A Cuppa Felix

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Pam’s Pictorama: I bought this silver plate and enamel Felix cup for next to nothing on eBay a couple of years ago. I had not seen this piece and evidently I was the only person who was biting that day. Admittedly Felix is a bit damaged by someone who tried to polish this with paste, some of the enamel in his legs is missing. This is about as good as it polishes up without using paste, some of the silver plate having worn through in places.

Wonder if it was meant as a baby cup – lucky kid! No markings and perhaps he is a kissing cousin to the enamel spoons, although the Felix looks a bit different. I use it as a catch all on my bedside table where it tends to attract earrings missing a mate and seldom worn rings.

Felix has a winning grin here. It barely reads as Felix, yet is also immediately recognizable. This is British – no surprise. The Brits seem to have incorporated Felix into all sorts of decorative and household items. I think his ubiquitous presence is hard for us to imagine now. While one thinks of Mickey Mouse having a greater impact I sometimes wonder when I see these items as I examined in my former post Living the Felix Life and Spooning with Felix which highlights a not entirely dissimilar enameled Felix spoon.

As for me, I will always be happy to decorate with a little bit more early Felix.

A Surprising Tiny Felix

tiny Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: In my collecting experience this little gem is about as weird as it gets. A Facebook friend, Chuck Sycamore, emailed the photo below as a response to an unrelated post, announcing that a friend of his had “found these in his house” and was selling them. Well, wow. Who could resist that?

tiny felix line-up

So, the friend (who lives in Chicago) was contacted and after a bit of to and fro I purchased one – the fellow on the far left end. My size ration dysmorphia (see yesterday’s post Surprise – It’s Felix Again) kicked in and I was stunned to find this guy no more than four inches high! The scooter is fully functional and the Felix is completely articulated. I have never seen these any place else for sale. The small articulated Felix dolls seem to be a size smaller or a size bigger than any version I know. The scooter seems loosely based on this toy I own (mine is a no-name, not Felix variation – I like it, but for some reason the one that is marked Felix sells for about ten times more) – or perhaps that is entirely in my own mind.

tin Felix on scooter

Whether these were somehow one of a kind pieces made in a small quantity, or for some reason have just eluded me in my years of Felix collecting I do not know. There is no maker’s mark and the execution is very thoughtful. If anyone knows more than I do on the subject please weigh in. I am very curious to know more! And a big shout out to Chuck for giving us the heads up. And what kind of whacky house did the friend move into anyway? What else was in that house?

Dishing Felix

Dishing Felix

Pam’s Pictorama: As we, somewhat regretfully, leave Halloween posts, we are embracing a series of Felix and other recent purchase posts. I have been VERY busy on eBay and will be sharing the cat-filled results.

I have had one or two similar pieces similar to this dish slip through my fingers in recent years and this time I decided it was my turn and I pushed hard to win this interesting – and somewhat strange – dish. There’s been some discussion in the house about the purpose this was meant to serve – children’s dish? Pet food? Ashtray? It is very shallow for a children’s dish and a bit large (let’s say 6 inches across) for an ashtray. Very elegant for pet food – a bit unkind to use Felix as an ashtray.

If you look carefully, you can see where the image of Felix was traced around the face. This was hand painted. The uneven line around the edges is also due to human foible it would seem, and a bit of smudging in the glazing process – fingerprints on the bottom right. There is absolutely no marking on this. I almost wonder if it wasn’t made from some sort of do-it-yourself kit or class – although the top glaze and firing seem professional. It is curious though. It hailed from Great Britain, at least that is where I purchased it from. That is not surprising – England seems to have be the El Dorado of early Felix merchandise.

One of the reasons I like this is that it is an early looking, nicely blocky Felix – my favorite type from the very early cartoons. I like him pointy and toothy – just like this. I try to resist purchasing breakable items (see my post Fear of Celluloid) which are difficult to find a safe haven for in our small, Blackie and Cookie-crazed apartment, but one does have to make exceptions.

Dennison’s

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I guess given my predilection for black cats, it isn’t surprising that Halloween of days gone by greatly entertains me, and therefore so does dressing up, and for a time I was buying black cat novelty and Halloween books and items. In addition to this original one shown above, I purchased a number of lovely reproductions of the Dennison’s Bogie Books – color xerox copies of the catalogues Dennison’s holiday paper product company put out annually to encourage costume making and elaborate party decorations – made of their crepe paper, of course, and eventually morphing into wrapping paper and decorations.

Although they had booklets (and decorative paper) dedicated to various holidays, of course Halloween was the zenith of the dress up holidays. In addition to the decorations, they detail costumes that could be put together and even party games that could be played. It appears that they were the first on the market with holiday crepe paper – and certainly the first to have such comprehensive marketing.

Dennison’s was around for just over a century – 1897-1998 and was housed in Framingham, MA. They were a significant employer for the area and an important part of civic life there, right up until it was sold in the late 1990’s and moved to California. In addition to being a community leader, contributing to hospital drives and local causes, but also was known for not laying off any staff during the Depression. Some of this information, as well as information about how the Dennison’s archive was saved by a former employee, can be found here in Framingham Unearths Decades of Dennison Memories.

Below are some choice pages from my run of reproduction books, ’14-’17.

Bogie Book 1Bogie Book 2Bogie Book 3

I want that Cat Hat! Which reminds me of a pretty great photo of Kim below:

Kim in Cat Hat

The Devil is in the Details

Devil card

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Halloween happiness continues on Pictorama! This is a rare case of a card that I have absolutely no memory of having purchased. I have owned it for a fair amount of time, and suspect someone must have given it to me. Halloween cards are frequently too expensive to purchase without real commitment.

This card was sent from Madge Bush of Branchport, NY, tardy for Halloween, on November 5 at 5 PM, 1909. Written in a virtually unreadable child’s hand is the following: Hellogertrude wasyouinto mischief halloween Howdoyoulike yourteacher? It is address in the same hand: Gertrude Bush Westfield PA R.F.D. #2. An adult with beautiful penmanship has added with flourishes: Gertrude Lulu Bush and under the child’s writing her name, Madge Bush. In addition, and somewhat inexplicably, Bush, G.B.x M.B. L.B. and again, Madge Bush.

I think this card is hotsy-totsy! Although it is missing the ever-desirable black cats, it is a worthy, goofy image. For some reason the Devil has entered into a party favor tug-of-war with Mr. Pumpkin Head. (I confess, Pumpkin Headed figures have always vaguely terrified me.) The Devil has put down his pitchfork in order to really put his back into it. We will assume that maybe Mr. Pumpkin Head was carrying those two oozy looking small pumpkins – a strange potential form of Pumpkin cannibalism he was about to commit?

I have long waited to be invited to a party where favors like this party cracker were given out – what on earth great thing could have been inside? Perhaps I will never know, but these guys consider it worth fighting for. Another thing that appeals to me about this card is the way the candle gives everything a scale – the Devil and Pumpkin Head are party cracker/candle size!

Let’s all get out there and mail a few Halloween cards – and don’t forget the party crackers in my trick or treat bag please.

Lucky Black Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Is this YOUR Lucky Day? Pictorama is featuring Halloween, and black cats in particular, throughout the month of October. Our first installment is this great Lucky Black Cat Curio Catalog of novelties for sale. (Items listed here are sold as Curios Only.)

I purchased this more years ago than I can remember off-hand, attracted by the great graphic on the front. I believe I came across it at a flea market. Following in the great tradition of the Johnson and Smith catalogues, this advertises an array of supernatural and superstitious must-haves. I can’t really show it here, but this was printed on one very long piece of paper, red and black throughout, and folded so it can be read as a booklet. Kim has scanned one spread for me, shown here.

Lucky Black Cat interior 1    Lucky Black Cat interior 3      Lucky Black Cat interior 2

I am especially amazed and horrified by the ad for Black Cat Ashes. (Blackie, don’t read this!) Evidently this ancient practice enabled you to make successful number combinations. And while they remind you that they make no preternatural or supernatural claims or magical representations they do however remind you that it was prepared according to an ancient formula. Draw what conclusions you will.

Listed on the back panel is more than a hundred Other Curios that can be ordered. Ranging in price from 25 cents to a dollar the list includes some of the following highlights: Devil Oil, War Water (followed by Peace Water), Devil’s Shoe Strings (?), Black Cat Holy Water, Black Cat Wishing Bone (ouch!) and Lucky Floor Wash. Buying it was my lucky day.

Felix the Poser

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This Schoenhut Felix is very common, but I like the size and heft of mine. He is about eight inches high, and he came to me in an unusual way. I received a call from an acquaintance of Kim’s who was traveling, in Florida I believe, who said he saw an old Felix in a store and asked if he should buy it for me. I have never taken a chance on such a blind acquisition before, but on that day I rolled the dice and I got this guy for a great price.

Even all these years after his heyday, this Felix toy is virtually ubiquitous as old toys go. They frequently appear in photos with children, often with babies. I do not have any in my collection, because I prefer the more idiosyncratic stuffed toys. The wooden ones are widely available, although not especially inexpensive, in a variety of sizes and some variation. Felix is posable, although this one has started to grow fragile and like so many you see, the twine that holds him together is threatening to break. I believe that somewhere, for a large sum of money, you can have them restrung. I imagine new they were relatively indestructible however.

The extreme popularity of this toy is somewhat mystifying for me. He is a hard wooden toy, not cuddly. While he is nicely posable, it is hard to imagine that explaining his fascination for kids. Frankly, this fellow mostly looks good on a shelf like mine – among his kind and ken – dozens of different variations. In fact, Felix’s vast allure over many decades is hard to explain – even for devoted fans like myself. However, the ongoing appeal of Felix cannot be denied. Below is a photo of a small toy of more recent vintage (I believe I acquired him in the 1980’s, long, long before my collection was even a twinkle in my eye) which is also very popular. A small variation on the Schoenhut theme which I give for your consideration.

modern Felix