Eugene the Jeep

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.

A volume from my beloved edition of Popeye dailies published by Fantagraphics.

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.

Not (yet) in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection. Interesting that the lucky clovers deteriorated into spots here.

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.)

Lucky Jeep! Deans Rag Toy tag.

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!)

Jeep not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection – but you never know…For me this one is the best design relative to the drawing in the strip.

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.

Say Cheese!

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.

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Mickeys from Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Big Mickey

 

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.

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Eva-Marie and Mickey

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.

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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!

Felix Plays a Prime Prop

 

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.

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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!

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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.

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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!