Quite a Kitty

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: I am possibly one of the last people in this country to actually buy something off of Instagram. Somehow, all this time, Instagram has remained sort of pure – few if any ads hit my stream, just an endless stream of mostly interesting and often happy making, (frequently) feline. I follow a few vendors, DL Cerney, maker of vintage inspired clothing (I once wrote about them in a post here), notably among them.

However, for the most part, cheerful consumer though I am, until recently I had never purchased anything off of Instagram. I know people do, I was talking to a friend from North Carolina who said she has spent a fortune on Instagram while grounded from traveling from her job in banking.

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I only add people to the feed occasionally, mostly keeping away from politics and famous folks, and I try to put out in the world what I like to see myself. There are photos of the cats, my neighborhood, toys, art and music. When I traveled for work I posted those photos and I frequently posted from Dizzy’s and other shows.

Like this blog, I do it purely for pleasure and therefore focus on what makes me happy. I have happily watched fostered kitties, Rupert and Pumpkin, join the two glorious gray Persian kits, Bam Bam and Mr. Biscuits, in the cheerfully chock-a-block filled home of the people known only to me as fatfink and Motivated Manslayer. (I knew from day one those kits would join that household permanently. Like my father used to say about my mom, What foster? Cats come into this house but they never leave.) I follow the conservation studios at the Met and keep an eye on what they are working on, see what my friend Eileen is doing in Vermont during the quarantine, and keep track of Eden out in Santa Barbara.

However, I acquired a follower recently who had a nice Halloween cat head as her avatar and the moniker of missmollysantiques. A look at Miss Molly’s account showed a glory of rather interesting item images, including several black cats, and so I made a rare add to my feed. What I didn’t realize is that she is a seller of such items and shortly after adding her she had a sale.

Well, my somewhat latent buying gene kicked back in and I purchased this beauty of a black cat-o-lantern almost immediately. (Several photographs followed subsequently and perhaps you will see those in coming weeks although I am a bit slow for the fast pace of purchasing this way. As I hesitate a minute or two too long an item is snatched away. This is speed buying.) Miss Molly appears to be a young woman from St. Louis, Missouri and she is evidently selling out the holdings from her space in an antiques mall there.

I have known for years that I wanted a specimen example of one of these early paper mâché Halloween cat heads. I remember the first time I saw them was in Cold Spring, New York at an antique store that had a fabulous display of early Halloween items and toys. They were priced far beyond my means, but I was fascinated by them – the jack-o-lantern pumpkins as well as the black cats. I believe it was awhile longer before I saw one of these heads that still had the paper insert and that was sort of another kick in the head revelation too.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Halloween collectibles are a deep and heady genre to themselves and have always been pricey. Despite a prevalence of black cats I have only nibbled around the edges of it. I bought a number of reprints of the turn-of-the-century, do it yourself holiday decorating books by the Dennison paper company. (I wrote about them in a popular post that can be found here.) The arrival of eBay softened the Halloween market somewhat, but at the high-end objects remain dear. I paid up for this item, fair market value anyway I would say. I think it was in part pent up desire, but also it was just there for the buying and bam! It is mine. No buyer’s remorse here.

 

 

On one hand these jack-o-lanterns (I think of this as a cat-o-lantern) are somewhat primitive by the slick standards of today. However, the paper mâché is strong and these have held up to decades of use with only signs of wear around the edges and ears. It is fragile, yet oddly sturdy too and the inside smells of age and paper glue. I believe this kitty was likely made in the 1930’s, a generation or so after the introduction of such items, some coming from Germany and others made in the United States.

I cannot imagine how putting a candle in this did not result in a fire, but it is early for there to have been another light source option. (There is no evidence of candle use inside this one. As you can see if you look carefully, I have employed my cell phone flashlight here.) Miss Molly was offering this cat and another, cat head on a fence design which I liked, but the condition on this one won me over.

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Inside the cat-o-lantern, no evidence of lit candle use.

 

I might have given him a few more whiskers if left up to me, but he is nicely molded around his eyes, nose and mouth and the back of his head is shaped like a pumpkin. (Imagine a line of these and some pumpkin heads lighting up a nighttime window while you trick or treat.) I might have been tempted to lavish more orange paint details on him, but once you see him with a light inside you realize all that is unnecessary. He is in his glory in the dark and lit up from the inside!

Always Cheerful

Pam’s Pictorama Post: There are some things that speak for themselves and maybe this card is one of them. These slightly maniacal white cats, I can almost hear them chanting:

We are always cheerful
Our thoughts are high
We never disdain
To Make a Sigh

And it seemed to be a positive message to deliver to myself during these ongoing bunker life days.

The card was never mailed and it is embossed, which would have made writing on the reverse side difficult, however it does also give a subtle dimensional quality to this image. I love their little pink toes and grasped paws! Their huge red bows and fat cat tummies! This is one in a series of postcards – at least six. I liked this one best among those available, but I cannot promise you won’t see another in the future because I can easily imagine becoming somewhat addicted to them and their maxims.

Below the verse, just Clivette is written. A quick look up online and I discovered that Clivette, was the preferred moniker of Merton Clive Cook (1868-1931), artist and vaudeville performer. According to Wikipedia he was an American painter, magician, writer, vaudevillian and entertainer who spent most of his early life traveling the world entertaining before settling in New York to paint permanently. A poster from his vaudeville act is shown below where in all modesty he declares himself, The Leading Magician of the World!

I wish I could say I was able to find substantial information on his act. He started as an acrobat in a traveling circus. His greatest skill seemed to be for reinvention and promotion of himself. He was listed on a bill in New York with Houdini in June of 1900. He subsequently passes through a period of palmistry and occultism, and by 1910 even hypnotism.

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Clivette leaves vaudeville behind and embraces painting after instruction at The Art Student’s League. By 1918 he was established as a painter, first in the vein of the Ashcan school and then embracing American Expressionism and early abstraction, to some acclaim. (Granted, he did a lot of the acclaiming!) His work appears to be in a sprinkling of collections including that of the Harvard Art Museum. It is also worth noting that some of the landscapes and late work are available via online auctions today for very affordable amounts.

Photographs of Clivette’s Greenwich Village studio, inside and out, are available online. I share two from the collection of the Museum of the City of New York below. One popular image of him standing in front of his Sheridan Square studio and the other of the interior, a dark and object filled space which he called The Soul Light Shrine and charged 25 cents a pop per visit. (For a rollicking and detailed history of Clivette and his family, have a look at The Lost Clivette “Bazaar de Junk” – 1 Sheridan Square a 2018 post by a blogger identified as Daytonian in Manhattan.)

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Collection of the Museum of the City of New York

 

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Collection of the City of the Museum of New York

 

Of course, I like the zany, dancing kitties more than his oozy, later landscapes and would have preferred he devote himself to them, like an American Louis Wain – many more images of them with something slightly malevolent about their knowing selves.

 

 

 

 

A Cat in Gloves

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The bottle featured in today’s post was a gift from Facebook (and real) Friend, Dan Theodore. Dan faithfully shows up at many of Kim’s speaking engagements and before a recent one he told me he was going through some things that belonged to a family member and did I want this bottle as it had a cat on it? I happily accepted which brings us to today’s post. (I realize as I take photos of this that I could use some advice from friend Eileen Travell who shoots glass routinely for the Met. I did the best I could!)

As it happens, in addition to cats, I have long been fascinated by blue glass. Since my childhood days of beach combing and hunting for sea glass, glass colored blue has attracted me. If you have hunted sea glass you know that green and clear opaque are the common colors. Blue and red are very rare. When Loren or I found a piece we would crow and lord it over the other.

It lead me eventually to the logical question of, why is there so little blue glass to begin with and then the exercise of keeping a weather eye for blue glass bottles in their original whole state – assuming of course that somehow those bottles had to find their way into the Atlantic ocean, often broken, to ultimately make their way into my glass collection. Aside from some medical bottles I did not find too many in use. I assume this is because cobalt is a somewhat more expensive color and unless you had a reason for using it why add expense. As a child I had the sort of naive idea that all the glass in the ocean was from ships – ocean garbage dumping had not occurred to me.

Without really knowing much about what I am talking about I am vaguely aware that some of the chemicals I used for my early process photography warned that they had to be stored in dark amber bottles because exposure to light would damage them. There might be something to this for the use of blue glass which seems to have a limited use primarily for medical purposes. Furthermore, Wikipedia has informed me that what I call sea glass should be called beach glass and while I stand corrected I will continue, as I always have, to call it sea glass. In addition, the internet informs me that more rare than blue are the previously alluded to red, but also yellow and lavender which frankly I don’t remember having ever seen in person.

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Cat bottle from animal series by Clevenger Brothers, in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Sliding back to today’s bottle which has an interesting story in its own right. This bottle, with an image of a cat on one side, reads Cat, The Cat in Gloves Catches No Mice. This is evidently a known saying. The meaning is, you cannot be too cautious and get what you want. I am not sure I endorse this saying, and right now I am looking at Cookie’s white paws (the gloves to her perma-wear tux fur) and thinking they do not hamper her in the least.

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Curled up kitty on Clevenger bottle, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

I was surprised how quickly the history of this particular bottle was revealed to me online as the only markings are a C and a B on the bottom. The bottle is the product of the Clevenger Brothers, an eponymous  South Jersey enterprise founded by brothers in the 1930’s. They were seeking to revive a much older glass industry in the area and their bottles are generally reproductions of these earlier designs. Some of their own early efforts, those that are handblown and also the efforts of some of their more creative employees executed off hours, are of some value. Ones like mine are collectible for their charm and have a market.

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Elephant bottles by Clevenger Brothers. Not in Pictorama collection.

 

This cat bottle is evidently part of a series on animals they produced. It is unclear to me if these were original designs or also copies of earlier ones. Although I found references to it I did not find much of substance or many examples aside from this elephant version below which I like. These bottles were made from molds and could have been made any time during the company’s history. There is an interesting brief history of the company which can be found at this link, 1987 Clevenger Brothers Glassworks the Persistence of Tradition, at the Wheaton Arts and Cultural Center site. It would seem that the factory remains in existence as a quasi-museum today and it is on a list of historic sites in South Jersey.

Growing up in Jersey I have long been aware of the history of the area and in my childhood there were sites where you could visit amateur excavations to search for such things as early glass. Although we drove through the Pine Barrens a few times in my childhood and I was regaled with these stories, we never stopped at any of these sites to dig. However, I do appreciate this gift and even more now that I know that like me, it comes from my place of origin, the Garden State.

 

 

Spare Dimes Many Times

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s item is the rare sort that I fret I mostly miss due to the absence of flea markets, garage sales and antiques marts in my life these days. I did manage to acquire it by chance and creative trolling online and I couldn’t be happier with the find. This splendid little bank is no longer change-worthy as its bottom is long removed, but this bulldog-ish kitty is a great addition to the Pictorama collection. Below where he urges you to Feed the Kitty there is tiny lettering which appears to read Trade Mark Reg U.S. Post Office and then my favorite part, Spare Dimes Many Times below that. I didn’t see that until he came in the mail and I love it.

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This bank is small, indeed it is really dime-sized with a grinning cat mouth just big enough for that denomination of coin, and a tummy just big enough to match, designed especially for small change. Somehow that makes this even better in my opinion – and the white metal of kitty is also dime reminiscent to match. He is very heavy, even without loose change added. His expression is a bit enigmatic, despite the smile, and lightly be-whiskered. He has lost the tips of both ears, as well suffered some scratches, with flecks of white paint on his back, but the overall effect is still shiny and jolly. His tail is neatly tucked around him and he sports slightly over-sized paws. I like to think that his presence entice a few generations of children to employ some thrift over the decades.

A tiny plaque has been affixed to the  back bottom of the little pedestal he sits atop. It reads, The Bridgeville National Bank, Bridgeville, PA. Member Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. I like to imagine this item being presented to me as a small child after opening a savings account and, at least for a little while, enjoying the rigors of saving my dimes (and perhaps here. nickels and pennies) here.

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First National Bank appears to still claim turf in Bridgeville, PA, but it is hard to know for sure if it is a descendant. It is currently housed in a modern brick building according to a quick internet look. Their website declares, We’re not just your bank, we’re your neighbors! I looked under a tab labeled Community Involvement to see if they might say how long they had been in existence and instead found, among other things, an explanation of a somewhat unusual program where they evidently allow employees to wear jeans to work in exchange for a charitable donation. I am not entirely sure what I think of that – I am of the old-fashioned variety of person who wants to see my banker dressed like one, nor is it clear to me how much of a charitable donation is expected in exchange for this privilege. Nonetheless, they get points for a kind of creativity I guess. Unfortunately, no cat banks in sight however.

As a fundraiser I may bring this fellow to my office and employ him there, subliminally wooing a new generation of adults to feed the kitty in an entirely different way.