Shake, Rattle and Roll

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Ah yes, a New Year and Pictorama is back to the toys. Christmas came late this year at Deitch Studio and these two splendid entries found their way from Belgium just before we rang in the New Year. Forget spoons, oh to be the youngster born with these silver rattles in their mouths!

I have bid on Felix rattles once or twice before and have always been bested so I leapt at the chance to purchase this hotsy-totsy one. Those of you who follow my ramblings know I have a special soft spot for off-model, primitive Felix-es like the one employed here. The rattle is marked sterling and I have shined him up a bit to have his photo taken although he is somewhat fragile. There is evidence of some dents that suggest gummy gnawing, although not really any deep dents. He is in an interesting semi-profile pose. (I was given a pocket watch that was my great-grandfather’s a few months ago. I took it to the jeweler to have a chain made so I could wear it that way, and he pointed out a dent where someone had bitten it. He said it was very common to see in gold pocket watches. I gather people would sort of mindlessly chomp on them. I have been puzzling over that adult form of teething ever since.)

The mother of pearl ring is very beautiful. Extremely elegant! If it wasn’t so fragile I would be tempted to wear it as a necklace. It does still rattle as well, a fairly quiet sound, although perhaps a bit noisy for a necklace now that I think about it that way.

The deal was already struck on Felix when the dealer, someone I have now known for a number of years, sent the photo of Bonzo and asked if I would be interested in him as well. Of course I was. After a short conference with Santa in the form or Mr. Deitch, we snatched him up too. Although the rings are more or less the same size, Bonzo is much bigger than Felix and a robust three dimensional rendition. Sleepy Bonzo clutches a baby bottle (you’d never see Felix with one of those I don’t think – not with milk in it anyway) and he has a rattle that is much more like a tinkling bell. (When I took him out of the package Cookie’s eyes lit up at the sound. She was clearly thinking that a lovely antique silver cat toy had just been delivered for her delectation and her attention needed to be directed elsewhere.) Bonzo’s eyes are just barely open, and if you look carefully, his lip is curled in a smile on one side.

Bonzo is less fragile than Felix and really could perhaps even resume his duties as the recipient of child chewing, although we will not test that theory. (Nor will we let Cookie take possession of him.) He is not marked sterling so I will assume he is plate – although he shined up nicely as well, the plate in good condition – after all, how much time did anyone devote to keeping their child’s rattle polished I wonder? A quick internet search shows that the Bonzo rattle is the more available. Although as I say above I have seen Felix rattles, none turn up immediately in a Google search.

I have never purchased a silver rattle as a baby gift, although price notwithstanding, now that I think of it a silver rattle like these is a rather wonderful gift. A quick check informs me that Tiffany is not offering a silver rattle this season – let alone one of Felix or Bonzo. However, the Tiffany bear below appears to be of recent vintage and can be yours on the Tradesy site for prices ranging from a mere $250-$650. I think I will stick with copies of The Story About Ping and The Cricket in Times Square (posts of those favorite childhood books can be found here and here) as my go to baby gift, but I must say the Tiffany bear is a very fair offspring to Felix and especially Bonzo. For those of you with deeper pockets and a generous nature, you might consider such an investment in the future of a baby you know.

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Little Yellow Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: No bigger that half the length of my thumb, this little guy caught my attention the other day. I’m generally not a collector of these little lead figures, which are myriad and prized enough to be expensive in general, but I had never seen one like this guy before. I love his little yellow sweater and especially the jolly script Felix across his chest. He reminds me of a bumble bee. I usually like my Felixes of the pointier design variety. I also own a more typical one, shown below, by I admit I was very charmed by this little guy.

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Pams-Pictoram.com collection

 

The genesis of most of these types of toys seems to be a company known as Pixyland-Kew. The history there is in short that there were two companies doing mostly the same thing, Pixyland started in 1921 taking the lead on characters such as Felix and Pip, Squeak and Wilfred as well as nursery characters such as Old Mother Hubbard and Little Red Riding Hood. Meanwhile, in 1926, Kew started producing similar items pursuing cartoon characters aggressively, including Bonzo (must find one of those now that I know about them!) and other Daily Mirror strips. They also produced a line of farm animals and both seemed to be top players in the toy soldier market. Kew seems to have bought out Pixyland around 1929 and everything went swimmingly until lead was pulled for the war effort. The market for these little gems never recovered post-war and the company is later absorbed by another called Timpo.

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

As you can see, the scale on my two toys differs widely. I can’t find much drill down history to have a sense of where my two guys fall in the grander scheme of the two companies. Alas, my larger Felix is missing his tail, which would steady him and allow him to be freestanding. I bought him at a bargain price, probably for that reason. Although the small scale proves amenable to our tiny Manhattan digs, the exorbitant prices of these has mostly discouraged my collecting. Also, in the visual noise of an apartment where a riot of toys, photos, art, cats and Kim and Pam exist, it is hard to find an appropriate perch for little fellows like these. For now they reside in a small mirrored cabinet, at the foot of our bed (on what I like to think of as the famed shelves of Felix and other toy cats) where the tiniest of toys make their home here.

…and the Hankies Have It

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Pam’s Pictorama Post: Perhaps yesterday’s post about Dad’s handkerchiefs (which can be found here) was partially inspired by losing this lot of bizarre beauties on eBay this week. These are proclaimed as one-of-a-kind, but I sort of assume they were either from a kit of some kind or at least the design was something one could trace out of a magazine and work from. Still, they hail from Australia and my chances at purchasing another set are rather slim and about this I am a bit sad. Nonetheless, the photos are jolly and despite the fact that I rarely feature items I have not purchased, I was inspired to share them today.

These appear to be rather serious linen hankies, a bit heavier than I would be inclined to carry, although obviously I would have embraced these particular delightful items for their frolicsome Felix-ness. As a small child I was taught how to do simple embroidery – cross stitching on doilies if memory serves. (I feel old thinking about this suddenly – man, I can’t imagine anyone’s grandmother teaching them that today, or even owning doilies or embroidered tablecloths for that matter.)

While gifted in many creative ways I am the first to say that all aspects of sewing escape me. I believe I was able to complete a sort of nominal cross stitch project as outlined above, but I never graduated to anything as complex as these merry Felix renditions. Knitting completely mystifies me, despite adequate and dedicated teachers, and I never met a sewing machine I didn’t jam immediately. My sister Loren didn’t embroider or knit, but she sewed clothing well. I can, for the record, sew buttons on properly however.

Those who know me are aware I got the cooking genes (although again here, Loren was the baker in the family) as well as drawing, painting and, at one time sculpting, so no complaints. Interesting though to have, during my half century lifetime, seen the world abandon embroidered tablecloths and doilies on coffee and end tables. I read an article recently that posed that the utter failure of the antiques market was due to the fact that the kitchen has become the heart of entertaining and family time in the home. The loss of interest in the dining room and the living room as where you entertained eliminated a desire for a certain kind of furniture, silver service and the like. Kim and I live in a single room and the two of us can barely fit in our kitchen with the cats at the same time; therefore, I’m not sure I had fully become aware of this shift in contemporary home life. I can say however, send your antique toys my way if you tire of them, even in one room, I continue to acquire.

Sis Sèmper Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Translated from the Latin, roughly, Always Felix. You may remember that aways back I purchased some hand colored images of Felix, shown below, which are similar in that they seem to have both a pre-printed yet hand-painted and drawn quality, leaving me wondering if the outline was somehow printed and then then black of Felix and the colors hand executed later. Both those cards and this one are on a lightweight paper – so although postcard size questionable that they were meant to stand up in the mail to begin with, this one has a torn top edge like it came from a book of some kind. I have seen additional versions of the cards below since I purchased my lot, although I have not acquired more. (Have to leave something out there for the other Felix collectors, right?) Today’s feature, and those below are all, not surprisingly, products of Great Britain and were purchased from sellers there.

Unlike those below, today’s drawing has an embossed quality to the outline of Felix – it was definitely printed, and although at first I thought the black was filled in by hand I am not so sure. The paper stock has wrinkled a bit around the printing area as the pressure and ink filled the paper. Nothing is written on the back.

 

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Obviously, my acquisition featured today was drawn with even more imagination than these other freehand beauties. A portly, gap toothed rendition, there is only something vaguely Felix-y about the pose, legs and tail. However, he has declared himself Felix and he is claimed by someone who has signed this work of art K. Behrens, 5-3-24. If off-model Felix is quite jaunty, giving us the thumbs up sign.

This Felix puts a smile on my face, which was probably the only real goal of K. Behrens in creating it. Still, there is something scratching away in my brain about this odd little tributary of homegrown and hand crafted Felix-iana. Perhaps just imagining a world where handmade Felix dolls and pictures were abundant – an Eden-like vision of a Felix filled world for the early 21st century Felix collector to contemplate.

Weakness

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Okay, so I admit I have a problem. I cannot seem to contain myself if an early Felix toy might be sold cheaply without attempting to acquire it. It’s an addiction and I am an addict. That is how I came to purchase this fellow recently. Yes, this is another Felix purchase post.

I am the first to say I do not really know what is going on with the cradle, shown below, or baby bottle attached to his hand, as it was sold. My thought is that Felix was just plunked in there and bottle tied on. Upon receiving it, I am not sure. I am open to any information or suggestions.

Meanwhile, additionally there is the question of how old this Felix is. His condition is so clean and mint that I did wonder if he was some sort of re-creation or even new old stock. Upon careful examination however there is a seam that has been re-sewn on his back (hard to see here) and his bow is quite old; his eyes appear to be glass. He is made from a fabric that reminds me more of a fine chenille than mohair, but I’m not an expert on fabrics. He is not jointed as his slightly larger free-standing brethren of this design, in my experience, generally are.

Felix back

Is it possible that he was really designed for this bizarre crib of a sort of faux Wedgwood design? The cradle is made of a hard plastic material and the pillow, mattress and blanket appear to be commercially (reasonably well) sewn – I had thought I would just find some cotton and fabric stuffed into it so I was surprised. I guess Felix could have been some sort of a carnival prize, tucked into this crib – and that preserved him unusually well. It was his extraordinary state of preservation, and a very low starting bid, that perked up my collecting instinct. It was sold by someone in Great Britain.

Obviously I would be happy to hear from anyone who knows more or who even has a strongly held opinion. Perhaps it goes without saying that if I found this little number at the Fireman’s Fair I would have been all over my date to win it for me (I am remarkably unskilled in those types of games so there would be no hope of my winning it for myself really) – and probably would have spent at least as much as I did buying him on eBay. But what a prize that would have been!

The Boys and Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have periodically opined on how much fun it would be to have your photo taken with a nice Felix the Cat doll and this one looks like a third child in the photo. Felix is such a handy size I wonder if it is a prop (probably) or actually belongs to these youngsters. I know if it was I as a tiny tot, I’d have been bellowing for him to come home with me; greedy, thankless child that I was. These two kids look quite jolly, the older one downright debonair – perhaps best not to meet him as a gent (or cad) around town later in life. The younger one appears to be trimmed out in fur which seems all odd from today’s standards. Even in our own decadent times – fur trimmed outfit for your toddler?

This photo seems like the sort of studio shot taken for the purpose of eventually ending up on grandma’s table of treasured family photos. My mother’s mom had studio portraits, large ones, of my mother and her brother, both in graduation cap and gowns, as I remember. The one of my mother had hand colored tinting, and it was the first time I ever saw that in a photo. As a kid I was endlessly fascinated by it. I can see it in my mind now, hanging in the dining room (housing a table which occasionally held food, but we absolutely never ate at – that was done in the kitchen with a table and space which both somehow magically expanded to fit an infinite number of family members as required) on a flocked print wallpaper, gray with a green design. The photo did not look like my mother, mostly because her nose was broken and not set properly shortly after high school when the photo was taken. I didn’t know that until I was older and wouldn’t have thought to ask for an explanation for the transformation. My uncle looked exactly the same – his Howdy Dowdy resemblance following him into adulthood and beyond. As the younger brother his photo was true color and his bright red hair and freckles stood out.

When my grandmother moved out of her house and into a nursing facility, much was disposed of and a small number of things were absorbed by my mother and uncle – who by that time was living down south, but collected a number of things. I do not know what happened to the photos, my mother was not overly fond of hers so she clearly did not claim them. I do not know if my uncle did. I must think to ask my mother when I call her later today.

 

Tiny Mug of Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Sometimes I run into Felix items online that just surprise the heck out of me. And after looking at Felix china in various forms for years I thought there will be nothing new – until there is. Not surprisingly, it is often the Felix loving Britons who seem to cough up a surprising new tidbit and today’s purchase is no exception in that regard.

This mug is unmarked, but unlike my prior post Dishing Felix, which featured a bowl I deeply suspected was hand painted, this little item may have been factory made. The Felix is charmingly off model and there is some smudging of the glaze, and when I look very carefully there is a extra daub of blue on the handle. which means even if it was made in a factory, it was likely to have been the product of human hands. (Felix seems to have been a cottage industry there. I imagine lines of early 20th century British women seated and painting scores of these.)

I was quite surprised to discover how small this cup was when it arrived. It is a bit larger than doll size or toy size, more like the size of a cup of espresso, no saucer. There are no factory or maker marks on it anywhere. I especially like the way Felix’s ears and paw touch the lip of the cup, like he is ducking under. His whiskers are jaunty as well and his design seems to be stenciled on rather than painted freehand, like the bowl mentioned above.

If I had hopes of sipping my morning coffee out of this guy, it is disappointingly small, although charming. I don’t remember playing with a tea set when I was little, but think I would have found this cup endearing at any age. It leaves me wondering if there was a full set that went along with it – coffee or teapot, saucers. However, this may have been a sole gewgaw that sat on a shelf, or perhaps someone did indeed drink small bitter coffees from it. Since I am known for wading in deep, plentiful cups of coffee (for an ode to my love of coffee a post about it can be found here at Coffee) this tiny mug will not serve my purposes. If I want to drink my daily joe from an ancient Felix mug I will need to continue my search.

 

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