Toy Cat

 

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This cat is the sort I imagine I would have very much loved to own as a small child. He is sturdy, neat and bold in his black and whiteness, with round edges and a friendly face. There is a cheerful durability to him, small and convenient for a child to carry. I think I would have been very pleased to wander around with this guy clutched in my arms as a toddler. I feel compelled to report (Mom and Dad please take note) that I never had a toy stuffed cat as a child. Clearly I have been making up for lost time.

It is strange the toys that we do end up fixating on as kids. I have written about a soft black and white dog named Squeaky who went everywhere with me (featured in Felix on an Outing), but I also had a hard kuala bear my father brought back from a news junket to Australia, which I carried around when I was a little bit older. The bear did not have a name, just kuala bear, and he was made of some sort of real fur. That is a bit shocking to me now, however I was only about 6 and only thought that it was very soft. While the fur was soft the bear itself was stuffed with something very hard and he had spiky plastic claw paws. I no longer have him and have no idea what happened to him, but he seemed to belong more or less to the same family as the toys shown below from the Google image file.

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The question of the type of fur these bears sport seems to be open for debate online even now. The obvious guess is kangaroo fur since that country seems to have a surplus of kangaroos and no great love for them. I am sure that these days my mother (animal rights activist Butler) would never have approved it now. However, he was my constant companion for a very long time, eventually losing a claw or so and his ears and some other spots worn to baldness. We were inseparable.

This new toy cat has no maker tag for identification, but he came to me from Great Britain (a fine toy-making nation) and I assume it is his ancestral home. He does bear some resemblance to a small dog toy that came to me via Kim years ago, shown below. Perhaps not the same maker, but kissin’ cousins nevertheless. All of these are toys that have seen many miles and years, and much child love.

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Kitty Sextette Singers

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I concede that I have been completely unable to find a trace of what the heck this item is and any information about Amos of Hollywood, let alone the charming cat sextette represented here. The cat chorale is made up of largely striped cats, but there’s one stand out white kitty and of course my favorite is the all black cat which is represented almost entirely and solely by his glowing eyes. Another black kit is the maestro conductor, perched on his hind legs to add a purpose to his position. The illusion is, of course, to a noisy bunch of backyard felines driving hopes of sleep away, but I would love to find these songsters on my fence.

If you look carefully you will realize that the photo is a composite of numerous photos, six as far as I can tell. (It is easiest to see if you look at the sidewalk.) I cannot entirely identify, but I believe the cats on top of the fence were all stripped in later as well. There is some loss to the photo where you can see bits of white. A nice, tiny moon has been placed in the upper left corner. I am sure that the conductor cat holds his baton only through the magic of the darkroom. The poster for the Hollywood Bowl shows a date of July 7-August 28, but no year appears any place on the card to identify it. And what are the dogs up to? Are they appreciative audience? Chorus as back-up to the cats? Or are they getting ready to chase them?

And finally, does Amos of Hollywood refer to the black conductor cat? I cannot find anything, but Amos and Andy when I attempt to search it. T.K. Hastings has also disappeared as far as I can tell. This card is about 8″x 5″ and I assume it was some sort of lobby display, although a bit small for that. I purchased it off of eBay and admit I was the only taker, but I am delighted. I stumbled on it under an obscure listing. With the damage to the corner I will try to get it framed as soon as possible and up on the wall. In the meanwhile, I offer it to you all for your delectation. May dreams of cat choruses dance in your head tonight.

Bogue’s Soap

 

Pam’s Pictorama: This kitty cut-out is about six inches high. She (pink ribbon makes me think she and there’s a certain girl cat quality) sports a rather enormous bell – gosh, birds were certainly safe around this cat unless they were stone deaf. Kim is not a fan of this particular acquisition in the cat advertising category. I admit that is later than the Victorian cards I have been purchasing and it seems to have had another purpose. As you can see below, the back of the card is both advertising for the soap and instruction for the use. Soap Kitty had a Doggie partner as well and you could obtain on of these Cats or Dog. Purchase 3 cakes of BOGUE’S SOAP for 25 cents. I have supplied the dog as a grab off of Google and he is missing his “stand-up strip” which obscures the interesting if racist diatribe on the back of the cat card, also shown at the bottom of the post.

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Dog image, not in my collection.

With a quick search I was interested to find out a bit about Charles B. Bogue from the Historic Albion, Michigan website. Despite the NYC Hudson Street address on the card, Mr. Bogue hailed originally from Michigan and then made his soap fortune in Chicago.

In his personal life, Charles B. Bogue was married to Martha Gleason Harris in 1876, and the couple had three children, all of whom are buried in Riverside Cemetery. After their divorce in 1899, Martha married Charles’ brother George Bogue. Charles in the meantime married Eva Knight of Chicago and moved there where he continued in the mercantile trade under the firm name Bogue Soap Company. He had one daughter by his second marriage. Charles was still living in Chicago in the late 1920s.

The claims made by the soap, complete with instructions – for use in all seasons, no boiling…saves labor, shortens the wash day, and makes home happy. My favorite is no more blue Mondays. Not to mention the $100 offer for any bar of Bogue’s Soap that will not do all that is claimed for it.

A Bogue’s soap company (artisanal and utterly devoid of cats, dogs, or racist advertising) exists today in Ojai, California. Their soap can be purchased at Whole Foods and other venues. There’s no reference to the soap’s history and perhaps is not even the same company. Artisanal or not, I would personally like them much better if they were still offering cat and dog cut-outs with every 75 cent purchase. However, buy it, try it, you’ll like it!

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Back of cat cut-out with cardboard strip to stand-up

By a Thread

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: That thread sure can hold! Man, I would sew my coat buttons on with that stuff. I’m nuts for the teasing kitties – especially the one hiding behind his friend, but egging him on. The cool character leaning on a giant spool isn’t taking any chances. He will cheer and jeer, but make a quick getaway if needed – we all know bums like that.

Our friends at J&P Coats thread are still in business and have been for more than 250 years, according to an anniversary website of their history. I learned that the company was founded by James Coats who opened his first factory near his home in Paisley, Scotland, in 1826, known as Ferguslie Mill. His was the second mill in the area, the first belonging to someone named Clark. By the time Coats opens his mill there were at least 15 in the area.

Two other facts stood out about J&P Coats thread. First, they evidently founded the practice of making decorative wooden cases for their threads which were used to display and hold them in shops. They made these cases from the wood leftover from the making of thread spools which was a thrifty business move and great advertising. These are cunning and collectible and I would certainly grab one up given the opportunity. The other story is that Thomas Edison evident used carbonized Coats thread in his early experiments for electricity – No. 9 ordinary Coats Co. cord No. 29 to be specific. Not surprisingly, they were also deep in the Victorian trade and advertising card fad and produced calendars that are reproduced and said to be sought after as well.

As for cats teasing dogs, it is an old, old story. Given the opportunity, what cat worth its salt wouldn’t temp a tied up or similarly disadvantaged pooch? My sister had a cat, named Milkbone, who used to tease their massive pitbull mastiff mix, but was smart enough to know where in the house she would lead the dog so she could leap up or run under something and the dog Ron couldn’t get her. I always told my sister, if you’re going to be a cat named Milkbone and live with a dog, you had better be a smart kitty.

 

Nice Kitty

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This snapshot came out of a album by the look of the back of it, and with the highlighted title Nice Kitty preserved as well. There is no date and it seems timeless other than to say my guess about the printing is the 1940’s or later. This is a pretty fine cat costume and I would have enjoyed owning it myself. I do hope there is a tail somewhere even though it isn’t in view of the camera. And of course, I would have preferred it in black, or black and white. Nonetheless, this little girl is enjoying her role and is nicely crouched for the camera in a kitty pose.

Although the idea of a childhood Pam dressing up as a cat would seem self-evident, I do not believe I ever had the honor. These days you can purchase such nice cat ear hair bands and tails that one can put together a very fine outfit indeed. I do own a pair of cat ears, black fur with orange sequins lining the insides. I bought them more than a decade ago when my cat Otto was still around. I remember the first time I put them on and showed her. Clearly, although cats may not see things in detail they understand outlines, and mine had just turned into a giant cat. Her eyes widened briefly and then she gave me an utterly disgusted look and backed away, almost shaking her head in dismay. Her expression was exactly the same as someone who had just heard a racist joke and was deeply offended.

Powo! Cat Boxing

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This summer of cat advertising cards continues with this newest in the series by this popular artist. I do not know who this fellow or woman was, but he or she had a significant share of this trade. I love these! Each one seems a bit puzzling, but the group seems to form a loose narrative. Perhaps when I get enough of these together I will see the whole story.

This card barely left space for the ad at the bottom – I couldn’t find a reference to Lawson Baths, clearly printed on after the card was already made. The overgrown baby cat seems to be the one saying, Now Pa brace up and have some style. It is the same toothy cat as in the post Arctic Baking Powder and, probably, more recently the entry Westerman’s Shoe Bazaar.

It is perhaps politically incorrect of me to say, but I have always been a fan of cat boxing. I am not alone – film of cat boxing goes back at least to Thomas Edison – 1894 Boxing Cats. A quick look turned up the very delightful Cat Fight in Boxing Ring with Dog Audience – sort of a variation on the Dogville comedies, but as a commercial for Chevrolet. Kim says he remembers seeing cat boxing on the Ed Sullivan show. Of course of contemporary vintage there are many on Youtube, something along the lines of 1.83 million results at a quick look. A very popular favorite however is Cats Playing Patty-cake – I thought I would fall off my chair laughing the first time I saw it.

Cookie and Blackie indulge in this pastime occasionally. As brother and sister it seems it is natural to square off once in awhile, stand up on their hind legs and take a poke at each other for a few minutes – usually in slow motion. As cat fighting goes it is usually the least likely to get serious and many of these early filmed efforts are likely to have been staged – although I will say those cats really seem to be going at it in the Chevrolet commercial. It is mostly very theatrical, even here in the apartment. I don’t know why, but it does make me laugh when they do it. I will let you know if I manage to reach for the iPhone to tape them at it any time soon and we will make them internet stars!

 

Tommy Dodd

Pam’s Pictorama: The trade card bonanza continues with this card, which does not appear to actually advertise anything. The back is blank and looks like it spent some time glued onto an album page. This fellow, sporting his medal and with his somewhat human expression, would be a tad creepy if he showed up looking just like this at your house one day – and I like cats as you know. His origins are a bit obscure, although I guess a picture does form, so read on.

First, there is a tweet from the San Francisco public library of this card with the following post about the image on this card:  Tommy Dodd sends his #caturday greetings! This adorable cat won first prize at the International Cat Show, and then was featured on a trade card for a shoe store specializing in children’s shoes, on Stockton Street. In the San Francisco History Center’s trade card collection. Mine shows no evidence of San Francisco or children’s shoes, however these cards were clearly purchased by companies which printed their own message on the back or bottom. Still, um, somehow I doubt this was a real cat who one a prize at an international cat show – just a guess.

Researching the slang phrase Tommy Dodd turned up many meanings, some related and some clearly not. I list them here for your consideration in no particular order: odd or peculiar; a cemetery may be known as Tommy Dodd’s garden; thank Tommy Dodd for this or that; a phrase related to coin tossing (mid 19th century) as in tossing odds; penis; sodomite; a style of hat; a glass of beer or a walking stick. (The last three were from Australia.)

The coin tossing allusion is the one most frequently sited and referred to. It appears that there were numerous beer hall songs devoted to Tommy Dodd and below is the chorus to one I was able to find, as well as a link to the lyrics of the full song:

I’m always safe when I begin. Tommy Dodd, Tommy Dodd I Glasses round, cigars as well. Tommy Dodd. Tommy Dodd I Now, my boys, let’s all go in, Tommy Dodd, Tommy Doddl Head or tail, I’m safe to win, Hurrah for Tommy Dodd! (Lyrics for Tommy Dodd)

As is the case with many of these cards, there was a series that would have been collected – a nascent form of comics? I also turned up another in the series, as well as some companion dog cards shown below:

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Other cards from the same series.

 

Westerman’s Shoe Bazaar

 

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This post kicks off a series of cat advertising I have indulged in recently so hang onto your hats! More than 100 years before cat videos people realized the entertainment value of cats and that they sure can sell. Trade cards like this one from the late 1800’s still exist in abundance so they must have been a primary way of advertising. I am not sure I have yet grasped how they were disseminated – this variety is small, the size of an early baseball card, and do not appear to have been sent via the mail. If they were handed out – where? On the street? I have to continue to look into this.

A search on Westerman’s Shoe Bazaar revealed an advertisement (without cats I might add) on page 8 of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch from Thursday, November 27, 1890. They respectfully say, if you want something in the way of FOOTWEAR NICE or FETCHING in STYLE Westerman’s Shoe Bazaar was evidently the place for you. For the local St. Louis folks, you may wish to note that it was at 1232 South Broadway, French Market.

Now for this splendid card – grandma is an enormous, bespectacled, grinning (and fang-y) kitty – a real wolf in grandma’s clothing of a cat. At first I thought Grandma’s Pet was a brave if rooty tooty, little mouse fellow, but a closer look revealed that he too is a cat – tiny by comparison, with a striped tail, more or less identical to Grandma’s. He holds a little sword and a pair of spectacles, like hers, and a jaunty cap with a feather. Does he do her bidding, and if so what? I adore it, but I have no idea whatsoever what the meaning might be or the inspiration – let alone what it has to do with shoes. Unlike some of these cards, there is no information on the back.

Pictorama readers with a good memory will know that this is likely by the same artist who did the art for the card I posted in Arctic Baking Powder several weeks ago. I provide that card below for comparison and your enjoyment. As the collection grows, perhaps the mystery will unfold.

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Getting a Grip on Kitty

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Just like something out of a Lilian Harvey film from 1930, this German photo of man, child and katze caught my eye recently. A bit of google search tells me that Vandenheuvel is a surname, although obviously also an advertisement here. It could perhaps, be the name of the man and girl. I like the little girl – she is at a gangly stage with her legs a bit out of proportion (tights bagging at the knees) to the rest of her, big smile and of course clutching her tuxedo cat; him, one ear cocked in vague irritation, tucked neatly under her arm. The man, smoking a pipe, with a smile more in his eyes than on his lips, looks like a nice man. While everything about them is a bit worn, there is a sense of ease if not actual prosperity about them.

A girl and her cat – a favorite theme of mine. While cats have been my friends and confidents since childhood they, like me and especially the childhood me, are also notoriously willful. It is very hard to get a cat to do something that wasn’t the cat’s own idea to begin with, as we all know. This includes getting them to sit still in a photo.

The way she is holding the cat is what my family refers to as cat prison. Obviously cat prison is a gotcha grip on a cat that guarantees the best result for holding onto said puss. The hold in the photo is one of the dependable ones and certainly one of the few that can be employed for photo taking – although in looking over some photos we’ve also been know to employ the method of flipping them over on their back like a baby. As a kid I used to carry our huge orange tabby Pumpkin around like the girl in the photo – which he allowed if not actually encouraged. (Pumpkin and I were close. He would have taken anyone else’s arm off.) My father coined the phrase cat prison – his preferred hold is on his lap with his two large hands holding the cat on his lap – nothing fancy for him. Usually employed in his case for brushing said kitty. It can be the only way to get a photo of some cats – but it is also the struggle of man against the determination of cat – a never ending battle.

 

 

Cat Tales, John Rosol

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This great little book was a thoughtful gift of our friends Tony and Sue Eastman who know of my love of all things black cat. An initial search of the author and artist, John Rosol, turned up surprisingly little. (I am very spoiled and have gotten used to information on even the most obscure topics turning up with ease, I admit.) To start with however, the comics in this book were all published in the Saturday Evening Post and all feature his cat, Tommy.

As per the dust cover, Tommy was a stray who strolled into Mr. Rosol’s Philadelphia studio and calmly seated himself on the drawing board. Rosol got Tommy’s idea immediately and went to work. In exchange for small steaks, liver, cream and catnip (no wonder he was a fat cat!) Tommy consented to stay for a while and be Caterer Rosol’s idea man…When he finally took his leave – destination unknown – he had trained Mr. Rosol so well that not even an expert can tell where Tommy left off and John began…P.S. Mr. Rosol hopes if this little books happens to come under the eye of Tommy, he will drop into the studio and turn off the light which is always burning for him. I, of course, teared up at the idea of the disappearance of Tommy. While my edition dates from 1944, the first printing appears to go back to 1934.

The cartoons are simple and cheerfully fun. The idea that he turned one cat into a consistent five identical twins brings certain very busy cats to mind. I have had several who had such a penchant for trouble that you would swear that there was more than one cat underfoot. (Cookie!)  The gags are mostly of the kind assigned to cats – attempts to obtain fish and milk and to chase mice for food. Most notably the Tommy quints are patriotic during these WWII years and even turn their fat cat noses up at crab meat when they realize it was shipped from Japan, abandon their mouse chase when reminded to embrace a “meatless day”, round up dogs for service, and even help a female soldier who is afraid of mice.

A fellow blogger over at Comics Kingdom has the scoop on Rosol’s two brief syndicated strips, The Boy and the Cat (1939-1941) and Here and There (1941). Comics Kingdom offers some samples of Here and There and the black cat/s are tucked into these as well. In the style of earlier comics these are large single panel tableaus, with a different strip (about the cat) running occasionally up one side. This entry, combined with his obit, add the following facts: Rosol was trained as a commercial artist at the Philadelphia Museum School of Art, which later became the Philadelphia College of Art. His full name was John Rolosowicz and he died at the age of 85, still living in Philadelphia. In addition to his comics which were syndicated to numerous papers across the country, and his work for the Saturday Evening Post, he also worked for Bazooka bubblegum. He published a children’s book The Cat’s Meow which I can find no evidence of online and evidently was working up until his death.

So I salute John Rosol, a cat loving cartoonist, barely saved from disappearing entirely from view by the internet and this popular volume.