The Sidewalks of New York

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This Christmas my cousin Patti handed me this little book which had belonged I believe, to her grandfather, my great grandfather. Although Patti largely stays with my mom these days, she also has an ancestral home nearby which disgorges the occasional family tidbit. (Past Patti posts highlighting our history, some family photos and including a lovely pair of earrings – which incidentally I was wearing Christmas Day – can be found here and here.)

The back of this little missive declares that it was Compliments of Bowman Hotels. A quick search reveals that Bowman Hotels were part of the Biltmore-Bowman chain, Biltmore being a more recognizable name for me.

New York Biltmore Hotel, via an early postcard in the Columbia Library collection.

A Canadian by birth, John McEntee Bowman learned the hotel business working at Holland House in New York and in 1913 purchased his first Biltmore hotel ultimately building it into one of the most recognized hotel chains in the world. (However, it would appear John died in Manhattan, at the age of 56 after an unfortunate gallstone operation.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Biltmore hotels, both a part of this empire and others which have evidently just taken the name, proliferate worldwide even today. I have fond memories of joining folks for drinks at the Biltmore in Santa Barbara, a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean, back in the in pre-pandemic years.

Historic photo of the interior of Biltmore Hotel NYC. For sale on eBay at the time of publication.

Among the Manhattan hotels at the time those would have been the Biltmore, Roosevelt and the Commodore. These all exist today in one form or another – evidently the only original piece of the Biltmore remaining is the clock made famous by J.D. Salinger and William Shawn who would meet there, creating the notion of meet me under the clock at the Biltmore.

Sadly it seems that the Roosevelt has fallen victim to the pandemic economy. For years I went to a monthly fundraising meeting held there, fairly intact in the early 90’s, and was only vaguely aware of its former storied grandeur. It was decidedly tatty then and underwent (at least one) renovation which in turn moved our meetings elsewhere. These hotels all had a choice proximity to Grand Central Station and the wider 42nd Street area making their real estate attractive even in the decades to come.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Twelve hotels existed in 1923, the year of copyright, and are listed at the beginning of the book. These ranged from Los Angeles to Havana and also included the still extant Westchester Biltmore Country Club, where I was also a guest once. The Atlanta outpost was noted as now building.

I don’t know if Mr. Bowman et al produced these complimentary books for all the cities this chain was eventually to reside in – if there are extant copies of The Sidewalks of Chicago for example, I was unable to find them. A few copies of this pocket-sized volume are available online with prices ranging widely from $19-$89. (The most expensive does have a sporty blue leather cover, most appear closer in appearance to mine.) Clearly folks held onto them as useful beyond their stay for their maps and other information.

Meanwhile, the Little Leather Library had a larger life of its own. Cheerful leather volumes of everything from Sherlock Holmes to Browning and Speeches and Addresses can be found in these editions. Special cases for your collection or perhaps sold as sets can be sourced online.

Boxed set of Little Leather Library. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

To be clear, Sidewalks of New York, only portrays the sidewalks of Manhattan; it does not touch on the other four boroughs. The book is designed as a self walking tour of Manhattan, highlighting areas from the Financial District, Greenwich Village, the fashions of Fifth Avenue and the theatre district. It doesn’t go much further north, mixing some historic highlights with contemporary points of pleasure.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

It was written by Bernardine Kielty (1890?-1973) who appears to have been a biographer of artists and historic figures (her biography of Marie Antoinette turns up repeatedly) but perhaps best know for editing a large compendium of short stories in 1947 in a volume that is still praised today. (I may have to read that if I can find a copy although they seem a bit dear.) Her papers were left to Columbia University and are notable for her correspondence with numerous other writers of the day ranging from Somerset Maugham to Isak Dinesen.

About Greenwich Village she writes probably the section of the city most anticipated. It has come to connote Bohemia, New York’s Latin Quarter, with cellars full of wild eating places; attics full of artists; Batik shops and radical book store; long haired men and determined-eyed women.

The map of Greenwich Village, understandably useful, is gently dogeared in my copy as below – although my image of my great grandfather in no way includes frequent trips to the Village and the need to find his way around.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

In fact I am a bit fascinated by the idea of my great-grandfather having reason to stay at any of this luxury line of hotels (let alone have a need to find his way around Greenwich Village) and have to deeply suspect that the little book came to him another way. For a hard working Italian immigrant who owned first a deli at the Jersey shore, which later morphed into a bar and restaurant across the street, a stay at any of these hotels seems somewhat unlikely. (I have written about that side of my family in a post here.)

This book is well worn by some owner however, it’s cover cracked down the center from use, the spine bearing signs of time in a pocket, leather rubbed away. In the introduction Kielty writes, New York, to many people, is a Mecca. They come to the city, expectant and eager, convinced they are going to see life in its most vivid form…They conjure up pictures of theatrical contrast – of the magnificently rich and the piteously poor; and some of them wonder curiously about the quaint spots, those oases in the busy city life, where history peeps through. Despite all of our contemporary drama, still true today.

Pay-Purr Perfect

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s a rainy dawn of 2022 here in Manhattan today. We’ve been on a gray and wet jag the last few days and it is a weepy sort of a day. It seems unlikely that the sun is going to make an appearance and make a New Year’s Day walk look attractive, even later today. It is, frankly, not the most promising of New Year’s Days. Therefore, let’s grab a hot cup of coffee and bury ourselves in a bit of trivial loveliness in true Pictorama style.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
T-shirt, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My opening salvo for the year is this t-shirt I purchased recently. I had a shirt post not that long ago when I found a few very Waldo-esque ones. (That post can be found here. I model again today.) Those t-shirts both hailed from Japan as, I believe, does today’s interesting acquisition. I don’t buy a lot of t-shirts and am more partial to the variation with sleeves which I find more useful as an item of clothing. The baseball shirts have made an excellent addition to my running wardrobe in particular. I find I am a with sleeves or entirely sleeveless kind of girl as far as fashion goes so t-shirts are a bit out of my daily wearing line. (Kim lives in them of course.) I did make an interesting Felix t-shirt purchase which I wrote about not too long ago and it can be found here so I guess shirts are making an inroad into my collecting.

Felix t-shirt in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I found today’s shirt on eBay and grabbed it up for a fairly nominal sum. It is somewhat worn, but I am glad someone saw the value in putting it up for sale online because it entertains me and I glad to have snagged it. It is also a bit large for me or Kim, so I do think it is more of a collectible for us than a fashion apparel statement.

Checking online I did find that these were oddly enough, at one time, sold by Walmart. (They are out of stock now.) It does not appear that they produced them however, but I allow it is possible. The actual shirt comes from the Dominican Republic, but not clear it was printed there, so the trail goes more or less cold. (For those readers who can translate the Japanese I am curious, although I somehow suspect it won’t tell us much more about the history of this shirt. Is it nonsense? Please share if you can translate it.)

This zooty cat fellow has a natty bowtie, a somewhat toothy grin, and clutches positively bulging money bags – errant dollar bills falling out of them and flying around. We are urged to Claim Your Cash Now, 24/7 and assures us it is Fur Real. We are also urged, in English, to call 555-pay-purr now. I don’t know much about the use of English in Japan, but I am curious why this tips so heavily toward English.

T-shirt, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

At first I wondered if it was sort of a check cashing establishment, but that wouldn’t be claiming cash, would it? Perhaps loans? Claiming seems a bit off for that too, but closer perhaps. Perhaps some sort of lottery or gambling? I like the pun on pay-purr and paper but don’t quite understand it. You will leave these folks with some paper money clearly.

As an aside and talking about Cash, I will mention that Kim and I returned from New Jersey on Christmas Day in style via a car service that goes by Rides with Cash (@rideswithcash on IG and rideswithcash.com). Cash turns out to be an adorable Australian Shepherd who divides his time between the front seat with his Dad and the passengers in back during the ride. He was wearing a jolly Santa suit and spent a fair amount of the ride looking adoring up at Kim with his head in Kim’s lap, enraptured. If it hadn’t been so dark I would have taken photos – but it made the trip go quickly and I hope to cadge a ride with them again soon.

Kim Deitch t-shirt, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

When it comes to t-shirts of course the ones Kim has made are among the most beloved in my collection (I wrote about this one above in a post here) and as noted, these recent additions have a come hither appeal for their vaguely Waldo with a dash of Felix quality.

So, as we gingerly take our first baby steps into this New Year on behalf of Pictorama and Deitch Studio I send you these best wishes for a prosperous and happy New Year.

Curiosity

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is about a little object I have had in my mitts for several months now. It came to me via someone I follow and have purchased from on Instagram, Mia (aka http://@therubyfoxes) and I have written about other purchases from her here and here) lives in Britain and at least at this time the object hails from that part of the world. I share it today as pretty much as an object from my personal cabinet of curiosities and welcome all comers with any information or worthy speculation.

There were two slightly different ones and Mia kept the mate. I chose mine because it had a vaguely feline sensibility which I thought suited the Pictorama collection best, hers is a bit more squat and canine, shown below. (She was nice enough to send a photo this morning – I had snatched him via a story on her account so no way to save the photo.) It is more similar than I remember.

Mia’s sibling version of the object. Many thanks to her for popping this photo over to me this morning!

These appear to be made of bone and the base and ring looks to be silver. A careful look and the grooves where the collar goes around the neck convinces me that these were designed to be in these silver holders with a loop for a chain, ribbon or twine. He sports a tongue which sticks out between his carved teeth. There are deep holes on either side of his mouth and I am not sure where the maker was heading with that. The eyes are perched atop of the head with tiny pointy ears. I thought there was a vague suggestion of a tail, but when I rubbed it I realized it is just the natural coloration of the bone, no carved indentation.

Flip side, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Toothy! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The allover etched designs seem to be the same on both. Whatever their hoodoo it is consistent. I do hope they do not mind being separated, but I believe the US is glad to have one on its shores. I like to think of it having a partner over at Mia’s house in her own cabinet of wonders.

At first I was thinking maybe it was a chess or other game piece, until I realized that the apparatus for hanging and wearing it was integral to the design. Kim had a good suggestion this morning and reminded me of Billiken’s. (He purchased one for me made of mother of pearl which I wrote about here. The creation story is a good one indeed.) The god of things as they ought to be according to Wikipedia (a concept I paused a moment to contemplate), Billikens are good luck and I have christened these likewise. There is something sort of Billiken-esque about them.

Billiken, possibly amber, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Bone Billiken, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

In fact a search of bone Billiken on Google turned up some credible relatives and I am reminded that Sandy over at http://@Curiositiesantique (or http://www.getcuriosities.com) came across a Billiken for sale I remembered as bone, but is amber she thought (see above), although there was a bracelet of small bone ones as well. However, these I found on Goggle are a bit closer to the mark of our mystery charms. (Also above.) Oddly, there are a number of Alaskan and Inuit carved figures that turn up under the search of Billiken bone images – not sure how all things Billiken can be true if there are early Inuit ones. Hmmm. More mysteries.

Lucky Billiken button. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

A Halloween Post!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The Halloween season is upon us and brief morning trips to run in the park have revealed some serious dedication to decorating for the holiday. I used to enjoy seeing the townhouses near the Met decorated for the season – some would really pull out all the stops and put on a show. I am less often over there now, but one townhouse near Carl Schurz Park is really throwing down the holiday gauntlet with this tableau of a chain of skeletons climbing down the front of the house from the attic!

Decorated townhouse near East End Avenue, taken this week.

The Mansion Diner, on the corner of 86th Street and York Avenue, has long dedicated themselves to decorating their entire building for the holiday. They were a little late getting them up this year and I wondered if, short handed, they would skip it, but the decorations appeared earlier this week.

It’s interesting that I only rarely had reason to frequent The Mansion pre-pandemic, but now it is a regular stop for breakfast sandwiches post run and frequent meetings with a Board member from work who lives around the corner. I spent the summer eating ice cream outside while talking with him about work, Frank Sinatra being piped out loudly for our listening pleasure.

The Mansion Diner on the corner of 86th and York, also earlier this week.

But if part of your collecting gig is black cats this is a great time of year. I think I have mentioned that my collecting has blossomed thanks in part to an online dealer from the Midwest, Miss Molly (@missmollysantiques). My friendship (consumership?) started with purchasing a black cat jack-o-lantern head. (You can see that post here and the kitty below.) Overtime I have also purchased photos from her (the most recent of those can be found here). And she nicely gives me a heads up on cat items before posting them, but once in awhile it is the stuff around what she is posting that catches my eye and she sold me the wonderful Krak-R-Jak Biscuit box that sits on my desk. (That is a sort of oddly outrageously popular post that can be found here.) I have a rather spectacular Nestle chocolate tin box to share in a future post as well, but today we are talking Halloween.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The fact is my yen for these early paper mache cat JOL’s goes way back. I remember visiting a store in Cold Spring, New York that had a huge collection, but very expensive and utterly out of my reach. (Fall is a beautiful time to visit that area, an hour and a half or so up the Hudson, right on the water. It is a picture perfect little river town and Kim and I spent one night there for our “honeymoon” there, 21 years ago this past week.) I had resigned myself to never owning one, but the internet has become a great equalizer and prices are lower – and I spend more money!

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

All this to say, recently she came up with this cat jack-o-lantern and it entered my collection as my second such item. Like the first one I purchased, the paper inserts remain intact. It is hard for me to imagine safely putting a candle in these, but I guess that was the idea. There is no evidence of this on the inside, but there is a wire on the top for hanging it and that would have been jolly indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

He shows some signs of wear, especially the tips of the ears, which I guess if you were hitting the hundred year mark you would too. It is a common design and I assume it is a black cat sitting on a fence post, green eyes and red mouth glowing. His fur and whiskers are embossed. (The molds that these were made around must have been great – would love to see one of those.) He would be just the right combination of scary and wonderful. I get the vague idea that these are German in origin, although upon reflection, do the Germans even celebrate Halloween? It would seem that it is a recent development (according to Google), so perhaps these were German American companies? Anyone who knows how all that works give a shout and let me know.

Meanwhile, Halloween is the seasonal gateway to fall and then winter. I have already started eyeing warmer running togs and dreading those very cold mornings to come. Nonetheless, I think I probably have a few more Halloween collectible posts in me this season. More from Pictorama to come.

A Little Bit of the World of Tomorrow

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This bracelet came up on Instagram recently – a photo on the site of @Marsh.and.Meadow, aka Heather and her young daughter Opal (clearly a budding collector of discerning taste), acquired on an antiques road trip recently. Let me say that as someone who does not drive (or have access to a car) the idea of a trip driving through the mid-West looking for antiques is sort of heavenly. There is an alternate universe where I too get to do this on a regular basis. (In that world we also live in a house which we fill with interesting stuff of course.)

I spotted this bracelet and I really wanted it. The sales at Heather’s site are amazingly fast and furious and if my internet is having even the tiniest slowdown I am not in the running. In the long run this probably saves me a lot of money and generally I am philosophical about it. However, on this occasion I broke my rule and got her to break hers and sell me the bracelet in advance.

The bracelet is slightly larger than a child’s size and just fits my wrist. As an aside I will mention that everyone on IG seems to be tiny – a world of people smaller than me. Endless rings that tempt, siting atop ring fingers in photos that it turns out I can barely wear on my pinky, vintage clothing from tiny people in earlier times that I won’t even attempt. Again, this saves me a lot of money in the end – how many pinky rings can you own – but occasionally frustrates me at a towering 5’9″ with appendages that match.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The Trylon and Perisphere are featured on the bracelet and you take it on and off with a hook from one side of the emblem. The sun is rising behind them and a tree grows to one side, a building of classical design behind it, a lot going on in that tiny scene. The gold tone is worn on the inside of the bracelet, but the outer rim is ornate and in good shape. My reaction is that I would have been simply gob-smacked to have acquired this in 1939 as part of my visit to the Fair. I have to assume that in its day it was a bit rarified and somehow I imagine that I never would have been able to own it back then, making it ever more appealing.

I have never run across this bracelet before, although I am sure they proliferated and that they are available. (A quick search on Google shows an abundance of other styles of bracelets – charm bracelets appearing to be the predominant, and one image of this style.) Somehow this one made its way out to the Midwest and now it has come back to New York City, its ancestral home.

World’s Fair display at City Reliquary Museum in Brooklyn as seen on a recent visit.

Folks devote whole sites to the ’39 World’s Fair so I am largely thinking only of my own intersection with it. I was introduced to the Fair and its history by a former boyfriend who was fascinated by it. Under his tutelage I learned about it, watched films on it, learned to spot the occasional item related to it in our junk hunting, and of course visited the remains of it in Queens more than once. The latter is endlessly interesting, the hulking disintegrating remains of those temporary pavilions no one could bring themselves to demolish, the mosaic floors of some. I always look for them when driving to the airport – a last very New York view before departing.

Ring not in Pictorama collection – but could be, available on Etsy.

My Dad, a native New Yorker, attended both the ’39 and ’64 World’s Fairs and frankly neither made much of an impression on him it seemed. (As I remember he seemed mystified as to why I would care.) Yet without question the ’39 Fair continues to capture the imagination of many. Our world of today and its technology has long outstripped the vision of 1939 so why does that now antiquated vision appeal? While there are other fairs of the past (the Chicago World’s Fair of ’33 and the Louisiana Exposition among them) the ’39 World’s Fair stands out. It was an event that sent ripples out into the decades to come in a way that could neither be anticipated, nor replicated.

When I think about the events during my life that will punctuate history I think of the creation of the internet and computers, but also of 9/11 and Covid. Designed by business leaders to help pull New York City out of the Depression, the ’39 World’s Fair was born on the cusp of the advent of WWII and they had no idea it that their creation would live in the imagination of history the way it did. I just read that there was very little actual science at the World of Tomorrow, mostly the smoke and mirrors of commerce and serving up hope for what would come next for a world beat up from years of the Depression. It is so interesting to me that folks held onto those trinkets which were a reminder that a new world was just around the corner.

The Wild West

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The world is slowly returning to its pre-pandemic axis, at least in some ways, and the sheer delight of seeing people we haven’t and even conducting business in person is a process of rediscovering a forgotten pleasure. Yesterday we had an early dinner with our friend Bill Kartalopoulos. It was so lovely to sit outside on a beautiful evening (and not because we had no choice but to be outside), and catch up with him in person after more than a year.

Bill took this photo of me and Kim while we were together yesterday.

Meanwhile, last week I had an afternoon to myself and headed over to the Upper Westside of Manhattan for drinks with a fundraising colleague of many decades. Karen and I have never worked at the same place, but we have been a part of professional groups together and loosely tracked each other through work and life changes, our careers running along an unusually close parallel, these folks help you along – sending prospective staffers your way when needed, assisting when you need to unknot thorny problems, and of course having a drink and a giggle over what is going on in your respective organizations or cheering you on when you are just frustrated and losing your perspective.

I was early to meet Karen and strolled east on 84th Street. These days of too much desk sitting in a small apartment has pushed me to add on a few blocks here and there of walking whenever I can. Scratching at the back of my brain was a shop I often walk by, but either it is closed or I haven’t had time to go in whenever I have found myself in front of it.

Plates so nice! I wish I had space to add one or two.

I have peered at its interesting windows, chock a block full of fascinating bits, frequently over the years. Recently, when late for a haircut, I had taken note of a wonderful array of jolly painted doorstops, mostly of flowers in the window. (One tempting cat doorstop, in the shop.) I will say, I am relieved to see that this establishment had made it through the pandemic – oh the frustration if it had disappeared and I had never darkened its door!

Oh those painted doorstops!

It turned out it was my lucky day and John Koch Antiques was open for business. (The link is here in case you wish to peruse a bit of online antique furniture buying.) It is happily the sort of place where you should expect to have to squeeze through stuffed aisles sideways in places. Furniture piled high, cabinets full of china and trinkets worthy of notice though. Just the sort of place to spend some happy time perusing and digging around. So little of this sort of thing left here in Manhattan!

John Koch himself was seated behind a desk, approximately right in the center of it all. He was carrying on an animated conversation with a customer about a museum reproduction of a Rodin’s The Kiss.

I had half an eye out for silverware – we need some in a not especially urgent way and I like to pick up old, odd silver pieces or bakelite handled ones. Meanwhile, I gave a look at a silver (plate? painted?) tourist cup of New York which appeared to feature Grants Tomb. (I was unable to see what else was featured.) However, when I wandered into the furtherest room I saw this towel rack, on the wall with companion piece. (Apologies that I cannot remember the subject matter of the other one, but whatever it was I found it less dynamic than this one I purchased.)

Perhaps it was my latest reading project, The Ranch Girls by Margaret Vandercook of Camp Fire Girls fame – clearly more to come on this series – however, thanks to Kim’s interest in the Western genre, we are in general a very cowboy friendly household. Mr. Koch didn’t miss a beat when I interrupted his conversation to inquire about it. He immediately named a price I found agreeable and shouted for a man, working nearby in the same room as the piece, to unscrew it from the wall. It was wrapped and in my hands in a few moments and I was only five minutes late to meet Karen.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Made of some sort of resin to resemble carved wood, this fellow is caught in an action pose on his rearing bronco. I like the little ranch on a hill behind him which gives the ‘scene’ a lot of dimension. I am a fan of the faux stone design at the bottom, as if he is perched on this ledge. Arguably, there is something odd about the turn of the cowboy’s foot, and the proportions between his figure and that of the horse are a bit off, but we can’t really blame the designer for cheating it a bit, he or she caught the spirit of the thing nicely. The textures of his chaps and coiled rope, the stony terrain and the definition of the horse give it texture.

It is my assumption that it was made to hang on a kitchen wall where hand towels and pot holders could be kept handy. (Let me know if you know otherwise!) My thought is to hang it away from the stove in case it is inclined to melt a bit, nor do I want it to get gooped up with grease. If I thought it was necessary ongoing I might designate it for holding our masks by the front door of the apartment, but we are very much hoping that our mask wearing will soon be a distant memory of a time gratefully gone-bye.

Knock, Knock

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Let the cat post begin! It has been awhile since a new cat item wandered into Deitch Studio, but this one was worth waiting for. It came to my via one of my favorite Instagram vendors, Mia @ The Ruby Foxes, or you can find her wares at therubyfoxes.com, but then you wouldn’t be treated to her frequent posts which not only have great stuff, but showcase her two cats (Enid and Astrid) and take the viewer on glorious, daily five mile runs through the British countryside. Her account says she resides in Arundel, Sussex and let me tell you, it is stunningly beautiful.

Photo from Carl Schurz Park earlier this week.

This pandemic year has given me a vast, new appreciation for glimpses of other folks lush landscapes as an armchair traveler of sorts – and for what it is worth I try to treat my Instagram followers to my East River views, park foliage and wildlife in my IG stories as a reminder of our urban pleasures. Some of you know that I recently made the acquaintance of a young hawk who insistently swoops in front of me as I entered the park each morning. (Look at me!) Just yesterday he was hunting about a block from the park and I saw him as I headed over, soaring high above me, being chased by wary, angry crows and sparrows. (An interesting example of warring bird factions who wouldn’t typically otherwise unite for a specific cause.)

Immature hawk (red tail?) posing on a lamppost after flying past me repeatedly one morning while warming up for my run.

Mia, on the other hand, has hedgehogs in her garden and she has rigged up a camera to film the pudgy little fellows at night! They are delightful! The other day she gave some instructions for encouraging them back to British gardens as they no longer thrive there the way they once did. We all do love the hedgehog footage.

A glance at the Ruby Foxes IG page. Just out of sight is a rhinestone horsehoe pin I might need if it hasn’t sold. The lower right is a hedgehog night cam video! Enid is the pretty long-hair and Astrid the large ear-ed youngster of the kits shown.

Mia is an accomplished runner and shared views of her muddy track shoes through spring – extra muscle building, those muddy paths I would imagine. She ticks off five miles daily and is very diligent. While I suspect she is younger than yours truly it does inspire and impress me mightily, as my sort of sloppy, very slow and approximately three miles has taken a long time to achieve. Mia sent encouragement early on when I told her I was trying to start running which was also very kind, and she and her five miles in the English countryside are a sort of vision board for me and my nascent, slow and urban, efforts.

However, this is all to say that I found The Ruby Foxes because she sells antique jewelry and other antique bits and pieces on Instagram and I like to see those too. I have written some about my fascination with early 20th century British jewelry and vintage clothing as it is a sort of a parallel universe to the same period in the US. I am enjoying the baubles and bits of their bygone age and as it is slightly different than our own, it has renewed my interest in this sort of thing. (My other posts about this can be found here and here.) I considered it a sign of good mental health when I got interested in jewelry again – proof that some part of my brain was thinking about a future where I would again be out in the world someday. I am developing a fascination with lucky horseshoe pins and insect pins.

Not doing this little beauty justice, but moonstones are like opals in that they are hard to photograph!

Recently I purchased a tiny moonstone ring from her. I have long been a fan of moonstones and have had my eye out for a simple, early ring like this one. It is a tad small, even for my littlest finger, but after some to and fro we decided that it could be made a bit bigger if needed. However, best of all, Mia reminded me that ages ago I said I wanted a cat door knocker which she had subsequently tucked away for me until such time as we added something to the order which I guess didn’t happen. I don’t know how I let this little fellow slip my mind because he is wonderful!

He is quite small, the size of the palm of my hand so what, about five inches? As a door knocker he is small, although solidly made of brass and I would imagine he would emit a suitable knocking on your door. (In size he reminds me more of a mezuzah than a door knocker.) Still, I can’t help but feel he is somewhat apartment sized and really would be ideal for a door like ours here where you are never more than half a room away from the front door.

Living in a large apartment building which has restricted front door access (in our case a rotation of doormen) means that not a lot of knocking goes on here. Oddly though, we have a new, shy porter who has instituted the practice of leaving some of our packages at our front door and he quietly knocks when he does it. It made Cookie hiss the first time, which seemed like an extreme reaction. Still, we were all a bit surprised and of course now when you go to open your door you have to find your mask first and chances are you are on a Zoom call for work at the same time and carrying the ipad or phone around with you. It doesn’t happen often and so it is a bit of a big deal.

Our broken bell, misnamed home and a bit of peeling door paint. I gather these will all be repainted shortly.

Our NYS regulation fire safe metal doors also seem a tad knocker unfriendly. We technically have a doorbell built into the door although it broke within weeks of my moving in here decades ago and I wouldn’t begin to imagine how to have it replaced or repaired. There is also a bit of press tape with the prior owner’s name stuck in (J. Radigan, whoever and wherever you are) where the broken bell is. We have lived here incognito for several decades. (Yes, I have always been a bit casual about some aspects of home maintenance.)

Meanwhile, I don’t foresee putting this great little fellow out in the hall. For one thing, I like to look at him. He has tiny holes for thin nails and I cannot imagine somehow drilling him into our fire-approved metal door. Since we live in one room, doors are in short supply here, so I think he will grace a wall or shelf instead.

Cat Knocker, I would guess by the same maker, for sale on eBay.

I have found some of his feline grinning brethren online – a few identical and a few kissing cousins, likely of the same origin. The general consensus is that he is British and Victorian. The variation that is perhaps more available seems to be just his head, with the bow the actual knocking part, shown above, and identified as the Cheshire Cat. I wouldn’t mind assembling a few more cat knocker variations if the opportunity arises and am a bit tempted by the eBay offer although that one does look like he has been poorly polished at some point.

Yet another variation on the theme available on eBay.

I like my guy best I think, with his full cat body, smile and big bow tie. Hard to see but his grin is a bit toothy and there is an almost worn away whisker or two. The smile is a slightly enigmatic one, his toes tucked together and somehow the knocker gives a sense of a tail which does not exist. He will do a nice job of guarding our house, even if it is from the inside and not out.

Screwy

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little object came across my path on eBay and I snatched it up. Corkscrews have become a popular collectible and I was afraid I might face some stiff competition. I was lucky that it didn’t appeal to the collectors and I acquired him unchallenged.

There’s something perfectly appealing about this kitty and his corkscrew tail, sticking up in the air. This little fellow (or gal) sports a big bow, an arched back and a slightly wide-eyed expression. He (or she – despite the big bow I’m feeling he I think though), has nice heft and stands well on his own. He is easier to hold and better designed (and to pull on) than you might think, although I find this kind of minimal opener requires a sort of brute strength I don’t have and ultimately leads to bits of cork floating in my wine. Therefore, despite being quite sturdy, this fellow is officially retired from the work of cork removal as far as I am concerned. I am eyeing a cabinet which I think he will be quite at home in.

As someone who both waitressed and cooked professionally I became committed early on to a very specific device to removing corks from wine bottles. One of the most useful life skills (aside from extraordinary patience) that waitressing provided me with was the most fail safe methods of opening wine and champagne.

One summer during college I worked in a high end French restaurant (which despite being called Harry’s Lobster House, had quite a reputation for its French seafood cuisine), and this was where I believe I was introduced to this style opener. (I was also given instruction in the careful opening of champagne table side – slowly and wrapped in a towel – so that it would of course pop! but with no spillage.)

Pretty close to what Harry’s looked like back in the day when I waitressed there, but this appears to have been taken a bit later than that. They added outdoor dining in an ajoining area after my days of waitressing there.

For the most part I was a pretty lousy waitress. Friendliness was the best skill I brought to it (in addition to the aforementioned patience), which bought me a fair amount of forgiveness with the customers. Frankly though this made me better suited for working behind a counter, making sandwiches and serving coffee as I had the summer before,

I can still remember how befuddled I was by the specific names of the liquors when people ordered drinks – this was a high-end restaurant and Sea Bright in summer was a drinking beach town. I wasn’t familiar with top shelf alcohol brands and was decidedly unsophisticated in this regard. (Mom and Dad certainly had liquor in the house, but they were fairly mundane in their imbibing.) I did my best to write the order exactly, phonetically when needed, on my pad and report them faithfully to the bartender who, although nice enough really, in retrospect must have thought I was an idiot. Mom tells stories of working her way through college waitressing and it doesn’t seem to be a gene I inherited. (Incidentally Mom was also a record breaking long jumper in high school and a runner – these days while learning to run I often reflect on not having those genes either.)

To be clear, a superior corkscrew to me is a bit like the better mousetrap – you can try to make one, but the bar is high. It is a perfection of a certain kind of ingenuity and design. One should not tamper lightly with success.

These generally have a small knife, at top, to help peel off the cover on the cork and can also be used effectively for opening beer bottles, using the hook on the end.

Anyway, I have been using the same corkscrew since cooking school, mine came with an assigned kit of knives and implements. It has a red nail polish dot that I assigned to all my stuff so I could easily identify them quickly in a crowded kitchen. If you’ve never used one, you quite simply screw it in and then use the other, short, protrusion for leverage at the lip of the bottle and pull the handle – and voila! Bottle opened. Neat and tidy.

Growing up, the largely preferred bottle opener was the one below. I have a fairly good success rate with these as well, although clearly you can’t carry them around and use them as a waitress or cook. (The other folds nicely and lived in my pocket daily, handy for when needed.) This model has a bit less control than my preferred model (I’ve had more corks fall apart with these than the others), but I think one of these still also rattles around in my kitchen drawer. (Because of my former life as a cook, long ago though now that it is, there are some amazing things in that drawer that are rarely if ever used – things to make melon balls, pie crimpers to name a few. My zester recently came back into favor and my olive/cherry pitter lives there and is a much beloved item.)

Given all of this knowledge, opinion and lore, you would think that I would have successfully imparted this bottle opener knowledge successfully to my family at large. However, for some reason, my father became enamored of every possible variation of bottle opener to be found. He bought them in stores, at garage sales and they represented every conceivable variation on this theme. Some were quite absurd. Many were heavy and complex. Despite my protestations he would deliver them cheerfully to me as well. The fact is they almost never worked as well as my simple device – although in general I will grant you that they were more colorful and interesting, at least in theory.

Dad broke another rule of bottle opening and one evening opened a bottle of champagne which exploded in his hand, top breaking off, and cutting him badly enough that he had to trek to the emergency room for stitches. He did adopt my wrapped bottle technique after that.

Cafe d’Alsace earlier this week for a belated birthday dinner with a friend – they kept us pretty cozy despite the early March outdoor temps.

For all of this, you would think we are popping a whole lot of corks over here at Deitch Studio, but mostly we do not. Kim doesn’t drink and I am currently on a diet. Until earlier this week at a belated birthday dinner (which as my IG followers know was eaten outside under a heater and was actually quite lovely, pulling at the memory strings of what eating out used to be) when I broke down and had a glass of wine; I had not had a drink since December, maybe November. (The alcohol calories don’t make sense for me when I am counting them carefully. I always like to say that being on a diet is not so much fun that I want it to go on any longer than necessary so I try to be extremely focused and swift!)

I do cook with wine (or vermouth – although that’s a screw top) and there’s usually a bottle of something around for that. Pre-diet I enjoyed an occasional glass of wine or Prosecco with dinner – I like an occasional ice cold vodka tonic with lots of lime in summer. However, I am not and will never be knowledgeable about wine beyond what I like and what I don’t. Red wine triggers migraines which eliminates me largely from the erudite pursuit of wine. Nevertheless, when needed I know exactly how I am going to open that bottle.

Hankering for Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Buckle up for a very, very Felix day. For new readers a chance to catch up on part of my collection dedicated to the early representations of the famous animated cat and for dedicated readers some highlights of the past along the way.

I don’t think it would surprise long-standing Pictorama readers when I state that I look at a lot of Felix items and generally have a sense of what is available. Therefore when I come across something I have never seen before I’m pretty sure it is indeed unusual indeed. If I am unable to acquire it I more or less assume I will likely never see it again – we do find there are exceptions. However, it was in this spirit that I must have broken my own rule (one that I generally only write about objects and photos in my own collection), when I wrote a post on a Felix handkerchief that I lost at auction back in November of 2018. (They are shown in a slide show below – these are sadly of course not in my collection.)

I paired the post with another on some handkerchiefs that belonged to my Dad which I carry in my purse, or did in the before time when I carried a handbag daily. (Those two kerchief dedicated posts can be found here and here. Strangely my forays outside, limited that they are, seem to mostly take place with a credit card tucked in the back of my phone now, unless I am required to provide my own shopping bags at the store. No one seems to want cash these days.)

Therefore, much to my surprise, I was able to score this single, but rather wonderful item which I share with you today. Unlike the frolicking, mouse chasing Felix in the earlier post, my hanky shows Felix deep in thought, doing his famous Felix walk. What I think of as Felix’s I’m thinking walk, has its origin in the earliest Felix silent cartoons and was his signature pose -for some reason I always think of Einstein when I see it. Felix knew how to strike a pose and there is also a sort of Ah ha! pose that frequently follows the walking and thinking. (And of course there are the wonderful things he does by disengaging his tail and using it for various purposes. We’ll perhaps discuss that another time given the opportunity.)

Felix sheet music from Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The then very popular phrase Felix Kept on Walking has its roots in this famed animated walk. (Although it also came to have a slightly racier meaning – as depicted on the plate below.) The Felix walk was celebrated in song, sheet music, song of the same name is shown below, but also in pins and other ephemera in the early collectible period. (An instrumental version of the tune can be found here, but in some ways for the full experience of the novelty tune you need the vocals which can be heard here. Or you can just chuckle over the lyrics here.) Some of the stuffed dolls from the 1920’s have Felix with a hump on his back and I have wondered if somehow it didn’t tie out to the bent over walk in deep thought, hands behind his back.

Felix Keep on Walking plate, Pams-Pictorama.com

Kim believes Buster Keaton satirized a few minutes of the Felix walk in Go West, 1925. An animated Charlie Chaplin, who obviously had his own trademark walk, does the Felix walk in the rather splendid Felix cartoon, Felix Goes to Hollywood. (It can be found on Youtube here. All these external links only good at the time of writing – they tend to come and go, especially the Youtube ones.) The Felix walk was known by all, a popular culture icon of the day. And, despite numerous redesigns over the decades, some remnant of the deep in thought walk stays with Felix right on up to the newer cartoons I watched as a child in the 1960’s.

Felix Lucky Bucks cut-out. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.
Pams-Pictorama.com Collection. Felix making clever use of his tail.

The handkerchief I acquired is small as seen here, definitely child-sized, and not quite as white as the image appeared in the photo provided. No matter about the condition of course and what to expect of such a fragile item which is rounding 100 years in existence. Hard to imagine a time when small children were encouraged to carry a hanky – and perhaps the lure of Felix helped keep them from losing it? I especially like the thought marks emanating from his head.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This handkerchief, like so many other fascinating early Felix items, hails from Britain. The embroidery is fairly small and concise. I don’t know much about embroidery but my guess is that it is hand done, but probably by an adult. Although I have not seen the evidence, I assume there were some sort of kit or template you could acquire. I wrote about an embroidered apron, also lost at auction, which must have similar root. The Felix apron post can be found here, also a 2018 post. It was called Breaking the Rules and I would be perfectly happy to have another shot at purchasing it too!

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Krak-R-Jak: Keeping the Biscuits Fresh

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It likely won’t surprise Pictorama readers to know that I am the sort of person who embraces an opportunity to outfit a new space or venture. While I have bad things I could say about the pandemic induced change to working at home, one bonus is I have had the chance to equip an entirely new desk. I devoted some previous post space to my desk at my office in Columbus Circle (one of those posts can be found here) back in the before time, but a new desk where I spend my days here in the apartment called for some judicious acquisition. Some bits found their way back from Columbus Circle on the one or two trips I made there (the lucky waving cats are with me and remain on the job with me; their post can be found here), but for the most part I picked up some bits and pieces to make it more functional and of course fun.

Another earlier Miss Molly purchase. She specializes in Halloween items.

The most significant item is this large-ish tin box for Krak-R-Jak Biscuits. I purchased this from my new Instagram source who resides in the middle west region of our country, known to me as Miss Molly (@missmollystlantiques) who has supplied me with an array of interesting photos (one of those posts can be seen here) and some Halloween items (one gem seen here), but she is also the purveyor of several interesting boxes that now hold my office supplies.

This large tin box, which I gather kept generations of biscuits and bread fresh, holds my collection of greeting cards which were transported early on from Columbus Circle. I have long been in the practice of purchasing nice cards (or especially funny ones) whenever I see them. In the before time when traveling for work I would often wander into a card store in a new town if I spotted one. As a result there is a card shop in San Francisco I have frequented for years and another in Boston. (There is also a lingerie store in Milwaukee and a nice junk shop in Santa Barabara, but those are other stories.)

Of course I have my sources in Manhattan, although frankly even pre-pandemic they were already rapidly closing down and getting sparse. I cling to the one near us just above 86th Street on Lexington, there are two others, further down Third Avenue, or at least there were. Therefore, if you have received a greeting card from me its origin may have been Manhattan or it may have been Chicago, or another destination along my annual work route.

I actually spotted this large tin in a post Miss Molly did for some other items and asked about it. While technically not on the block for sale, she was willing to sell it and now it not only holds my greeting cards, but also holds up the stand for my iPad which (for a variety of technical reasons) is usually what I do my Zoom meetings on. It brings the iPad to a relatively ideal height, although the bookshelves behind me distort and it looks like Kim and I reside in a very long, narrow library.

As it turns out, this is not a rare tin and if you desire one you can probably purchase it for about what I paid for mine by looking online. Pristine examples might get up there a bit, but one like mine which has some good sides and some less good ones won’t run you too much. One person has assigned this to the 1930’s which I could find neither confirmation nor contradiction.

Of course I immediately assumed that Krak-R-Jak was somehow a forerunner to the candy corn, Cracker Jack. I would mostly be wrong as it turns out, at least as far as I can tell. This spelling of Krak-R-Jak seems to take you only to the Union Biscuit Company of Saint Louis when searched online. The actual history of said Union Biscuit Company is not readily available, or I have failed in finding it. Although my tin tells you to always ask for Krak-R-Jak Biscuits my online research mostly turns up a perhaps more popular slogan, Keeping the biscuits fresh.

The etymology of Cracker Jack or crackerjack according to Merriam-Webster is easiest to share in its entirety and is as follows: The late 19th-century pairing of crack and jack to form crackerjack topped off a long history for those words. Cracker is an elongation of crack, an adjective meaning “expert” or “superior” that dates from the 18th century. Prior to that, crack was a noun meaning “something superior” and a verb meaning “to boast.” (The verb use evolved from the expression “to crack a boast,” which came from the sense of crack meaning “to make a loud sharp sound.”) Jack has been used for “man” since the mid-1500s, as in “jack-of-all-trades.” Crackerjack entered English first as a noun referring to “a person or thing of marked excellence,” then as an adjective. You may also know Cracker Jack as a snack of candied popcorn and peanuts. That trademarked name dates from the 1890s.

Therefore, while I think Krak-R-Jak plays on this same term, it is in this case evidently not linked to the eventual creation of the candy, which appears to have been introduced to the world at the Chicago Exposition of 1893 and later perfected and marketed by Fritz and Louis Rueckheim. This recipe for candy corn and peanuts was already in existence and merely perfected (they figured out how to keep it from sticking one big mass) and marketed by them. I wonder if companies like the Union Biscuit were forced out of using the term eventually, although their logo cold easily pre-date the Cracker Jack candy use. Meanwhile, they were just using what would become an archaic term for pointing out that they had excellent biscuits.

A few of Kim’s drawing pencils seem to have found their way onto my desk which is an old drawing table.

While I thought I would also meander onto a wonderful little velvet covered box from Clark’s Spool Cotton Thread, which now houses paper clips, and can be spotted in the above photo, I will save that for another day. The Pictorama desk is full of delights to be revealed.