Black Cat Fiesta

Pam’s Pictorama Post: We’re speeding down October’s path on a less than 24 hour countdown to another Halloween. It is a truly dark and stormy morning as I write this and I do hope it clears sufficiently for the activities of tomorrow for the local little ones – the holiday seems challenged enough in its Covid incarnation this year. Here at Pictorama I am sharing a few additional howlin’ Halloween bits I collected over the last few months in my search for all things early 20th century black cat related. Today’s items are from my go-to girl for Halloween items (and some other interesting bits) who hails from the Midwest, @missmollystlantiques, aka Molly Simms.

I have written recently about how Miss Molly has helped me achieve some of my early Halloween collecting goals. (One of those posts can be found here.) These little items today are some icing on the collecting cake and a reminder that one of the nice things about holiday decorations is that they were used and often lovingly stored each year, making for a great survival rate.

Dennison’s Bogie Book from the teens. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I can only say I wish the Dennison’s Black Cat streamer was sufficiently sturdy to put up in the apartment. They are very jolly and I can imagine them decorating the space above our bookcases nicely. (Perhaps I could press them in plexi? I wonder if they would survive the light? It is so fragile!)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This black cat banner immediately stirs an image of a much earlier Halloween party, say 1916, dripping with such decorations – table groaning with paper mache jack-o-lanterns and nut cups. I was collecting the Dennison books years ago, as below (that early 2015 post can be found here). Some wonderful copies were being put out for awhile – for you fellow collectors who may have missed them, poke around. The image that they present of the well appointed Halloween party from the teens has stayed with me – one chock-a-block and dripping with crepe paper creations. Those folks at Dennison’s knew how to sell crepe paper! I cannot help but feel there is a better steward of this particular fragile paper bit of history. Nevertheless, I will do my best until the next person comes along.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Less fragile and easier to revel in, is this cardboard Halloween Quiz overseen by a grinning bow-tied black cat and this serious owl. There is a 1940 copyright to H. E. Luhrs and a quick internet search shows that the Luhrs name was a significant one in ’40’s and ’50’s Halloween decorations and die-cuts. They were the maker of what I think of as the classic skeleton decoration (the one I would want if I wanted a skeleton) and evidently the “spinning” (it doesn’t really spin and I somehow doubt it ever did) fortune teller which they employed with several designs. While I could not find a proper history of the company, at a glance I would say they were the poor man’s version of Beistle, a somewhat more substantial maker of Halloween ephemera.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Questions run down one side of my version of the Quiz with answers on the right. Two spins would give you both a question and an answer – the answer might require that you perform the required stunt to achieve it. Questions range from Am I studious? to Do I like old people? and answers are along the lines of If you can twirl a pencil like a baton without dropping it the answer is no.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I end with this small black cat jack-o-lantern style container which probably held treats on a very well appointed Halloween table. It survives in virtually pristine condition. No tricks, only treats here at Pictorama today. Have a Happy Black Cat Halloween!

A Halloween Post!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The Halloween season is upon us and brief morning trips to run in the park have revealed some serious dedication to decorating for the holiday. I used to enjoy seeing the townhouses near the Met decorated for the season – some would really pull out all the stops and put on a show. I am less often over there now, but one townhouse near Carl Schurz Park is really throwing down the holiday gauntlet with this tableau of a chain of skeletons climbing down the front of the house from the attic!

Decorated townhouse near East End Avenue, taken this week.

The Mansion Diner, on the corner of 86th Street and York Avenue, has long dedicated themselves to decorating their entire building for the holiday. They were a little late getting them up this year and I wondered if, short handed, they would skip it, but the decorations appeared earlier this week.

It’s interesting that I only rarely had reason to frequent The Mansion pre-pandemic, but now it is a regular stop for breakfast sandwiches post run and frequent meetings with a Board member from work who lives around the corner. I spent the summer eating ice cream outside while talking with him about work, Frank Sinatra being piped out loudly for our listening pleasure.

The Mansion Diner on the corner of 86th and York, also earlier this week.

But if part of your collecting gig is black cats this is a great time of year. I think I have mentioned that my collecting has blossomed thanks in part to an online dealer from the Midwest, Miss Molly (@missmollysantiques). My friendship (consumership?) started with purchasing a black cat jack-o-lantern head. (You can see that post here and the kitty below.) Overtime I have also purchased photos from her (the most recent of those can be found here). And she nicely gives me a heads up on cat items before posting them, but once in awhile it is the stuff around what she is posting that catches my eye and she sold me the wonderful Krak-R-Jak Biscuit box that sits on my desk. (That is a sort of oddly outrageously popular post that can be found here.) I have a rather spectacular Nestle chocolate tin box to share in a future post as well, but today we are talking Halloween.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The fact is my yen for these early paper mache cat JOL’s goes way back. I remember visiting a store in Cold Spring, New York that had a huge collection, but very expensive and utterly out of my reach. (Fall is a beautiful time to visit that area, an hour and a half or so up the Hudson, right on the water. It is a picture perfect little river town and Kim and I spent one night there for our “honeymoon” there, 21 years ago this past week.) I had resigned myself to never owning one, but the internet has become a great equalizer and prices are lower – and I spend more money!

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

All this to say, recently she came up with this cat jack-o-lantern and it entered my collection as my second such item. Like the first one I purchased, the paper inserts remain intact. It is hard for me to imagine safely putting a candle in these, but I guess that was the idea. There is no evidence of this on the inside, but there is a wire on the top for hanging it and that would have been jolly indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

He shows some signs of wear, especially the tips of the ears, which I guess if you were hitting the hundred year mark you would too. It is a common design and I assume it is a black cat sitting on a fence post, green eyes and red mouth glowing. His fur and whiskers are embossed. (The molds that these were made around must have been great – would love to see one of those.) He would be just the right combination of scary and wonderful. I get the vague idea that these are German in origin, although upon reflection, do the Germans even celebrate Halloween? It would seem that it is a recent development (according to Google), so perhaps these were German American companies? Anyone who knows how all that works give a shout and let me know.

Meanwhile, Halloween is the seasonal gateway to fall and then winter. I have already started eyeing warmer running togs and dreading those very cold mornings to come. Nonetheless, I think I probably have a few more Halloween collectible posts in me this season. More from Pictorama to come.