is nabbed for annoying women with unwanted attentions. Later Betty and Bimbo made classic cartoons they are both best known for such as Minnie the Moocher and Bimbo’s Initiation.

Bimbo is eventually overshadowed by Betty as she rose to greater prominence. It seems as she became less doggy there was eventually pause about a human being in a relationship with a quasi anthropomorphic dog. In 1934 the Hays code decided that interspecies affairs in animation were a problem and nix their onscreen relationship. Betty gets a proper puppy pet, Pudgy, instead and Bimbo is largely retired.

From Van Eaton Galleries. Not in Pams-Pictorama Collection. Slightly different Bimbo.

Some research turns up a set of Bimbo, Betty and KoKo in the box of these figures and which reveals that it was imported by George Borgfeldt which is a name I have seen in and around objects and toys of this period. The example, shown with the box is from an auction site and seems to be a slightly different incarnation of Bimbo, less well executed.

Original box, also from Van Eaton Galleries, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

There is another variation which shows three Bimbos in a musical trio. Not sure what the inspiration was for these.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection and for sale on eBay at the time of publishing.

Fleischer Studios is imprinted on Bimbo’s butt, an inventory number above and Made in Japan across his heels. He is made of ceramic, some sort of porcelain bisque. Although one ear looks like it may have been lopped off, the other image assures me that this is as he was made. He’s a good design, reasonably close to his animated self, and pleasantly sturdy. Bimbo will enjoy a place of pride in a display cabinet on the long shelf of curiosities here at Pam’s Pictorama and Deitch Studio.

Matching

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I had to ferret around the apartment this morning as I had no post in mind having lost a number of auctions lately. (And later today I will be scribbling advance posts to keep you all in Pictorama while I travel to Denver on business next Saturday!) However, I reached deep into the Pictorama archive and pulled out this rather wonderful little gem. It was a gift years ago from Richard Greene, match collector extraordinaire, who had us as guests for a weekend at his home when Kim agreed to do a con in Philly at his request. Richard and his wife live in a house chock-a-block full of interesting bits and pieces he shared with us and they were the very most generous hosts.

Fellow cartoonist (the sadly now late) Jay Lynch was also there for the weekend and it was the only time I ever spent more than an evening with him. I forget the exact year, but it was summer and terribly hot like it is now. The con was in an old, wooden, un-air conditioned building and I remember spending the day stationed thoughtfully in front of a fan.

Richard gave Kim a hat he still wears (if I remember he did advertising lay out for a living) when not in the old Stetson I gave him, and Richard gave me this splendid matchbook from his glorious collection.

Front. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Kernel Lew Mercur’s (Original) Nut Club is pretty darn interesting (and colorful!) in its own right. The back promises dinners, dancing, and laffs. Located in Miami Beach (Alton Road at Dade Blvd.) it was open all night. Cuisine by Delmonico is noted along the top fold. Mr. Mercur’s image, or what we offered as such, is on the front in top hat with a carnation and musical notes.

Verso. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Not surprisingly, there are few tracks on Mr. (Kernal) Mercur or the Nut Club, although I did find a reference to it in a book about the bygone hey day of eating establishments of Miami (Lost Restaurants of Miami by Seth Bramson) and it would seem that the Nut Club was among a proliferation of Jewish cafeteria style restaurants and delis that became popular in Miami at the time. Bramson notes that Mercur did indeed preside over the restaurant in a top hat.

Other restaurants of the time (1940’s?) and place included The Five O’Clock Club (acquired by Martha Reye and which made it into the 1970’s) and Bill Jordan’s Bar of Music, an eponymous piano bar. Interesting that these establishments liked to label themselves as bars and clubs rather than restaurants or cafeterias. (And Cuisine by Delmonico doesn’t much scream Jewish deli to me either.)

Full inside view. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

For me of course it is all about the inside of this matchbook which reveals (voila!) the matches, lined up like a picket fence, emblazoned with a black Tom cat atop a fence with a favorite wheeze, Ya gotta make calls…if you want results, as the other black cat and kittens march below. Devoted and early Pictorama readers will remember a post I did devoted to a celluloid match safe with the same saying. (That post can be found here.) I used to have a postcard with the same image pinned up in my office at the Met.

Celluloid match safe. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Not a spot on this matchbook goes undecorated and the inside cover goes on to assure the visitor, be entertained at the funniest and screwiest place outside an asylum, yes it’s Kernel Lew Mercur’s Nut Club. Never a cover charge! It gives the exact address (1827 Alton Boulevard) and a phone number (5-9952) for reservations tucked behind the matches. At the bottom it says, We’re Never Too Busy to Say Hello! Who wouldn’t want to go and nosh a knish? But most of all, who wouldn’t pocket these matches? So glad somebody did!

Rainbow Moon; Wishing Seat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There’s a first time for everything and today I claim a Pictorama first. Our featured photo is one of my husband Kim and his brother Simon. Family photos make occasional entries here, although usually a few generations back and until now always my family. However, Kim’s currently working on a story that involves his Mom, Marie, and her Mom, Kim’s grandmother which means a number of family photos have wandered out of storage and into the apartment for perusing. (See last week’s post here for a pencil detail of the story which also boasts an elephant bank I recently purchased.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This photo would be Pictorama perfection even if it wasn’t of a young Kim and Simon, which of course does make it that much more interesting. Moon photos are a bit of a sub-genre of the Pictorama library, although it is a competitive market and so I tend to only buy those when opportunity presents itself. (For a moon photo or two you can look early posts here and here.)

Deitch Studio Collection.

I am crazy about this weird rainbow moon with its big lips, staring eye and bushy eyebrow! Kim looks like he’s having a pretty good time and Simon looks a little less sure. (I can’t blame Simon – it would be fair to be terrified of this as a small child perhaps.) Wishing Seat is painted in wavy letters behind them.

A careful look and we see that the “rocks” are all concrete and in a wavy design like hard clouds. There’s a nice little bench to perch on for your photo however and you can lean back against one of the rocks. There are trees behind them and a nondescript bit of greenery up front. The photo is a bit torn on the lower right corner – it looks like it was in an album and removed.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Kim’s already growing into a lanky build that will define him going forward, his hair already thick but cut short so mastered for the moment. Simon will remain a bit shorter, his hair straighter here at least. Kim thinks this would have been taken in about 1951 making him about seven and Si about four I think. (Sadly, Simon died recently and his passing was noted in a post found here. Youngest brother Seth yet to be born.) They were living in Detroit at the time, but Kim speculates that they could have been there or on vacation elsewhere. Car vacations were far flung affairs according to him, so there’s no real way of knowing. It was unidentified on the back so I put some notes in pencil for future generations.

It goes without saying that the moon is eerily and almost comically Deitchian in its demeanor and one can’t help but wonder if a young Kim’s brain was busy recording it and tucking it away for future artistic anthropomorphic cartoon contemplation.

A B&C Deitch Valentine Portrait

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama we enjoy certain inflection points during the year and the great Valentine reveal is one of them. Today is the day and welcome to all!

For those of you not in the know, each year my wonderful husband (Chief Artistic Genius and eponymous creator here at Deitch Studio, Kim Deitch) creates a Valentine’s Day drawing for me. Discussion about it begins seriously after Christmas and a period of development is followed by execution in early February. (A few examples from prior years can be found here, here and one that even features the Jazz at Lincoln Center orchestra as cats here.)

Some years I have very general thoughts and other years I may have more input. This was a rare year when I had a very specific request. I wanted an actual portrait of our cats, Cookie and Blackie! It is a perfect fit into my collection of images, usually vintage photos, of people and their feline friends. (These make up a whole sub-genre of images here at Pictorama so poke around the archive if you want to see some!)

Sadie and Dottie in a recent portrait by @crownandpaw.

You see, it started months back when a couple of kitties I follow on Instagram, Sadie and Dottie, had their portraits done. Sadie is a tuxie and her sister Dottie is, as self-described, a sort of cow spotty white kitty with black spots. Sadie and Dottie (@sadieanddottie) have a robust 13.3k followers and despite what you might think, I don’t actually follow a large number of cats on IG. There’s a cat in Japan, white with a comical big black mustache, who is dropped into my feed occasionally (name in Japanese so I don’t know), and a calico named Fudge who I like to see once in awhile. However, cats actually make up a smaller portion than antique jewelry, although more than rundown old houses for sale.

However, Sadie and Dottie’s mom and dad somehow manage to provide followers with a pitch perfect and pleasant stream of kitty triumphs and frustrations doled out at just the right pace. On some long, stressful days sitting down for a few minutes of treat time or bird watching (and chirping – which in turn makes the ears of my kits twitch as does the treat time meow) is the perfect antidote. Often I share a good post with Kim (and occasionally Cookie or Blackie), usually while sitting on the couch together, or in bed. I’m sure if Cookie and Blackie really understood they would be peeved at my defection of attention as it is they are just mildly annoyed by the thing in my hand which prevents two handed petting at times.

Sadie and Dottie (media stars that they are) have had their portraits done several times and it got me thinking that we really needed was a Kim Deitch portrait of our pair. I mentioned it to Kim who promised me that he would make me a grand one. Somehow months later as we were discussing my Valentine I decided that it was the appropriate moment and I knew he would deliver.

Sadie and Dottie in an earlier IG post posing with their portrait by @paintermurray_pet_portraits.

I was also thinking about years ago when Kim did a spectacular portrait of his friends Jay and Kathy with their Sphinxes and I was thinking of a picture that combined both elements of kitties romping in their usual pursuits and a straight ahead portrait of them – and today’s Valentine is it!

Kim Deitch portrait of Jay Rogers and Kathy Goodell with their cats and collection.

In addition to their likenesses front and center, their typical Cookie and Blackie romping is shown around the border. We have: catnip banana munching; chasing (Kill the Guy! the only game they play together); each shown with their own style of water drinking from a mug; neck biting (the denouement of Kill the Guy – but also sometimes B just walks over to C and starts biting her neck); Cookie chasing her tail and of course eating! Eating is their favorite activity and they would do it on demand if we allowed – but no. Here at Deitch Studio we have wet food at twelve hour intervals 6:00-6:00 and dry food in the interim.

It’s the Kim Deitch Valentine ’22 reveal!

I am shown sporting a star-patterned sweat shirt I actually wear most winter mornings agains the chill. (I am wearing it now as I write this, paired with my elephant toile print pj’s which I wrote about once here. It also highlights some morning cat activity here at Deitch Studio.)

Cookie, despite having left kittenhood far behind, still chases her tail almost daily. It is largely a morning occupation for her and if you know her you can see a fit of it starting to come on her as her tail seems to (rather independently and enticingly) commence twitching in a come hither sort of way. Sometimes it takes place in the tub (dunno why, but it does) and occasionally she combines it with trying to scare someone coming into the bathroom by popping out from the shower curtain. I call this her cat joke. Go Cookie!

The maniacal expression on Blackie’s face as he gets yelled at for biting Cookie’s neck here cracks me up! I am yelling, No neck biting! no doubt. Meanwhile, while Cookie is in charge of requesting fresh water (there is a division of labor between them always – for example it is Blackie’s job to wake us for food in the morning, although Cookie observes from the doorway), Blackie likes to drink his water standing up at the flat files in a quasi-human sidling up to the bar kind of pose. Line ’em up and keep ’em comin’ barkeep! Cookie prefers a more traditional go at it.

Blackie posting in front of his picture the other morning, perched on my desk chair.

I think Kim has done an entirely excellent job with the center portrait likenesses as well. Blackie is quite handsome and debonair – he knows he is a very good looking fellow and he is displaying a certain stuffy cat dignity here. Cookie has her more mercurial expression – paw resting lightly on that wild and erratic tail of hers.

Although wall space is always a premium here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama, I am tempted to get this one up somewhere. It is a great favorite already and my loving thanks to Kim for executing my request so splendidly and lovingly! Kim, you’re the best! Happy Valentine’s Day to all.

Daydreams

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I am sharing a photo postcard that just wandered in the door this week. It turned up in a search because of the black cat drawing in the upper left corner, but I think it is an image that those of us who were once art students find familiar and that is why I bought it. Although this postcard was never mailed, it is inscribed with “Daydreams” in a neat script and underlined on the back.

Our aspiring artist has his inspiration images pinned up along with what I assume is some of his own work. These drawings largely appear to be exercises in commercial art and perhaps that is how he ultimately made his living. His brushes, which looks a bit large for the art pursued here, are neatly sticking out of a jar. When I look very carefully I wonder if there aren’t two other photo postcards perched under the lamp, at least one that might be this same space depicted previously.

Our artist appears to be mulling, posed artfully and self-consciously, over a photograph of a woman and at his leisure, sitting back in his chair with his feet up. Very natty, our artist is wearing a tie and is neatly combed. The photo documents a space and time well despite the artifice.

There is something odd and somewhat wonky about the printing of this photo and I cannot help but wonder if his friend the aspiring (perhaps not yet entirely successful) photography student from down the hall attempted it. Recognizing that it hails from a time when a photo lit exclusively by a single bulb would have been challenging to execute (film being much slower), perhaps that is part of the issue. However, it is also printed poorly with dark edges from where it was not properly set for printing, an errant over-exposed corner in the upper right. Over decades it has solarized in the way that early prints sometimes do.

Cookie and Blackie enjoying my desk.

It reminds me of studio spaces in I had in college and later the areas I have devoted to drawing in various apartments – some favorite postcards or reproductions pinned up along with some recent work, a work lamp, brushes at the ready. He is neater than me, by far; I generally was covered in black pastel (a favorite medium) or really made a mess earlier with oil paint. My photography work of more recent vintage was executed elsewhere so no pets or humans would be injured by fumes or chemicals in our tiny abode. Kim says this photo reminds him of a young him as well, although I will add he seems a bit disparaging about the prospects of this young man.

My drawing table, alas, has been my work desk, as shown above, for the last two years and sees more action that way than it was for producing drawings. (I wrote about setting up that work space in an oddly popular post that can be found here.) It can’t be seen in the photo, but I do keep some photos around me at my desk as well, among them one I recently acquired of me and my sister as tiny tots, in a long forgotten yard somewhere.

Framed photo of me and my older sister Loren which just turned up recently and lives by my desk..

Meanwhile, as I write I sit at the far end of Kim’s long work table as I type this. It is a personal idiosyncrasy that I write my blog sitting at our big computer, not my laptop. I think I have mentioned before that Kim’s work table is a long, wooden table that I think was designed more for dining than for drawing. We bought it at the 26th Street flea market from its maker years ago. The antique table I had assigned to Kim early on had fallen over from the daily use.

Kim’s desk this morning, work in progress.
The ever-growing pile of finished pages like grow like topsy.

I guess Kim’s workspace is a glorified and professional version of this student one, with an enormous pile of finished pages at his right, some favorite books and his lucky dogs in front of him and our mutual collection of early photos lining the walls above. He is not, it should be noted, someone who likes his own work up on the wall around him. His workspace and my mine sit side-by-side these days and are pretty much central to our daily lives with the two cats, here at Deitch Studio.

Scarfing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I woke to this 12 degree morning, bright as a new penny, here in New York City this January day and had no idea what I wanted to share with you folks today. Coffee in hand, I wandered among my possessions and reached into a pile by my desk of somewhat unsorted photos and odd items that seemed to need a bit of consideration before posting. I pulled out this item which somehow Kim hadn’t even seen come into the house; given the intimate dimensions of Deitch Studio this is indeed unusual.

This scarf struck my fancy when I saw it and I bought it on a whim knowing it wasn’t not my usual side of the street. The pointy Felix-es around the boarder tickled me – I am a sucker for a pointy Felix as some Pictorama followers know – and I like the color combination.

However, when it arrived I was a tad disappointed overall. The fabric is a bit thin and the design is a bit odd – the text which appears to be an interview with Pat Sullivan, an idea I sort of like – is strangely and unevenly cut off by the center image. While I realize that once you wear it as a scarf it wouldn’t much matter it offends my sensibility as an object.

Detail of scarf, Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The scarf has a (rather conspicuous think) note that it is the product of Determined Productions, San Francisco worked into the boarder design and it was produced in 1989 as per (yet) another note on the boarder which give the copyright of Felix the Cat Productions, Inc. which (Google informs me) resides in nearby Hamburg, New Jersey. I guess I give it a B- grade.

There was a time when I wore a lot of scarves and my wardrobe boasted many. It helped that the Metropolitan Museum produced them and I was able to purchase them at a steep discount for myself and my family. (I had learned to tie them, after a fashion at least, during my college year living in London, brighting a small number of outfits with bright scarves of different colors and prints. Nothing fancy but a method or two that work for me anyway.) The offices at the Met were often cold and a scarf made practical sense – many people had the same idea and in winter would find us all wrapped in them and wool shawls from the store there as well.

My current offices (when and if I visit them which is still rarely) are also chilly in winter, but somehow I have fallen largely out of the scarf habit although they still reside in my closet, languishing with a lot of other unused office clothes at the moment, a sort of a time capsule despite a recent clean out. (My efforts in this area and further thoughts on various aspects of the potential return to the office can be found in a post here.) I tended to layer on jackets and sweaters instead. Here, working from my perch at home, I also just ten to add a layer although this apartment and especially that corner of it, tends to be warm.

The spare room at mom’s house on the chilly morning in question.

Recently I was working from my mom’s house in New Jersey and assigned myself an unused upstairs room as my office. That room turns out to be quite chilly and as I had few items of clothing with me I did wrap myself in a big wool scarf I had with me for my afternoon of Zoom calls. Folks asked about it, never having much seen me in one and wondering where the heck I was that I was so cold. (A navy wool cardigan has been sourced as a permanent resident of the New Jersey branch of my operations, as a way of addressing this issue, but a scarf may still be required. I will be testing this out later this week anyway, but will arrive better prepared.)

The question of how daily work attire will emerge from this long hiatus of going to an office is unsure – as is the precise nature of said return. There are days when I think I should just toss everything (potentially piles of nicer trousers, tops and jackets) but the three pairs of nice jeans, two sweaters, two tops, maybe a jacket or two for “dressing up”, that are currently in rotation. They could rattle around in an otherwise empty closet with a lot of running tights and sweats. Meanwhile, a return to scarf wearing in the near term seems unlikely.

Krazy!

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.

Just a reminder that this is actually how Krazy looks in the strips!

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.)

Bray Animation Project screen grabs from the early animated series. A good likeness!

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.

Mintz cartoons show a later version of Krazy.

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.

My early Averill Krazy. Note the tail, like a third foot, meant to stand him upright, but long beyond that employment now. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

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.

My other Krazy doll. Also Averill? Open to info from readers on this fact. Getting closer to Krazy but somehow still lacking in his attitude perhaps? Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

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.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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!

Eugene the Jeep

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy acquisition is part of the loot from lightening striking multiple times at one online toy sale in Britain this fall. Within a few hours I had redistributed some hard earned cash to three dealers. One was a small purchase, a wonderful postcard though of a girl in hunting garb aiming at a Steiff teddy. (That post can be read here.)

Today’s Jeep came from a dealer whose toys seemed to skew more toward traditional bears and dolls than somewhat obscure comic characters. She was lovely however and I will hope there is a chance to do future business with her.

As it happens, I have always had a soft spot for the Jeep and frankly had no idea that Deans Rag Company produced one, but as soon as I saw this one I snatched it happily up. For those who have not read the original Segar Popeye strip, I say do yourself a favor and settle in with the full run and have a good old read. I originally read the dailies serially via a wonderful edition of hard cover books that our friends at Fantagraphics published years ago. (They have subsequently published the Sundays as well.) The full glory of Popeye in his native medium bears little resemblance to the somewhat limited range of the animated cartoon character of my childhood and it was one of the nicest rabbit holes I ever headed down in comics.

A volume from my beloved edition of Popeye dailies published by Fantagraphics.

Among the discoveries, such as characters Ham Gravy and Castor Oil, was Eugene the Jeep. The Jeep, for those of you who have not encountered his mystical self, is a dog-like animal from Africa who can, (among other things) appear and disappear at will, walk on his hind legs, always tells the truth, and can utter the single word, Jeep! (Wikipedia has a rather cogent explanation of him and his back story which can be found here.) The Jeep represents a sort of the high point of that strip for me – a charming and mystical character which possesses somewhat limited if extraordinary powers.

The first mention of the Jeep appears in March of 1936, although he takes his place in the strip later in 1938. While researching this and the dates associated with it I had a moment of wondering how the first mention might have intersected with the introduction of Punjab into the Little Orphan Annie strip. The equally mystical Punjab was introduced into that strip almost exactly a year before in February of ’35. Makes me wonder if it inspired Segar or if there was something else afoot in the world that inspired both. I am not well versed enough in these things to say, but will perhaps pose the question to one of our better informed friends such as Bill Kartalopoulus, comics historian. Maybe it was just in the air. (The question of whether or not the army vehicle with this moniker has the strip as the origin remains somewhat unclear to me, but is definitely possible.)

Much like Krazy Kat, and even Felix to some extent, the relatively simple shape of this character seems to have inspired somewhat strangely inaccurate three dimensional recreations and I have looked for a splendid soft Jeep toy for a very long time. Kim has spoken of one that passed through his hands in the late 80’s which I have had trouble finding. I think it might be this model below, just spotted on eBay.

Not (yet) in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection. Interesting that the lucky clovers deteriorated into spots here.

While the earnestness of this Dean’s Rag incarnation cannot be denied, down to the lucky four leaf clovers which decorate him, somehow he is a bit off kilter. He is about 7 inches in height. (I have not had a chance to dig really deep to see if he came in a number of sizes, although as a rule Deans character toys did. Having said that he does seem a tad rarified so there isn’t much online. Somewhere I have a CD which has the history of the Dean’s catalogue on it which will enlighten me if I can find it.) My example has a small tear on the neck and toward the tip of the tail. The only other example I can find has a worse tear at the tail with stuffing emerging – at first I thought it was a characteristic of the toy.

He has, as is necessary, the wonderful Dean’s Rag Book Company imprint on the soles of his feet. (For some reason those imprints fill me with great joy – if I were to come back in a future life as a vintage toy I would very much want to be a Deans Rag toy proudly sporting this indicia.)

Lucky Jeep! Deans Rag Toy tag.

As toy collector and seller Peter Woodcock pointed out in an email these small toys soiled and tore easily with handling and did not survive in large numbers. (Peter will emerge further as a subsequent character in the tale of this sale as he parted with something truly delightful which I purchased as well.) A quick look over at Mel Brinkrant’s collection shows a few pristine examples, as well as one or two other examples I must keep my eye out for – I can see the corner of another of the Deans Rag ones and I would say yes, it is larger. (For all things Mel and his beyond extraordinary collection you can go here. Talk about a happy rabbit hole!)

Jeep not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection – but you never know…For me this one is the best design relative to the drawing in the strip.

Researching this wonderful toy has reminded me that within these cramped four walls is a new volume of the pre-Popeye Thimble Theater strips. (It can be found here on Amazon.) I think I need to curl up with that oversized volume in bed for the remainder of the weekend. It is snowing gently outside and I cannot think of a better way to wile away this afternoon and evening.

Feeling Felix-y

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo find comes as I happen to have had a rare and thoroughly enjoyable encounter with another Felix collector in Great Britain over an auction purchase yesterday (oh my yes, more to come on that), and since I have Felix on the brain it seems like a good day to share this acquisition. It seems he gave up Felix collecting in favor of having children (imagine!), but has held onto his collection until now – with one of his beloved toys soon to slip into the Pictorama haven for all things early Felix. More to come on Peter and the Dean’s Felix which will make an American debut in future weeks – and with a nod of grateful thanks to Kim who helped finance that purchase.

One interesting (and rather splendid) feature is that Peter and his wife seem to have photos of children with the dolls they are selling. Someone who shares my interest in the photos as well as the toys! A brother from another mother it seems. I show one of their other offerings below, this currently for sale on Facebook and a group holding a sale under the name 200 Years of Childhood which can be found here, or under Leanda Harwood Bears. As it happens, I own this Felix below (or a kissin’ cousin anyway) so he wasn’t in the running for me. You might remember an especially interesting post about how these off-model Felix toys were made in an East London factory as a way of employing indigent women. That post of mine can be found here.

NOT in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection but for sale via the 200 Years of Childhood FB sale or via Leanda Harwood Bears, UK.

Meanwhile onto this hotsy totsy photo postcard winged its way in the door earlier this week and Kim and I especially like Felix’s saucy mugging in the middle of the picture. He provides a good counterbalance to the two angelic looking little boys and a fluffy white cat toy, peering out behind the little boy on the left.

I wonder if that white cat is a stand-in for Kitty, Felix’s ongoing romantic interest. She, at least the early version of Kitty, was more of an actual cat than the anthropomorphic Felix. The feminists need to get a hold of Kitty and rework her a bit, since all she ever seemed to do was flounce away, agree to let Felix take her out or produce prodigious packs of kittens. To my knowledge no period dolls of her exist – there is a sort of awful thing from the 80’s or so we won’t discuss. There is a Daddy Kitty, a male white cat, who occasionally appears with a rifle to move Felix along.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

These little boys are posed on a fluffy carpet and they (and their parents) may think they are the center of attention, but of course we know it is Felix, whose eyes are rolling comically to one side as he leans toward the little boy with the straight hair. It is as if the photographer and Felix are playing a joke on these folks, which comes to us decades later. Felix steals the show, upstaging these albeit cute kids. Of course, having said this, I would have loved to have been a child posing in a photo with Felix and have that relic, but I won’t hold the lapse against Mom and Dad.

Verso for card above.

On the back of this card, written in a loopy script it says, With Love & All Good wishes for a bright & Happy Xmas from Nelly Chas & Raymond. There is no date and this was not mailed. The card, which offers how additional copies could be acquired on the back, appears to be the product of Wakefield’s, 1 High Street & 21 The Mall, Ealing Broadway, W5 with a phone number. A quick search reveals that Wakefield’s was a noted Victorian photo studio and that Ealing seems to have been an area with a number of photography studios at the dawn of the 20th century. (A website devoted to researching this topic (What’s That Picture?) can be found here, but note that this fellow blogger appears to be focusing on earlier photographs, only up to WWI. (A not especially interesting modern building exists at the address now according to Google.) One interesting tidbit was that this, evidently very substantial, studio also had a branch in Brighton – which is, in my mind, definitely Felix photo territory.

A lovely way to send holiday greetings, but for us today a bit of a fall Felix frolic.