Nestle’s

Pam’s Pictorama Postcard Post: A bit of splendid advertising where cats meet cards today. When I think Nestlé I think of a chocolate bar which, to the highly discerning taste of my childhood palate, always seemed naggingly inferior and pallid to my preferred Hershey. As memory serves though, they were an early leader in chocolate milk mixes and chocolate being chocolate, was of course ultimately always a welcome event – preferences a technicality really. As a kid you largely take what you can get.

In my childhood estimation Nestlé’s powdered Quik was superior to Hershey’s syrup for cold milk as it mixed better and more easily. It came in yellow and brown tins and I still have the sense memory of using a spoon to pop open the lid. Hot chocolate was happily made with either, but I think my Hershey’s affection won out there as well. (Both were challenged by Swiss Miss later because it had marshmallows ready embedded which was very handy as mom couldn’t be relied on to remember to buy them.)

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In young adulthood I worked here in Manhattan as a chef for a Swiss Hotel, the Drake, and Nestlé nibbles abounded as the house chocolate of choice. I don’t think I had really focused on Nestlé’s Swiss origins before then. In my childhood the bars came wrapped in blue, red and white paper and it was Nestlé’s Crunch, more or less as shown below via Pinterest. For all of my memories of Nestlé chocolates I must say I never really focused on the accent on the é until now, funny. It is consistently used throughout.

 

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Meanwhile, these splendid cards were purchased on eBay recently; I bargained them down but still paid up for them and don’t regret it in the least. Their postmarks bear evidence of having been mailed in Great Britain in 1903, August and September respectively, but these were purchased from a US seller. In tiny letters at the top it reads H.M. & Co.’s Famous Posters in Miniature which makes me wonder if these were originally huge posters as still seen in the London underground for example.

These postcards were mailed to and from different folks in different parts of England. 1903 predates Nestlé’s purchase of a rival chocolate company (in 1904) which put them in the chocolate line of business, and was only just making its way to the US shortly after in about 1905. Therefore these cards were likely British and advertising Nestlé’s earlier incarnation as a condensed milk and baby formula company. Richest in cream these both declare!

Of course for me, it was these comical kitties that called to me. I love them together as a two-part comic strip – the skinny brown fellow drinking his creamy way to rotund plumpness from card one to two! Wise white kitty is the purveyor of the fattening feline dairy diet. In the second image, the dark clouds over the night sky have cleared and this backyard nocturnal perk is discreetly jollier in general. Orange/brown cat offers his gratitude in rhyme, Thanks for your feed of NESTLÉ’S MILK. It did me good – my coat’s like silk; And now I’m sound in limb and brain. I’ll never drink skim milk again!

 

 

 

Mornin’

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This entertained me with its little bit of photo collage that makes it possible. The noisy boy kittens (I think they are wearing shirt collars like they just came from a late night party) are “singing” to these proper girl cats, who sport enormous bows, presumably it is their human neighbors who are also being serenaded, much to their chagrin. I am especially enamored of the little house the girl cats are in. This card was mailed on October 22, 1907 at 5:30 PM from Lyons, Kansas to Miss Dorothy Curtis, Villisca, Iowa. (Villisca remains a very small town, only 1200 people as of the 2010 census so even today maybe a street address isn’t needed. The town is evidently best known for an unsolved axe murder in the summer of 1912.)

Cats preventing sleep – night and morning – is a big topic, bless their little nocturnal hearts. I have written some about the morning routine here at Deitch Studio. You’ve heard about how I take my place at the computer eating breakfast while Kim commences working at his end of the desk. During the week I read the newspaper and maybe cheat in a little work email and on the weekend I sit, as I do now, writing this blog. What I have not described is Cookie and Blackie’s routine which starts much earlier.

Ever since his first night in the apartment as tiny kitten, Blackie has been the most likely to sleep on the bed with us. (Despite having been terrified of us and hiding under the bed all of his first day here, I woke in the middle of the night to find him curled up between us snoring away.) He starts his evening between us, usually while we are reading, but after lights out he moves to a spot near my feet. He is sometimes joined by Cookie, who has a pillow of her own down there.

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Blackie, crammed between us during nighttime reading in bed.

 

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Cookie on her pillow perch at the foot of the bed.

 

Come 4:00 am (that’s not a mistake, 4 o’clock!) Blackie begins a frontal assault, primarily on Kim as I do not get up at that hour. This largely takes the form of head butting and jumping on a bookcase full of toy cats, and then plummeting down onto the bed. Cookie watches to make sure he executes properly. If for some reason he does not, she will start racing around on the bed – sometimes they have a chase over us for good measure. Kim is an early riser and more susceptible than me and generally he gets up and feeds them and starts his day.

For those of you who follow us here at Pictorama ongoing, you know that my job at Jazz for Lincoln Center keeps me out quite late on some evenings. In addition, anyone who knows me well, knows that I love to sleep so the early routine of the house is a bit trying for me at times. I have always loved to sleep. My mother tells the story that she brought me home from the hospital and I slept through the night (as did she) and she panicked thinking something had happened to me. I am fond of picking the right pajamas and night gowns, always cotton like our sheets. (I discuss my fondness for my pj’s in a former post which can be found here.) At this very moment I am wearing a pair of pajama bottoms with a toile elephant print which I purchased in homage to the elephant drawings Kim is working on. I adore them.

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My pj’s are still available online from a company with the great moniker, The Cat’s Pajamas.

 

But I love my kitties more even than sleep. And, as I alluded to above, they have figured out that I am not the most likely suspect to get out of bed and often, now tummy full of delicious cat food, Blackie will wander back for a second snooze, curled up with me when I finally hear the clock radio an hour or so later.

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Blackie coming back to share the bed early one morning recently.

 

And of course, once we are both out of the bed it becomes a kitty haven. I close with a rare shot of the two of them sharing it.

 

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Everybody into the Pool!

Pam’s Pictorama Postcard Post: Kicking off this 1st of June post with a kitty fantasy worthy of my Jersey shore childhood, although this seems to be more of a mountain lake scene than the Atlantic ocean of my youth. These swimming felines sport an interesting array of swimming costumes that cross clothing periods – while one bikini is prominent, some “men” wear old-fashioned one pieces from earlier in the 20th century, as does a female kitty climbing up a diving ladder further back. A few wear swim caps – keeping their kitty coiffures intact?

Referred to sometimes as Mainzer Cats, this card is part of a large series of postcards produced by the Alfred Mainzer company of Long Island City, New York. (A local business with Long Island City being just across the East River from where I sit right this moment.) The company was in business from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, however the artist responsible for these cards was a Swiss artist, Eugen Hartung (or Hurtong) (1897-1973), who executed the series. So the moniker Mainzer Cats seems a bit unfair in retrospect – these are actually Hartung kitties.

Clearly the artistic and spiritual descendent of Louis Wain, (who I have written about on many occasions including here  and here for starters), Hartung picked up the whacky feline artistic baton of depicting anthropomorphic cats; his felines generally clad in human togs and portrayed in a variety of settings and situations – sometimes when minor disaster is about to strike, although this one doesn’t seem to show anything more serious than a raft tipping over. He is a bit less boffo than Wain and I gather he employed other animals in images as well – dogs, mice and even hedgehogs.

Kim claims to have had a number of these cards pinned up on the wall of his 1970’s Bay area abode and thinks some may linger in the depths of his files. (Um, are you holding out on your wife Mr. Deitch?) This card is the first to enter the Pictorama collection although I have a tugging memory that maybe I also owned a few as a child.

As for cats and water – I have known some more fond of it than others, but none that were interested in full body immersion, swimsuit notwithstanding. I have however known one or two to sit under a dripping faucet now and again – sometimes to drink from, but occasionally just for the bit of drip, drip, drip on their head. My cat Otto was prone to getting a bit too curious about a full tub of water which sometimes ended badly when she took an unintentional dunking now and again. I have had several cats who were committed to being in the bathroom when I showered – scratching at the door insistently if excluded – and more than one that discovered the space between the shower curtain and liner as an exciting cat shower experience perch, I guess not unlike the excitement going through the car wash as a child.

Krazy Cat & Celebration

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo turned up under a poor listing on eBay and I snatched it up before anyone else spied it. After all, who wouldn’t want this photo of this jolly grinning fellow, clutching archetypal straw hat, flowers and Krazy Kat? I will go out on a limb and speculate that he was a courtin’ and the flowers and Krazy were an offering to his beloved. And really, who wouldn’t be wooed and wowed by that? That toy cat would go a long way to winning me, let alone the flowers and the dapper appearance. According to the back of the photo this is Harry Smith and he is in Augusta, Ga. He’s quite the sport with his hat, sunglasses, clearly parted hair and offerings. No date, but we can make some assumptions about it being the 1920’s from his togs and that great Krazy Kat toy.

Here at Pictorama a year of birthday and Valentine’s Day have just passed. Having a birthday a few days before Valentine’s Day meant a childhood of Valentine decorations at my parties which was always cheerful – however as an adult the bright red and shiny cupids and hearts remind me more of a houseful of kids charged with birthday cake and chocolate than love and romance, the two will always be intertwined.

My father was the first man in my life to meet this double celebratory challenge gallantly. He always had a little something special for us kids for Valentine’s Day, despite it being days after my birthday which had been appropriately celebrated. Heart shaped boxes of candy, a silver heart-shaped keychain one year which I used for a very long time after. (And I’m still a total sucker for those boxes of Russell Stover chocolates which are the taste of my childhood Valentines. I just bestowed an extra large one on my office. The Easter baskets and candy have the same effect on me.) February in the Northeast tends to be a cold, snowy and somewhat miserable month, so the additional festivities make it a bit more cheerful to get through.

My sister Loren put her stamp on my birthday in adulthood by insisting on calling me at an ungodly early hour, claiming that she needed to be the first to wish me a Happy Birthday. On another occasion she declared that my birthday should be a day off from work and we spent the day together. I acquired tickets to the live butterfly exhibit at the Museum of Natural History, which was brand new at the time. However, Loren had not told me she was afraid of butterflies until we were there and they were landing all over us! (She said she hadn’t wanted to disappoint me.)

After Loren died and birthdays suddenly became difficult, I instituted the Aquarian month of dinners and lunches to cheer the month up. I totted up all my fellow Aquarians and invited each one to get together for dinner, or lunch failing dinner availability. It cut an interesting and somewhat random path through friends and acquaintances, and time spent with friends is always a good way to focus one’s energy for a year ahead. The participants have waxed and waned over the years with only two original invitees still in the mix – over a dozen years folks moved away, some elderly ones died. I haven’t added anyone in a few years, although I just found out that someone at work is a candidate, a late January birthday that just slides into the Aquarius fold.

In addition, I am lucky that I have Kim, the best husband ever, who always makes my birthday and Valentine’s Day very special – we spend a day (or more!) near my birthday devoted to digging around in antique toy stores and the sort of dusty haunts that result in the purchase of interesting photos and strange odd bits. And of course he tops himself each February with his Valentine’s Day drawing. (Actually this production starts in January annually as it has grown more elaborate. For anyone who is a new to Pictorama a few of these can be seen herehere, and this year’s here.)

Kim actually did in fact also give me my very own Krazy Kat toy (this same Averill version as Harry Smith clutches here) on my birthday years ago, which is a story for its own post one day. This year’s birthday adventure and acquisitions, some great toys and photos, will also be upcoming as well in a series of future posts. In fact, I will finish this post up so Kim and I can get ready to go out. There was a store which defied us by closing unexpectedly last week. Let’s see what can be found there today. I will be sure to let you know.

 

King of the Cat Tin Toys

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: When I started collecting toy cats, in those days prior to the internet, I assumed that someday I would eventually discover an El Dorado of wind-up cat tin toys. After all, toy cats in other forms are very popular so of course there would be a number of interesting ones, right? However, about a decade into buying toys on the internet I realized otherwise. Frankly (surprisingly) there just aren’t dozens of models of tin toy cats. Variations on this cat with a ball seems to be the primary heir apparent and I have been hunting this version for quite awhile. The smaller and more widely available version, also made by Marx (shown below swiped off the internet) is a friction toy – the same essential design of a cat and ball, but I believe without knowing for certain, that mine is the earlier model. Today’s toy comes courtesy of Santa Deitch with thanks as Christmas in January posts continue here at Pictorama.

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The Marx toy company was founded in 1919 and stayed in business until roughly 1980. (Theirs was the less than memorable slogan, One of the many Marx toys, have you all of them?) Marx was an American toy company and was certainly one of the best known in its day. They seem to have focused on tin toys (windup and friction) and the quality was good enough that even many of their early ones survive today – many variations on trains, but also some character toys depicting such favorites as Popeye and Little Orphan Annie.

Both this kitty and the smaller later version, had leather ears which universally seem to have disappeared from them. (Mine has a single ear held on with an ancient bit of scotch tape however.) It remains a bit of a mystery to me, now that I own this kitty, exactly how it worked. Sadly he no longer does work, and it is also unclear to me exactly what the mechanism was originally. I would be pleased to hear form anyone who knows. I long assumed that this was a wind-up, but there doesn’t seem to be a place for a key. If he was a friction toy (now my best guess) it isn’t clear how that worked either – or why it not longer does. His tail would have gone up and down and that he must be been very jolly indeed. I love his red ball and the graphics on him are splendid. He must have made a lot of children very happy before arriving here at Deitch Studio to entertain us.

 

Charley’s Aunt

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Poster from the Chicago run, not in Pictorama collection

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I consider today’s item a real treasure. I found it while trolling idly on the internet and snatched it up. As objects go, it is splendid, a cast metal with some heft to it, about eight inches high. The cat’s expression is great, with an almost but not quite winking eye – a wicked look. His lashing tail, curled precisely around his feet. There is a tiny ring at the base of his collar and I wonder if a small ribbon or something was originally adorning him. There are traces of red on his face and the base and there is something inscribed on the back of his neck I cannot make out. (See below.) The seams on his casting are evident – he was after all inexpensively made. Kitty is perched on a pedestal which is inscribed, Charley’s Aunt 100th Performance Chicago Hooley’s Theater Wednesday July 25th 1894. I do wonder what sort of jolly world Chicago 1894 must have been if you were lucky enough to go to the 100th performance of this play and receive this great cat statuette? My mind boggles at such riches.

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Having said that, I am not entirely sure Charley’s Aunt would be my cuppa tea. However, it clearly has fans. Written by Brandon Thomas, it opened in England in 1892 and it has enjoyed a phenomenal run that first stretched across the Atlantic to Broadway, made its way across this country in theaters, was then snatched up first for a 1915 silent film (rumored anyway, I couldn’t find a trace of it), an extant 1925 film version starring Syd Chaplin, followed by a 1930 early sound and 1941 (Milton Berle in this one) films. Then came musical adaptations and several made-for-television movies proffered through the late 1970’s. (And I am sparing you the litany of foreign versions, numerous in Germany, even one in Egyptian.)

To this day Charley’s Aunt continues to be revived (think dinner theater in suburban NJ) and one review said that continuously, somewhere in the world, it is always playing. Quite simply, as far as I can tell it appears to be an early cross dressing farce which has something to do with men in dresses trying to get engaged and having issues with chaperones.

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Program from the play two days earlier, cat souvenir mentioned!

 

The playwright, Brandon Thomas, hailed from Liverpool originally, born in 1848. He started his professional life in commerce and as an occasional journalist. His real ambition was acting and he realized it, eventually becoming sought after as a character actor. He wrote more than a dozen plays, none with the record breaking appeal of Charley’s Aunt however. He continued acting, mostly in comedy until his death in 1914.

Kim had heard of the play; I had not. He attached it to Oscar Wilde, which was an accurate impulse as they were contemporaries and Charley’s Aunt launched with The Importance of Being Ernest in London and the two are often thought of as a piece. Most notably, I have absolutely no idea why this play is so winningly represented by this grinning feline, both on poster (shown above) and my recently acquired statue. Frankly 100 performances doesn’t seem quite worthy of such outstanding recognition, not to say I am not extremely pleased that it did.

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A barely legible photo of Hooley’s Theater exterior

 

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Cracker Jack Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I would have been a fat kid with bad teeth if Cracker Jack toys were as good as this when I was little! I discovered this fellow on eBay the other day and paused to imagine a tot’s world endowed with such wealth. I should start by saying I have always loved eating Cracker Jack and plowing my way through many boxes of it would not have been considered a hardship. I would say candy popcorn sprinkled with candied peanuts remains pretty high on my list of favorite junk foods. The fact that a toy of some sort was tucked in amongst all that yumminess of course just made it all the better.

A lot of research has been done on Cracker Jack and collecting these toys. I spent a little time on the comprehensive site, theartiscrackerjack.com for some information and a quick history. While Cracker Jack starts being made and sold as early as 1871 it is christened in 1896. Toys make their appearance in the boxes in 1912. The 1920’s seems to be the sweet spot for metal toys like my cat, although the first toys were flat metal soldiers so metal was used early on. Paper was surprisingly popular, and since it went into the box unprotected, that which survives today generally still bears the residual sugary stains. Celluloid takes over, followed by other molded plastic later.

I can appreciate the fascination with those early paper toys which have somehow survived, evidently the most prized by collectors. However, it is the metal toys like this one that capture my imagination and would have kept me popping candied popcorn in hopes of making a charm bracelet or finding the ultimate special toy. In a quick search of images online I did not turn up my new blue cat specifically, although cats seem to have been generously represented over the decades. It seems that cartoon characters were favored at one point and evidently Little Orphan Annie and Popeye were among those featured. There is a rather stunning Toonerville Trolley whistle as well, shown below. It must be some sort of high water mark among these prizes!

Toonerville Trolley not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Some of the metal toys are unbelievably elaborate and my mind boggles at how it could have been cost effective to produce and include them when Kim says even in his childhood the price was a nickel for the longest time. Meanwhile, his fondest memory of a Cracker Jack toy is of a red Scottie dog. I have found Scottie dogs in both metal and plastic – another popular model with a myriad of variations. I cannot seem to produce an image of the exact correct one as of right now. Kim says nothing reached the pinnacle of that acquisition afterward.

While I have memories of plastic charms early on, replaced by paper later, I don’t actually have a specific memory of finding something great in particular. I always looked forward to the prize however, even after they had mostly been reduced to sorry little joke books. I believe it is possible I would have kicked off my life long collecting tendencies much earlier if I had found this kitty in a box of Cracker Jack I was munching. Sadly, the company has discontinued even a nominal prize. However it is fair to say that even now this discovery is threatening to kick off a whole new area of collecting here at Pictorama.