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.

 

Cat Chair Photo Sleuth

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Frankly, there are mysterious things that go on with photo purchases I will never understand, and one stumbling on the weirdness of finding photos that must have started life together, or in some sense hail from the same source, and end up being sold by entirely different entities. I have examined this phenomena once or twice before, most memorably in The Mysteries of Felix where several tiny passport size photos of people wearing a Felix mask came to me via different sellers at very different times. In this case I recently purchased the photo above of this toddler in a cat chair – which I happen to think is remarkable enough with that great cat chair. However, it is also amazing that while I purchased this photo from a seller on eBay, located in Maryland (for less than $10) the other, which went on sale at the same time as mine did (was listed at $35) and is being sold by someone in Indiana. My photo has been slipped out of its stand up cardboard frame, long lost no doubt, while the other one still sports its display frame. While there is nothing about the cat chair that allows us to positively identify it, I think the carpet both are set upon is distinctive enough to tell us it was the same photo studio set. I have put them together below so you can see them side-by-side.

 

If the cryptic writing on the back of my card means what I think it does, my card also originated in Indiana. Here it is below and very hard to read, but look at the bottom, Evansville, Ind.

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Back of photo, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

 

For what it’s worth, I think the kid in my photo is the more winning of the two by far, and meanwhile who wouldn’t be charming perched in a nice cat chair like this one? I have never seen a chair like this before – in a photo or as an object. I reminds me in design of the ashtray stand I have below which I have written about in one of my most popular past posts, Wooden Novelty Co.

 

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Blackie with the cat ashtray holder, Pams-Pictorama.com

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Pip Chair, sadly not in my collection

The chair also seems to be something of a kissin’ cousin to the chair the Pip (of Pip, Squeak and Wilfred fame) chair I was unable to purchase in Close Quarters a few weeks ago. It is my assumption that all of the above were designs that could be purchased and executed by the ambitious lay person – however like the photo in Wooden Novelties, could also be purchased fully finished as well. And yes, space or no space, I would snap this cat chair up in an instant given the opportunity!

I assume we will never know the story of these photos, to what degree they belonged together and wandered away from each other. I imagine that there was some sort of a sale where they were purchased by different dealers and turned over on eBay by coincidence at the same time. What we do not know is if the connection is closer – were these siblings and was it an estate sale they came from? I am a bit regretful that they will part company, but they will at least coexist for awhile longer on this blog post.

 

Feathers, the Fat Cat

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As you can see Feathers is a robust fellow and at 40 pounds an extraordinarily large one. Unlike most fat cats, Feathers seems to wear his weight handsomely and is well proportioned. I have a soft spot (so to speak) for cats with spotty noses and this further endears this guy to me. Interesting, an idle online search on Feathers turned up a fellow blogger (Another Enormous Cat with a Postcard of His Own) who owns this card, but with the added bonus that the writing on the back reveals that the people had actually visited Feathers, then 19 and up to 46 lbs. Go Feathers! Sadly, my card is postally unused without a great tale.

It is impressive that Feathers not only worked his girth up to more than 40 pounds, but also lived to a ripe old age. While my cat Zippy made it to 20 – with diabetes and other issues, and my mother has had several cats live into their 20’s – one would think that the size of the cat would have shortened his lifespan. (I can’t imagine the lecture one would get from a vet today.) Somehow Feathers managed to figure out how to have his cake and eat it too! One wonders if he was already rotund as a kitten as we will assume he was given his moniker of Feathers at a young age.

Longevity among cats seems to be on the rise and it now seems unusual if a cat doesn’t live into its late teens at least. Kim has pointed out that cat life was cheaper when he was young and that it is amazing how much longer they are living in these days of premium cat foods and vet visits. Cookie and Blackie are on what he calls the 20 year plan which includes a rather precise diet as prescribed by our vet who insisted that these kits take a few pounds off. (We are not even allow to speak the words cat treats to these kits.) Cookie in particular curses that day (and the vet) and she is clearly of the opinion that she would rather live well than long, but she does not really get a say in the matter.

I did search, but could not find articles relating to Feathers and his Colorado Springs family, Mr. and Mrs. James George; although clearly, given the evidence of the professional postcard and the family from another state having visited, word about Feathers must have spread via some form of media at the time. However, Feathers is not forgotten and we celebrate his evident long life as well as his place in the pantheon of cats as a very portly puss.

 

“Will write a letter soon…Mother”

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Sometimes I wonder about photos like this – in person it appears to be a homemade photo postcard, although the image did strike me as potentially professional. The bow on the cat, the reflection below – but then again, it is so poorly printed, over exposed and under-developed (Kim has actually given it a bit of a lift in Photoshop and darkened it some). There is the sense that it was some sort of pre-made card with the image supplied by the individual. What a fine looking fellow (or girl?) this is! Such a nice bow and well-defined stripes – if you look carefully you will note an extra toe on the left paw. I have written before about my polydactyl cat, Winkie, (blog post Tom the Bruiser and Good Doggie) and I have long held the view that they are special indeed. (You may remember I mentioned that Winks actually taught herself to use the toilet – my mother woke me up one night to show me and to make sure she wasn’t imagining it.)

For me it is always surprising when someone uses a photo postcard like this and does not refer to the image. You know, “Here’s Kit and we miss you…” sort of thing. Strange. I guess it went without saying that this was Kitty. Did a pile of these sit on her desk? Was it the only one? Instead she has written (sans punctuation), We are all well will write a letter soon hope you are well and having as good weather as we are Mother. It was mailed from Newport on December 18, 1905 at 9:30 AM and received in Louisville, KY on December 20 at an AM time I cannot read. It was addressed to Mr. J. Herbert Shaw, 2510 First Street, Louisville, Kentucky. (Today Google earth shows that as an extraordinarily anonymous brick building, although on a leafy street. I will spare you the image however.)

This postcard lived in a time of US residential mail delivery twice a day – businesses four times. (In Victorian England mail delivery peaked at 12 times a day! Not a wonder that so many postcards come from Britain.) The second residential mail delivery was dropped in 1950. While email today has taken a huge bite out of mail – certainly postcards are an anachronism let alone letters and occasionally those cards I send do take a week to travel from New York to New Jersey – the chattiness of early letters and postcards has returned with email. The snippets of news that my mom and I pass back and forth with our, mostly evening, emails reminds me a bit of these newsy missives. More immediate and without the middle man delivering – but sometimes even with photos of Cookie and Blackie, the grandkits!

Effie Myers

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This year, several posts are photos or advertising that, freakishly and by coincidence, have September anniversaries. This card which has the date September 17, 1911 written on the back is celebrating its 105th anniversary today – to the day! In the same hand is written Miss Sofie Myers, in pen. In another hand, in pencil, Effie Myers and the old home place is scrawled at the top. It is stamped with Photo by E.F. Baker, Siddonsburg, Pa. It was never mailed.

In a sense I keep buying this photo again and again. Seems I cannot resist someone posing with their pets in a garden, sun streaming down on them. Effie, in her beautiful white dress and locket pendant, holding a splendid black kitty and with her lovely pooch laying in front of her, is an optimal version. She is on a blanket and seated on some fluffy large pillows, the white picket fence behind her, sun hitting it. It is as beautiful a September afternoon as any of us could wish for, even 105 years later. (Although I cannot complain, we in New York City seem to be enjoying one almost as nice today.) She has her beloved pets and is in what we will assume is the yard of the family’s old home place. However, there is a hint there of eventual change and dislocation in that note, triggering homesickness too. Where was the new homestead? Was everyone happy there too?

As I send some of these missives honoring September weekends long passed, I will be traveling far from home, in Europe. It will be beautiful where I am going, but I will be missing that fast changing September light of New York which reminds us of back-to-school in years passed and the approach of the shorter days of fall, only about a week away. I am already a bit homesick for Kim and cats and have not even yet packed my bags!

Cat’s Eye on Parade

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Portland, OR is penciled on the back of this card and given the great history of the cat parade float there I would assume it is true! (The seller seemed to be offering a number of Portland Rose Parade related photo postcards so perhaps it was an album of them.) For those of you who have been here since the beginning of this blog know that some of my earliest photo postcard posts hailed from this auspicious location where extraordinary parade floats – sporting Felix and black cats of other kinds – seem to have been the norm at the early part of the 20th century. This card, with its enormous glowing cat eye and cat outline alight in bulbs was not clear to me at first. Once I looked carefully and realized what it was, I was utterly enamored.

This precious card was never mailed and there is no obvious way to date it. If I knew a bit more about the history of printing these cards I might be able to make a more sophisticated guess, but I would say the aughts or the teens looking at the costumes and how the card is made.

This enormous kitty, arched back, has his own bright eye and spiky lit-up whiskers, big bow around his neck, and then there’s that huge single cat eye glowing in the middle of the float. In reality it is amazing that in the dark with just the kitty float for light that they were able to get such a good photo. Written in a neat hand at the bottom it says, The Catseye, 15 ft high, 60  yds black velvet, bows [sic?] up back, lifts its tail opens & closes its mouth. How I would have liked to see it in action! Oh lucky costumed few who got to ride on it. Can’t help but wonder what it all meant. Perhaps a secret society like the Hoo-Hoos as outlined in my post Spirit of the Golden West? Could be that very one. I have never belonged to a secret society, but if I could find one that promoted parade floats like this one I would be very tempted indeed – it would have to be some kind of interesting. I will pull Cookie and Blackie into a huddle later and see if we can come up with a plan. A good project for me and the kits this winter. (We’ll let Kim join too I think.)

 

 

Fat Cat

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is hard to read, but at the bottom of this photo is written Alec – 5 yrs old. 31 lbs. In case you do not know, I am here to tell you that 31 lbs is an enormous kitty! Not surprisingly, it is a man in a chef’s hat that has treat trained this pudgy fellow. Kitty is clearly used to standing on his hind legs for food treats, although his ears are back here. This card was never mailed and there is nothing else written on it – no indication where it is from although it was purchased from someone in the United States.

It isn’t a good photo. A lousy composition with cat and man way too small, it was obviously snapped in a hurry – perhaps kitty was harder to get agree to pose than I state above. However, it is sort of great anyway and I wanted it for my collection. The chef’s hat on the man really adds something and even though we cannot see kitty well, his personality is obvious. Despite his declared girth there is something of the working cat about him. I do not think he achieved 31 lbs on rodents alone, but I can’t help but suspect that numerous ones fell under his claw paws over time and supplemented his diet. He must have been beloved in some way for this inky card to have made it through time before coming to reside in the Butler archive.

Quite a ways back I posted another photo, Sporty, of a cat performing on his hind legs – that time for a toy and not food. As all of us who share a home with cats know, engaging them in feeding time rituals is necessary, but you have to be careful. Cookie and Blackie seem to attempt to move their feeding times (morning and evening) ever earlier each day. Everyday we do our best to remain firm, lest we end up feeding them on command hourly! Kim tells me tales of cats he knew who drove their owners out of bed in the middle of the night for snacks or would begin destroying the apartment. We had our own unfortunate brush with a cat treat obsessed kitty – treats have been banned from the house as a result and these kits do not even know of their existence. (I trust you all to keep the secret.)  Still, Blackie seems to know when smoked salmon for a sandwich is making an appearance in the kitchen, and Cookie will speak in full cat sentences if her dish of dry food reaches below a certain point. We are just glad they are unable to pop the top of a can or open the refrigerator on their own.