Lucky Kitty and the Sea Shells

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This postcard comes from Great Britain, but the location is unidentified. It was never sent and there is nothing written on it. I am on the fence about whether this was a mass produced postcard or something small scale, even singular. (Kim speculates even printed; we aren’t sure.) This shell garden may have been something of a local tourist destination, and perhaps they produced these cards – or maybe a lucky one off.

When I look at something like this garden I wonder how it all started. Was there a basket of shells, an abundant collection, which inspired someone to start affixing them, perhaps to a planter at first? Plunk a few on every Sunday until this is what the yard looks like? Or was the whole thing envisioned of a piece? While I suspect that the first is the most likely, I prefer to think that someone had a grand vision, started collecting shells and got to it. A living seashell mosaic. The kitty looks to be a lovely fellow and the seashells have a luminous quality. This card sends me day dreaming into thoughts of being tucked away in this garden.

Of course the handsome black cat makes the photo for me, although it does suffer from being poorly lit – we don’t even see glowing eyes or whiskers. Historically the British seem take a kindly attitude toward black cats, although admittedly I don’t know their feelings today. Therefore I do not think his or her presence was at all perceived of as unlucky – in fact they seem to take promote the idea that black cats are lucky. I have been reading a lot online lately about how people don’t adopt black cats because of the superstition. I think of the joys of living with our almost black kitty, aptly named Blackie, and I am stunned that someone might deprive themselves of living with such a great little guy. However, we did once have a cat sitter who wanted to see the white spot on his chest. She was sort of joking…and not.

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Jean Arthur and Her Lucky Black Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photograph was one of those mercurial finds online. I stumbled on it and snatched it up immediately. When it arrived and I was stunned to find that it is in almost pristine condition. Written in pencil (twice) on the back is Jean Arthur, the Culver Photo Research Service logo (a snappy one with their address and phone is a part of it phone VAnderbilt 3-337251 E 42nd St NYC). In addition it is stamped, Reproduction of this PHOTOGRAPH must carry our credit line. This picture is loaned for one reproduction only and must not be sold, loaned or syndicated. Must not be used for advertising without written permission. It also bears the inscription, Permission is hereby granted for use of this photograph in Magazines and News papers. Credit to PARAMOUNT PICTURES will be appreciated. Photograph by Gene Robert Richee.

Kim has calculated this photo for about 1924-25. In a book he has a photo of Jean in ’25 with her hair bobbed however so this is presumably earlier than that photo. We cannot actually find her linked to a Paramount film in that timeframe so if you all have information let us know. Of course for me this splendid black cat on her lap is what makes the photo. A charming Jean is instructing stuffed kitty in the ways of the radio microphone. He seems like a sprightly fellow with this nice big bow. Although there was a popular Stieff model of this sort at the time, I don’t believe that is his pedigree.

Eugene Robert (E.R.) Richee (1896-1972) was a Paramount portrait photographer although online references disagree on the years he was there. (One states he worked there from 1925-1935 which would date this photo better, but another states that he started there in the late teens.) He is best known and most closely associated with well recognized photos of Marlene Dietrich and Louise Brooks, among others. He moved to Warner Brothers and worked there and for MGM later. Jean is listed among the stars he photographed at Warner Brothers as well. Some stars demanded him for their photos and one site quoted that Miriam Hopkins was being difficult from the moment she arrived, because Richee was not there. His style seems to morph from this sort of studio shot to silvered exquisiteness that epitomize a certain kind of early 20th century retouched perfection in photographs. I prefer the slightly kooky and offbeat charm of these earlier efforts.

As mentioned, Jean’s kitty appears to be of what I think of as a generic good luck black cat type, as opposed let’s say to a nice Felix, or even an Aesop Fable doll (see my post of Jane Withers in Van Bueren’s Aesop Fables – the Toys! ) which I am always on the prowl for. These black cats proliferated in the early 20th century, as did other “lucky” black cat items. (A whole lot of those are on display in my post Lucky Black Cat among others.) This toy is strikingly similar to the one held by the little girl in my post Altar of the Black Kitty and as a toy collector, of course I must add that I wouldn’t mind having such a nice fellow in the Pictorama collection, fluffy tail and all, sometime soon. I share a photo of an early favorite from my collection from another post, which I believe hails from the same general family, yet a bit different.

black cat w/ bow

 

 

Playing the Black Cat Game

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A peak inside the box. Black Cat Fortune Telling Game, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I know it is hard to believe, but I warned you! The huge holiday haul continues today with this late entry purchased days before Christmas, but arriving to Deitch Studio with time to spare. How appropriate for one of the first post of the New Year to be this black cat fortune telling game. Kim found this one on eBay and he snatched it up for me. I have always wanted one of these – devoted readers may remember that I have some of the stray cards which I wrote about previously in the post It’s in the Cards, so I will not spend a lot of time on the history of the game (created by Parker Bros. in 1897), but I will say that I am enjoying having the full set along with the (somewhat complex and confusing) instructions. Oh the joys of having my fortune foretold by this series of black kitties! I have chosen the one card image that was missing from my prior post The Present a nicely beribboned black kitty with mouse catching kitten. I do think it might seem like a somewhat foreboding image (especially if you are a rodent) to represent as The Present.

 

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On the back of each card is a long list of phrases or sentence fragments which I gather you mix and match together with the other cards as you lay them down. They include such phrases as Manners don’t pay the Tailor’s bill and mystically, In the glass whenever opportunity permitted. My personal favorite and most likely to apply to yours truly, Your stubbornness is offending many whom…” Since childhood I have been known for my stubbornness – a family trait I might note I feel I definitely come by honestly. Over time I have tried to learn to not so much deny it, but to mitigate the effects by applying it where it will do the most good. As I dig my heels into making my new job work I have had occasion to reflect on that often.

There is no time better than the beginning of a New Year to take stock of oneself, and this year I am reflecting on the first months of my new job. At the dawn of 2017 my job was not even a twinkle in my eye yet, something I was reminded of constantly in December, first as I traveled with the band (something I really couldn’t have imagined twelve months ago), and then as I finished the calendar year, always a busy time in fundraising. At the Met the final few weeks of the year were often busy to the point of being harrowing, and I would end the holidays and start the New Year a frazzled wreck. For better or worse, the incoming gifts this year never reached nearly the fever pitch, nor the complexity that they did at the Met.

This has left time for some reflection as well as a sense of tooling up for the next leg of this adventure. I knew that there were challenges when I took this job – and solving those problems were (and remain) of interest to me. I have been acquiring a sizable bag of fundraising tricks over the years and applying them to a new set of problems is an interesting challenge. Challenges, of course, are more fun when they are an intellectual exercise than when they are a reality and I have spent my share of nights awake at 3 AM running through the Jazz at Lincoln Center contributed income to date through a back of the envelope calculation in my head. And like a mom with many mouths to feed and feet to shod, I worry about how to make all the ends meet by June 30 fiscal year end.

That aside, there is the larger question of exactly how I raise money for this endeavor. I share below a snippet that I wrote in early December while freezing on a bus somewhere north of Atlanta and on our way to Chapel Hill:

I have written about how I got to be the Vice President for Development at Jazz at Lincoln Center (if you are just tuning into Pictorama that can be found at Leaving the Met) but even that does not fully explain why I am on this bus, far from home, eating vending machine junk food.

I guess what I am really writing about today is how I do my job. Like anything else, there are any number of ways to raise money, areas of specialty, different approaches. After almost 30 years of raising money for The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the question of how I will approach this new gig lingers, but for me it all starts with falling in love. This was easy at the Met. I had been in love with it since childhood. After 30 years my approach was more than just a well oiled machine, it was embedded in me. The Met was family – a part of me and fundraising flowed from that naturally.

Having started to ignite my own love affair with this new endeavor, the hard question is how to deliver my experience to others. How to introduce my audience not only to the music and an extraordinary array of educational programs, but the commitment, charm, and ideals – in short, how do I make the magic happen on command when needed? How do I share the love?

Full disclosure, I am writing this on New Year’s Eve, anticipating a trip I need to make next weekend which will cramp my blog posting time, so my mind is much on the turning of the year and the year past. Yesterday was the anniversary of our friend Rich Conaty’s death (memorial post to him at Rich Conaty) and somehow I always think of him when I think of my new job, and the decision to take it, given that he did so much to introduce me to jazz and the early dance band music I love. So as 2018 and the fortune (as told by the black cat cards or not) of the future lays out before me this, is what I am thinking about, and in part I suspect I will depend on that well documented stubbornness to help me succeed.

 

 

 

Brought to you by…

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.

 

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

 

 

Catting Around

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While I am mostly known about the house as a rather superb sleeper (Kim says if it was a competitive event I would medal, maybe even take gold) recently I have been having some insomnia which for me takes the form of wakefulness from the hours of approximately 2:30-4:00 each night. However, unlike the gentlemen in this photo, I can’t blame it on the kitties. Generally speaking, I find them snoring gently at my feet when I wake. I occasionally nudge Blackie awake to have a conversation and some pets – I figure that keeping me company is one of their cat jobs. I guess he regrets not reading the fine print on his cat contract as he is usually anxious to get back to his Zzzz’s.

I had to look closely to find the black cats perched on and out the window in this odd scenario. I am not sure why the sign over the bed reads, Music hath charms to soothe the savage beast – referring perhaps to the kitty accompaniment responsible for their wakefulness? This reminds me of one of my favorite purchases and posts in recent years to be found at Kitty Sextette Singers – a kitty orchestra on a fence with a doggie audience. Noisy cats on a back fence make up an almost infinite string of cat cartoons, from Felix to Terry Tunes.

This photo postcard seems to belong to a bizarre sub-strata which I have tapped into lately of strange photo cards. It reminds me a bit of the recent photo and post Cat of the Sea? in that it appears to come from something other than just the origin of postcard photo. This one looks like it might be a still from a silent film, although that seems unlikely really. Perhaps a series of cards?

This card was mailed and has a postmark date of October 21, 1918. It appears to have been mailed in Scotland to Miss Smith, Seabourne, Broughty Ferry, Scotland. The pencil scrawled message on the back is a bit inane and what I can make out reads, Just a PC to let you know that I got your let allright (sic) Well I have not got a chance to write you but don’t send any word here till I write you as I am going to leave here and will send a PC at the end of the week. This is followed by a sign off and signature which goes over the message and is utterly illegible. All this to say, got your card, don’t write me – I’ll write you. Funny how rarely people write with pencil now, pens are so ubiquitously available, but they weren’t then. I am here to tell you that a message written with a blunt-tipped pencil more than 100 years ago is generally hard to read!

I have rarely, if ever, experienced first hand the kind of caterwauling this card pokes fun at – thankfully the stray cat population has been successfully reduced in a number of ways, at least in the places I have lived. However, just before I go to sleep most nights, Cookie and Blackie have a tear around our one room apartment, which generally ends in a fight and me yelling for Blackie to stop killing Cookie – right now! And then Blackie, feelings hurt and all wound up, goes and meows at the door to the apartment in a dejected fashion. I guess we have our own version of a late night kitty concerto.

 

Spirit of the Golden West

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Of course I had to have this wonderfully whacky card. The giant cat with the curling tail would be enough, but the folks in the strange wizard outfits are also bringing something to the situation. I am interested in the man in front standing with his arms crossed – he’s almost falling out of the photo frame. The old blanket on the horse and the get up of the rider sets the tone too – and June or not, Portland is still looking a tad chilly and I am not seeing a lot of roses.

In the early days of this blog I opined several times on the evident greatness of early photos of Portland, Oregon as well represented in my collection. Among these Felix on Parade figured prominently, but Tom the Fire Boat Cat is a contender too.

However, it was researching this really splendid new card that I began to find out about the Portland Rose parade and the history of the parade and the roses. Evidently the parade started in 1905 when the mayor, Harry Lane, got the idea for a parade honoring Portland as The Rose City at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition – the first was held in 1907 and the parade, which was always held in June signaled the beginning of summer. Below is an excerpt from a website about the Rosarians which talks about the 1909 parade:

1909-In June, at high Noon, Rex Oregonus again coming up the majestic Willamette River from the greatest sea of them all, stepped ashore at the Stark Street wharf, masked and mantled in mystery, this time without a Queen. Great crowds of happy and enthusiastic people greeted his arrival. An epochal crowd, estimated by the press at 150,000, saw the stately floats glide by, among them the Queen of the Nile, the Palace of Perfume, King of the Artics, Fountain of Youth, Queen of the Flowers, and Father Time. The festival’s floats achieved national fame for beauty and cleverness of design. (See more at: The Royal Rosarians – The Early Years)

Roses aside – what about the use of black cats in the festival? In my post Cats on Parade I feature a card from this parade that is a bit a bit later than this one from 1909. That one seemed to be from about 1915 and in that image the black cats were riding in the car! Today’s card may provide a clue. Written on the back in a very neat hand is the following: Dear Mary – This is a floral representing the Fraternal Order of Hoo-Hoos, whose symbol is a black cat. Yours with best wishes, Tom (It was not mailed.)

This leads, obviously, to the question of who the Hoo-Hoos are and what’s with the black cat? The International Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo (according to Wikipedia) was founded in 1892 as young men’s fraternal organization for those associated (at least broadly) with the lumber industry, or forestry. (Men only – 21 or older originally. Now you can be 18 or older – I am fuzzy on the admission of women.) Their symbol is a black cat with the tail curled into a #9. Sadly, the story behind the cat remains shrouded in the mystery of the Hoo-Hoos. I have, however, supplied a copy of their symbol below – and even better, an early photo of the Seattle lodge with, yes, if you look carefully, a pair of black cats guarding the door!

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