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.

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.

Can it be? Another Felix?

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.

Felix with bristly whiskers, shoe button nose and simple stitch teeth. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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.

A closer look at our man today. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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.)

A few whiskers left on this fellow, with a smushy fabric nose and a vaguely curly, longer mohair. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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.

An especially googly eyed Felix with big, felt-y teeth. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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.

Bristly mohair Felix, with large glass eyes – whiskers intact. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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!

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…

Bow-wowzers!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As much selling and buying has migrated online, I have bemoaned the loss of the sheer joy of browsing amongst the world of detritus that makes up a good flea market or junk store. The ability to run across things you never knew existed or thought of before but now must possess. One of the few online equivalents is the suggestions made by the algorithm for items you might like or sellers other items on eBay. Recently someone sent me a link (don’t remember what it was for as I was immediately distracted!) and a photo for a listing for this fellow caught my eye.

Sans identifying tag, Pluto was listed with the Dean’s Rag Company as its possible maker – more to come on that. Something about him caught my attention and when I showed the listing to Kim (we were in bed at the time) he gave a brief but definitive declaration of buy him. That is a bit unusual for Kim and so, with some misgivings about his size (he’s large, about 24 inches), I hit the buy it now button and soon Pluto was winging his way to me from Britain.

This example from the Novelty Toy Company, undated, has tag. Hind legs more defined, different nose and eye design. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Since Pluto does not bear the (rather wonderful) Dean’s Rag Toy imprint on his feet, even before he arrived I asked the seller (@bobbyrocksbazaar) why she thought he was a Dean’s. She responded promptly and it turns out that she is largely a seller of bears and not familiar with Disney character toys and was just making an honest guess. Aside from the tag issue it isn’t a bad one. I have a Dean’s Rag Pluto I wrote about in a 2014 post here.

I reshare a photo of mine below. This is the Pluto that is generally accepted as the Dean’s design and Dean’s was deep into producing Disney and characters with their widely sold Mickey Mouse toys but everything from Oswald Rabbit to Eugene the Jeep. Having come from Britain and given some similarities I can see the case for it being made by Dean’s. I suppose it could have born a paper tag rather than the imprint I am so fond of on their toys.

Dean’s Rag Pluto. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

However, having looked at a lot of Plutos since purchasing him, I am betting on a company called Character Novelty Toys. This company was founded in 1932 by Cesar Mangiapani and Jack Levy in Norwalk, Connecticut. Our friend Pluto was introduced into the Mickey Mouse cartoons in 1930 and won immediate popularity so it is possible he was picked up by the nascent company.

Dean’s Rag imprint on Pluto – plus his charming printed paws! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

However, it should be noted that said company, despite their name, did not appear to have licenses for a lot of character toys. A quick look shows mostly non-character bears, although I guess I saw a late model Mickey Mouse thrown in there. They definitely had a line of Plutos however and I share some of those kissing cousins which still bear tags, although to be clear, none of the toys I found were this precise Pluto and the more I look at the others of the rough period online the less I think he is made by any of these companies. (Gund toys made one very similar to this Novelty Character Toy version.)

This example is much smaller and also said to be Novelty Character toy. Not in Pictoram collection.
Looking a bit later, this is the Gund toy version. Not in my collection.

My new Pluto is a nicely made toy of somewhat complex design. I would say that his very thin neck seems to have been a design flaw in this (and most) Pluto designs and examples often site a tear there, mine has an old repair. Pluto is made of Velveteen and his eyes are the identifying characteristic I can’t quite match on another version of the toy and careful examination shows the placement of the nose and lack of lines on the nose of mine as different. He may have sported a collar at one time. Aside from Dean’s (a very fine toy maker indeed) I think my Pluto is among the most nicely made. I am even more pleased with him in person than when I saw him online.

A Pluto “headshot” with Kim’s help! Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As anticipated, Pluto is fairly large once we set him up properly. I am still deciding where in the apartment he can best live and be displayed – even taking photos has been a challenge. Right now he is living on a bookshelf next to a very outsized oil cloth doll of Uncle Walt (future post) which is equally difficult to display. For all of that and the mystery of his true origin, he was a great purchase and we are pleased he is a rare dog to have joined the Pictorama family.

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.

Oswald

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: A new friendship with a reader who is a fellow collector has lead to a cheerful volley of toy conversation via email recently which I have quite enjoyed. His collection runs broad and deep and some of the items he has shared photos of fascinate and entice! He recently shared photos of a few groups of rarified early character toys which were amazing. Among them a few examples of our friend Oswald rabbit which are from a different period from mine which turned my attention to cartoon rabbits today.

As you can see, my fellow is in very rough shape indeed. Many years ago I bought him on eBay where he was poorly posted and I acquired him for very little. I don’t generally purchase a lot of toys in a bad state as I don’t think I am the person to best figure out getting them repaired, but occasionally one comes over the transom and I cannot resist. (In the early years of Pictorama I wrote about visiting an elderly man who repaired toys on Lexington Avenue near Bloomingdales. That odd tale can be read here.)

He is my only example of this erstwhile character created by Walt Disney. As the story goes, Disney lost the rights to this his first popular character in a deal with Universal gone wrong. Disney limped off and made history creating Mickey Mouse and Oswald faded into obscurity

About 28 Oswald cartoons were made and over time disappeared from the public and most living memory. Several years ago a disk was issued with a number of the cartoons which are great. An example can be seen below.

An Oswald Rabbit cartoon via Youtube available at the time of publication.

My Oswald has his name and Universal Pictures emblazoned on his chest. I found a listing online that says he was made in 1930. He has a key in his back and would have wound up to walk side to side. The key in mine is long frozen in place and the mechanism seized up, but I’m sure he was quite jolly indeed. (Below is a fellow whose photo I found online who is clearly survived the years in better shape.) I love his little shoes complete with laces! If you look carefully you can see this is a slightly different version of Oswald with a larger nose and clothes made of flannel instead of cotton. (There is some writing on either side of his grin that doesn’t exist on mine as well.)

I think the overall shredding and wear on mine is beyond repair although my collector conversations have made me consider repairs on some of my toys, most notable a Kiko the Kangaroo who came to me in poor shape and has continued to lose ground over time. Kiko, a Terrytoons character, never enjoyed the widespread popularity of Oswald. He made his debut in 1936 with good ole Farmer Alfalfa and last only a year. With the help of my new toy correspondent I am in touch with someone in Canada who may be able to make some repairs and stabilize him. I would like to get him in better shape. I promise you a future post on him, the before and after, once complete.

A Kiko cartoon via Youtube at the time of publication.

Meanwhile, I promised a photo of Oswald to my new friend and so in taking him out for a turn today I thought I would share him to my Pictorama readers too, beat up although he is. My Oswald sits on a somewhat remote shelf where he is left largely in peace, spending his days with a Dean’s Rag Pluto and Flip the Frog. This volley of emails has me thinking rabbits however and I have long wanted an example of the Dean’s Rag version so stay tuned and see what time might turn up!

Felix Keeps on Walking

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was thinking this morning that Pictorama is seeming a tad Felix deficient so I will swell the Felix quotient with two “walkers” that are currently in residence here. One I bought earlier this year from my antiques friends down in Texas (@curiositiesantiques) and the other which just wandered into the apartment from a Pictorama reader who contacted me and sold a few items to me recently, others to appear in future posts. So if you are inclined, settle in for a bit of contemplation on Felix and his favored mode of locomotion.

Youtube video of the cartoon, available at the time of publication. Perhaps the origin of the phrase.

Felix and his walk have always been a matter of some interest. His trademark hands behind the back walk as he thinks and dreams up tricks is a significant aspect of his devilish charm. It has been celebrated in song and film (the very funny lyrics to Felix Kept on Walking can be found here, and an early post I wrote on some of my cat sheet music including this one can be found here), but also graces everything from dishes to postcards. It was used for advertising and sometimes took on a more adult meaning – usually involving an enticing girl cat and sometimes batches of kittens.

Felix Keep on Walking plate, Pams-Pictorama.com

I share two recordings of the tune which were available at the time of publication. The Savoy Havana Band does a jolly instrumental illustrated with great photos, below. While a rendition with the lyrics sung by Clarkson Rose can be found on Youtube here.

Meanwhile, I found an interesting essay which discusses the dialogue between Buster Keaton and Felix from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (which can be found here) noting that Keaton’s film Go West could have been inspired by a Felix cartoon a year earlier, Felix Goes West, and Keaton pays that off with a bit of the Felix walk while contemplating his situation.

The walker from Texas is a somewhat more available model and mine is missing the stick with which to animate it. This one is a simple toy and a stick would have affixed to it for a child to push it forward. There are no indications of where the stick attached and no evidence that this fellow ever had arms. His feet are the only bits animated, head and tail do not move. I like his simple stenciled face – and there are two mysterious purposeful sort of holes in his eye which I cannot image what they were for. His silhouette is a bit bottom heavy rotund. He is made of a light balsa type wood.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

A very similar item is for sale on eBay with the stick in place and as far as I can tell there is a space between back of head and tail where it would have gone. The item on eBay has a date of September 8, 1924 scribbled on the back. I would have thought this was a bit later myself. I think these days we might be a tad concerned about toys for small children that are animated with large sticks out of the back, but as I do not have any small children I cannot say if this is a fact.

The more recent acquisition is by far the more substantial of the two toys, made from thick wood and with a hefty roller and even the stick is a more finished item with a handle making it seem like it is less likely to poke an eye out. This Felix animates with arm movement and he seems to have had a moving tail at one time, there is a slot for it. One arm on mine still moves but the other is disengaged – it would be easy enough to reattach with a tiny nail although I don’t think I am that person. Nonetheless, this fellow does indeed keep on walking.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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!