And a Merry Christmas to You!

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Forgive me as I’m out of order this year as yesterday’s Deitch Studio card post was for New Year’s and this little gem I’ve been hoarding for a couple of months is for Christmas. Devoted readers may know that I am a fan of the photo collage postcard, although I generally collect more primitive examples. (Click on these for examples: Well, wouldn’t this make you exclaim! and the very seasonal, Dawn of a New Year.) However, there is something still goofy and charming about this more mass produced card. This hand drawn young couple, separated by photos of a fluffy and proud looking cat, a happy woman with a tea cup, and a dreamy young girl – surrounded by Christmas decorations – go figure. Clearly someone’s ingredients for a happy holiday. I cannot argue.

This card was mailed from Birmingham, on December 25, 1912. It is addressed in neat penned script to Mifs Lucy Oliver, 139 West Parade, Lincoln. (Our friend Google tells me that Mifs is an early way of writing Miss. Definitely my fact for the day.) In a loopy, but carefully child-written pencil is the message, With love and kisses from Douglas.

The Christmas postcard seems to no longer even be in existence as a genre – the hold on physical cards in general even seems a bit tenuous these days. (Maybe it is just our own popularity flagging, but alas there was a real falling off this year.) Collectors of future decades beware – much as I opine that our digital photos don’t get printed and the physical evidence of this time will be paltry in the future, this is true of cards (photo and otherwise) as well.

I do love receiving fat enveloped cards in the mail this time of the year – I remain a bit of a child-like sucker for the holidays and the trappings of the holidays. I like to see midtown Manhattan all dressed up in holiday finery – Christmas balls, lights and garlands sized appropriately for the home of a giant or giantess hung between buildings or plopped down on their plazas. I love Christmas lights – especially the old-fashioned bubbling ones, but also the newer ice sickle ones. I regret that our studio apartment is too small for even a small tree (I used to have a small, fake one I would cram in here and the cats would sit under it like we’d brought a forest in for them) or much decorating. I am sad when it all comes down in January, which therefore seems very dull.

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Holiday decorations on a plaza near Rockefeller Center earlier this week.

 

For a fundraiser, the last week’s of the calendar year also represent a balancing act between festive celebration (our Big Band Holiday concert has its last performance this afternoon), while turning our hand to getting the last of the calendar year-end gifts into our coffers. It is a busy time. More on that as the New Year draws near in Pictorama’s next post, poised to ring in 2019. For now – Merry Christmas to all!

 

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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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Well, wouldn’t this make you exclaim!

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I can only feel fortunate that there was a cat on this card which allowed it to turn up in one of my searches. As it is, I have a soft spot for photo collage/montage cards, but the loopy handwriting all over makes it a really rare find. (Just a few examples of photo collage posts you can check out include, Cat Photo Collage and Dawn of a New Year.)

As you can see below, on the back, in the same decorative hand, it is addressed to Miss Mable Chandler, 402 Lincoln Ave, Eau Claire, Wis. c/o Miss M. Hammond and sent with a penny stamp, 8 PM, August 28, 1907 with a departure from a place in Wisconsin I cannot read (it appears to be BPM?) and it arrived in Eau Claire at 11 PM that evening. There is a small cryptic symbol – initials? – in the upper left corner.

I hardly know where to start with the image. The original card seems pretty cryptic to begin with. The woman at the top of the exclamation point is holding something – was it a bowl? – that our sender has inked over into a sort of smiley face. The decorative ferns and leaves in the background work visually, but what the heck are they there for? Then the woman with a white cap and finally, Mr. Kitty staring out, over the edge to the embracing couple below, a bit critical if you ask me. They, of course, are snuggled up and the writing nearest them reads, What is the fine definintion of a “Kiss and next to it, Ans: 0÷2 Can you make it out if not ask me Jean. Next to the couple she has written in a dialogue balloon, This is an Illustration of the ans.

I wonder if the card itself was a one off? If not – what the heck was it all about? I guess I may never really know, but I am pleased to have this dolled up example of someone’s handiwork in connection with it.

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Dawn of a New Year

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: As always, waking up on January 1 is a bit sobering, even to those of us who did not seek year-end oblivion the evening before. The cool gray light of that early January morning is the time when we put the old behind us and embark on resolutions and new leafs.

I bought this fellow several months ago. He looks very unhappy with the operation of photo taking and one can easily imagine him off like a bullet a moment after the shutter snapped. The strange, somewhat amorphous shape drawn around those champagne bottles look a bit like something you might start to see crawling around on the walls after several too many – or perhaps during a fit of the DT’s a la Lost Weekend?

This weird period of photo collage fascinates me – a strange marriage of commercial and homemade. Some of my other posts of this interesting medium include Cat Photo Collage and Mad Jenny. It is a nascent tributary that photography went down, but didn’t fully take hold. Not so much a false start and a dead end – although by contrast elaborate photo albums that were collaged eventually were huge in their time. There was an exhibition about it at the Met which I loved back in 2010, Playing with Pictures: the Art of Victorian Photo Collage(Some images from it can still be seen on the Met’s website indicated above.)

Resolutions in hand, clear-eyed and determined – here’s to the very best to all in the New Year!

 

 

Felix for a Cause

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Let us return once again to Felix, one of my favorite subjects. These two outstandingly unusual and interesting photo postcards capitalized on Felix’s appeal to attract an audience for their respective hospital fundraisers (Something in my role as a professional fundraiser I can really get behind.) One can only imagine they did brilliantly – after all, who could resist Felix?

The top card, and the first I acquired, was postally used, but has lost its stamp and postmark. The following (some writing faded or rubbed away) was written on the back in pencil, addressed to Mrs. J. W. Stoodley, Folly Farm, Crewkerne, Som (which appears to be short for Somerset):

Dear Mother, ….. am glad it is much cooler now but our place is cooler inside than out. The children had their carnival yesterday, but this is the one. Will

One can’t help but wonder if you got to ride with Felix in that nifty sidecar motorcycle if you attended?  I cannot answer that question, but much to my great surprise, I found a few minutes of footage of this very Carnival in June of 1925 to support Coventry Hospital and I offer it here:

 

While it is minus Felix, if you watched you did see that motorcycles seem to play an interesting role. The other pressing question – is that an enormous stuffed Felix (like someday I might find for sale on eBay and mortgage my house to purchase?) or a rather excellent Felix costume? (Which I would, of course, also be willing to go into hock to acquire.)

Then, just when I thought I would never see another postcard that was comparable, the second one showed up on eBay. While it is hard to see, if you look carefully you find out that each Felix is a tiny photo of a stuffed Felix toy, collaged on. I have supplied a photo of one of my beloved Felixes of the same type, an early addition to my collection, below. I adore this particular style of Felix and much to my surprise I came across someone with an entire basket of them at the Atlantic City antique toy show. That person told me that they were prizes at fairs in the twenties and thirties. They seem too well made for that, and I remain curious but have never heard anything more on the subject.

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I cannot find any reference to this event – no idea what the ladder is about or what the 250 (bps) refers to – a prize of some sort.  This one is unused postally and there is nothing to indicate a date. The person I bought it from said he had no idea what it referred to nor had he ever seen anything like it. (He was entertained by the image of the other one I emailed him however.) All this to say, call in Felix when you want to attract a crowd.

 

 

Kitty Rescue at Sea

Pam’s Pictorama Phot Post:  I am a real sucker for a cat photo with a story, and so I went all out to get this unusual postcard. It appears to be a memorial card for the Loss of the ‘Gladiator’ – no date, not postally used.  In case you can’t enlarge the image enough to read it, the typed article at the bottom reads as follows:  Cat Found Alive. The only living thing found on board was the ship’s cat, Mickey – a black and white animal. Mickey was found in the men’s quarters rushing wildly about, mad with fear. The man who rescued Mickey was a stranger to him, and could not possibly calm the animal’s feelings.  One of the crew of the Gladiator was fetched and the cat immediately recognized him and nestled lovingly in his big arms.  The sailor then carried Mickey ashore, where he was received with great jubilation.  Additionally the following is etched into the negative, Loss of the ‘Gladiator’ CRIBR. (?) This Bluejacket is seen with Mickey dressed in borrowed artilleryman’s clothes

Some quick research turns up the story. The British cruiser was rammed by an American liner, the St. Paul, in a snowstorm on April 25 of 1908 off the Isle of Wright. The Gladiator quickly sank – the St. Paul was damaged, but less so. Several lives from the Gladiator were lost, however the article in the New York Times archive mostly notes and praises the men for having awaited rescue in parade formation. No mention of Mickey is made in the Times article. I have included two images here of the ship and the accident – both are being sold on Amazon as historic prints.  They are of interest, but I will stick with Mickey I think.

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Cats on board ships are a major category unto themselves.  I can’t say I thoroughly embrace these stories because more often then not these fine furry fellows seem to come to a bad end. Life on a ship for a cat seems to be cheap – although a bit rough on the humans too I guess and most of the cats, like Mickey, often seem to be much beloved by sailors. (Perhaps the high life of fish eating and vermin chasing may somewhat compensate for this?)   However, Mickey, a fine looking tuxedo, seems to have kicked in with a few of those nine lives and made it out of this one alive and well.

Photo Collage – Blaming it on the Blog!

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post:  Okay, please know that I am officially blaming my acquisition of photo collages on this blog. I really wasn’t collecting them, but I started thinking about them after the first post – and now I find myself sliding over to look at them on eBay – and occasionally getting hooked on one, hence the recent acquisition above. Seems to have been made as a bookmark, judging from size and shape.  I just find it earnest and charming, and decided to save it from isolated obscurity by adding it to my merry band of photos.  Much like the one I posted on August 8, Flapper Page – Photo Album, I imagine a young girl, entertained by the availability of inexpensive photos having a high old time with scissors and a pot of glue. Despite what I was told in Art History 101, collage was clearly alive and well long before Picasso and Braque – let alone Dada!