Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is one of two very special cardboard kitties I have to offer at the moment, purchased in recent months but who have not yet had their premiere here at Pictorama. First I focus on this nifty fellow.
I have seen him offered once or twice before and chased him around the internet some, but never acquiring him. Then he fell in my lap at a most unexpected moment, late one hectic night a few weeks ago when I was having a quick look at my phone and found him being offered to my by my Mid-west maven, Miss Molly (@missmollysantiques) via Instagram. I scooped up some other fine Halloween decorations (one from a few weeks ago can be found here), however this one interests me in part because he’s almost not quite a Halloween fellow, although I assume that is his origin. A black cat for all seasons in my book.
He offers only that he was Made in the USA by way of markings and is small, only about 12 inches. His monochromatic black and white works for me for being bold with his big what bow which makes me think of a tuxedo kitty. He bares his fangs though and looks reasonably fierce for a guy in a bow and his tail curls up behind him in a question mark. Despite his snarl he has a certain come hither charm.
It is the design of Mr. Kitty that makes him special. For storage he lies flat, but at the bottom we are encouraged to Push in and fold back to form easel. This takes a few minutes to exactly figure out, but then you do and an accordion middle made of a honeycomb of tissue paper allows him to expand into an almost 3-D feline, using his tail for extra ballast.
What exact role he was intended to play I am unsure, as his size makes him a bit small as Halloween decor goes. However with his neat design and snappy appearance he rates a place at my table any day of the year.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I purchased this nice bit of Halloween in a group buy several weeks ago which I am just starting to sort out. (Purchased from @missmollystlantiques on Instagram – they flashed by me while I was doing a bunch of stuff and I just grabbed them and was pleased when they showed up in the mail later.) I am just starting to sort these out – Pictorama readers will be treated to more of them in future posts.
Despite what might seem obvious, I don’t collect Halloween items deeply. The paper items make up a small percentage of my black cat collection as storage (I am a poor caretaker for paper in general) and display are issues, but a number of things have come over the transom and this little trove appealed.
In cardboard decorations, I like a nice heavy cardboard like this and of course even better when it is embossed and textured in this way. (The heaviest of these tend to be German, but this has an almost illegible made in the USA on the front.) I would be tempted to actually hang ones like this for Halloween if I had the right opportunity. After all, no reason not to use them, albeit gently. Small pin holes from years of hanging exist and no need for new ones. I would avoid tape. However, somehow sadly apartment life has not lent itself to this.
As Halloween decorations go this one seems somewhat odd. I bought it for the two nice black cats, but as I sit here looking at it I am wondering about the design: stop, go, and detour. Against an orange moon, Halloween lanterns light the way and these two kits are trying to decide which way to go. I guess from scary movies we know that taking the detour is probably going to lead toward all kinds of trouble.
It seems oddly philosophical for a Halloween decoration and yet somewhat appropriate for someone who just inherited a house and five cats in another state and is suddenly facing a detour trying to figure that thing out.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This scene of early comical commercial carnage is brought to us by Diamond Dye which claims to be the simplest strongest fastest and please know that, they have no equal. And of course so easy a child can use them! Additionally the back also boasts news of three new colors Fast Stocking Black, Turkey Redfor Cotton and Brown for Cotton. I guess no one could come up with a nifty name for brown.
Diamond Dyes do not seem to exist today, nor can I find out much about their illustrious history, but they had a robust advertising life in the earliest days of the 20th century. This somewhat unappealing youngster has dipped both her doll and kitty in the dye. I can’t help but wonder if the message at the bottom was also a double entendre – It’s easy to dye with Diamond Dye. Ahem.
Back when I was a tiny tot, in nursery school, and we were living in a small house in northern New Jersey. We had our German Shepard already, Duchess, and a lovely black and white cow-spotty male cat named Snoopy. Snoops was a heavy set, slow moving cat of infinite patience – the one I would routinely dress in doll cloths and play circus cat with. He was not a hugely mischievous cat and in fact this might be the only story of its kind I can think of. He was generally in my words today, a very good kitty.
Mom, who was always industrious about home care and maintenance, had gotten the idea to paint the brick floor of the screened back porch bright red. And yes indeed, when she wasn’t looking, Snoopy made his slow determined kitty walk right across that wet paint and kept going, so not only did we have a cat with bright red paws (at first mom thought they were bleeding), but of course his paw prints after he marched across the kitchen. He remained dignified, quite unconcerned and unfazed by the fuss he ultimately caused. The dog, who was always misbehaving, was probably overjoyed to see the cat in trouble for a change. Clearly mom must have flipped out since I remember the whole seen these many years later. (For some reason it also reminds me a story from the same era when a friend of my sister’s smeared lipstick on one of the walls. Mom had great fortitude it seems and she didn’t kill him. His name was David Mount – no idea why I remember that. I wonder what he grew up to be?)
My own experience with dye is limited to some batiking I did in high school and college. To keep the melted wax in place we used cold water dyes which were far easier and less complicated than these early dyes which would have required boiling water. While I am sure they were state of the art in their day, I think I can understand their disappearance. I can only say I know enough about it to know that I would have probably unintentionally ended up looking like this somewhat malevolent looking child if I had tried to use them.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is going to be a very short and sweet nod to Pictorama. This past week saw me zip in from staying with Mom in NJ to 48 continuous hours of Gala prep and execution – a concert and dinner for almost 600 people.
This was followed by the trip back to NJ and, drum roll please, more than 24 hours (and counting) of a vile stomach virus. I don’t think I have had a stomach virus like this in decades and I have been unable to peel myself off the bed here for more than 10-15 minutes at a time. However tea and toast tasted really amazing earlier as my first food since Thursday and I think recovery is in sight.
Therefore, I share a few small cat advertising cards that arrived in the mail in NY earlier this week. This is a tribute to the NJ cats who have decided to rally around me in illness and play nurse even though they normally largely ignore me. Beauregard in particular, has been very attentive and I think Gus is just following him around – much to his chagrin.
These cards came as part of a lot from the Midwest. The Mile-End Spool Cotton Thread sports a little girl with a very large hat and a cat that is reminding me of Gussy a little bit. You can decide for yourself on that. She looks a bit sad in addition to be quite furbelowed. The other card is just a scrap and I am not sure what they were pushing. The kitty (all set for food) and little girl seem somber for advertising. On the back it says Schaefer 217 Cass Avenue, St. Louis.
Lastly, the Standard Java Record injects more energy into the post. This smiling girl and tabby are advertising the Best Coffee in the World. It makes me regret I was not up for my morning cup of joe today and went instead for a cup of tea and honey.
If I had known I was going to be bed bound I would have probably stayed in Manhattan – although Kim should probably be just as glad I didn’t as I sure would have kept him up all night. Nonetheless, seems like we are coming out the other side and it is a sunny pretty day here. I am feeling stronger and will try to get up and around a bit today and a higher energy post tomorrow.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There is a certain kind of cat photo postcard I am a sucker for and this fits the bill perfectly. These two tabby tigers perch together on this bench in this very homemade photo postcard where someone has taken the time to etch their names in during the printing process.
It is poorly made – even before the intervening decades (more than ten) it was likely faded from poor processing, perhaps tired chemicals or just an inexperienced hand. It is hard to see but the bench that Tiger and Tom pose on may actually be a chair that has lost its back. Hard to tell.
Tiger and Tom look ready to make a break for it so I understand the pressure on the photographer to rush a bit. Cats will be cats and these would like to get on with their play in that big field which was probably full of all kinds of interesting things to chase and marvels to consider and conquer.
On the back, in a clear if youngish hand, it says, Heard you were at the fair. I had a day off but went to Owosso instead. Had a great time. When are you coming to H…ll? Chic and then below, They all call me Chic out here for there are3 Myrtas besides me. It is addressed to Miss Julia Purdy, Fowlerville, Mich. The postmark is indistinct but appears to be from October 26, 1908. Sadly no reference to the puss portraits on the verso.
Spending time at my mom’s house among her numerous kits (I posted about their general ambivalence to me recently which can be found here) I am reminded of the feline politics of a house full of kits. Growing up we always had a waxing and waning (usually waxing) number of cats and you become accustom to their pecking order, the shifting sands of affiliations and turf tussles..
Currently in this house Milty is technically senior cat but so old that he is a bit of a figurehead (shhh, don’t tell him) and it is Beau who is really top cat. He rules with a casual paw for the most part. Gus is a male upstart who is always testing the water with Beau who cuffs him about the head and neck and tells him to get on with his own business. This leaves two girls – the ever bossy Peaches and the so timid now you see her now you don’t Stormy. For some reason we refer to them mostly in a formal way – Miss Peaches, Mr. Milty, etc. This goes for all the caregivers too.
All this to say, I see some interesting combinations and odd bedfellows amongst the participants as they look for strength in numbers and allies. Sometimes I find Peaches and Milty napping uneasily together in a chair, later maybe Gus and Beau having a truce in the side bedroom. Everyone loves the room I sleep in and the office I use as these rooms are closed to them when I am not here. There is a great outpouring of cat interest when these doors open with my arrival.
I will close on a stray cat note. Hobo, a ragged looking male I have taken to feeding (because we don’t have enough cats you say!) who consumes copious cans at a time – the cat has a hollow leg I swear. He showed early this morning for his first three cans of the day. We’ve long wondered where he was entering our yard as it is entirely fenced in. Today I discovered his path and a small hole in the fence, with a well-worn cat path clearly defined!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Thus far 2023 has been a very Felix year here at Pictorama and especially noteworthy in photos, if I do say so myself. While this Felix picture roll may wrap pretty soon, it is a stormy Saturday here after a long enervating week in Manhattan and contemplating this particularly perky card seems the most cheerful today.
This is an especially wonderful Felix they are posing with here – big enough to be a small person in a costume. (The first time I saw one of these cards I thought that might be possible!) He has very nice, big, pointy ears and was designed with extra long arms which he wraps around the two little girls, very chummy! His bow is untied and a tad bedraggled, and admittedly there is something particularly buck-tooth about his usual sewn-on toothy grin.
The oldest of the three (I will take a guess on the baby) girls is the one dressed most beach ready casual, the other two are a bit more dressed up. I love the oldest girl’s sort of wild fly away hair. They look enough alike that I will declare them sisters. The card was never mailed and nothing is written on the back. There is a bit of white paint on the lower left corner, but it is hard to see it if you aren’t holding it in your hand.
This card has the unusual distinction of being the first I think I have ever purchased from a US dealer. All of my other posing with Felix cards have come from Britain, Australia or New Zealand. Having said that, I have no doubt that despite having found itself for sale in Florida that it was taken in Britain, as you will see below.
As I sat here in my early morning bleary-eyed state, my attention fell on a card on the wall, hovering over the computer, where I have tucked a few Felix photos on a wall that is largely devoted to film stills, a few lobby cards for early Westerns, and various other early 8″x10″ photos. I could see immediately that this card (which somehow I have not devoted an earlier post to) is a rather stunningly precise location match for the new one. Wowza!
The very same long-arm Felix seems to be reaching around these three-of-a-kind kids, those in their matching togs, glorious striped beach dresses, on the ends (note the alternating sock colors) and the odd fellow out in the middle. Felix is sans bow here and one ear is askew, but there is not doubt that he’s our fellow.
If we had any doubt about the location, the distinctive windows and even the light is so similar in the photos; that is what caught my eye first. A closer look reveals the same space below the white board building. I’m not sure I have any reason for assigning it as such, but my thought is Brighton.
While on a roll for guessing, although it is somewhat less absolutely a match, I offer another photo from my collection. I think a fair argument could be made for this prize pic having been taken at the same location based on Felix, the white board exterior and the light. Thoughts? (I wrote about this very favorite photo from my collection in a post here.) I must have had this thought before because they were hanging together.
The more recently purchased photo is smaller in proportion by several inches, 4″x5″ rather than 5″x7″. I wonder if their tracking number at the lower left is truly chronological – N5252 and N7130 – which would make the triplets the later one. (And the gentlemen in front of the photo establishment much earlier than either.) Presumably these numbers, which appear in some form on all these sort of day at the beach posing photos, were used to tie out the negative to the appropriate party so the photo could be sent to the correct person. Unlike tintypes, which were usually developed in real time in a soupy bath of hypo, I have always assumed that developing and printing the postcards took at least a nominally longer time.
Clearly multiple cards could have been ordered and printed of these real photo postcards. However, I have yet to come across two originals of the same card – although in my collection I have a few cases where multiple single tintype images were taken at the same time and saved together. I have always imagined that the postcards were mailed and arrived a few weeks later, a pleasant reminder of the day at the beach or the vacation, but perhaps why duplicates didn’t seem to be bothered to be made.
The pot of coffee I put on has finished and the sky is looking like it may clear (although still dubious), so Saturday is officially kicked off here at Pictorama. Tomorrow I will pick up from New Jersey.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For some the heart of Pictorama is in the toys, but for others it is the pictures and we are on a Felix-y photo tear. This was a must have pic once I spied it on eBay as I knew it was unlikely I would see it again. Like yesterday’s photo this one took weeks to make it here from Ipswich, England (others have zipped through from Britain in days – so much for the once great and dependable British post) until I began to worry that it was lost.
However, when I arrived back in Manhattan last night after my extended sojourn in New Jersey (yes, I still have a nasty cold but am much better), it had arrived at our door and was safely awaiting me here at Deitch Studio. (As were Kim and the kitties – Blackie dispensed with his typical several hour moratorium on recognizing me and followed me into the bathroom immediately upon arrival. I was missed!) I was not disappointed with it among a satisfyingly large haul of other future post photos.
Notably today’s is not a photo postcard, but instead a photo, printed on surprisingly thin paper making it potentially a bit fragile. Written on the back is Kite/Felix £25. If that was what the seller paid then they did not turn much of a profit, but perhaps that is just what she had it marked to sell somewhere which would mean it paid for her to auction it.
I assume that this intrepid looking group constructed this brilliant Felix kite and I do wish we could see it flying. There is an air of adventure and expedition about them. The gentleman in the suspenders on the far left, with his sunglasses and hat, really looks a bit like he is off on safari. The other fellow sports a vest and tie no less; both men are mustachioed. It is impossible to be certain, but I think the women are wearing matching dresses and do they have ribbons (like awards?) pinned to them? Everyone wears hats on what appears to be a rare hot sunny British day. Someone more knowledgeable about period clothing could probably date this better but I would guess the late twenties.
Felix has taken to the air in a variety of ways of course – we know of various enormous balloons that his likeness has graced as per a few from my collection below. (Those balloon posts can be found here and here.)
Felix of course is splendid. He stands shoulder high on the smallest of the women, hands on hips. He is reduced to a basic geometric design, but has his signature grin and pointy ears. The kite design is a bit hard to discern, but appears to be a variation on a box kite with wings off each side. He is a pip!
I went through a phase of kite enthusiasm as a child and I would have loved this one. However my father, a child of the city, did not have a well of kite flying or construction experience to draw on. Ever intrepid however as I remember he purchased one or two more fragile models we attempted to construct before bringing home an inflatable one. (We never went for a box model sadly.)
What this kite lacked in romantic visual appeal, it made up for in ace flying ability. Dad attached it to a fishing pole with plenty of line and it went off! I believe we had several splendid runs with it on the beach and in the backyard before one day, flying very far away over the water, it came down and was lost. My kite mania was assuaged however and, likely to my father’s relief, we did not seek to replace it.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have always found the term notions as applied to sewing paraphernalia rather romantic. These days your basic notions are getting harder and harder to find, at least here in New York City. Sewing baskets house your tools – pins, needles, thread, scissors, tape measure, hooks, chalk, buttons and the like and they still exist but were more prevalent in the first part of the 20th century I think.
These days kits are sold for the likes of us who may only sew the occasional button – needles, some thread and a needle threader (I needed one of those even before my eyes went bad), which can cover your need for executing the basics, but back in the 20’s sewing was more of necessity and the ever popular Felix might hold your yarn, needles or thread. (Recently I wrote about a Felix curi-oddity that came my way which appears to be meant to hold needles, thread and the like. You can find that post here.)
Pictorama readers may remember that my adventures in stitching tend to be ham-handed at best. With a little luck I can get the occasional button back on. I have stopped short of doing any sewing on my toys however and certainly a hem is beyond me. However, sewing tools and notions do charm me and a few of my other sewing related posts can be found here, here and here.
This fragile small item showed up on eBay recently and intrigued me. I have never seen it before which accounts for a number of years of Felix looking, although things certainly do still turn up. It is plastic and mass produced – there is a crack in the top which means it doesn’t screw on tightly any longer. There may have been many produced, however the thin plastic seems to mean the survival rate is low. A worried, early blocky Felix paces across the front. It has a very hard to read Made in France embossed on the bottom.
Clearly the top can be used as a thimble (I understand the need for and practicality of the thimble, but have never effectively employed one) and inside is a spool which I assume held thread. The top of the spool unwinds and that’s where you could keep a few needles. The thimble top screws on to hold everything together, perhaps the bright orange color helped you keep track of it in your sewing box or maybe even your purse. There was a bit of room inside and perhaps there was a small tape measure or more importantly an edge or some kind that would help you cut the thread. Doesn’t seem to be room for one of my beloved needle threaders however, alas.
Interestingly, a note came with the sewing kit and it reads, Dear Ms. Butler, Thanks for bidding on this unusual cat sewing kit. My best guess is that it was acquired by my mom, who was born in Berdstown, IL 1921. I hope you have a collection of eccentric objects to which this is a welcome addition! Julie Johnson. I am anxious to introduce Julie to the Pictorama collection which I think I can fairly say houses its share of eccentric objects. I will keep her note with it – I love knowing a sliver of history associated with it.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This postcard was waiting for me when I got back from New Jersey last night. I bought it on Etsy from a dealer in Britain and it took so long to get here that I had forgotten about it! It’s a very British card with that red mailbox, a suggestion of a lamp post, and of course some fog. This black cat who has slipped on his bum has dropped a cigarette in the process. He’s a great pose – all akimbo – tail like a third leg, his pink tongued mouth agape.
The card was mailed and is postmarked Hastings, January 6, 1922, sent in the evening mail 101 years ago. It was sent to Miss Lulu Crosse, 158 Castle Hill, Reading Berks. To the extent I can read it, it says, I am so sorry not to have acknowledged your pretty calendar dear Lulu but have only just found it in our drawers where all our presents were put so it must have slipped out of the parcel I thought you might like this as it slightly resembles John. Such a lovely dog. With love, L.S. Dog?
As it happens I had the rare (and suburban) opportunity to hand the postman a bill that needed mailing yesterday as I had just finished putting it together when he arrived to drop a parcel and a bunch of flyers in the box affixed to the front of the house there. Could you take this too? I call that service!
I am learning that some of mom’s bills (taxes and sewer thus far) come with little coupon tabs that need to be included in the payment back. For some reason these local town affiliates have resisted auto withdrawal and in the case of the taxes you have a sheet of these dated tabs you must remember to pull off on a not-quite-quarterly schedule and pay. This is, in my opinion, a bit maddening and fraught with potential disaster as I take over helping mom with these tasks.
The postman visit was especially good timing as I had recently discovered that the post office closest to mom within walking (running) distance is closed for what appears to be an indefinite time as someone drove through the front of it. Housed in a nondescript little shopping center it’s hard to see why this occurred – weirdly accelerating forward? Misjudging the front of the parking space? On the phone? It was the middle of the day – as it happens a friend was there shortly after.
In addition to the post office, the shopping center houses an A&P, a liquor store, and a really splendid homemade ice cream emporium that I have already made numerous visits to with my friend Suzanne. There is a large Dunkin’ Donuts and although we have nothing against donuts, instead we tsk tsk over the memory that a splendid and much beloved stationary store made its home there for many decades and was pushed out and so we don’t stop there.
Meanwhile, there is a nice looking sort of glorified diner, but I haven’t had reason to eat there yet because in an ajoining parking lot is my favorite lunch place, TavoloPronto, the home of the great sandwich, among other things, so I come often to this enclave when in Jersey. If I so inclined I can go to the bank, have a massage or get my nails done there as well. Really many essentials of my local NJ life are housed there or nearby including Mexican, Chinese and Japanese take-out or restaurants – a short run or medium walk from mom’s house.
It would seem I won’t be using that post office for an indefinite period of time – a couple of months have already gone by. I am impatient and just think, Fix it already! How hard can that be? Meanwhile, there is another post office more or less equidistant in the town of Little Silver – oddly mom lives at the nexus of four towns, Rumson, Fair Haven, Red Bank and Little Silver – I can hit all four easily in an average run.
However that post office requires transversing several obscenely busy roads and I don’t generally don’t run on them. This keeps me from frequent visits to Edie’s Luncheonette (which I wrote about recently here) and our local farmer’s market and gourmet shop, Sickles, on foot. And although the idea of running through the Sickles farm property temps me, dealing with these busy streets does not. Perhaps I should consider the Red Bank post office as I run there periodically as well.
Sometimes, if I know I will be back in Manhattan soon, it is easier to tuck the mail in my purse and bring it home, to a city where mailboxes and post offices within walking distance abound.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is one of those, Wowzers, I think I have to have it, but I am not really sure what it is purchases. The listing was fairly descriptive (although it referred to Bonzo as Bongo Dog which limited its search results and may have helped me acquire it) and there were photos, but somehow even I did not see the full glory of this item until I held it (albeit carefully) in my hands. Somehow I knew I really wanted it though. Sometimes you just know something is going to be great.
Luckily for me no one else had the vision for this rarity and with alacrity and delight I purchased it unchallenged. I confess that I thought the Felix was likely mislabeled and upon receipt I would decide that it was Ooloo, Bonzo’s more typical cat companion. However, there is no doubt that it is indeed Felix now that I see it.
This intriguing little item is marked as German with a number, but no other information. It stands about six inches high and was sold to me by a US dealer in Delaware who seems to specialize in vases. This vase seems to me to be of a type that if I knew more about the ceramic output of the period I could guess the maker – it has a general familiarity about it. He did not supply any information however and my knowledge is very limited. As it is we will assume it must be from the pre-war Felix fiesta and Charleston craze of the early 1920’s.
I can only describe this item as raucously joyous! More like a two-step than evoking the Charleston (do couples actually embrace when dancing the Charleston?), but instead just the sheer weird exuberance of Felix and Bonzo locked endlessly in a spinning clinch, mouths agape awaiting posies, elicits a smile from me. I mean, does it get whackier than that in the best possible way? The only thing better would be to stick a bunch of tulips in each side, although it seems too fragile to actually house flowers. (To note, each is technically its own vase – the bases do not connect.)
To my knowledge Felix and Bonzo each sport vases bearing their likeness and of various sizes and relative practicality. Felix’s image appears on a series of tiny toy vases most notably, while Bonzo seems more likely to be a three dimensional manifestation, debatably more usable and to loosely include small planters. I am not sure I can think of another full incarnation of Felix as a vase, but perhaps it has just eluded me. (Please do share if you know better!)
In general we are a bit terrified of owning fragile items here at Pictorama. The rough and tumble of daily life (with cats) at Deitch Studio can be best suited to soft toys and the otherwise less breakable. I do make exceptions however, but as a result this will need to live toward the back of a relatively high shelf.
For a catty place, Bonzo has made several appearances here starting all the way back in 2014 with a post that can be found here after I purchased a great small ceramic figure at a flea market. Subsequently some soft toys have made their way into the Pictorama collection and my affections, other Bonzo posts can be found here and here for starters. His cat friend Ooloo as a soft toy was a notable addition to the collection and a post about him can be found here. Ooloo fans, a small but mighty group, might get a thrill in an upcoming post – stay tuned friends.
Whoever decided to pair these two disparate but ruling king comic characters of the day (I don’t know that I can think of another crossover example of them together let alone clutching each other), certainly had a vision. In executing it, Felix by necessity I suppose, becomes a bit elongated and leggy, with an extra long tail, for ballest perhaps. Bonzo looks more like himself in a more typical state of Bonzo bliss, eyes closed. That dog spent a lot of time sleeping and dozing. (Dancing while dozing though might be a first even for Bonzo.) Felix looks like he was caught in an odd moment of liquid animation, caught in a twirl with his buddy Bonzo, forever presenting posies for Bonzo and Felix fans. Full in delightful I say!