Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: When this new Felix landed here at Deitch Studio the other day, Kim exclaimed that he looked exactly like another Felix on the living room shelf. I denied this allegation and a quick (close) comparison revealed notable differences and Kim conceded the point. Having said that I admit that some of my stuffed Felix toys differ in ways that only a mother might notice differences among her children.
For me it is quite self-evident – a crooked grin, how the teeth are stitched in – just a single line or a filled in toothiness? Do the arms move or are they in a permanent attitude or pose? The legs are important because that is how a Felix doll stands, always a tripod affair, the support balancing between the two legs and the tail. Some of these fellows have a hump to their back, a tribute to his hunched over thinking walk, others not. Some stand with more assurance and others more attitude. Others have trouble standing at all.
For me it is the expression however. Some are knowing, others have a sort of charming dufuss-y and daffy look. Still others are sort of good time Charleys who you might be up all night drinking and playing cards with. Some, like this one, have a cocky and confident look.
I have written a bit about the sometimes handmade nature of some of these early British toys. (A post about their manufacture on the East End of London as employment for indigent women can be found here.) The more oddly off-model the better in my opinion. I like the ones that challenge credulity as whether or not they even are Felix – Kim saying, That is NOT Felix! and me insisting, Yes, he is! (At least he was intended to be.)
Although I believe all or virtually all Felix-es had whiskers they come in a wide variety of options – from hard plastic like fishing line, to a few wispy threads to a nice full bunch of coarse threads like this fellow still has. Clearly the whiskers are among the parts to first go missing.
Eyes are most often shoe button black, but there are some variations with black and white glass like this fellow sports. Some are more googly than others. Noses can be stitched on affairs, cloth covered or metal. The quality of the mohair varies as well – some with a longer nap and almost a curl to it, others a more bristly sort.
He was sold to me via auction as made by the Dean’s Rag Company, but I cannot firmly confirm nor deny that origin. He is about 18 inches tall.
All of this makes up a Felix toy and the variations that makes that particular one hold a special place in my heart!
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today we are continuing our New Year’s weekend with a Felix post. This fellow is the last in a big buy I did from an unexpected and wonderful online auction in Great Britain this October. It was one of those affairs which had been moved online because of Covid and it was my lucky, toy collecting day, because I would never have been treated to the likes of it otherwise and some of these dealers are not online sellers. Given the amount I spent I would say they were glad to have run into me as well! (I have written about the other acquisitions, the amazing Deans Eugene the Jeep and a great postcard here and here.) Christmas came in October this year without question.
There is in my collection, a rather huge and very impressive Dean’s Rag Felix, the likes of which I have never seen otherwise, nor have I even met any kissin’ cousins until this fellow crossed my path. The story of that guy I will save for another day as I have not yet memorialized him here in the Pictorama archive of toy tales, but it involves a trip to London, spending more than I ever had on a toy (and I have never, ever told how much that was…) and emptying a suitcase to bring him home safely – who cares about clothes?
I have written about the famed Dean’s toy maker previously – a few times devoted to some beloved Mickeys and also a rather exceptional Pluto. (Those posts for fellow toy fans can be found here, here and here just for starters.) Deans produced Felix in a variety of sizes according some old catalogue information I have seen. I would like to be more educated about them and will share as the information comes to light.
This chap caught my eye immediately as I strolled through piles of photos from a variety of sellers and, as I remember, I started bouncing up and down in my chair with delight! To make it even better (how does it even get better, right?) the seller was including the photo below of a little boy with a very similar Felix! Pictorama readers know that this is truly a wonderful two-ffer for me as the Pictorama archive sports many Felix photo images as well. I could hardly email my desire to purchase them fast enough.
The young man posing with this Felix toy seems to be at a photo studio. He is perched on something that looks more like a small table or piano bench perhaps. While Felix appears to be warmly embracing him, he seems a bit awkward with his arms are gingerly around Felix which makes it feel like it probably isn’t his toy but a prop. This is a photograph rather than a photo postcard and there is no information on the back aside from a pencil number (no studio information) and some evidence that this was at one time pasted into a photo album.
Felix stands about 17 inches high. He has rather bat-like ears, a tad over-sized. (Peter, the seller, kindly offered to reinforce Felix’s ears which I agreed to – as it happens they had also been reinforced on my other Dean’s Felix. They must have been made thin and wore out quickly. His head swivels to allow for a saucy pose or two.
As you can see, this Felix is missing his nose – and of course the photo shows us what it would have looked like with nose. I am considering fashioning a nose out of felt and maybe just pinning it on so it would be easily removable. However, you can also see that the shape of the nose is still there. The eyes are an interesting sort of celluloid, at least that is what I think they are. Oddly, both in my photos and the original ones from the sellers, his hands seem a bit clumpy although they are not in person.
Felix has the delightful Deans Rag Book labels on the soles of his feet, shown below.
As it turns out the seller, Peter Woodcock, is a somewhat reformed Felix collector who is just dipping his toe in the water of selling some of his collection although he and his wife Leanda have a robust antique toy business (many lovely bears),although I am not sure I would have found them online if it weren’t for the 200 Years of Childhood toy show moving online for this year. (I assure you that this is among the few silver linings I can attribute to Covid.)
I suspect that my tsunami of Felix enthusiasm is a tad overwhelming for Peter as I pepper him with questions and theories, but I so rarely get to correspond with a fellow Felix toy fan. Yay Peter! I have coaxed a few more Felix-es out of him so stay tuned as I think 2022 is going to be a very Felix year indeed.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy acquisition is part of the loot from lightening striking multiple times at one online toy sale in Britain this fall. Within a few hours I had redistributed some hard earned cash to three dealers. One was a small purchase, a wonderful postcard though of a girl in hunting garb aiming at a Steiff teddy. (That post can be read here.)
Today’s Jeep came from a dealer whose toys seemed to skew more toward traditional bears and dolls than somewhat obscure comic characters. She was lovely however and I will hope there is a chance to do future business with her.
As it happens, I have always had a soft spot for the Jeep and frankly had no idea that Deans Rag Company produced one, but as soon as I saw this one I snatched it happily up. For those who have not read the original Segar Popeye strip, I say do yourself a favor and settle in with the full run and have a good old read. I originally read the dailies serially via a wonderful edition of hard cover books that our friends at Fantagraphics published years ago. (They have subsequently published the Sundays as well.) The full glory of Popeye in his native medium bears little resemblance to the somewhat limited range of the animated cartoon character of my childhood and it was one of the nicest rabbit holes I ever headed down in comics.
Among the discoveries, such as characters Ham Gravy and Castor Oil, was Eugene the Jeep. The Jeep, for those of you who have not encountered his mystical self, is a dog-like animal from Africa who can, (among other things) appear and disappear at will, walk on his hind legs, always tells the truth, and can utter the single word, Jeep! (Wikipedia has a rather cogent explanation of him and his back story which can be found here.) The Jeep represents a sort of the high point of that strip for me – a charming and mystical character which possesses somewhat limited if extraordinary powers.
The first mention of the Jeep appears in March of 1936, although he takes his place in the strip later in 1938. While researching this and the dates associated with it I had a moment of wondering how the first mention might have intersected with the introduction of Punjab into the Little Orphan Annie strip. The equally mystical Punjab was introduced into that strip almost exactly a year before in February of ’35. Makes me wonder if it inspired Segar or if there was something else afoot in the world that inspired both. I am not well versed enough in these things to say, but will perhaps pose the question to one of our better informed friends such as Bill Kartalopoulus, comics historian. Maybe it was just in the air. (The question of whether or not the army vehicle with this moniker has the strip as the origin remains somewhat unclear to me, but is definitely possible.)
Much like Krazy Kat, and even Felix to some extent, the relatively simple shape of this character seems to have inspired somewhat strangely inaccurate three dimensional recreations and I have looked for a splendid soft Jeep toy for a very long time. Kim has spoken of one that passed through his hands in the late 80’s which I have had trouble finding. I think it might be this model below, just spotted on eBay.
While the earnestness of this Dean’s Rag incarnation cannot be denied, down to the lucky four leaf clovers which decorate him, somehow he is a bit off kilter. He is about 7 inches in height. (I have not had a chance to dig really deep to see if he came in a number of sizes, although as a rule Deans character toys did. Having said that he does seem a tad rarified so there isn’t much online. Somewhere I have a CD which has the history of the Dean’s catalogue on it which will enlighten me if I can find it.) My example has a small tear on the neck and toward the tip of the tail. The only other example I can find has a worse tear at the tail with stuffing emerging – at first I thought it was a characteristic of the toy.
He has, as is necessary, the wonderful Dean’s Rag Book Company imprint on the soles of his feet. (For some reason those imprints fill me with great joy – if I were to come back in a future life as a vintage toy I would very much want to be a Deans Rag toy proudly sporting this indicia.)
As toy collector and seller Peter Woodcock pointed out in an email these small toys soiled and tore easily with handling and did not survive in large numbers. (Peter will emerge further as a subsequent character in the tale of this sale as he parted with something truly delightful which I purchased as well.) A quick look over at Mel Brinkrant’s collection shows a few pristine examples, as well as one or two other examples I must keep my eye out for – I can see the corner of another of the Deans Rag ones and I would say yes, it is larger. (For all things Mel and his beyond extraordinary collection you can go here. Talk about a happy rabbit hole!)
Researching this wonderful toy has reminded me that within these cramped four walls is a new volume of the pre-Popeye Thimble Theater strips. (It can be found here on Amazon.) I think I need to curl up with that oversized volume in bed for the remainder of the weekend. It is snowing gently outside and I cannot think of a better way to wile away this afternoon and evening.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This photo could have been an easy one to accidentally pass by at first, but at closer inspection it really cracked me up! This little gal with her toothy overbite, which coincidentally and perfectly matches this great, somewhat over-sized Dean’s Rag Doll Mickey, has managed to place herself (or be placed) on a sort of platform. She makes a splendid photo and clearly she and the photographer have conspired to create it. Her lace dress provides a great texture against the pattern of the ferns and leaves – a perfect setting. She is placed atop of this small stage to make her look like a delighted, smiling toy herself. Her Mary Janes, slightly imperfect white knee highs and, best of all her period semi-bowl cut hair complete the image.
This photo came from Britain. Although the toys were made there, this surprises me as something about the image and the foliage seems very west coast American to me – California? But no. There is nothing written on this photo and no indication of date, or alas identity. These Dean Mickey’s (and truly, I wouldn’t mind owning this nice large one at all!) were most popular in the 1930’s I believe. I have written about the ones in my collection a few times previously – Big Mickey and Starting Small with Mice. Below is a photo of some of my smaller but similar fellows – note those toothy grins! I am so pleased this little girl and her Mickey have come to reside in my collection where she belongs.
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As many of you who follow our day-to-day on Facebook may already know, we are in the process of packing up our (tiny) apartment so that our ceiling can be ripped out and a new HVAC system installed for our building. In this case, the 15th and 16th floor, the top two, are taking a hit for the rest of the building for a more or less ten weeks. As I write this we are approximately halfway through the packing process. Kim packed books first, those boxes will go on the bottom while boxes of my toys will be piled on top. As a result these posts may cover some as yet not profiled toys as they get packed – and then eventually unpacked. We will be living amongst the boxes in the meanwhile.
This fellow, however, is too large to be packed in a box and will just be carefully wrapped up. He came to me via Hake’s auction as a splendid Christmas gift from Kim in 2011. I did the bidding and he came a bit less expensive than anticipated – perhaps because not everyone is willing to share their home with a Dean’s Rag Mickey Mouse the size of a toddler? In a way I have already examined here (see my recent post A Surprisingly Tiny Felix) I had a bit of dysmorphia when envisioning the size of things I bid on. I knew he was big – but I didn’t realize HOW big until a box the size of a refrigerator turned up in the apartment a few weeks before Christmas! While a tiny bit freaked out, I was far from disappointed when I opened him on Christmas morning. It was a jolly Christmas indeed.
Unfortunately, I do not know much about him and his history other than that he was some sort of store display. He is not all soft like a toy would be – his head is made of a harder substance. His snout may be paper mache or something similar to that and his feet are weighted to keep him standing.
I treasure my other Dean’s Rag Mickeys which were highlighted in my early post Starting Small with Mice, but my initial commitment to a small collection of mice (to satisfy the cat toys and give them something to do) would not seem to encompass this enormous, charming rodent. Nevertheless, shown below, he guards the foot of our bed and has since his arrival. He will be napping under some covers in the living room shortly however, and the bedroom just will not be the same without him for the duration.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Taking a break from my beloved Felix-es and other kitties, we choose today to embrace mice – or at least a mouse. Eva-Marie had this charming photo taken in Berlin with this splendid Mickey. Nothing but her name on the back, no date. The back of the card has a studio mark that says only A. Wertheim Berlin Leipzger Strasser, which appears to have been an early mall/department store. I like the jaunty bows in her hair and the way she’s holding Mickey’s hands – he reaches almost up to her waist! Eva-Marie is clearly enjoying herself. Who wouldn’t?
I believe the wonderful outsized Mickey to be made by Britain’s Dean’s Rag Book Company – a toy company I have written about several times in the past. (Among those posts you can check out Pluto and Flip and Froggy.) I shared some of my small scale “Mickey Jazzers” below. These were featured in Starting Small With Mice, an early post and are tiny kissin’ cousins of the big fella here.
I am the proud owner of a store display Dean’s Mickey, which is about as tall as Eva-Marie here, but more about that in a future post. One great Mickey at a time!
A special shout out to my friend Zach Sigall who was the one who found this photo and gave me the nod on it. Thanks Zach!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This gem comes to me courtesy of my terrific husband, as a birthday gift. We were both very entertained by the photo – as well as the appearance of Felix and friends in it. Sadly, there is no identification – someone has written German film? on the back in pencil. Otherwise, just the reprint credit information from something called, Culver Services.
Kim suspects that the actor is Dwight Frye. This gave way to another iPad internet search in bed one night and a lively discussion of whether or not we could figure out what movie this might be from his bio. I have failed to tie this out – the woman is not familiar to either of us and I invited anyone who knows about it to speak up. We are curious! Here are a few photos of Dwight from what must be more or less the same time. As you can see, the photo is identified as being from Universal, which is rubbed over in red for some reason.
Meanwhile, the babe, surrounded by rather excellent stuffed toys, is letting all hang out in would could be a pre-Code or very European way. Dwight looks unconcerned by her state of undress and urges her to look at these plans or whatever those sheets of paper are. The maid just wishes to get on with serving tea it would seem.
Oh, but let’s talk about the toys! There is the glorious big Felix which is what caught my attention to begin with – oh, lucky woman! He’s a pip! Behind her head is a black cat pillow I would acquire instantly given half the chance. Then there are two of these somewhat mysterious stuffed dogs. As far as I can tell they are made by Dean’s Rag Co. of Britain (for some of my posts of praise for these fine toy makers check out my post Pluto) and here is an example of a similar dog that was recently for sale on eBay – didn’t sell if you are interested!
And then below, my own acquisition of a similar odd duck dog in Paris a few years ago. He does not have a maker mark however. I do not know if the one above does or not.
Felix is also probably a Dean’s Rag or perhaps a Chad Valley version. I can’t help but wonder where they all came from and who had the excellent eye for set design. Too much to hope that they were part of the plot – if we cannot figure out what film it is I will probably never know for sure either way!