Riding the Big Bear

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I have a general rule that if I see any early photos of people riding or posing with giant stuffed animals I just have to own them – pretty much regardless of condition and price. I admit to paying up for this one, despite the underexposure and probably some additional fading over time – its origins probably in a wash pail of dirty and over-used developer, decades ago. Kim has already performed the miracle of Photoshop on it and it is about 40% better here than in person.

I have the impression that the person selling it believe Mickey’s presence to be the come hither factor (and I have nothing against that nice, early Mickey next to our girl except that we can barely see him), but for me it was this splendid big Steiff-like bear she has climbed aboard that does it for me! Oh to live in a time when one had a choice of posing for a souvenir tintype photo with oversized Felix or Mickey – or riding an enormous black cat or bear! Gee whiz, those were indeed the days. (And still again I ask, why do none of these giant toys turn up so I can purchase them? Unfair fate!)

This photo is another tiny guy – only about 2″x3″ and tucked into this nice cardboard frame. It would be better shown if I was willing to take it out, but I love the little holder and removing the photo would destroy the now fragile holder. You cannot see it here so well, but it has a cardboard stand on the back so the photo can stand up on those cardboard feet you see. On the back, written in clear script in pen, it says, Esther from Erica Lee. There’s something a bit odd about that – why is Erica sending photos of Esther? Perhaps she is her mom?

Despite the lack of giant toys available to pose on or with, I tend to embrace every opportunity to have a souvenir photo made. I don’t especially like photos of myself, but for some reason photo booths and other like opportunities are different and fire up my imagination and desire. When at all possible, I drag my ever-patient and handsome mate into the picture. In addition to the link for this early blog kick-off post, Pam’s Pictorama Blog Debuts, I supply some long ago photostrip of photos below.

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Tintype

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is a tiny tintype which sat on my desk at the Met for many years. It almost was lost in the shuffle when I left – it had been turned over and stuck under something, but luckily one of my colleagues, Morgan, found it and sent it to me. I was very pleased to have it back and realized that, in a casual sort of way, I had been looking at it more or less every day for many years now. I believe it was given to me by a friend at the Central Park Conservancy, when I was first developing an interest in early process photography.

It is a nice scene, this long ago gathering under these lovely trees. The group is posed but there is something relaxed about them. Because of the nature of these singular images on metal, there is a lot of information even on this tiny one, only about 2″x 3″, a sliver of a picture – the snapshot equivalent of its day. Tiny though it is, this photo transports me to a different time and place.

One of the strange things about leaving a job after a long time is the things that you have accumulated in a more or less unconscious way are now piled in boxes, suddenly out of context, while you try to decide what is necessary and what fits into your new space, and to some degree new life. My office now is smaller than my former office and the folks at the new place tend to do all their meetings in conference rooms – each named for a jazz legend – rather than in each other’s office. (I now spend my days muttering about trying to figure out if something has moved to Lady Day, or if we can fit that many people in Jelly Roll or not – or where is Monk? And really, this is probably nicer than, I’ll meet you in 5A or 4B seems to be booked, but like so many things it is a learning curve.)

Some items moved without question and immediately to my new digs, such as the one-of-a-kind little wooden box Kim gave me which I featured in my post Kim’s Elephant Box. There is a lamp with a base made of old, black dice and the tiny, but nicely made plastic animals my friend Eileen has given me. Early sheet music of Pussy Foot Rag and Me-ow finding their way to the walls and slowly replacing a bad painting of a dog and some photos from the prior resident. However, at least for now, my beloved but fragile Happy Life Toy, in all of it’s gentle celluloid glory, has not yet found a perch in the new office. Since I find this toy has a calming effect on me, I might want to find a spot for it there soon.

Towser, Me and Tom

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: My collection of men and cat photos seems to be burgeoning starting with this splendid image. (For a taste of earlier contributions to this sub-genre check out prior posts Army Cats and A Man and His Cat.) Although this has the appearance of a photo postcard, and is printed on a similar paper stock, it is smaller and does not have a postcard back – there are bits of black paper stuck to it where it was in an album. Nothing is written on the back, just that neat handwriting at the top, Sincere Regards from Towzer and Me To say nothing of Tom. I love the name Towzer and he is clearly a very good doggie here, perched on the man’s lap, all proud of himself – the sun over-exposed him a bit and Kim has done his best tweak in Photoshop to bring him out some. Meanwhile, Tom requires what I call the hand scrunchy, we’ve all done a version of it to keep kitty in the picture. The bright sun of that day has him bleached out too, but a nice looking striped fellow.

The gentleman (the Me in question) is an attractive and well dressed fellow. If you look carefully he has a nice tie pin as well as one on his lapel, good shoes. His hat is great and probably the first thing I noticed about the photo. Oddly the suit seems a bit large on him if you study it all a bit. The suit also seems a bit heavy for what is clearly a tropical climate, with that giant palm-like plant behind him. It is the sort of photo that leads me to speculation. Vacation or visit? Relocation? Rest cure?

If it is a visit, I must say I can never imagine traveling with my pets. Dogs seem a bit more sturdy about the whole thing – after all, especially here in NYC they are out on a leash several times a day so putting them in a carrier for a plane or hopping in a car seems possible although not without issue. Cats however, don’t seem built for it. For us transversing the two blocks on foot to the vet with screaming kit in carrier is a somewhat hair raising experience. The idea of putting the same cat in carrier and hopping in a car or (I can hardly even imagine) a train or plane, does not in anyway seem like a good start to a vacation. Perhaps it is just my kitties – they one and all have objected strenuously to the carrier and yowl like the end of the world is coming. However, I have friends who do it all the time, so perhaps felines will adapt if it becomes ritual? In all fairness, my kitties never get to go some place nice – really the vet is the extent of their travel. In fact, I am quite convinced that every time I leave the house in the morning that’s where they assume I go – and they feel very sorry for me indeed.

 

Doggone

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Somehow it seems, if you are going to collect cats you are also occasionally going to end up with mice and dogs – if  you’re me anyway. This is a dog entry. While having that luxurious dig through that drawer of photos on my birthday (see also my recent post, The Crimson) I found this fascinating card. Done in the fashion of the cards of those posing with a giant stuffed or wooden cut-out of Felix, these people put their shingle out for photos with this large stuffed and mounted dog. This card was not only never postally used, but you can see in this additional photo the lovely cardboard frame it has existed in for years.

There is nothing on the back of this card and I assume it has lived its life in this holder, although it is a bit big for the card. Regardless, it has been kept nice all this time and perhaps the holder is responsible. You can’t really tell from this photo, but the cover is meant to be for mailing – there is a place for stamp and address on the back when it is closed. The stuffed dog appears to be wearing a muzzle – seems unnecessary – and his platform is on wheels for easy repositioning. A jolly boardwalk scene in progress (with a hard forced perspective) has been painted as the background.

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I like this dog, but hey, he’s no Felix the Cat and I wonder about this as an attraction. Is it a real stuffed dog? Local hero? I guess we won’t get the answer to that part, but this gentleman seems quite engaged. While this canine seems to be a St. Bernard, it reminds me of a lovely Tibetan mastiff I met on the street once. He was a rescue and belonged to a curator I knew. Moose is the most enormous dog I have ever met and he was very friendly. As I started petting him and talking to him he was ready to climb into my lap – all 150 lbs. of him! After meeting Moose, I really wanted a Tibetan mastiff – I just loved him and I adore big dogs. But, as Kim pointed out, Moose probably couldn’t even turn around in our apartment so I tucked that thought away for that future day when we are living in a house in the country somewhere.

The Crimson

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Pictorama swerves over into an unexpected direction with this portrait of a sincere young Harvard man posing in his football uniform, peeled from an old cardboard frame I think. Unlike our muscle bound behemoths of today, this fellow looks a tad spongey by our current standards. A quick read on the subject (I probably don’t need to assure you that I am not a historian of long-standing on the history of football at Harvard) reveals that he probably represents a time of Harvard’s early hay day in football. The football program is one of the oldest in the country, beginning competition in 1873, and dominated from about 1890 to 1919. I would guestimate, looking at his attire, that this gentleman slips in around 1920. Harvard did in fact win the Rosebowl in 1920 – their only appearance ever. They had three undefeated seasons, ’12-’14, and perfect seasons in ’12 and’13. Seems like it has largely been downhill from there.

I purchased this photo in a fashion I rarely have access to these days, a nice deep drawer of old photos, well curated, at a store in New York’s East Village, Obscura and Oddities, where I spent a nice bit of my recent birthday happily digging around. Utterly out of my usual realm of collecting, it appealed to me because of his sincere and almost diffident expression. It is hard to imagine him slugging away at his opponents on the field, easier to imagine him assuming a life in banking which is probably what he ultimately did, but perhaps not fair to make assumptions. Again, by today’s standards, his attire seems utterly inadequate for the game as we know it today. Clearly it was a different game and another time and a day when a Harvard man could expect to exceed on the football field as well as in playing the game of a privileged life.

Personally, I didn’t find and embrace my inner jock until relatively recently. Although I did yoga for decades, it wasn’t until about six or seven years ago that I started working out with a trainer and became a devoted gym rat. My sister, Loren, was however always a great athlete. Tennis, running, swimming, skiing – sports for every season. She’d swim in the morning and bike in the evening, lift at lunch and run later. A truly restless and peripatetic soul, we as her family always joked that she didn’t need more than four hours or sleep a night and would drive you nuts if she didn’t burn off energy every day. I mostly remember her running cross country and track and swim team at the beach club in the summer, but there was tennis, field hockey and soccer teams too. (In high school she always wanted to lifeguard in the summers and passed the test, but her severe astigmatism disqualified her.)

As an undergrad at Princeton she discovered rugby and she reveled in it. I visited once and saw a game and, although I kidded her about being mud covered and with bloody scrapes from contact with some gargantuan woman’s poorly shaven leg, I got it. There was a visceral delight in the game and the team was a great group. It wasn’t for a number of years after Loren died that I started working out and developed a passion for it. I had always been the one with a paintbrush in my hand rather than breaking a sweat, so I think she is probably somewhere getting a pretty good chuckle out of seeing middle aged me doing one legged squats and swinging kettle weights these days.

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.

 

Lost and Found Photo

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Some strange things happen collecting photos on eBay and there are mysteries that will probably never be solved. I lost the photo at top in a dog fight of an auction back on October 6, 2015. Early this September, just as I was flying out the door for three weeks, more or less, of business travel, these two photos came up and I scored them easily. It is only now, happily re-ensconced in my Manhattan lair, that I have had time to consider the situation. While I knew that the earlier photo was of this particular Mickey eating ice cream ad, I had no idea that one of them was indeed the very same image until I dug it out of our Facebook archive this morning. The surprising part is, speaking at least the photo I now own, it appears to  be an original photo – not a photo postcard or commercial reprint in anyway.

These photos are small snapshots in the way early to mid-20th century black and white were. The images here blown up several times their original size which accounts for the slight breakdown of the image – they are sharp enough in person. Mine have the traditional white border around the edges. There is no date or further information on them – and of course I have two from that scene, not one.

Something similar happened to me years ago when I purchased serial photos, first from one group of auctions but then another months or years later, of the same scene of someone wearing an ancient Felix costume and posing with a cat by a car. It can be found in my post, Mysteries of Felix.

The top image is the better of the two for me and is fairly jaunty. The hand rendered, somewhat off-model (yet well rendered) Mickey is holding his ice cream cone victoriously and these kids are happy to be there. It is sort of classic really. The other photo shows a woman who looks a bit tired, carrying this little girl who evidently doesn’t know that ice cream is in the offing. The woman is attractive in her print dress, has earrings and a bracelet – and yet there is something sort of care worn about her. Late 1930’s or early 40’s?

Below is the one I posted on Facebook back in 2015. No border on that version. I guess we’ll never know, but I am glad to add them to my own Pictorama archive.

 

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Lost on eBay Oct. 6, 2015