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 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 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: Yep, today is a Happy Birthday to me post and I have been saving this card for a bit to share on my birthday. I stumbled across it for sale on Etsy while searching Google for something else Felix related and scooped it up. Like almost all of my Felix photo cards it arrives at our US shores from Britain. It has inspired a bit of stretch of the imagination post today – hang on for the ride and enjoy.
This card is inscribed on the back, but not mailed. In a clear hand it reads, To My Chicken Wishing you many Happy returns of the day from Grandad & Grandmas XX. Perhaps it was mailed in an envelope or included with a gift.
The poem on the front reads, If this toy could speak I’m sure he’d say “Many Happy Returns of the day”; He’d love to join in your romps and fun To make your Birthday a joyous one. Felix appears to hold her and and she is looking affectionately at him. (Were it me I would probably be more excited at the prospect of a birthday romp with Felix and at least given him a big hug!)
This birthday Felix card has a slightly higher production value than most of the posing with Felix cards I own (for new friends, one example can be found in a post here), which are the product of itinerant Felix photographers and seaside photo studios and therefore sometimes of mixed results. The hand color tinting, which gives this little girl a nice pink dress. A yellow floor turns her Mary Janes almost gold and some blond added to her hair gives a nice contrast. They went the extra mile and gave a blue detail to her collar and cuffs. Felix’s sepia brown (the underlying color) may have a bit of the yellow in it too.
It’s a bit hard to see, but the edges of the card are raised in a floral relief – a bit grimy now. It took some magnified looking, but the credit at the bottom left of the photo made me raise my eyebrow, in tiny type it reads Photo by P’cess Yvonne. A search of P’cess or Princess doesn’t turn up much (although who could resist looking), but it did toss out this signed photo below, of Princess Yvonne. Aka Mary Ellen Norris she performed a magic and mind-reading act with her husband, Doc Irving who signed it as well. It’s a stretch but I am going to pretend that she took this photo. (Unlikely, but because it is my birthday and because I can.)
Meanwhile, Beagles & Company, the noted maker of the card, was a well-known photo postcard producer in Britain. The founder, John Beagles (1844-January 1907), had already died and the eponymous company passed into other hands by the time this card was made. The company was one of the prime real photo postcard producers, but also published some of Louis Wain’s cat postcards – all as noted in a brief Wikipedia entry.
In a cursory search I could not find more cards photographed by P’cess Yvonne, although many of the portrait ones seemed to be photographed by a Rita Martin. (I will also choose to imagine that Beagles photo postcards were largely produced by an enclave of women photographers. Indulge me please.)
Kim (who is currently hard at work producing the annual Valentine slated for grand reveal next Saturday!) and I are zipping off to a fun filled day which will include an exhibit of pop-up advertising and another of wall paper at the Grolier Club and maybe some poking around the flea market too. Pam’s Pictorama Birthday Post Part Two tomorrow!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This postcard was waiting for me when I got back from New Jersey last night. I bought it on Etsy from a dealer in Britain and it took so long to get here that I had forgotten about it! It’s a very British card with that red mailbox, a suggestion of a lamp post, and of course some fog. This black cat who has slipped on his bum has dropped a cigarette in the process. He’s a great pose – all akimbo – tail like a third leg, his pink tongued mouth agape.
The card was mailed and is postmarked Hastings, January 6, 1922, sent in the evening mail 101 years ago. It was sent to Miss Lulu Crosse, 158 Castle Hill, Reading Berks. To the extent I can read it, it says, I am so sorry not to have acknowledged your pretty calendar dear Lulu but have only just found it in our drawers where all our presents were put so it must have slipped out of the parcel I thought you might like this as it slightly resembles John. Such a lovely dog. With love, L.S. Dog?
As it happens I had the rare (and suburban) opportunity to hand the postman a bill that needed mailing yesterday as I had just finished putting it together when he arrived to drop a parcel and a bunch of flyers in the box affixed to the front of the house there. Could you take this too? I call that service!
I am learning that some of mom’s bills (taxes and sewer thus far) come with little coupon tabs that need to be included in the payment back. For some reason these local town affiliates have resisted auto withdrawal and in the case of the taxes you have a sheet of these dated tabs you must remember to pull off on a not-quite-quarterly schedule and pay. This is, in my opinion, a bit maddening and fraught with potential disaster as I take over helping mom with these tasks.
The postman visit was especially good timing as I had recently discovered that the post office closest to mom within walking (running) distance is closed for what appears to be an indefinite time as someone drove through the front of it. Housed in a nondescript little shopping center it’s hard to see why this occurred – weirdly accelerating forward? Misjudging the front of the parking space? On the phone? It was the middle of the day – as it happens a friend was there shortly after.
In addition to the post office, the shopping center houses an A&P, a liquor store, and a really splendid homemade ice cream emporium that I have already made numerous visits to with my friend Suzanne. There is a large Dunkin’ Donuts and although we have nothing against donuts, instead we tsk tsk over the memory that a splendid and much beloved stationary store made its home there for many decades and was pushed out and so we don’t stop there.
Meanwhile, there is a nice looking sort of glorified diner, but I haven’t had reason to eat there yet because in an ajoining parking lot is my favorite lunch place, TavoloPronto, the home of the great sandwich, among other things, so I come often to this enclave when in Jersey. If I so inclined I can go to the bank, have a massage or get my nails done there as well. Really many essentials of my local NJ life are housed there or nearby including Mexican, Chinese and Japanese take-out or restaurants – a short run or medium walk from mom’s house.
It would seem I won’t be using that post office for an indefinite period of time – a couple of months have already gone by. I am impatient and just think, Fix it already! How hard can that be? Meanwhile, there is another post office more or less equidistant in the town of Little Silver – oddly mom lives at the nexus of four towns, Rumson, Fair Haven, Red Bank and Little Silver – I can hit all four easily in an average run.
However that post office requires transversing several obscenely busy roads and I don’t generally don’t run on them. This keeps me from frequent visits to Edie’s Luncheonette (which I wrote about recently here) and our local farmer’s market and gourmet shop, Sickles, on foot. And although the idea of running through the Sickles farm property temps me, dealing with these busy streets does not. Perhaps I should consider the Red Bank post office as I run there periodically as well.
Sometimes, if I know I will be back in Manhattan soon, it is easier to tuck the mail in my purse and bring it home, to a city where mailboxes and post offices within walking distance abound.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Sometimes a Pictorama picture post is just that and this postcard today is one of those. I spotted it on eBay and scooped it up. It came to me via a California based dealer, but there is something vaguely European about it in my mind. It is utterly without marking or writing on the back which is unusual – even primitive photo postcards usually have some sort of markings. It has crinkly cut edges which you rarely see on postcard stock and is more common in commercially printed photos I might think were a bit later.
While this was advertised as a Halloween photo I assess it to much more likely be a young woman dressed up for a play. I have spent some time wondering what she is holding in her hand that isn’t showing us her cat tail. (It is a nice tail and I always think that is a hard part on a cat costume. I might prefer the sort that stands out on its own though.) There is a chain with exaggerated links – maybe a costume watch chain? And there’s some sort of grassy bits hanging off her waist as well which just mystify me.
As I studied those I realized that it is more likely that these were props. Her worn flats seem appropriate to stage and perhaps some dancing. She stands in front of a backdrop which is either in a photography studio or perhaps a stage background.
For me its all about those perky cat ears. They fit nicely with her hair and they look perfectly natural there. As someone who owns a few pairs of cat ears (I’m assuming this doesn’t surprise my readers) perched on a hairband I assure you that some do fit better than others.
I will also say that for some reason on the occasions I have sported them that it displeased my cats in a remarkable way. It wasn’t that they were afraid when I put them on (turning me into a huge kitty?), but more like they were deeply disappointed in me. If cats could think that you were making a racist joke I think it is the look those cats gave me. I’ve never felt quite right about the ears ever since.