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 Post: I am in love with this photo and snatched it up as quickly as I could! A timeless image for cat lovers, caught on an early photo postcard. Somehow, even with slower film, someone managed to catch this perfect moment, the woman in her full white long cotton skirt, her hair carefully done. Puss, who was to have his photo taken, probably in her arms, has other ideas.
So lucky that the camera man or woman was quick on the draw! Kit is quite a fluffy furry fellow or miss – tail flying behind him or her – I am betting on him as it appears to maybe be an orange tabby and those are mostly male.
There are leaves on the ground which create a pattern and some space and a Tudor-style house in the background. It is interesting to note that this was used as a Christmas card. Printed on the back with what appears to have been a stamp is some holly and the message, A Merry Xmas to You. Hand written is also, With Mr. &Mrs. Hook’s best wishes 1912, and in the corner just, Jessie Hook.
I like to imagine that the photo, presumably of Jessie, was taken in the early fall and Jessie so amused it became the Christmas card.
It is hard to believe, but here at mom’s there are five cats and almost none will let me pet them. There is of course, Stormy (Cat of Mystery) who will allow no one to pet her – or even see her very often.
For those of you who are new to her story, she appeared one (very stormy) night and my mom put a trap out for her. She strolled into it immediately. After shots and spaying, mom kept her with an eye to finding her a home. Despite some internet pleading on my part, we had no takers and Stormy joined the family – although a bit like a shadow. She appears in the evening most often when the house is at its most quiet. She likes to sleep in a chair near my mom – who never leaves her chair so Stormy likes that stationary aspect of her.
Peaches, another female, was found as a kitten trapped in a basement in a neighboring town, yelling her head off until someone found her. The someone was a friend of my cousin and somehow Peaches also found her way to mom’s house. She is very feral and fiercely keeps humans at a distance of never less than about a foot. Recently though she trusts us enough for a stretch and a roll around on the kitchen floor in front of all of us. I have a long term goal of petting her one day.
Meanwhile, my mom’s cat Beau (Beauregard) is utterly devoted to her. He glared at us humans who are clearly inadequate to the task of caring for her to his standards.
He’s rarely further than the chair next to her. His yellow eyes following our every move. Mom rescued him from a photo she received from a Newark shelter years ago. He somehow understands that she moved heaven and earth to get him and appreciates it.
Beau will allow me to pet him and if necessary I am usually designated to move him if necessary – if mom wants to eat let’s say. I usually put him on my coat for a snuggle which is novel and meets with his approval.
Gus is another stray who wandered into the house a few years ago. He is a very mild mannered cat – a bit under the thumb of Beau and the elder statesman, Milty. He has a major crush on one of mom’s care givers and snuggles with her, but never can let me get more than about three inches away.
Lastly is Milty – he came from a Milton Road in Newark many years ago. Most senior cat, he is approaching his second decade. He is the squeaky wheel of the house and will seat himself in front of you (or on you) and demand food or attention. Occasionally he takes on Beau to remind him he is senior cat and not down yet.
I am missing Kim and my own Cookie and Blackie during this extended stay in New Jersey. However, while I may not get pets with each of the (sometimes) slippery kitties here I appreciate their antics and mom enjoys each and every one and loves being surrounded by them every day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This weekend finds me unexpectedly in New Jersey, a captive of a sudden onset bad head cold following a series of migraines which made travel back to Manhattan beyond my short term ability.
The tables were turned and mom was ordering me to bed, to drink fluids and to consume quantities of soup. Mom has remained firmly in charge of her domain, but less so over my health these days. However, I did as instructed and, despite some mighty sneezing which remains, I am on the road to repair and hope to return to Kim and cats (and running for those of you who are tracking that) soon.
Nevertheless, onto this rather spectacular photo I share with you today. I stumbled on this beauty, waited out the auction, paid a princely sum for it and then waited for it to arrive from Britain. And I waited, and waited. Somewhere in there it went astray in a postal strike and it was longer than a month before it arrived on our shores.
Identified by the seller as J. Easton Clifton Baths, Margate the card is unused and completely unmarked on the back. The seller puts the image at having been shot in 1920 and puts the period of manufacture at 1920-1929, I wonder if he or she knows something of the specifics of these cards that I do not.
This card fits neatly into my collection of postcards posing with the giant stuffed black cat – sometimes astride him, other times beside as here. However, this has the significant bonus feature of the heretofore not seen enormous Steiff-like teddy bear! In my mind this leads to the question – did Steiff perhaps actually produce both the giant black cat and the bear? A quick internet search does not immediately turn up more of these outsized bear pics as I suddenly wondered if I had just been missing them. The giant cat chairs are more prevalent. (My previous posts featuring my collection of these cards can be found here and here for starters.) This leads as always to the question I ask – where have all the giant toys people posed with gone? Still I stalk the big kitties!
There is a reasonable argument to be made that is in indeed the same Margate kitty as below, although the tail is going in a decidedly different direction – perhaps a tail could change direction over time? These are more Steiff-ian than some of the others, another from my collection shown below.
Margate was the happening place to have your photo taken at the time. Many a Felix was there for posing as well as these swell kits. Here is a post devoted to a Margate Felix for starters.
These lucky little girls, sporting their matching dresses, get to pose with both these prime props. One little girl has teddy’s arm around her, perched on his leg. Teddy has a boutonniere, a sprightly collar and jolly row of buttons down his chest. His head is at a pert angle. Kitty has a lovely large bow and sticks his tongue out at us. Those matching dresses are spring weight with knee socks rather than tights. However, behind them, the adults in their beach chairs are dressed a bit warmer in jackets and hats – for that typically not quite warm day at a British beach.
So, it is time for me to reluctantly leave Margate of the 1920’s once again and figure out my way back to Manhattan. Kim, I hope to see you, Blackie and Cookie soon!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Those of us who dabble in the world of toy effigies of cartoon and comic book characters are well aware of how, contemporaneously anyway, Krazy Kat lagged a bit in the bid for toy fame and remunerative reproduction and merchandise. Even in animation, there’s appears to be a smattering of ancient silent cartoons that provide a reasonable representation of Krazy – and a mass of later cartoons which bare no resemblance to him in appearance or temperament, but which are great fun nonetheless.
And in parallel there are a very thin number of toys dedicated to or derived from the strip. There is one stuffed toy figure of Krazy from his hey day which is oddly (appropriately perhaps?) abstract and came in several different colors ranging from acid green to an equally shocking purple. (There is another which attempts a greater three dimensional reading of him. I own examples of both, shown below.)
However, all this to say that while the two dolls (yes, two, the man on the end holds one as does the girl in the middle which is harder to see) bear an interesting resemblance to those dolls they are somehow even further abstracted. Homemade versions of those already odd dolls? They look slightly demonic and the mystery as to why these folks had their photo taken with them as part of the family (while taking a mountainous hike) is a mystery lost to time indeed. (Although I do have other photos with folks featuring themselves with Krazy Kat dolls and those can be found here and here.)
This photo postcard was sold to me by someone in Massachusetts and it is unused and unmarked on the back. Without knowing definitively we can probably assume that this was taken in the United States. The older woman on the end and the young one next to her are smiling, but frankly the rest of the group is a bit grim, toys on display or not. Visually I like the contrast of the one woman in black tights and the other in white, both in plaid dresses. One doll is dark and the other light as well.
The seller identified these dolls as Felix and said he is in the process of selling off his Felix collection in retirement. I guess it’s a fair argument that these were intended to be Felix rather than Krazy as they don’t really look like either. Meanwhile, these dolls appear to have been designed to (arguably?) address us with a raised middle finger – a strange choice for a toy. Huh. The other hand points down. The simple toothy grin and the pointy ears contribute to the somewhat malevolent look which is born out more in the expression of the light one rather than the dark.
Obscene gesture or not, I would happily snatch these fellows up for the Pictorama collection should they ever turn up.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama readers know that the Kim Deitch Valentine post is one of the highlights of every year and today is the great reveal day. For those of you who are new to the practice, it goes back to the very first February Kim and I were together and I asked for a drawing for Valentine’s Day. This is not surprising as I came into our relationship as a fan first and clearly my very own personal Kim Deitch drawing made just for me – I mean what could be better?
Over the years they have gotten to be full blown, hand colored productions. Kim plans an annual pause in his work for about ten days to produce them and discussions about the content start early in the year. Last year he had an idea in mind and usually we would go with that, but I had an unusually strong desire for a portrait of Cookie and Blackie and Kim complied handily with the wonderful picture below – a real favorite! (That post can be found here.)
So this year it was clear that it would be Kim’s concept from last year and a splendid tribute to my tin toys was conceived! Tintinabula (a Deitch almost word of wonder) it declares, marching across the top, the letters growing to an exclamation.
Of course, we drift into the realm of fantasy and (sadly) I do not own that splendid Tik Tok man in the middle – although I will put him in the category of maybe this drawing can wish him into my collection! This has lead to a search for a premium one and a discussion around him this morning. I share the best version below.
Also, below is an example of the luscious looking Oz volume it comes from. Beautiful! I never read these and Kim says they are better to read when you are a small child, but they are undeniably an illustrated feast for the eyes. In my picture a tin newsgirl is fabricated at the bottom waving an issue, hot off the press, of the Tin Town Topics in her hand.
Meanwhile, many of my actual toys make an appearance. My Butter and Egg Man (read the original post here) has a nice bit of real estate and figures prominently on one side of the drawing. (It is he who has come to town after all!) His suit is a bit more zooty in the drawing than below – bright red stripped trousers and Kim’s version wears a hat which is also a nice addition. The tune of Butter and Egg Man blasts out from a wind-up phonograph at his feet with bits of the lyrics around him.
My splendid tin turkey has a spot in the bottom left with a slightly maniacal expression on his tin turkey face! An excellent wind-up dog I stumbled onto recently gets a spot below him – just about perfect the way he is. (Posts dedicated to the dog and turkey can be found here and here.)
A tin Felix from a scooter toy rides a Deitchian airplane in a flight of Felix fancy. Those who are carefully observant won’t miss the cheerful tin pig marching across the back. He was a birthday gift from many years ago and I have never seen another like him. I am pleased with his inclusion.
Each corner of the picture bears my name in a heart. At the top Kim has picked up my favorite expression when I see something I really like and which I leave you with for now, Wow, wow, wow!
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Sometimes a Pictorama picture post is just that and this postcard today is one of those. I spotted it on eBay and scooped it up. It came to me via a California based dealer, but there is something vaguely European about it in my mind. It is utterly without marking or writing on the back which is unusual – even primitive photo postcards usually have some sort of markings. It has crinkly cut edges which you rarely see on postcard stock and is more common in commercially printed photos I might think were a bit later.
While this was advertised as a Halloween photo I assess it to much more likely be a young woman dressed up for a play. I have spent some time wondering what she is holding in her hand that isn’t showing us her cat tail. (It is a nice tail and I always think that is a hard part on a cat costume. I might prefer the sort that stands out on its own though.) There is a chain with exaggerated links – maybe a costume watch chain? And there’s some sort of grassy bits hanging off her waist as well which just mystify me.
As I studied those I realized that it is more likely that these were props. Her worn flats seem appropriate to stage and perhaps some dancing. She stands in front of a backdrop which is either in a photography studio or perhaps a stage background.
For me its all about those perky cat ears. They fit nicely with her hair and they look perfectly natural there. As someone who owns a few pairs of cat ears (I’m assuming this doesn’t surprise my readers) perched on a hairband I assure you that some do fit better than others.
I will also say that for some reason on the occasions I have sported them that it displeased my cats in a remarkable way. It wasn’t that they were afraid when I put them on (turning me into a huge kitty?), but more like they were deeply disappointed in me. If cats could think that you were making a racist joke I think it is the look those cats gave me. I’ve never felt quite right about the ears ever since.