Pam’s Pictorama Post: Sometimes a Pictorama picture post is just that and this postcard today is one of those. I spotted it on eBay and scooped it up. It came to me via a California based dealer, but there is something vaguely European about it in my mind. It is utterly without marking or writing on the back which is unusual – even primitive photo postcards usually have some sort of markings. It has crinkly cut edges which you rarely see on postcard stock and is more common in commercially printed photos I might think were a bit later.
While this was advertised as a Halloween photo I assess it to much more likely be a young woman dressed up for a play. I have spent some time wondering what she is holding in her hand that isn’t showing us her cat tail. (It is a nice tail and I always think that is a hard part on a cat costume. I might prefer the sort that stands out on its own though.) There is a chain with exaggerated links – maybe a costume watch chain? And there’s some sort of grassy bits hanging off her waist as well which just mystify me.
As I studied those I realized that it is more likely that these were props. Her worn flats seem appropriate to stage and perhaps some dancing. She stands in front of a backdrop which is either in a photography studio or perhaps a stage background.
For me its all about those perky cat ears. They fit nicely with her hair and they look perfectly natural there. As someone who owns a few pairs of cat ears (I’m assuming this doesn’t surprise my readers) perched on a hairband I assure you that some do fit better than others.
I will also say that for some reason on the occasions I have sported them that it displeased my cats in a remarkable way. It wasn’t that they were afraid when I put them on (turning me into a huge kitty?), but more like they were deeply disappointed in me. If cats could think that you were making a racist joke I think it is the look those cats gave me. I’ve never felt quite right about the ears ever since.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I am fulfilling yesterday’s promise of more photos to come with another hotsy totsy postcard which also entered into the Pictorama collection this week. My singular passion for this rarified specimen of photo postcards has been well documented and is in fact responsible for this blog which subsequently burgeoned into a much larger pastime. I contend that I may have the largest collection of these photos, but since I rarely meet anyone with even one (unless they are selling it) may claim goes largely uncontested. Most, but not all, have made appearances here on Pictorama.
I know there are other folks who own some Felix cards in the world because I occasionally to my horror (and admittedly not often), lose an auction for one. My fondness for these photos has inspired some purchases of what I think of as subcategories – people posing on enormous black cat “chairs” and then the random posing with or on other cartoon characters including (usually small) Mickeys or in one case atop Barney Google’s horse Spark Plug. (That post can be found here.) Some are tintypes, but most are photo postcards. In general, the thrust of individuals recording their madcap day at seaside or an amusement pier of some sort appeals to me.
This family certainly defies the definition of madcap or even happy go-lucky. They are depicted in somewhat mugwamp fashion, be-hatted, bundled and all except for the little nipper on the end, engaged in industrious forms of leisure if there is such a thing – reading and knitting or sewing as far as I can tell. (Dad has a sheepish grin – perhaps the whole thing was his idea.) Clearly it was not one of Margate’s sunnier and warmer days, the third woman has an umbrella tucked under her feet which is easy to miss. A stray hat (it looks a bit large but probably belongs to the little girl) is in the foreground. The little girl’s shoes are tucked between mom and dad in the sand.
The card is marked just Margate in pencil on the back, but it was never mailed and nothing else is written on it, somehow these folks were talked into a photo with Felix. Margate, a long-standing seaside destination, is the locale of many of my photos. I wrote about its history once here. (And among the other times I have had posts of postcards from there are examples here and here and one from earlier this year with Felix here.)
As posing Felix-es go, he is a smallish model, only coming up to the waist of the little girl who is standing behind him. Upon close inspection he sports both a small bow on his left shoulder and a large button in his ear which I will hazard a guess says Chad Valley – it is the first time I have seen the button in the ear of one of these posing Felix toys and now I am wondering if I can find it on others. I have a sort of 18 inch model that has one – the first in my collection to still have it.
I must say, as backdrops go the photographer didn’t have much to work with here – the patch of sand and unromantic wall behind them. They could be anywhere. He has centered them however and consciously or not, they make up a good photo, their hats lining up and the little girl on the end just a bit taller than the seated adults. Something about the white stockings and shoes on the third woman adds something to the effect. If their repose was greater they might be the Whistler’s Mothers of Margate, but instead there is that nagging sense of diligence. Their Sunday afternoon in the parlor transported to the beach briefly.
Felix remains jolly in the face of their dour and somewhat gloomy affects. He rolls his eyes a bit maniacally, looking up coincidentally toward the little girl – she is his potential partner in crime, and they are in it together to get this party started and have some fun! One arm (paw?) up, he’s ready to lead the way. Meanwhile, he is at the beginning of a long day of posing, cheerfully, with an array of folks on the beach in Margate, some more fun than others, waving to me a hundred or so years later.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It’s a photo finish weekend here at Pictorama, kicking off with this card that wandered in the door just yesterday from Europe. The card seems to have been and sent in Belgium. It is hard to read the postmark, but it might read 1919 which seems about right.
This card was sent to Madeleine as written in fancy script shown on the back. It was sent to Mademoiselle Simoine (?) in Mons, Belgium. Oh, lucky Madeleine! What a wonderful card.
This cat and dog are perfectly matched in size if not spirit – the dog is sort of stealing this show. It’s a professionally produced photo card, with an early form of hand tinting – the pink cast to the bow and a lush green background play off each other nicely, perhaps happy accident as much as a deft hand and keen eye.
Kitty has a pretty white face and chest, lovely striped coat, but is a bit inanimate. Doggie, a little devilish, has a great collar with tiny bells attached. You will hear this boy coming! He is so very shiny with a nice black coat, although he blends almost entirely into the background at first, eyes glimmering, huge, pointy ears. These bon pals like each other at least enough to sit on this (Belgian) lace tablecloth long enough to be immortalized here.
Kit here reminds me of the stray Mom adopted about a year ago, Stormy. Some of you followed her early story as she adjusted to indoor life at Mom’s house, amongst the other kitties. (You can find posts about Stormy’s early entry to the Jersey branch of the Butler clan here and here for starters.)
Stormy is an odd cat. She came to the back door as a tiny, starved kitten. She waltzed happily into a carrier when we trapped her – sort of like, what took you guys so long? We tried to find her a home, but like many before her, she had come to stay with the Butlers. The first weeks were spent in a huge dog cage where she and the other cats could interact, but she could recover her strength. Stormy liked to be petted and even brushed, which made us think she had a home, however briefly. Her pointy face does make us think she was born feral however and these two warring factions, plus her period outside, make her a bit of a mystery.
Over time she emerged from the cage and became part of the cat pack at Mom’s. I call her the ghost cat however as she only seems to emerge late at night. She and one of the other cats tussle and play hard – I sometimes wake to the sound of their tumbles and racing around – but I rarely catch sight of her.
Stormy has figured out that Mom is largely immobile in her chair and evidently now has her evening nap in the chair next to her. Watching her with big gold eyes. Evidently, Stormy is the Queen of Cats late at night, having a late meal, chasing her tail and romping around. By day it is as if she does not exist. It isn’t a house with many hiding places so I have no idea where she goes. Occasionally she streaks across my path, but rarely. Updates on her have stalled as photos are minimal as are actual first hand interactions.
Miss Stormy has favorites amongst Mom’s caregivers. Like everyone, she likes Winsome best and will perk up an occasionally make an entrance (briefly) when she hears her in the early evening. Despite Stormy’s early days with us, no one can get near her to pet her now – she melts away. Like all cats who chose us, mysteriously electing us as their people, we’ll never know the full tale behind her early life. However, like many before her, she lives with Mom now and is quietly in command of her nocturnal domain.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This card came to my attention because of the Felix-y costumed participant more or less in the center of the photo. I purchased it from an Ohio postcard dealer and have no reason to assume it isn’t from that region, but it is alas, without any further identification.
It is a photo postcard and there is evidence of it having been in a photo album, telltale black paper stuck to the back. It had never been mailed and is in fairly pristine condition for having been removed from an album page. The edges on either side are faded, but I think that is more of a chemical failure than one having to do with age or exposure.
I have attempted to provide some detail so you can really see all of the costumes – or at least highlights of them as it is a large assembly. At first I thought this was a recording of a large costume party, but as I looked at it more I realized that there are several repeated costumes which implies more of a production to me now that I look carefully.
It’s a bit hard to imagine the storyline of such a production. I spot some folks in Arab headdresses, numerous clowns, at least one man sporting a powdered wig, one person in black face and of course Felix. It is hard to reverse engineer a possible plot around this. I am deeply jealous however of the kid who is sporting the black cat Felix-esque costume. Clearly I would love to own that little number.
There is a range of ages represented so this was perhaps a community production as, although most appear to be young adults, there are some older folks and some quite young. The hall they are in is fairly luxe by the standards of amateur productions and the enormous mirrors on either side of the stage reveal high ceilings and a sense of space beyond. (I have written about photos of other such productions in much less lavish halls and one of those can be found here.)
I worked on high school plays and have memories of a few at a neighborhood playhouse as well. A good friend was the lead in Dial M for Murder as I remember, the first time I was to see that show. The theater in question was called simply The Barn and it sat on a now prime piece of real estate in the town I grew up in, Rumson, NJ. (Down the street from the high school and across an intersection from a tiny and wonderful one-room local library which for some reason routinely inhabits my dream life as an adult.)
The Barn was, among other things, where I took ballet lessons for a period of time as a tot. I believe on alternate days gymnastics and ballroom dancing also were underway at a given time. It was owned and run by a woman named Lois McDonald and I only have a vague memory of this gravelly voiced elder statesmen owner of the establishment, but it nibbles at the edges of my mind. It was more humble one by far than this one appears to be and I am sorry to realize that it must have slipped out of existence without my ever realizing its demise.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I feel like it has been awhile since I have had a straight ahead photo post and this is a worthy entry, just in as grabbed off of eBay recently. (This is the first of several – there has been some action on the photo purchase front.) The card was never sent and there is nothing written on as clues about when it was taken or about the girls in it. Their clothes and hair make me think early 20th century.
The girls are so lovely with their pretty matching cotton dresses with big collars and cuffs, their hair pinned up loosely. Each clutches a kitty and a chicken which by any way of thinking is an odd combination, however all the animals seem unperturbed (despite one squirming puss) by this. The chickens actually seem pretty cheerful and sit up contentedly, fluffy and alert, in the arms of the girls.
The cat with his or her back to us (stripes and spots) looks like they would prefer a firmer grasp, but the proximity to our feathered friends does not seem to be especially on his or her mind. The other puss, a nice tuxie, seems fairly content, less squirming there and looking lovingly at the little girl holding her.
My guess is that these are all special pets of the girls and are used to spending a fair amount time together. What lucky little girls to have such nice playmates! It appears like quite the idyll. I think I would have liked tea parties with pet chickens and kitties as a tot.
The girls appear to be twins and fairly identical from what we see here. They look very happy with their pets in this sort of riotous garden, roses at their feet. Sadly the photograph is a bit overexposed (I have done what I can with some electronic magic to improve the quality some) fading out entirely into the sunlight at the top. The edges of the image are soft and add to the dreamy quality of the image and gently yank us back into the pleasant world of this long ago summer day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Yes! Kicking off this Deitch Studio weekend with a new photo postcard purchase of Felix posing with a pint-sized friend. Since I collect deeply in this area I can cheerfully say with some certainty that I really overpaid for this card, but sometimes you just have to do what you have to as a collector and of course each of these cards is singular. (I assure you I have bitterly regretted every one that has gotten away from me.) Also notable, it is the very first time in all these years I have purchased one of these cards from a US source. Every other one I own has come from Britain, Australia (Katoomba!) or (I believe) New Zealand.
Compared to many others in my collection, this photo suffers a bit from exhausted chemicals in the making and has faded. Somehow however it has become more atmospheric and this little girl in her white frock and falling knee socks, holding Felix’s paw-hand, is sort of emerging out of the image at us. Behind her we can make out a white hatted woman (or taller child) in the white cotton beach garb of Britain in the 20’s, carrying some sort of lap rug. There are other blurry figures behind her and the outline of the tall buildings that surround this beach area.
I have several photos of Margate’s summer pleasures past in my possession, most notably numerous ones of a giant cat chair one could pose on as well. A few of those posts and photos can be found here and here, although there are many so shop around in the archive for others.
The Felix in today’s pic is a low-rise model if you will, a pint-sized version whose pointy ears just come up to her tiny shoulder. (Many of my photos show this size Felix as opposed to the much larger ones I think of as “life sized”, closer to the size of a midget.) At a glance I don’t think this particular Felix is represented in my collection – he has a rather singular appearance – his face is rather tidy and his arms are very long! (My theory is these were designed this way to encourage people to throw his arm around them perhaps?) I imagine the arms on Felix were somewhat moveable and the head probably swiveled and turned a bit for posing. I generally prefer my Felix-es with a slightly more maniacal expression.
This card was never mailed although the inscription on the back also endeared it to me. In a faded script it says Taken at Margate 21st of Aug 24 and below Our Alana 2 years old 23 Months To Gran Daddy at USA. So it must have been put in an envelope or package and mailed to our shores all those years ago. It has a pinhole from where it spent time thump tacked up on a wall. It is faded and tattered but those are signs of having been beloved I think.
As this card creeps close to its one hundredth summer since it was snapped at that sandy beachside resort, I am reminded that simple summer pleasures have remained largely the same. On that note, it is time for me to throw on my running shorts, finish my ice coffee and get out for a run as this beautiful June morning beckons.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This morning I sit down to write my 871st post on this blog. For those of you who follow Pam’s Pictorama you know that with little exception, posts have appeared here on Saturday and Sunday morning (some exceptions for time difference during travel, once for illness in the family) pretty much like clockwork since the summer of 2014. While there are exceptions (notes taken in advance, work travel) when they were written in advance, the general “rule” is that I write them each weekend morning before otherwise starting my day. I drink coffee, look at the window, chat with Kim while I do it – pay attention to a needy cat if necessary – while writing.
I launched Pictorama while recovering from foot surgery, bored in bed and needing a project, I thought I would use it to organize my collection of early photos. (I didn’t do that – they are still not really organized as I sit here in 2022 although it has grown like topsy.) At the time the collection was mostly photo postcards of people posing with giant stuffed Felix dolls (some above), but I have always picked up old photos from here or there. I want to publish them as a book and still hope to figure that out.
My avatar, Felix on a scooter, is oddly one I do not own although I write pretty much exclusively about my own collection. It is an Italian version of the toy I continue to chase but fall short of acquiring to date.
Pictorama immediately expanded to include my burgeoning toy collection – again, largely but not entirely devoted to Felix the Cat items from the 20’s and 30’s – my other great love. Cats are an underlying theme for both the photos and the toys. Of course there are real cats and Cookie and Blackie make routine appearances and more recent guest spots have been for mom’s cat’s, particularly Stormy and Hobo Kitty, who were just featured yesterday in a post here. I dig out memories, do light research on the background and history of objects, consider the object. It has evolved into what it is.
Over time other bits of Deitch Studio daily life slip in. Posts have been devoted to the reveal of our holiday card each year and to Kim’s extraordinary series of Valentine’s he draws for me annually. Some of his books have been launched (a two-part series on Reincarnation Stories can be found here and here) as well. Over recent years a series of posts has been devoted to my professional life, fundraising and the challenges, changes and triumphs there. Apartment life (studio apartment living before tiny houses existed) and renovation has demanded my attention and been shared with you.
Tales of my childhood, pets and people I have known, tend to be an underlying theme for many of the posts. I try not to repeat myself – I am sure I fail occasionally. I will just hope that a good story is worth repeating.
Working out and most recently running has become another area I devote space to. At first writing about it helped ensure I would push forward and keep it up; keep me honest. It was not an easy habit to develop and no one is more surprised than me when I started to top out at over six miles recently. Persistence pays off. Meanwhile, a year ago next week (Memorial Day) I fell and broke two fingers while running and you all had a front seat for that as well as the recovery.
During the first months of Covid I devoted space to redeveloping my cooking muscles, baking in particular. I probably owe you all a post about the dieting I had to do to lose that pandemic weight subsequently – running alone did not do it. Dieting has inspired fewer recipes, but I will get back to recipes. I continue to cook – soup in particular remains a favorite here.
This week my readership crossed the 400 mark and so I started thinking about you all. I know from the likes and comments some of you who favor certain posts. I wonder if any of you crossover to other posts now that you are here – did you start by favoring the work related posts and then discover that cats were great too? Or did you find one because of work out posts and then stay for toys? Or do you only read the ones in the areas you follow? I have found that the readers who come for the book reviews seem to have a long read around. Most of those have come via Goodreads. (My review of the children’s book The Story of Ping, found here, remains one of the most read posts, although not the most likes. That may go to a post about a tin Krak-R-Jak box that sits on my desk which can be found here.)
Many of you are in different time zones and I frequently wake in the morning to your likes and comments, or even the occasional late night ping from my phone tells me someone liked something. It is always cheerful and encouraging. Thank you! I like to hear from you.
At first readers came almost exclusively from Kim’s extraordinary Facebook page which I felt privileged to guest spot on each weekend. (Others find me when searching for him on the internet as well.) Early on a friend suggested the title sub-header, All Pam All the Time, and I liked it as a nod to alert folks that Pictorama, while resident here at Deitch Studio, was a distinct subset that is from my perspective. Sadly, we’ve been locked out of Kim’s Facebook page for a few months now. My own nascent page recently taking its place with Kim weighing in as he likes instead.
Pictorama led me over to Twitter and then Instagram among other outlets. Instagram became a source for jewelry, photos, toys and interesting stuff as well as numerous online friends who come from across the United States and the world. Instagram Stories is primarily a journal of my runs these days and IG is probably second only to WordPress itself for leading new folks here. (I can be found as @deitchstudio.)
While writing of WordPress, please know that I have a love/hate relationship with it. Things morph and get changed which I never figure out, such as where the ability to add accent marks disappeared to one day. Occasionally they get harder and then much easier – such as the posting of video snippets which was quite arduous, then impossible, now easy. Links necessitated a work around, until suddenly they are possible again.
In all fairness, WordPress offers the chance to attend online sessions where I could learn more, but life is too hectic it seems. I always mean to, but never have. Meanwhile, while having a look around today I discovered a cache of comments I don’t believe I ever saw – they were direct inquiries rather than ones tied to posts. I spent some of this morning writing to folks to apologize for the oversight. They are tucked away and hard to find however even now that I know they exist. The myriad mysteries of the site.
I hope to see you next week for post number 872. A new Felix photo is winging its way to me even as I write. Thank you again for being such a very nice audience!
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: It is a feline photo day today here at Pictorama. As it happens only a month ago I featured another kitten card of three kits (that post can be found here). Today’s card was mailed on August 1, 1911 at 9 AM from Norfolk, Connecticut. It was mailed to Mr Ralph Lanton, 2070 Colby Street, Bradford Mass.
The back reads, Norfolk Conn, July 21, 1911. Dear Ralph, I am sending three more kittens to keep Fluffy Grey company. They were taken from life by the lady where we are staying. We hope to see you…(illegible) Uncle Mill and all are at Bantana. We go home a week from today. With love Grandma B.
I am a bit surprised to find that that this is not a professional studio card, although these three little guys look like three of a kind with a shared origin now that I think about it. Funny to catch them sitting together like this though – posing. Cats like to congregate though and even our two will occasionally be found sitting next to each other this way, on display I always think. At Deitch Studio it is by the apartment’s front door for some reason.
Given the nursery rhyme three kittens seems like an obvious number however I am having trouble remembering a time when I lived with three growing up. We somehow seemed to jump from two to more.
Mom and I were whiling away some time going over early family cats recently and I believe there was Snoopy (our first most beloved cat, white with cow spots, who was my very most special friend), then Zipper who my mom took away from some boys at a laundry mat who were tormenting him. He was so tiny and malnourished that he was in danger of slipping between the seat cushions of our old station wagon that day and I was in charge of making sure it didn’t happen on the way home.
Zips was a tabby who became quite the king of the hill in our neighborhood later in his life. At some point after, I was given a kitten from a friend’s litter, an orange tabby I christened Pumpkin. I carried him around as a kitten (and later as an enormous cat) and in turn he followed me faithfully like a dog thereafter. (He had a tendency to bite everyone else however.)
That must have been the brief moment we went from three to more and between us, frankly I don’t think my mom ever went down to three again. We were getting there recently, three younger rescues and an elderly cat named Milty, until the arrival of Stormy recently. (Read about Stormy’s arrival at the Butler enclave here and here.)
And these days I have my own New Jersey cat project, a reprobate of a tom, torn ear and lumpy fur, who I have christened Hobo Kitty. I check in on him via mom when I am back in New York to see if he has shown up for his occasional meal of two cans of cat food, inhaled with great gusto. We know that Hobo will remain an outside guy, but I like to make sure he gets a good meal if he stops by. He gives the rat population hell too while he’s there. I keep a sharp eye out for his visit, generally very early morning or evening, and feed him. My mom says he is trap savvy so even getting him trapped and released is unlikely.
Recently back from a few days in New Jersey I can attest that her cats are very nocturnal and have the habit of racing madly through the small house and up and down the stairs nightly. (Like tiny elephants I say.) I have a feeling that Stormy is leading these nightly rants and raids and she has a habit of meowing distinctly as she runs around.
For those of you who have been following the Stormy story she has left her safe cage and now hides with unique cunning during the day. Mom says she sees her in the kitchen late at night, snacking and visiting the litter box. I found her sleeping in a drawer I pulled out from under one of the beds recently. She raced off and that is the closest I have come to a true sighting.
Today in closing a special shout out to Kim as it is his birthday! Happy Birthday sweetie! Many happy returns of the day.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Folks in early cat costumes is a sub-genre of the holdings here at the Pam’s Pictorama photo library. (Wow – I just upgraded my shoe boxes to a library.) I have long felt that there is a vintage Felix costume out there that will really scratch that particular itch of mine and actually owning such an item notwithstanding, I am always pleased to own the image and search for those with some vigor. (A few other Felix/cat costume posts can be found here and here.)
While I have to date resisted purchasing garments such as costumes given the storage restrictions of my abode, I have however come woefully close on the purchase of a few truly wild and wonderfully early Felix masks on occasion, but have sadly come up empty handed. Of course I am still on the prowl and I am also sure for the right costume I would make room here somehow, not to mention a place of pride for some extraordinary probably somewhat decaying and terrifying mask. (Kim, bless him, is ever indulgent and didn’t even flinch with I was considering a large drum with Felix painted on it that would have had to more or less be hung from the ceiling.)
On the back of the photo postcard, which was never sent but was pasted into an album, Bethel School Interior is written in penciled script. The seller had the card listed as, from The Black Cat Society Play in Bethel, PA Berks Co. Berks County is evidently in Hershey, Pennsylvania, which in addition to being the dreamland of chocolate production (the name evokes a childhood vision of a town constructed entirely of Hershey bars that I have never quite fully eliminated from my adult brain), is also said to be a great flea market area as well. Sadly I have never had the chance to explore this place of glory on either level so for now it continues to live in imagination on both counts.
While I might have hoped the photographer would have gotten closer to these kiddies in the kitty costumes, the wider shot gives us a look at those in the audience which gives us something of a sense of period. I have no idea what the Black Cat Society of Bethel was (or is?) as the popularity of black cats in Pennsylvania buries that search in an avalanche of cat adoption offerings. Were there black cat plays every year with cat costume clad kids?
Our six kitties are lined up over a bit of paper facade “brick” indicated below them – like they are on a fence? The set is an interior – lamps, drapes on windows and a striped rug. There is a flowered curtain to one side, which might be more about obscuring a backstage area than a curtain that would draw across – I do not see an indication of a rope. The whole affair seems to be on a wooden stage raised off the floor by sturdy wooden legs below, raising them up and making it more official feeling.
Paw hands of our players are up in a gesture a bit more canine than cat. Each of our kids is in a suit of shiny black with a hood sporting ears and a tail – some tails are perkier than others and some wear their suits sportier and with more éclat. The line up graduates to the tallest participant in the middle and down again. The one second to the end on (our) left seems to embody the role best for me, clearly a future performer there.
Our broad perspective of the room also gives an indication of the covered wall of what appears to be a basketball court behind and the slightest indication of what I think is the bottom portion of an American flag hovering over the peering over the proceedings. The audience is seated in some sort of pew-like connected chairs. The one kid looks back at the camera, jaunty angle to his hat. #4 is written at the bottom and it is too bad if 1-3 are lost now.
I was an enthusiastic participant in junior theatricals as a tot and I would have been in heaven to be on this stage for my turn, suited up in cat garb.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These inquiring little fellows caught my eye and I liked how the writing was stenciled into the negative of this very old card. Clearly something entertaining was used to capture their attention just off camera. The tabby in the middle has moved a bit and is a tad blurry as a result. I suspect this handful of kits was used again and again as models at the studio. The feet of the two tuxies are huge and those must have grown up to be some big cats.
Kittens and mittens to back at least as far as the Mother Goose poem which has verses where the kits in turn loose their mittens, find their mittens, soil them and then wash them. The verse ends oddly however with Mama smelling a rat nearby. I suspect ratty was dinner, however the thought is never finished and an odd one to end the poem on. (In its entirely it can be found here.)
The term making mittens refers, as far as I know, to a cat kneading with claw paws. I didn’t grow up with that term however. That action was always starfish paws to us, or mushing when we were very little. I call them claw paws these days especially with my kitties whose claws have grown too long I’m afraid. The term starfish paws came to us via a volume by May Sarton, The Fur Person, a wonderful book chock-a-block with cat love and lore which I have written about previously and that post can be found here. Blackie has a bad habit of doing it while sitting on my lap and my knees are scarred with his ongoing and intense ministrations.
There are many photos of be-mittened cats on the internet, the indignities which I will ignore except to say that folks have hung onto the idea over time.
Although this card has a somewhat homemade look, it is the product of a large professional studio. Stenciled neatly at the bottom is Pesha Photo. This turns out to be Louis James Pesha who owned the eponymous Pesha Postcard Company of Michigan. His work is largely known best for his photos of the Great Lakes region and enjoys some ongoing popularity today. To my knowledge I have not purchased other cat cards made by him previously. A quick Google search reveals mostly the aforementioned landscape and water views.
Mr. Pesha was born in Ontario, Canada in 1868 and moved to the United States in ’01 starting his photo studio then. Evidently at first he specialized in cards like this one, popular subjects and trick photos. He had long photographed the landscapes, railroads and scenes around him and began printing and selling those as postcards later on.
Pesha dies tragically young in a car accident (he owned a luxury steam engined car purchased from the White Automobile company and I wonder if the one shown above is the car in question) in October of 1912 while visiting his parents. He was only 42 and he leaves a young daughter (no mention of a son in his online bio) and widow who continues the business until postcards pass out of fashion in the early ’20’s.
My card has an indicia pressed into the lower right corner which I assume also marks it as a Pesha card but is illegible and I depended on the writing on the bottom, Pesha Photo 1517, etched into the bottom.
This card was sent at 3 PM on January 21, 1911 from an unidentified location to Mr. Elmer Rosbury in Toledo, Ohio under General Delivery no less, and received by the post office at 9 AM the next day. (Much better delivery than we can hope for these days I might add.) The writing is in pencil and it is difficult to read. As far as I can tell it reads, Dear Elmer: – Will write tomorrow had a girl Friend down from Minders (?) and we went to this Farmers Blow Out last night. With love from Ethel.