Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As promised, the New Year parade of toys continues. Today’s is a lucky find post. I can’t even remember what I was looking for or at when this little fellow popped up on the bottom of my eBay screen and caught my eye. I was in bed, doing a casual weekend eBay scroll as is my wont, when I spied him. I showed him to Kim and we agreed that he was a purchase.
Despite repeatedly being labeled rare he is not especially and there was another more tatty one being offered even then – there are several now in a range of prices- should you decide you need to run out and purchase one, which of course I wholeheartedly support. (We can all have one for prices ranging from $30-$250.) However, I give some credit to the seller who, with a close up shot, sold me on him when frankly I would have usually just passed by since, as we know, I am officially a collector of cats and not dogs. However, he had a come hither look and bam! He was mine.
He is a Made in Japan tin toy (no company name beyond that, stamped on his tummy), and the consensus on his origin seems to place him around 1950. I was surprised by his size when he arrived (I thought he would be substantially bigger), but there is something extremely appealing about it.
Our pup is well designed. His ears are made of another material (a hard rubber perhaps?) and seem to be extremely vulnerable to loss, as does his tail which is made of the same material. Some versions have his (painted on) tongue sticking out, although mine does not. He sports a (painted on) collar, spots on his back and hind quarters and a gentle expression sunk in wrinkles. Oddly, his front legs are separate pieces which are welded on, but do not have a moving function. A solid state and smooth working key is permanently installed in his back.
His trick, as you can see, is that when wound his tail spins around – a fairly straightforward motion. Further research shows that he originally had a shoe in his mouth! When I looked, sure enough there is a little hook in the corner of his mouth to hang it from. Ha! It does crack me up. (The concept and the motion is similar to another tin dog in my collection, shown above. A post can be found here complete with video motion. There is also another tin dog that coughs up tiny balls which can be found here. You see, we do have our dog days here at Deitch Studio.)
Our new fellow has a place of pride among the kitties (alongside a tin pigeon, some Donald Ducks and the aforementioned canines) on a shelf in the big bookcase of goodies. A tiny but very entertaining addition to the Pictorama and Deitch Studio family.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: Pictorama is generally and decidedly devoted to things feline – Felix finds, people posing with giant cat chairs, and photos of cats gone-by – but occasionally we wander into the dark side and we have a dog day. (For the canine lovers out there a few other posts can be found here and here.)
Even pre-pandemic, for decades really, Kim and I have had take-out on Friday night. We rarely have it during the week and frankly, although I eat out for work frequently, we rarely eat out at all. I generally cook (you can read more about my adventures in cooking, complete with recipes here and here) and find it healthier and less expensive (this is Manhattan!) to cook at home, and what’s more I like my own food. However, after a long hard week of work, signaling the start of the weekend, we have a date for take-out. There was a long stretch of Mexican take-out from an extended Korean family across the street and I would often meet Kim after my Friday evening work out at the gym.
During Covid days the Mexican take-out was shut (it had actually closed right before for renovations and did not reopen for eight or more months) and we supported local from dwindling choices in the form of pizza (our beloved Arturos on York and 85th which kept its tiny storefront open and feed the neighborhood throughout the leanest time here) and a somewhat swankier Mexican restaurant on 86th Street. However, at the suggestion of my trainer who is very fond of it, we tried a Vietnamese place, the aptly named Vietnaam, on 88th and Second that had shutdown except for take-out. We fell in love with their soups and dumplings and have become devotees ever since landing there most Fridays. A line streams out their door on weekends.
In addition to the treat of laksa and canh chua soup it means a lovely walk of several blocks which helps us separate our minds and begin the transition from the distraction of work as we start to reacquaint ourselves with the idea of time off. In the winter it means bundling up, but the promise of hot noodle soup spurs us on and it is a good respite for a week devoted largely to chair sitting at desks.
Recently, over a period of months, someone was decorating a tree just east of the restaurant. I documented the additions periodically on Instagram. Then, just as abruptly, it was all gone without a trace.
Over the past year or so an antique/junk store had the courage to open on First Avenue between 87th and 88th, right near where my favorite bakery used to be. (That Yorkville moment post can be found here.) I saw stuff being moved in and then, there it was lights on a ready for action on summer Friday, back in ’20. Take out in hand we wandered in for a quick inspection and the stock was an eclectic mix, skewing slightly higher end than I might have thought. Some research shows that it is actually called Spellman Gallery, and would probably not be pleased to be put in the category of antique/junk store, although I mean it with the greatest fondness and deep affection for both antiques and junk. They do sell art, some early photographs of interest, but the bits and bobs interest me most.
Although I’m unsure if we even went in again, I liked to look in the window. A few months back in February they had vintage newspaper dresses in the window which entertained me. And recently they launched a display of dog banks and door stops which garnered my attention. First one (nice!) cast iron door stop, but rapidly filled in with the others. Banks followed, a barking dog bank which made us curious about what the action might be. Now they had my full attention, wondering each Friday if there would be another addition – or would something have been sold and disappeared?
Over several weeks I enjoyed looking at this little fellow. Something about his cast iron cushion, the colors and his expression attracted me. I kept hoping he wouldn’t be sold and disappear. I appreciated the entire display and while I hated to be the one to break up the party, Saturday Kim and I looped around and wandered in to inquire about him. The store had grown pleasantly fuller since our initial visit. There was a large display of lovely early cooking bowls – yellow ware she called it when someone came into inquire. I own a few bowls of this type, given to me by a friend clearing out her attic, which I have used almost daily for years. I was shocked at the prices of them, but have no intention of taking mine out of daily rotation.
Our doggie was more dear than I think Kim or I anticipated, but when I started to hesitate Kim offered to substantially defray the cost and out of the shop window and home with us he came.
Our pup is a bank and he is not attached to his light blue metal cushion he is perched upon – the stored coins accessible through a screw in the bottom. (Unscrewing this would make him come apart in two halves.) He is very heavy and although his paint is chipped in a few places it does not affect his overall jolly appeal. It took us a few minutes to even find where coins go in at the back of his neck. One jingles alluringly in the bank, but I am not taking him apart to find out what it is!
He is the product of Hubley, the early manufacturer of cast iron bank and doorstop fame, founded in 1909, and his brethren and tracks about them were surprisingly easy to find online. I did fail however to find him precisely. The earliest version of this bank I found was back in 1914, another slight design change is evident in one from the ’30’s. Originally sold under the name Puppo in the teens and s/he was designed by Grace Gebbie Drayton. (On his light blue cushion it is a he for me but interestingly always referred to as she in the online listings and information.)
The later incarnation morphs into Fido on a Pillow; it is unclear if the earliest version sported the pillow or not. (The later version had Fido embossed on the collar, mine doesn’t.) Not surprisingly, the pillow was often lost and I read that it was also sold sans pillow, and a black and white version of the dog alone proliferates online in various states of condition. (I’ll just say, it is all about the pillow for me.) Somehow I place mine roughly in the 1920’s, looking at the arc of designs.
Having made a purchase from them I suspect I will wander back into the Spellman Gallery to poke around. Moreover however, I hope their window continues to entertain me on Fridays. Welcome to Yorkville Mr. Spellman.
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: For someone who collects cats I think there is significant evidence that I have a pretty big gushy spot for the right dog as well. This was a birthday buy and I would say, strangely, that birthdays seem to end in dog buying. I guess I can only say that if you try to shop for cats and there are dogs this is the result.
This little Steiff canine appeared at my favorite haunt, The Antique Toy Shop New York in Chelsea, still gamely doing business while several floors of that market are renovated. (A link to the site for his store can be found here.) The weekend after my birthday, Kim and I headed over to their new digs, in a space right next to the old one, but about twice as big. Below is a photo of the new space off the Instagram account since I wasn’t prescient enough to take a few photos while I was there.
Jean-Pol Ventugol, proprietor, is a like-minded toy enthusiast and his shop is the best game in town I know of for vintage toys these days. He runs heavily toward rather beautiful toy race cars and rather outstanding robot toys, but lots of lovely items of Pictorama-type interest are tucked into cabinets and corners. (He and I discussed the size of our apartment, aka Deitch Studio, and I told him the main room is about the size of his shop.)
Speaking of dogs, check out those splendid papier mâché French bulldogs behind the counter! I had a nice chat about those fellows as I have always wanted one. (Although frankly there is a huge version which it is, of course, of the most interest to me.) I call them Growlers, which Jean-Pol clearly did not approve of. He gave me a quick history on them – if I remember correctly he said they began being made in the 1890’s and they continued to make them into the 1950’s. They are on wheels and open their mouths to growl when a chain is pulled. Small children were prone to trying to ride them which was the demise of many it seems – I do understand the inclination. Jean-Pol had several of these dogs from different periods. Tempting indeed, especially the oldest of them, but taxing beyond even a birthday budget for this year. More post-birthday purchases from The Antique Toy Shop New York will be forthcoming in the near future.
This extremely intelligent looking canine was one of two versions of similar dogs, this was the larger one and I knew he would come home with us right away. He retains the button in his ear, so tiny it is hard to see. He has the remnant of a tag behind one leg as well. In addition to the intelligent look in his eyes (something I feel like Steiff figured out somehow) there is the fine work and coloring around his snout that makes his mouth expressive as well. The rhinestone collar is a nice touch. It was a very French bulldog kind of day I would say in retrospect.
He brought to mind a small dog toy I bought in Paris years ago and I show here as well. They are quite different, but there is something about both that spoke to me. I guess it is representative of my canine aesthetic.
As for The Lucky Pup – it is a television show Kim remembers from childhood. The Lucky Pup and his cohorts (Foodini the Great and Pinhead?) were puppets on a CBS television show which may have morphed to ABC at some point, over the years of 1948-1951. (The opening credits for that ancient show can be found on Youtube here.) Kim recounted his memory of it – stirred to the top of consciousness by our dog today I gather. It created a brief tributary and flurry of research as I wrote this morning so I thought I would share it and tell this little fellow we have great hopes for him now that he is a denizen of Deitch Studio.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is a silly little photo and it came out of an album with several others taken in the same spot in this year – Mom, a little sister – them together. The others are just random family photos, but this one charmed me.
It speaks entirely for itself – the lawn animals are entertaining in their own right. However, the addition of the little boy, in that miniature, grown-up chair holding that splendid stuffed Scotty – that so perfectly matching the lawn ornament – is what makes it great. The fact that the lawn cat is a tuxedo does not hurt in my estimation either.
Although I collect toy cats, I am the first to say that there is a superior variety and selection of stuffed dogs in the world and sometimes I can hardly contain myself. However, there may be something a bit telling in the fact (ahem) that they also generally seem to sell for less. (While that is the cat collector in me speaking, it is an honest observation.) It must be said, and as devoted readers may remember, my own favorite toy as a child was a stuffed dog, Squeaky, who has featured in two prior posts. (For the curious, one of those can be found here at Felix on an Outing.) My only cat companions were living ones, as much as I wish I could share a photo of a tiny me with a stuffed cat toy.
I have been enticed by dog pull-toys, Bonzo (who I have given into collecting in a small way) and of course various just nice stuffed ones. And I remember being very tempted indeed by a Scotty dog much like this one, in splendid shape, being offered for a reasonable price at an antiques mall in Red Bank, NJ. Toy collectors who live in small studio apartments must be very thoughtful about expanding their sphere of collecting however. Perhaps buying this photo has satisfied that latent yen. On the other hand, much like mice, maybe the cat toys need a dog or two to keep them on their toes.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Those of you who are regular readers (or among Kim’s Facebook friends) will know of my ongoing passion for photos of Felix as a prop for beach photos. It is pretty much the cornerstone of my photo collecting, and makes up the bulk of my collection. This is one of two recent acquisitions in this area and I especially like it because the Felix toy does not appear to be a prop just for the photo. Instead this seems to be a much beloved toy, taking a trip to the beach with this little boy who is grasping him firmly in his arms. (Understandable – Felix does have a tendency to run off. See my recent post, Felix on a Leash for more on this. Felix joins another family photo in Felix Family Photo.) Written on the back, Dear All – hope you are all well having a nice time weather glorious – Best love to all Ronie. (Could also be signed Rorrie.)Oddly, there is no stamp or postmark so if it was mailed it was in an envelope. Therefore, no date either. We’ll have to assume that Ronie/Rorrie expected that everyone knew the little nipper on the front of the card and did not comment on him, or Felix, in particular.
It is of some interest to me that our parents seem to mostly take photos of us with beloved toys when the toys are new. You rarely see a photo of a child holding some really ratty old toy that he or she has been dragging around with them forever. Yet, in some ways that torn-up, faded toy with the food stains, is the one that lives on in memory. Although I guess in our mind’s eye we still see them shining and new. I offer a photo here of me with my stuffed dog, Squeaky, when he was freshly new and immediately adored. And, of course, a photo of Squeaky today. He lives a careful life on a bookshelf now, He now longer squeaks, but his long-lashed brown eyes still open and close. Squeaky saw a lot of miles early in life and we are glad that he is enjoying his retirement here in the apartment with us.