Reliable

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Ah, pray make no mistake, we are not shy. We’re very wide awake, the Moon and I. So declares Missus Kitty, accessorized with exotic fan, but also claw paws and sharp teeth, albeit casually exposed. I don’t know why, but I think of her as on her way to the opera – but I guess in reality she is getting ready to give a full moon caterwauling performance of her own instead. She is our star performer this evening. Perched on a snowy rooftop chimney, her supporting cast in the form of a parasol-wielding kitty behind her, she is ready to tear into it.

In the newly quiet Manhattan, during these pandemic days, the occasional spring and summer evenings brought the disturbing sounds of cats howling. It did make me reflect on how often I write about these types of images, (for one of my favorites have a look at the sing-a-long portrayed in a post that can be found here), but that I rarely actually hear it. Since I moved to Manhattan a few decades ago now, the number of stray cats has been drastically reduced which is a good thing, and not that many cats have sanctioned outdoor space to meet other cats. I can’t say I like the racket – I’m always concerned that someone is getting hurt or is in trouble. My ears remain attuned until it ceases, contributing to my growing tendency toward periodic insomnia.

Meanwhile, occasionally Blackie will begin his own evening muttering and wailing in the apartment and has to be asked to keep a lid on it. Cats will be cats.

The back of this card is interesting. ADMIT BEARER To any Grocery Store, to examine the beautiful assortment of Imported Ware, such as Bohemian Vases, Decorated Fruit Plates, China Cups and Saucers, and China Cream Pitchers. And TWO of these articles and one pound of “SAFE AND RELIABLE” Baking Powder for only 50 cents. Ask for it. and added at the bottom, Chas. W. Smith.

The somewhat grimy back of the ancient card.

As someone who has recently rediscovered my baking muscle I have a newfound appreciation for the reliability factor of baking powder, although I wonder a bit at the safety part – what does unsafe baking powder do? Early on in my baking efforts I used some very old stuff and we had a very low rise on a loaf of cheesy olive bread – which we consumed regardless of course because all cheesy olive bread is good. (The recipe can be found here. I cannot recommend it highly enough.)

Weirdly baking powder and its kissin’ cousin baking soda have remained a tad hard to find in the store since the big pandemic shutdown. Much like the fact that I can still only buy paper towels and toilet paper in packs of a dozen. (If you live in a studio apartment a dozen rolls of each of these is a bit like adding a coffee table to the apartment.) Yeast seems somewhat unobtainable although I admit I have stopped trying.

My wonderment at these exotic early advertising efforts remains unabated – yes, I am making the argument that there should be more operatic felines advertising baking powder today. (I have posted about another series of cat related advertising from this period and some of those can be found here and here.) I regret I find nothing as entertaining these days. Meanwhile, I am equally charmed by the mental image of this general store where I had the opportunity to buy Bohemian Vases, Decorated Fruit Plates or China Cream Pitchers as well as baking powder. (I also find the somewhat creative use of capital letters of note.)

Despite continued social distancing (places in line marked supposedly six feet apart, mask wearing, etc.) going to the grocery store has become something less of an ordeal here, although we continue to get most of our food delivered from Fresh Direct (as we have for many years – it is the rare thing I was an early adopter of), I head over to Fairway or Whole Foods every other week or so. For the first time the other day it actually felt…crowded, like the Fairway of old. Perhaps it was the upcoming holiday weekend, or that more people are returning to Manhattan with kids in school and a nascent return to offices. There is a nip in the air, the days are getting shorter again and forward we go it seems, into Fall.

At Night All Cats are Gray

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a French postcard post about a card I purchased on eBay from a French seller. Something about the illustration appealed even if the drawings of the cats are a bit too stylized for my taste, it works in this context. The card was offered with two color variations – the other being predominantly pink and is still available as I write this.

The title is a Google translation (I use these handy, if occasionally mechanical, translations throughout this post), but sort of romantic nevertheless. I have frequently tripped over cats at night in our apartment and wondered which one I stepped on often enough, although as Pictorama readers all know, our cats are black to start with so I might argue the point. Not to mention that they meow differently so one is sure to know who you have offended.

This wonderful smiling moon (which is what first attracted me to this card and is very Deitchian) peers out from the parting clouds on this late night feline fiesta, atop a shingled rooftop in France, and shines down on this scene. This card was never mailed and is covered with writing (in French) on the back which I share below, but is beyond my limited means even to get the gist of – please share if you are a French reader and can translate! Meanwhile, I especially like the jolly pink roof.

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In the lower left corner our singing fellow is identified as Music Lover Pussy. (I believe I wrote last week about caterwauling kitties, in my tribute to my dad’s cat Red which can be found here.) He sings a little tune, Mi-mi-la-re-do-si! Blackie has this tendency to vocalize and was just working his howl on me the other morning. He likes to get me out of bed at  a specific time each morning so he can immediately curl up in my spot while it is still warm. I suspect that only I could think that is cute rather than strictly annoying.

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Blackie, annoyed and waiting for the spot, the other morning after howling at me. 

 

The next cat over is a Black Cat (who) loves jazz enormously. Appropriately as the jazz kitty he is the most dynamic of the group and has the traditional black cat, back up pose. Below him N’aime pas le mou! translates roughly to doesn’t like it soft. Meaning, I gather, that he likes his jazz loud!

The truly gray cat in the middle is identified as Gutter Cat (gosh – seems like an unkind moniker) and he is growling and muttering about jumping? Below Angora, elderly cat, labeled cat it says, long and silky coat is the passion of old men. As the senior member he has a nice perch atop of the chimney stack and draws the viewer’s eye to the windmill, on a hill, in the background. Tiny lights from the town below twinkle and I realize that this card is actually a tight little composition.

Lastly we have the only woman in the group – White Cat (who) responds to the sweet name Minette and spends her time on success. I take this to mean she only pays attention to big spender boys? She is aloof in the lower corner. I am not sure any of these fellows is worthy of her attention. So there.

Nocturnal feline visitors on rooftops and fences make up an entire genre of cat sheet music (see my post of some here and here); postcards such as the great Louis Wain version I featured here; and even photographs, as below and posted about here. While I always find the plaintive evening howl of a cat outside distressing (yes, we do hear them even on the 16th floor where Deitch Studio is perched), the nighttime howling of pussy cats is a long-standing kitty archetype. Me-ow!

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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.

 

 

 

 

Black Cat Clown Car

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As I recently explained in my post Borrowed Photo (which can be found here) bunker days have lead to the loosening of a primary posting rule – that I own all that I post about. It was a rule rarely bent in the past, but in these days of both reduced circumstances and getting out rarely, the powers that be at Pictorama are loosening the rules a bit. So today we are considering this postcard which was for sale on eBay which quickly ran up alarmingly high and well beyond my purse. Leaving me to think that someone actually did want it more than me which was saying a lot, but true nevertheless. Sigh.

Black cats and Felix were irresistible decorations for early parade floats and these could form a sub-genre of my photography cards. Examples of the Felix floats can be found here and here, but black cats can also be found here  and here. Another one, Spirit of the Golden West is shown below.

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This postcard depicts a Lansing, Michigan parade – that hint from a truck boasting, Ingham County Commission behind our car. It is undated and evidently was unused. Judging from the cars in the background, parked roadside under some nice old store awning I would put this in the 1920’s, although it could be a bit earlier. Someone smarter about cars feel free to chime in.

The clowns occupying this car frankly terrify me and I am sort of glad we cannot see them more clearly. All white faces, their wizard peaked caps, and eyes blacked out. Yikes. I bet some kids went away with nightmares after an eye full of these guys.

 

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Most wonderfully though, this garlanded clown car is largely decorated largely with the black cats of Black Cat Hosiery advertising fame. (So was it their float or did they just borrow the image?) A small cardboard version of this advertising graces the wall near where I am currently camped out for work, my drawing table acting as a desk, is shown above. I wrote about it back in April of 2015, in Time Out for Our Sponsor (it can be found here (and again, here) and that grinning black advertising cat has long been a favorite of mine. These commercial kits are interspersed with black cat witches on brooms, Halloween kitties, some sort of winged critters and a black cat and jack-o-lantern garland wrapped all around it. The huge tiger (if you look at him right royal is spelled out in his stripes) gives the whole production some teeth. However, lastly and best is that big white kitty is smiling at the front of the car, leading the way.

 

Letters from a Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today feline dedicated post was a birthday gift from my good friend Eileen Travell. She acquired this precious, slim volume at a store I long to experience one day and that I wrote about in an earlier post, 3 Little Kittens, which can be found here, and describes that gift purchased there as well, The Salem, New York shop is 1786 Wilson Homestead (1117 Chamberlin Mill Road, Salem, NY; their website which can be found here). It has set me to dreaming about a future summer day digging through their wares. My copy is stamped School Library, Saranac Lake, N.Y. on both front and back fly leafs.

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While this book is clearly meant for children, complete with very large and easily read text, I am not sure I would say race out and grab this book to read to your small child. Suffice it to say life was cheaper and harder in 1879 and that is evidenced in this book. The overall premise of the book is that while a little girl is away visiting her aunt she receives a series of letters penned by her puss in her absence. (Yes, the remarkable nature of a cat writing letters, however sloppily printed, is covered in the story, although never fully explained. The methods of post are detailed however.)

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Sadly kit has a hard time of it in the absence of her mistress with everything from a spring cleaning of the house, which terrifies her, to an accident with a barrel of soft soap, which I assume is either lye or the lye and fat makings for soap, which almost does her in. All about the plot is is given away in the first part of the book which is penned in the voice of the young mistress now grown.

However, when the little mistress describes how much she loves her kitty and what a glorious cat she is you know that H.H. was herself a cat lover and an understander of the feline nature. (Kim speculated that the timing is right for this book to have inspired Archy and Mehitabel, first created by Don Marquis in 1916 and collected first in 1927. As many of you know, it is best known for being illustrated by George Herriman of Krazy Kat fame.)

Letters from a Cat Published by Her Mistress for the Benefit of all Cats and the Amusement of Little Children has an original copyright of 1879. My edition is from 1930. It has seventeen illustrations by Addie Ledyard. The author H.H. turns out to be Helen Hunt Jackson (b. 1830 and d. 1885, née Helen Maria Fiske) a famous poet and writer of her day.

Jackson was the daughter of a minister, author, and professor of Latin, Greek, and philosophy at Amherst College. Her mother having died when Helen was 14, she and her sister were fully orphaned three years later. However, the father had provided for Helen’s education and she attended a boarding school where she was the classmate of Emily Dickinson with whom she corresponded throughout her life. Helen Hunt Jackson was very much a part of the interesting and broad group of writers and thinkers in the greater Amherst area of the day.

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Jackson begins writing after the loss of husband and sons over a handful of years and before she was much more than 30 years old. (Hunt was the surname of this husband, she eventually remarries while taking the cure for TB in Colorado years later and takes the name Jackson.) Her earliest works are published under the H.H. nom de plume. She became interested in issues surrounding the poor treatment of Native Americans after hearing a lecture in Boston by Chief Standing Bear in 1879 (interestingly, the year Letters from a Cat was published).

Her best known work, Ramona, published in 1884, is a story of a young woman of mixed Scots and Native American heritage, was hugely popular and spawned five films and even was thought to expand the tourism industry of Southern California at the time. While it may have been the romance of the story that made it so popular, Jackson wrote it as a way of showing the plight of the native people. She kept up a very real and fierce lifelong battle with Washington over the treatment of the Indians and fighting for the return of their land and rights.

Of the illustrator, Addie Ledyard, there is really no information except for the trail of books she illustrated which are still available. At a glance I would say cats were a specialty, although she seems to have illustrated at least one volume of Louisa May Alcott stories. Following my nose on her illustrations may lead to some other interesting discoveries.

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This illustration shows Ceasar, the handsome, huge black cat who arrives in town and is an  important plot point.

 

I am reminded of an obscure, antique volume I had years ago and gave to my mother, written by another poet who also wrote from the perspective of her cat. If I can remember it and find it I will share it in a subsequent post. I always think of it when I see a cat watching out a window as her cat called that reading the newspaper daily.

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Letters from a Cat is available on Project Gutenberg (with illustrations) and Google Books, as well as in reproduction and various earlier reprints over time. With renewed thanks to Eileen, I suggest all you cat collectors get on this one.

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Earlier volume of the book.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

February Festive

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Getting into a pre-birthday and pre-Valentine’s Day mode here at Pictorama today. I will report that Kim is hard at work on the annual Valentine which will debut (hopefully) next week, and I am here to say it is going to be a stunner! Meanwhile, I have a few commercial kitty-esque offerings to start the ball rolling today.

It seems that cats have always figured somewhat largely in the visual language of Valentines and I therefore always keep half an eye on what ebay has to offer in vintage Valentines in the weeks leading up to February 14.

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from Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

 

The cat and mouse card caught my eye early – there was something truly feline in the way this puss studies the mouse (a mousy looking mouse despite her anthropomorphic portrayal) and she seems is dancing in a strange little holiday dress. My valentine is written across the dress, with a little cheat of the nt in order to make it fit neatly. A nod toward the crueler side of feline nature is a bit surprising in a Valentine sentiment, You look sweet enough to eat. This cat means it folks, a bit of blood lust in his eyes. Nonetheless, it was sent To Jean From Lorraine as per a very childish pencil script on the back. We’ll assume it was taken in the best spirit meant.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

This second card is identified as having been made in Germany which seems to be the place of origin for some of the best early Valentines and is more traditional. I liked something about it’s wide-eyed kitten enthusiasm and bought it for a few dollars on a whim. I think I would have been pleased to receive this one. And I do hope it made the recipient, Elsie Minke, feel kindly toward Raymond, as per the inscription on the back of the card. It is a sweet card and has a tiny bit of cardboard in the back to enable it to stand up on its own and evidence of use tell us that it was employed to do that at one time.

Piles of childish Valentines were exchanged each year in my elementary school days. My memory is that class lists were distributed in the early years and we routinely wrote one for everyone in our class thereby removing the possibility of someone not getting any I would guess. We bought big plastic packages of tiny cards with envelopes and dutifully filled them out, collecting mostly the same in kind in return with perhaps the addition of the occasional box of candy hearts.

High school brought a gauntlet of single roses to be ordered in advance and delivered day of – a fundraiser for some group or other. This afforded an annual (somewhat ambitious) opportunity for anonymous Romeos to put a bid in, or even bolder declarations by others. Purchase by boyfriends was requisite. (We also did something similar in the fall with large white mum corsages – with purple ribbons, school colors – to be worn to the Thanksgiving football game. It always seemed to me like a tradition that probably dated back to the 1950’s as the 1980’s were not a corsage-wearing decade for the most part.) Yes, the holidays could be competitive affairs for adolescent affection.

Meanwhile, my father was always the very best Valentine and he would show up from work with boxes of candy and something special for us. I still have a silver heart key chain he gave me one year, a matching one for my sister, and which I used for years. Dad was a splendid gift giver. Despite never being equipped to remember my precise age after I turned 18, he was always very good about holidays and gifts.

On the (many) occasions he was traveling during a holiday he either sent missives in his absence or showed up with them a day or so later, but they were always great. As a news cameraman his travel was by its very nature unplanned so I am a bit amazed when I think back on it. Dad kept a suitcase ready packed in his locker at work so that he’d at least have a few days change of clothing if sent abroad without notice. He frequently would end up having to buy clothes when a story lasted longer than a few days. This lead to my father, who liked clothes and buying them, having a much more robust wardrobe than my mother, who is somewhat ambivalent about them. (I take after him.) Somehow, probably with my mom’s organizing help, he managed to hit all the holidays and birthdays splendidly.

Pictorama readers know that Kim has found a way of topping this, producing an annual, very personal drawing for me. I will share this year’s great Valentine reveal next week. (A few from years past can be found here and here.) You still have a few days folks, get out there and stake a claim on your Valentine, there is no time like the present.

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I think it will cheer you up…

Pam’s Pictorama Post: We here at Pictorama feel the need for a good shot in the arm by this point in the winter. January was a grueling month to get through and spring is still so far off, alas. Therefore, as we stand perched on the threshold of February, I offer this entertaining Louis Wain tidbit, The Street Orchestra, to those like me who need a boost.

I have been much taken with Louis Wain recently and you may have noticed that I have been indulging rather freely in the purchase of his postcards. All of the elements of this 1904 street scene symphony remain relevant today – the children, (are the kittens also selling fruit? with a flag of Italy stuck in their cart?), the musicians, beggar and beg-ee, the laborer and onlookers. The fellow seated in the middle of the card could be taken either as a stump speech-maker (my first thought), or my preference is that he is Mayor of this block so to speak. Squarely in the middle of things he observes and comments on all. Every active block needs a Mayor it would seem.

The restaurant in the background is what really makes this card however. While the offerings are all very entertaining, some still have a tiny bit of bite by way of a kind of cat cruelty that Wain tends to lace through his work and specifically his postcards. Louis Wain does not just give us toothless, jolly felines – his kitties still exhibit some of their teeth and claws, their cat nature.

The restaurant offerings here include: Pickled Red Herrings and Boiled rats in sauce, (and my favorite albeit almost illegible) Cats Meat a la East End – where a plate of leftover mystery meat bits comes to mind, and we are Noted for our mice soup, with Best chicken patties and finally the appeal that You can milk your own cow – 20 cows to choose from. Cow milk is additionally advertised on the fence, somewhat cryptically, as Try our noted cow  – best milk, no pump kept on the premises. And finally, if that doesn’t work for you there is also, Good beer – best in town.

While some collectors might turn their noses up at a card that has been written on by the sender, I feel as though the neat script addition to this one adds to the charm of this card, If you look hard at this I think it will cheer you up. HMD. I couldn’t agree more! On the back, in the same hand it reads, So pleased you are a little better. Love to Sis as well as yourself. It is addressed to Miss N. Harrison, 6 Strensham Road, Balsall Heath. It was sent from within Birmingham in 1904, but the month on the postmark has been obscured. I am sure it did its job of cheering though.

So, happy February dear readers – and I do hope that if you look hard at this, it will cheer you up.

Made in Japan

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I should be old enough and smart enough to stop speculating about things I will never do, because some time around your fifth decade you start to realize that those proclamations will just lead to egg on your face – at least they occasionally do in my case. I have long been snobbish (at least in my own mind) about china cats and have more or less thought that I could not be seduced into purchasing them for my kitty collection.

However, the black, white and orange fellow caught my eye on ebay recently, with his rakish sort of Pete the Pup look, and as I purchased him the one with the blue scarf crossed my path and I picked it up too so he’d have a friend. It seems somewhat beyond my ability to find any information about these knick knacks so I cannot tell you if they proliferate in a variety of colors or sizes, only that I do not remember seeing them before.

One is stamped with JAPAN on the bottom and something painted in Japanese as well; the other has nothing. As I photographed them I noticed that the orange and black one is a tad larger and they are made from molds that are ever so slightly different. There is something very cheerful about their expressions and I like them together. They have yet to find their precise home in the apartment, but they will find a safe perch where I will hope they can reside undisturbed by feline frolics or human gaff.

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A couple of years ago I was mesmerized by a truly splendid display of Japanese sleeping cats, Nemuri-neko, which means sleeping or peaceful cat, in the Kutani ceramic tradition in an exhibition devoted to cats at the Japan Society. A dozen or so of the most beautiful examples were lined up like real, lazing pusses napping on a long wooden display dividing the room where you could almost imagine they were sunning themselves. Most if not all were on loan to the exhibit by the sister of the friend who had invited me who said they resided lined up in a similar way in her sister’s San Francisco kitchen.

I immediately fell in love with these and would very much love to own one of these early pieces. These sleeping kits were originally carved in wood and there are versions from about every period from their inception, some time around the late 17th century, to those contemporary ones churned out now. Some undated, older versions below. The white with the gold pattern is the most common, but I have a hankering for a less common black one myself.

The highest quality of these, unsurprisingly, goes for a fair amount of money. Given the generally rough and tumble nature of our tiny space this seems like an unlikely purchase in the foreseeable future. However, you never know and one of these days maybe I will be writing about a line of these fine feline fellows, curled up and sunning themselves by our window as well.

Midnight Concert

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I admit to being on a bit of a Wain binge lately, having just purchased that excellent New Year’s Card I wrote about a few weeks ago. (That card and post can be found here.) In more or less the same wave I purchased this one which has a lot going on, the longer you look at it the more unfolds. Long gone are the days when I was reluctant to indulge in Louis Wain and his pricey postcards!

This one was never sent and has no writing on it, strangely there is a printed notation on the back which states, F. Hartmann’s “Manx Cats Series” N 3069. 2.” and indeed, the kitties in question are all Manx, tails notably absent upon study. Evidently Mr. Wain did an entire series devoted to the Manx, another example below. Apologies for the somewhat dubious quality of this photo snatch of Stormy Passage on the S.S. “Viking”.

 

Perhaps our Louis Wain research will eventually turn up the answer to why and how exactly he signed on for this Manx project, but for now suffice it to say, it was among his entertaining accomplishments in the realm of kitty illustration.

The music held by the cats all relates to the Isle of Man, the origin of the Manx cat. (I have written a little bit about these tail-less felines. That Wain wanna-be postcard post can be found here.) A quick pass at the internet tells me that the Manx is the oldest breed of cat and sometimes they have stubby tails as opposed to none. Manx cats are generally round all over – big eyes and round head and ears. Sort of ideal Wain models in my opinion.

Kim, who is working at his desk as I write this morning, tells me he used to be visited by a Manx when he lived in Berkley, a girl cat he described as “a real fuss budget, but not as much as Cookie.” In response to this Cookie has left the rocking chair she was napping on and joined Kim on a cushion next to his work chair, a generally prized cat spot in this apartment. Clearly she enjoys her fuss budget status in our house.

A careful study of the music sported by the cats on this card shows titles such as Manx WeddingEllan Vannin, Ramsey Town and by far my favorite, The Herring is the King of the Sea. I can easily imagine these bawdy Toms singing:

The herring is the king of the sea
The herring is the fish for me
The herring is the king of the sea
Sing fol the do or die

Oh what’ll we do with the herring’s eyes?
We’ll make them all into puddings and pies
We’ll make them all into puddings and pies
And all sorts of things!
Herring’s eyes, puddings and pies
And all sorts of things!

The herring is the king of the sea …

Oh what’ll we do with the herring’s heads?
We’ll make them all into loaves of bread
We’ll make them all into loaves of bread
And all sorts of things!
Herring’s heads, loaves of bread
Herring’s eyes, puddings and pies
And all sorts of things!

 

Meanwhile Ellan Vannin, sheet music held by the only kitty who is a bit feminine in appearance, is a sort of unofficial anthem of the Isle of Man. The Bee Gees, whose place of origin is the Isle of Man pre-Australia, recorded their own version of Ellan Vannin, with updated lyrics. It was part of a 1997 world tour and released as a single in 1998 with the proceeds going to a charitable organization. (You can listen to it here.) No one can accuse Louis Wain of not doing his research or shirking detail.

This kitty concert racket on this card plays out atop rooftops, in view of some silhouetted men, pipes a’puffin, framed in a nearby window. The cats are in their glory as they sing from a variety of lyrics simultaneously which gives a sense of the cacophony created. Even the moon looks on in annoyed disapproval, but the kitties don’t care. My favorite is the fellow perched on the chimney with smoke billowing out from under him – he’s the one with the Herring King sheet music. One of my favorite Pictorama posts for a late night kitty sing along, perhaps a cat genre unto itself, is the photo I found and featured in Kitty Sextette Singers which can be found here.)

Skim

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

If you have ever experience a nocturnal chanteur or chanteuse in feline form you know that it gets your attention and can indeed keep you up. While I believe the lore of the midnight cat song is a love song, there is another variation which I attributed to male cats which is the tendency to roam the house (or in our case, Blackie, very small apartment) howling and muttering to themselves.

I refer to this as Existential Kitty Angst or End of the World Meows. My parents had a cat that drove me nuts with it – long sessions of it nightly. They had learned to sleep through it but he kept me awake whenever I overnighted. Blackie indulges in it occasionally, but I find it usually ends in his taking a swipe at Cookie and then whole thing ends up in a fight, sometimes even a spirited chase through the apartment. This seems to sweep his anxieties out of the way, although sometimes instead we can end it in a non-violent way, encouraging him to find his spot at the foot of the bed. However, on those occasions when I find myself awake and fretting at 3 AM, Kim, Cookie and Blackie sound asleep, I too am tempted to caterwaul and howl!