Seattle, Washington, August 20, 1942

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Pams-Pictorama.com collection

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The post office delivered yesterday and we at Pictorama are back on board writing about these two wonderful photo album pages purchased recently. Kim and I are often opining about how sad it is to see albums being broken up – single photos torn out and sold, or even pages like these taken from an album. Still, I purchased these pages while weighing whether or not to purchase an entire album of photos from someone else. They were asking a sizable amount and without being able to see the full album online it seemed dubious and in the end I did not bid – so perhaps selling them whole is indeed a problem. Still, these beauties beg the question of what the full album looked like – was it all illustrated like this? Sad to think of the pages scattered and the family story never coming back together to be told again.

The dated page has the better photos of the two in my opinion. I love the one of the three women all holding cats. Their Seattle yard is very lush – a leafy paradise really, with the sun pouring in behind them. The cats appear to be wriggling to varying degrees in their photo pose holds here. Big white kitty resembles the platinum blonde holding him or her, but the woman with the hat and gloves is my favorite – so proper yet cat friendly. (That dark outfit was covered in white hair when they were done.) Above that photo is sort of a candid one of a group of romping cats and kittens, also tucked away among more greenery. Same white kitty, but this time holding court among the kits it seems – perhaps the mom cat I now think? Looks like an adorable group kicking capering around and enjoying themselves. In the final photo on this page, white kitty continues to be the focus convincing me she is Mom, this time with just two kits. The white paint illustrations are good – swiped poses perhaps? Great animated tummy pose – Cookie assumes this one frequently.

The second page has Watkins’ Home for Strays on the sign next to this hobo-come-Puss ‘n Boots kitty drawing, complete with bindle tossed over his shoulder, fluffy tailed. There’s something a tad wonky about the direction of one of the booted paw feet, but it is a spirited and ambitious illustration. Sadly, there is a photo missing from the lower left of this page – only the black corner holders remain indicating where the bottom of that photo was held. The prize on this page is white kitty and a black cat atop a bird cage. I believe there is a bird in the cage (bottom left – unfortunate birdie which must have been very stressed indeed) and these two pusses are intensely interested. The photo at the top shows the three matching kittens, one sporting a bow this time. It is a poor photo, but shows off these fine youngster kitties for one more view.

The Watkins documented themselves in a highly decorative fashion as a very cat friendly family. Therefore ultimately, where better for these stray pages to find a home than my cat photo collection?

Painted Puss

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This rather lurid painted photo caught my eye recently – I guess it was something about the saucy looking woman with this cat draped around her shoulders. (My cat Zippy used to occasionally climb up around my neck when he was a youngster – while I was sitting at the drawing table. It seemed very sweet, but was a little tough on the neck and shoulders after a few minutes. I don’t know how he got the idea – I have never had another cat that did this.) Somehow the colored cat’s fur and woman’s hair have more or less merged into one here. The painted cat expression can’t hide a certain annoyance when we look closely – somehow they managed to leave kit’s whiskers white as well as some chin hairs. She, on the other hand and if somewhat garishly painted, has quite the come hither look. You boys better watch out!

This is a German card and the postmark is illegible. It was sent to someone in Holstein and there is a pencil note written in German which I have not attempted to translate, but the sender’s name is Erna Steine.

This photo reminds me that my maternal grandmother had matching high school graduation photo portraits, cap and gown, of my mother and her brother, my Uncle John, hanging in her living room. They were the first hand-painted photos that I ever saw and I was always fascinated by them. My mother’s in particular looked nothing like herself. I wouldn’t say that it had as much impact on me as the somewhat terrifying, dramatically technicolor picture of Jesus in her bedroom (that’s another whole story – Kim and I were just discussing that yesterday) which more or less scarred and colored my views on Christ for years, but it stayed with me and formed and lodged an image of my high school mother in my mind.

My Uncle John looks exactly like a younger version of him in his photo – all red hair and green eyes. As for my mother, perhaps it is the fact that my mother truly never wears make-up. (I wonder sometimes how I can be her daughter since I have delighted in it since my early teens.) The painted photo gives her vivid lipstick and rouge. My mother’s nose was also broken in an accident after that time, and it was set slightly differently – bottom line, she is barely recognizable. Yet of course, in another way she is, especially when I look at the photo with adult eyes. When my grandmother’s house was cleared out and ultimately sold, I believe my mother ended up with both photos. My parents have just moved and almost everything is still in boxes – I must remember to ask where those photos are. I would like to have them someday.

More Mascots

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These uniformed fellows (police? firemen?) take a great photo and we are so glad that they snatched up the scrap of a pup and kitten for this photo immortalization. I have several posts that address the sub-genre of cat mascots including Butch most recently, but also Mascots and Mascot – U.S.S. Custodian. I assume that the cats in particular had a role beyond mascot – that of reducing the rodent population – but you can see from photos like this one that mascot pride and real affection play a role too. These are pets truly, first and foremost.

This card was never sent and is on what I think of as a slightly earlier paper stock, giving the photo a somewhat iridescent (solarized?) quality. It has no writing on it and, oddly, was printed wrong side up on the postcard backing.

I am sure among you there is someone who will know at a glance how these fellows are employed. Their jumpsuit style uniforms pushed me toward firemen, but I am open to opinion and information. The guy in the center is clearly a real card, cap askew and a trouble making grin on his face. However, it is the men up front holding kit and dog who we really look at. The pup has a, “let me at ’em” thing going on with the cat who, in the great tradition of cats, can barely waste a glance at him look of slight irritation. My guess is that the two of them probably spent a lot of time mixing it up and that poor eager Mr. Puppy spent some time with cat scratches on that nose of his.

A wily cat knows, however, that a frontal attack is rarely necessary when you can jump high and fit behind things that a dog cannot. Years ago I remember my sister’s cat Milkbone teasing the pitbull-mastiff mix Ron, letting him chase her around the house just so she could jump out of reach or behind something at the very last moment. (Despite her name, Milkbone was not destined to be anyone’s chew toy.) Growing up our cats enjoyed a more symbiotic relationship with the German Shepard, Duchess – one of occasional annoyance at food stealing and whatnot, but generally genial. Sadly, not all dogs are benign with cats, but we will assume that these two grew up together and forged a working relationship.

 

Butch

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: By now readers know that it is hard for me to pass up a photo of a puss with a spotty nose and this guy had the ultimate in spotted-kitty face decoration. Not only does he have a big black nose spot, but that black spot on his chin is very deftly placed and makes him a pretty handsome gentleman.

This dignified fellow is identified as the mascot of the Oregon Humane Society in Portland – Portland is a place I have often mentioned as a El Dorado of superb early photos. (Some Portland posts include, Felix on Parade and most recently, Cat’s Eye on Parade.) This one appears to date a bit later than most of my pics, but has that good Portland photo spirit nonetheless. I have always enjoyed stories about the felines in the work force and those working kits (and their kissin’ cousins the mascots) make up a sub-genre of cat photos and tales. From Old Tom the Post Office Cat to Tom the Fire Boat Cat I have uncovered great stories of kitties in the working world.

Then there are those cats we all know, who reside in shops, vet’s offices and like Butch, make a permanent home of a place that is meant to be a way station for animals. Those employed to catch mice (and, um, larger rodents) in the bodegas and deli’s of New York City, are acquired for self-evident reasons like the more glorified working friends mentioned above. While I have no doubt that they perform this service admirably they do not seem to enjoy an especially notable status. (I have been tempted to ask if I could adopt one or another at times if I felt they were particularly unloved, but that will be another story.) Other workaday cats, however, are clearly beloved – I think of an especially lovely if aloof calico who presided over the Alabaster bookstore in Union Square for many years. Perhaps it won’t surprise readers that a great cat is enough to entice me into repeated visits to an establishment. There is a lovely striped cat who flies below the radar in a health food store I frequent who I often catch snoozing by a space heater behind the counter.

The stories of Butch and those like him who somehow either endear themselves so thoroughly to the staff of an adoption agency, or in some cases are special, but not easily adoptable for some reason, are on my mind today. How strange it must be for them to be the resident kitty in a place where endless cats and other animals come and go, or stay briefly. Years ago my vet had several permanent residents – one I remember was a sweet, fat fellow, who had a respiratory issue that made him sound as if he was constantly saying, “Peep!” Another one I remember coming to sit with me and Otto or Zippy, whoever was screaming bloody murder in the cat carrier at the moment, as if to both investigate and offer a paw in comradeship to the visiting kitty. (Understandably, this didn’t go over so well with my guys.) The current vet has a few residents who all seem to be of sound body, but seem to keep mostly to themselves – although they might demand a chin rub or two while I am paying the bill.  I wonder about each of their stories. For now we’ll salute Butch and his comrades, as well as the fine work of the generations of human folk, who find homes for our footloose feline friends.

A Page of Life

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is more a doggie page than anything else, although I see a nice gray kitty at the middle bottom as well as one in the arms of the be-hatted woman, middle right. However, it is the feisty little Jack Russell terrier and the more thoughtful looking Pit Bull that grab you on this page. Like several other recent posts (Doggone and The Crimson) this came from the depths of that interesting drawer at the store I discovered on my birthday, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, and the resulting haul.

Several pages of collaged photos from the same source were in the drawer. I assume these were pasted onto the page at the time they were taken, but of course there is no way of knowing for certain. I regret now not buying them all and keeping the family together, but they were not inexpensive. I may need to go back and see if they are still there.

I have examined some early photo collage in Pictorama as in early posts Flapper Page – Photo Album cont. and Photo Collage – Blame It on the Blog! which deal with actual photos cut and pasted together like these, as opposed to the more numerous posts about collaged images designed into the photo process, like Cat Photo Collage. I think the person behind putting this together liked the border created by the paper used, which seems, according to the back of the page, to be illustrations and information on blast furnaces. You can see the tiny tip of the chimney of one, exhaust puffing out, in the top right corner, where the moirè pattern peering out from under the photos.

This page lacks the artistry and elaborate precision of the collage pages mentioned above, but it makes up for it by being a window into the sprightly life of what appears to be a fairly well-heeled family and their charming pets in the 1890’s. And despite the fact that each photo tends to suffer a bit from poor execution, somehow the effect of the overall page is evocative and interesting. The photos of the homes, which seem to be very different locations, show big, roomy houses – and I do especially like the photo of the three women from behind, their long, matching black skirts. It takes us off to a long ago, meandering summer, with family and beloved pets, and not a bad trip at all.

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A Puss Cafe

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Party cats! Let’s face it, this is a favorite sub-topic of mine – dress the cats up in party clothes and have a good time. (See my recent post named in fact, Party Cats.) Clearly, those folks back in 1911 had a similar sentiment. The exact process they used to arrive at the photo above is an interesting question – no Photoshop back then. I assume they made a print of a photo (remember, no enlargers in 1911!) and then painted over it and shot it again? As I was working on this post I very accidentally stumbled across the original photo, a photo postcard from 1909, which I have grabbed off of eBay and offered here for comparison. Fascinating – I don’t think I have run into this process from this early period.

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Photo card not in Pictorama collection

 

The cat has quite a sour look on his face. He looks like he wants to smack the heck out of someone – the strap for the tiny top hat pulling under his chin.  What a puss – as they say! His tail seems to have been fattened up a bit in the touch up, and he has strangely incongruous stripes on his backend if you look carefully. And those two bottles of drink with a single glass on a tiny table – waiting for his girl?

The back of this card, written in pencil, is the first I totally give up on reading; it has faded beyond recognition and seems to have been a bit sloppy to begin with. (Too much drink, like the kitty?) It was mailed to Oscar Lovesturn (?) Stanwood, Washington on October 11, 9 PM 1911 from Decorah, Iowa. Frankly, I was surprised to learn that this card was that old – it looked newer to me, and I purchased it without seeing the back where it is canceled. Reminiscent more of early television than early photo postcards – I felt that way a bit about the equally old (and mysterious) Cat of the Sea post as well. Ironic of course considering both hail from before 1920!

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Cat Cap

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This French photo postcard shows a sprightly fellow who has had this hat (it was advertised as a sailor’s cap, I’m not sure about that) placed jauntily on his head. He appears fairly divorced from this fact – and instead has his gaze fixed on something (we’ll never know what) off in the distance – something a wise cat photographer uses to keep the attention of his puss photo subjects we’ll assume. There is no date, although there is a studio mark in the lower left which appears to be DLG and 440/2. Oddly the back is addressed, Monsieur Robert Douet, but it bears no postmark, nor stamp so perhaps it was hand delivered? I can’t quite decode the faded message on the back. It appears to be bonjour petit yor Y Le-Cointre. So, something along the lines of Hello little one and a name. A French cat, you’d think he’d wear a beret.

It’s an odd photo – the hind most quarters of the cat are cut off from view. Nice looking kitty though, bold stripes and a sweet face and it appealed to me. When I look close I almost think the hat looks more like it might belong to a jockey. I can’t explain what seems to be an age-old desire among some of us to accessorize cats. It is perverse – taking these animals which are essentially finely-tuned killing machines and being endlessly amused by plunking a sombrero or pair of eyeglasses on them. However, I’m the first to say it entertains the heck out of me. Bring on the Youtube videos!

Years ago I had a feral cat, Otto (Miss Otto Dix, Pictorama readers know her story) who liked to curl up on my head at night and I would call her my cat hat. We were best friends, but I would have lost a hand or arm trying to dress her up. (I was tempted, but resisted.) I also had a great hope of walking her on a leash – she seemed to have an interest in the outside and we lived on the six floor of an apartment building so I thought she might like it. It was clear though that she could and would wiggle out of any collar or harness – and balked at the very idea, so we never tried. I was afraid of her getting loose. She taught me some hard lessons about the cat-human relationship.

These days Cookie is too cranky to consider dressing up, and Blackie so perfectly distinguished I don’t have the heart to fool with his gorgeous dignity. Alas, I will never become the William Wegman of kitty set.

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Cookie and Blackie, awaiting dinner one evening.