Cinderella and the Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am wildly fond of this recent acquisition! I found it for sale on eBay from a Canadian seller and couldn’t buy it fast enough. It is a photo postcard, never mailed. In studying it, I believe the white bits at the bottom left are a bit of paint, not loss of emulsion. Nonetheless, this one zipping into a frame quickly to keep it safe.

It is an image I have never seen before and my efforts to turn up anything relating to it turned up nothing except animation and, oddly, a fair amount of assorted pornography. Cinderella is written at the bottom of this postcard image. There is a vague suggestion of a fireplace scrim on a painted scrim behind them. I assume this is a photo postcard from a vaudeville or roadshow version of the Cinderella story.

Cinderella here, although reasonably adult or at least adolescent, is fairly petit. She holds a strangely very small broom and her feet are clad in nicely strappy shoes which appear flat and potentially allowed for dancing. She is perched on a common bistro style chair which is a bit of an anachronism. This is a Cinderella still in impoverished mode with her lone friend which in this case is a cat. (Correct me if I am wrong, but the traditional story involved mice befriending her, didn’t it?)

Nice Lucifer the Cat toy from the Disney animation. Might need to find myself one of these!

In an effort to research if there was a variation of the Cinderella story that specifically had a feline friend I turned up an Italian animated film from 2017 called Cinderella and the Cat. It seems to be is a dystopian future version of the Cinderella story set on a ship in Naples. Although I don’t remember it, the Disney version (1950) had a cat too, Lucifer, shown as a toy above.

However, let’s not bury the lead, which is this glorious cat costume! He is not only adorned with a shaggy, striped fur suit, but also has amazing full make up and/or bewhiskered mask. The shagginess makes me think maybe mohair. The one hand that is visible is covered in a paw sort of glove; he has round ears and a lank tail curled beside him. The make up or mask on his face gives him wonderful bulging kitty jowls like a big old tom cat and really add to the overall effect.

As shown above, the back of the card only reads, Eina [?] and the Cat in a swooping script. Noted in the upper corner is 15. Cinderella which could be a contemporary note or an original one, making me wonder if it was a series of cards.

This cat costume rivals that of performer Alfred Latell (who I have written about in posts here and here), a gifted animal impersonator who might best be remember for his Bonzo dog complete with moving parts, in a similar time and genre. (He is shown in the Bonzo costume below.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Latell was identifiable and left some if uncertain tracks. Ultimately I was able to follow him all the way to a snippet appearance in a blurry bit of color film. Sadly this performer is unidentified and I was unable to turn up any snippets referring to such an act. I suspect this is a lower rent version than the Latell shows (and potentially Canadian), but the costume and make up are just amazing.

My imagination roils with thoughts of this bygone production and a potentially thrilling rendition of a cat pal to this Cinderella. Sad not to have more information, but I do have this image left to ignite and stoke dreams of cat acts of years past.

An Abundance of Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Readers here know that toys and photos of cats are the mainstays of the Pictorama collection. This pleasant pile of pusses cheered me immensely when it crossed my path. Cow spotty mom and dad kitties (maybe – they look a bit possessive anyway) mill around with three evidently all white fluffy kittens. Playing with them are these no less picturesque women in early 20th century dresses, hair piled high, brooches pinned on lacy bodices. A careful look shows other women in the background, also in summer cottons of the period.

Kittens, even in small doses, are a bit of work to live with and when our adored Cookie and Blackie entered the picture I was reminded. Less needy maybe than puppies (which seem to rank somewhere just newborn children for labor intensiveness in my opinion) kittens will still race around your house (in this case our single room) knocking things over, scratching and have their decidedly stinky and disastrous moments. Nonetheless, there is little as cheerful and charming in my mind than a pile of kitties.

The image cuts across the more than 100 years since this photo was made. Interesting to think that playing with kittens on a spring day in the yard remains the same activity it was then.

Naughty but charming Cookie and Blackie as kits, sitting on Kim’s desk – forbidden of course, but so cute!

I have only lived with a litter of kittens once in my life during what I have described before as an especially cat rich time of my childhood. Our cat Winkie escaped outside and mated before we were able to have her spade and her calico design when combined with a local tabby tom resulted in two all grays, a long thin drink of water orange stripe and a black and white tabby. They were in turn named Ping and Pong, Squash and Tigger. I don’t remember who in the family did the naming honors, but I do remember that Winks chose my parent’s closet to birth her kittens. (This after my parent’s bed had been rejected as the site by said mom and dad.)

Winkie was in turns both a very watchful cat mom and sometimes a neglectful one. She went through a period of dutifully moving the kittens from one hiding place (stuffing them under a low dresser at one point) to another because we insisted on looking at them and playing with them. Or was she actually trying to lose them? She would occasionally forget to move one with the others and said kitten would be found crying and rescued. Winkie was an unusually smart cat – barn born and polydactyl, with big mitt like front paws. She may have had a kitten abandonment plan which we continually thwarted. As soon as they were sufficiently grown she immediately forgot she had had anything to do with their genesis and generally look upon them as interlopers.

So tiny they fit together on our computer chair which remains a favorite perch.

We kept all four kittens which did mean our cat population burgeoned overnight. I believe we were already in possession of at least one other cat, another orange tom named Pumpkin. Since we lived in a house, albeit a large one, that was a lot of felines although that was still at a time when they were free range in the neighborhood, and roamed in and out of the house more or less at will. In my memory at least, a good time was had by all during this period, although our German Shepherd was probably a bit put upon, not to mention my mother who had the daily responsibility for cats and kids. (Dad traveled a lot for work and seemed both unperturbed, but also less engaged with the pet excess of those days.)

This postcard was never mailed and clearly remained evidence of a lovely day in the yard, enjoying cats and kittens.

Felix Portrait – Louis Ollier Faking It

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama we have been known to indulge the off-model, the fraudulent and in the case of Felix, sometimes even the somewhat demonic period renderings of his visage. Unlike the iron hand of Disney, Pat Sullivan (a faker himself who claimed to draw Felix when it was in fact Otto Messmer) didn’t seem to have the bandwidth to control the proliferation of fake Felix-es, especially those being churned merrily out by the British.

These jolly, and some might point out occasionally terrifying, toys form the bedrock of the Pictorama toy box. And yes, they leer happily over us in bed each night from their various shelf perches. (Some posts featuring those free-form Felix, presumably unlicensed, toys can be found here and here, just for starters.) Meanwhile, eBay listings for Felix may cover everything from Krazy Kat (see yesterday’s post about his identity crisis here) to, oddly, Mickey Mouse.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. A seriously off-model Felix toy!

In his two-dimensional incarnation I have some examples of liberties taken as well. In my possession is a set of postcards made from stencils one could purchase for this purpose. The hand traced and colored results can be found occasionally in the sorting through of Felix memorabilia. A post about these cards before I knew about some postcards made from the stencils can be found here.

Felix Porchoir – French stencils for making your own postcards. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection – but I would love to have them!

All this to say, I snatched up this odd card recently on eBay. It is a bit fragile and the postcard stock perhaps a bit lighter than it might be. I liked the hands on hip blocky Felix body – the tail curls up and around for a nice juxtaposition. Things get a bit odder up around the face – the ears are off and the nose too long and bulbous. However it is the filling in of the eyes and mouth that give him his distinctive oddness.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Upon closer inspection, there is a signature (people ripping off Felix rarely did that I thought to myself) of the renderer, Louis Ollier. A quick search mostly turns up work by Ollier and there isn’t much on his biography. I believe that folks have somehow conflated his biography with a famous bone surgeon of the same name who was born in 1830 and died in 1900 – clearly this is not the same person as he couldn’t have drawn Felix before his creation almost 20 years into the new century. This fellow was working mostly in the 1930’s, although I turned up some oil paintings that might be his from earlier decades.

In addition to a number of sketches for sale by Ollier what I was able to figure out is that his gig was he would do sketches of famous people, send them to the person and ask them to sign and return if they were pleased with it; Ollier would sign them as well. As far as I can tell, some of these were then made into prints which also bear Ollier’s name or sold as originals. Evidently there is a substantial body of his work devoted to race car drivers, although those were not among the ones I turned up. My guess without knowing, but based in part on the subjects I could find, is that he was British.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Ollier entered Felix into his pantheon of the famous and thus depicted. Felix seems to have declined to countersign this postcard – perhaps the likeness did not please him? And then question printed below, Puzzle – Why does he keep on laughing? Well, Felix does chuckle a fair amount, but usually only after he does something especially clever.

This postcard was never used and perhaps it is most notable that I never saw one before which means there probably are not a large number in circulation. I found frankly uninspired renderings of Robert Taylor and Edward G. Robinson online, but the drawing of Sydney Horler (a British writer of thrillers) is available on eBay at the time of writing and I share it below. I suspect somehow he was more successful with lesser known subjects – they feel looser and more free.

However, for what it is worth, his drawing of Felix, perhaps unexpectedly, brings Mr. Ollier a smidge more immortality here in the annals of the Pictorama collection today.

Felix and the Folks

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo postcard is among the more beat-up in my collection. Although it was never sent (and nothing is inscribed on the back) it suffers from some folds and marks as well as something blue it was exposed to which has lightly colored front and back. Nonetheless, I am pleased it survived and it was jolly enough that I was compelled to add it to the Pictorama library.

This nice group – I cannot say or really guess if family or friends – have posed themselves nicely on this stoop. A careful look at the details of where they are standing makes me realize something is a bit odd; there are bits of trim that look interior (at the top and above the door), but the bottom half looks like a stoop and sidewalk, an iron gate to one side, so I am not sure what I am looking at precisely.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This card cames via Great Britain where it does seem there was a time when it wasn’t unusual for a group to grab a Felix toy – large or small – and add him to the photo. I will always wonder how and why this started although obviously I find it charming indeed. Having Felix in your family photo was a thing and I have written about a few other images in my collection which have this same ad hoc quality of Felix inclusion. A few of many examples in my collection can be found in posts here and here and shown above and below.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

What we choose to grab or do when we are asked to mug for a photo can illustrate something about us, revealing what matters most to us. I always like someone who grabs up their kitty of course (in fact I immediately like them better), but this does assume a certain level of patience on the part of the feline who does not always comply. I have commented on Blackie’s growing fondness for Zoom calls, but he has also been known to show up for a stroll over to Kim if he is on camera. Kim says I read too much into Blackie’s burgeoning public persona, but I think that kitty has a thought about what he is doing although I don’t claim to entirely understand what that is either.

Perhaps posing this tiny Felix was just a way of showing that they were having a good time and a bit of a giggle. The card is a professional photo postcard and it is possible that the photographer brought him along too I guess. Was Felix a beloved totem or a professional addition we will never know, but here he is waving to us probably almost 100 years later and he has won these folks a permanent home here at Pictorama.

Sir Guy at Home

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I like the fact that Guy has been knighted – Sir Guy! He is a fine looking puss with beautiful well groomed long hair. He is posing, rather dignified, for the camera, paws folded together. He has a white mustache and a thoughtful look on his face.

I am posting this with a less than great photo – I will hope to upgrade when I get home later today!

This card was sent from Putnam, Connecticut on March at 8 PM. It was mailed to Mrs. Lewis Boss, 2150 Cranston Street, Mauchiticut, Rhode Island. There is no message however and the postmark doesn’t have a year, but the copyright on the front indicates 1906. Sadly, we don’t know anything about Sir Guy and I cannot help but wonder if there were other photos, such as Sir Guy at Work and Sir Guy at Play?

Spending the past week at my mom’s house has made me reflect a lot on cat relationships. My mom has four cats, two of the four have known me long enough that they allow me to pet them and do not run from me in terror – two others do.

Red, a great kitty of yore!

Although the older cats are not afraid of me, neither are they especially fond of me. They might allow a pet here or there but gone are the days of my mom’s cat Red who was my father’s constant companion and always acted as my cat concierge during my visits to NJ – sleeping on my bed and bringing me his toys. (I wrote about Red, an especially good cat, here at Red Buttons.)

Three of the four, munching breakfast today. Left to tight, Miltie, Peaches and Gus on the chair.

My mother acquired stray kittens, first Peaches in 2019 – she was found in a basement, howling as she had fallen into a hole and could not get out. It was her lucky day that not only was she rescued but that person somehow got her in to my mother’s hands. The other, Gus, showed up in 2020 and has assumed control over all of Red’s toys. We believe that somehow Red left the sign posts for an incoming kitten in need of a home – sort of like hobo’s who used to mark the way to a home where you could get a meal.

Peaches, the lone girl cat here with three brothers.

Peaches, the only girl cat in a house of boys, will not allow anyone near her or to pet her. However, she is fascinated by me and the fact that I reside in rooms upstairs that are otherwise unattainable. I have spent the last week carrying on a conversation with her and she seems to want to say, “If I was going to allow one of you lousy humans to pet me, it might be you.”

Gus just tears away in horror if I so much as look at him. As a result I can’t even get a decent photo of him.

While I enjoy visiting cats and getting to know them this way I do miss my very own kits. Somehow curling up with your own cat, who purrs, sits or snoozes with you in a particular way, is a is own definition of home. I am heading back to NYC on Saturday and I look forward to being welcomed by Kim and kitties.

Felix at the Chelsea Arts Ball

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Recently I have been in the midst of chasing down the remains of a Felix postcard collection, but this one popped up on its own from a different source in the middle of it. Felix on parade could be a real sub-genre of Felix photo collecting. Unlike the photo postcards of folks posing with Felix which hail exclusively from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, the parade photos are as often from the US. While many seem to be variations on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons, the best of them are from small parades elsewhere in the county. (Some of these previous examples can be found in posts here and here. Some of the photos from those posts are pictured below.) However, it has been a long time since one has come up for purchase. Hang onto your hats though folks – I think this is an interesting one.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Today’s comes to Pictorama from Great Britain and celebrates the Chelsea Arts Ball. The card was never sent. The only information printed on the back is Pathe Freres Cinema Ltd. Series Copyright. It turns out to be the 1922 edition of the ball. A bit of further research reveals that the design was overseen that year by artist Fred Leist and the theme (somewhat ironically as I write now in 2021) was Brighter London 100 years Hence. (I am thinking another worldwide pandemic was not on his mind at the time having just lived through the 1918 one.) That year the revelers danced to the Ceadon-West Orchestra, noted as a Big Band, but I cannot find many traces of them online.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea Arts Ball dates back to 1891, as far as I can tell from a brief history on the website of the club, (found here – and note the image of Felix on the side of their building in the photo!) having grown out of a tradition of fancy dress parties in the studios of artists in the 1880’s. It was meant to rival the already established Arts Club of Mayfair. (A side note that women were not admitted for membership in the Chelsea Arts Club until 1968!) The balls typically seemed to take place over New Year’s and/or Mardi Gras and eventually settled in at the Royal Albert Hall as a venue for a decades long run until the 1958 one was so raucous (Wikipedia sites, rowdiness, nudity and public homosexuality – which was illegal at the time – as what caused the ousting) that the ball was banned from the venue for the next 30 years. If I understand correctly, I believe that the party tradition continued until December of 2020 when, for Covid reasons, it was banned. The parties have been held at the site of the club at 143 Church Street in recent years.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The hope had been to rival the French equivalent, the Bal des Quat’s’Arts established in 1892, I gather a similar soiree produced by architecture students there. They achieved their goal and the Chelsea Arts Ball grew to be extravagant affairs with a hundred performers, lavish decor and thousands of participants who partied until dawn when breakfast was served. It was, according the the Chelsea Arts Club website, the centerpiece of London society. I will also credit them with providing the quote, The mere mention of the Chelsea Arts Ball would make the debutante blush and the dowager blench. Lady Muriel Beckwith, 1936. It leaves me with questions about the participants – had the ball left its roots among artists and become a fête only of the wealthy? Or was it an event that embraced both, high and low brow so to speak?

Felix stereocard. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Each ball was punctuated by a parade at midnight – presumably we are seeing some sort of a dry run here with a photo taken during a misty day and used for promotional purposes. There is no real indication, London weather being what it is, if this was a Mardi Gras or New Year’s version. While seemed to me that it is a New Year’s version, no hint of spring in this photo, research shows that this ball was held on February 8 of 1922 – still very cold, and a bit early for Mardi Gras. Very chilly for those short dresses! Somehow the gray mistiness of it adds to the appeal and creates the right atmosphere in this photo.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

And oh what a photo is it is! A giant paper-mâché Felix with a distinctly worried look (hands behind his back in the Felix Thinking Position) hovers over this bevy of women in short white dresses – it is hard to see their masks but I believe they are little birds; I think I see beaks! They are cute little white fluffy skirts however, with ruffles and a bow. As noted, they are not warmly dressed. The dancers are being herded by Felix costume clad men. These gents are also in charge of Felix’s movement and he is balanced (precariously?) on a sort of dolly. Felix appears to have three of these escorts. A few folks are onlookers, as they are largely men and hard to see them clearly.

The real scoop here is that film exists of the pre-ball parade shown on this card. It can be found on the British Pathe website. However a superior and decidedly longer version exists on Youtube and can be found here or below. This one goes on to show the assembled costumed performers and even some of the individual wild costumes that could be found. The Felix men and white dressed women join hands and dance around Felix in a delightful fashion!

An interesting and somewhat moving account of the party given to celebrate the end of WWI, also found on the Chelsea Arts Club site, describes it as the most famous one, held on March 12, 1919. It used the concept of Dazzle, the Navy camouflage process which owed its roots to Cubism and Vorticists. (Okay, I had to look that up – Vorticistism was a brief industrial influenced abstract art movement of the pre-War teens in Britain – one of my facts for the day!) Dazzle is described as a visible expression of jazz syncopation. Here they were in 1922, a few short years later, wondering what the next hundred years would bring.

Another photo related to the ball, from the Royal Albert Hall website.

Felix Sings Love Songs

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s postcard post begins with the last in a recent buy of postcards, which is only wave one as more are on the way. While I do not collect deeply in this illustrated postcard series produced in Great Britain, once in awhile one appeals and I grab it up if it isn’t too expensive. I have written about them once or twice before and one of those posts can be found here. Meanwhile, although the card I share today was evidently sanctioned and copyrighted, they produced the line below was perhaps rogue.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

As far as I can find these cards are referred to as the Milton Series and/or Bamforth cards. Milton series, although part of a handful of auction listings, doesn’t bring much info on Google, but Bamforth was a company started in 1870 by a portrait photographer, James Bamforth, in Holmfirth, West Yorkshire. They morphed first into lantern slides and ultimately into early short films with a character named Winky as their best known. However, Bamforth is now best known for an almost endless line of saucy seaside cards in the words of Wikipedia. This card #4924 for those who knows what that means and the only copyright on the card is for Pat Sullivan.

Not part of the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This card was mailed and the Great Yarmouth cancellation is hard to read, but I believe it is for 11 AM on an illegible day in 1928. The inscription in pencil says, Dear Hilda, Having fine time and weather Frank. It was mailed to Miss H. Chiletsworth, c/o Mrs. Harrison, 38 DeLaune Street, Kennington, London.

A lousy swipe from Google Maps, but I always check addresses and this is a rare occasion when the house is likely still the one the card was addressed and mailed to.

Felix is looking with sincerity at the viewer as he serenades us with his tune of nine lives. Sadly the title of the songbook is incomplete clutched in his hand, but I like the sort of watercolor wash coloring the fence and especially his toothy grin, pointy ears and whiskers. He is a jolly Felix songster.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While researching the origin of cat’s having nine lives I found this nifty reference to Shakespeare, from Romeo and Juliet, A cat has nine lives. For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays. Also in Romeo and Juliet, in Act 3 Scene 1, Tybalt asks, What wouldst thou have with me? and Mercutio replies, Good king of cats, nothing but one of your nine lives.

The site also suggests that the idea of nine lives goes back to the Egyptians and something about the sun god Ra taking the form of the Great Tom Cat during his visit to the underworld, engendered eight other gods and hence 9 lives in one. (See the Litter-Robot.com blog site for references! Also a plea to my brother Edward to supply any detail of interest here as this is his area of expertise.) They also outline that some cultures have different numbers of lives they suggest – such as seven in Spanish speaking cultures and six in Arabic legend.

Of course nine lives could also refer to reincarnation. I have just turned to Kim to be reminded if there was a cat reincarnation story in his most recent book, Reincarnation Stories. (Ah yes, I am a good wife and I have written about it here and here.) There is not, but I will say, there is one starting to scratch at my brain so hold that thought and see if maybe that is part of a future Kim Deitch project.

Scooting Along

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix postcard came via the same source as yesterday’s – and I hope there will be more to come from this recent Felix El Dorado. I will report on that aspect when I know a bit more, but for now another interesting card.

This postcard appears to have been blackened by hand and probably traced from a master source. This is clear from looking closely at the brushy and uneven application of the ink and the ghost of a pencil line or two. The precise origin of this series (other than it appears to be British) is also a mystery and I have written about them before and own a few others. (The posts about the earlier drawn cards can be found here and here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While at first it seemed somewhat improbably that postcards were being produced this way, consider the handmade origin of some of my treasured stuffed Felix toys. I once wrote a post on how many were produced by hand on the East End of London in a project to employ indigent women. (That post can be found here.) It helps to remember that postcards were the email of the early 20th century, mail delivery twice a day, and were used to make dates and for simple greetings and communications.

People here and in Britain must have kept well supplied to drop a note to this friend or that. Many of my cat photo postcards contain simple messages about having arrived safely at a location, missing family or reporting a visit with a friend or family. So while it still seems rather remarkable, this operation of hand production is the explanation I have settled on.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This card sports a Felix-y message, How I am coming in a fortnight’s time Ethel, PS not with a tail, Fred’ll keep that. It is addressed to Z. Honeysett, Woodview, Silverdale Road, Eastbourne. However, it is worth noting that there is no stamp or postmark, so perhaps this was included in a larger missive or package. The card has two pin holes from where it did time tacked up somewhere.

Meanwhile, Felix is zooming on his scooter which could fairly be said was one of his preferred methods of transportation. Here his tail is sort of ballast – that tail which fans of the cartoon know could come off and be used for many purposes. The tail is special indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. My version of the upright kitty toy I use as my avatar for this site.

Here in the pandemic period of the 21st century, I have adopted an image of Felix as my Zoom and social media avatar. He has graced my Instagram and Twitter accounts, although Pictorama has a sporty wind-up cat of less distinction which I did had not acquired when I started the blog. (Pleased to say that I am now happily in possession of this item and featured him above. He was given a post which can be read here.) I do not own the zippy version of Felix on a scooter that I use – it is a rather rarefied Italian (I think) variation that I have only seen for sale a few times and at unattainable prices. I have a somewhat non-functional version that charms me by sitting on the shelf nonetheless.

My somewhat broken down version of the scooter Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It should be noted, however, that the version that my avatar version wears has very zooty polka dot trousers and enjoys a spring for a tail. This does make him very desirable in my opinion and I find his off-model face rather charming as well. (I wonder what it says on his tummy?)

(Sadly) not in my collection.

When Zoom came into our lives abruptly in March of 2020 I replaced the generic “snowman” with Felix figuring I would give everyone a giggle. It did although some folks didn’t seem to know Felix or at least recognize him. Strangely you do become identified with your avatar quickly and it was almost surprising when someone new on a call would ask about him. (Having said that, I actually try to do at least part of my meetings, especially with colleagues, on camera to humanize the activity somewhat.)

After my Memorial Day fall my face was swollen and bruised and I decided to spare everyone and myself the sight of me on camera for a bit. During this time I received a request to change my avatar for a work related event where I had declined to go on camera and I switched to a photo taken a few years ago when I started my job at Jazz at Lincoln Center. I have yet to change it back again, although it is my plan because looking at this slightly earlier version of myself doesn’t suit my mindset after 15 months of working at home. Perhaps the little upright cat deserves some air time, although somehow the idea of zipping along as Felix has special appeal.

Felix and the Seashore

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I always like to say it is an especially wonderful day when one of these photo postcards finds its way home to the Pictorama collection! Long time readers know that my nascent collection of these photos inspired this blog as an activity while bed bound after foot surgery many years ago. I added toys from my collection and it grew like topsy from there. Still, nothing makes my pulse race like coming across one of these – by their very nature each is different of course. I am like a kid about these and I believe passionately that I should, quite simply, own all of them. (There are obviously many earlier posts about these. A couple can be seen here and here.) Woe be to the person who tries to get in my way!

That these cards exist at all is a sort of a miracle. On beaches across the United Kingdom and a handful of places in New Zealand and Australia, folks paid to pose with Felix dolls ranging from just large to that of a good size child. Somehow here in the United States, his place of origin, it never caught on and so it is the world of the internet that allowed me to amass my collection. They were however routinely saved as photo souvenirs. Most, like this one, were never mailed and remain more pristine as a result.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection
Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

This particular card features these two women who are wonderfully fashionable. My internet friends, especially those in Britain who deal in vintage clothing, can probably date this pretty accurately from what they are wearing, but the late twenties or early thirties I would think. (Any thoughts wassailantiques.com?) I love that women would be dressed so nicely for a day of seaside enjoyment and it makes me think of boardwalks, cool drinks and salt air – cotton candy and saltwater taffy – and most of all my beach-y childhood. I always sort of like that in these photos people generally stomp around on the sand without worry for their shoes or clothes – men in suits, women in lovely cotton or linen dresses.

Collection of Pams-Pictorama.com

Part of one of those comfy beach chairs can be seen to one side and somehow they are perfectly designed for reading a book and napping. I always used to fall asleep at the beach, stretched out face down on a towel. Must have be the sound of the water and the warm sand. I always brought a book but usually didn’t read much. Can’t say the number of times I woke to find that I had parked myself too close to the water and suddenly the rising tide found its way to me and my possessions which were suddenly floating around me. The beach has always immediately relaxed me and I think my attachment to walking by the East River daily gives me a bit of that these days.

The East River on a recent morning.

This Felix is among the smaller, but not smallest of those who worked this beat. The women have gotten into the spirit of the photo, throwing their arms around his shoulders like an old friend. Felix has a natty bow and one leg off to the side gives him a sense of animation. He too is enjoying his role center stage.

The bobbed hair of these young women is another indicator of the years this image falls within. They feel very up to the moment for the fashion of the day, visibly pleased with the knowledge that they look good. The photographer has captured them nicely. With their ascending order of heads, they (along with Felix) form a good composition in the middle of the picture – Felix has one errant ear up which adds to his always roguish charm. The people in the background are all blurred, but they also add to the festive sense of the day in their different beach and swim garb. There are folks wading and swimming and it is a busy and glorious day. I think I would dearly love to join them.

More Mainzer

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s postcard post is devoted to the heir to the Louis Wain wacky anthropomorphic cat throne, Eugen Hartung. Hartung is sort of the Otto Messmer of cat postcards. Hartung is a Swiss artist (1897-1973) whose career blossomed in the United States after WWII somehow became know by his publisher’s name, Alfred Mainzer. Was it post-war anti-German sentiment? Was it conscious like Pat Sullivan and Otto Messmer, or did it happen of it’s own accord? For whatever reason, Mainzer’s name is the one prominent on the back of these cards it is the name I knew them by until I started digging a bit for a blog awhile back. I wrote about one of these cards I purchased back in 2019 and recounted some of this history. (That post can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Much to my surprise, two handfuls of these cards found their way to me back in December. After retrieving a mysterious package that had been left for you in the parlance of our doorman’s communications, I discovered that a friend who lives on the other end of 86th Street (and who I haven’t seen in person given our pandemic times) had dropped off a packet of these cards for me. Evidently she had found them years ago when cleaning out her parent’s house and put them aside for me. In a recent apartment renovation she discovered them again and brought them over. When I emailed my thanks she said that she remembered thinking when she found them that I was the right home for them and she was glad she had finally united them with me.

Oddly enough though within the month, another handful of these cards showed up in a Christmas card for Kim. I want to say it was either Rick Altergott or Evan Dent who sent them along. I apologize for this slip of mind and not remembering better. I was struck by how odd it was that two bunches of these cards should find their way to me at the same time. If you’re reading please raise your hand so I can correct this and thank you properly!

These cards were still widely available when I was a little kid and I always liked them – purchasing them when I could although those particular ones are long disappeared. They have a texture to the paper, that I remember with tactile memory, and the deckle edge lives in memory too, somehow rooted in the 1960’s in my mind. It turns out that, on the other side of the country, a young adult Kim Deitch was purchasing them in Berkeley. All great minds think alike it seems. Little did either of us know that decades later Deitch Studio and Pam’s Pictorama would unite to be the blissful cat laden bower that it is today.

I have long wondered why, although extremely popular, Hartung’s cat cards have never risen to the level of Louis Wain. (I have written several times about the cat artist genius and some of those posts can be found here, here and here just for starters.) I think in part, although plenty chaotic and wacky, they lack the underlying maniacal frenzy of the Wain universe. They are beautifully choreographed compositions and there is a prettiness that Wain’s drawings don’t have. As Louis Wain himself began to descend into mental illness, the drawings had an increasing edge to them – until of course they become almost entirely abstract. At least this is my theory. Even at their most frenzied they are a bit polite and well bred in a way that Wain isn’t.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

I give you a selection of a two of my favorites out of the group, more to come. This Western scene above – a cat cowboy evidently breaking a bucking bronco goat – was a evidently a much beloved one. It has multiple push pin holes in the top edge where someone kept it on view. (None of these cards in either bunch were ever mailed.) A girl cat is using a home movie camera (circa the 1950’s or ’60’s) to film the action and she’s right in the midst of it, tail politely poking out beneath a short skirt. In the top right, one cowboy pushes another off his perch on the rails and a Siamese cat is amongst them for diversity. I once owned an Annie Oakley jacket like the one worn by the fleeing fellow in the lower right – was my favorite jacket for years and I wore it until it fell to pieces.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The next one is this family scene of kitty chaos. I think it is very funny that these cats are dog owners and it is the dogs that are causing today’s troubles. The cats are exceedingly genteel and the cafe scene is decidedly European. The spilled drinks appear to be hot chocolate (the children were drinking it) and the waiter’s spilling tray is full of petit fours. (The one young fellow, strategically under the tray, is preparing to snatch them up as they fall.)

Comically, two birds watch the action from the lower right – none of these well-bred felines pays them any mind. The cats are civilized and all the others are playing their animal roles. This card is heavily faded along the very top edge, but only a persnickety collector would have issue with this. It too has many pin prick holes, top and bottom, from being on view somewhere.

I end today by saying I would expect that at least a few more of these will find their way to the pages of Pictorama so cat card lovers stay tuned.