Three Little Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a feline photo day today here at Pictorama. As it happens only a month ago I featured another kitten card of three kits (that post can be found here). Today’s card was mailed on August 1, 1911 at 9 AM from Norfolk, Connecticut. It was mailed to Mr Ralph Lanton, 2070 Colby Street, Bradford Mass.

The back reads, Norfolk Conn, July 21, 1911. Dear Ralph, I am sending three more kittens to keep Fluffy Grey company. They were taken from life by the lady where we are staying. We hope to see you…(illegible) Uncle Mill and all are at Bantana. We go home a week from today. With love Grandma B.

I am a bit surprised to find that that this is not a professional studio card, although these three little guys look like three of a kind with a shared origin now that I think about it. Funny to catch them sitting together like this though – posing. Cats like to congregate though and even our two will occasionally be found sitting next to each other this way, on display I always think. At Deitch Studio it is by the apartment’s front door for some reason.

Cookie and Blackie in an uneasy together state on our bed.

Given the nursery rhyme three kittens seems like an obvious number however I am having trouble remembering a time when I lived with three growing up. We somehow seemed to jump from two to more.

Mom and I were whiling away some time going over early family cats recently and I believe there was Snoopy (our first most beloved cat, white with cow spots, who was my very most special friend), then Zipper who my mom took away from some boys at a laundry mat who were tormenting him. He was so tiny and malnourished that he was in danger of slipping between the seat cushions of our old station wagon that day and I was in charge of making sure it didn’t happen on the way home.

A recent photo of Hobo Kitty ambling over for dinner recently.

Zips was a tabby who became quite the king of the hill in our neighborhood later in his life. At some point after, I was given a kitten from a friend’s litter, an orange tabby I christened Pumpkin. I carried him around as a kitten (and later as an enormous cat) and in turn he followed me faithfully like a dog thereafter. (He had a tendency to bite everyone else however.)

That must have been the brief moment we went from three to more and between us, frankly I don’t think my mom ever went down to three again. We were getting there recently, three younger rescues and an elderly cat named Milty, until the arrival of Stormy recently. (Read about Stormy’s arrival at the Butler enclave here and here.)

Mom’s cats lining up by the door to see if Hobo is arriving. They are peevish that an outside fellow is getting some of their food! From left to right, Gus, Beau, Peaches and then Milty looking at the camera.

And these days I have my own New Jersey cat project, a reprobate of a tom, torn ear and lumpy fur, who I have christened Hobo Kitty. I check in on him via mom when I am back in New York to see if he has shown up for his occasional meal of two cans of cat food, inhaled with great gusto. We know that Hobo will remain an outside guy, but I like to make sure he gets a good meal if he stops by. He gives the rat population hell too while he’s there. I keep a sharp eye out for his visit, generally very early morning or evening, and feed him. My mom says he is trap savvy so even getting him trapped and released is unlikely.

An early appearance of Hobo Kitty with his doppleganger sister from another mistah Peaches.

Recently back from a few days in New Jersey I can attest that her cats are very nocturnal and have the habit of racing madly through the small house and up and down the stairs nightly. (Like tiny elephants I say.) I have a feeling that Stormy is leading these nightly rants and raids and she has a habit of meowing distinctly as she runs around.

Most recent photo of Stormy before she has taken to hiding during the day.

For those of you who have been following the Stormy story she has left her safe cage and now hides with unique cunning during the day. Mom says she sees her in the kitchen late at night, snacking and visiting the litter box. I found her sleeping in a drawer I pulled out from under one of the beds recently. She raced off and that is the closest I have come to a true sighting.

Today in closing a special shout out to Kim as it is his birthday! Happy Birthday sweetie! Many happy returns of the day.

On Stage

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Folks in early cat costumes is a sub-genre of the holdings here at the Pam’s Pictorama photo library. (Wow – I just upgraded my shoe boxes to a library.) I have long felt that there is a vintage Felix costume out there that will really scratch that particular itch of mine and actually owning such an item notwithstanding, I am always pleased to own the image and search for those with some vigor. (A few other Felix/cat costume posts can be found here and here.)

While I have to date resisted purchasing garments such as costumes given the storage restrictions of my abode, I have however come woefully close on the purchase of a few truly wild and wonderfully early Felix masks on occasion, but have sadly come up empty handed. Of course I am still on the prowl and I am also sure for the right costume I would make room here somehow, not to mention a place of pride for some extraordinary probably somewhat decaying and terrifying mask. (Kim, bless him, is ever indulgent and didn’t even flinch with I was considering a large drum with Felix painted on it that would have had to more or less be hung from the ceiling.)

Kim in a Felix hat/mask which I, very sadly, do not own! This taken in SF in September, 2015.

On the back of the photo postcard, which was never sent but was pasted into an album, Bethel School Interior is written in penciled script. The seller had the card listed as, from The Black Cat Society Play in Bethel, PA Berks Co. Berks County is evidently in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which in addition to being the dreamland of chocolate production (the name evokes a childhood vision of a town constructed entirely of Hershey bars that I have never quite fully eliminated from my adult brain), is also said to be a great flea market area as well. Sadly I have never had the chance to explore this place of glory on either level so for now it continues to live in imagination on both counts.

While I might have hoped the photographer would have gotten closer to these kiddies in the kitty costumes, the wider shot gives us a look at those in the audience which gives us something of a sense of period. I have no idea what the Black Cat Society of Bethel was (or is?) as the popularity of black cats in Pennsylvania buries that search in an avalanche of cat adoption offerings. Were there black cat plays every year with cat costume clad kids?

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Our six kitties are lined up over a bit of paper facade “brick” indicated below them – like they are on a fence? The set is an interior – lamps, drapes on windows and a striped rug. There is a flowered curtain to one side, which might be more about obscuring a backstage area than a curtain that would draw across – I do not see an indication of a rope. The whole affair seems to be on a wooden stage raised off the floor by sturdy wooden legs below, raising them up and making it more official feeling.

Paw hands of our players are up in a gesture a bit more canine than cat. Each of our kids is in a suit of shiny black with a hood sporting ears and a tail – some tails are perkier than others and some wear their suits sportier and with more ├ęclat. The line up graduates to the tallest participant in the middle and down again. The one second to the end on (our) left seems to embody the role best for me, clearly a future performer there.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Our broad perspective of the room also gives an indication of the covered wall of what appears to be a basketball court behind and the slightest indication of what I think is the bottom portion of an American flag hovering over the peering over the proceedings. The audience is seated in some sort of pew-like connected chairs. The one kid looks back at the camera, jaunty angle to his hat. #4 is written at the bottom and it is too bad if 1-3 are lost now.

I was an enthusiastic participant in junior theatricals as a tot and I would have been in heaven to be on this stage for my turn, suited up in cat garb.

Mitten Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These inquiring little fellows caught my eye and I liked how the writing was stenciled into the negative of this very old card. Clearly something entertaining was used to capture their attention just off camera. The tabby in the middle has moved a bit and is a tad blurry as a result. I suspect this handful of kits was used again and again as models at the studio. The feet of the two tuxies are huge and those must have grown up to be some big cats.

Kittens and mittens to back at least as far as the Mother Goose poem which has verses where the kits in turn loose their mittens, find their mittens, soil them and then wash them. The verse ends oddly however with Mama smelling a rat nearby. I suspect ratty was dinner, however the thought is never finished and an odd one to end the poem on. (In its entirely it can be found here.)

My copy of The Fur Person by May Sarton.

The term making mittens refers, as far as I know, to a cat kneading with claw paws. I didn’t grow up with that term however. That action was always starfish paws to us, or mushing when we were very little. I call them claw paws these days especially with my kitties whose claws have grown too long I’m afraid. The term starfish paws came to us via a volume by May Sarton, The Fur Person, a wonderful book chock-a-block with cat love and lore which I have written about previously and that post can be found here. Blackie has a bad habit of doing it while sitting on my lap and my knees are scarred with his ongoing and intense ministrations.

There are many photos of be-mittened cats on the internet, the indignities which I will ignore except to say that folks have hung onto the idea over time.

Although this card has a somewhat homemade look, it is the product of a large professional studio. Stenciled neatly at the bottom is Pesha Photo. This turns out to be Louis James Pesha who owned the eponymous Pesha Postcard Company of Michigan. His work is largely known best for his photos of the Great Lakes region and enjoys some ongoing popularity today. To my knowledge I have not purchased other cat cards made by him previously. A quick Google search reveals mostly the aforementioned landscape and water views.

Pesha Photo not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Mr. Pesha was born in Ontario, Canada in 1868 and moved to the United States in ’01 starting his photo studio then. Evidently at first he specialized in cards like this one, popular subjects and trick photos. He had long photographed the landscapes, railroads and scenes around him and began printing and selling those as postcards later on.

An automobile, seating what are believed to be his wife and son [?], is parked in front of one of Louis Pesha’s photo studios. Dave Burwell Collection, Sarnia Historical Society.

Pesha dies tragically young in a car accident (he owned a luxury steam engined car purchased from the White Automobile company and I wonder if the one shown above is the car in question) in October of 1912 while visiting his parents. He was only 42 and he leaves a young daughter (no mention of a son in his online bio) and widow who continues the business until postcards pass out of fashion in the early ’20’s.

My card has an indicia pressed into the lower right corner which I assume also marks it as a Pesha card but is illegible and I depended on the writing on the bottom, Pesha Photo 1517, etched into the bottom.

This card was sent at 3 PM on January 21, 1911 from an unidentified location to Mr. Elmer Rosbury in Toledo, Ohio under General Delivery no less, and received by the post office at 9 AM the next day. (Much better delivery than we can hope for these days I might add.) The writing is in pencil and it is difficult to read. As far as I can tell it reads, Dear Elmer: – Will write tomorrow had a girl Friend down from Minders (?) and we went to this Farmers Blow Out last night. With love from Ethel.

With my best Caturday wishes to all!

David, Our Favorite

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I devote space to this nice little cat photo postcard. We can see that the name David was etched, carefully, into the negative, complete with quotation marks and a swirl below. The card is a bit dark, but we can see that David is a handsome, spotty puss. He sports a collar and although we don’t see it too clearly I like the spot on his forehead, right between his eyes. He looks like a lively fellow and something has his attention in another direction while having this photo taken. One imagines he was off and chasing after it moments after the shutter clicked.

This penny postcard card was mailed from Lisbon, Ohio on August 8 at 8 AM. It is obscured, but I think the year is 1912. It was sent to a Mrs. Chas Lutes, at 515 N. Park Street, McKeesport, PA. It is inscribed as follows, You may not know who this is but he is my favorate. We did not get a very good position yet it looks like him. Gaskills. Kim and I had some morning discussion around the signature, Gaskills. Last name used as moniker? Not sure really, but we agreed that was what the neat, if faded, script says.

Gus and Beau in their respective boxes at Mom’s the other day. Gus is also a recent rescue and Beau from Newark several years ago.

Our beloved pets! We keep photos of our kits and pups (bunnies and what all), but a bit interesting that this one was kept by the recipient (at least I assume it was she who kept it) carefully as well. Of course which detritus of the world ultimately sticks to any of us is a bit mysterious.

Like children, I guess I have always thought one shouldn’t have favorites among the cats. You do I guess, but it doesn’t seem right to cop to it anyway.

As some Pictorama readers know, I spend part of my time with my mom in New Jersey these days. She recently identified a new stray cat in her backyard and mom had cousin Patti and I feeding it until it trusted us enough for someone to come and trap it yesterday morning. Turns out to be a young female, longish hair with stripes, gray and black – she was mostly a blur to me as she dashed off while I offered food. I hope to have photos soon to share soon.

Peaches, another relatively recent rescue who lives with mom, still won’t let any of us near her although she does follow me upstairs to observe my endless Zoom calls while I am there.

Mom is full up with cats in her own small home, but we are determined to find a permanent loving home for this little girl. She is going by Stormy for now, named in honor of the windy and wet morning she was finally caught on. Stormy is with the rescuer for now, getting some tests and medical attention. As mom and I both said, we both slept better last night knowing that little kit was warm inside with a full tummy for the first time this winter.

This is the little sweetheart mom just rescued! Email for info! We need to find her a home.