Mystery Strips

The whole group purchased. collection.

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I have a clutch of photo strips which are something of a mystery to me. They appear to hail from the Midwest via @MissMollyAntiques, a temptress seller of photos and other goodies from that part of the country whose acquaintance I have recently made on Instagram. Recently my insomnia started to align with her late night sales and what follows is some blog posts upcoming (not to mention a serious impact on my bank account). At least one of those future posts will be sporting another unusual variation on early photo process.

With some pennies to provide a sense of scale – these are much smaller than photo booth images.

Devoted Pictorama readers might know that I have a bit of a mania for photo booth photos and that I cannot pass a booth – a functioning one hopefully, many is the time broken ones have eaten my money – without dragging Kim in and having our pictures taken. (There is a photo booth in the basement of a restaurant on the upper west side which I frequent, located next to the restrooms, and it annoys me I have never tried it, however I am always there on business and never have time. I hope they have not gone out of business before I have another chance.)

Kim and I pose at a random photo booth.

My very first post on this blog was devoted to photo strips of us by way of introduction. (That post can be found by clicking here.) It is interesting that I have no corresponding desire to take selfies, in fact I am not sure I ever really have. It does not interest me.

Oh the hats! collection. collection.

I have collected the occasional photo booth photo of other folks, including a lovely Christmas gift from my brother in-law Seth of some kids who appear to have thought ahead to bring their Mickey doll along. (You see that photo and can read the post here.) However, although I have a volume or two devoted the subject, it isn’t an area I collect deeply in. As Pictorama devotees know, my gig is mostly souvenir photo postcards of a seashore or carnival variety, posing with an out-sized Felix, cheerful or tatty painted background behind. It is fair to say though that I am interested in these fellow travelers, even if I don’t own a number of them.

These two strips seem to be the same two men with the top photos first of one, then the other. collection. collection

I had never, however, seen photo strips as early as these appear to be. Based on the attire I would say these are from the 1900’s; printed on a very light paper, not ferrotypes or tintypes. (The extraordinary hats sported by some of the women are a study unto themselves! The men all quite natty – people dressed up for these; it was still an event.) A quick search on the internet confirms that photo booths, although invented in Germany in 1889, they did not hit the United States until 1925 when a Russian immigrant named Anatol Josepho (nee Josehowitz) set up shop on Broadway in New York City.

This one is different – same photo three times so maybe not the same process? Lower quality as well.

There appears to be only a few references to or examples of this style photo when I search online. While I do not know, my guess is that it is unlikely they were produced by a photo booth predating the 1925 one, but instead were somehow executed by a photographer followed by a fast process for developing. (If there is anyone reading this out there who knows about this particular process please let me know. I am very interested in early process photography and would love the answer to this riddle.) The examples I have found online were all the horizontal fashion, none were vertical like my gents here. collection

Much like tintypes or photo booth photos, the quality is all over. One sort of assumes that it just depended on when the photographer had last changed the batch of developer he was using. It is sort of interesting that several are mostly of one person with a final photo adding one or two more people. collection

I believe these are an answer to a question which has long scratched at my brain which was about how people made photos that were suitable for the lockets that were popular about this time, lovely fat silver and gold ones on long chains. It never seemed likely that people were taking larger photos and cutting the faces out. Just seemed too hard – although recently I did come across the image of an early photo with a heart shaped excised which I assume was a result of such a project. I also realize that I have a post devoted to a page of collaged photos from an album I purchased and wonder if those were trimmed from photos like this. (It can be read here.)

This one is sort of saucy! collection.

Although I have eyed these lockets for years, I never purchased one. Years ago, I once went into an antique and vintage jewelry store with the actual intent of purchasing one – I had seen them on an earlier trip – and instead came out with my cat Zippy. The owner had rescued a batch of kittens and he was a final one, sporting a bad eye which never entirely healed, needing a home. Sitting on the counter just below the aforementioned lockets, he literally jumped into my arms. Locket was never purchased, but Zips, one in a line of tuxedo cats, lived a long feline life.

A Birthday Do-Over

Pam’s Pictorama: So when I left off my meandering tale yesterday, I had actually failed to acquire the featured small white plastic cat and we had not been able to visit the store in question, Obscura Antiques and Oddities, although the day ended well despite all. However, this sort of thing brings out the stubborn and compulsive side of my nature and I wanted that tiny kitty. (Meanwhile, I have to say there’s another whole piece to this story which I will share, where Kim and I have an absolutely splendid time at an antique toy shop in Chelsea. It will require several toy posts! But I seem to be committed to starting this story in the middle so I will continue on the path I have set for myself.)

Therefore, last Sunday we set our caps to right these wrongs and with Kim’s indulgence had a do-over of sorts. We started with Blick Art Supply and acquired the white plastic kitty and added the pig and a few drawing pencils on for Kim. (This time I immediately secured all in my handbag.) Then we made our way up to 13th Street and found Obscura open.


It has been about six months or more since we had paid this store a visit and I was pleased to find some new stock. The photographs I acquired relate to earlier finds at the store. This page of cat and dog photos definitely belongs to the same family album I wrote about shortly after discovering this store in my post A Page of Life (which can be found here) which was a leaf from an album created on the pages of a publication on steam boilers. This one seems to be slightly different, but if you look carefully this is also built on a page from a previous publication – a few words sneak out in the lower left corner, Show Sault Ste. Marie in its relation to Canada, East…

Whether this method of creating an album was one of thrift or an affection for the nicely bordered pages I am unsure. As this page features the gray and white family tuxedo kitty and their sprightly terrier dog, I cannot imagine I passed it up previously so it must have somehow just made its way into the filing cabinets of photos, waiting for me to come and reunite it with its sister page. Both are shown below.

cat collage page collection

20170225-00010-copy collection


The photographer had more ambition than skill – exposures are wonky, as is printing. The glue affixing some of these to the page has further obscured the images. There is indeed a hit and miss quality to these. Still, the overall affect is endearing and tells a story and it is an interesting entry in the Victorian photo collage discussion. Notably the photographer has marked this page Rolex II in the lower left corner.

The other entry is also a bookend to an earlier post called Kodak: Box Camera (which you can find here) and I am left wondering if it is the same family and photographer or not. It is a much better – or at least much improved – photographer that made these photos. My earlier acquisition, shown second below, is a beauty of a snapshot and this new one a fair entry and also in the telltale circular image of the Kodak Box Camera. While this one lacks the great contrast of the earlier one, the new one showing a Victorian woman riding sidesaddle has a nice composition and it is a beautiful location. It is a small thing, but I am pleased to reunite these as well.


20181020-00004 collection


Lastly, on a whim, I purchased something unusual, this elaborate wooden photo frame. If you live in one room with most of the wall space spoken for, you generally resist such purchases, but this one just cried out to me and I capitulated. More on it when I figure out which two prized cat photos will go into the spots available – I can assure you that a photo postcard with someone posing with Felix is likely to fill the 5×7 inch spot. Hotsy totsy as I like to say!


So, with large photo frame and photos made into manageable bundles off we went in search of a place to eat during prime Sunday brunch hour in the East Village. We found long lines out the door at most of the establishments we frequent. Therefore, on a whim, we took a chance on the Ukrainian East Village Restaurant. While I had an erstwhile urge for matzoh brei which I could have satisfied at either B&H or Veselka I made do with a bowl of soup (a variation on the split pea, lentil and barley soup my paternal grandmother used to make) and another plate of potato and onion perogies. Kim dined on a substantial grilled cheese made with what can only be described as slabs of bread.


Ukrainian East Village Restaurant


I have always been a bit curious about this establishment which has been there for as long as I can remember, tucked down an industrial looking hallway, removed from the street. It has always looked like it was some sort of a private club which coincidentally served food. It reminds me a bit of many years ago when I lived in London for a time, a friend took me to a kosher lunch outpost way out on the East End of London. This somewhat makeshift lunchroom served a huge Jewish working population in the area. It was a memorably good meal and the existence of the establishment seemed a bit miraculous. This was a bit more ordinary, but it was hot and welcome after an interesting morning of shopping out in the February cold of New York’s East Village. A nice finish to the birthday fiesta this year.


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.


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!


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.


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.


Dawn of a New Year

Scan(2) copy 12

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


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.


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.


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!


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!

Mickey and Felix Costumes, Part 1

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Mysterious applications of Mickey and Felix as costumes really could be their own category! Starting with this is a tiny photo which really defies easy explanation – someone dressed as a long-nosed, slightly off-model (paunchy) Mickey on skies or snow shoes.  Hard to imagine what was going on here, or that he remained standing long.


Back of card reads (complete with lack of punctuation):

Mrs. W Stoodley
Folly Farms
Lovewkerne (?) Som

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

This Felix costume is much jollier and a lot more sensible – as such.  I’m sure he raised a lot of money for them. In fact, so much, that they did it more than once!


This card features stuffed Felix dolls for the action – mine of this type is posted too so you can get a better look – irresistible to put these together – another example of rather brilliant photo collage work.  Nothing on the back of this card so we don’t know which came first.  They were purchased separately over the course of several years and the seller of this card said he had never seen anything like it.  I sent him a scan of the other – both of these came from British sellers.  I say Hooray for Felix!