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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Sometimes I believe I manage to score certain postcards because they are hard to actually see on eBay. Then I realize, alas, that maybe I am the only person who actually thinks this is incredibly cool! Nonetheless, for that handful of you who share my aesthetic ecstasy over smiling black cat advertising, I present this gem today. I have announced my deep affection for the fine advertisings of Black Cat Hosiery in a prior recent post, Time Out for Our Sponsor, and also Black Cat Town. Pictorama readers know that this company adopted the grinning black kitty as their visual moniker.

In today’s card, they seem to be executing an advertising campaign which was the early 20th century version of stadium advertising – although this would be in some sort of theater. My guess is a vaudeville theater and these folks seem to be peering over a box seat balcony or loge of sorts. Oddly, a sad looking vase of flowers is perched in the lower right. It is a hoot that the words of this sign appear to be made up of actual socks and hose – if you look carefully tags punctuate the letters. They have pasted up a bunch of their great black cat signage of various sizes – it is very homemade, if charming, indeed. Lastly, I do wonder – a theater where they were selling socks and hose somewhere? Were they supplying the can-can dancers with their run resistant stockings in early product placement?

In a neat script on the back a little ditty carefully penned reads as follows: This picture isn’t very good/But “By the By,” perchance I should/In justice to the artist add/The subject to were pretty bad. There’s evidence that it spent time in a photo album, but was never mailed. I am not sure why, but I feel like it was written by the man in the middle of the group. I put on my photographer’s hat for a moment, and also opine that in all fairness the light had to have been quite low, inside a theater, for taking a photo with the equipment of the day. (A tip ‘o the hat to Kim for darkening this before I presented it.) Therefore, this jolly group should probably be pleased with the results they managed to achieve. For my part, I am of course, quite glad that the photographer did not sacrifice any of this splendid sign in his or her attempt to record the night out enjoyed by these folks.

By way of enticement and illustration, I offer a full color photo of my small Black Cat Hosiery advertising, featured in Time Out for Our Sponsor as mentioned above.

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Featured in Pams-Pictorama.com post, Time Out From Our Sponsor.

 

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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

 

 

Time Out for Our Sponsor

Pam’s Pictorama Post: We all know it – cats sell! Here are two classic examples. I fell hard for the Black Cat Hosiery cat early on in my collecting days. He’s popular and the large free-standing displays go for big money. This was an early acquisition for my collection and he sits framed on a wall over my desk at home. He has a stand tucked behind him that makes him free-standing as well. Sadly over time the company moved to just a black cat logo – nowhere near as compelling as this fine feline. Our cat Blackie bears an extraordinary resemblance to this fellow, despite have a white spot or two that would show in this pose. Blackie is among the few cats I have known who has a distinct smile. Perhaps because he is so black around his mouth you can see it clearly – when cats smile they show their fangs though. Some people may not think it is the friendliest of looks – but we know he means well.

Hoffmann's ad

I have paired our hosiery friend with this serious German chap advertising, of all things, rice. It seems to translate as Hoffmann’s Rice, Starch with the cat. I gather starchy rice was viewed as a good thing under the circumstances – I wonder if there’s a word pun that translation isn’t sharing with us? As far as I can tell this rice company eventually morphed into one that still exists internationally today, but I am not entirely positive about that link. Meanwhile, this little piece of advertising is especially pleasing – as a result they are fairly ubiquitous it seems. People kept them. You can probably see that he too is meant to be freestanding by moving his feet forward. I bought this particular card at a flea market in Berlin around ’07 – they were inexpensive and plentiful there. He is a classic bit of advertising and it is easy to see why both of these were beloved and survive in large numbers even today.