Copy Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s Felix the Cat tale stretches back aways, starting with a few hand-drawn postcards I added to my collection back in 2014, and I had no idea what these postcards when I acquired them. While I have some enjoyably whacky examples of whacky free-hand Felix drawings (a post can be found here), these appeared to be penciled and inked, not perfect but surprisingly on model drawings of Felix.

A British card presumably made with stencils like mine. This pose in both the French and US versions. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

While I was writing about one of the more bizarre hand executed cards (that post can be found here) someone gave me a heads up that stencil kits was available and that’s how these cards were likely made. Evidently there was a set made and sold in France and a slightly different US version. The kit I purchased recently (another friend gave me this tip – many thanks to Bob!) is the US version. From what I can see, the European and American kits had some different poses and some of the cards I have appear to have been made from the European box.

A card from the Pams-Pictorama.com collection with a pose not in my box of stencils.

The instructions are great fun to study and it is interesting to reflect on a time when people were willing to make their own Felix postcards with a box of stencils. Although this could loosely be classified as a toy, these are a bit complex and the skill needed for these is a lot for a child as you will see when Kim tries one below.

The inner workings of the Felix stencil box set! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Most of the Felix-es are in the nice blocky early style that I especially like and this fellow on the jolly red and blue front of the box, huffing on a pipe is splendid indeed. (Although a careful look at the sheet below shows several different Felix styles really – some blocky and some rounder. Curious.) The front also boasts, not surprisingly, a Pat Sullivan copyright, a US patent, and a maker – J.W. Spear & Sons, New York. There is a smaller notation which says, (Spear’s Games), and my favorite note in tiny print in the lower right corner which is, manufactured at the Spear works Bavaria.

The instruction page for the stencils! Pams-Pictorama.com.

A meandering side note on Spear & Sons toy makers: Primarily a manufacturer of board games, the company was originally founded in a town near Nuremberg, Germany under the family name of Spier. With the rise of the Nazis, some of the family left Germany (they were Jewish) and went Britain where they had a factory and changed their name to the more anglosized Spear. The Germany company was taken over by the Nazis and was made into a munitions factory which was ultimately bombed and destroyed during the war. The British factory also made munitions during the war, but return to board games after. Subsequently the company was purchased and absorbed by Mattel.

A close-up of a set of stencils together. My guess is Felix Cheering at the Ballgame.

My box of stencils is well-used by someone who blackened the whole image (with ink) rather than a pencil or pen trace and then blackening in as my postcards were executed and as Kim executes below. Each stencil requires two cards (color coded and number, 1a and 1b, etc.) lined up with a pinhole in one corner. This allowed from more dynamic poses I think. My box appears to be missing two sets of stencils, 1a and 1b and 2a and 2b. Not sure which images these are although the one of Felix on the scooter appears to be one of them.

Watch Kim create some Felix magic here! 2 minute video.

Here at Deitch Studio we obviously have the talent on hand to give these a fair try. I have asked Kim to tool up and use these stencils to make a drawing. Have a look here and see the master at work toying with these stencils. As you will see, we find them a tad short of the full drawing and he had to finish him a bit freehand.

And voila! Kim makes a Felix!

Oh Wow! It’s a Great Felix!

Pam’s Pictorama Post Toy Post: Christmas has come very late to Pictorama, but well worth waiting for when it showed up this week in the form of this wonderful addition to the Felix farm here at Deitch Studio. (A special thank you shout to Kim in the role of my Santa!) For those of you who read my January fretting post yesterday, the arrival and unveiling of Felix has lightened the mood here considerably – despite efforts to perk coffee on the stupid electric burner this morning!

I found Felix while perusing photos of a toy show in England I deeply regretted not being in attendance at (insert brief fantasy about dropping everything and flying there to attend), when I saw him sitting on a crowded shelf in one shot. The seller is a rather celebrated toy dealer, Daniel Agnew, who I believe deals most deeply in teddy bears – my beloved stuffed Felix toys are something of a subset to teddys. I couldn’t swear I haven’t purchased something from him previously, but perhaps I am just familiar with seeing him and his wares over time. However, I certainly trusted buying from him this way and was able to engage over the toy exhibit page on Facebook.

While I recognized that this Felix fellow was a good addition to my collection, I couldn’t really see what a nice, large jolly fellow he was going to turn out to be; photos just did not do him justice! (Insert image of me hopping up and down!) I was thrilled as I took him out of the box. Dan had sent some photos pointing out some wear, tiny holes and loss and I was a bit concerned about him making the trip overseas. However, Mr. Agnew is an experienced packer extraordinaire as you can see from the unpacking photo below and Felix made it through just fine.

The unpacking process!

Daniel did not identify the maker and I am unsure. In looking at a Felix Christmas post past (which can be found here) from the waning days of 2016, I speculate on one of a somewhat similar design, also very large, which I semi-attribute to the East London toy company. (Our new friends has less articulated hands and feet however.) I am not at all sure I agree with that guesstimate for either of them now. In an exchange with Mr. A. we discussed the possibility that he is by a small unnamed maker which is a likely answer in trying to identify some of these – as per his message license was giving out liberally for those interested in making the toys. I will say that his nose, his most unusual feature, appears to be most like the nose on a giant Dean’s Mickey Mouse in my collection.

Felix in Pictorama collection, Pams-Pictorama.com

In addition to his interesting and noteworthy nose, he is of a sort of specific tripod design with a shorter body and longer legs and tail. He has nice big glass eyes and a friendly, genial expression as opposed to the good time Charley type above. His head and arms are stationary, not articulated. The tip of his tail has worn through and he has stitching patches in his neck and behind an arm where he could use a bit restuffing and stitching. (He has dribbled a bit of excelsior across Kim’s desk for his brief photo shoot. He’s perched on a small tub of white acrylic paint.) However, he is mighty fine at 100 years old – I have no hope of looking nearly as good at his age.

I am eyeing a spot next to the other Christmas Felix above, where he can live quietly, safe from prying kits, towering over the miniature Flat Iron building and watch over us from an imperious perch in bed at night.

Dogging me!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As promised, the New Year parade of toys continues. Today’s is a lucky find post. I can’t even remember what I was looking for or at when this little fellow popped up on the bottom of my eBay screen and caught my eye. I was in bed, doing a casual weekend eBay scroll as is my wont, when I spied him. I showed him to Kim and we agreed that he was a purchase.

Despite repeatedly being labeled rare he is not especially and there was another more tatty one being offered even then – there are several now in a range of prices- should you decide you need to run out and purchase one, which of course I wholeheartedly support. (We can all have one for prices ranging from $30-$250.) However, I give some credit to the seller who, with a close up shot, sold me on him when frankly I would have usually just passed by since, as we know, I am officially a collector of cats and not dogs. However, he had a come hither look and bam! He was mine.

Another good boy doggie in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

He is a Made in Japan tin toy (no company name beyond that, stamped on his tummy), and the consensus on his origin seems to place him around 1950. I was surprised by his size when he arrived (I thought he would be substantially bigger), but there is something extremely appealing about it.

Our pup is well designed. His ears are made of another material (a hard rubber perhaps?) and seem to be extremely vulnerable to loss, as does his tail which is made of the same material. Some versions have his (painted on) tongue sticking out, although mine does not. He sports a (painted on) collar, spots on his back and hind quarters and a gentle expression sunk in wrinkles. Oddly, his front legs are separate pieces which are welded on, but do not have a moving function. A solid state and smooth working key is permanently installed in his back.

Version not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

His trick, as you can see, is that when wound his tail spins around – a fairly straightforward motion. Further research shows that he originally had a shoe in his mouth! When I looked, sure enough there is a little hook in the corner of his mouth to hang it from. Ha! It does crack me up. (The concept and the motion is similar to another tin dog in my collection, shown above. A post can be found here complete with video motion. There is also another tin dog that coughs up tiny balls which can be found here. You see, we do have our dog days here at Deitch Studio.)

Our new fellow has a place of pride among the kitties (alongside a tin pigeon, some Donald Ducks and the aforementioned canines) on a shelf in the big bookcase of goodies. A tiny but very entertaining addition to the Pictorama and Deitch Studio family.

Felix Marches Forward

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As promised, the first of many toy posts of the New Year! This little fellow crossed my path in December on eBay and there was something about him which appealed. He’s a bit damaged in places, but who among us (especially those who are 98 years old) can say otherwise? Oddly he sold for not much money so he has come to reside at Pictorama.

His head looks like a standard issue model used for several other toys, but mostly the popular jointed doll of the time and it was probably easily acquired for this somewhat more rarified toy. His tail is cleverly made with a bit of black rope, frayed a bit at the end now with a tiny wire sticking out.

Unfortunately not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection, but with a remarkably similar head in better condition.

I don’t think I have seen this precise toy before, or at least not many times. He is a simple mechanism, but designed with a nice forward stride, Felix-y indeed. Somehow they really captured his bouncy running trot when you push the (nice yellow!) wooden handle up and down. Very satisfying. His arms swing with a certain determination. It imitates his cartoon motion well.

Shown here with thanks to Kim for his handy help!

There is most of a tag remaining on his back which had FELIX, a series of dates (1919, 1922 and 1924) followed by Pat Sullivan and patented June 23, 1925, although no maker’s mark as such. I am entertained somehow that there is a day on the patent – like a birthday.

Remains of a patent sticker.

One side of his face and his nose have suffered a lot of paint loss and the handle is very well worn. I must say though there’s something mesmerizing about watching him bounce up and down. I can imagine being very entertained with this as a small child, but can also assume it was a toy that took a bit of a beating. Yet he must have seemed a bit indestructible when he was newly handed over for play.

I thought he was a good choice for the first toy post of the New Year. He will help us remember to stride resolutely, but with a bounce, into the year ahead.

Can it be? Another Felix?

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: When this new Felix landed here at Deitch Studio the other day, Kim exclaimed that he looked exactly like another Felix on the living room shelf. I denied this allegation and a quick (close) comparison revealed notable differences and Kim conceded the point. Having said that I admit that some of my stuffed Felix toys differ in ways that only a mother might notice differences among her children.

Felix with bristly whiskers, shoe button nose and simple stitch teeth. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

For me it is quite self-evident – a crooked grin, how the teeth are stitched in – just a single line or a filled in toothiness? Do the arms move or are they in a permanent attitude or pose? The legs are important because that is how a Felix doll stands, always a tripod affair, the support balancing between the two legs and the tail. Some of these fellows have a hump to their back, a tribute to his hunched over thinking walk, others not. Some stand with more assurance and others more attitude. Others have trouble standing at all.

A closer look at our man today. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

For me it is the expression however. Some are knowing, others have a sort of charming dufuss-y and daffy look. Still others are sort of good time Charleys who you might be up all night drinking and playing cards with. Some, like this one, have a cocky and confident look.

I have written a bit about the sometimes handmade nature of some of these early British toys. (A post about their manufacture on the East End of London as employment for indigent women can be found here.) The more oddly off-model the better in my opinion. I like the ones that challenge credulity as whether or not they even are Felix – Kim saying, That is NOT Felix! and me insisting, Yes, he is! (At least he was intended to be.)

A few whiskers left on this fellow, with a smushy fabric nose and a vaguely curly, longer mohair. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Although I believe all or virtually all Felix-es had whiskers they come in a wide variety of options – from hard plastic like fishing line, to a few wispy threads to a nice full bunch of coarse threads like this fellow still has. Clearly the whiskers are among the parts to first go missing.

An especially googly eyed Felix with big, felt-y teeth. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Eyes are most often shoe button black, but there are some variations with black and white glass like this fellow sports. Some are more googly than others. Noses can be stitched on affairs, cloth covered or metal. The quality of the mohair varies as well – some with a longer nap and almost a curl to it, others a more bristly sort.

Bristly mohair Felix, with large glass eyes – whiskers intact. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

He was sold to me via auction as made by the Dean’s Rag Company, but I cannot firmly confirm nor deny that origin. He is about 18 inches tall.

All of this makes up a Felix toy and the variations that makes that particular one hold a special place in my heart!

Felix Takes a Powder

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Recently my friend Mel directed me over to a small auction that was primarily devoted to space ships, but had a small number of Felix items and I guess a very few people paying attention to them. Today’s very unusual item came to me via that auction along with a lovely stuffed Felix I will share soon as well.

Schuco produced Felix perfume bottle. Always very pricey! Not in my collection.

Felix bottles are a category unto themselves and to my knowledge include a soda bottle, a plastic bath bubble bottle, a popular perfume bottle and an even more available early bath salts bottle. The perfume bottle has a mohair outside (as above, produced by the toy company Schuco, which makes you wonder a bit about the quality of the perfume in question) and looks like a toy, while the bath salts one is made of clear glass and painted. The paint is usually worn off on the latter and there is a very similar Bonzo Dog – oddly and weirdly almost interchangeable if you aren’t paying attention. (As below and not in my collection – yet!)

My new Felix bottle is in what I think of as his Romeo pose, on one knee, hands clasped to his heart. You can imagine his impassioned cat-on-a-fence type tune. There are no makers or brand markings at all. In all of my searching around I have never seen the likes of him.

The white of his face appears to have been repainted, fairly well, but still is generally something that turns me off entirely. I can’t say the style of him is a favorite either – why the two tooth look I wonder? Again though he is so unusual I decided he had a place here at Pictorama and I am pleased with a having acquired him.

Powder stopper. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I have never however seen this item before in all my looking, nor when I did a dedicated search after finding him. He is made of a heavy molded glass (seam in the bottom) and stands about five inches high, and he’s a slightly off-model Felix with that sort of gap-tooth grin. The brass-esque cap comes off to reveal a powder shaker top. (Felix arrived well packed, but in a tsunami of powder which had remained in the bottle until he traveled! I guess the seller figured I would want it powder and all. Only a vague scent to it if you are wondering. It is sort of getting all over everything despite my best efforts to contain it.)

I like to imagine a dressing table somewhere, maybe in the early 1930’s with Felix atop where each morning a bit of powder was shaken out of him. So beloved however, he has made it down through almost a hundred years to be with us today. And stay tuned – while I was writing this I found another bottle I had to have. More to come…

Flat Iron Fiesta

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have been itching to share this acquisition since I purchased it this summer on our well worn Friday night path to and from Vietnamese take-out. Folks who follow my Instagram and Facebook page saw it when I first spied it in the window of the nearby junk store over the July 4 weekend.

I opined on its wonderfulness then (said it was too big to buy) and it wasn’t much more than a week later that I hustled Kim over to help me strike the deal and bring it home. Numerous bits and pieces have found their way into the Pictorama collection from this tiny storefront. Most recently I have written about a few piggy banks (two of those posts here and here), but this will remain in my mind as the very best buy I suspect.

A short video I made of the window at the shop when I found the Flat Iron Building among these other model buildings.

It turns out to have been made by a company called Department 56. (Odd name, yes? The man who started the company, Ed Bazinet, had worked for a company called Bachman, a florist and wholesale gift importer. He ultimately convinced Bachman to invest $50k in his new company which would specialize in high-end holiday items, and named it for his former unit, which of course was 56.)

My Flat Iron building is part of a large series devoted to Christmas in New York, reproducing landmarks of the New York skyline. It is (weirdly and surprisingly) made of ceramic. While it is heavy it is nowhere near as heavy as I thought it would be sizing it up as likely being a non-ferrous metal of some sort – like a giant piece from a toy train set.

It was a great window chock full of building models.

While these are specifically made for a holiday set up they are amazingly beautiful reproductions of New York architectural stand-outs and range from the obvious, such as the Empire State building and the Chrysler building, to the somewhat more obscure such as Luchows, the Singer Building and something called the Uptown Chess Club.

The reproduced buildings with pre-20th century architecture seem to revert almost immediately to too cute for my taste. However, the Woolworth building is tantalizing (talk about huge though) and Kim and I are still discussing if there is a spot that can accommodate it. (Stay tuned for a perhaps future post.) It is unclear to me if they continue to produce more New York buildings and it seems they pay tribute to a smattering of other cities – I believe I saw a building from Dayton, Ohio online too.

Empire State building for sale on eBay.

Of course my mind races with what it would be like to have enough space for them all. A tiny, if snowy, NYC right here in the apartment! Imagine that!

My Flat Iron building was brought onto the market in 2006 and “retired” in 2010, although it appears to do a brisk business on the secondary market if you too (understandably) must now own one – they are available. The claims of value on the resale market were considerably higher than what I paid. As you can see from the video the proprietor purchased an entire collection of miniature buildings of various kinds. Mine was the only one made by Department 56. (I was very attracted to a tiny Central Park made of metal. There may be more to come on that – it has stayed with me.)

I want that building in the window! Many reflections interfere a bit, but this was my first sighting.

If you look carefully you will note that the building is gently trimmed with snow. It is meant to have wreaths, bows and garlands added (purchased separately of course) and maybe even a tiny couple getting caught (23 skidoo!) in the wind around the building.

A tiny couple that can be added to my building scenario – for a price of course! Not in my collection.

So after I got it home I of course examined it at length. The company name and the date of copyright is on the bottom. As I examined it I realized that there were holes in the bottom where two small lights should be inserted. Unfortunately it turned out that the replacement lights were on back order and getting a hold of someone to place my order a bit complicated. It took several months, but a few weeks ago the lights showed at last and I was thrilled to be able to light it up which really does add something to it.

I do not for a minute regret the space that has been dedicated to our Flat Iron building on a bookcase over our bed where I get to see it daily. Ours is a year round New York City admiration, but since we are heading into the holiday season it seems fitting that it can do double duty to an extent in this December post. I have considered if I should acquire a tiny decoration or two as a nod to the season, but knowing me it would remain on infinitely. The tiny windblown couple, who appear to be from an amalgamation of the 1940’s, would be less seasonally specific, if forever caught in a very single moment in time.

Even if it remains as our sole iconic New York architectural tribute here at Deitch Studio I don’t think I could have picked a better one. I have long favored the Flat Iron building as one of the greatest buildings in New York and never pass it without a moment of passing admiration. It just barely slips into the 20th century, construction started in 1901 and it opened in ’02, and it has a foot in the old while managing to be a harbinger of the new, melding time and style in a way that so much of New York City does.

Bow-wowzers!

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: As much selling and buying has migrated online, I have bemoaned the loss of the sheer joy of browsing amongst the world of detritus that makes up a good flea market or junk store. The ability to run across things you never knew existed or thought of before but now must possess. One of the few online equivalents is the suggestions made by the algorithm for items you might like or sellers other items on eBay. Recently someone sent me a link (don’t remember what it was for as I was immediately distracted!) and a photo for a listing for this fellow caught my eye.

Sans identifying tag, Pluto was listed with the Dean’s Rag Company as its possible maker – more to come on that. Something about him caught my attention and when I showed the listing to Kim (we were in bed at the time) he gave a brief but definitive declaration of buy him. That is a bit unusual for Kim and so, with some misgivings about his size (he’s large, about 24 inches), I hit the buy it now button and soon Pluto was winging his way to me from Britain.

This example from the Novelty Toy Company, undated, has tag. Hind legs more defined, different nose and eye design. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Since Pluto does not bear the (rather wonderful) Dean’s Rag Toy imprint on his feet, even before he arrived I asked the seller (@bobbyrocksbazaar) why she thought he was a Dean’s. She responded promptly and it turns out that she is largely a seller of bears and not familiar with Disney character toys and was just making an honest guess. Aside from the tag issue it isn’t a bad one. I have a Dean’s Rag Pluto I wrote about in a 2014 post here.

I reshare a photo of mine below. This is the Pluto that is generally accepted as the Dean’s design and Dean’s was deep into producing Disney and characters with their widely sold Mickey Mouse toys but everything from Oswald Rabbit to Eugene the Jeep. Having come from Britain and given some similarities I can see the case for it being made by Dean’s. I suppose it could have born a paper tag rather than the imprint I am so fond of on their toys.

Dean’s Rag Pluto. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

However, having looked at a lot of Plutos since purchasing him, I am betting on a company called Character Novelty Toys. This company was founded in 1932 by Cesar Mangiapani and Jack Levy in Norwalk, Connecticut. Our friend Pluto was introduced into the Mickey Mouse cartoons in 1930 and won immediate popularity so it is possible he was picked up by the nascent company.

Dean’s Rag imprint on Pluto – plus his charming printed paws! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

However, it should be noted that said company, despite their name, did not appear to have licenses for a lot of character toys. A quick look shows mostly non-character bears, although I guess I saw a late model Mickey Mouse thrown in there. They definitely had a line of Plutos however and I share some of those kissing cousins which still bear tags, although to be clear, none of the toys I found were this precise Pluto and the more I look at the others of the rough period online the less I think he is made by any of these companies. (Gund toys made one very similar to this Novelty Character Toy version.)

This example is much smaller and also said to be Novelty Character toy. Not in Pictoram collection.
Looking a bit later, this is the Gund toy version. Not in my collection.

My new Pluto is a nicely made toy of somewhat complex design. I would say that his very thin neck seems to have been a design flaw in this (and most) Pluto designs and examples often site a tear there, mine has an old repair. Pluto is made of Velveteen and his eyes are the identifying characteristic I can’t quite match on another version of the toy and careful examination shows the placement of the nose and lack of lines on the nose of mine as different. He may have sported a collar at one time. Aside from Dean’s (a very fine toy maker indeed) I think my Pluto is among the most nicely made. I am even more pleased with him in person than when I saw him online.

A Pluto “headshot” with Kim’s help! Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

As anticipated, Pluto is fairly large once we set him up properly. I am still deciding where in the apartment he can best live and be displayed – even taking photos has been a challenge. Right now he is living on a bookshelf next to a very outsized oil cloth doll of Uncle Walt (future post) which is equally difficult to display. For all of that and the mystery of his true origin, he was a great purchase and we are pleased he is a rare dog to have joined the Pictorama family.

Here Piggy Piggy!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little piggy showed up at our local haunt which has supplied us with a few other items over the past year or so. Most recently a rather splendid elephant bank I wrote about here. (A glorious reveal of another one pending for a near term future post!)

The other day without really meaning to, Kim and I wandered in on one of our trips to or from on that particular block. This block is on the path of our trips to a Vietnamese take-out place we favor, our pet food store and is the block we stroll up and down while waiting for our Mexican food to be prepared for pick up. I like to stop and look in the window and occasionally I breakdown and purchase something. The fact that they keep odd hours makes it easier not to resist actual purchases as our strolls seem to rarely matchup with their being open.

A fairly recent view of the store window.

However, a week or so ago we were out on a Saturday afternoon and they were open and we wandered from front window to being in the store. We had noticed this little fellow through the window a week or so before. He seemed rather singular and so he has joined the ranks here at Deitch Studio.

This piggy turns out to be very popular and widely available (currently examples are available on Etsy and other sites) and seems to have been produced over a long period of time starting in the teens, by the maker Hubley. (Another item from this shop is a great dog bank that was made by Hubley. You can find that post here. Seems like I am starting a de facto bank collection via these folks!)

On my version the sign he sports is easily read, The wise pig/ Save a penny yesterday another save today tomorrow save another to keep the wolf away. Below that, on his little stand, it proclaims Thrifty. I feel he is both smiling and yet has a concerned expression. Encouraging you to save and concerned for your future well-being. Other versions of the bank feature the pig with a big pink mouth – making me think of the phrase, lipstick on a pig.

The lipstick on a pig version of the bank. Not in Pictorama collection.

He is pleasantly chipped and handled. I alway wonder about these banks how many pennies, nickels and dimes you could realistically have fit in. The effort to loosen and remove the bolt at the back seems beyond a child – perhaps the whole point? Or maybe kids just jiggled the money out of the slot again. I would say none of my banks, for all their decades in existence, show any evidence that they were ever unscrewed and opened. Teaching children thrift indeed.

I wrote a bit about banks I had as a child in a post here. The one below is a reasonably close clone of my memory of the very traditional one that was beloved to me as a child. Mine may have been a model that was slightly older or newer. I don’t remember the one ear down, but it was a long time ago. This piggy had a cork holder in the bottom I believe. I may have kept coins in him (her?), but I think mostly I just liked it.

Perhaps the model of piggy bank I had as a child, for sale on Etsy. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

My “real” bank was a small safe someone gave me. Loren and I were each given one and I used mine for many years, tucking away both bills and coins. Later in life I adopted the habit of keeping bills in my dresser drawer – Loren was fond of the sticking it in old purses method of storage. We had proper savings accounts as kids too.

The exact toy safe I had as a kid – down to the red knob. Loren’s had a blue one.

I also remember Christmas Clubs – does anyone else? A small amount would be deducted throughout the calendar year and put into an interest bearing savings account. Those must have been an administrative nightmare for banks, but it got people into the bank and to create savings accounts I guess. A quick search tells me that there are still a few that do it, although of course now it is an automatic deduct from your account, not the charming little passbooks of years ago.

More Margate Felix

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.

Another pint-sized Felix. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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.

A very similar Felix at an undisclosed location – possibly Margate and the very same Felix? Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

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.