Everybody into the Pool!

Pam’s Pictorama Postcard Post: Kicking off this 1st of June post with a kitty fantasy worthy of my Jersey shore childhood, although this seems to be more of a mountain lake scene than the Atlantic ocean of my youth. These swimming felines sport an interesting array of swimming costumes that cross clothing periods – while one bikini is prominent, some “men” wear old-fashioned one pieces from earlier in the 20th century, as does a female kitty climbing up a diving ladder further back. A few wear swim caps – keeping their kitty coiffures intact?

Referred to sometimes as Mainzer Cats, this card is part of a large series of postcards produced by the Alfred Mainzer company of Long Island City, New York. (A local business with Long Island City being just across the East River from where I sit right this moment.) The company was in business from the 1940’s through the 1960’s, however the artist responsible for these cards was a Swiss artist, Eugen Hartung (or Hurtong) (1897-1973), who executed the series. So the moniker Mainzer Cats seems a bit unfair in retrospect – these are actually Hartung kitties.

Clearly the artistic and spiritual descendent of Louis Wain, (who I have written about on many occasions including here  and here for starters), Hartung picked up the whacky feline artistic baton of depicting anthropomorphic cats; his felines generally clad in human togs and portrayed in a variety of settings and situations – sometimes when minor disaster is about to strike, although this one doesn’t seem to show anything more serious than a raft tipping over. He is a bit less boffo than Wain and I gather he employed other animals in images as well – dogs, mice and even hedgehogs.

Kim claims to have had a number of these cards pinned up on the wall of his 1970’s Bay area abode and thinks some may linger in the depths of his files. (Um, are you holding out on your wife Mr. Deitch?) This card is the first to enter the Pictorama collection although I have a tugging memory that maybe I also owned a few as a child.

As for cats and water – I have known some more fond of it than others, but none that were interested in full body immersion, swimsuit notwithstanding. I have however known one or two to sit under a dripping faucet now and again – sometimes to drink from, but occasionally just for the bit of drip, drip, drip on their head. My cat Otto was prone to getting a bit too curious about a full tub of water which sometimes ended badly when she took an unintentional dunking now and again. I have had several cats who were committed to being in the bathroom when I showered – scratching at the door insistently if excluded – and more than one that discovered the space between the shower curtain and liner as an exciting cat shower experience perch, I guess not unlike the excitement going through the car wash as a child.

Speaking of Cats


Pam’s Pictorama Post: Before the internet and cat videos, there were cat postcards! This one from 1917 is bizarre and fascinates me. It is dated 1917 on the back and addressed to Mademoisell Zhiere Dreval a Jounnel (?) Vienna. I cannot read the French inscription and, oddly, there is no stamp despite the note, date and full address. However, it is clearly the front of this card that is of interest. A soldier surrounded by these Louis Wain-esque cat heads – depicting the moods of cats!

Let’s start with the obvious – why a soldier? Were these handed out to the French army in WWI so soldiers would be able to judge the various states of cats they might encounter along the way? One has to wonder – very wise of them if true.

In clockwise direction, starting with Doux they translate on Google as follows:

Doux = Sweet
Ardent = Burning
Gourmand = Greedy
Vorace = also translated as Greedy
Inactif = Inactive
Bouillant = Boiling
Fougueux = Mettlesome
Actif = Active

Gourmand and mettlesome are my favorites! The moustached soldier seems to be providing some sort of hand signals as well, mystically floating as he is, in front of a lurid sunset or sunrise.

There was a popular British book, The Language of the Flowers, illustrated by Kate Greenaway, which was published in 1884. It lists the meanings of various flowers – I was fascinated by a reproduction copy I had when I was a child. I wondered immediately if this was a play on that. I have grabbed the title page below.

language of the flowers

The truth is, all cats have their own expressions. I have labeled some of ours as follows: Queen of Everything, Huffy Puffy Stuffy, Piss Cat Ears, and Grumpus. Detecting a trend here?