Mickey Mouse-ing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Back in February (if we can turn the clock back that far which I grant you is a bit tough as I sit here poised on the cusp of this particular June 1), I made a power birthday buy from my friend Jean-Pol Ventugol at The Antique Toy Shop (his website can be found here) and I threw this plate in for the heck of it. This morning I was wrestling with some items on my work table (which has many photos and toys piled up on it – a remarkable and delightful pile in fact) in order to install a desk lamp retrieved from our basement locker and it rose to the surface, clamoring for attention.

I have written about several comics related mugs made by this company, the Patriot China Company. I started with the rather wonderful Little Orphan Annie mug (as shown below, and that post can be found here) and at the same time I purchased this I acquired the Three Little Pigs mug (which I posted about here) also made by Patriot. Unlike the mugs though, this plate has seen some hard use and is in rough shape.

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Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

 

It is so worn that when I bought it I contemplated adding it to the cupboard and I may still eventually; it is so beat up, but I think it would still be very jolly to be eating off of it. I have in fact barely contained myself from making the Little Orphan Annie mug my daily coffee mug and have primarily been held back by the fact that it is somewhat child-sized, and frankly I drink a heck of a lot of coffee in the morning so I would be running back and forth constantly to the kitchen.

There is something deeply comforting and satisfying about this childish china though and the phenomenal popularity of it has made it all still so widely available that I have times when I consider making a big buy and converting our everyday dishes to these, with mixture of comic figures of days of yore.

This change of china would be notwithstanding the fact that I actually have kitchen plates I am emotionally attached to, which came from my great-grandparent’s bar. (I mentioned these in a post awhile back where I considered an all Felix life which can be found here.) Coincidentally those are sectioned as well and while I never thought about the appeal of neatly sectioned plates there is one. I have grown spoiled by our willow ware plates with their deep reservoirs which are handy in keeping our dumpling’s soy sauce safely from the sauce on our fish du jour.

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Willow plate, our daily china

 

The Mickey Mouse plate, like the mugs, is just a bit down-sized a bit for a child – the sort of three quarter size of what I would think of as a luncheon plate. (A good plate for a diet – it would convince you to take just a little less.) This one must have delighted a child or children for many meals, wearing Mickey and especially Pluto down and fading them considerably. Perhaps there was just the one and they fought over it as I remember doing over certain a certain spoon and other items as a kid. Maybe Kim and I could start fighting over who gets their dinner on this one.

While I somehow doubt that I will purchase an entire set, you might expect to see a few more choice items added. As I come across them I find them irresistible and even while researching this I believe I found a pig mug I must have, therefore we will consider this to be continued.

Mickey Mystery Solved

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Sharp eyed readers may have noted last week that I made not one but two birthday purchases at Doyle’s recent auction. This delightful Mickey was the other winning item that came home with us that day.

Mickey is small of stature – only about ten inches high. He is made from nice velvet and he has a on-model face which makes me think he was made with the knowledge and approval of the folks over at Disney. His ears are a stiff sort of velveteen. He is very well made and despite his advanced years there’s something sturdy about him. His tail especially entertains me – long and very mousy showing that Mickey was still a bit of a rodent at the time and had not been converted wholly into pablum for kiddies.

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Mickey back, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Frankly, Mickey’s mugshot in the auction catalogue did not flatter him, somehow it just featured his grime. However, he was much more charming when we showed up in person at Doyle on the aforementioned afternoon preview. (That was last week’s post on Olive Oyl which can be found here.) I put together an aggressive bid strategy and Mickey and Olive came home with us – Mickey is a birthday gift from Kim. Thank you Sweetie!

Mickey is unmarked and was tagged with Dean’s as the maker. Since he wasn’t bearing a toothy trademark Dean’s grin I knew that wasn’t the maker. (I have a number of Dean’s Rag Mickey Mouse toys, including one the size of a small child. Those posts can be found here and here for starters.) This one below isn’t one of my fellows which are admittedly a bit tattier and this pristine one was handy.

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A nice Dean’s Rag Co. Mickey not in my collection.

 

So the minor Mickey mystery was on as I puzzled through possible makers. If you look closely at Kim’s Valentine (below and revealed in full in a post that can be found here) this errant Mickey is running off the page on the bottom left.

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While drawing him, Kim observed the specific likeness of Mickey to my Aesop Fable dolls which he has also devoted hours to drawing in recent years. It is true when you consider the pie eyes, the hand and the feet specifically that there are significant similarities. That would make Mickey the output of the somewhat mysterious W.R. Woodard Company which produced those toys for a limited time and haven’t left many tracks as toy makers in the industry. (I examine those toys in many posts but delve the best I can into Woodard in a post to be found here.)

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Mickey Mouse, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

Still, it itched at my brain that it seemed unlikely. So I turned to my friend Mel who is the Zen Master of all things early Mickey, and in fact, all things toys. (Toy enthusiasts all know his site, Mouse Heaven which can be found here.) It was Mel who suggested Steiff and Knickerbocker as possible makers. I expressed doubt about Steiff at first – Mickey’s ear where his button would be is a bit misshapen so I cannot see if there is a hole or a mark where it would have gone. However, a quick search turned up many very similar period Mickey brethren online. Mel hit it on the head. It would seem he is indeed made by the famous German toy makers, Steiff.

A few Steiff toys have wandered into my collection – a few striped kitties (one of those can be found in a post here), a bird and a bear that I can think of offhand. The bears seem to have very human expressions. And, if you stay tuned to Pictorama, there might be another Steiff toy in the offing in coming posts she typed with a mischievous grin…

As this posts on my site I will be in the frosty winter land of Chicago. Hopefully Sunday will find me back in this chair and bringing you more toy fodder!

Brighton Mickey

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Ah! Brighton in the early in the 20th century. This is the setting of many of my beloved photos of happy seaside visitors posing with a giant Felix doll. (See any number of posts, such as here and here.) My imagination turns to another universe where I am happy ensconced as an itinerant photographer, set up at the shore, busily snapping photos of happy tourists. Another fantasy I indulge in is that I travel to Brighton and find one of the intact Felix dolls in a dusty closet there – and take it home for my very own! (The seller identified this photo as Brighton; the photo is entirely unmarked.)

 

There is a history of Mickey Mouse dolls for posing with as well. Perhaps because the copyright was held a bit closer, most of those Mickey’s are off-model indeed, at least among the ones I own. (Some of those post are here and here.) I offer an especially unidentifiable example from a prior post, taken at the Chicago World’s Fair, from my collection below.

 

 

Today’s photo is a very proper looking Mickey Mouse – he doesn’t even have that sort of fang-y look I like that many of the British Mickey’s I have, influenced by the design of Dean’s Rag Company. I share one of those below. Someone paid up for this Mickey stand-in and purchased the real thing I think.

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Today’s photo is quite tiny, just a very few inches across, about 2.5″x 1.75″ including the border. It has a reddish cast to it (I have enhanced it slightly, increasing the contrast) which Kim tells me looks like sun contact prints he used to make as a kid. It is printed on a thickish paper, somewhat brittle paper, unlike what one expects from more contemporary photo paper or even and early photo postcard. While I cannot really pinpoint the precise process, I believe it was some sort of a simple early contact print, made in a camera. Obviously it was fixed and not entirely fugitive, as it is with us almost a century later.

This photo is a rather homemade affair overall, and the fellow seems to have been persuaded to stop, well-dressed (short trousers, cap and tie), briefcase and all and perch on this primitive seat with Mickey. He’s thrown an arm around Mickey’s shoulders. There appears to be another camera on a tripod behind him to one side, and the shadows on this beach are long. To me it feels like early morning rather than evening.

I like the woman behind him most of all. There’s something about the casual way she is captures that especially appeals. A bath house of some sort is shown in the distance, just beyond her, a wooden beach chair too if you look very carefully. Unlike the Felix photos there is no evidence of a numbering system to return the photo to the person posing so I can’t imagine how that might work. I wonder a bit if this wasn’t either just someone sort of stealing a photo in passing, or someone the photographer knew. A summer long past, for me it tugs at a certain yearning for the early mornings and quiet evenings at the beach where I grew up, enjoyed before or after busy, tourist and family jammed days.

 

Mousetown

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Photos of off-model, hand-rendered Mickey and Minnies could make up an entire sub-genre of collecting. I have one other notable acquisition in my collection which I featured awhile back in Lost and Found Photo. While that barn-side painting was the whole show, this grinning Mickey and Minnie are using their come hither (and reasonably accurate) appeal to lend credence and atmosphere to this intriguing mini-mouse circus attraction. No traveling circus this – it appears to be a fairly solid, permanent sideshow feature somewhere.

On the back, written in red pen is, Ken Roden Decorator and Conjurer in Bognor for 50 years. In addition there are some handwritten notes in pencil which seem more contemporary, Bognor R5lE and in a different hand R12154. Bognor was a bit of a mystery at first until I found a seaside resort with a (rather splendid looking) continuously running sideshow several decades old in a town called Bognor Regis in England. It appears to be across and on the mainland from the more famous resort area the Isle of Wight. (The sort of seaside digs that would have featured the opportunity to pose for a photo with Felix? I like to think so!) A place called Butlin’s there claims to have a continuous sideshow that is 80 years old which takes us back to the late thirties and it could even be that sideshow I believe. I purchased this photo postcard from a US dealer, but there is additional evidence below that this is likely from Britain. Frankly I was surprised it turned out to be British – there’s something very American about it in my mind. Sadly, numerous searches for Ken Roden did not turn up a period reference to a person – it appears to be a common name. Decorator and conjurer is a fascinating combination as well. I wonder, he would decorate my house like Mousetown? Not an entirely unpleasant thought, but I may be in the minority on that one.

Having blown the photo way up I can read the signs pretty much in their entirety. The one over the door reads, Bring Daddy In (?) above the, Real Live Mice and below that, Showing All the Time. Behind the really scary clown lurking in the doorway is a sign that says MOUSE TOWN top entertainment…charging for…LITTLE SHOW with BIG APPEAL. Obscured over to the left is part of a sign which seems to read Fun for All and one at the bottom which alludes to something allowed – might I suggest perhaps cats not allowed? The entrance fee for Mousetown is noted as 6D, as per the sign on the upper left and the one below the seated clown, which appears to offer some sort of discount for children I cannot make out. At first I thought this meant $6 (way too expensive!), but then realized it is the British notation for their equivalent of 6 cents.

And finally – the tiny little mouse stage which we can just about see behind the clown! We cannot quite make it out (even blowing the photo up) except there are tiny ladders and some sort of stage/obstacle course for said talented, trained and performing mice. I feel I must confess that I belong to a category of people who perversely and illogically think mice are fine if they are pets, but they generally make me want to scream and execute a cartoon climb onto a chair, calling for Cookie and Blackie, if found in nature – such as our apartment, or an eating establishment as happened recently. I can however, easily imagine paying up and happily having a look at Mousetown’s offerings. Undoubtedly, I would have been treated to a performance of Busby Berkeley-like precision and mouse perfection, racing through their paces and end with a chorus line and perhaps even eking out a squeaky tune?

23 Months

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It occurs to me that my purchasing of early Mickey centric toys, which seemed an exception, has now formed a proper sub-genre in my collection – perhaps earning a whole section of their own in the imaginary book of my photo collection I edit in my mind. Recently I have added the tintype I wrote about in Riding the Big Bear and Say Cheese!, but this photo reminds me a lot more of my recent post found here – She Who Has the Most Toys Wins. That one featuring a Felix instead of a Mickey. Still, the same idea – let’s take a photo of the kid with all her toys in the yard. Heck, if I had a kid and a yard I would probably do it too.

I like my Mickeys early and this one is, and he’s also a fine, large and pristine looking example. This lucky child has not only him, but that lovely bunny, a doll she is clutching, a bike (or more likely trike) lurking to one side behind her, a large lamb-y looking toy in the front corner and even a bit of a toy carriage peering out behind that. The yard is also neat although not hugely prosperous looking, aside from the wealth of toys.

The photo here is about the same size as the original, smallish but not tiny. In addition to 23 mos written here on the front, on the back it says, 23 months She was afraid the wind would blow her hair ribbon off – I am a bit sad that for all of this we do not know her name. Clearly she was a precise child, one who cared so specifically about her hair ribbon not be blown off. I love that about her, she herself looking a bit perfectly doll-like here perched on this small table. (I myself was a messier child and my toys hard loved, I must admit.) Somehow it is easy for me to assume it was a trait of hers that didn’t change as she got older. And if she remained as tidy and careful about her toys, perhaps some of those pristine items are being treasured by the likes of me today.

South American Mickey?

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Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This Mickey and Minnie have a strange story of acquisition. Back in  February I had noted them on eBay and I put them up on Facebook by general way of interest – I liked them but the damage was daunting. I was surprised when the seller turned out to be a Facebook friend, responded, and offered me the duo in exchange for a trade of Kim’s work. Kim generously stepped up to the plate and after a flurry of emails the mice were secured!

The seller was very up front about the condition of Mickey and Minnie. The appear to be made from silk or a silk-like fabric which tends to shred and has. As a result, they need to be placed somewhere they can live out their days undisturbed. (Cookie and Blackie, I hope you are reading this.) They are large, about 12 inches. Mickey’s dashing sash and Minnie’s hat and skirt made me dub them South American Mickeys. I have never seen ones like them and I assume, without really knowing, that they are unlicensed. They have that wonderful ratty, buck-toothed look I especially like in my Mickeys that early and non-American made toys tend to have most.

As I originally protested, I sadly am not good at major repairs and have not come up with a course of action on these. I am very open to suggestions. The fabric’s shredding makes it especially difficult. For now, they reside, propped up on my dresser, keeping an eye on the cats.

 

Mickey Souris

Pam’s Pictorama Post: For some reason I always have my eye out for a nice cat or mouse band. Thanks to Kim I am lucky enough to own a spectacular tin mouse band, which I will happily examine in detail with you some time in the future. I do not have a cat band, although I have seen one or two that I was wild about, but have never been able to obtain one. France did not provide me with cats, but instead this rather nice little band of faux Mickeys.

In yesterday’s post (Pepper Felix) I left you as I walked down Rue Auguste Comte, purchases from Antic Toys and Dolls in my shoulder bag, looking for the cross street to take a slightly different route back to the river boat I was staying on. It had gone from a chilly morning to a full on hot afternoon, I was wearing a hat, but even took the time to put some sunscreen on my arms which were burning. So I feel I was a bit of a mess when I was stopped in my tracks by the store window shown below – Antiquities Marilyn!

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As you can sort of see from this photo, the window is so crammed with piles of random pieces of silver, toys, and bits and pieces that it was hard to really see anything, but how could I resist going into such a place? Facebook friends have already seen the inside of the store, but for the rest of you, below is a photo. This is pretty much the entire interior of the tiny store.

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Marilyn spoke English and we chatted about her establishment a bit. While we were talking a man came in with a chandelier to sell and the three of us, and the chandelier, pretty much took up the remaining floor space. I let my eyes roam over the piles while they negotiated over the chandelier. Sadly, dolls as such and silver do not interest me hugely. My well trained eye wasn’t seeing any cat items. However, I had seen something in the window – a tiny band of Mickeys! I was a bit worried about asking her to actually get something out of the window, but much to my surprise she, being quite agile, had them out and in my hands fairly quickly while I examined a glass Bonzo dog that was missing some essential pieces. While I looked the Mickeys over the conversation about the chandelier ensued in French.

I like this jolly little band of fake French Mickey Mouses. They have a little bit of the ratty look I like in my Mickey. One has a chipped ear which shows that somehow the actual clay they were made with was black, rather than painting them. As my ongoing readers know, I like to keep my cat collection supplied with early mice for their entertainment.

The price she named seemed fair and, after a wander down the street to an ATM machine (the great international friend of the errant toy buyer) I secured them for my own. Chandelier man was very enthused and praised my hat (the French really seemed to like my sun hat – perhaps just the idea of it?) and my overall appearance. After he left Marilyn spoke to me about Dinky cars which evidently make up a large portion of her business. (I know, this would not appear to be the case…) She showed me one of a truck with a cat sitting atop a wedge of cheese (Dinky experts, perhaps you can explain?) which I did like, but felt is somewhere outside of my realm of collecting. Therefore, I bid her adieu and wandered back to my duties onboard the waiting ship, sated with a few hours of excellent shopping and collecting.

 

 

Mickey Too!

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Here at Deitch Studios Pictorama kicks off our summer vacation with this nice little Mickey Mouse tintype. Let me start by saying, I just love finding tintypes in these original cardboard frames when they are in good shape. What a splendid object to be handed to remember a day at a fair or seaside resort!

While Mickey Mouse photos form a decided sub-genre of my collection, this is the first addition of a tintype (or postcard) where the subject is the same sort of rent-a-Felix for a photo type which, as ongoing readers know, I find to be like Pam catnip. (There is a deep fissure of regret in my brain from having entirely missed the sale of a glorious tintype of people posing with Mickey in Katoomba. I found the listing after the fact – it went very cheap. It was years ago, but I may never fully recover.) I do have a number of photos with people clutching various off-model Mickeys and one most notable postcard which I posted about in Ugly Children, Good Toys ,where the child is seated in a toy airplane in some sort of set up with an positively and delightfully evil looking large Dean’s Rag Mickey.

Still, the fact appears to be that opportunities to have your photo taken with a Mickey Mouse the size of a small child or midget were many fewer than your chances to do so with Felix. Maybe this is due to Mickey having come on the scene slightly later than Felix, although merchandising certain caught up and surpassed Felix quickly. I purchased my Big Mickey as a store display, but I have wondered if he wasn’t actually made for this purpose instead.

Judging from her clothes, and the barely visible women behind her, I would say this is the early 1940’s which is a bit late for a tintype, although I have read that you could still have them made at fairs and whatnot in this mode as late as the 1960’s in some places. She makes for a perfect subject posed on the wagon, holding what appear to be the reigns to a pie-eyed stuffed Mickey turned dray horse. Quality of tintypes and the developing of them (usually in a dirty pail of much used developer) was all over the place and as a result many of these have faded or are fading into invisibility. However, this one is nice and crisp and fully developed. The photographer had a good eye for composition too and his or her developer was still going full throttle.

As for me, it makes me want to find a nice day trip to the shore on this August vacation of ours, complete with cotton candy and scary rides, even if posing with Felix to have our photo taken is asking too much. I will surely let you know.

Mickey and Men

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The summer photo fun continues with this family snapshot. If I had to guess I would say the 30’s or 40’s although it has a timeless quality. There is no information on it and no evidence that it lived in an album. Since I collect such things, I do wonder about those photos which manage to find their way down the decades and end up with me (or another collector), as opposed to those which are lost or destroyed. It is easy to understand how the photo postcards got saved – especially those dandy ones posing with Felix. They were by their very nature special and probably had a place of honor in the family because they were fun and were kept by future generations – and eventually strangers. Snapshots like this one have a somewhat higher bar I think, but this is both a great photo and fun so it is easy to see how it was preserved. I think there is a part of me which collects them because the idea of all those homeless photos makes me sad.

I debated about the toy being a Felix or an off-model Mickey. Now that I have blown it up (it is a small, sort of 2.5″ x 3.5″) I can see that it is indeed a faux Mickey – maybe the kind given away as a prize at a carnival. He clearly has a place of pride squarely in the middle of this picture, Dad looking down at him. The two boys look so much alike they could almost be twins, but the one on the right is a bit older – and they look very much like the man holding them who we will assume is Dad. The small, comical hat on the older boy gives him a jaunty attitude, but the younger boy is the one holding Mickey. Meanwhile, Dad’s got them both, scooped up in his arms and they are enjoying a nice day in this pleasantly overgrown backyard.

The sun is just coming up on a beautiful, hot July Sunday morning here in New York City as I write this, and I suggest everyone grab a loved one and a toy and get a photo for the future today.

Homemade Mickey

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This is the first Mickey I ever purchased. I bought him at a antique toy fair in Atlantic City years ago. He was quite ratty even then and I didn’t pay much for him. At the time buying mice seemed odd to the cat purchaser in me, but he wasn’t expensive and he seemed to need a home, so he was the first mice among my cats. I continue to have a soft spot for him and the cats don’t seem to mind him.

I didn’t realize it at first, but he seems to be made from a pattern. As my regular readers know, I have recently opined on my lack of sewing acumen. Long story short, I’m lucky I can sew a button on, therefore I am rather awestruck by someone assembling toys from patterns, a skill I would love to acquire.

I gather the practice was very common and there were a number of ways you could get the patterns, through magazines or purchased from a sewing store. (You can see my lament of the long-lost fabric and notions store – Needled – a recent post.) I was deeply tempted by someone selling a pattern for a large Felix toy on eBay several years ago. The photo below is from her ad. I believe, strangely, that it is for knitting Felix – how is that possible? (While I can imagine a universe where I sew – in fact I even had fantasies about being good at sewing when I was younger – I cannot imagine a world where I knit. Those big plastic sticks produce nothing in my hands, let alone a giant Felix.)

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Felix from a pattern available online

The seamstress behind my Mickey did a pretty superb job. The seams are very professional and the hand stitching attaching his hands and feet is neat and even. He appears to have had his eye moved on one side at some point, leaving a sort of beauty mark, but I think she or he had it properly stitched in originally. He was constructed of a soft black velvet which has worn away, but his arms, head, ears and tail are properly and perfectly put together.

It is tempting to think about – assembling my own toys with vintage patterns. However, I think I am smart enough to know it would all turn to chaos and dross in my hands so I think I will stick with buying.