Pam’s Pictorama Post: After a long hectic week I take refuge in toy talk today. When I rolled out bed this morning and walked to a shelf of toys and took this fellow out Kim looked at me inquiringly and said, “Somehow you’ve never written about that particular Felix?” I have not. He arrived at a very busy time around my birthday and just the other day I thought about him, went looking for him and realized that I had unpacked him and tucked him on a shelf without serious consideration.
It probably won’t surprise Pictorama readers to discover that I have many rather compulsive collecting habits, formed and honed over years of searching for certain toys. I receive myriad notifications about auctions and notices about toy cats for sale on various sites such as Ruby Lane which is the origin of this guy. I’m sure there are people who have more refined processes and mine requires mulling through a lot of really dreadful items before occasionally there is something worth investigating. Maybe it is the only way to do it, maybe not.
As I said, this fellow turned up on Ruby Lane whose daily listings are among the worst really, at least based on whatever search I saved there. Infuriatingly, on the rare occasion something great turns up it is generally already sold and don’t even ask me what that’s all about and why they need to tell me. Still, I give it a cursory morning glance each day. It’s like the lottery – you have to be in it to win it.
One morning in early February (while still in bed) I saw this and did a double take. He is 12 inches long (ears included) and made of a fluffy mohair which is unusual, however I have at least one other, very small and very old Felix made of a similar wool. He is, as you can see, oddly pristine making me wonder if he was somehow newly made. Yet a close look at his face pulls me in the direction of older.
This has happened to me once before, back in 2018, and I wrote about it in a post here and the toy is shown below. He is also rather pristine, but of an entirely different type. Although I thought there was also a chance he was somehow newer, he seems even less so than this fellow featured today.
He was very (relatively anyway) inexpensive so, after I had a cup of coffee and could reason a bit, I figured it was worth taking a chance. If I ended up with a weird modern reproduction of an old Felix so be it. I purchased him and he arrived on my birthday, with some other nice items since it was my birthday, and I unpacked him and placed him on the shelf until my examination today.
His head rotates, but his arms are not movable. Most notably his tail is just knitted wool whereas most Felix’s have a stiff tail for better tri-pod style standing. This Felix sports this brand new looking red bow, has shoe button type eyes and nose along with his stitched on Felix grin.
All Felix toys have an expression which helps define them and this one has a benignly slightly cross-eyed one, maybe not too bright but affable. He has long pointy ears, not unheard of in Felix design, but a tad less common. His most notable feature though is the fluffy mohair he is made of which hovers off him like a halo. As mentioned above and shown below, I have another very unusual one (featured in a 2014 post here) with fluffy mohair, but a very different design.
My final analysis is that he is old, but of somewhat mysterious origin. Much like the off-model ones hand assembled on the East End of London (one of my favorite posts about that can be found here) there is a story here about the who and the how this was made which I have yet to figure out. Please send any information you may have. Meanwhile, Pictorama is on the case and will of course share any discoveries ultimately made.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little fellow showed up recently in a package for me along with two other cat contributions as a gift from our friend cartoon artist and Zorro enthusiast Pete Poplaski. Pete stopped by to see us recently, one of the first of our traveling friends to return to visiting the beaten path here at Deitch Studio in New York City, as he makes his way on regular stops triangulating between France, Wisconsin and other locations along the Eastern seaboard. (A nice brief bio of Pete by Robert Crumb can be found here.)
Seeing him made us feel like the world was that much closer, if not exactly to our past lives, at least a version of the new world that included seeing friends again.
Pete is wonderfully comfortable to have around. He is not the sort of person I need to pick up around the apartment for and he and Kim happily and readily settle into picking up long conversations about everything from the film locations that a certain early Western was shot in, to art and philosophy. Pete and Kim have a book and film exchange that extends over the periods between Pete’s visits, but occasionally result in packages exchanged back and forth.
On his most recent visit Pete gave me a heads up that he had some cats for me (yea!) and the package showed up several weeks later. Of the three cats it contained this was the one I found the most intriguing.
For all of my toy cat searching I have not come across him previously. He reminds me very much of the Cab Calloway ghost character in the Betty Boop and Koko the Clown cartoon which features Cab singing St. James Infirmary Blues. I imagine that at one time he could be bent into various poses, but those days of pliability are gone. His back is stamped Made in China. While he certainly isn’t a straightforward Felix I would think he could be called Felix influenced.
He reminds me of a litany of toys that passed through my hands as a small child. These toys are a kissing cousin to the articulated cat above, a purchase awhile back in a large haul from my friends at Curiosities Antiques down in Texas. (I have written about them before and one of those posts can be found here and their website here.)
They have put together several cat packages for me and this fellow was in one buy. Like Pete’s gift, I am afraid to ask his aging joins to do any of the tricks my childhood self would have asked of them. However both bring back memories of long hours of contented play as a small child. Lost in a toy world of my own making and one I continue to celebrate here at Pictorama.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is always a great day at Pictorama when I get to share a new Felix and a few have arrived at our welcoming shores recently. Due to a bad case of life in general Christmas arrived a bit late at Deitch Studio this year, but that made these acquisitions no less beloved as additions to the Felix family. The collection has grown so over the years it can be a bit difficult to find toys that are distinctly different enough to add, but these are worthy additions indeed.
These Felix-es hail from Peter Woodcock, the dealer who recently sold me the simply amazing Dean’s Felix this past fall in an online British toy sale. (That post can be found here.) In late December I threw myself on Peter’s mercy to supply both Christmas and birthday (February!) gifts this year and he responded splendidly with three Felix toys, the first which is being featured today.
A friend recently told me in an email that I was the first person to ever take her into an antique store. I am not sure I was aware that it was among my accomplishments, nor do I remember the occasion, however we went to college together so I assume it was during that time. Given a reasonable proximity to antique stores or even junk stores (New London, Connecticut was more junk than antique by far), it is hard to keep me out of them so it seems distinctly possible – putting aside for the moment the question of who hasn’t been in an antique store before reaching young adulthood?
Meanwhile, I had been nattering to her about my recent affection for insect jewelry of the early years of the 20th century. (Subject matter insects, not made of insects – which yes, does seem to have been an early 20th century thing – I am more celluloid firefly than Felix depicted in butterfly wings. All about insect jewelry posts can be found here and here.) She pointed out that my aesthetic and interests had always converged on the dawning years of the 20th century.
Pictorama readers know that in recent decades that interest has been directed largely to things early Felix the Cat and perhaps most especially those items which celebrate the somewhat off-model, askew evidence of the human hand. The revelation that some such a work force on the East End of London, (made up of indigent women as a social service scheme) in the 1920’s was one of the favorite fun facts I have ever turned up in my research. (That post can be read here.)
I suspect that maybe today’s little fellow hails if not from that collective perhaps from a similar British enclave of toy production. He is the second entry of a horizontal Felix in my collection and if I have seen many more I do not remember them. Christmas of 2015 brought the first to Pictorama, shown below. A post devoted to him, for those of you who are a bit completest like me, can be found here.
Today’s featured fellow is smaller, a scant five inches or so. He is made of a plushy velveteen-y fabric. His head is (was?) somewhat swerve-able. He maintains his sparse but prickly looking plastic whiskers on both sides; his pointy ears are an ancient felt. While he has glass eyes like the one above, his have a slightly more insane expression (right?) and his black nose maintains its gleaming black. I like his sturdy tail which sticks up, almost like a fifth leg. His muzzle has also kept its mohair fluffiness.
Although Felix as an early cartoon entry certainly spent a fair amount of time in a catty horizontal run, we tend to think of him in his anthropomorphic semi-human vertical form. While my previous acquisition was a bit more catty than Felix usually is, this one captures the spirit of the cartoon in that regard – Felix in motion.
Newly transplanted to the shores of the United States, this little guy joins the Pictorama collection with a place of pride on a Felix devoted shelf near my desk where savvy visitors via Zoom get to see him featured daily. Thank you Peter for parting with him!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Just last week when I was writing about the (thrilling) acquisition of my new Dean’s Rag Eugene the Jeep toy (he is lovingly immortalized in a post that can be found here) I opined on the evident difficulty of toy companies in converting some characters from two dimensions to three. Krazy Kat is the most extreme example of this in my opinion – although don’t even get me started on his compatriot Ignatz as that is an odd design situation as well.
Perhaps there were other reasons why Krazy was never made into a toy which better represented his joyful, pudgy, sexually ambivalent embodiment. (Readers of the strip know that Krazy seemed to morph somewhat between male and female identity, but I do think it is fair to say Krazy is the first they I would have known.)
Most notably Krazy Kat never enjoyed the universal popularity of Felix or Mickey. British factories were not turning out off-model Krazy Kats on the East End of London. (The amazing story of those Felix dolls can be found here in one of the most interesting posts I ever researched!) Ratty looking Mickies proliferated. However, due to only a somewhat rarified audience for the strip there was less demand for toys and other collectible items. A handful of early cartoons exist (with an impressive executed Krazy) but it is a later (again utterly re-designed) Krazy who makes a series of nevertheless excellent cartoons which seem to have nothing to do with the strip, alas.
The toy these gentlemen in my photo have grasped between them is one of the few contemporaneously produced stuffed toys of Krazy Kat and while the face makes a sort of reasonable stab at him, the body is oddly flat – like he was squished by a roller into a space that is not quite three, but more than two dimensions.
And I have one of these dolls (of course I do!) which came in a variety of colors, but otherwise are identical in design. (I understand there were four sizes although mine at about 12.5″ is the most common as far as I can tell.) I wrote about the acquisition of it (a gift from Kim but with its own story), in a forerunner to this blog which was published in a book about Krazy Kat with illustrations by Kim. (The book is just called Krazy and was a catalogue for an exhibit. It seems utterly unavailable at the time of writing. I will perhaps share that in a future post in one form or another sometime.) These dolls tend to be quite dear and therefore sadly I have not ventured to collect them in the less available acid green, bright purple, black or orange colors and made of felt – although it would be jolly to have them all lined up together.
This doll was produced by Averill Manufacturing here in NYC (Union Square!) according to an ad on Mel Brinkrant’s site which can be found here. (His brief tale of acquiring his first one of these dolls is great and I recommend it.)
As an aside, Averill is a company that operated under several names and in addition to Krazy, produced some fairly dreadful looking large-eyed dolls although this Whistling Dan, below, caught my eye while I was looking. A whistling doll! Talk about what you always wanted for Christmas! (There was a Whistling Rufus and a Whistling Nell as well.) Wonder exactly how this worked?
Eventually a more rounded version of Krazy appears and I own one of those as well. (See below.) I cannot read the faded tag on the sole of his foot, nor can I find confirmation online that these were also made by Averill, but the design seems to have morphed from this earlier one.
I went much further down the toy rabbit hole than intended before turning our attention to the photo in question. It is a snap shot and only measures about 3″x4″ and bears the evidence of having been in a scrapbook, black paper clinging to the back. One can’t help but wonder what enticed these two gentlemen to pose as such, but I think if we look hard at the shadow of the photographer we will note that it is a woman and I will assume they complied at her behest. One of our fellows is neatly attired in nice trousers and sporting a tie, while the other is a bit grimy and looks like perhaps he was working in this yard before this was snapped. They look a tad sheepish about the whole affair.
The negative suffers from overexposure and the white shirts of the men melt into a white, cloudless sky, unintentionally somehow giving the impression that it was an oppressively hot summer day. Some light seems to also have sneaked into the side of the camera and exposed the film along the lower right corner, contributing to this affect. These dolls were produced starting back in the late teens (Mel’s ad appears in a 1916 magazine) so it is possible that she was using fairly early and primitive brownie and film.
Despite its evident flaws I had to have this jolly photo. Not only are photos of these dolls rare (I have only one other I can think of in my collection and it can be found here) but it has charm too. Kim said, and I agree, that Krazy looks like he is being reluctantly marched off somewhere by these gents, under citizens arrest, more than looking like a kid out for a stroll!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo find comes as I happen to have had a rare and thoroughly enjoyable encounter with another Felix collector in Great Britain over an auction purchase yesterday (oh my yes, more to come on that), and since I have Felix on the brain it seems like a good day to share this acquisition. It seems he gave up Felix collecting in favor of having children (imagine!), but has held onto his collection until now – with one of his beloved toys soon to slip into the Pictorama haven for all things early Felix. More to come on Peter and the Dean’s Felix which will make an American debut in future weeks – and with a nod of grateful thanks to Kim who helped finance that purchase.
One interesting (and rather splendid) feature is that Peter and his wife seem to have photos of children with the dolls they are selling. Someone who shares my interest in the photos as well as the toys! A brother from another mother it seems. I show one of their other offerings below, this currently for sale on Facebook and a group holding a sale under the name 200 Years of Childhood which can be found here, or under Leanda Harwood Bears. As it happens, I own this Felix below (or a kissin’ cousin anyway) so he wasn’t in the running for me. You might remember an especially interesting post about how these off-model Felix toys were made in an East London factory as a way of employing indigent women. That post of mine can be found here.
Meanwhile onto this hotsy totsy photo postcard winged its way in the door earlier this week and Kim and I especially like Felix’s saucy mugging in the middle of the picture. He provides a good counterbalance to the two angelic looking little boys and a fluffy white cat toy, peering out behind the little boy on the left.
I wonder if that white cat is a stand-in for Kitty, Felix’s ongoing romantic interest. She, at least the early version of Kitty, was more of an actual cat than the anthropomorphic Felix. The feminists need to get a hold of Kitty and rework her a bit, since all she ever seemed to do was flounce away, agree to let Felix take her out or produce prodigious packs of kittens. To my knowledge no period dolls of her exist – there is a sort of awful thing from the 80’s or so we won’t discuss. There is a Daddy Kitty, a male white cat, who occasionally appears with a rifle to move Felix along.
These little boys are posed on a fluffy carpet and they (and their parents) may think they are the center of attention, but of course we know it is Felix, whose eyes are rolling comically to one side as he leans toward the little boy with the straight hair. It is as if the photographer and Felix are playing a joke on these folks, which comes to us decades later. Felix steals the show, upstaging these albeit cute kids. Of course, having said this, I would have loved to have been a child posing in a photo with Felix and have that relic, but I won’t hold the lapse against Mom and Dad.
On the back of this card, written in a loopy script it says, With Love & All Good wishes for a bright & Happy Xmas from Nelly Chas & Raymond. There is no date and this was not mailed. The card, which offers how additional copies could be acquired on the back, appears to be the product of Wakefield’s, 1 High Street & 21 The Mall, Ealing Broadway, W5 with a phone number. A quick search reveals that Wakefield’s was a noted Victorian photo studio and that Ealing seems to have been an area with a number of photography studios at the dawn of the 20th century. (A website devoted to researching this topic (What’s That Picture?) can be found here, but note that this fellow blogger appears to be focusing on earlier photographs, only up to WWI. (A not especially interesting modern building exists at the address now according to Google.) One interesting tidbit was that this, evidently very substantial, studio also had a branch in Brighton – which is, in my mind, definitely Felix photo territory.
A lovely way to send holiday greetings, but for us today a bit of a fall Felix frolic.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: As I write today Kim (the cats) and I are speeding toward the end of our summer vacation. Exhausted overall, we stayed in Manhattan and just determined to rest and have some fun here. One of the highlights was the postponed Cartoon Carnival evening which I wrote about in an earlier post (here), delayed initially by one hurricane and almost delayed again by a second one. The delightful Sunday evening had an unusual chill to the air for August and that and rough waters (Ida creeping up the coast?) made me scuttle my plan to take two ferries to arrive there and maybe sneak in a flea market as well. Instead we took the subway out and scored a nice dinner. The backyard of City Reliquary in Williamsburg, Brooklyn was the location and we had the added benefit of seeing their exhibit on candy as well.
Not quite a third of the way into the program (Out to Sea was the theme with lots of jolly swordfish fights and mice using donuts as life preservers), there was a power surge and the projector went off as did all visible lights around us, including in the apartment building looming behind the screen. The power came back quickly and, sadly, burned a frame or two of the print before Tommy could stop it (Tommy Stathes, our curator and host uses 16mm prints with a real projector), admittedly a familiar sight to those of us who have seen a lot of film run however. We quickly got rolling again though and were treated to several cartoons we had not seen before, for me two Felix cartoons and one by Paul Terry for starters. I also purchased a few dvd’s from him so we could continue the party at home. (If you love old cartoons you need to know about Tommy and his site can be found here or find him on IG @tomatitojose.)
When we headed back to the subway around 10:00, we were to discover that the power surge had caused an inexplicably large suspension of subways; 80 trains suspended we heard the next day. We first tried the L and then walked to the J before we realized that underground was not happening between Brooklyn and Manhattan tonight. Eventually we found our way onto a bus designated to essentially get people over the bridge and to the nearest station in Manhattan, Essex Street. There we discovered further outages, but eventually lucked out with a F train which took us to our beloved Q line and home. It was 12:30 before we got back – very relieved we’d fed our kitties before we left.
Monday dawned and I decided it was time to fulfill a long-standing pledge to myself to finally go through my closets which have largely remained utterly undisturbed since March of ’20. Yes, I belong to that group of people who climbed into workout clothes that weekin mid-March of ’20 and never really got out of them again. As some Pictorama readers know, over those first months I rediscovered my early talent for cooking and baking (recipes and cooking memoirs can be found here and here for starters) and of course gained a lot of weight. Last November I took it in hand and I began running and went on a diet. (Posts devoted to my nascent running can be found here and here.)
Two broken fingers later (I fell running) and having now lost more weight than I initially gained (but still looking to lose a bit more), I faced the time capsule that is my closet with many deeply mixed feelings. In addition to just needing to go through the closet moths have been erecting a citadel in both of them which I needed to confront, all those clothes sitting undisturbed was a moth bonanza it seems. So it was with great trepidation that I waded in.
It took three days and for the most part I didn’t bother trying to figure out what might fit or not, mostly only deal with the moths, cleaning, organizing and tossing damaged items. Notable among the victims were black wool tuxedo trousers that Kim has owned for decades, traded for a bunch of homegrown pot on a long ago day in California, long before we met. As the husband of a fundraiser Kim has needed a no less than annual use of said tux, alas, we are sad with this loss.
What I wasn’t prepared for was my overall extreme ambivalence about the idea of office clothes and returning to a world of wearing them. Please understand, I have always liked nice clothes and good shoes. (My love of jewelry which incidentally continues unabated has been documented here recently.) Therefore, my extreme disinterest in resurrecting them remains surprising. (I always liked make-up as well and have lost interest in that too for the most part.) It is somewhat disorienting to realize that I am somehow no longer that person, but am left with a fuzzy picture of who exactly that means I am. Part of me thought, let’s just pitch the lot of it.
Having spent virtually my entire career not only working in an office but fundraising in particular has meant that I have gone to the office dressed to meet and speak with potential donors virtually every single day. When I worked at the Met it wasn’t unusual for people to phone unexpectedly who were visiting the galleries and ask to come and see me. Board members routinely wandered in for meetings. Early in my career there was an actual dress code (you didn’t wear trousers for evening events) and although that faded over time, it was expected that a level of professional dress would be maintained and people who didn’t catch on were flatly told to tow the line.
My current position has me less likely to have those unexpected meetings but between evening events, scheduled meetings and lunches, and a large amount of work travel while the precise nature of what I wore changed, the fact that I was dressed for business everyday was well ingrained. (A board member at my current position complained to someone that I wore too many suits. To this day that comment confounds me. Did she want me to show up in a tank top and flip flops?)
The top strata layer of my closet reminded me that I had been traveling to the midwest right before shutdown. A trip to Wisconsin, following by Milwaukee and then a subsequent one to Chicago, had meant a lot of wool (more moth industry and joy) and layers that had been worn. (A blog post devoted to one of those trips and some musing on fundraising can be found here.) Further digging found the clothes I usually keep year round in the closet for seasonal trips to Florida and California. I cast a jaundiced eye at those wondering if my current weight would enable me to get me back in them yet. (A somewhat academic question for now of course, although in a sort of tentative world a trip to the west coast looms for January, maybe Florida in December.)
More importantly though, despite the visceral memories the clothes brought back of essentially another time, it crashed directly into my current sensibility of who I actually am now and more importantly, who do I want to be and where am I going with this?
Thursday night Kim and I decided to head over to Dizzy’s. (His idea really, as a treat to cheer me up a bit after three days of moth-y work. Thank you honey!) Dizzy’s is the Jazz at Lincoln Center, my former clubhouse of sorts in the pre-pandemic world, and we went to hear some young musicians I know. I had been to Dizzy’s once already for our re-opening two weeks before and the emotion of being back in that room and hearing live music had been overwhelming, not just for me but for the whole audience of friends and family we had invited for the evening. This night however, I had Kim with me and we were visiting as civilians as such, me not working. (I would be remiss if I didn’t say you can make reservations for upcoming shows at jazz.org.)
Without the distraction of working and being in charge of an event, I was more focused on the experience of just being there. Seeing these recent Juilliard graduates, some of the best young jazz musicians today, getting a chance to play at the club was wonderful. The leader of the quartet was Isaiah Thompson and one of the things he said in his introduction was that he found it was so much more intense to play in front of people now. I also find this to be true. Sitting down with people and talking to them in person is indeed more intense .
I also thought about the incredibly fragile ecosystem that is jazz and the hard work of Jazz at Lincoln Center to maintain that important link, helping to hold it together and connect the pieces, making evenings like this possible for these extremely talented and just ascending young musicians. I fell to thinking about the phenomenal work that we had all dedicated just to keep it alive over these more than seventeen months. I am proud to be a part of that, but also deeply tired. My ties to it go much deeper now, but my awareness of how delicate and even ephemeral it is remains indelible and front of mind as well. The grim reality is that it isn’t over yet, there is no real return to what we thought of as normal and there is much hard work yet ahead as I look toward returning next week.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’m not sure what to say about this rather singular item I picked up a few months ago. I say singular because I have never seen one before – and after all I spend a lot of time looking. It is about five inches in diameter, about 2″ deep. It is strips of a thin wood, maybe balsa, wrapped and stapled into a container form and a lid popped on. Since it is orange and black I wonder if it was meant for Halloween candy – although the jolly theme on the top is less than Halloween scary.
Felix, who does seem to consider himself a musician (most frequently found singing loudly on a back fence) is strumming a banjo on this box. The curling string of the somewhat primitive instrument is a curious touch. Felix has his earlier design where he is much more squared off – blocky feet and arms, pointier face – in the style I prefer. A curious mouse is doing a dance.
This mouse makes occasional appearances on items and his animated cousins appear in some of the early cartoons. He’s sort of an Aesop’s Fable mouse who stumbles into Felix land. See my Felix pocket toy where one of his relatives appears below! (That toy post can be found here.) However, the dog is strange and I don’t know what he’s about or where he came from.
The scale is pretty odd on the box image – dog smallest with a Felix who is perhaps the size of a small child and mouse the size of a cat!
I purchased it from a US seller although the design is more of a British one as Kim and I were just discussing. Having said that, if it is indeed a Halloween item that places it in this country as well. There are absolutely no markings on it, although there is a place where a sticker might have been on the bottom.
Although it is solid it is very light and therefore somewhat fragile, therefore I am unsure what I will ultimately keep in it – after all boxes are for storing and tucking things away – maybe even hiding things in them. It has spent the first month here sitting on a table next to the couch and near the television while I consider it. It is hard to see on a shelf.
Boxes and containers are always tempting to me. I think I imagine that they will help me organize my life – after all, I have maybe things laying around that could benefit from a permanent home. It never quite seems to work that way, but the attraction remains and a box, a small cabinet or other romantic vintage container is like catnip to me. Small pieces of jewelry might make its way into this perhaps. We’ll see.
Meanwhile, this evening is our rain date for vacation cartoons outside and sadly the weather is cloudy and remains threatening. However, I have purchased our tickets and I think we will make the trek, sans extended ferry ride, via train later today and hope for the best. It has been a rainy vacation I am afraid. (Last week I kicked vacation off with a hurricane warning post which can be found here.) I paused my daily run yesterday for drizzly weather and think I will just take it on today and hope for the best. The damp humidity is making the newly mended breaks in my fingers whine a bit. At the very least the weather has cooled from a very roast-y few days in the 90’s.
I remind myself that like most things, vacation is a state of mind so I will attempt to continue to occupy mine with things other than work as the second week of vacation ticks forward.
Pam’s Pictorama Post Post: This card is part of the recent windfall of Felix photo postcard purchases I made recently. I am told it was a collection with a nucleus formed in the 1970’s when purchased from another collector, and then more recently purchased by a seller who goes by the moniker Andyroo on eBay and is located in the rather romantic sounding Rowland’s Castle in Britain. (A quick look on Wikipedia tells me that Rowland’s Castle is largely a quiet residential village, with four pubs and a few small shops, including a hardware store and a local convenience store, located in East Hampshire. They also note that the main local attraction appears to be a model railway depicting the village during the war. Sadly no photo.) I have tried to pick Andyroo’s brain a bit about the nature of the collection, but his answers to my inquiries are nominal while not quite all the way to curt. His regular beat seems to be china figurines so the El Dorado of Felix cards is unusual for him.
Next to my own collection, it is the first one with a significant number of these photos that I have encountered although photo postcards do not make up the majority of the collection, and I believe I have largely acquired the smattering of them in it. (I do wonder if they were part of the earlier collection – so interesting to think of these being passed from collector to collector when virtually all of mine have been one offs which seem to come from the families they were made for to a dealer and then me.) While I know there may be my counterpart out there somewhere, on the other hand it is also be possible that there are really not other people who live amongst a vast number of one-of-a-kind photos of people posing with Felix the Cat dolls of varying sizes up to those (the very best) which are the size of a not so small child. What do you think?
While of course I would be very jealous of the photos of such collectors (and want them – all) I would of course also be very interested to meet such a person. (If you’re out there – raise your hand!) Among postcard collectors my area is so niche as to be unknown – even at postcard shows people have never seen such cards and have no idea what I am talking about and look at me blankly when I inquire.
The original owner of this collection did not focus on these cards and the vast part of their collection are the more typical drawn series, of which I own a few. I did buy one of those off of Andyroo, shown above, because it tickled me and that recent post can be found here.
There was an interesting few cards which were photos I own and I believe were not widely printed, but must have been printed in multiple for the people who purchased them from the photographer at the time. They also, like me, purchased the occasional person photographed with Mickey Mouse. Their collection included some of the tea cards and includes some of the earlier versions of the drawn cards. They owned a few of the stencil cards I featured recently as well. (That post can be found here and the card shown above.)
Mostly of interest to me that this person had the two cards of kids posing on the giant black cat as shared in recent weeks here and here. These were identified as Felix cards in the selling which made me happy because I found them more easily that way although I have never thought of those as Felix before.
Today’s photo was one of two prints for sale of the same identical photo. It is printed sloppily on the postcard backing which is askew. (Strangely in all the photo postcards I have seen this rarely if ever occurs.) There is nothing to identify it on the back of the card. This jolly little shaver seems pretty happy to pose with this Felix which while nice and big, is still a bit smaller than he is. Our kid is nicely and warmly dressed in a double breasted coat and hat, high socks make up for short trousers. The partial view of the person standing near shows someone in a long coat and gloves.
Felix seems to be offering an arm to the child in a chummy sort of way. He is a bit in shadow so we don’t get a very good look at him and he has something over one shoulder that I can’t quite make out, maybe something on the fence, or not. We can just sort of make out his tail which creates a tripod effect to stand him up. I wish we could see his toothy grin better.
I can’t set a good guess on date – children’s clothing is a bit ambiguous as it didn’t change much for a long time. The pretty wrought iron fence behind them has some broken bits, a few missing finials and another torn looking piece. The pebbly sidewalk makes a nice pattern on the ground and may have been a bit distinct to the place.
The fact that today’s card does not have a number on the front (the convention itinerant photographers used to track a photo to a customer) makes me think it was a photo set up by the family, perhaps in front of their home. This makes me wonder if this lucky little fellow actually owned this Felix or did he come as a prop with the photographer?
As for me, even I sometimes wonder at my rather unique fascination with these photos. Was I a child who especially loved my Felix doll in a past life? Had my photo take with him at some seminal moment? Or was I an itinerant photographer who lugged Felix around the resorts of Great Britain, Australia or New Zealand? This blog was original formed with the idea of organizing my photo collection into a book, although it rapidly incorporated my toy collection and then of course me. Lately I have been talking again about a book of the photos. More to come as I move that project forward!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Buckle up for a very, very Felix day. For new readers a chance to catch up on part of my collection dedicated to the early representations of the famous animated cat and for dedicated readers some highlights of the past along the way.
I don’t think it would surprise long-standing Pictorama readers when I state that I look at a lot of Felix items and generally have a sense of what is available. Therefore when I come across something I have never seen before I’m pretty sure it is indeed unusual indeed. If I am unable to acquire it I more or less assume I will likely never see it again – we do find there are exceptions. However, it was in this spirit that I must have broken my own rule (one that I generally only write about objects and photos in my own collection), when I wrote a post on a Felix handkerchief that I lost at auction back in November of 2018. (They are shown in a slide show below – these are sadly of course not in my collection.)
I paired the post with another on some handkerchiefs that belonged to my Dad which I carry in my purse, or did in the before time when I carried a handbag daily. (Those two kerchief dedicated posts can be found here and here. Strangely my forays outside, limited that they are, seem to mostly take place with a credit card tucked in the back of my phone now, unless I am required to provide my own shopping bags at the store. No one seems to want cash these days.)
Therefore, much to my surprise, I was able to score this single, but rather wonderful item which I share with you today. Unlike the frolicking, mouse chasing Felix in the earlier post, my hanky shows Felix deep in thought, doing his famous Felix walk. What I think of as Felix’s I’m thinking walk, has its origin in the earliest Felix silent cartoons and was his signature pose -for some reason I always think of Einstein when I see it. Felix knew how to strike a pose and there is also a sort of Ah ha! pose that frequently follows the walking and thinking. (And of course there are the wonderful things he does by disengaging his tail and using it for various purposes. We’ll perhaps discuss that another time given the opportunity.)
The then very popular phrase Felix Kept on Walking has its roots in this famed animated walk. (Although it also came to have a slightly racier meaning – as depicted on the plate below.) The Felix walk was celebrated in song, sheet music, song of the same name is shown below, but also in pins and other ephemera in the early collectible period. (An instrumental version of the tune can be found here, but in some ways for the full experience of the novelty tune you need the vocals which can be heard here. Or you can just chuckle over the lyrics here.) Some of the stuffed dolls from the 1920’s have Felix with a hump on his back and I have wondered if somehow it didn’t tie out to the bent over walk in deep thought, hands behind his back.
Kim believes Buster Keaton satirized a few minutes of the Felix walk in Go West, 1925. An animated Charlie Chaplin, who obviously had his own trademark walk, does the Felix walk in the rather splendid Felix cartoon, Felix Goes to Hollywood. (It can be found on Youtube here. All these external links only good at the time of writing – they tend to come and go, especially the Youtube ones.) The Felix walk was known by all, a popular culture icon of the day. And, despite numerous redesigns over the decades, some remnant of the deep in thought walk stays with Felix right on up to the newer cartoons I watched as a child in the 1960’s.
The handkerchief I acquired is small as seen here, definitely child-sized, and not quite as white as the image appeared in the photo provided. No matter about the condition of course and what to expect of such a fragile item which is rounding 100 years in existence. Hard to imagine a time when small children were encouraged to carry a hanky – and perhaps the lure of Felix helped keep them from losing it? I especially like the thought marks emanating from his head.
This handkerchief, like so many other fascinating early Felix items, hails from Britain. The embroidery is fairly small and concise. I don’t know much about embroidery but my guess is that it is hand done, but probably by an adult. Although I have not seen the evidence, I assume there were some sort of kit or template you could acquire. I wrote about an embroidered apron, also lost at auction, which must have similar root. The Felix apron post can be found here, also a 2018 post. It was called Breaking the Rules and I would be perfectly happy to have another shot at purchasing it too!