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.

 

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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

 

 

Kitten Class

Pam’s Pictorama: Okay, admittedly, I have proven that I have a soft spot for this kind of advertising cards. I recently wrote about advertising from another thread company, J&P Coats, in my post By a Thread. (This company, Clark’s Mile-End Spool Cotton predates J&P Coats by a bit.) That one examined the early thread industry a bit, as well as bemoaning the lack of notion stores today. The card featured in that post featured a cheeky bunch of kits teasing an angry dog, held by thread.

This card takes the Louis Wain-esque approach to advertising with these rambunctious kittens being taught a somewhat mysterious lesson in rats and threads – which the kittens seem to enjoy. (I like the way the trousers were drawn to allow for fluffy cat tails to hang out.) These fellows, and they are all boy kitties, are ready to go after those rats! Are they going to use thread to do it? The rats jumped over the thread on the moon and the little dog laughed? I’m not sure. If it did have a meaning it is lost on me – love the image though.

Evidently from the heyday of Victorian trade cards, this card would actually predate Wain’s success (his first drawings were published in 1886), or at best overlap with his first years of publication – therefore perhaps it is this tradition he came out of rather than the other way around and someone riffing on him. Cats having long provided fodder for the trade card business. By way of reminder and comparison, I stole this great Wain image below off the internet – I have not entered into the high flying world of Louis Wain cards – yet!

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Louis Wain Postcard, not in my collection

 

September 1889

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Pam’s Pictorama: By some luck of the draw, I purchased this card about a month shy of its 127th anniversary, advertising the Hancock County Fair in Britt, Iowa which that year was featured on September 17, 18 and 19. Although I thought it might have been a weekend, as it is this year, it was instead Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. It is too late to attend this year, the fair was held on September 2-4, but yes, I am pleased to report that it is still around after all these years.

Somehow this wacky bubble-blowing cat is a fitting image for a fair reminder. I’m not sure about the I’ll Blow it Bigger or Bust tag line, but he is a great crossed eyed feline using a very old-fashioned method of blowing bubbles from a clay pipe and mug. I like the way he has it clutched in his kitty paws.

My own childhood held two annual fairs, bookending either side of the summer. A local church, St. Georges, had a splendid fair which kicked off the summer in late May. It was more of the jumble sale variety, with some small, easy games and all the carnival food and local baked goods you could want. It was within walking distance of where we lived and it heralded the start of the summer season each year. However, end of August or early September, where our town melded into the next, the Firemen’s Fair was held. Although on a small plot, in front of the firehouse and large enough for the trucks to line up there when necessary, it was chock-a-block full of rides and carnival amusements. There was a ferris wheel, cotton candy and candy apples (I have an admitted weakness for both) as well as games of skill and goldfish to be won.(Sadly, none of those goldfish enjoyed much longevity. Cannot even blame the kitties, although our cat Zipper had his way with a few fish in his time, but that is another story.)

Of course when we were little, we insisted on at least one night at the fair and reveled in its glory. As we got older, it was the place where you went with your summer boyfriend/girlfriend in tow and showed off your summer tan as you reacquainted yourself with people you had not seen over the summer. It may be a false memory, but I think there were years in college I was able to go before heading back to school. I have a fiendish love of candied apples and cotton candy.

I checked up on the fair online and it turns out that ours is one of the largest fireman’s fairs in the state of New Jersey and the last time I was in town in July there were already signs up, announcing the dates for the last weekend of August where it merged into September this year. As you read this, I am likely in the South of France dining on good cheese and wine so no complaints, but my mouth is watering a bit for a candied apple, freshly made with the first apples of the season.

 

Bogue’s Soap

 

Pam’s Pictorama: This kitty cut-out is about six inches high. She (pink ribbon makes me think she and there’s a certain girl cat quality) sports a rather enormous bell – gosh, birds were certainly safe around this cat unless they were stone deaf. Kim is not a fan of this particular acquisition in the cat advertising category. I admit that is later than the Victorian cards I have been purchasing and it seems to have had another purpose. As you can see below, the back of the card is both advertising for the soap and instruction for the use. Soap Kitty had a Doggie partner as well and you could obtain on of these Cats or Dog. Purchase 3 cakes of BOGUE’S SOAP for 25 cents. I have supplied the dog as a grab off of Google and he is missing his “stand-up strip” which obscures the interesting if racist diatribe on the back of the cat card, also shown at the bottom of the post.

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Dog image, not in my collection.

With a quick search I was interested to find out a bit about Charles B. Bogue from the Historic Albion, Michigan website. Despite the NYC Hudson Street address on the card, Mr. Bogue hailed originally from Michigan and then made his soap fortune in Chicago.

In his personal life, Charles B. Bogue was married to Martha Gleason Harris in 1876, and the couple had three children, all of whom are buried in Riverside Cemetery. After their divorce in 1899, Martha married Charles’ brother George Bogue. Charles in the meantime married Eva Knight of Chicago and moved there where he continued in the mercantile trade under the firm name Bogue Soap Company. He had one daughter by his second marriage. Charles was still living in Chicago in the late 1920s.

The claims made by the soap, complete with instructions – for use in all seasons, no boiling…saves labor, shortens the wash day, and makes home happy. My favorite is no more blue Mondays. Not to mention the $100 offer for any bar of Bogue’s Soap that will not do all that is claimed for it.

A Bogue’s soap company (artisanal and utterly devoid of cats, dogs, or racist advertising) exists today in Ojai, California. Their soap can be purchased at Whole Foods and other venues. There’s no reference to the soap’s history and perhaps is not even the same company. Artisanal or not, I would personally like them much better if they were still offering cat and dog cut-outs with every 75 cent purchase. However, buy it, try it, you’ll like it!

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Back of cat cut-out with cardboard strip to stand-up

By a Thread

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: That thread sure can hold! Man, I would sew my coat buttons on with that stuff. I’m nuts for the teasing kitties – especially the one hiding behind his friend, but egging him on. The cool character leaning on a giant spool isn’t taking any chances. He will cheer and jeer, but make a quick getaway if needed – we all know bums like that.

Our friends at J&P Coats thread are still in business and have been for more than 250 years, according to an anniversary website of their history. I learned that the company was founded by James Coats who opened his first factory near his home in Paisley, Scotland, in 1826, known as Ferguslie Mill. His was the second mill in the area, the first belonging to someone named Clark. By the time Coats opens his mill there were at least 15 in the area.

Two other facts stood out about J&P Coats thread. First, they evidently founded the practice of making decorative wooden cases for their threads which were used to display and hold them in shops. They made these cases from the wood leftover from the making of thread spools which was a thrifty business move and great advertising. These are cunning and collectible and I would certainly grab one up given the opportunity. The other story is that Thomas Edison evident used carbonized Coats thread in his early experiments for electricity – No. 9 ordinary Coats Co. cord No. 29 to be specific. Not surprisingly, they were also deep in the Victorian trade and advertising card fad and produced calendars that are reproduced and said to be sought after as well.

As for cats teasing dogs, it is an old, old story. Given the opportunity, what cat worth its salt wouldn’t temp a tied up or similarly disadvantaged pooch? My sister had a cat, named Milkbone, who used to tease their massive pitbull mastiff mix, but was smart enough to know where in the house she would lead the dog so she could leap up or run under something and the dog Ron couldn’t get her. I always told my sister, if you’re going to be a cat named Milkbone and live with a dog, you had better be a smart kitty.

 

Krazy Kat Inn

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Pam’s Pictorama: This sort of pulls the idea of cat advertising in another direction. While this card, with its cat characters more Terry Tunes and Aesop’s Fables than Krazy, first called out to me for the location here on West 48th Street and Broadway, the patter on the back sold me. It should be noted that the artist who drew this thought enough of his swipe to sign his name –  or at least Rusty signed with gusto and underlined below Miss Kitty. It is a later entry, decades after the glory days of Victorian cards, but as we well know, cats continued to sell.

In 1930, Krazy Kat the comic strip was roaring along in the midst of its run. Two of the five studios that were to have Krazy Kat entries had just about shot their bolt and in 1930 Columbia was launching their entry. The earliest cartoons, made in 1916 and ’17, were International releases. These are hard to find, but real gems in my opinion. Krazy maintains a look more or less true to the comics in these and some even have a sense of Harriman’s own hand. She/he gets more stylized as we move through the Bray and Winkler years. The toys seem to be based on this design for the most part. Finally, as we get to Columbia Krazy looks much less like the newspaper self. I was a bit stunned by this at first and dismissed them. However, Jerry Beck was kind to send us a disk of these several years ago and just judged on their own, I love these cartoons regardless of how little they resemble the comic strip. I am a tad sorry that no toys appear to have been made with this model – I would love to be wrong however, let me know. Meanwhile, I offer links to a sample of these cartoons here: Krazy and Ignatz at the Circus (1916)A Happy Family (1935). We are so lucky to be able to snatch a look at these on Youtube these days!

Diving down the internet rabbit hole of Buddy Walker and Harry Delson I found some references to Buddy Walker and Harry Delson at the Krazy Kat Inn in the Brooklyn Eagle in 1930 which helps date this card…the Krazy Kat Inn, where somebody ought to do something about Harry Delson. According to Variety he was heading a list of principals at the Alamo on 125th Street…a real vaudeville act when handled by these competent performers back in the teens. And further back, in 1912, he was the main feature who kept the audience spinning with laughter all night. I also found a radio listing for a broadcast from the above listing for the Krazy Kat Inn, so I guess it had at least a touch of prestige. Without find a real description Delson’s act was described as Hebrew humor and evidently Walker was known for a notable comedy performance in black face in the 1920’s. An obit for Harry Delson, vaudeville performer, who died at age 62 in New York City, appears in 1950.

Stretching this a bit further into the territory of interesting speculation and trivia. My husband Kim is related on his father’s side to the actress Gloria Delson. Gloria is a former Goldwyn Girl, actress and vocalist, once married to famed lyricist Sammy Cahn. Although I was unable to tie them out as related, we more or less assume that Harry was related to her and therefore to Kim as well.