Three White Kittens

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is another item dug out of the Pictorama archive. As you can see, it is quite fragile and frankly even the amount of scanning we did, as feared, seems to have injured it further. I do not have a clear memory of how I acquired it. At first I thought I bought it at a flea market, but no, it was a birthday gift from my friend Eileen shortly after I met her. It is odd in that the pages are not printed on both sides, so you have spreads of blank pages between those that are printed. Therefore it was unclear if it was complete with all its pages – in addition they are not numbered – however some quick research found a copy on Abe’s Books (you can own your own in significantly better condition for $75 at the time of writing this) and my copy does appear to be complete.

Three White Kittens was published in 1880 by McLoughlin Bros. Publishers, New York. McLoughlin was a publishing company founded in 1858 based on the new color printing methods for children’s books. They also produced board games and were eventually purchased and made a division of the Milton Bradley Company in 1920. Their game production ceased, but they continued to produce children’s books, paper dolls, linen books and the like for several more decades. A quick search on images shows a vast amount of this colorful material surviving in collections and archives today. The kitten theme was popular with the company and I supply another cover below. (I find it an interesting coincidence that both this one and my copy have handwritten notes at the top of the cover. This one a gift, and mine indicating ownership.)

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3 Little Kittens, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The writing, however, is quite not aimed at children. As Wikipedia expresses it, these are slightly bowdlerized or retold versions of children’s tales for a more adult audience. As a result, these kitten stories, told in rhyme, are of kits trying to eat someone’s bird, or gold fish. They have titles such as The Greedy KittenThe Cross Kitten, and The Disappointed Kitten. By way of example I offer a verse from The Disappointed Kitten below:

I flew to save my darling,
The dreaded foe in view, –
Oh! never fear, my birdie dear,
No kitten shall dine upon you!

Alas, for those of us who worship at the alter of the fluffy and adorable kitten perhaps not the feline attributes we most prefer to be reminded of. For the record, the kittens appear to be named, Tit, Tiny and Tittens, which appears at the top of each page of verse. Below are some of the illustrations from inside the book, a slightly different look, highlighting the hijinks of those naughty white kitties.

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The Greedy Kitten (?) Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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The Foolish Kitten, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Finally, this is clearly a deep area of collecting and I offer a few highlights of other covers and games, pulled off the internet and into a slideshow below.

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High Five Kitty

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There are lazy times when I like nothing better than to take a long stroll through ancient press photos on eBay. As Pictorama readers know, I purchase the occasional one, but I also enjoy the trip along the way. Comic and human interest photo filler for newspapers appears to have been more prevalent and somewhat more freewheeling than today – although perhaps I am just reading the wrong papers now. Strangely these photos are generally dated with a month and a day and not a year, so we don’t know exactly where in the early part of the 20th Century this one falls, but we do know that it was set for publication from the Acme Roto Service for release Sunday, May 29 or Saturday, May 28, to papers not having a Sunday edition.

The caption was to read, ‘Big One for Me’ ‘What’ll you have, Fifi?’ asked a visitor at the bar who was buying drinks for the house. ‘Make mine a long, tall, cool one,’ answers Fifi, using his forepaws to show the bartender the size. I raise an eyebrow at Fifi being a he, but will have to let that slide I guess. Fifi, if indeed that is his name, has a great look of intensity and some annoyance in this photo. Clearly he was born decades too early and should have been doing cat videos on the internet during today’s generation of kitties. Most memorable for me are the patti-cake playing cats who do a slo-mo fight to a narration of patti-cake, but a quick search turns up numerous others. Cats are standing up and gesturing with their paws all over the world and we love recording it with gif’s and on youtube. (This of course leads to cat boxing, a subject previously covered in my post Powo! Cat Boxing and Cat Boxing, Round 2.)

Since I never had a cat do this before Cookie and Blackie, I assumed it was perhaps an evolutionary advancement in 21st century cats. However this photo is here to remind me that, once again nothing is new that isn’t also old as well. To my surprise both our cats do this spontaneously, but Cookie much more than Blackie. She especially likes to hop on a small rocking chair and let it rock gently (adds urgency perhaps?) and reach up with a star fish paw for your attention and bam, a little high five along with a chirp. Blackie much more likely to reach the occasional, languid paw up, almost more of a stroke, for your attention. (And that says all anyone needs to know about their personalities and the differences.) When the cats were tiny they would stand on their haunches in unison chattering, paws outstretched, when Kim would exercise with an old paint pole, back and forth over his head.

This barmen cat is a solid citizen so we will assume he was the recipient of many complimentary bits off the blue plate special of patrons at lunch time – or there was a plentiful rodent population at his disposal, my guess is both. This photo pre-dates the high five as we know it, and so our friend the bartender doesn’t quite know what to do in response and gestures unconvincingly. I do like the idea that Fifi is requesting a large, perhaps frothy drink. “No, I want it this high!”

This photo reminds me of a restaurant I used to frequent when I lived in London. It was in Holland Park and was sort of upscale so I didn’t go so very often. However, in the bar area there was always a rather amazing buffet of various foods including a beautiful plate of salmon trout. Same bright orange as salmon, but a much smaller fish that I only ever saw in Britain. (Turns out that it is of the rainbow trout family and is also, less attractively, known as steelhead.) Anyway, the beautiful and well mannered cat of that bar was always parked provocatively under the plate of salmon trout. I inquired and was told that kitty was very well-behaved and never helped him or her self, although was known to have a portion slipped to him now and again. So there he remained, ever hopeful.

Taken From Life, The Pussy Cat Rag

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Zipping back to the world of cat themed sheet music today. I especially like the bit above the title – Taken From Life. What does that mean? Where are these tuneful cat choruses that I seem to have missed? (See prior post, Kitty Sextette Singers for illustrated speculation on that subject.) Referring clearly to noisy cats in the backyard, it could also refer to the seemingly real cat and dog chorus used – at least in the youtube I have supplied below. The first time I played it Blackie woke from a sound sleep and wandered over to frown at the computer which was cheerfully spewing these cat and dog sounds.

The drawing on this cover is spirited indeed – throwing not only shoes and cans (Prize brand tomato), but a stool at said kitties! Seems a bit extreme. A close look at this also shows the item throwing humans to be racist depictions of people on those fire escapes. I was surprised to find this bit of racism hidden in my new acquisition. I put it up in my office and my assistant, Farzana, said she had never encountered this before. Another colleague, who has an advanced degree in early American music, talked about history and use of such imagery. It led to a discussion of racist sheet music and cartoons. If anything she seemed more distressed when we finished than when we started. I think I will need to swap it out – perhaps for one of the sheets I keep at home which I covered in this early post Me-ow! Kitty Sing-a-long.

A quick look on Wikipedia tells us that William Gill was born in 1839 to Manx parents – I needed to look that up and it turns out that it is those who are of The Isle of Man.  His bio neglects this ditty and focuses on Manx related music. Although he gets top billing here, Harry Taylor who wrote the words but also has the misfortune of a common name, does not seem to rate a Wikipedia entry. I was unable to locate him online. It is unclear to me what year the music was written, Will Rossiter of Chicago seems to be the publisher here, but no date.

I offer a few versions of this for comparison and there is some debate about the date of the first recording. A remark on Youtube pegs it for 1928 since Polk Miller’s group seemed to do two sets of recordings – 1909 and 1928. The first is here on Youtube:  Polk Miller & His Southern QuartetteA somewhat lesser recording is Ada Jones, 1914, in Ada Jones & The Peerless Quartet in the Pussy Cat Rag – this is the one that had Blackie going although both are sleeping through it as I play it now. How quickly kitties become jaded.

 

 

Tiger Chase Tired with Play

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Tiger Chase is a pretty great name for this striped fellow. A pity this photo postcard is a tad dark, which makes some of the detail, like his nicely dark striped tail, hard to see. There is a bit of string next to him, and I wonder if that is the instrument of play that has so tired him – a really intense game of string chase can do it, and of course he seems to be named for a fondness for chasing. This card came from Australia and with the rustic fence (you can just about see a sign that says Private in the lower right corner), and slightly out of focus stone building behind, it looks like a nice view of Australian countryside – timeless really. It is unused and nothing is written on the back, but it appears to be fairly old and the paper has a slightly brittle quality. Perhaps the Australians used different photo paper stock?

Of course, what we consider cat play is actually our felines sharpening and deploying their hunting and killing skills. Here at Deitch Studio, Blackie in particular seems to really lose it when playing certain games. We have one toy, a lucite rod with a bit of elastic string and an “insect” that looks like something you would fly fish with, that makes him so crazed that I hesitate to take it out. (Incidentally, when purchased the manufacturer insert suggests that the toy be put away where the cat cannot get to it – I thought this was an exaggeration, but no – left to his own devices Blackie would shred and consume it I’m afraid. He even snuck it out of the box when left on my desk one night.) Cookie mostly invents her own games – she picks high perches to jump on and off of, does laps around the apartment at high speed, and occasionally incites Blackie to riot.

When we found ourselves in a rare cat-less position several years ago, adopting Cookie and Blackie from the same litter as tiny kittens, the idea was that they would have each other to play with and keep each other company. I think I had visions of adorable cats, napping with paws around each other. However, I had not anticipated the reality that their primary form of play would be what I like to call kill the guy and that every night before bed I would hear the strangled cries of (usually) Cookie being assaulted by Blackie (after having pushed his buttons) and having to break it up. While I am mostly content to live in my dreamy, anthropomorphic cat world where there are seemingly endless, charming conga lines of kitties dancing and romping, I do realize that in their heart of hearts my little darlings, like Tiger Chase, dream dreams of being elegant killing machines, contentedly and endlessly chasing prey on the veldt or savannah of their imaginations.

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Cookie & Blackie as tiny kits, enjoying a rare moment on Kim’s desk! Pams-Pictorama.com

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Cookie here, ready for action! Pams-Pictorama.com

 

Cat Boxing, Round 2

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I usually hold the line against these posed cat photos, but once in awhile I am sold. Previously I have caved on Flying Dutch Kitties and Breaking News and this is the latest entry. This card was never sent and there is nothing written on the back.

I am somewhat curious about the man in the double breasted suit behind these battling kits. Odd attire for a referee I would think. It’s hard to see at first, but the white cat has a very striped tail. That must be an interesting looking kitty. A close look also shows us that these kitties are wearing harnesses which look rather hateful really. Everyone has their piss-cat ears on.

The cat boxing concept has long been put forth in various forms. (I have covered some of this territory before in my prior post Cat Boxing so I apologize for any repetition.) I am convinced that it all grows out of the natural tendency of cats to, well, box. Anyone whose lived with a couple of cats has seen this show eventually. Cats will stand on their hind legs and, often in a sort of slow action (I call it slow mo’ boxing when Cookie and Blackie go at it) engage in a kitty version of fisticuffs. It entertains the heck out of me when they do it, although by its very nature it usually descends into a proper fight, and everyone has to be separated and sent to time out in their neutral corner. The very best recording of this is the Youtube sensation, Cats Playing Patty-cake which never seems to fail to elicit peals of laughter from me. (As good as drugs really for a day when I am especially down.)

Back to the beginning of cinema, among the earliest surviving images from the dawn of film, is a famous half minute film of two kits going at it, Boxing cats (Prof. Welton’s 1894). It isn’t hard to see that Professor Welton is manipulating the cats in question – much as I assume our be-suited friend is in this photo. Kim says he remembers as a kid being entertained by a similar act on Ed Sullivan and his dad, Gene, telling him that it was all faked – and about the early kinetoscope version.

I can’t remember the first time I saw the film, nor the first time I saw my own cats do this dance. I can say that, more than any cats I have ever known, Cookie and Blackie seem more comfortable standing on their hind legs in general and they will routinely square off at each other this way. (I, of course, have assumed that this is an evolutionary step forward for cats, but perhaps that is another post. It is the way my anthropomorphizing mind works.) Given all of this, I am pretty sure that somewhere, somehow – perhaps in the remote areas of Russia where performing animal acts still thrive – there is a cat boxing act still on the road. The distant descendants of Professor Welton and generations of Vaudeville performers.  And, if not, we certainly have Youtube!

Musical Interlude

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is a snowy sleety March day here at Deitch Studio and I have been rummaging around in the flat files, looking for some hidden gems in the line of sheet music, which I had a vague memory of tucking away. I was not disappointed as this splendid item jumped out at me. I know I purchased it on eBay,  but I have no memory of when or the specifics around it. I showed it in one of my first posts, Meow! Kitty Sing-a-long three years ago. Hotsy-totsy kitty illustrated here, doing his dance to a rollicking piano rag! I especially like his big tongue lolling out and the little lines of electric energy around him. That cat is taking off!

Strangely, if you search Youtube you pretty much find a pile of videos about cats on hot bricks. I didn’t watch any, despite the descriptions as hilarious. There were also several options for learning English, odd. Lastly there was just this one rendition of what we will assume this piece actually is and it does not really come across as my idea of rollicking, but you can make up your own mind if you wish here – Cat on Hot Bricks. Give a shout out if you can find a publication date and/or a better rendition!

Not surprisingly, the expression cat on hot bricks is akin to like a cat on a hot tin roof, meaning skittish, restless or anxious. Our friend Mr. Google also reveals an even earlier rendition of the expression, like a cat on a hot bake-stone (nope, doesn’t roll off the tongue, I agree) which evidently dates back to John Ray’s proverbs of 1678. Poor kitties! Cat on a hot tin roof is an expression I use frequently, but not without an unpleasant image coming to mind.

Ezra Read, the person who is credited with penning this ditty, lived from 1862 until 1922. He was born into “humble circumstances” to a master lock maker who had him and his brothers apprenticed to a blacksmith, which evidently was considered a step up. Ezra and his brothers, James, John Colley and Eber, also worked in the lock shop. However, their father found the money for piano lessons for John who in turn taught Ezra to play. John became an organist of note. Ezra married Beatrice Ida Hampton (known as Ida) who played piano and violin, and together they composed over 4000 pieces under a pile of pen names. Their biggest hit seems to be something called Cinderella Waltz (1910). How popular is questionable as I cannot find a recording of it despite the sheet music having sold millions of copies. (Although, in all fairness, this may be due to the popularity of Cinderella theme music in general.) Ezra and Ida led a somewhat itinerant life until Ida’s death in 1912 at age 45. He eventually settled in Derbyshire where he played for silent films at a local theater. At his death it is said that barrow loads of music were taken from his house. (We collectors all have visions that are a variation on this in our future!)

This fine piece is officially getting dusted off and, along with a few other gems, such as this one below featured in Felix – Here He is Again, will be framed up and brought to my new office at Jazz at Lincoln Center!

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Felix sheet music, my collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

 

A Puss Cafe

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Party cats! Let’s face it, this is a favorite sub-topic of mine – dress the cats up in party clothes and have a good time. (See my recent post named in fact, Party Cats.) Clearly, those folks back in 1911 had a similar sentiment. The exact process they used to arrive at the photo above is an interesting question – no Photoshop back then. I assume they made a print of a photo (remember, no enlargers in 1911!) and then painted over it and shot it again? As I was working on this post I very accidentally stumbled across the original photo, a photo postcard from 1909, which I have grabbed off of eBay and offered here for comparison. Fascinating – I don’t think I have run into this process from this early period.

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Photo card not in Pictorama collection

 

The cat has quite a sour look on his face. He looks like he wants to smack the heck out of someone – the strap for the tiny top hat pulling under his chin.  What a puss – as they say! His tail seems to have been fattened up a bit in the touch up, and he has strangely incongruous stripes on his backend if you look carefully. And those two bottles of drink with a single glass on a tiny table – waiting for his girl?

The back of this card, written in pencil, is the first I totally give up on reading; it has faded beyond recognition and seems to have been a bit sloppy to begin with. (Too much drink, like the kitty?) It was mailed to Oscar Lovesturn (?) Stanwood, Washington on October 11, 9 PM 1911 from Decorah, Iowa. Frankly, I was surprised to learn that this card was that old – it looked newer to me, and I purchased it without seeing the back where it is canceled. Reminiscent more of early television than early photo postcards – I felt that way a bit about the equally old (and mysterious) Cat of the Sea post as well. Ironic of course considering both hail from before 1920!

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