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.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Not surprisingly, this cat choral card attracted me for the kits, not the ad. These anthropomorphic kitties appear to be the cats of a Louis Wain influenced pen and their pop-eyed expressions may pay tribute to him. However, there is much that is their own to applaud, such as the conductor using his tail as a baton and the little fellow without music who has his claws into that pole – although we will assume he is lifting his voice in lilting cat song while he puts his back in to a good scratch, tail pointing up. J.M. Ives must have been pleased enough with the that he has planted his copyright at the bottom – a surprisingly early 1881, making this card earlier than most. Perhaps that explains its single color printing.
While these Victorian cards rarely turn up anything much about the what or where that is being advertised a quick search on D. McCarthy & Co. revealed that this family owned business was headquartered in Syracuse, New York. In 1893 they constructed the building, shown below, for the department store. The building still exists in Syracuse today and evidently one can visit a small exhibit about the history of the company there.
D. McCarthy, Sons & Co. store in Syracuse and restored today.
I admit surprise when I realized that JM Ives is the Ives in Currier and Ives – or at least it most likely is as the name and the dates are right. I cannot explain why he would have published this only under his own name. I also didn’t realize that neither Currier nor Ives were artists, just publishers, Currier was a lithographer and Ives was an accountant in the company who Currier took in as a partner over time. So Mr. Cat Artist is lost to time on this one. But whoever he was, I like his style and I’d buy shoes from his cats.
Pam’s Pictorama: The parade of Victorian advertising continues with this card from the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. – a company which seems to have embraced cat card with great enthusiasm. I wrote about a rather famous series of advertising cards portraying a brief cat tale of love lost and found in my post of the same name. Leaving the topic of the efficacy of cats in advertising, instead I am taking a peek at the history of the smug expression of cats that inspired this popular phrase.
The phrase, cat that ate the canary (the Australian or UK version is evidently the cat that ate the cream) and usually used as smiling like the cat that ate the canary refers to a pleased, smug, self-satisfied and perhaps a tad guilty expression – like this fellow on the card and his toothy grin. Interestingly enough the phrase seems to have just emerged at about the time this card would probably have been issued, in the late 1880’s or early 1890’s when trade card advertising would be at its peak. In 1891 and 1892 several newspapers in the United States, UK and Australia published the same joke which appears to be the first reference:
Father: That cat made an awful noise in the back garden last night.
Son: Yes, sir. I guess that since he ate the canary, he thinks he can sing.
In researching this phrase my favorite reference was a fellow blogger and their post can be found at Cat That Ate the Canary. My favorite part is their reference to a story of a cat in New Hampshire that ate five canaries, published in the Victoria Advocate in 1952. He was accidentally locked in a department store overnight in Keene, New Hampshire. Oh my. I show him below, he really does have a bit of a criminal look about him.
Cat that ate five canaries photo, Keene New Hampshire, 1952
As some of you know, I come from a lineage that not only loves cats, but also birds. My mother is extremely active in preserving water fowl and rescued and rehabilitated them for years as well. The cat eats bird thing has always been a sore point and luckily Cookie and Blackie do not have an opportunity to put their bird largess (or lack thereof) to the test. Still, those Sylvester and Tweety cartoons always nag at me a bit. Poor Sylvester, forever trying to get a meal out of that one, lousy, annoying little bird!
And for or those of you who need a refresher, this is the first appearance of Sylvester and Tweety together!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This summer of cat advertising cards continues with this newest in the series by this popular artist. I do not know who this fellow or woman was, but he or she had a significant share of this trade. I love these! Each one seems a bit puzzling, but the group seems to form a loose narrative. Perhaps when I get enough of these together I will see the whole story.
This card barely left space for the ad at the bottom – I couldn’t find a reference to Lawson Baths, clearly printed on after the card was already made. The overgrown baby cat seems to be the one saying, Now Pa brace up and have some style. It is the same toothy cat as in the post Arctic Baking Powder and, probably, more recently the entry Westerman’s Shoe Bazaar.
It is perhaps politically incorrect of me to say, but I have always been a fan of cat boxing. I am not alone – film of cat boxing goes back at least to Thomas Edison – 1894 Boxing Cats. A quick look turned up the very delightful Cat Fight in Boxing Ring with Dog Audience – sort of a variation on the Dogville comedies, but as a commercial for Chevrolet. Kim says he remembers seeing cat boxing on the Ed Sullivan show. Of course of contemporary vintage there are many on Youtube, something along the lines of 1.83 million results at a quick look. A very popular favorite however is Cats Playing Patty-cake – I thought I would fall off my chair laughing the first time I saw it.
Cookie and Blackie indulge in this pastime occasionally. As brother and sister it seems it is natural to square off once in awhile, stand up on their hind legs and take a poke at each other for a few minutes – usually in slow motion. As cat fighting goes it is usually the least likely to get serious and many of these early filmed efforts are likely to have been staged – although I will say those cats really seem to be going at it in the Chevrolet commercial. It is mostly very theatrical, even here in the apartment. I don’t know why, but it does make me laugh when they do it. I will let you know if I manage to reach for the iPhone to tape them at it any time soon and we will make them internet stars!
Pam’s Pictorama: The trade card bonanza continues with this card, which does not appear to actually advertise anything. The back is blank and looks like it spent some time glued onto an album page. This fellow, sporting his medal and with his somewhat human expression, would be a tad creepy if he showed up looking just like this at your house one day – and I like cats as you know. His origins are a bit obscure, although I guess a picture does form, so read on.
First, there is a tweet from the San Francisco public library of this card with the following post about the image on this card: Tommy Dodd sends his #caturday greetings! This adorable cat won first prize at the International Cat Show, and then was featured on a trade card for a shoe store specializing in children’s shoes, on Stockton Street. In the San Francisco History Center’s trade card collection. Mine shows no evidence of San Francisco or children’s shoes, however these cards were clearly purchased by companies which printed their own message on the back or bottom. Still, um, somehow I doubt this was a real cat who one a prize at an international cat show – just a guess.
Researching the slang phrase Tommy Dodd turned up many meanings, some related and some clearly not. I list them here for your consideration in no particular order: odd or peculiar; a cemetery may be known as Tommy Dodd’s garden; thank Tommy Dodd for this or that; a phrase related to coin tossing (mid 19th century) as in tossing odds; penis; sodomite; a style of hat; a glass of beer or a walking stick. (The last three were from Australia.)
The coin tossing allusion is the one most frequently sited and referred to. It appears that there were numerous beer hall songs devoted to Tommy Dodd and below is the chorus to one I was able to find, as well as a link to the lyrics of the full song:
I’m always safe when I begin. Tommy Dodd, Tommy Dodd I Glasses round, cigars as well. Tommy Dodd. Tommy Dodd I Now, my boys, let’s all go in, Tommy Dodd, Tommy Doddl Head or tail, I’m safe to win, Hurrah for Tommy Dodd! (Lyrics for Tommy Dodd)
As is the case with many of these cards, there was a series that would have been collected – a nascent form of comics? I also turned up another in the series, as well as some companion dog cards shown below:
Other cards from the same series.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This post kicks off a series of cat advertising I have indulged in recently so hang onto your hats! More than 100 years before cat videos people realized the entertainment value of cats and that they sure can sell. Trade cards like this one from the late 1800’s still exist in abundance so they must have been a primary way of advertising. I am not sure I have yet grasped how they were disseminated – this variety is small, the size of an early baseball card, and do not appear to have been sent via the mail. If they were handed out – where? On the street? I have to continue to look into this.
A search on Westerman’s Shoe Bazaar revealed an advertisement (without cats I might add) on page 8 of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Thursday, November 27, 1890. They respectfully say, if you want something in the way of FOOTWEAR NICE or FETCHING in STYLE Westerman’s Shoe Bazaar was evidently the place for you. For the local St. Louis folks, you may wish to note that it was at 1232 South Broadway, French Market.
Now for this splendid card – grandma is an enormous, bespectacled, grinning (and fang-y) kitty – a real wolf in grandma’s clothing of a cat. At first I thought Grandma’s Pet was a brave if rooty tooty, little mouse fellow, but a closer look revealed that he too is a cat – tiny by comparison, with a striped tail, more or less identical to Grandma’s. He holds a little sword and a pair of spectacles, like hers, and a jaunty cap with a feather. Does he do her bidding, and if so what? I adore it, but I have no idea whatsoever what the meaning might be or the inspiration – let alone what it has to do with shoes. Unlike some of these cards, there is no information on the back.
Pictorama readers with a good memory will know that this is likely by the same artist who did the art for the card I posted in Arctic Baking Powder several weeks ago. I provide that card below for comparison and your enjoyment. As the collection grows, perhaps the mystery will unfold.
Pam’s Pictorama: An unexpected bonus of the unpacking earlier today, this card fell out of something and was rediscovered. I remember buying it, but absolutely no idea what it fell out of and why it had been put there. Written in a kid’s hand on the back is Otto Lannaff or maybe Lamnaff? And he outlined the cat’s head which can be seen through the card.
The story of Arctic Baking Powder, if there is one, seems largely lost in the mists of time. While I thought I was onto something when I found information about a man named William Ziegler, who made his fortune in baking powder and then funded an Arctic expedition, he did not in turn name his company Arctic. I was able to piece together the fact that Arctic Baking Powder had a number of entertaining cat cards and this was one in a series. (I also found an advertising card done for them that was earlier than these and it was a snore.) Below is another I found online that was sold on eBay previously which I find equally notable and charming.
The policeman cat, showing this nicely dressed rat clad in a short jacket and politely holding his hat an Arctic Baking Powder sign is very jolly indeed and makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. What is he telling the rat? “This is good stuff Mr. Rat!” Meanwhile, police kitty is so much more serious than my ribald fellow – mine dancing and winking, a naughty fellow. I like his fang-y grin, cane in hand. Very natty outfit with bow tie and that fat striped tail. It is very hard to see, but in the upper left corner of my card it reads, I had a darling racket last night. I can’t say I know for sure what it means, but clearly – oolala Mr. Cat! Must be a kissing cousin to the kind of racket you are asked by your neighbors to stop making late at night. These could be the same artist, but I am on the fence about that.
So, baking powder. I, for one, used to confuse it with baking soda all the time and had to puzzle through which to buy to keep the cat’s litter box or refrigerator from smelling. There’s something old fashioned seeming about baking powder – although I would imagine it is used in baking as much now as ever. (I was once very fond of baking powder biscuits – a bit heavier than regular ones, but yummy and quick to make.) Baking soda comes in a box and, probably for the reason of some potential chemical interaction, baking powder comes in tin cans. (To digress a moment – I loved when bandaids came in tin boxes. I saved one before they all disappeared – sensed that they were on their way out although they lasted a long time. Always kept spare money in them. Why is there so little tin now?) So, bottom line, I don’t know what this hotsy-totsy kitty was doing with baking powder, but I want some. He must have sold a whole lot of baking powder in his day.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Is this YOUR Lucky Day? Pictorama is featuring Halloween, and black cats in particular, throughout the month of October. Our first installment is this great Lucky Black Cat Curio Catalog of novelties for sale. (Items listed here are sold as Curios Only.)
I purchased this more years ago than I can remember off-hand, attracted by the great graphic on the front. I believe I came across it at a flea market. Following in the great tradition of the Johnson and Smith catalogues, this advertises an array of supernatural and superstitious must-haves. I can’t really show it here, but this was printed on one very long piece of paper, red and black throughout, and folded so it can be read as a booklet. Kim has scanned one spread for me, shown here.
I am especially amazed and horrified by the ad for Black Cat Ashes. (Blackie, don’t read this!) Evidently this ancient practice enabled you to make successful number combinations. And while they remind you that they make no preternatural or supernatural claims or magical representations they do however remind you that it was prepared according to an ancient formula. Draw what conclusions you will.
Listed on the back panel is more than a hundred Other Curios that can be ordered. Ranging in price from 25 cents to a dollar the list includes some of the following highlights: Devil Oil, War Water (followed by Peace Water), Devil’s Shoe Strings (?), Black Cat Holy Water, Black Cat Wishing Bone (ouch!) and Lucky Floor Wash. Buying it was my lucky day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This parade of multiple off-model Felix fellows advertises the East London Toy Factory at 45, Norman Road, E. 3. It is unused and undated. A quick look around and I found this out about the history of this factory on the site Grace’s Guide:
WWI. Sylvia Pankhurst opened a new toy factory as an answer to the dozens of tiny failing workshops where women were paid a pittance. Toys were no longer being imported from Germany, so Sylvia’s factory employed 59 women to fill the gap. It was a haven for them. First they turned out wooden toys and then dolls: black, white and yellow, followed by stuffed cats, dogs and bears. One day, Sylvia took a taxi full of her wares to Selfridges new store in Oxford Street and cajoled Gordon Selfridge himself to become a stockist.
A further listing says that in 1922 East London Toy Factory was noted for exhibiting Soft Animals with Voice…and Riding Animals on Wheels. By 1947 they were listed with Animals with Electric Eyes. Hotsy totsy I say! An undated ad on another site declares, East London Toy Factory, Ltd, high-class soft toys, artistic rag dolls, mascots, fancy toys and all kinds of novelties. Fancy toys and novelties indeed – let’s talk! I am not absolutely positive, but I think there is a very good chance that my Felix below is a East London Toy Factory fellow. As far as I can find out, they did not place a maker’s mark on them. The company was liquidated in 1952.
Sylvia Pankhurst was a real pip. In addition to opening the East London Toy Factory, which as above, employed women and at a higher wage (not to mention supplying off-model Felix dolls to the masses) Sylvia Pankhurst was a suffragette, born of a family of reformers and left wing activists. She started life as a painter, illustrating the plight of poor women and families and then she became an activist and reformer with a vengeance. In addition to the toy factory, she opened food distribution centers, and a free clinic. Shown below, she is being arrested for protesting WW1.
Subsequently, she moved to the countryside and lived with her Italian anarchist paramour where they opened a cafe and she wrote what one website calls subversive literature. (This seems to mean Communist.) She was against marriage and taking a man’s name and when she gave birth to a son when she was 45 – it is unclear if it was the child of the Italian lover of if she had moved on by then – her refusal to marry resulted in her mother never speaking to her again. (So much for being a liberal parent – I guess there were limits in 1927.) Later in life Pankhurst was a supporter of Ethiopian independence and moves there in 1956. Continuing in the same lifelong vein, she opens the first teaching hospital there and supports anti-imperialist causes. Sylvia Pankhurst dies in Ethiopia, where she is given a state funeral, in 1960 at the age of 78. Clearly I am not able to do her full justice here, but there are robust sites devoted to her that are well worth the read. Fascinating! I am very pleased that Felix took me down this particular road, and I offer it to you today as a slightly unusual Mother’s Day fare.
Pam’s Pictorama: My brief foray into advertising continues (see last week’s Time Out for Our Sponsor) with these examples of Black Cat tobacco and cigarettes. Considering that these proclaim the use of Virginia Tobacco it seemed surprising at first that I purchased all the examples at the same time at a flea market in London. However, it is an English company. See the wonderful art deco facade of the building below and a few sharp black cat details! All of these courtesy a website post devoted to the subject at: Black Cat Factory. I must make a pilgrimage there one day.
It has always seemed strange to me that while some folks think of black cats as unlucky (Blackie, it’s not true!!) they are frequently used in advertising. I am not sure I can exactly figure out the logic there – but I am always pleased to see it.