Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Yes! Kicking off this Deitch Studio weekend with a new photo postcard purchase of Felix posing with a pint-sized friend. Since I collect deeply in this area I can cheerfully say with some certainty that I really overpaid for this card, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to as a collector and of course each of these cards is singular. (I assure you I have bitterly regretted every one that has gotten away from me.) Also notable, it is the very first time in all these years I have purchased one of these cards from a US source. Every other one I own has come from Britain, Australia (Katoomba!) or (I believe) New Zealand.
Compared to many others in my collection, this photo suffers a bit from exhausted chemicals in the making and has faded. Somehow however it has become more atmospheric and this little girl in her white frock and falling knee socks, holding Felix’s paw-hand, is sort of emerging out of the image at us. Behind her we can make out a white hatted woman (or taller child) in the white cotton beach garb of Britain in the 20’s, carrying some sort of lap rug. There are other blurry figures behind her and the outline of the tall buildings that surround this beach area.
I have several photos of Margate’s summer pleasures past in my possession, most notably numerous ones of a giant cat chair one could pose on as well. A few of those posts and photos can be found here and here, although there are many so shop around in the archive for others.
The Felix in today’s pic is a low-rise model if you will, a pint-sized version whose pointy ears just come up to her tiny shoulder. (Many of my photos show this size Felix as opposed to the much larger ones I think of as “life sized”, closer to the size of a midget.) At a glance I don’t think this particular Felix is represented in my collection – he has a rather singular appearance – his face is rather tidy and his arms are very long! (My theory is these were designed this way to encourage people to throw his arm around them perhaps?) I imagine the arms on Felix were somewhat moveable and the head probably swiveled and turned a bit for posing. I generally prefer my Felix-es with a slightly more maniacal expression.
This card was never mailed although the inscription on the back also endeared it to me. In a faded script it says Taken at Margate 21st of Aug 24 and below Our Alana 2 years old 23 Months To Gran Daddy at USA. So it must have been put in an envelope or package and mailed to our shores all those years ago. It has a pinhole from where it spent time thump tacked up on a wall. It is faded and tattered but those are signs of having been beloved I think.
As this card creeps close to its one hundredth summer since it was snapped at that sandy beachside resort, I am reminded that simple summer pleasures have remained largely the same. On that note, it is time for me to throw on my running shorts, finish my ice coffee and get out for a run as this beautiful June morning beckons.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This morning I sit down to write my 871st post on this blog. For those of you who follow Pam’s Pictorama you know that with little exception, posts have appeared here on Saturday and Sunday morning (some exceptions for time difference during travel, once for illness in the family) pretty much like clockwork since the summer of 2014. While there are exceptions (notes taken in advance, work travel) when they were written in advance, the general “rule” is that I write them each weekend morning before otherwise starting my day. I drink coffee, look at the window, chat with Kim while I do it – pay attention to a needy cat if necessary – while writing.
I launched Pictorama while recovering from foot surgery, bored in bed and needing a project, I thought I would use it to organize my collection of early photos. (I didn’t do that – they are still not really organized as I sit here in 2022 although it has grown like topsy.) At the time the collection was mostly photo postcards of people posing with giant stuffed Felix dolls (some above), but I have always picked up old photos from here or there. I want to publish them as a book and still hope to figure that out.
My avatar, Felix on a scooter, is oddly one I do not own although I write pretty much exclusively about my own collection. It is an Italian version of the toy I continue to chase but fall short of acquiring to date.
Pictorama immediately expanded to include my burgeoning toy collection – again, largely but not entirely devoted to Felix the Cat items from the 20’s and 30’s – my other great love. Cats are an underlying theme for both the photos and the toys. Of course there are real cats and Cookie and Blackie make routine appearances and more recent guest spots have been for mom’s cat’s, particularly Stormy and Hobo Kitty, who were just featured yesterday in a post here. I dig out memories, do light research on the background and history of objects, consider the object. It has evolved into what it is.
Over time other bits of Deitch Studio daily life slip in. Posts have been devoted to the reveal of our holiday card each year and to Kim’s extraordinary series of Valentine’s he draws for me annually. Some of his books have been launched (a two-part series on Reincarnation Stories can be found here and here) as well. Over recent years a series of posts has been devoted to my professional life, fundraising and the challenges, changes and triumphs there. Apartment life (studio apartment living before tiny houses existed) and renovation has demanded my attention and been shared with you.
Tales of my childhood, pets and people I have known, tend to be an underlying theme for many of the posts. I try not to repeat myself – I am sure I fail occasionally. I will just hope that a good story is worth repeating.
Working out and most recently running has become another area I devote space to. At first writing about it helped ensure I would push forward and keep it up; keep me honest. It was not an easy habit to develop and no one is more surprised than me when I started to top out at over six miles recently. Persistence pays off. Meanwhile, a year ago next week (Memorial Day) I fell and broke two fingers while running and you all had a front seat for that as well as the recovery.
During the first months of Covid I devoted space to redeveloping my cooking muscles, baking in particular. I probably owe you all a post about the dieting I had to do to lose that pandemic weight subsequently – running alone did not do it. Dieting has inspired fewer recipes, but I will get back to recipes. I continue to cook – soup in particular remains a favorite here.
This week my readership crossed the 400 mark and so I started thinking about you all. I know from the likes and comments some of you who favor certain posts. I wonder if any of you crossover to other posts now that you are here – did you start by favoring the work related posts and then discover that cats were great too? Or did you find one because of work out posts and then stay for toys? Or do you only read the ones in the areas you follow? I have found that the readers who come for the book reviews seem to have a long read around. Most of those have come via Goodreads. (My review of the children’s book The Story of Ping, found here, remains one of the most read posts, although not the most likes. That may go to a post about a tin Krak-R-Jak box that sits on my desk which can be found here.)
Many of you are in different time zones and I frequently wake in the morning to your likes and comments, or even the occasional late night ping from my phone tells me someone liked something. It is always cheerful and encouraging. Thank you! I like to hear from you.
At first readers came almost exclusively from Kim’s extraordinary Facebook page which I felt privileged to guest spot on each weekend. (Others find me when searching for him on the internet as well.) Early on a friend suggested the title sub-header, All Pam All the Time, and I liked it as a nod to alert folks that Pictorama, while resident here at Deitch Studio, was a distinct subset that is from my perspective. Sadly, we’ve been locked out of Kim’s Facebook page for a few months now. My own nascent page recently taking its place with Kim weighing in as he likes instead.
Pictorama led me over to Twitter and then Instagram among other outlets. Instagram became a source for jewelry, photos, toys and interesting stuff as well as numerous online friends who come from across the United States and the world. Instagram Stories is primarily a journal of my runs these days and IG is probably second only to WordPress itself for leading new folks here. (I can be found as @deitchstudio.)
While writing of WordPress, please know that I have a love/hate relationship with it. Things morph and get changed which I never figure out, such as where the ability to add accent marks disappeared to one day. Occasionally they get harder and then much easier – such as the posting of video snippets which was quite arduous, then impossible, now easy. Links necessitated a work around, until suddenly they are possible again.
In all fairness, WordPress offers the chance to attend online sessions where I could learn more, but life is too hectic it seems. I always mean to, but never have. Meanwhile, while having a look around today I discovered a cache of comments I don’t believe I ever saw – they were direct inquiries rather than ones tied to posts. I spent some of this morning writing to folks to apologize for the oversight. They are tucked away and hard to find however even now that I know they exist. The myriad mysteries of the site.
I hope to see you next week for post number 872. A new Felix photo is winging its way to me even as I write. Thank you again for being such a very nice audience!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s card is a bit faded, but nonetheless a great addition to the Pictorama collection. While I am pleased to have acquired some outstanding photos of folks sporting Felix Halloween costumes and Felix (and Mickey) in some great parade shots (some of those can be seen in posts here and here) I believe this is the first Mardi Gras Felix photo I have acquired.
Identified at the bottom as being from New Orleans La. February 21st 1928 I checked and confirmed that this was indeed Fat Tuesday, the kick off for Mardi Gras, that year. It is a photo postcard which was never mailed and there is nothing else written on it. (Fat Tuesday is of course the celebration on the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday when eating and drinking reaches a frenzied peak in order to tide you over through the period of Lent.)
All participants are in similar, mostly, black masks and all wear jolly hats in addition to their costume and a close look identifies that they are all women. While these clowns, in their silky costumes, in the front are perfectly lovely, it is of course the group of three wearing these early grinning Felix costumes that won me over. It should be noted that a close look reveals that there is a fourth participant wearing a perfectly great black cat costume on the end.
Neither of the occasions I was able to make brief visits to New Orleans were during Mardi Gras and many years ago now. While I wouldn’t be surprised if my work eventually takes me there again I unwittingly stumbled onto a Fat Tuesday tradition at Dizzy’s, the jazz dinner club associated with Jazz at Lincoln Center, this year.
Alphonso Horne’s Gotham Kings make an annual Mardi Gras appearance at the club and this year it could only be described as a raucous and joyous celebration of their return to Dizzy’s on Fat Tuesday after a two year online hiatus. When one of Alphonso’s trumpet players was unable to make the gig he engaged four others for a total of five on stage. Trumpet players called to each other from locations across the room as they emerged from the audience, kicked the show into gear and made their way to the stage where they joined the rest of the band and a tap dancer. (I do love a tap dancer!)
The performance was capped off by the vocalist C. Anthony Bryant singing What a Wonderful World. The tune is far from a favorite of mine, but there wasn’t a dry eye in the house that night. (You can see a variation of the band performing it – in a Manhattan apartment – on a Youtube video here.) So while it is unlikely that I will make Mardi Gras in New Orleans next year, I know where I am likely to be.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo postcard turned up this week and looking at it more closely made me laugh this morning. It is a fairly pristine photo postcard, nothing written on it and it was never used, a uniform bend along the bottom like it was in a book and that part stuck out.
The bench these girls are perched on is nice and of course Felix makes a highly desirable prop, a big composition one that was a popular prize at fairs, but also seemed to make their way into the world in large numbers. (I recently considered an early film still with an actress holding a white Felix, like an albino I guess?) The background here leaves much to be desired however and seems wholly inadequate both in purpose (why is it so low?) and in overall unattractiveness with its sad, feeble and faded windmill.
Felix has been handed over to the younger of the two of them and I am not sure that is sitting well with the older of them. She has something in her hand too, a top or a ball, which she has disdained to show us, hand curved around it in an artificial way. Clearly she has been instructed to put her arm around her sibling and from the expression of annoyance (and perhaps even irony) on her face this is all heading somewhere bad, maybe soon or perhaps later, but an eruption nonetheless. The younger of the two seems oblivious however, although as Kim said, it is a photo of a relationship and how it will play out over the next fifty years so she will certainly catch on over time. In a phrase – watch out!
They are both precisely and carefully dressed so I am assuming this is a photographer’s studio, rather than a photo taken at a resort or fair. White dresses, white socks pulled up and turned over, they are very neat with hair carefully combed.
There are many photos of me and my older sister from about this age so I can appreciate it I guess. These days my mom is ensconced in a comfy chair, near a sunny window off the kitchen, with a photo frame with revolving images next to her and they catch my eye while I am there, snatching me back in time when I least suspect it. I have to lay claim to the original photos. These photos help my mom live happily in the past part of the time, me too when I am there. Occasionally new ones find their way into the mix.
It’s a somewhat random cross section of pictures that have ended up in the slideshow. I gather just one of many boxes handed over to the friend who loaded it. Toddler us, baby photos of my brother, a trip to Italy I took with my father, some photos of my uncle at a variety of ages from adolescent on, numerous cats we have lived with, the house where I grew up. A recent photo of my mom’s aide Winsome shown with her two granddaughters, all dressed beautifully for a recent wedding, winks through the mix. The photos of Loren and I with my father’s parents are the real time capsules for me, so very long gone are they now. Somehow I can still smell the flowers in her garden and hear the bees buzzing around us.
But the photos of Loren and me when we were the age of these two or not much older bring back visceral memories of the taking of those photos; the ice we were skating on, the yard where we played in the snow, the beach where we ran around, my grandmother’s backyard.
I will say that for all her very big personality, I think Loren was a more winning child in photos (always a huge smile) than this little girl appears to be. However, it is all very far in the past and we have no idea what really did happen to these girls after this.
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today we are continuing our New Year’s weekend with a Felix post. This fellow is the last in a big buy I did from an unexpected and wonderful online auction in Great Britain this October. It was one of those affairs which had been moved online because of Covid and it was my lucky, toy collecting day, because I would never have been treated to the likes of it otherwise and some of these dealers are not online sellers. Given the amount I spent I would say they were glad to have run into me as well! (I have written about the other acquisitions, the amazing Deans Eugene the Jeep and a great postcard here and here.) Christmas came in October this year without question.
There is in my collection, a rather huge and very impressive Dean’s Rag Felix, the likes of which I have never seen otherwise, nor have I even met any kissin’ cousins until this fellow crossed my path. The story of that guy I will save for another day as I have not yet memorialized him here in the Pictorama archive of toy tales, but it involves a trip to London, spending more than I ever had on a toy (and I have never, ever told how much that was…) and emptying a suitcase to bring him home safely – who cares about clothes?
I have written about the famed Dean’s toy maker previously – a few times devoted to some beloved Mickeys and also a rather exceptional Pluto. (Those posts for fellow toy fans can be found here, here and here just for starters.) Deans produced Felix in a variety of sizes according some old catalogue information I have seen. I would like to be more educated about them and will share as the information comes to light.
This chap caught my eye immediately as I strolled through piles of photos from a variety of sellers and, as I remember, I started bouncing up and down in my chair with delight! To make it even better (how does it even get better, right?) the seller was including the photo below of a little boy with a very similar Felix! Pictorama readers know that this is truly a wonderful two-ffer for me as the Pictorama archive sports many Felix photo images as well. I could hardly email my desire to purchase them fast enough.
The young man posing with this Felix toy seems to be at a photo studio. He is perched on something that looks more like a small table or piano bench perhaps. While Felix appears to be warmly embracing him, he seems a bit awkward with his arms are gingerly around Felix which makes it feel like it probably isn’t his toy but a prop. This is a photograph rather than a photo postcard and there is no information on the back aside from a pencil number (no studio information) and some evidence that this was at one time pasted into a photo album.
Felix stands about 17 inches high. He has rather bat-like ears, a tad over-sized. (Peter, the seller, kindly offered to reinforce Felix’s ears which I agreed to – as it happens they had also been reinforced on my other Dean’s Felix. They must have been made thin and wore out quickly. His head swivels to allow for a saucy pose or two.
As you can see, this Felix is missing his nose – and of course the photo shows us what it would have looked like with nose. I am considering fashioning a nose out of felt and maybe just pinning it on so it would be easily removable. However, you can also see that the shape of the nose is still there. The eyes are an interesting sort of celluloid, at least that is what I think they are. Oddly, both in my photos and the original ones from the sellers, his hands seem a bit clumpy although they are not in person.
Felix has the delightful Deans Rag Book labels on the soles of his feet, shown below.
As it turns out the seller, Peter Woodcock, is a somewhat reformed Felix collector who is just dipping his toe in the water of selling some of his collection although he and his wife Leanda have a robust antique toy business (many lovely bears),although I am not sure I would have found them online if it weren’t for the 200 Years of Childhood toy show moving online for this year. (I assure you that this is among the few silver linings I can attribute to Covid.)
I suspect that my tsunami of Felix enthusiasm is a tad overwhelming for Peter as I pepper him with questions and theories, but I so rarely get to correspond with a fellow Felix toy fan. Yay Peter! I have coaxed a few more Felix-es out of him so stay tuned as I think 2022 is going to be a very Felix year indeed.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo postcard is among the more beat-up in my collection. Although it was never sent (and nothing is inscribed on the back) it suffers from some folds and marks as well as something blue it was exposed to which has lightly colored front and back. Nonetheless, I am pleased it survived and it was jolly enough that I was compelled to add it to the Pictorama library.
This nice group – I cannot say or really guess if family or friends – have posed themselves nicely on this stoop. A careful look at the details of where they are standing makes me realize something is a bit odd; there are bits of trim that look interior (at the top and above the door), but the bottom half looks like a stoop and sidewalk, an iron gate to one side, so I am not sure what I am looking at precisely.
This card cames via Great Britain where it does seem there was a time when it wasn’t unusual for a group to grab a Felix toy – large or small – and add him to the photo. I will always wonder how and why this started although obviously I find it charming indeed. Having Felix in your family photo was a thing and I have written about a few other images in my collection which have this same ad hoc quality of Felix inclusion. A few of many examples in my collection can be found in posts here and here and shown above and below.
What we choose to grab or do when we are asked to mug for a photo can illustrate something about us, revealing what matters most to us. I always like someone who grabs up their kitty of course (in fact I immediately like them better), but this does assume a certain level of patience on the part of the feline who does not always comply. I have commented on Blackie’s growing fondness for Zoom calls, but he has also been known to show up for a stroll over to Kim if he is on camera. Kim says I read too much into Blackie’s burgeoning public persona, but I think that kitty has a thought about what he is doing although I don’t claim to entirely understand what that is either.
Perhaps posing this tiny Felix was just a way of showing that they were having a good time and a bit of a giggle. The card is a professional photo postcard and it is possible that the photographer brought him along too I guess. Was Felix a beloved totem or a professional addition we will never know, but here he is waving to us probably almost 100 years later and he has won these folks a permanent home here at Pictorama.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Hurricane Henri has scuttled my day two plans for vacation (it was to be cartoons being shown outside in Brooklyn tonight which I had hoped to pair with a visit via ferry to the Brooklyn Flea and of course no running along the now flooding river esplanade), so I am taking comfort in someone else’s long ago vacation photo here today. This photo is one of my favorites from the recent cache I tapped into. (I wrote about the purchases from that collection just last week in a post that can be found here.) Instead we will be huddled cozily inside today, perhaps I can curate my own cartoon fiesta via dvd and Youtube later.
In the many hurricanes of my childhood and adolescence I never remember them so early in the year as this. We lived on the aptly named Waterman Avenue and it flooded routinely even without the benefit of a hurricane. My memory of hurricanes and tropical storms are always associated with fall however, usually early fall but sometimes into November, however summer vacation was never interrupted in my memory. Hurricanes were always a bit exciting with doors and windows taped up with silver gaffers tape (my father was a cameraman and we always had copious supplies of it) protecting us against wind breakage and busting open. No school obviously and the novelty of neighbors checking on us via small boats during the eye of the storm, geese at the back door, and a day spent playing board games and the like while somehow pets and humans found their way to the living room in the middle of that small house.
Hurricane Donna of 1960, which precedes me by several years, was the benchmark that was frequently used for reference during my childhood, a storm that was born in August, but hit the Jersey shore in early September and was notable for its destruction. (Adults would always tell me that the ocean and the river met in Sea Bright, a small spit of land and beach town I have written about a few times before. (A favorite post about the variety store frequented in childhood, Wiseman’s, can be found here. A photo of the town of Sea Bright above.) They would always point out that the water from each was a different color and that photos showed a dividing line. I have in my life seen photos and sure enough, the greener blue of the ocean and the darker of the river didn’t just mix, but stayed separate to the eye.
In later years Kim and I were on a summer vacation (a rare one traveling to visit Everett Rand and Gioia Palmieri of Mineshaft magazine fame) when Hurricane Katrina hit the south and hurricanes seem to have caught up with summer vacations.
Back to our jolly Felix card which was mailed (unusual for these surviving cards of this type) on July 23, at 1:30 PM, the year is obscured on the postmark. (Any of our British clothing specialist friends want to weigh in on a possible date?) It was mailed from Bournemouth, a resort town on the southern coast of England grown out of a spa and health resort in an earlier century. There is a short note on the back of the card which (to the best of my deciphering) reads, Dear Mother, Still having a lovely time. The Weather is lovely now. We are quite comfortable. Lorie. It is addressed to, Mrs. Dailey, 71 Tennyson Road, Luton Baths. (This house still stands and appears a pretty brick terraced home according to sales photos online.) Not sure any of my other Felix photo cards are known to be from Bournemouth.
It is a bright, sunny beach day in this photo; they are also quite dressed (albeit beautifully) for a beach photo on a July day, at least by our standards today. The pretty cotton dresses of the period, the hats and the men’s summer suits never fail to appeal to me. There is a woman to the far left who has a very fashionable head scarf which matches the trim on her dress. Most of the women sport pretty straw hats or a cloche type made of another light material. The men’s head gear seems to range from a a single derby, to numerous caps and a bare headed fellow or two. The linen and cotton layers of the dresses and jackets represent many collective hours of ironing I would think. Among the young and adolescent girls in the second row I will guess is the author of our card – the handwriting is not that of a child.
We’ll assume this is some sort of family gathering and they have designated one of the littlest girls at the bottom, amongst a coterie of children, to hold and hoist up Felix who has joined their group. He is a somewhat smaller model Felix for this purpose, although I have numerous cards with what I think of as a portable Felix. (Also the sense of the ubiquitousness of Felix in these photos always entertains me! Of course Felix is in your family photo.) After all, while the outsized ones that appear to be the size of a child are favored with me, they were too large to lug around to mobile locations on the beach such as this. The photographer has managed to get a great vantage point above this group which is part of what makes this photo a bit more special.
As for me, the rain has whipped back up and is lashing the windows again. Kim, who is the process of reading several books simultaneously, has put away one and is eating a yogurt before moving onto the next. (This is hard for me to do – I am a linear reader and have difficulty maintaining more than one storyline at a time.) I will perhaps spend the day with some of my more prosaic vacation tasks around the apartment, although I still have the Red Cross Girls stuck in WWI occupied Belgium so maybe I will tend to reading a bit of that too – one has been taken into German custody and I am a bit worried about her. Since it is such a cool day perhaps I will make soup, something I haven’t managed since breaking my fingers. (My fish soup recipe, the one I will probably use as a base today, can be found here.) Good rainy day activities all I think. Time for another cup of coffee and my own deferred breakfast.
Pam’s Pictorama Post Post: This card is part of the recent windfall of Felix photo postcard purchases I made recently. I am told it was a collection with a nucleus formed in the 1970’s when purchased from another collector, and then more recently purchased by a seller who goes by the moniker Andyroo on eBay and is located in the rather romantic sounding Rowland’s Castle in Britain. (A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that Rowland’s Castle is largely a quiet residential village, with four pubs and a few small shops, including a hardware store and a local convenience store, located in East Hampshire. They also note that the main local attraction appears to be a model railway depicting the village during the war. Sadly no photo.) I have tried to pick Andyroo’s brain a bit about the nature of the collection, but his answers to my inquiries are nominal while not quite all the way to curt. His regular beat seems to be china figurines so the El Dorado of Felix cards is unusual for him.
Next to my own collection, it is the first one with a significant number of these photos that I have encountered although photo postcards do not make up the majority of the collection, and I believe I have largely acquired the smattering of them in it. (I do wonder if they were part of the earlier collection – so interesting to think of these being passed from collector to collector when virtually all of mine have been one offs which seem to come from the families they were made for to a dealer and then me.) While I know there may be my counterpart out there somewhere, on the other hand it is also be possible that there are really not other people who live amongst a vast number of one-of-a-kind photos of people posing with Felix the Cat dolls of varying sizes up to those (the very best) which are the size of a not so small child. What do you think?
While of course I would be very jealous of the photos of such collectors (and want them – all) I would of course also be very interested to meet such a person. (If you’re out there – raise your hand!) Among postcard collectors my area is so niche as to be unknown – even at postcard shows people have never seen such cards and have no idea what I am talking about and look at me blankly when I inquire.
The original owner of this collection did not focus on these cards and the vast part of their collection are the more typical drawn series, of which I own a few. I did buy one of those off of Andyroo, shown above, because it tickled me and that recent post can be found here.
There was an interesting few cards which were photos I own and I believe were not widely printed, but must have been printed in multiple for the people who purchased them from the photographer at the time. They also, like me, purchased the occasional person photographed with Mickey Mouse. Their collection included some of the tea cards and includes some of the earlier versions of the drawn cards. They owned a few of the stencil cards I featured recently as well. (That post can be found here and the card shown above.)
Mostly of interest to me that this person had the two cards of kids posing on the giant black cat as shared in recent weeks here and here. These were identified as Felix cards in the selling which made me happy because I found them more easily that way although I have never thought of those as Felix before.
Today’s photo was one of two prints for sale of the same identical photo. It is printed sloppily on the postcard backing which is askew. (Strangely in all the photo postcards I have seen this rarely if ever occurs.) There is nothing to identify it on the back of the card. This jolly little shaver seems pretty happy to pose with this Felix which while nice and big, is still a bit smaller than he is. Our kid is nicely and warmly dressed in a double breasted coat and hat, high socks make up for short trousers. The partial view of the person standing near shows someone in a long coat and gloves.
Felix seems to be offering an arm to the child in a chummy sort of way. He is a bit in shadow so we don’t get a very good look at him and he has something over one shoulder that I can’t quite make out, maybe something on the fence, or not. We can just sort of make out his tail which creates a tripod effect to stand him up. I wish we could see his toothy grin better.
I can’t set a good guess on date – children’s clothing is a bit ambiguous as it didn’t change much for a long time. The pretty wrought iron fence behind them has some broken bits, a few missing finials and another torn looking piece. The pebbly sidewalk makes a nice pattern on the ground and may have been a bit distinct to the place.
The fact that today’s card does not have a number on the front (the convention itinerant photographers used to track a photo to a customer) makes me think it was a photo set up by the family, perhaps in front of their home. This makes me wonder if this lucky little fellow actually owned this Felix or did he come as a prop with the photographer?
As for me, even I sometimes wonder at my rather unique fascination with these photos. Was I a child who especially loved my Felix doll in a past life? Had my photo take with him at some seminal moment? Or was I an itinerant photographer who lugged Felix around the resorts of Great Britain, Australia or New Zealand? This blog was original formed with the idea of organizing my photo collection into a book, although it rapidly incorporated my toy collection and then of course me. Lately I have been talking again about a book of the photos. More to come as I move that project forward!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Recently I have been in the midst of chasing down the remains of a Felix postcard collection, but this one popped up on its own from a different source in the middle of it. Felix on parade could be a real sub-genre of Felix photo collecting. Unlike the photo postcards of folks posing with Felix which hail exclusively from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, the parade photos are as often from the US. While many seem to be variations on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons, the best of them are from small parades elsewhere in the county. (Some of these previous examples can be found in posts here and here. Some of the photos from those posts are pictured below.) However, it has been a long time since one has come up for purchase. Hang onto your hats though folks – I think this is an interesting one.
Today’s comes to Pictorama from Great Britain and celebrates the Chelsea Arts Ball. The card was never sent. The only information printed on the back is Pathe Freres Cinema Ltd. Series Copyright. It turns out to be the 1922 edition of the ball. A bit of further research reveals that the design was overseen that year by artist Fred Leist and the theme (somewhat ironically as I write now in 2021) was Brighter London 100 years Hence. (I am thinking another worldwide pandemic was not on his mind at the time having just lived through the 1918 one.) That year the revelers danced to the Ceadon-West Orchestra, noted as a Big Band, but I cannot find many traces of them online.
Meanwhile, the Chelsea Arts Ball dates back to 1891, as far as I can tell from a brief history on the website of the club, (found here – and note the image of Felix on the side of their building in the photo!) having grown out of a tradition of fancy dress parties in the studios of artists in the 1880’s. It was meant to rival the already established Arts Club of Mayfair. (A side note that women were not admitted for membership in the Chelsea Arts Club until 1968!) The balls typically seemed to take place over New Year’s and/or Mardi Gras and eventually settled in at the Royal Albert Hall as a venue for a decades long run until the 1958 one was so raucous (Wikipedia sites, rowdiness, nudity and public homosexuality – which was illegal at the time – as what caused the ousting) that the ball was banned from the venue for the next 30 years. If I understand correctly, I believe that the party tradition continued until December of 2020 when, for Covid reasons, it was banned. The parties have been held at the site of the club at 143 Church Street in recent years.
The hope had been to rival the French equivalent, the Bal des Quat’s’Arts established in 1892, I gather a similar soiree produced by architecture students there. They achieved their goal and the Chelsea Arts Ball grew to be extravagant affairs with a hundred performers, lavish decor and thousands of participants who partied until dawn when breakfast was served. It was, according the the Chelsea Arts Club website, the centerpiece of London society. I will also credit them with providing the quote, The mere mention of the Chelsea Arts Ball would make the debutante blush and the dowager blench. Lady Muriel Beckwith, 1936. It leaves me with questions about the participants – had the ball left its roots among artists and become a fête only of the wealthy? Or was it an event that embraced both, high and low brow so to speak?
Each ball was punctuated by a parade at midnight – presumably we are seeing some sort of a dry run here with a photo taken during a misty day and used for promotional purposes. There is no real indication, London weather being what it is, if this was a Mardi Gras or New Year’s version. While seemed to me that it is a New Year’s version, no hint of spring in this photo, research shows that this ball was held on February 8 of 1922 – still very cold, and a bit early for Mardi Gras. Very chilly for those short dresses! Somehow the gray mistiness of it adds to the appeal and creates the right atmosphere in this photo.
And oh what a photo is it is! A giant paper-mâché Felix with a distinctly worried look (hands behind his back in the Felix Thinking Position) hovers over this bevy of women in short white dresses – it is hard to see their masks but I believe they are little birds; I think I see beaks! They are cute little white fluffy skirts however, with ruffles and a bow. As noted, they are not warmly dressed. The dancers are being herded by Felix costume clad men. These gents are also in charge of Felix’s movement and he is balanced (precariously?) on a sort of dolly. Felix appears to have three of these escorts. A few folks are onlookers, as they are largely men and hard to see them clearly.
The real scoop here is that film exists of the pre-ball parade shown on this card. It can be found on the British Pathe website. However a superior and decidedly longer version exists on Youtube and can be found here or below. This one goes on to show the assembled costumed performers and even some of the individual wild costumes that could be found. The Felix men and white dressed women join hands and dance around Felix in a delightful fashion!
An interesting and somewhat moving account of the party given to celebrate the end of WWI, also found on the Chelsea Arts Club site, describes it as the most famous one, held on March 12, 1919. It used the concept of Dazzle, the Navy camouflage process which owed its roots to Cubism and Vorticists. (Okay, I had to look that up – Vorticistism was a brief industrial influenced abstract art movement of the pre-War teens in Britain – one of my facts for the day!) Dazzle is described as a visible expression of jazz syncopation. Here they were in 1922, a few short years later, wondering what the next hundred years would bring.