Putting on a Show

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This card came to my attention because of the Felix-y costumed participant more or less in the center of the photo. I purchased it from an Ohio postcard dealer and have no reason to assume it isn’t from that region, but it is alas, without any further identification.

It is a photo postcard and there is evidence of it having been in a photo album, telltale black paper stuck to the back. It had never been mailed and is in fairly pristine condition for having been removed from an album page. The edges on either side are faded, but I think that is more of a chemical failure than one having to do with age or exposure.

Detail. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I have attempted to provide some detail so you can really see all of the costumes – or at least highlights of them as it is a large assembly. At first I thought this was a recording of a large costume party, but as I looked at it more I realized that there are several repeated costumes which implies more of a production to me now that I look carefully.

Detail. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

It’s a bit hard to imagine the storyline of such a production. I spot some folks in Arab headdresses, numerous clowns, at least one man sporting a powdered wig, one person in black face and of course Felix. It is hard to reverse engineer a possible plot around this. I am deeply jealous however of the kid who is sporting the black cat Felix-esque costume. Clearly I would love to own that little number.

Detail Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

There is a range of ages represented so this was perhaps a community production as, although most appear to be young adults, there are some older folks and some quite young. The hall they are in is fairly luxe by the standards of amateur productions and the enormous mirrors on either side of the stage reveal high ceilings and a sense of space beyond. (I have written about photos of other such productions in much less lavish halls and one of those can be found here.)

I worked on high school plays and have memories of a few at a neighborhood playhouse as well. A good friend was the lead in Dial M for Murder as I remember, the first time I was to see that show. The theater in question was called simply The Barn and it sat on a now prime piece of real estate in the town I grew up in, Rumson, NJ. (Down the street from the high school and across an intersection from a tiny and wonderful one-room local library which for some reason routinely inhabits my dream life as an adult.)

Undated photo (but as I remember it) and the only one I could find on the web of Lois McDonald’s Barn Theater in Rumson, NJ.

The Barn was, among other things, where I took ballet lessons for a period of time as a tot. I believe on alternate days gymnastics and ballroom dancing also were underway at a given time. It was owned and run by a woman named Lois McDonald and I only have a vague memory of this gravelly voiced elder statesmen owner of the establishment, but it nibbles at the edges of my mind. It was more humble one by far than this one appears to be and I am sorry to realize that it must have slipped out of existence without my ever realizing its demise.

Women on Bikes

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photos came from a collection clearly belonging to a single person or family, parts of which were being sold on IG recently. The photos centered largely around the woman on the front of the motorcycle in the photo on the left. There were numerous photos of her, all with the same great smile and general enthusiasm for what she was doing. I chose this as an especially good example and the other just because all these women driving motorcycles of a certain period are appealing to me.

These photos have no notations on the back and there is no evidence that they were in an album so I guess it could have as easily been a shoebox of photos. There were lovely photos of her at various ages – with dogs and horses, sporting trousers, climbing trees, mugging with friends, at various ages over probably several decades; a life well-lived. They were being sold by my Midwest maven, @missmollystlantiques.

I was sorry to see this group of photos broken up, but by the same token couldn’t really quite justify the whole lot of them in my collection either. So I chose these two as sort of stand alone and noteworthy to add to the Pictorama library and bring to you.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I don’t know much about motorcycles so I can’t comment on the makes or models. Hers as above seems to have sort of saddle bags for transporting stuff hanging off the back wheels. Her older passenger, perched on the back, looks decidedly less comfortable, her hair tied in a scarf, practical shoes and ankle socks. Taking mom out for a ride? Our driver is wearing a spiffy height of style forties jacket, trousers and some sort of mannish oxfords.

The second photo, I believe, is one of the same motorcycle with a different driver. She has taken the sartorial styling to an even higher level and her trim fitted jacket is over a shirt with a collar like a men’s button down. Her hair is a differently exacting style of the time, practical in length but a bit iron clad too.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I have written a bit before about how changing transportation impacted the changing face of the American woman through the early decades of the 20th century – first by bicycle and then with the early days of the automobile (as written about in my post in the series novels The Automobile Girls which can be found here) and the role that mobility played in their growing independence. These motorcycles or motor bikes seem to have a wartime efficiency about them and one can imagine them being pressed into the sort of wartime service a young woman might have taken on in her own town or city.

I have written before (here) and recently shared again, a photo of my young father at a time probably a bit later, with a rickety motorcycle he would take on an adventure across the country. It would give out in California and require that he hitchhike back.

Elliott Butler in an undated photo. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

(I purchased another early motorcycle photo from the same source. That photo is below and the post can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Meanwhile, there exists somewhere a wonderful snippet of early film of my maternal grandmother and grandfather on their wedding trip to his parents in the midwest (Missouri) on a motorcycle of this period, perhaps a bit earlier. Unfortunately I do not believe there is a still photo image. I saw it many years ago now but my grandmother, a young woman from an Italian immigrant family whose family had settled on the East coast shore town where I was eventually born, looked game for the motorcycle ride but maybe had misgivings about the trip to meet her in-laws. (I have written about her part of the family based on some photos here and here before.)

Her new husband, Frank Wheeling (who was eventually to be my Poppy), had the mind of a gifted engineer which was frequently employed with the tinkering with and building of engines. Not surprising that a young Frank had a motorcycle and I bet it ran like a charm. Boat engines and their building and repair his strong suit which supplemented his income later in life. That the catch from fishing and hunting helped feed the family during the deepest part of the Depression and after.

He’d met my grandmother, Anne, while traveling on a dog racing circuit – no idea what he was doing for them. They settled on the East coast in the shore town where her family was and where I would eventually be born. Poppy could build anything, fix anything and eventually went to work for Bendix where he worked until his untimely death by heart attack in his fifties.

I regret I haven’t spent much time on a motorcycle – it seems a bit late now as I don’t even drive a car. However, I do understand the appeal and I will say the motor bikes that are suddenly popular do have a certain appeal for me.

Weihnachten Mickey

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a Merry Christmas German Mickey post in July. This photo is marked Weihnachten (German for Christmas according to a Google translation) and Hindenburgstr on the back. (Hindenburgstr, according to Google, appears to be in a place called Bad Oldesloe, north of Hamburg.) Other than Mickey’s presence there isn’t anything that makes us think holiday when we look at this photo however, although Mickey makes a very nice gift (and would be memorable) indeed.

It is a very nice room and I like the leafy wall paper which is echoed by the actual plants in the sunny window – a preference for cactus and succulents. The somewhat elaborate birdcage houses at least one bird, but it is hard to peer properly inside of it so maybe it is a pair.

Collection Pictorama; Pams-Pictorama.com

Like the wallpaper, the couches have a jolly print fabric and even the pillows have a floral design. Behind Mickey is a photo of a street scene that is a bit hard to see. There are indistinct paintings on the wall as well. Somehow though it morphs into a comfortable looking, sunny room.

From the previous post, Nice with Mice, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Mickey (all glorious 18 or so inches of him) is perched on the back of the couch, also in the sun. It is a very nice, large example of the Dean’s Rag Mickey. (I have written about the tiny versions I own in an early post here.) Today if you were lucky enough to come across this fellow he would cost a mint, but it would be a worthy cause for saving your nickels and dimes. I would be happy to wake up to him on any Christmas morning.

Felix in Pictorama collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

When we think of Christmas photos we tend to think of either dazzling Christmas trees with gifts, wrapped or recently released, piled below. Or small children hugging new toys. This looks more like one of my Christmas photos (one of those above), with an especially wonderful toy acquisition. Maybe somehow they had the foresight to know I would want the photo of Mickey, possibly as much as a hundred years later. It is hard to believe it is that long ago – looking at this photo it could be somewhere today.

Dogged

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers may have noticed things getting a little canine around here and this snap shot is further proof of it. One recent morning I was thumbing through a sale of photos I had missed on Instagram (@missmollystlantiques) the night before when I saw this picture and loved it. Amazingly it was not sold so I scooped it up.

I really like this pair. I think it is fair to say that they look alike in a cocky sort of pet and owner way. (I feel like the dog would embrace a hat with the same joie de vivre and enthusiasm given the opportunity.) The human appears to be in some sort of a uniform, like a park ranger or something along those lines. The pup, a sort of Pit Bull or Pit Bull mix, looks like he is eager to get on with his work day with his beloved partner.

Nothing is written on the back of this photo which is well worn. It was poorly printed to begin with, over exposed along the bottom, additionally faded and much handled it seems, yet it maintains its charm.

Unlike most cats, many dogs are interested in having a job. They want a partner and they want to work, to have a day with routine and expectations. Farms, cowboys, police – all good dog careers. While in recent years Pit Bulls have developed a bad reputation, they are very smart dogs and very trainable – think of Pete the Pup in Our Gang.

Cash peering over the front seat recently – with his birthday self!

Pictorama readers and Instagram followers know that I travel to and from New Jersey with a working dog and driver duo. Rides with Cash (@rideswithcash) is a Monmouth enterprise which until recently was comprised primarily of Jeff and his beautiful Australian Shepherd Cash who run a cracker jack ride service out of this Jersey shore area. While the bulk of their work is to and from the airport, I think there are a few other regulars like me with other needs.

Cash on a ride earlier this spring.

Cash gets his name from Johnny, not dollar – and I will add that Jeff always has a good selection of music on the drive so this is not a coincidence. (I have written about these rides a bit before, here.) Jeff is infinitely dependable and he and his doggie navigators have improved my quality of life and my Jersey commute substantially.

The business (and family) recently expanded with the addition of puppy Penny, a gorgeous female bundle of crazy puppy energy. If I ride with Cash in my lap calms me, a ride with Penny is a full on puppy love madness scrum.

Penny, who is growing fast, in a recent IG post.

If this wasn’t enough puppy upping, I recently helped my mother’s best friend source a Bichon puppy. Her previous dog, Pierre, died a few months ago and she sorely missed the companionship. The demand for rescue dogs is still very high (after record demand during the pandemic) and for the first time ever, and after numerous attempts, she was unable to adopt a dog. So instead I helped her find a reputable breeder and she brought little Ariel home recently. Yesterday’s inclusion of her photo in yesterday’s post raised a clamor for her story so here we go.

Ariel on Suzanne’s lap. The world is her oyster.

Ariel, all three pounds of her, holds court from a doggy playpen when visiting my mother. My mom’s cats, all rescues who have done their time fending on the outside, are not especially accepting of Ariel, despite her pint size. In their eyes, a dog is a dog and they circle her warily. Ariel is utterly unaware and unconcerned because as far as she knows she rules all.

Mom’s cats keeping an eye on tiny Ariel who seems indifferent – or maybe even ready to play.

This is not always the case and growing up our cat Snoopy (a gentle male, white with black cow spots) was buddies with our German Shepard, Duchess. They would curl up together frequently and like us kids, Snoopy belonged to Duchess.

However, I’m sure with repeated daily exposure Ariel will become another accepted animal denizen of the Butler house.

String Band

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I’m not sure I remember where this photo hails from, possible @missmollystlantiques which means it likely comes from the Midwest, or maybe eBay.

However, frankly I can find no tracks either way. I came across it yesterday when I was assembling the photos which had come to me via jewelry vendors (that post can be found here) where I had mysteriously put it aside after receiving. (And after publishing my post I was tickled to find out that at least one of my IG friends – shout out to Karen! – is a purchaser from the same vendors and collects their photos too.)

I have a fondness for this sort of early band photo which is something of a genre; seems folks couldn’t resist getting the band together in the yard before taking off somewhere. I don’t own more of them as they usually command competitive bidding and go high. However, I stumbled across this one and bought it. I was lucky and it is a good example. Only a $2 mark on the back of the photo, nothing to identify it further.

This is a banjo-heavy quartet with just the one guitar. I wonder what their sound was like. I probably would have liked a violin in there maybe, just saying. However, a quick look at Youtube tells me that banjos do like to hang together in multiple, not unusual to see four or five together.

These fellows are not youngsters, but of a certain age. We’ll assume they knew what they were about. Could have been bluegrass or something else. (The Youtube below may satisfy if this is putting you in the mood for early banjo music – a great slide show of banjo related pics too!)

Kim and I are unable to decide what their sign says, although I suspect that to them it seemed perfectly clear. FALL what? UJM? These four fellows are in their cleanest, whitest shirts and, as Kim pointed out, each is sporting the very same barbershop hair cut, freshly and recently executed. It is an earnest photo. The fellow on the top left is leaning in, probably as he would when he played.

If you look carefully, in the windows you can see some folks watching this photo being taken, as is the fellow out by the wash drying in the side yard, hand on hip. The front of a car (perhaps their conveyance to gigs) has nosed into the photo on the other side.

In my mind I imagine that right after this photo was snapped, they packed their sign and climbed into that car and took off into the summer day, on their way to their next gig.

Little Photos

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I have two lovely little photos which were sent to me with packages from Rachel @wassail_antiques. I discovered Rachel’s business on Instagram during the quarantine period and I have written about the wonderful bits of jewelry I have purchased from her – mostly British items from the earliest part of the 20th Century – a parallel universe to what folks were wearing in this country. Similar yet somehow very different. (I have written about these purchases here, here and here for starters!)

Rachel is a gifted photographer and the images of her items always tempt. In addition, the packing upon arrival is always lovely and heightens the feeling that a gift has come in the mail. Several folks I buy from include some early photos or cards in their package (some shown above), but I always feel that Rachel has handpicked the ones she sends me, knowing my aesthetic predilections and interests. Two are shown here today. Neither has any identifying information on the back.

My favorite of these is the young woman with cat and dog. I imagine that this is a boat she is on, but it is possible it is some sort of pier seating near the water. I like her plaid trousers and of course that she has scooped up this nice stripped kitty of hers as well as her faithful dog companion. The water of course and some sort of cliffs behind her. Kitty and dog seem to be looking at something off camera in another direction, however she smiles for the camera.

Photo that came recently in a package purchase from @Wassail_Antiques. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The other is also wonderful although a bit harder to see. A little girl perches on this soldier (my guess is her father’s) knee along with the canine companion who poses on his hind legs. They are in a brick strewn yard with a tatty wall behind them, conceivably from Blitz bombing.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection via @Wassail_Antiques

I have written about my quarantine and later pandemic pin purchases – a strange affinity for insect related items and also celestial, moons and stars, shooting comets, a pattern in my buying emerging slowly over several months. My fantasy life seemed to envision that I would return to the work world wearing jackets and that I would decorate the lapels with multiple pins of each – fly and butterfly pins, moons and stars. A yearning for the natural world? I have no idea. I had shown an affection for bees prior to the pandemic – bless their little organized hard working hearts! (My Queen Bee ring made for my by @murialchastanet_finejewelry shown below.) These pins were new affinities however.

Slowly this spring, the vision began to emerge as a reality. In fact I wear fewer jackets than I used to and the pairing is a bit more complicated than anticipated. However, the beaded butterfly pins (I wrote about these pins, made by British soldiers in internment camps during WWI, in a post here) have been a huge hit, although the celluloid firefly is a sure favorite. (That one came via Heather @marsh.and.meadow.) I recently acquired this nice fly below from yet another dealer (@therubyfoxes) at the same time I purchased a jewelry box from her (I wrote about the box in a post here), and it is perfect for somewhat subtle pairing.

Jewelry, personal collection.
An immediate favorite! Celluloid fire fly.
Beloved butterfly pins that have been very popular this spring.
Another package and photo!

What I had not anticipated is that in general I wear less jewelry than I used to in general. A strange shift in my vision of myself. One ring suffices where several used to routinely live. I have barely worn a bracelet since returning to the world – such as I have returned. However, I purchased two recently so we’ll see what happens.

Prior package from @Wassail_Antiques, cards instead of photos!

Biker Pic

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Admittedly this seems like an unusual photo for me to have purchased. Like yesterday’s post, it might typically have been one that I would have a look at, but not purchased. Photos with old motorcycles in them tend to be in demand and they largely fall out of my realm of vintage photos of cats and toys. However, it caught my eye, mostly because accidentally or intentionally, it is a very good photo. And in the end, we here at Pictorama are ultimately suckers for a good photo and will follow our nose in any direction really.

There is no information on this photo and no evidence of having been in an album. Like the photos from yesterday’s post of traveling musicians (which can be found here) it came from the Midwest and I would hazard a guess that is where it was taken. (As yesterday a nod to my source, IG seller @MissMollysAntiques, for this purchase.)

I gather that WWII was a major boon to the motorcycle industry and disenchanted former soldiers continued to favor riding them after returning home postwar. Their leather flight jackets ultimately morphing into the biker look as it evolved through the 1940’s into the ’50’s when Marlon Brando takes it centerstage in film and makes it iconic. However, the guy in this photo looks like square one with his open necked shirt with sleeves rolled up, boots, jaunty hat and a whole lot of attitude posing with his bike. Although his face is in shadow, we otherwise get a good look at him.

It has to be said that the car to his right is the other star of this photo. I know nothing about old cars, but the shining grill on this one is great with a certain anthropomorphic charm, grinning genially at us with wide eyes. Someone better versed in cars and bikes could probably date the photo with some accuracy. I put it in the late forties.

I love moving back further into this photo and looking at the row of folks with their backs to us on a park bench in the middle ground. The guy with the suspenders and the straw hat just gets me. They all seem to be looking at or watching something, other benches are scattered around and there seems to be a playground or more likely a pool in front of them. That part of the image, in a puddle of bright sun, cannot be made out entirely. It is a picture of two worlds, the one of the biker and the other where everyone is enjoying the day and whatever it is this park offers.

On the other side, behind the car, we see folks gathered and walking and some concession type signs. The edges of the photo blur and only the center is entirely in focus. The tree behind him and in the center neatly divides the photo into light and dark, but the front wheel of the bike and his leg compose this composition perfectly. The person taking the picture had a great eye for putting it together or it was very lucky shot.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This photo of my dad, Elliott (a photo I wrote about in an early post which can be found here), was probably taken at least several years later. My father is shown with a broken down old bike which, according to family lore, got him part of the way across the country, but which ended in him hitchhiking back. Dad, a city boy, is exuding somewhat less cool than his Midwest counterpart, shown here in Washington Heights as he starts off on his odyssey. However adventure and the open road awaited him nonetheless.

With the Band

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These photos arrived in the mail last night with another which I will share in a later post. At first I hadn’t realized that there was more than one (it was on Instagram, they are similar and I wasn’t really focused), but the seller (@MissMollysAntiques) suggested I buy all three and I am glad I did as they do belong staying together.

I like to look at old photos of musicians and traveling bands from the early 20th century, but I don’t generally purchase them for the Pictorama library. There is interest in them and they often seem to go for a lot of money, but I like to look at them. After all, until March of 2020 I found myself on the road with our orchestra on a regular basis, although our buses and wardrobe folks and whatnot don’t much resemble this. (I wrote about my first trip with the orchestra in a post that can be found here, and a trip to Shanghai where they were playing a few months after I started and that post can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Touring, even now, is a pretty grueling process and for all the late night post-show drinking or pancake sessions, there’s a lot more trying to sleep on a bus and grinding the miles at 5AM. Even the small amount I have dipped into it has convinced me it isn’t what I am built for. I find myself eating more junk food in a matter of days than I usually do in months and keeping up good exercise habits is hard.

I have used my favorite of the three at the top of the post, with the two men holding their mandolins. A drum case and a large drum front and center, a banjo case is on the running board of the car. It would take a better forensic thinker to unpack with precision what year this might have been. The suits, the location behind them and the car could have belonged to a few decades. The printing of the photos and the film is fairly primitive, but those persisted for decades, especially for home use. We can’t quite see the car they are traveling in but it looks like an early roadster complete with running board.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

They seem to have a set order that they pose in, leading up to the tall fellow but a short guy on each end. The instruments are also posed in front of them in a neat pointing pile. This was obviously well thought out. Hats on and hats off being the other variation.

These photos hail from the midwest and I suspect that is their place of origin from looking at them. Nothing is written on them (except inventory numbers) and there is no evidence that they were ever in an album. The nature of the poses, hats on and hats off, suggests that maybe these were taken for a commercial use, but the reproduction of them is too low in quality to imagine them being useful that way.

I would like to hear these guys and I wish there was some identification of who they were. I have a feeling that they would have been right up my ally, small traveling band from the 20’s or 30’s playing roadhouses and restaurants and whatnot. It is the period of music I love most. I can imagine sitting in a roadside establishment in 1931, beer in hand after a long day, hanging with my honey and listening to these fellows and being on top of the world.

More Lucky Star

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The purchase of this film still allows me to return to a favorite topic today, the films of Frank Borzage and in particular one of my favorites the 1929 film, Lucky Star. My original 2014 post can be found here, but as of writing now I can share a link for the entire film which can be found here. That post was inspired by the purchase of another Lucky Star still and one from another Borzage film, Back Pay. (For Borzage fans who may not know, a great restored version of Back Pay recently became available and as of writing it can be found here.)

This morning I was puzzling through my fondness for this film. Visually, the setting which is a wonderful mix of artificial and realistic and paints its own world is part of it. It is undeniably bleak, but there is something about the self-evidently constructed ponds, paths and buildings that seem to put my mind in a pleasing place. We know now that these sets at Fox were in use morning and night, a young Janet Gaynor was working day and night there on two films at one point and you wonder when she might have slept or ate a meal.

Lucky Star still from a scene never used in the film. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

In this story an impoverished young woman is mentored by a war-damaged WWI soldier in a sort of Svengali-esque remake of her. Ultimately his love of her ultimately eliminates all obstacles; this is the sort of perfect Borzage pathos leading to a love conquers all ending. In my opinion Bozage is at his best when given this sort of material and clearly he had a pretty free hand over the making of it. He’d give you a glorious wrap up with a sad ending if he had to (I’m thinking of his A Farewell to Arms as one example; you need to find the unedited version if you are going to watch it – makes a lot more sense including his ending), but he was in his glory building to a happy ending against all adversity.

Still from Back Pay, another Frank Borzage silent film. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This photo is from early in the film, in the pre-War day to day world of the far reaches of a nowhere backwater. One of the through lines of this story is the way World War and ultimately change comes even to such a remote corner. Here Janet Gaynor is a wily and feral child to Charles Farrell’s relatively sophisticated adult. The lighting is dramatic and bright where it hits in high relief. The ribs of the poor elderly horse stand out and as does the fence. There’s something about Charles Farrell’s hat which is a tip off that the change he is going to undergo has begun.

I can cheerfully tell you that there are definitely other scenes from this film which, should I be lucky enough to find photos of, I would snatch up in a heartbeat. Should that come to pass I assume I will likely pass those onto Pictorama readers as well, understanding of course, that some of you may not share or understand my enthusiasm. However, the last part of the film takes place during a long scene in the snow and I would love to own some of those so I could lose myself daily in the wonderful silent film world of Frank Borzage and Lucky Star.

Anna Belle Knowle’s Baby Vanities

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo came to me via Molly Sims (IG @missmollystlantiques), who in some ways is my square one for my pandemic purchasing on Instagram. Her Halloween items are generally what tempt me, but she also has interesting photos. She is responsible for the Krak-R-Jak Biscuits tin box which sits on my desk and which I recently wrote about as part of my home office gear up and can be read here. (I have a number of great items recently purchased from her, several are Halloween related, which I will be sharing in the coming weeks. As it happens I just got a DM from her about an upcoming sale this afternoon so stay tuned.)

As luck would have it when I sat down this morning and started searching I hit on a group of what must have been promotional photos for sale as a group on Biblio.com. (The lot can be purchased as posted here.) Most fortunate for me, they had a brief description. The seller is in Vancouver, Washington which makes sense as these appear to be for an early 20th century performing arts school in Portland. However, my Miss Molly hails from the Midwest so this copy found its way far afield.

From the Biblio-com sale mentioned below. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

According to the scant information provided it was a Depression era kiddie performing arts school called the Hollywood College of Music, Dancing and Fine Arts. Their information claims that students started at age 6 and reached into the teens and was, as shown, for both boys and girls. Annabelle Gertrude Knowles was the Director of the school. The photo was taken by Joseph Baker of the Baker Studio in Sandy, Oregon. While usually all of this would be enough to turn up further information, the trail went dead with these leads, perhaps because all are of the words and names are too common to conjure this rarefied tidbit of information sought. I assume that some nominal information must have been available with the clutch of photos the seller on Biblio.com has in hand. None of the named performers turn up anything I can find searching either. I did find a single obit which mentions that Betty Ross Abbott was a student at the school, although she went onto a career in real estate.

This version NOT in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My photo, which has Annabelle Knowles Baby Vanities stamped on the front, is in better condition than the version offered in this package – as below, theirs has some paint used to improve the reproduction whereas mine is clean. Mine shows evidence of having been pasted into an album, but otherwise is in excellent shape. The five costumed little girls appear to range in age, roughly, from about eight to about early teens. The girl in the middle appears to be the oldest of them and, although she isn’t looking directly at the camera, distracts somewhat from our young man at center stage. I especially love their sort of shiny, celluloid headgear, a nod toward top hats I guess? Each has a sparkly topped cane and clever ruffles around their wrists and necks, bows on their shows.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Part of me is surprised that the girls are so gussied up in their costumes while the boy is at center in what appears to be a straight ahead suit and fedora. The room in question is very simple with a painting, the image which is unreadable, a drape covered window and a fern in a standing planter. The wood plank floor looks dance ready though and he seems to be perched on a stool rather than a chair. (A slideshow of the additional horizontal photos from the Biblio.com sale is below.)

The other photos offered in the package, which I am only able to supply with image grabs off my phone so apologies for the quality, are sort of wonderful and I love the why their name is applied onto the photo – Barbara Jane Wicks of the Anna Belle Knowle’s “Baby Vanities” in a neat type.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The story brings to mind a somewhat obscure film Kim and I remember called What’s the Matter with Helen from 1971 which is a sort of Baby Jane knock off. It stars Shelley Winters, Debbie Reynolds and Dennis Weaver in a story about two middle-aged women who move to Hollywood (California) after their sons have been convicted of a notorious murder and open a dance school for children eager to tap their way to stardom according to the IMDB database. One wonders if the Anna Belle Knowle’s Baby Vanities and studio in Hollywood, Oregon could have been in living memory and inspired the writer, Henry Farrell, born in 1920 it isn’t beyond the realm of possibility.