Black Cat Town

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: You can imagine my happiness at finding this little gem, while searching for tax documents, tucked away in our flat files a few weeks ago, Doin’s and Styles In Black Cat Town. Have to love that! I remember buying it (I believe I paid up for this one), but a long time ago. While it isn’t terribly fragile, it is hard to display and so I tucked it away until now. I have given you select highlights above, not the entire booklet. While the ribald and wonderful early Black Cat Hosiery advertising items are extant and sought after today, much to my surprise it was not so easy to find a history or timeline of the company online.

What follows is what I have pieced together. However we here at Pictorama are prepared to stand corrected by the more knowledgable of you out there in Readership Land. It appears that the Black Cat Hosiery Company of Chicago-Kenosha, Wisconsin was founded in the 1897 by Samuel T. Cooper. (He’s interesting enough in appearance that I have snatched up and included his photo below as well.) Its black cat icon became an immediate favorite. (See my version of the stand alone cat advertising at bottom – this item was previously featured in the post found here – Time Out for Our Sponsor.) It was beloved and exploited to maximum effect, such as this 1906 booklet. I believe the use of it, to a greater or lesser degree, continued at least into the 1920’s, although I could not find any confirmation of that. In addition, if I understand correctly, this company started manufacturing underwear (union suits) in 1901 under the name White Cat. Their white kitty mascot never caught on or became as fleshed out as the toothy and wonderful black kitty fellow. I show White Kitty and Mr. Cooper below. Ultimately, the company eventually evolves into Jockey underwear of today.

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White Cat Union Suit advertising, not in Pictorama collection

Samuel T. Cooper

Samuel T. Cooper

 

Our amazing little booklet has credits for both author, E. Brate Rogers, and artist, Frank Swick. A search on Mr. Rogers turns up a fairly entertaining letter he wrote to a trade journal called The Inland Printer in 1902, where he complains about copywriting correspondence courses – how these rogues cannot even put together a sentence and want to charge $30 to teach people how to copy write. As per this letter, Mr. Rogers outlines how he was well experienced writing about socks, hose and other mercantile endeavors, and therefore was already vastly experienced when he penned the verses for this booklet in 1906. Meanwhile, Swick seems to have been a popular illustrator of the day churning out work for magazines like Collier’s, posters, prints and advertising work such as this. I don’t know if he is responsible for the iconic smiling Black Cat or/and the more straightforward White Cat, but he does not stint on his illustrations and goes to town here, as does Mr. Rogers. This booklet was designed to go straight to the consumer and the back pages assure, If your dealer does not handle ‘Black Cat’ Hosiery, note the styles and following prices, and send to us with price, stating style and sizes desired, and we will forward them free of charge. (An early free shipping campaign.)

The entire booklet is written in verse and closes with, Mothers dear, just lend an ear – Stockings, none to mend! Black Cat Brand the games withstand, When children tear and rend. Peep! Peep! Fast asleep: Stockings right in sight: ‘Bless my soul! Not a hole!’ Ho-o, um!…good folks…Good night! I especially love the back cover, shown at top, with a photo of the factory (too small to see if it is decorated with black cats – I assume it must be!) and best of all, this photo of one of Blackie’s ancestors, curled up in front!

 

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Black Cat Hosiery Display card, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

 

Isle of Man, 1924

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: When I started collecting photos of people posing with enormous Felix the Cat dolls, taken at resorts across Britain and Australia, it was the sheer boffo wackiness of their existence that enticed me. (If you are a new reader there are many of these posts as I have a fairly substantial collection and you can see a sample in these posts:  Vacation FelixAnother Aussie FelixFelix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1 for starters.) However stranger still in some ways, is the existence of photos like these, where people are posing with a lovely, large but not huge, Felix doll – about the size of one (or two or – okay, several) I own. The Isle of Man is, of course, a resort area and these appear to be vacationing folks. But even as a devotee of stuffed Felix toys (a connoisseur you might even say) exactly how and why a photographer was handing over a large Felix for folks to hold when they were having their photo taken does mystify even me a bit. I am sorry I wasn’t there to enjoy it, and it certainly speaks to Felix’s extraordinary world fame and how beloved he was at the time. Everyone wanted to memorialize that memory of hanging with Felix I guess.

In my post Felix Family Photo it is a similar case and I show the photo featured in it below as well. Another family that scooped up Felix and posed. Just seems to be something people did – not just kids posing with their toys! A family affair.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Our photos, at top, today are quite small, snap shots that barely even seem to have been taken and printed by a professional photographer except for the commercial set in the one. Poorly printed and over-exposed (I somehow imagine that the fellow taking these was tippling a bit) we are once again depending on the magic of Photoshop to improve upon them. Less than perfect though they may be, they were treasured and kept by someone, or numerous someones, for many years before coming to rest here.

It is clearly the same couple and despite the man’s disappearing cap, one assumes the same day and session. I cannot read the jaunty sign behind them on the photo set. (Almost looks like Free Weight?) It took a fair amount of study to realize that, in both photos, Felix is holding a little Felix doll! (Kim managed a detail of it from one of the photos.) Wow! Amazing! On the back of each picture, written neatly in pencil is, taken at Douglas I. of Man and additionally on one 1924. Douglas is the capital of this resort locale. This makes a fine entry into a casual examination of summer vacation photos, as I head toward my own well-earned vacation at the end of August. I can only hope that somehow it too will be Felix filled.

23 Months

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It occurs to me that my purchasing of early Mickey centric toys, which seemed an exception, has now formed a proper sub-genre in my collection – perhaps earning a whole section of their own in the imaginary book of my photo collection I edit in my mind. Recently I have added the tintype I wrote about in Riding the Big Bear and Say Cheese!, but this photo reminds me a lot more of my recent post found here – She Who Has the Most Toys Wins. That one featuring a Felix instead of a Mickey. Still, the same idea – let’s take a photo of the kid with all her toys in the yard. Heck, if I had a kid and a yard I would probably do it too.

I like my Mickeys early and this one is, and he’s also a fine, large and pristine looking example. This lucky child has not only him, but that lovely bunny, a doll she is clutching, a bike (or more likely trike) lurking to one side behind her, a large lamb-y looking toy in the front corner and even a bit of a toy carriage peering out behind that. The yard is also neat although not hugely prosperous looking, aside from the wealth of toys.

The photo here is about the same size as the original, smallish but not tiny. In addition to 23 mos written here on the front, on the back it says, 23 months She was afraid the wind would blow her hair ribbon off – I am a bit sad that for all of this we do not know her name. Clearly she was a precise child, one who cared so specifically about her hair ribbon not be blown off. I love that about her, she herself looking a bit perfectly doll-like here perched on this small table. (I myself was a messier child and my toys hard loved, I must admit.) Somehow it is easy for me to assume it was a trait of hers that didn’t change as she got older. And if she remained as tidy and careful about her toys, perhaps some of those pristine items are being treasured by the likes of me today.

Rascally, Mysterious Film Still

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As has occasionally been the case in previous posts, I found this while digging through our flat files looking for something else. I barely remember purchasing it on eBay so it must have been quite awhile ago. For whatever reason it has been sitting and waiting to be rediscovered and shared with you all on Pictorama today.

In part, I may have put this aside because I have no idea exactly what film this still is from. At first glance I assumed it was one of the Little Rascals shorts, but on further reflection I am not so sure. I would love anyone with thoughts or knowledge to weigh in on this. Meanwhile, while dogs and pups ruled on those shorts, cats very rarely played a role outside of being chased by the aforementioned dogs – surely the cat was in part what made me buy this however. And not to say that this black and whiter didn’t play a key role in this film – nary a dog to be seen at the moment. Nice looking kitty though, I must say. I believe I bought this around the same time I purchased the photo in the post Flying to the Moon.

I wonder about cats in films like this. Just wandering through it seems – occasionally cued to chase or be chased, or are toted around like arm decoration. They don’t seem to distinguish themselves for the most part. Rarely does it seem you see the same one twice. I have this feeling sometimes that there were just cats running about the place and when it came time to need one for a scene they scooped a handy generic one up. I have wondered about cats in some of the early photos with models, such as the one in the post Painted Puss. As I think about it though, one could argue that the life of a photo studio cat was better than that of a film lot cat. After all they had to be pretty for their pictures to be taken. A life of greater leisure and care I imagine. Still, I think it depends though – those films lot cats probably had quite a raucous and interesting time, complete with mice, dogs, kids and kitty crew. More fun if you were the right kind of cat.

 

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Painted Puss, from Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

 

 

 

Vacation Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: No news that when I see one of these Felix tintypes I go to the extremes to acquire it. Somehow the idea that tintypes and Felix existed at the same time entertains the heck out of me – although, by any measure it was getting late in the game for tintypes. Echo Point at Katoomba in Australia, not the only location for such fabulous photo fun of the day, however the evidence many decades later appears to be that it was one of the prime locations. Recently I have proudly displayed other such acquisitions of this type in posts including Another Aussie Felix and one of unknown origin in Felix Featured on Tin. I own several others I have yet to write about.

These three women and Felix look right at home together – them in their summer garb, complete with hats. Felix relaxing like a member of the family. I especially like the jolly striped awning over them. I am guessing that this is mother and daughters – perhaps even grandmother? Some information is sadly lost in this photo as is often the case with these tintypes which seem to suffer most of all from sloppy, on location workmanship. The older woman’s face is the real victim here and the information just isn’t there if you try to drill down on it.

This photo inspires me to think a bit about vacation today however, and Kim and I have been discussing it too. As most of you know, I started a new job a few months ago so I am limited in vacation time this summer. I usually try to take two weeks in the summer and do a serious recharge of my battery. Kim, who as many of you also know, is a maniacally super charged work-aholic also looks forward to this downtime. This year I am piecing together what leave time I have acquired and am running it into Labor Day to extend it as much as I can.

I have pretty much been shot out of a gun since starting the new job – a racehorse let tearing out of the gate, seeing how much ground I can cover in this first lap. Part of me hates to break that stride, but another part knows that time off is needed too. Photos from my friend Eileen’s vacation spent at their weekend home in Vermont – featuring lovely summer fields of green and a truly enviable swimming hole – have lured me into vacation thoughts too. So I won’t begrudge myself a few halcyon days of summer to let my mind wander, eat strawberry ice cream, corn on the cob – days when I have slept late after staying up reading books. Lazing around with my husband losing track of time. This photo makes me yearn a bit for summer activities. Maybe the Fair Haven, NJ Fireman’s Fair this year? A bit of cotton candy or candy apple and a trip on a small, but thrilling ferris wheel. We’ll see. Part of vacation is all in the dreaming and planning.

 

Pile On

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photograph shows the kitten as the tiny cherry on the top of this amazing pyramid pile of canines. Google translates Chiens Savants from the French as Dog Scholars. The title cracks me up – talented they are, scholars might be pushing it a tad bit. This card was produced in France and originally mailed there. Written in neat hand at the top near the title is bons baisers, good kisses? I have provided the back of the card below and those of you who are more capable in the reading of French might be able to tell me what the handwritten notations say in addition to the address and the sender. I am unfamiliar with reading French postmarks, but I believe this was sent in 1908 to a Mademoiselle Suzanne Mériot. However I purchased this from someone in Croatia, so it had wandered a bit in its time before coming to our U.S. shores.

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Kim darkened this photo after scanning and it is much improved with increased contrast as you see it here. We spent some time this morning dunning the person who did the original printing – tired hypo, sloppy printing. As this was some sort of assembly line production perhaps it was more complicated than that. I am not sure I entirely understand how that early production work was executed for such things.

Meanwhile, in this great image the long suffering Pitbull or Pitbull mix has been taught to carry this pile of poodle, topped off by (I think) a chihuahua and that tiny kitten! (Kim initially put in an oar saying he thought that was a baby bear rather than a chihuahua – I can see where he was going with that, another circus animal, but doesn’t look fluffy enough for me.) I like the beagle who is just parked under the larger dog – good fellow! Everyone is wearing a more or less stalwart expression with the exception of the poodle who, frankly, looks anxious. I don’t blame him, in some ways I think he has the most delicate of the balancing act presented. Fair to say the kitten looks mildly irritated in a general annoyed cat way. I believe I have confessed in Pictorama posts more than once (see Dashington’s and Mad Jenny posts) that as a small child I would play circus animal games with my cat, Snoopy, and dog, Duchess (a German Shepard) and could convince them to stay still for about a single second in such a pose! I wonder what it is about human nature that makes us want to pile animals on one another? I think I have outgrown it, but then again, I do not have a nice big dog to try Cookie and Blackie with.

 

Can You, Canoe?

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Truth in advertising, this photo looks much better here than it does in person thanks to Kim’s Photoshop enabling. However, in all fairness to me, this is closer to what it looked like when advertised on eBay. I assumed that this was a photo postcard and was shocked when it arrived to find that it is about three times as large, poorly and sloppily printed. It almost looks like an early, primitive (and ham handed) reprint process.

Judging from the clothes it is from the teens – those early swimsuits, stockings and shoes were what attracted me to this image to begin with. Instead of seeming onerous, as those outfits sometimes do when associated with sand and water, these togs seem sort of fitting for a day on the water canoeing. I like the bits of decoration on them – the bow on one, the white piping on the other. The dark haired girl has such a sweet face! The one who scooped up the kitten looks a bit accusatory, glaring at the camera. It is a pretty, tiny kit, just about to enter the gawky adolescent stage of cat. She or he looks all white but that might be an illusion of the sepia toned film. The state of the grass and the scattered leaves makes me wonder if it is perhaps early fall instead of summer as I originally assumed.

There is a gracious looking porch behind them and even though everything is out of focus beyond the canoe, it is an inviting yard – some place I wouldn’t mind spending part of the summer I think. A family camp perhaps, way upstate New York or in Maine. The canoe is a dandy too and I especially like the caned seat we can catch a glimpse of. For all my having grown up on the water I have actually never been in a canoe – only rowboats with flat bottoms. The river where I grew up was too tidal for canoes, although I did kayak in it once. My father had a kayak he would take out occasionally and he let Loren and I try it. I loved it! I have a vague memory that it freaked my other out and that is why I probably didn’t do it more. Like kayaks I imagine that canoes roll over and dump you out fairly easily.

While rowing seems somewhat self-evident, you only need to watch a bunch of inexperienced rowers in Central Park to realize that there are a few tricks to it. For one thing I can’t tell you how many people attempt to row backward, pointing the square back of the boat forward and making it quite hard for themselves. There is also the matter of pulling the oars either together or in coordinated even strokes, or you will go in circles – which leads us to turning. Lots of those park rowboats are constantly sideswiping each other – occasionally plowing right into one another because they have not considered steering. I like rowing and given the opportunity I think I would do it often. (I have tried it at the gym, but generally find it static and less enjoyable.)

Our rowboat was kept tied to a floating dock and was really there for the primary purpose of getting out to our sailboat which was moored a few hundred feet out, where the it was close to the channel and the water was usually deep enough for it. Once in a blue moon Loren and I would just take the rowboat out – I suspect (but don’t remember specifically) against my mother’s objections. One of our chores was to bail out the rowboat after it rained. This was a messy, mosquito-ridden task which was executed with 2/3 of a plastic milk jug if I remember correctly. We hated it and would always fight over doing it, although my memory is that, perhaps as a result, we usually ended up doing it together.

There was one of those days when I guess we had been fighting over it – although maybe not especially because sometimes Loren could just be unexpectedly devilish too. While I was in the boat bailing and she was still on the dock, she untied it. Off I quickly drifted – without any oars! Loren, being a very strong swimmer and realizing there was no choice, ultimately jumped in and swam back with me in tow before the tide took me too far out. Nonetheless, it lived on in family lore and I would trot it out as proof of her older sisterly abuse, as one’s younger sibling will.