Pam’s Pictorama.com: even by my standards this is a pretty goofy photo. Extremely faded at the bottom left it says, Barker School and on the other sidebarely legible, May 31, 1928. Written on the back in pencil is Woodland, Maine and Halloween Costumes – which clearly they are not since we know it was taken in May.
Even in my wildest imagination I can’t figure out what kind of school play might have given birth to these costumes – from the strange dark masked characters which look like Zuni dancers, to the weird scarecrow type figure the jolly bunny and a sad little turtle boy thrown into the mix. A pretty dark fairy tale.
This card was never used and my sense is that the writing on the back is a later addition although in two different hands so maybe added at different times. It is a bit bleached out so I have increased the contrast a bit with some computer magic. Even with that it is hard to figure out what the heck is going on here.
There is a small figure in the middle with what appears to be a parasol, also dressed in black that looks a bit cat like. My feeling though is that it is some sort of spring planting festival with the scarecrow and bunny – somehow the figures in black are reminding me of corn? The figure in the lower left is a complete mystery – no idea what he or she is about although a happy looking character.
Below I share a more or less contemporaneous photo (via a photo postcard) of the Barker School. I cannot seem to confirm if it exists today or not. It may have been renamed.
I would have loved to have been in school plays like this and perhaps that is part of the appeal of such photos for me. I was always up for dressing up and putting on a show. Combined with this lovely day in Maine in May seems almost irresitable.
PS – I am feeling better today. Tummy winced at my morning coffee, but definitely better.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This great photo postcard appealed to the latent cowgirl in me. I know very little about these things so I don’t know if this nice fringed outfit is real or costume – even her nifty boots have fringe. She wears it with aplomb and a good bit of attitude, riding crop in hand. Undeniably she is an indoor cowgirl here on a living room carpet and in front of a curtained window. Her kerchief and hat are both at jaunty angles.
While I have never been on horseback (nor have I ever resided on a farm, let alone a ranch) I had an early enthusiasm for a fantasy version of them as evidenced by my being an early and avid adopter of the Jane West toys.
There was something endlessly satisfying about the sturdy plastic, jointed limbs. She had a cowgirl outfit molded to her body and heavy rubbery accessories. She was made to stand with some authority (unlike my beloved Barbies who of course had feet designed for perpetual, fashionable high heels) and somehow the fact that she was cast entirely in blue plastic did not detract from her appearance. Jane had a wonderful palomino horse which she could sit astride on.
In my otherwise Barbie-oriented childhood it is a bit hard in retrospect to know what the cowgirl thing was about. Unlike Barbie’s adventures (my Barbie was named for Jo in Little Women and she was a globe trotting journalist), I do not remember the play I dreamed up for her.
Notably Jane did not need a cowboy equivalent of Ken, at least mine did not. In my world she stood on her own and didn’t even deign to date GI Joe – my Barbie’s fallback companion. I believe she is a head taller than both.
My mother was horse-y as a young woman. I am not sure how she started riding, but I know that not coming from a wealthy family she worked mucking stalls along with her childhood friend Jackie so they were able to ride. I gather Mom was mad about horses until one day while they were riding her friend was badly thrown onto a fence. Luckily for her the fence was old and just gave under her otherwise he back would have been broken. It left mom skittish about riding and although my older sister had a few desultory riding lessons I never had the chance to even start.
As a teenager a good friend gave me an excellent vintage Annie Oakley jacket of the softest butterscotch colored suede which she found in her attic. As a very little girls she and her mom had had matching jackets! It was much beloved by me and I wore it until it literally fell to pieces. This was perhaps my best personal cowgirl moment. It was as close as I was to come. (During the pandemic I also read all of the volumes of the Ranch Girls series. A post that touches on them can be found here.)
I came across a Jane West doll several years ago and snatched her up for my toy collection. It felt good to have Jane in the house again and she lives on my shelf, ever ready for some cowgirl action.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Back in February I posted about my recent birthday trip downtown which included a brief foray at the flea market on 26th Street. (That post can be found here.) While there, I quietly picked up this rather splendid postcard to give Kim three days later for Valentine’s Day. It has never been used and there was no writing on it. There is some solarization I cannot quite get rid of when I photograph it. Mostly it has a wonderful and whacky sensibility which I thought would appeal to Kim’s taste.
The seller at the flea market had just a few random letters so I was fortunate to find a D among them, however it also turned out to be an especially good photo from this series. The lyrical looking woman holds apple (?) blossoms in front of this great scene of the two children (girls perhaps) having a photo shoot complete with box camera, tucked inside the letter if you will. We see nothing but the feet and back of one, and the other posing prettily, dressed up, primped, furbelowed and curled, with a flower in hand. A photo within a photo.
The D is painted, as is the scenery landscape beyond the children and somehow they have melded the photograph pieces together by a delicate operation of painted blooms and clouds. It is pretty seamless and I have a bit of a hard time deconstructing how this was put together. As one online source questioned – is it really a photo postcard? It is certainly a hybrid and the photo over painting and photo is delightfully many layered.
I devoted part of the morning to looking for more of these and some information online. (A pleasant trip down a postcard rabbit hole I will say.)They were produced by the Rotograph Company and one source says this series is from 1914. The woman always poses, usually with a floral flourish, in front of the letter and the children appear in tableaus behind her, usually two but sometimes three as in the P I grabbed online below. I like the P, although not as much as the D. For me the two cheeky little girls, sort of up in the tree that makes the P really put it over.
In a continuing search for our initials, I found the B, but like it least of all. Despite the pup in front and a very sweet view of a home in the distance, I find the woman and children less interesting in this arrangement.
To my dismay and surprise, the K turns out to be a bit rarified and I was unable to find a photo of it to examine or snatch for my examination. Instead I offer you the letter E which I found a bit compelling along the way although it doesn’t do us much good. The woman is back in her floral mode and the two kids are hanging out in the middle of the E under an umbrella. I like the sort of marshy scene.
There is a hand tinted version below, but I can’t say I think the tinting improves them really.
Now the D is framed and has a place of pride on the wall, as you head into our kitchen – just across from a wall of Felix photos and under the Little Orphan Annie and Sandy wax cloth dolls.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This very homemade photo postcard caught my eye for some reason. It is dated January 15, 1920, handwritten on both front and back. It was never sent and I don’t know where it hails from, but it is a snowy January locale. An out of season litter of kittens is scarfing down a meal with what appears to be their mom, on the side of this clapboard house.
I can make out a winter washtub, buckets, a stool and what might be a water pump although some of it is a bit indistinct. Kitties are being fed on a wooden walkway, presumably raised above the snow to minimize the inevitable mud being traipsed in the house. This cat quartet is enjoying meals from somewhat outsized bowls – the one kitten downright dwarfed by his and you wonder if he will need to actually climb in to get the last of his dinner. I am sure, however, that he or she will manage.
I grew up in a home that became increasing well endowed with cats over time. With a beginning investment of one, then two, somehow we slipped into a bevy of kitties over time. Once we weren’t quick enough and a litter of kittens set off a chain effect, and for a number of years the household expanded to accommodate a more or less two to one cat to human ratio. Seems, at least for us Butlers, cats are a slippery slope.
This mini herd of felines would all come running when they heard my mother call, Chow time! To my memory there was no getting picky over food types and flavors back in that time. There were rather generic cans of cat food and bags or boxes of dry food and cats ate it – unless of course they were stealing food off the table (one cat, Zipper, managed to steal a steak off the table – dropped it right into the happy jaws of our waiting German Shepard, she who definitely won the lottery that day), or committing some other food related sin. Being picky was not among those sins however.
Predating the chow time call was the simple sound of an electric can opener which made the cats of the day come running. For the younger reader, this device was very popular before the advent of the pop top can. It came after the hand can opener (several which still reside in my kitchen), but made opening the numerous canned goods of the day quicker I guess. They still exist, but seem to have waned in popularity. Of course this meant that there were many false food calls for cats, but they remained at the ready nevertheless.
Our cats, Blackie and Cookie, are on a fairly strict eating schedule of 6am and 6pm daily, although they have dry food to snack on between times. Kim has the primary responsibility for cat feeding (and Blackie’s insulin shots now which follow immediately) and the kits are pretty good about it although they, like all cats, would love to adopt a more open handed feeding schedule. We continue to demur.
Mom’s cats, on the other hand, enjoy a less regulated, ongoing Butler buffet of wet and dry food. Hobo, our wily stray who has been showing up for more regular meals now that I am more frequently in residence, gobbles two to three cans at a go. I joke that he must have a hollow leg, but I guess he is a fellow who is unsure where his next meal will come from and maximizes his opportunities. For the cats in residence, the caregivers and I open cat food cans with impunity upon my mother’s request and the pantry groans and abounds with Chewy boxes.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There is a certain kind of cat photo postcard I am a sucker for and this fits the bill perfectly. These two tabby tigers perch together on this bench in this very homemade photo postcard where someone has taken the time to etch their names in during the printing process.
It is poorly made – even before the intervening decades (more than ten) it was likely faded from poor processing, perhaps tired chemicals or just an inexperienced hand. It is hard to see but the bench that Tiger and Tom pose on may actually be a chair that has lost its back. Hard to tell.
Tiger and Tom look ready to make a break for it so I understand the pressure on the photographer to rush a bit. Cats will be cats and these would like to get on with their play in that big field which was probably full of all kinds of interesting things to chase and marvels to consider and conquer.
On the back, in a clear if youngish hand, it says, Heard you were at the fair. I had a day off but went to Owosso instead. Had a great time. When are you coming to H…ll? Chic and then below, They all call me Chic out here for there are3 Myrtas besides me. It is addressed to Miss Julia Purdy, Fowlerville, Mich. The postmark is indistinct but appears to be from October 26, 1908. Sadly no reference to the puss portraits on the verso.
Spending time at my mom’s house among her numerous kits (I posted about their general ambivalence to me recently which can be found here) I am reminded of the feline politics of a house full of kits. Growing up we always had a waxing and waning (usually waxing) number of cats and you become accustom to their pecking order, the shifting sands of affiliations and turf tussles..
Currently in this house Milty is technically senior cat but so old that he is a bit of a figurehead (shhh, don’t tell him) and it is Beau who is really top cat. He rules with a casual paw for the most part. Gus is a male upstart who is always testing the water with Beau who cuffs him about the head and neck and tells him to get on with his own business. This leaves two girls – the ever bossy Peaches and the so timid now you see her now you don’t Stormy. For some reason we refer to them mostly in a formal way – Miss Peaches, Mr. Milty, etc. This goes for all the caregivers too.
All this to say, I see some interesting combinations and odd bedfellows amongst the participants as they look for strength in numbers and allies. Sometimes I find Peaches and Milty napping uneasily together in a chair, later maybe Gus and Beau having a truce in the side bedroom. Everyone loves the room I sleep in and the office I use as these rooms are closed to them when I am not here. There is a great outpouring of cat interest when these doors open with my arrival.
I will close on a stray cat note. Hobo, a ragged looking male I have taken to feeding (because we don’t have enough cats you say!) who consumes copious cans at a time – the cat has a hollow leg I swear. He showed early this morning for his first three cans of the day. We’ve long wondered where he was entering our yard as it is entirely fenced in. Today I discovered his path and a small hole in the fence, with a well-worn cat path clearly defined!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am in love with this photo and snatched it up as quickly as I could! A timeless image for cat lovers, caught on an early photo postcard. Somehow, even with slower film, someone managed to catch this perfect moment, the woman in her full white long cotton skirt, her hair carefully done. Puss, who was to have his photo taken, probably in her arms, has other ideas.
So lucky that the camera man or woman was quick on the draw! Kit is quite a fluffy furry fellow or miss – tail flying behind him or her – I am betting on him as it appears to maybe be an orange tabby and those are mostly male.
There are leaves on the ground which create a pattern and some space and a Tudor-style house in the background. It is interesting to note that this was used as a Christmas card. Printed on the back with what appears to have been a stamp is some holly and the message, A Merry Xmas to You. Hand written is also, With Mr. &Mrs. Hook’s best wishes 1912, and in the corner just, Jessie Hook.
I like to imagine that the photo, presumably of Jessie, was taken in the early fall and Jessie so amused it became the Christmas card.
It is hard to believe, but here at mom’s there are five cats and almost none will let me pet them. There is of course, Stormy (Cat of Mystery) who will allow no one to pet her – or even see her very often.
For those of you who are new to her story, she appeared one (very stormy) night and my mom put a trap out for her. She strolled into it immediately. After shots and spaying, mom kept her with an eye to finding her a home. Despite some internet pleading on my part, we had no takers and Stormy joined the family – although a bit like a shadow. She appears in the evening most often when the house is at its most quiet. She likes to sleep in a chair near my mom – who never leaves her chair so Stormy likes that stationary aspect of her.
Peaches, another female, was found as a kitten trapped in a basement in a neighboring town, yelling her head off until someone found her. The someone was a friend of my cousin and somehow Peaches also found her way to mom’s house. She is very feral and fiercely keeps humans at a distance of never less than about a foot. Recently though she trusts us enough for a stretch and a roll around on the kitchen floor in front of all of us. I have a long term goal of petting her one day.
Meanwhile, my mom’s cat Beau (Beauregard) is utterly devoted to her. He glared at us humans who are clearly inadequate to the task of caring for her to his standards.
He’s rarely further than the chair next to her. His yellow eyes following our every move. Mom rescued him from a photo she received from a Newark shelter years ago. He somehow understands that she moved heaven and earth to get him and appreciates it.
Beau will allow me to pet him and if necessary I am usually designated to move him if necessary – if mom wants to eat let’s say. I usually put him on my coat for a snuggle which is novel and meets with his approval.
Gus is another stray who wandered into the house a few years ago. He is a very mild mannered cat – a bit under the thumb of Beau and the elder statesman, Milty. He has a major crush on one of mom’s care givers and snuggles with her, but never can let me get more than about three inches away.
Lastly is Milty – he came from a Milton Road in Newark many years ago. Most senior cat, he is approaching his second decade. He is the squeaky wheel of the house and will seat himself in front of you (or on you) and demand food or attention. Occasionally he takes on Beau to remind him he is senior cat and not down yet.
I am missing Kim and my own Cookie and Blackie during this extended stay in New Jersey. However, while I may not get pets with each of the (sometimes) slippery kitties here I appreciate their antics and mom enjoys each and every one and loves being surrounded by them every day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Thus far 2023 has been a very Felix year here at Pictorama and especially noteworthy in photos, if I do say so myself. While this Felix picture roll may wrap pretty soon, it is a stormy Saturday here after a long enervating week in Manhattan and contemplating this particularly perky card seems the most cheerful today.
This is an especially wonderful Felix they are posing with here – big enough to be a small person in a costume. (The first time I saw one of these cards I thought that might be possible!) He has very nice, big, pointy ears and was designed with extra long arms which he wraps around the two little girls, very chummy! His bow is untied and a tad bedraggled, and admittedly there is something particularly buck-tooth about his usual sewn-on toothy grin.
The oldest of the three (I will take a guess on the baby) girls is the one dressed most beach ready casual, the other two are a bit more dressed up. I love the oldest girl’s sort of wild fly away hair. They look enough alike that I will declare them sisters. The card was never mailed and nothing is written on the back. There is a bit of white paint on the lower left corner, but it is hard to see it if you aren’t holding it in your hand.
This card has the unusual distinction of being the first I think I have ever purchased from a US dealer. All of my other posing with Felix cards have come from Britain, Australia or New Zealand. Having said that, I have no doubt that despite having found itself for sale in Florida that it was taken in Britain, as you will see below.
As I sat here in my early morning bleary-eyed state, my attention fell on a card on the wall, hovering over the computer, where I have tucked a few Felix photos on a wall that is largely devoted to film stills, a few lobby cards for early Westerns, and various other early 8″x10″ photos. I could see immediately that this card (which somehow I have not devoted an earlier post to) is a rather stunningly precise location match for the new one. Wowza!
The very same long-arm Felix seems to be reaching around these three-of-a-kind kids, those in their matching togs, glorious striped beach dresses, on the ends (note the alternating sock colors) and the odd fellow out in the middle. Felix is sans bow here and one ear is askew, but there is not doubt that he’s our fellow.
If we had any doubt about the location, the distinctive windows and even the light is so similar in the photos; that is what caught my eye first. A closer look reveals the same space below the white board building. I’m not sure I have any reason for assigning it as such, but my thought is Brighton.
While on a roll for guessing, although it is somewhat less absolutely a match, I offer another photo from my collection. I think a fair argument could be made for this prize pic having been taken at the same location based on Felix, the white board exterior and the light. Thoughts? (I wrote about this very favorite photo from my collection in a post here.) I must have had this thought before because they were hanging together.
The more recently purchased photo is smaller in proportion by several inches, 4″x5″ rather than 5″x7″. I wonder if their tracking number at the lower left is truly chronological – N5252 and N7130 – which would make the triplets the later one. (And the gentlemen in front of the photo establishment much earlier than either.) Presumably these numbers, which appear in some form on all these sort of day at the beach posing photos, were used to tie out the negative to the appropriate party so the photo could be sent to the correct person. Unlike tintypes, which were usually developed in real time in a soupy bath of hypo, I have always assumed that developing and printing the postcards took at least a nominally longer time.
Clearly multiple cards could have been ordered and printed of these real photo postcards. However, I have yet to come across two originals of the same card – although in my collection I have a few cases where multiple single tintype images were taken at the same time and saved together. I have always imagined that the postcards were mailed and arrived a few weeks later, a pleasant reminder of the day at the beach or the vacation, but perhaps why duplicates didn’t seem to be bothered to be made.
The pot of coffee I put on has finished and the sky is looking like it may clear (although still dubious), so Saturday is officially kicked off here at Pictorama. Tomorrow I will pick up from New Jersey.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: So many delightful Felix photo posts, however it has been a long time since I acquired a card that was a cat photo like this one. (Although full disclosure, another is racing its way to me for a future post as I write this.)
Unlike many of my recent posts with cards reaching our shores from Britain, this one was both written and received in the state of Kansas, USA. Although I cannot read the indicia clearly, December 22 is legible and the author of the note on the back has added the year 1913, very near the precise 100 year mark. Clearly the photo was taken on a sunny, warmer day than December in Kansas implies.
On the back, in an uneven, elderly hand with a blotting ink, it reads, My Dear Friend Tillie, This was taken in our front-yard, my daughter and I, and our cat – and my large plant we have had for many years. I hope this will find you well and happy. Lena. Upside down at the top she added, will write you before long. Also added appears to be the town send from, Waterloo and December 1913. It was addressed to Mrs. Lillie Hartzell, Rossville, Kansas.
I love this extraordinarily enormous plant, although not exactly sure what it is, maybe a Yucca? Google assures me that those grow quite large and are willing to grow in Kansas. It is magnificent, but made all the better by this the spotty nosed pet puss who has pertly perched there. Kitty looks right at the camera.
Although the dresses of both women are long there is a generational difference in style, the older woman recalling the 1880’s or ‘90’s rather than a reasonably fashionable woman of 1910.
The yard is lovely – leafy and sun dappled on a beautiful afternoon. There is a deep porch with decorative woodwork and a less ambitious potted plant. curtained windows are barely visible and off behind them is smother house or building. I could be wrong, but I vote for another building because maybe there is something similar about it. I can happily lose myself in imaging spending a sunny afternoon like this one in this lovely yard.
This outsized plant reminds me of a snake plant my mom has which currently must reach about five feet high. It has spawned numerous offspring (including this recently, shown below), including a cutting which is now well in its way, residing here at Deitch Studio under the care of Kim’s green thumb. The odd origin story of that plant was that it came to the hospital in a small decorative container in 1962 – sent to my mother (by who she has long forgotten) – in honor of my older sister Loren being born. The plant and its siblings continue to thrive at Mom’s and now here too at Pictorama.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This weekend finds me unexpectedly in New Jersey, a captive of a sudden onset bad head cold following a series of migraines which made travel back to Manhattan beyond my short term ability.
The tables were turned and mom was ordering me to bed, to drink fluids and to consume quantities of soup. Mom has remained firmly in charge of her domain, but less so over my health these days. However, I did as instructed and, despite some mighty sneezing which remains, I am on the road to repair and hope to return to Kim and cats (and running for those of you who are tracking that) soon.
Nevertheless, onto this rather spectacular photo I share with you today. I stumbled on this beauty, waited out the auction, paid a princely sum for it and then waited for it to arrive from Britain. And I waited, and waited. Somewhere in there it went astray in a postal strike and it was longer than a month before it arrived on our shores.
Identified by the seller as J. Easton Clifton Baths, Margate the card is unused and completely unmarked on the back. The seller puts the image at having been shot in 1920 and puts the period of manufacture at 1920-1929, I wonder if he or she knows something of the specifics of these cards that I do not.
This card fits neatly into my collection of postcards posing with the giant stuffed black cat – sometimes astride him, other times beside as here. However, this has the significant bonus feature of the heretofore not seen enormous Steiff-like teddy bear! In my mind this leads to the question – did Steiff perhaps actually produce both the giant black cat and the bear? A quick internet search does not immediately turn up more of these outsized bear pics as I suddenly wondered if I had just been missing them. The giant cat chairs are more prevalent. (My previous posts featuring my collection of these cards can be found here and here for starters.) This leads as always to the question I ask – where have all the giant toys people posed with gone? Still I stalk the big kitties!
There is a reasonable argument to be made that is in indeed the same Margate kitty as below, although the tail is going in a decidedly different direction – perhaps a tail could change direction over time? These are more Steiff-ian than some of the others, another from my collection shown below.
Margate was the happening place to have your photo taken at the time. Many a Felix was there for posing as well as these swell kits. Here is a post devoted to a Margate Felix for starters.
These lucky little girls, sporting their matching dresses, get to pose with both these prime props. One little girl has teddy’s arm around her, perched on his leg. Teddy has a boutonniere, a sprightly collar and jolly row of buttons down his chest. His head is at a pert angle. Kitty has a lovely large bow and sticks his tongue out at us. Those matching dresses are spring weight with knee socks rather than tights. However, behind them, the adults in their beach chairs are dressed a bit warmer in jackets and hats – for that typically not quite warm day at a British beach.
So, it is time for me to reluctantly leave Margate of the 1920’s once again and figure out my way back to Manhattan. Kim, I hope to see you, Blackie and Cookie soon!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Those of us who dabble in the world of toy effigies of cartoon and comic book characters are well aware of how, contemporaneously anyway, Krazy Kat lagged a bit in the bid for toy fame and remunerative reproduction and merchandise. Even in animation, there’s appears to be a smattering of ancient silent cartoons that provide a reasonable representation of Krazy – and a mass of later cartoons which bare no resemblance to him in appearance or temperament, but which are great fun nonetheless.
And in parallel there are a very thin number of toys dedicated to or derived from the strip. There is one stuffed toy figure of Krazy from his hey day which is oddly (appropriately perhaps?) abstract and came in several different colors ranging from acid green to an equally shocking purple. (There is another which attempts a greater three dimensional reading of him. I own examples of both, shown below.)
However, all this to say that while the two dolls (yes, two, the man on the end holds one as does the girl in the middle which is harder to see) bear an interesting resemblance to those dolls they are somehow even further abstracted. Homemade versions of those already odd dolls? They look slightly demonic and the mystery as to why these folks had their photo taken with them as part of the family (while taking a mountainous hike) is a mystery lost to time indeed. (Although I do have other photos with folks featuring themselves with Krazy Kat dolls and those can be found here and here.)
This photo postcard was sold to me by someone in Massachusetts and it is unused and unmarked on the back. Without knowing definitively we can probably assume that this was taken in the United States. The older woman on the end and the young one next to her are smiling, but frankly the rest of the group is a bit grim, toys on display or not. Visually I like the contrast of the one woman in black tights and the other in white, both in plaid dresses. One doll is dark and the other light as well.
The seller identified these dolls as Felix and said he is in the process of selling off his Felix collection in retirement. I guess it’s a fair argument that these were intended to be Felix rather than Krazy as they don’t really look like either. Meanwhile, these dolls appear to have been designed to (arguably?) address us with a raised middle finger – a strange choice for a toy. Huh. The other hand points down. The simple toothy grin and the pointy ears contribute to the somewhat malevolent look which is born out more in the expression of the light one rather than the dark.
Obscene gesture or not, I would happily snatch these fellows up for the Pictorama collection should they ever turn up.