Postzegeltaal: Stamp Language

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While I purchased this because I was in a Halloween mood, it is an interesting way to have promoted a long ago and evidently foreign postal service. Perhaps ours in the US today could use such a boosting campaign? A witch and a toy black cat can do a lot for business, at least in my opinion.

This card, never mailed, is Dutch. The stamps featured on the card entice and call out to the viewer to: think of me, call me, give a shout, stay true to me, visit soon, shout soon, as well as I love you, I’m waiting for you, 1000 kisses. Oh the things you can say with a postcard – the possibilities are endless. (A reader tells me that the stamps indicate that the card is from 1957 or later.)

Why there was a need to promote postal service, as well as why they might have used a Halloween motif is somewhat beyond me, perhaps that information is just lost to the sands of time. However, she is a fine looking witch and the black cat toy she is shushing or sharing a secret with appears to be a very nice and fluffy looking one. His or her kitty head is appropriately cocked for listening to the witch.

I would say this nice toy is based on Steiff, but fluffier in the tail and overall design than Steiff, more appealing for my money. (For me there has always been something a bit lifeless about the series of Steiff black cats. Unlike their teddys which all seem to have a knowing gleam in their eye, the cats seem remarkably without character.) One bright cat eye gleams out at us. A great toy overall – I would snatch him up in a flash.

A quick Google search shows that not surprisingly Halloween is a relatively new Western influence for the Dutch. (The reader who wrote in agreed that Halloween has only started to gain traction in Holland in the last decade or so and therefore it is a bit hard to explain why the image.)

Perhaps as we consider an upcoming winter largely to be spent at home again, we might all think about who we might surprise and cheer up with a handwritten missive. I have perpetuated a long held affection for the handwritten word as a special way to remember someone or cheer them up. I send my mom cards for every holiday I can and have for many years and she looks forward to them in the mail. When I was younger and traveling I was an excellent correspondent and would at a minimum send postcards from almost any new locale.

On the receiving end, I can tell you that the mail became far more interesting once Kim became resident – Deitch Studio mail was quite different and far more interesting and exotic than my own. A prodigious letter writer himself, Kim received many – also interesting packages with books, videos (and later dvd’s) might show up unbidden. He continues a written correspondence with a clutch of people, although like me some handwritten relationships supplanted by email. My own correspondence has slowed mostly to the aforementioned cards to a small group of people – otherwise largely gone to email. However, it is a cheerful thing to find in the mailbox among the ads and bills. (Yes, I still largely pay bills by mail.)

However, it is no mystery that here at Pictorama we enjoy a great many lovely parcels coming in the door as I am constantly adding photos and items to the collections here. It is always a cause for joy when one shows in the mail, especially during these quiet days.

Nicely some of the folks I buy from frequently these days, largely my new Instagram sellers, pack their photos with extra care, enclosed in waxy envelopes with a note or a sticker, frequently adding a few random old photos they have around or a note. Miss Molly tends to use whatever is at hand for her homemade packing and sometimes I laugh at what old boxes and papers she has employed to ensure a solid package.

I have purchased two items from a woman who sells jewelry and clothing, predominantly from the teens and twenties. She’s British and lives in the countryside there and is largely known to me as Wassail Antiques although I gather she is also Rachel.

Wassail Antiques, aka Rachel, takes stunning photos of her items and seeds equally beautiful ones of the British countryside surroundings of her home as a backdrop to them. Looking at them always cheers me and takes me out of myself and the four close walls of Deitch Studio at least for a moment. She is evidently a professional photographer – taking pictures of musicians in the time before the shutdown. Her packages arrive wrapped in layers like splendid little gifts, an old photo and a note thrown in. They are an event to open, beyond the appealing items within.

A partially opened package from @WassailAntiques

At some point I may take more time to share those items – oddly both are silver rings. This is somewhat notable to me. In the before time I liked to wear rings and wore gold ones on a variety of fingers daily – my lucky horse cameo, a huge bee ring made for me by a jeweler friend on the west coast for a recent birthday. However, for a variety of reasons (finger swelling and apathy among them) I have generally not been wearing rings during our time of captivity and have actually rarely put on any jewelry.

The ring from within!

These rings remind me a bit of ones I might have purchased when I was younger – appealing colored stones set in sliver with Deco designs. They cheer and please me in a quiet way. I have worn them out for my limited forays into the world and even just around the apartment to cheer a dull day.

This week I gather myself and put on an inexpensive flowered fall dress, purchased for upcoming Zoom events such as panels or teaching gigs in the coming weeks. I was headed to get my hair cut for the first time since February (I was not one of the folks who had the foresight to do it before the shutdown) and I thought my hair dresser of 20 years, David Smith, would appreciate seeing me in something other than sweatpants and I wondered if I still knew how to get properly dressed.

I pulled my now shoulder length hair into a braid (I haven’t been able to wear it that way since I was about 25), pulled on an ancient leather jacket and my old straw hat. I put on the rings and even applied a bit of make up before heading over to the west side. As I went to enter the basement staircase to Smith and Morgan, a young man paused and with a grin looked at me and told me he loved my dress. I thanked him profusely for the compliment, we exchanged a few more words of mutual appreciation and then we beamed at each other for a moment before continuing on our way, basking in a brief moment of connection and the sheer enjoyment of being outside on a gorgeous fall day here in New York City.

Wrestling: June 25, 1906

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I needed a giggle and this card provided it for me so I purchased it – and I hope it does as much for you, Pictorama reader. As we can see from the front, this card was sent on June 25, 1906. It appears to be Compliments of RJH. What we know from the back of the card is that it was postmarked from Cleveland, Ohio at 12M and arrived in Brooklyn on June 26. It is neatly addressed, Miss Emma Lampe, 2680 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

While I for one immediately assume that RJH is the fellow with his buddy tossed over his shoulder looking out at us, I guess it could also be the guy held aloft, also looking at us. Of course, it could be the third fellow or anyone for that matter.

I don’t know what we want to make of the fact that the card was purchased from the Midwest, near its place of origin – making me wonder if Emma and RJH eventually got together, she went out there or returned to there, and she brought the card with her. Perhaps that is reading a lot into it however. So now, on the next leg of its journey more than hundred year journey, it has come to rest a borough away from its original Brooklyn destination. Kim has done a good job scanning this card. In person it it actually is a bit hard to see – the surface has silvered and reflects the light.

With all due respect to RJH it is a goofy (albeit perhaps also charming) way to woo Emma Lampe. Meanwhile, their 1906 state of the art gym clothes fascinate me – the layers! Sort of black stockings as the bottom layer, then the white trousers, all topped off by shorts. No wonder they are outside. Like the swimming clothes of the period – how could they maneuver in all of that? Each seems to have a strap across their chest, even the fellow looking on – perhaps better informed readers can tell me what that does for you when wrestling. The ground does not look especially soft so I hope the guy on his shoulder doesn’t get dumped unceremoniously there.

Kim is feeding me tidbits of wrestling lore as I write this – he knows quite a bit about wrestling, which may seem a tad strange, but is true. It is one of those facts about Kim that I have known for quite awhile now, but surprised me upon discovery. He just told me there was a time when someone could have had another person in a headlock for an hour. Oy, that sounds bad for everyone involved. (Kim’s interest in wrestling came and went long before we got together so it is neither a particular interest of mine, nor one I am knowledgeable about by association. I know nothing about it.)

Meanwhile, Kim is commenting that wrestling seems to have evolved into some sort of strange entertainment over time – part athletic feat, part theater. Actually very Deitchian now that I think about it. There are some Deitch drawings about wrestling out in the world (I believe they were made for friend and collector Glenn Bray and can probably be found in the book about his collection), but no Deitch stories about wrestling. Hmm, maybe we’ll have to get him to see about that one of these days.

Time for More Men in Hats with Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo postcard was purchased several weeks ago and put aside, found and remembered today as I was having a quick paw through my piles of photos currently waiting to be deposited into storage containers or, more rarely, in line to be framed up. This postcard is in remarkably pristine condition for such an old card, never mailed, written on, nor put in an album.

The photographer had a good eye for setting these gentlemen up perfectly in front of this interesting house with bay windows and porch. (I have a soft spot for a good porch and I am ready to curl up on this one with a book for the afternoon. In fact I am slightly in love with this house in general and would love to explore its nooks and crannies further.) The upper story of the has these octagon shingles that I find especially cheerful too. I admit to being uncertain about the purpose of the post they are posed near – for horses perhaps? I never understood how horses were patient enough to stay casually looped to a post. I always feel that, like dogs, they probably should be leashed more tightly but, at least from watching westerns, evidently not.

However, most notably, the men have chosen to display this interesting early bike and to scoop up their kitty to include as prized possessions. Unfortunately, the cat has moved with feline impatience and is just a blur. I like the shot of the bike very much. (Watching American Pickers has given me an interest in the aesthetics of early bikes I admit.) Unintentionally, these fellows have given us a visual tour of chapeaux of the day – two variations on bowlers, fedoras and a newsboy cap. I think it is fair to say that the hats are largely worn at a jaunty angle by all. Four are clad in suits of various design and fit showing the sartorial options of the day – from baggy to quite tight – our biker sporting a more casual turtleneck sweater instead.

A subset of photos of hat-sporting men photographed with cats makes up a small portion of my collection. (Some posts about those can be found here, here and here.) I am a sucker for them. From soldiers, to guys sitting on a bench or a lone gentleman scooping up his kit for a snapshot, I am pleased that man clearly does not live by canine alone.

 

Happy Hollow Special

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today marks the beginning of delving into a nice big pile of photographs I purchased last week at a postcard show here in New York City. Way back in college, I remember an art professor, Maureen McCabe, saying she loved this show because she bought things like vintage paper dolls for her work constructing collages. That was a few decades back and I suspect that the sale has changed over time. It was small, but sincere, and for me a happy hunting ground. This bi-annual sale is provided by the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York (more about them here), which evidently meets monthly largely for the purpose of buying, selling and trading postcards. I noticed a mention of them in the New York Times recently and made a note of this sale a few months ago.

I may have purchased enough postcards to keep me from needing to drop into a meeting before their next show in November, but we will see about that. The process of looking through physical cards is quite different than the sort of internet searching I do and I stumbled across some interesting, non-cat affiliated cards, this being one of them. Kim patiently waded through postcards with me last Saturday afternoon, after traveling to and from midtown in a deluge, so a shout out to him.

I would love to know more about these folks, posing here in front of this striped carnival background. These lucky little girls are riding in high style, drawn by this large goat. Goat carts were popular in this period and below I include a photo I grabbed of a goat cart in Central Park in the 1870’s. I always thought they used smaller goats, but this photo and the others I found show big goats. The Central Park goat cart is quite high-end compared to our friends posed with this more humble affair in Hot Springs.

5ae0a5a092346751ad501f3a1d0ef54a.jpg

I recently read about Goat Yoga online which seems, touchingly, to simultaneously combine yoga and admiring, frolicking goats. I have a general fondness for goats – in Tibet you see these small ones that look like Scotty dogs everywhere and I always wanted to scoop one up – however I resisted the temptation. In addition I spent many years doing yoga and, while I have found that cats can take a real interest in yoga (they generally try to out-yoga you, and they usually can as they are flexible little critters), I admit I never thought about doing it with goats. Clearly, my lack of imagination. Anyway, I see online that there was an attempt to bring said Goat Yoga to Brooklyn, but the Board of Health put an end to it so we here in the five boroughs will never know the pleasures of it I guess.

Getting back to our postcard, I would say that the donkey sticking his head in and the stray arm to the other side of the frame, sort of frame this photo compositionally. I myself wouldn’t have minded seeing more of that donkey fellow with his big furry ears. Mom and Dad and the kids are in their best bib and tucker – Mom sporting a splendid hat and is especially dressed up for the occasion. As carnival photo opportunities go, this one is decidedly lower end than most however – certainly not as luxe as posing with Felix at the beach (see for example my post Felix Mugging), but it has its own charm.

The cart is labeled Happy Hollow Special, Hot Springs and below, somewhat mysteriously, 21, is also painted. If you look very closely, you realize that this “cart” is propped up on a small stand and isn’t going anywhere. Perhaps this guarded against a rogue runaway goat. Goats are known for their independent natures, after all. Although this card was never mailed, written in pencil on the back is Sal & Birdie with their daughters Dorothy & Marion. A quick look online reveals that Happy Hollow, Hot Springs is a vacation destination in Hot Springs, Arkansas and perhaps that is our photo locale, a very long time ago indeed.

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.

 

OMI in Blue

20170402-00002 copy

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There’s nothing like the blue of a cyanotype to add a bit of visual pleasure to an image. These (notably cat-less) images caught my eye for their particular attractive strangeness. I have been unable to pin the term OMI down specifically. I assume it is a fraternity, no specific tracks can be found – at least not by the folks here at Pictorama. Omi is also German for grandmother, and there also seems to be a use of it to refer to a diminutive high-energy (reads as somewhat annoying) person. Since we know that our O.M.I. bunch resided in St. Petersburg, PA the German allusion may make sense and tie out to this fraternity of sorts.

Neither of these cards were mailed and there is no writing on them, nor indication of the year they were made. Both are on the slightly fragile seeming cardboard that cyanotypes generally are found to be. (They required a porous paper, more like water color paper than photos are usually printed on.) To back up a moment, cyanotypes are literally “blueprints” made with ammonium iron and potassium ferricyanide. Founded as a process for reproducing things all the way back in 1842, it eventually enjoyed a somewhat limited, but persistent, use as a photographic medium into the early 20th Century.

Most striking for me is the array of costumes in the O.M.I. Bunch card on top. Frat boys, cadet type uniforms, a baseball uniform – the guy in whatever that athletic outfit of shorts might be – and of course the little fellow. O.M.I. sashes are worn by several. There are generally looking pretty pleased with themselves, especially the little guy with the sash which reaches the ground on him.

While I am very entertained by our boys in the car ready for their Automobile Tour, they are harder to see and the image is a bit blurry down one side. The car is the star here and it is enormous in the way that cars were at the time – like ships of the road. There are 7 seated in and around the car, and then the eighth gentleman perched on top of the hood. (I’m willing to assume some of the gents in the back are actually standing on a running board on that side, but the car still promises to hold a mass of people.) Their sense of adventure, as well as some pomp and circumstance, invokes the early days of car travel – as described in my post about the juvenile novels from the teens, The Automobile Girls. (Found in the post, Grace Harlowe, the Automobile Girls, and the Moving Picture Girls Novels.) I have pretty much located three men from the first photo appearing in this one – large hat guy, be-sweatered collegiate, and cadet with hat. I wonder where they went on their tour – was it far?

For those of you for who crave more cyanotype, I stumbled across a splendid small book a few years ago which is still available, Ipswich Days, Arthur Wesley Dow and His Hometown (this the link to the Amazon listing). It is just as described, an intimate look at a small town, turn-of-the-century by one man, rendered in cyanotype. Very pleasant indeed.

51V2T9j1FML._SY498_BO1,204,203,200_

Beer Break

 

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: While I am a fan of cat photos, and as my readers know usually buy photos because of the presence of a cat, in some photos like this one, it has to be admitted that the cat is coincidental at best. Although I do find it truly charming that the big fellow in the upper left snatched up that puss in time for the photo, it is not what strikes us most about this glorious photo of these men and boys in the midst of some sort of a beer break among whatever work was being done among these logs. This card is unused and undated – no identification of where or when this might have been taken. A guess puts it back in the teens judging from the clothing.

The kid with his hands on his hips and legs astride really helps make this photo – he is the only one who seems to be at the halfway point between the very young boys and the men. One can pretty much see him thinking that he too should have a beer in his hand. (However, as I look very closely, there are perhaps another one or two better dressed boys of tween age tucked in amongst the men.) There is a strange mix of those in working clothes and those in nicer shirts and even ties and jackets – some ties loosened against the heat of the day, relaxing a bit. Everyone is mixing however, and seem to be all of one mind – having a superb time. Not a hint of a woman or girl to be seen. This one is all men.

Many people have written about the demise of men’s hats and this photo tells quite a story through the hats. Every single man and boy is wearing one. The variety ranges from numerous bowlers on the suited men, a series of almost identical caps on the boys and then all sorts of well-worn broad brimmed hats on the men in work clothes. Everyone has pushed their brim back a bit for the photo. They are all photo conscious in a great way. And in some ways, this is why I collect these photos – to savor a moment of time in the past when everyone stopped for just a moment and said, “Look at us; we’re having a great time and we want to remember it.”

Fat Cat

Scan(2)

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.

Felix Mugging

Felix on the beach w baby

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Some of you ongoing readers know that Pam’s Pictorama was originally conceived as a way of organizing my collection of photo postcard of people posing with giant Felix dolls. While I almost immediately switched course to incorporate all of my various collecting interests – toys, other photos and cat items – my collecting of these rarified beauties continues apace. That said, I generally only get one or two opportunities to purchase such cards each year. This one, as is the case with most, was never sent, and there is nothing written on it.

As summer hits its humid stride this year it seems like a fine moment to look back on a beach day long past. In the background we are treated to wonderful low wooden beach chairs and those fascinating little tents that people used to dress in. I have always been a fan of those – you see them in films occasionally and I have always wanted one or at least to be offered the use of one. You can just about make out what is probably mom and and older brother on the right hand side, blurry and behind them.

This Felix is a very fine looking fellow. I love that he sports a big bow and a careful look reveals whiskers on his face. Felix looks relatively new – in some of my other photos it is clear that the Felix doll in question has been dragged to the beach daily for numerous seasons and as a result he doesn’t stand quite right any longer, or he looks a bit ratty. Not this fellow. He and this youngster, who is wearing the least attractive sort of early children’s bathing attire-diaper thingy, are both pretty new on the summer scene; likely one of many to come for both of them. Perhaps his brother was up next for a photo and his still lurks somewhere out there, waiting for me to find it.

Picture Perfect

scan29

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Buried deep in the pages of this blog, this photo decorates my brief auto-bio and it has long been one of the favorites in my collection for years. I thought I would pull it out over this July 4th weekend. (If I can’t be on a boardwalk we can at least look at one!) These two fellows are in spiffy, if slightly bizarre, attire – speaking at least for the guy with the striped tie and ill-fitting tweed jacket. The gent with the pipe seems to be giving the photographer a dubious look, What the hell are you doing? While his friend is giving us a bit of a smile.

This card came from England and I have always imagined this is Brighton or the Isle of Wright. Like almost all of these cards, it was never mailed. When I first saw it I thought that maybe the guys were sort of scamming by getting the photo with Felix, but not paying for it. However, clearly they appear to be taken by surprise. My guess is that, perhaps on slow days, the photographer would take candid photos and offer them to the people for purchase later – someone did this to me years ago when I got off a plane in Peru. (Sadly it was a positively wretched photo – probably due to the 10 or so hours of flying I had just completed – and I really did not want it. The process and method of finding me later fascinated me however and I admired their industriousness.)

My favorite part of this photo though is, not surprisingly, Felix. He has a sort of brother can you spare a dime? look about him, and he is sort of looking over his shoulder. (As some of you know, it is my life’s ambition to own one of these giant Felix-es, several would of course be even better…) PHOTOGRAPHS is written across the doorway to the building and must lead to the studio. I would love to see inside. And oh, on a beautiful summer day, to stroll the and pause to have your photo taken with a giant Felix the Cat doll!