Copy Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix the Cat tale stretches back aways, starting with a few hand-drawn postcards I added to my collection back in 2014, and I had no idea what these postcards when I acquired them. While I have some enjoyably whacky examples of whacky free-hand Felix drawings (a post can be found here), these appeared to be penciled and inked, not perfect but surprisingly on model drawings of Felix.

A British card presumably made with stencils like mine. This pose in both the French and US versions. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While I was writing about one of the more bizarre hand executed cards (that post can be found here) someone gave me a heads up that stencil kits was available and that’s how these cards were likely made. Evidently there was a set made and sold in France and a slightly different US version. The kit I purchased recently (another friend gave me this tip – many thanks to Bob!) is the US version. From what I can see, the European and American kits had some different poses and some of the cards I have appear to have been made from the European box.

A card from the Pams-Pictorama.com collection with a pose not in my box of stencils.

The instructions are great fun to study and it is interesting to reflect on a time when people were willing to make their own Felix postcards with a box of stencils. Although this could loosely be classified as a toy, these are a bit complex and the skill needed for these is a lot for a child as you will see when Kim tries one below.

The inner workings of the Felix stencil box set! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Most of the Felix-es are in the nice blocky early style that I especially like and this fellow on the jolly red and blue front of the box, huffing on a pipe is splendid indeed. (Although a careful look at the sheet below shows several different Felix styles really – some blocky and some rounder. Curious.) The front also boasts, not surprisingly, a Pat Sullivan copyright, a US patent, and a maker – J.W. Spear & Sons, New York. There is a smaller notation which says, (Spear’s Games), and my favorite note in tiny print in the lower right corner which is, manufactured at the Spear works Bavaria.

The instruction page for the stencils! Pams-Pictorama.com.

A meandering side note on Spear & Sons toy makers: Primarily a manufacturer of board games, the company was originally founded in a town near Nuremberg, Germany under the family name of Spier. With the rise of the Nazis, some of the family left Germany (they were Jewish) and went Britain where they had a factory and changed their name to the more anglosized Spear. The Germany company was taken over by the Nazis and was made into a munitions factory which was ultimately bombed and destroyed during the war. The British factory also made munitions during the war, but return to board games after. Subsequently the company was purchased and absorbed by Mattel.

A close-up of a set of stencils together. My guess is Felix Cheering at the Ballgame.

My box of stencils is well-used by someone who blackened the whole image (with ink) rather than a pencil or pen trace and then blackening in as my postcards were executed and as Kim executes below. Each stencil requires two cards (color coded and number, 1a and 1b, etc.) lined up with a pinhole in one corner. This allowed from more dynamic poses I think. My box appears to be missing two sets of stencils, 1a and 1b and 2a and 2b. Not sure which images these are although the one of Felix on the scooter appears to be one of them.

Watch Kim create some Felix magic here! 2 minute video.

Here at Deitch Studio we obviously have the talent on hand to give these a fair try. I have asked Kim to tool up and use these stencils to make a drawing. Have a look here and see the master at work toying with these stencils. As you will see, we find them a tad short of the full drawing and he had to finish him a bit freehand.

And voila! Kim makes a Felix!

Felix and Bonzo Dance the Charleston

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is one of those, Wowzers, I think I have to have it, but I am not really sure what it is purchases. The listing was fairly descriptive (although it referred to Bonzo as Bongo Dog which limited its search results and may have helped me acquire it) and there were photos, but somehow even I did not see the full glory of this item until I held it (albeit carefully) in my hands. Somehow I knew I really wanted it though. Sometimes you just know something is going to be great.

Luckily for me no one else had the vision for this rarity and with alacrity and delight I purchased it unchallenged. I confess that I thought the Felix was likely mislabeled and upon receipt I would decide that it was Ooloo, Bonzo’s more typical cat companion. However, there is no doubt that it is indeed Felix now that I see it.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection is likely the only place to find this great bit of oddness!

This intriguing little item is marked as German with a number, but no other information. It stands about six inches high and was sold to me by a US dealer in Delaware who seems to specialize in vases. This vase seems to me to be of a type that if I knew more about the ceramic output of the period I could guess the maker – it has a general familiarity about it. He did not supply any information however and my knowledge is very limited. As it is we will assume it must be from the pre-war Felix fiesta and Charleston craze of the early 1920’s.

I can only describe this item as raucously joyous! More like a two-step than evoking the Charleston (do couples actually embrace when dancing the Charleston?), but instead just the sheer weird exuberance of Felix and Bonzo locked endlessly in a spinning clinch, mouths agape awaiting posies, elicits a smile from me. I mean, does it get whackier than that in the best possible way? The only thing better would be to stick a bunch of tulips in each side, although it seems too fragile to actually house flowers. (To note, each is technically its own vase – the bases do not connect.)

Locked in a joyous embrace! Pams-Pictorama.com.

To my knowledge Felix and Bonzo each sport vases bearing their likeness and of various sizes and relative practicality. Felix’s image appears on a series of tiny toy vases most notably, while Bonzo seems more likely to be a three dimensional manifestation, debatably more usable and to loosely include small planters. I am not sure I can think of another full incarnation of Felix as a vase, but perhaps it has just eluded me. (Please do share if you know better!)

In general we are a bit terrified of owning fragile items here at Pictorama. The rough and tumble of daily life (with cats) at Deitch Studio can be best suited to soft toys and the otherwise less breakable. I do make exceptions however, but as a result this will need to live toward the back of a relatively high shelf.

And the ever-sleepy Bonzo – even while dancing. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

For a catty place, Bonzo has made several appearances here starting all the way back in 2014 with a post that can be found here after I purchased a great small ceramic figure at a flea market. Subsequently some soft toys have made their way into the Pictorama collection and my affections, other Bonzo posts can be found here and here for starters. His cat friend Ooloo as a soft toy was a notable addition to the collection and a post about him can be found here. Ooloo fans, a small but mighty group, might get a thrill in an upcoming post – stay tuned friends.

Whoever decided to pair these two disparate but ruling king comic characters of the day (I don’t know that I can think of another crossover example of them together let alone clutching each other), certainly had a vision. In executing it, Felix by necessity I suppose, becomes a bit elongated and leggy, with an extra long tail, for ballest perhaps. Bonzo looks more like himself in a more typical state of Bonzo bliss, eyes closed. That dog spent a lot of time sleeping and dozing. (Dancing while dozing though might be a first even for Bonzo.) Felix looks like he was caught in an odd moment of liquid animation, caught in a twirl with his buddy Bonzo, forever presenting posies for Bonzo and Felix fans. Full in delightful I say!

Oh Wow! It’s a Great Felix!

Pam’s Pictorama Post Toy Post: Christmas has come very late to Pictorama, but well worth waiting for when it showed up this week in the form of this wonderful addition to the Felix farm here at Deitch Studio. (A special thank you shout to Kim in the role of my Santa!) For those of you who read my January fretting post yesterday, the arrival and unveiling of Felix has lightened the mood here considerably – despite efforts to perk coffee on the stupid electric burner this morning!

I found Felix while perusing photos of a toy show in England I deeply regretted not being in attendance at (insert brief fantasy about dropping everything and flying there to attend), when I saw him sitting on a crowded shelf in one shot. The seller is a rather celebrated toy dealer, Daniel Agnew, who I believe deals most deeply in teddy bears – my beloved stuffed Felix toys are something of a subset to teddys. I couldn’t swear I haven’t purchased something from him previously, but perhaps I am just familiar with seeing him and his wares over time. However, I certainly trusted buying from him this way and was able to engage over the toy exhibit page on Facebook.

While I recognized that this Felix fellow was a good addition to my collection, I couldn’t really see what a nice, large jolly fellow he was going to turn out to be; photos just did not do him justice! (Insert image of me hopping up and down!) I was thrilled as I took him out of the box. Dan had sent some photos pointing out some wear, tiny holes and loss and I was a bit concerned about him making the trip overseas. However, Mr. Agnew is an experienced packer extraordinaire as you can see from the unpacking photo below and Felix made it through just fine.

The unpacking process!

Daniel did not identify the maker and I am unsure. In looking at a Felix Christmas post past (which can be found here) from the waning days of 2016, I speculate on one of a somewhat similar design, also very large, which I semi-attribute to the East London toy company. (Our new friends has less articulated hands and feet however.) I am not at all sure I agree with that guesstimate for either of them now. In an exchange with Mr. A. we discussed the possibility that he is by a small unnamed maker which is a likely answer in trying to identify some of these – as per his message license was giving out liberally for those interested in making the toys. I will say that his nose, his most unusual feature, appears to be most like the nose on a giant Dean’s Mickey Mouse in my collection.

Felix in Pictorama collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

In addition to his interesting and noteworthy nose, he is of a sort of specific tripod design with a shorter body and longer legs and tail. He has nice big glass eyes and a friendly, genial expression as opposed to the good time Charley type above. His head and arms are stationary, not articulated. The tip of his tail has worn through and he has stitching patches in his neck and behind an arm where he could use a bit restuffing and stitching. (He has dribbled a bit of excelsior across Kim’s desk for his brief photo shoot. He’s perched on a small tub of white acrylic paint.) However, he is mighty fine at 100 years old – I have no hope of looking nearly as good at his age.

I am eyeing a spot next to the other Christmas Felix above, where he can live quietly, safe from prying kits, towering over the miniature Flat Iron building and watch over us from an imperious perch in bed at night.

January Madness

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast Saturday morning here in New York City and there is a light bit of snow blowing outside. This has put my deep desire for a late morning run in question and makes me vaguely peevish. Kim has misplaced several key drawings for his next story (five or so luscious large pencil pages) and is slowing spreading the latter part of an almost finished graphic novel across our one room apartment in search of them. The pages have not left the apartment so we know they are here. A thorough search of piles of original art is underway. A certain frantic undertone to the commencement of our weekend here at Deitch Studio.

The desk in question, being searched.

Meanwhile, Blackie is snoring softly behind me on a very large box which contains an air fryer. While I am a bit curious about air fryers I never would have purchased one (let alone such a large one) except we’ve been informed that a city mandated gas inspection, which commenced Friday, has our cooking gas turned off. It will take a minimum of 6-8 months, but many buildings report that it has taken up to two years or more. (Yes, you read that correctly – they are turning off our cooking gas for what could be years.)

The model chosen after reading the NYT Wirecutter and other reviews.

I have moments of thinking that maybe it would be worth getting involved in City policy long enough to eliminate this bit of idiocy which is based on an incident where someone tied out an illegal gas line with a garden hose and the building ultimately blew up. Manhattan, perhaps all five boroughs, are looking now to eliminate gas cooking. This is a concept that could ultimately roust me from my perch here in New York City – gas cooking is beloved to me.

Life without making soup seems dreadful so I purchased this as well. Let’s see how I do with these new toys.

So, for now and despite Blackie’s fondness for the aforementioned box, I will spend this weekend unpacking the air fryer and an Instant Pot. (I cannot live without soup. One of several recipes can be found here.) I will rearrange our tiny kitchen and somehow fit these new appliances in – some of my beloved larger pots and pans can live in the oven I guess. (An ode to a dying fry pan can be found here.) Of course the adventure of learning to cook with them remains – I suspect you will receive further details. We have a microwave as well which I have generally only used to heat leftovers, but will be pressed into service. I have tried to amass groceries for easy execution at first, baby steps.

Blackie in full possession of the air fryer box.

Maybe the toaster can live in our storage locker and give us back another 12 inches of counter space? Electrical outlets have become prized real estate overnight and we are grateful for a renovation which added one. Additionally, there are two electric burners which the building assigned to us as a stove top. I hear rumors that the power draw for them is huge and that they cannot be used in tandem with the other appliances. Note taken, but I think we can look forward to the odd days when we space on that and blow a fuse.

At work Covid is stealthily making its way through the office again. We talk about it less, but staff are sick with it or living with people who have it. Most of the rules and protocols have fallen away and we are left to our own devices, instructing people to stay home and test – five days clear? I think there is a sense that people will just get it and get it again and again, but we do need to think about the people for whom it can be dangerous for various reasons, or like me have someone in their life who is fragile physically.

A pot of soup from a former post.

Along those lines my mom was diagnosed with pneumonia last week, not surprising given her immobility. I have home tested for Covid, but will go out and get a PCR test in case I need to go back to New Jersey. I mentally add it to the list I am making for this weekend.

I have long thought that TS Eliot had it wrong – it is January not April which is the cruelest month. For me it has uneasy memories of illness commencing and death, truly the nadir of each year which then needs to be reincarnated annually. (Oddly I am a bit distrustful of August too.) There is a gentle but persistent, burgeoning insanity that is barely kept in check in the month of January.

However, the pages in question above have been located at last. Kim is now contentedly inking a page which was his intention when he discovered the pencils missing, so a calm has returned to the house. He has promised to bring me a cup of take out coffee from the diner so I don’t have to face the electric burner and coffee pot quite yet. Blackie has moved onto the bed making way for me to unpack the air fryer and at least for the moment the flurries have paused so maybe I will get my run in. January is half over, we’re turning the corner and soon February will dawn a bit brighter.

A bit of Deitch Studio effluvia that surfaced this week.

Felix Marches Forward

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As promised, the first of many toy posts of the New Year! This little fellow crossed my path in December on eBay and there was something about him which appealed. He’s a bit damaged in places, but who among us (especially those who are 98 years old) can say otherwise? Oddly he sold for not much money so he has come to reside at Pictorama.

His head looks like a standard issue model used for several other toys, but mostly the popular jointed doll of the time and it was probably easily acquired for this somewhat more rarified toy. His tail is cleverly made with a bit of black rope, frayed a bit at the end now with a tiny wire sticking out.

Unfortunately not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection, but with a remarkably similar head in better condition.

I don’t think I have seen this precise toy before, or at least not many times. He is a simple mechanism, but designed with a nice forward stride, Felix-y indeed. Somehow they really captured his bouncy running trot when you push the (nice yellow!) wooden handle up and down. Very satisfying. His arms swing with a certain determination. It imitates his cartoon motion well.

Shown here with thanks to Kim for his handy help!

There is most of a tag remaining on his back which had FELIX, a series of dates (1919, 1922 and 1924) followed by Pat Sullivan and patented June 23, 1925, although no maker’s mark as such. I am entertained somehow that there is a day on the patent – like a birthday.

Remains of a patent sticker.

One side of his face and his nose have suffered a lot of paint loss and the handle is very well worn. I must say though there’s something mesmerizing about watching him bounce up and down. I can imagine being very entertained with this as a small child, but can also assume it was a toy that took a bit of a beating. Yet he must have seemed a bit indestructible when he was newly handed over for play.

I thought he was a good choice for the first toy post of the New Year. He will help us remember to stride resolutely, but with a bounce, into the year ahead.

A Room with a View

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Drum roll please…because today we have our annual Christmas card reveal! Here at Deitch Studio we have been producing a holiday card for a few decades now. One day we’ll have to see who has old number one because, although I knew we kept some, I am not sure we can lay our hands on it. In the first year, and maybe the one that followed, we hand colored each one (differently) with colored pencil – but we had a smaller distribution back then.

A better look at this year’s card! Deitch Studio collection. Click on it to make it larger.

For those who are new to the card this year the general process is that, after discussing the general subject first, I do the initial drawing. Kim responds with his version and then we might negotiate this or that, back and forth until it is an amalgam of our styles. In general, if we appear on the card, the rule is you draw yourself. (A few card reveals from year’s past can be found here and here, but the archive is chock-a-block full of them!)

Kitty cooks in the kitchen! No, we don’t really let them cook. Deitch Studio Collection.

This year however, Kim has been admiring the view from our window and it permeated my thoughts when I sat down to draw the card and it fell together quickly.

For those who haven’t visited Deitch Studio for awhile, yes, the plants have indeed increased in number and lushness this year. A friend commented on that. For those who follow Pam’s Pictorama regularly you know that Blackie had a rough year and we almost lost him to a bad infection and subsequent diabetes. In fact we had a mini-emergency with him just this past week as his sugar dropped too low. Despite that he is looking like his old self, has gained his weight back and his coat is thick and shining as shown here.

An exuberant Blackie showing tummy and fang recently.

Cookie would have been just as glad (or so she says – frequently) if we hadn’t bothered bringing him home. They are sister and brother and fight as such – love to hate each other I say. It gives them something to do. Cookie is the talker in the family and at nine years old still chases her tail (daily) like a kitten; often in the bathtub. Go cat go! I say she has one cat joke and that is to hide behind the shower curtain in the bathroom so she can jump out, meowing, at an unsuspecting type coming in. I fall for it several times a week. She does a victory lap with her tail after.

Cookie, always a card, a Noir Alley kitty a few weeks ago.

The view out the window is obviously much simplified, although I like to think it somehow captures the overall sense and mood. Kim was very light in his touch this year and really let my original drawing shine through. The view is quite wonderful, but it is especially nice at night when it is a twinkling wonderland. When I can’t sleep, I come and sit down on the couch (usually with Cookie these days, who in turn requires ear scratching) and spend some time looking at it.

Our view – a dim rainbow in upper right corner.

One of the interesting aspects of the view is that in recent years it is also the northern end destination of my frequent runs. Now when I look out I know it differently and I know the trip under the bridge and up to 114th Street intimately firsthand. I have written more about running in New Jersey than here in the City, but it is in reality my more frequent, if somewhat more static route. (A New York running post can be found here – and one from New Jersey here.) The path along the river is soothing, if windy in winter and hot and sunny in summer, whereas the suburban New Jersey path is more varied perhaps and has surprises like visiting deer and suburban highlights.

The northern part of my Manhattan running route one morning recently.

When I purchased this apartment I had no idea how beautiful the view was as the windows were too dirty to see out. Now it is our escape, bringing the whole world into our single room and we wouldn’t trade it.

So as the holidays approach and 2022 comes to a close, Merry Christmas and the best of New Year’s to all from the four of us at Deitch Studio!

Felix Takes a Powder

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Recently my friend Mel directed me over to a small auction that was primarily devoted to space ships, but had a small number of Felix items and I guess a very few people paying attention to them. Today’s very unusual item came to me via that auction along with a lovely stuffed Felix I will share soon as well.

Schuco produced Felix perfume bottle. Always very pricey! Not in my collection.

Felix bottles are a category unto themselves and to my knowledge include a soda bottle, a plastic bath bubble bottle, a popular perfume bottle and an even more available early bath salts bottle. The perfume bottle has a mohair outside (as above, produced by the toy company Schuco, which makes you wonder a bit about the quality of the perfume in question) and looks like a toy, while the bath salts one is made of clear glass and painted. The paint is usually worn off on the latter and there is a very similar Bonzo Dog – oddly and weirdly almost interchangeable if you aren’t paying attention. (As below and not in my collection – yet!)

My new Felix bottle is in what I think of as his Romeo pose, on one knee, hands clasped to his heart. You can imagine his impassioned cat-on-a-fence type tune. There are no makers or brand markings at all. In all of my searching around I have never seen the likes of him.

The white of his face appears to have been repainted, fairly well, but still is generally something that turns me off entirely. I can’t say the style of him is a favorite either – why the two tooth look I wonder? Again though he is so unusual I decided he had a place here at Pictorama and I am pleased with a having acquired him.

Powder stopper. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I have never however seen this item before in all my looking, nor when I did a dedicated search after finding him. He is made of a heavy molded glass (seam in the bottom) and stands about five inches high, and he’s a slightly off-model Felix with that sort of gap-tooth grin. The brass-esque cap comes off to reveal a powder shaker top. (Felix arrived well packed, but in a tsunami of powder which had remained in the bottle until he traveled! I guess the seller figured I would want it powder and all. Only a vague scent to it if you are wondering. It is sort of getting all over everything despite my best efforts to contain it.)

I like to imagine a dressing table somewhere, maybe in the early 1930’s with Felix atop where each morning a bit of powder was shaken out of him. So beloved however, he has made it down through almost a hundred years to be with us today. And stay tuned – while I was writing this I found another bottle I had to have. More to come…

More Margate Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am fulfilling yesterday’s promise of more photos to come with another hotsy totsy postcard which also entered into the Pictorama collection this week. My singular passion for this rarified specimen of photo postcards has been well documented and is in fact responsible for this blog which subsequently burgeoned into a much larger pastime. I contend that I may have the largest collection of these photos, but since I rarely meet anyone with even one (unless they are selling it) may claim goes largely uncontested. Most, but not all, have made appearances here on Pictorama.

I know there are other folks who own some Felix cards in the world because I occasionally to my horror (and admittedly not often), lose an auction for one. My fondness for these photos has inspired some purchases of what I think of as subcategories – people posing on enormous black cat “chairs” and then the random posing with or on other cartoon characters including (usually small) Mickeys or in one case atop Barney Google’s horse Spark Plug. (That post can be found here.) Some are tintypes, but most are photo postcards. In general, the thrust of individuals recording their madcap day at seaside or an amusement pier of some sort appeals to me.

Another pint-sized Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This family certainly defies the definition of madcap or even happy go-lucky. They are depicted in somewhat mugwamp fashion, be-hatted, bundled and all except for the little nipper on the end, engaged in industrious forms of leisure if there is such a thing – reading and knitting or sewing as far as I can tell. (Dad has a sheepish grin – perhaps the whole thing was his idea.) Clearly it was not one of Margate’s sunnier and warmer days, the third woman has an umbrella tucked under her feet which is easy to miss. A stray hat (it looks a bit large but probably belongs to the little girl) is in the foreground. The little girl’s shoes are tucked between mom and dad in the sand.

The card is marked just Margate in pencil on the back, but it was never mailed and nothing else is written on it, somehow these folks were talked into a photo with Felix. Margate, a long-standing seaside destination, is the locale of many of my photos. I wrote about its history once here. (And among the other times I have had posts of postcards from there are examples here and here and one from earlier this year with Felix here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As posing Felix-es go, he is a smallish model, only coming up to the waist of the little girl who is standing behind him. Upon close inspection he sports both a small bow on his left shoulder and a large button in his ear which I will hazard a guess says Chad Valley – it is the first time I have seen the button in the ear of one of these posing Felix toys and now I am wondering if I can find it on others. I have a sort of 18 inch model that has one – the first in my collection to still have it.

I must say, as backdrops go the photographer didn’t have much to work with here – the patch of sand and unromantic wall behind them. They could be anywhere. He has centered them however and consciously or not, they make up a good photo, their hats lining up and the little girl on the end just a bit taller than the seated adults. Something about the white stockings and shoes on the third woman adds something to the effect. If their repose was greater they might be the Whistler’s Mothers of Margate, but instead there is that nagging sense of diligence. Their Sunday afternoon in the parlor transported to the beach briefly.

A very similar Felix at an undisclosed location – possibly Margate and the very same Felix? Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix remains jolly in the face of their dour and somewhat gloomy affects. He rolls his eyes a bit maniacally, looking up coincidentally toward the little girl – she is his potential partner in crime, and they are in it together to get this party started and have some fun! One arm (paw?) up, he’s ready to lead the way. Meanwhile, he is at the beginning of a long day of posing, cheerfully, with an array of folks on the beach in Margate, some more fun than others, waving to me a hundred or so years later.

A (Felix) Cat Book

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I’ve actually been in possession of this slim volume for a few years since purchasing it on eBay. I think it went to the shelf and somehow never made its Pictorama debut. But I was emailing about all things Felix with a fellow Felix-o-file and dug it out to show him. I have not seen it around much, but some digging shows that you can currently acquire a copy if you are willing to pay up. My copy is inscribed twice. The first is in a childish pencil scrawl which, oddly, reads, Elizabeth Butler, 1021 Craggmont. The other, in a neat pen, To Martha, from Mabel Crowe. Neither is dated.

Titlepage, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

It is a somewhat odd book. To start with, across the front it announces that it was Published by Harper & Brothers – Established 1817. A quick check and Harper & Brothers, which started life as J. & J. Harper publishing in 1817 (brother Jay and John at the helm) until more brothers from the clan joined and the name changed in 1833 to recognize them. Then it changed again in 1962 and became Harper & Row, before later finding its 21st century moniker, Harper Collins. However, while new printing methods made them a leading publisher of books and textbooks, the influence of the famed Harper’s Magazine could evidently be felt through their publishing empire and its influence is felt in this volume.

Felix himself travels under an American passport and Harpers a US publisher, however the author is British essayist, E. V. Lucas, giving this something of the feel of a British product like one of their comics annuals. While this Felix volume was published in 1927 there is an earlier, 1902, version which has different and more traditional cat illustrations by someone named H. Officer Smith and in fact published in Britain. The illustrations have a whiff of Louis Wain to them.

The earlier version of the book with illustrations by H. Officer Smith. Not in Pictorama collection.

Lucas was a lifelong Punch author whose prodigious output of essays, commentary, verse, plays and was legendary in his day. His biography is sprinkled with references to hobnobbing with friends Barrie, A.A. Milne, Arthur Conan Doyle and the likes of his day, playing cricket and billiards. He has written the copy in simple verse with a sly eye to the beloved tricks, maneuvering and manipulation of cats.

Our volume (ostensibly illustrated by Pat Sullivan who signed each illustration, however we’ll assume it is of course Otto Messmer ready at the dip pen) is a slim one at about 30 pages, writing on each left side and illustration on the right. Felix takes on the role of a sort of every cat persona rather than doing a star turn as his famous film self here – although he seems to have some of the Felix wiliness and trouble-making charm as played out in the pictures.

The drawings show Felix in fine fetter and I can only imagine that for a pro like Messmer it didn’t take him long. However his skill shows in making every line count for maximum entertainment and raises it to the level of a Pictorama worthy Felix investment.

Ed. Note: After this was posted @judd_kid and @tomatitojose sent word that they think it was drawn by Dana Parker who drew many of the Felix theater posters and advertising art! Fact for the day!

It’s Bimbo

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am celebrating a somewhat forgotten character of animation via this really nice little ceramic figurine which traveled here from Texas earlier this week. It came from our Instagram pals @curiositiesantique (and getcuriosities.com – I have written about them and Sandy who is my thoughtful contact in a post that can be found here) who were very nice and sent me a photo asking me if I was interested in purchasing him – and I definitely was.

I quick check on Wikipedia this morning (which cost me a donation to them, got me at a weak moment) reminds me that Bimbo, an animated perpetual pup of sorts made his debut as KoKo the Clown’s sidekick in the Fleischer Studios Out of the Inkwell series before becoming Betty Boop’s paramour as she rose to fame in the early 1930’s. Bimbo was the first animated character to invite everyone to follow the ball and sing along in the 1926 cartoon, My Old Kentucky Home. (All cartoons mentioned here are linked to viewing on Youtube available at the time of posting.) Oddly they note that his name comes out of a reference at the time to men who like to fight which is a fact for the day.

From Bimbo’s Initiation.

A loosely designed Bimbo stars in the 1930 cartoon Hot Dog where he is nabbed for annoying women with unwanted attentions. Later Betty and Bimbo made classic cartoons they are both best known for such as Minnie the Moocher and Bimbo’s Initiation.

Bimbo is eventually overshadowed by Betty as she rose to greater prominence. It seems as she became less doggy there was eventually pause about a human being in a relationship with a quasi anthropomorphic dog. In 1934 the Hays code decided that interspecies affairs in animation were a problem and nix their onscreen relationship. Betty gets a proper puppy pet, Pudgy, instead and Bimbo is largely retired.

From Van Eaton Galleries. Not in Pams-Pictorama Collection. Slightly different Bimbo.

Some research turns up a set of Bimbo, Betty and KoKo in the box of these figures and which reveals that it was imported by George Borgfeldt which is a name I have seen in and around objects and toys of this period. The example, shown with the box is from an auction site and seems to be a slightly different incarnation of Bimbo, less well executed.

Original box, also from Van Eaton Galleries, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

There is another variation which shows three Bimbos in a musical trio. Not sure what the inspiration was for these.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection and for sale on eBay at the time of publishing.

Fleischer Studios is imprinted on Bimbo’s butt, an inventory number above and Made in Japan across his heels. He is made of ceramic, some sort of porcelain bisque. Although one ear looks like it may have been lopped off, the other image assures me that this is as he was made. He’s a good design, reasonably close to his animated self, and pleasantly sturdy. Bimbo will enjoy a place of pride in a display cabinet on the long shelf of curiosities here at Pam’s Pictorama and Deitch Studio.