My Little Chickadee

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This is a truly oddball purchase for me. Sometimes the unusual just calls to the collector in me and this fellow is one of those times. I was not the least bit disappointed when he showed up in the mail however – he makes me laugh!

I don’t know why, but I have it in my mind that this slightly angry looking celluloid chicken is an umpire. He does have a baseball bat tucked under one arm and I can be convinced that his hat is a baseball cap as well – because really why would he wear a tam ‘o shanter or captain’s cap? And I can imagine him yelling, Strike – you’re out! Meanwhile, let’s discuss that he sports a tie and belted trousers. I like his hands spread across his considerable girth too (as if he just had a nice big meal), and although he has human arms, his legs are chicken legs complete with scaly toes.

Celluloid chicken, Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I found him while scrolling through my Instagram feed one night (@MissMollystlantiques) when I really wasn’t inclined to purchase anything (having just spent a fortune with Blackie in kitty ICU – his recovery continues apace, steady if a bit slower than I would prefer), but how could I say no to an angry celluloid baseball chicken? Man, you don’t want to argue with this chicken. He has some attitude.

The angry celluloid chicken in suit series? Not in Pictorama Collection.

This fellow rattles in a nice loud fashion that I can see being pleasantly distracting for a small child back in the day – I admit to rattling it a bit myself. I will note that this is not a young chicken and if I had to guess I would say his era is the 1940’s or ’50’s, although I share above illustrations from a current Ruby Lane listing and they say the 1920’s making him an elder statesman indeed. (These also evidently bear tiny labels stating, Made in Japan, which is not surprising.) I like the top hat on their rattle, although I prefer the expression on mine. The roly poly looks like he is doing a stump speech with his cigar in hand! Movable bits on him and the rooster on the end. (They are for sale, as is the toy at the bottom of the post, at the time of publication.)

My guy does stand, albeit a bit unwillingly and he is not cracked, but has a few errant child induced marks and smudges. At his senior age he is a tad fragile, although perhaps not quite as much as you might think. (Over time I have become less terrified of the fragility of celluloid which I once wrote about here. In that vein I purchased a celluloid cat rattle awhile back as well and that post is here.)

My chicken (rooster, let’s assume he’s a rooster?) is without a maker’s mark or other identification, although there is a (more recent) $10 penciled in on his bottom, but no company or place of origin on mine. If there was a sticker it is long gone.

Somewhat kinder gentler version for sale on the internet, Pickclick.com.

I located another kissing cousin to him (shown above), a brother in a full suit and jacket, no baseball bat, and a friendlier look, who was identified as an Easter celluloid chicken. When I look back on Easter baskets of my childhood (which were in all fairness prodigious things of chocolate and other candy, as well as a bevy of soft chicks and like toys) I can safely say that nothing like this was ever included. I am glad to have mine, if a bit late in life, now.

It’s Bimbo

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today I am celebrating a somewhat forgotten character of animation via this really nice little ceramic figurine which traveled here from Texas earlier this week. It came from our Instagram pals @curiositiesantique (and getcuriosities.com – I have written about them and Sandy who is my thoughtful contact in a post that can be found here) who were very nice and sent me a photo asking me if I was interested in purchasing him – and I definitely was.

I quick check on Wikipedia this morning (which cost me a donation to them, got me at a weak moment) reminds me that Bimbo, an animated perpetual pup of sorts made his debut as KoKo the Clown’s sidekick in the Fleischer Studios Out of the Inkwell series before becoming Betty Boop’s paramour as she rose to fame in the early 1930’s. Bimbo was the first animated character to invite everyone to follow the ball and sing along in the 1926 cartoon, My Old Kentucky Home. (All cartoons mentioned here are linked to viewing on Youtube available at the time of posting.) Oddly they note that his name comes out of a reference at the time to men who like to fight which is a fact for the day.

From Bimbo’s Initiation.

A loosely designed Bimbo stars in the 1930 cartoon Hot Dog where he is nabbed for annoying women with unwanted attentions. Later Betty and Bimbo made classic cartoons they are both best known for such as Minnie the Moocher and Bimbo’s Initiation.

Bimbo is eventually overshadowed by Betty as she rose to greater prominence. It seems as she became less doggy there was eventually pause about a human being in a relationship with a quasi anthropomorphic dog. In 1934 the Hays code decided that interspecies affairs in animation were a problem and nix their onscreen relationship. Betty gets a proper puppy pet, Pudgy, instead and Bimbo is largely retired.

From Van Eaton Galleries. Not in Pams-Pictorama Collection. Slightly different Bimbo.

Some research turns up a set of Bimbo, Betty and KoKo in the box of these figures and which reveals that it was imported by George Borgfeldt which is a name I have seen in and around objects and toys of this period. The example, shown with the box is from an auction site and seems to be a slightly different incarnation of Bimbo, less well executed.

Original box, also from Van Eaton Galleries, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

There is another variation which shows three Bimbos in a musical trio. Not sure what the inspiration was for these.

Not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection and for sale on eBay at the time of publishing.

Fleischer Studios is imprinted on Bimbo’s butt, an inventory number above and Made in Japan across his heels. He is made of ceramic, some sort of porcelain bisque. Although one ear looks like it may have been lopped off, the other image assures me that this is as he was made. He’s a good design, reasonably close to his animated self, and pleasantly sturdy. Bimbo will enjoy a place of pride in a display cabinet on the long shelf of curiosities here at Pam’s Pictorama and Deitch Studio.

Walkin’

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: It is a drizzly Sunday, Mother’s Day, morning after a downright stormy yesterday. Kim and I were out and battling it as he needed a new light board. (Light boards hold a special place in my heart as the first gift Kim ever gave me was a light board – we used it for many years before it passed away.) The one we bought is sort of space age flat and bulb-free; we’ll see how that goes.

I needed to pick up a pair of prescription sunglasses (yep, lost mine recently) in the same part of town, but those required a Saturday pick up so no choice but to fight the elements which were fairly ferocious. Photos below from our adventure to the art supply store and the Ukrainian restaurant where we stopped for lunch and to see if the weather would improve a bit. It did not.

A herd of zebra and some giraffes at Blick’s.
The East Village Ukrainian Restaurant on a very wet day yesterday. Christmas lights appear to be a year round decoration.

However, I digress and now onto the toys!

The motion of toys captivates me – wind-ups most frequently, ones that bounce and roll, battery toys on occasion. For this reason I generally acquire toys that still work – granted, usually simple mechanisms and motions. Toys are designed to entertain however and so they bump and hop and scoot along – we are missing something if they can’t do their thing. They make me laugh. Toys are distilled happiness and joy on demand.

Sometimes though the look of a toy is so great I am reminded of what my friend Mel has said which is, it’s okay if it doesn’t work, after all how often are you really going to play with it? This Felix falls in that category, although I am sad not to see him walk, his striped ball bouncing up and down and rolling in his hands! He’s a rare toy – I don’t remember ever seeing this one before. (However, every time I think that I can usually find a pristine version of the toy tucked away in Mel’s collection.) I purchased him on eBay and I paid a king’s ransom for him in a bit of a dog fight.

Today’s Felix bares some resemblance to this French wind-up toy, shown below, which Kim me for Christmas in 2020 and which was sold under a Krazy Kat listing at auction. (I wrote a Boxing Day post about him that can be read here.) That toy is a wind-up however and this one is a more simple friction walker which would have taken advantage of an incline I think.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Unlike the French toy, this one is much lighter and simpler. The head on the one is made of a heavy plaster material and of a lighter version more like papier-mâché on this one. His feet are broad wooden slats which allows him to stand nicely on the shelf despite his disability. I do feel like if I was about 10% smarter I could repair the leg mechanism which seems to be a wire that has gone missing. As we can see, a wooden and cardboard construction make up his body. Sadly his silk suit has torn where his leg broke.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Felix’s garb is a sort of jolly clown costume however, a look which is complemented by his big clownish feet. I especially like his big bow. There is a tiny (very hard to read) tag remaining under one foot which reads, made in Germany.

Despite his disabilities, Felix has a place of pride front and center on a shelf devoted to some of the finest cats in my collection. Mel has a point. I enjoy him each day, just looking at him.

The Big Butter and Egg Man!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy post represents the culmination of a toy chase which came to fruition in a very satisfying way recently. This really splendid toy was first spotted by Kim and I knew I wanted him – the chase was on.

Kim was the one who introduced me to the term, the big butter and egg man which was so evocative it quickly found a place in my personal lexicon. Big spender salesman traveling and from out of town. One dictionary puts it fairly succinctly as, A prosperous dairy farmer (other wealthy rural citizen), seen as coming into the big city and ostentatiously living it up.

From a film version of the play made in 1928.

The term was coined by George S. Kaufman as the name of a play which debuted in 1925 about a rich man who came to New York with plans to liberally and exuberantly spend his money on wine, women, and song according to Wikipedia. In ’26 Percy Venable cemented the popularity of the term when he penned a jazz tune under this moniker – and which in turn became a Louis Armstrong favorite and it immediately enters the annals of jazz slang. (The Armstrong version can be heard here as of the writing of this post and is a pretty joyful rendition if you have a moment.)

Some of the lyrics are below, talking about a gold digging woman who is looking for that particular sugar daddy:

Now she wants, a butter an egg man
From way out in the west
She wants somebody, who’s workin’ all day
So she’s got money, when she wants to play

Now pretty clothes, they’ll never be mine
But what she told me the other day
I hope she don’t change her mind
Now she wants, a butter an egg man
A great big butter and egg man
From way down south

Having done some justice to the origin of the expression, let’s consider this rather grand toy. He embodies his role perfectly and has a button which declares the butter and egg man on the front and across his back. His case offers, fresh country butter contained within and he has an impossibly large and endearing duck (more on this in a moment) clutched (with white gloves) in his other hand and who offers eggs laid to order.

He sports a bright yellow plaid double-breasted suit and tie, topped off striped trousers and wingtip shoes. His mustachioed expression says it all – he’s up for trouble and he’s got cash to burn. As mentioned above, he is a product of the Marx toy company, manufactured in the 1930’s. When wound his legs move furiously, but with somewhat less forward motion.

Once I spotted it, I held out for the toy complete with box because it too is great. As you can see below, he is faithfully rendered (although he is given a hat in these pics) and makes declarations such as, He walks! and He’s a salesman! I like the top and bottom with somewhat awkwardly drawn hands displaying his wares and assuring us that he is selling, Grade A Butter. He is is leaving the farm behind and is on his traveling route which will lead him to the big city where he’ll get into all kinds of trouble no doubt.

Butter and Egg Man Box in the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The predecessor of this toy is a Joe Penner toy made with the exact same mold. For those or you not in the know, Penner was a slapstick comedian who had a meteoric rise from vaudeville to radio. He developed a catch phrase, Wanna buy a duck? for which he became best known. He died of a heart attack in his sleep at age 36 and was therefore saved the ultimately indignity of an inevitable career decline, which was likely where he was headed. (A quick but good sample of his work can be found on a brief Youtube clip here.)

This from Morphy’s auction, but great to really see them side-by-side!

The Penner toy has charm although it is the rare case of my preferring a later version of a toy, another blog post (devoted to Joe Penner collectibles) notes that this earlier version was released in 1934. The Joe Penner version was a part of a line of toys developed by Marx depicting famous folks of the day. (I wrote about my Chaplin one in a post that can be found here.)

The notable difference between the Penner version and mine is that the earlier one sported a hat which bounced along in a jolly way as he walked and Joe also smokes a cigar. As noted above, the duck remained (his duck named Goo Goo) and so my butter and egg man appears to be selling duck eggs.

While the motion of the hat and the addition of the cigar are great, I prefer the Butter and Egg Man version. This Joe Penner version is not in the Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Over time the ever resourceful Marx company form morphs slightly to accommodate the likes of others such as this Popeye toy below. The major adjustment is the lost of the duck replaced by cases on both sides.

Popeye is not in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Our fellow winds up admirably and we took him for a few runs, one of which is shown below featuring our laundry bag and Kim helping with the action. His action is worth seeing.

Bendy Felix

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This little fellow showed up recently in a package for me along with two other cat contributions as a gift from our friend cartoon artist and Zorro enthusiast Pete Poplaski. Pete stopped by to see us recently, one of the first of our traveling friends to return to visiting the beaten path here at Deitch Studio in New York City, as he makes his way on regular stops triangulating between France, Wisconsin and other locations along the Eastern seaboard. (A nice brief bio of Pete by Robert Crumb can be found here.)

Seeing him made us feel like the world was that much closer, if not exactly to our past lives, at least a version of the new world that included seeing friends again.

One of Pete’s dashing Self-Portraits as Zorro.

Pete is wonderfully comfortable to have around. He is not the sort of person I need to pick up around the apartment for and he and Kim happily and readily settle into picking up long conversations about everything from the film locations that a certain early Western was shot in, to art and philosophy. Pete and Kim have a book and film exchange that extends over the periods between Pete’s visits, but occasionally result in packages exchanged back and forth.

Photo of the girlfriend to this cat I found online, but with no information.

On his most recent visit Pete gave me a heads up that he had some cats for me (yea!) and the package showed up several weeks later. Of the three cats it contained this was the one I found the most intriguing.

For all of my toy cat searching I have not come across him previously. He reminds me very much of the Cab Calloway ghost character in the Betty Boop and Koko the Clown cartoon which features Cab singing St. James Infirmary Blues. I imagine that at one time he could be bent into various poses, but those days of pliability are gone. His back is stamped Made in China. While he certainly isn’t a straightforward Felix I would think he could be called Felix influenced.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

He reminds me of a litany of toys that passed through my hands as a small child. These toys are a kissing cousin to the articulated cat above, a purchase awhile back in a large haul from my friends at Curiosities Antiques down in Texas. (I have written about them before and one of those posts can be found here and their website here.)

They have put together several cat packages for me and this fellow was in one buy. Like Pete’s gift, I am afraid to ask his aging joins to do any of the tricks my childhood self would have asked of them. However both bring back memories of long hours of contented play as a small child. Lost in a toy world of my own making and one I continue to celebrate here at Pictorama.

Going Sideways

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It is always a great day at Pictorama when I get to share a new Felix and a few have arrived at our welcoming shores recently. Due to a bad case of life in general Christmas arrived a bit late at Deitch Studio this year, but that made these acquisitions no less beloved as additions to the Felix family. The collection has grown so over the years it can be a bit difficult to find toys that are distinctly different enough to add, but these are worthy additions indeed.

These Felix-es hail from Peter Woodcock, the dealer who recently sold me the simply amazing Dean’s Felix this past fall in an online British toy sale. (That post can be found here.) In late December I threw myself on Peter’s mercy to supply both Christmas and birthday (February!) gifts this year and he responded splendidly with three Felix toys, the first which is being featured today.

A friend recently told me in an email that I was the first person to ever take her into an antique store. I am not sure I was aware that it was among my accomplishments, nor do I remember the occasion, however we went to college together so I assume it was during that time. Given a reasonable proximity to antique stores or even junk stores (New London, Connecticut was more junk than antique by far), it is hard to keep me out of them so it seems distinctly possible – putting aside for the moment the question of who hasn’t been in an antique store before reaching young adulthood?

Celluloid firefly in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Meanwhile, I had been nattering to her about my recent affection for insect jewelry of the early years of the 20th century. (Subject matter insects, not made of insects – which yes, does seem to have been an early 20th century thing – I am more celluloid firefly than Felix depicted in butterfly wings. All about insect jewelry posts can be found here and here.) She pointed out that my aesthetic and interests had always converged on the dawning years of the 20th century.

Felix pendent made of butterfly wings. Not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection. (The concept kind of creeps me out!)

Pictorama readers know that in recent decades that interest has been directed largely to things early Felix the Cat and perhaps most especially those items which celebrate the somewhat off-model, askew evidence of the human hand. The revelation that some such a work force on the East End of London, (made up of indigent women as a social service scheme) in the 1920’s was one of the favorite fun facts I have ever turned up in my research. (That post can be read here.)

I suspect that maybe today’s little fellow hails if not from that collective perhaps from a similar British enclave of toy production. He is the second entry of a horizontal Felix in my collection and if I have seen many more I do not remember them. Christmas of 2015 brought the first to Pictorama, shown below. A post devoted to him, for those of you who are a bit completest like me, can be found here.

A Felix Christmas gift from 2020. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Today’s featured fellow is smaller, a scant five inches or so. He is made of a plushy velveteen-y fabric. His head is (was?) somewhat swerve-able. He maintains his sparse but prickly looking plastic whiskers on both sides; his pointy ears are an ancient felt. While he has glass eyes like the one above, his have a slightly more insane expression (right?) and his black nose maintains its gleaming black. I like his sturdy tail which sticks up, almost like a fifth leg. His muzzle has also kept its mohair fluffiness.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Although Felix as an early cartoon entry certainly spent a fair amount of time in a catty horizontal run, we tend to think of him in his anthropomorphic semi-human vertical form. While my previous acquisition was a bit more catty than Felix usually is, this one captures the spirit of the cartoon in that regard – Felix in motion.

Newly transplanted to the shores of the United States, this little guy joins the Pictorama collection with a place of pride on a Felix devoted shelf near my desk where savvy visitors via Zoom get to see him featured daily. Thank you Peter for parting with him!

Felix Finds a New Home

Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Today we are continuing our New Year’s weekend with a Felix post. This fellow is the last in a big buy I did from an unexpected and wonderful online auction in Great Britain this October. It was one of those affairs which had been moved online because of Covid and it was my lucky, toy collecting day, because I would never have been treated to the likes of it otherwise and some of these dealers are not online sellers. Given the amount I spent I would say they were glad to have run into me as well! (I have written about the other acquisitions, the amazing Deans Eugene the Jeep and a great postcard here and here.) Christmas came in October this year without question.

There is in my collection, a rather huge and very impressive Dean’s Rag Felix, the likes of which I have never seen otherwise, nor have I even met any kissin’ cousins until this fellow crossed my path. The story of that guy I will save for another day as I have not yet memorialized him here in the Pictorama archive of toy tales, but it involves a trip to London, spending more than I ever had on a toy (and I have never, ever told how much that was…) and emptying a suitcase to bring him home safely – who cares about clothes?

Pluto in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I have written about the famed Dean’s toy maker previously – a few times devoted to some beloved Mickeys and also a rather exceptional Pluto. (Those posts for fellow toy fans can be found here, here and here just for starters.) Deans produced Felix in a variety of sizes according some old catalogue information I have seen. I would like to be more educated about them and will share as the information comes to light.

This chap caught my eye immediately as I strolled through piles of photos from a variety of sellers and, as I remember, I started bouncing up and down in my chair with delight! To make it even better (how does it even get better, right?) the seller was including the photo below of a little boy with a very similar Felix! Pictorama readers know that this is truly a wonderful two-ffer for me as the Pictorama archive sports many Felix photo images as well. I could hardly email my desire to purchase them fast enough.

Felix real photo postcard, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The young man posing with this Felix toy seems to be at a photo studio. He is perched on something that looks more like a small table or piano bench perhaps. While Felix appears to be warmly embracing him, he seems a bit awkward with his arms are gingerly around Felix which makes it feel like it probably isn’t his toy but a prop. This is a photograph rather than a photo postcard and there is no information on the back aside from a pencil number (no studio information) and some evidence that this was at one time pasted into a photo album.

Felix stands about 17 inches high. He has rather bat-like ears, a tad over-sized. (Peter, the seller, kindly offered to reinforce Felix’s ears which I agreed to – as it happens they had also been reinforced on my other Dean’s Felix. They must have been made thin and wore out quickly. His head swivels to allow for a saucy pose or two.

As you can see, this Felix is missing his nose – and of course the photo shows us what it would have looked like with nose. I am considering fashioning a nose out of felt and maybe just pinning it on so it would be easily removable. However, you can also see that the shape of the nose is still there. The eyes are an interesting sort of celluloid, at least that is what I think they are. Oddly, both in my photos and the original ones from the sellers, his hands seem a bit clumpy although they are not in person.

Close up of Felix now residing in the Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Felix has the delightful Deans Rag Book labels on the soles of his feet, shown below.

The soles of Felix’s worn but still legible foot labels.

As it turns out the seller, Peter Woodcock, is a somewhat reformed Felix collector who is just dipping his toe in the water of selling some of his collection although he and his wife Leanda have a robust antique toy business (many lovely bears),although I am not sure I would have found them online if it weren’t for the 200 Years of Childhood toy show moving online for this year. (I assure you that this is among the few silver linings I can attribute to Covid.)

I suspect that my tsunami of Felix enthusiasm is a tad overwhelming for Peter as I pepper him with questions and theories, but I so rarely get to correspond with a fellow Felix toy fan. Yay Peter! I have coaxed a few more Felix-es out of him so stay tuned as I think 2022 is going to be a very Felix year indeed.

Eugene the Jeep

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s toy acquisition is part of the loot from lightening striking multiple times at one online toy sale in Britain this fall. Within a few hours I had redistributed some hard earned cash to three dealers. One was a small purchase, a wonderful postcard though of a girl in hunting garb aiming at a Steiff teddy. (That post can be read here.)

Today’s Jeep came from a dealer whose toys seemed to skew more toward traditional bears and dolls than somewhat obscure comic characters. She was lovely however and I will hope there is a chance to do future business with her.

As it happens, I have always had a soft spot for the Jeep and frankly had no idea that Deans Rag Company produced one, but as soon as I saw this one I snatched it happily up. For those who have not read the original Segar Popeye strip, I say do yourself a favor and settle in with the full run and have a good old read. I originally read the dailies serially via a wonderful edition of hard cover books that our friends at Fantagraphics published years ago. (They have subsequently published the Sundays as well.) The full glory of Popeye in his native medium bears little resemblance to the somewhat limited range of the animated cartoon character of my childhood and it was one of the nicest rabbit holes I ever headed down in comics.

A volume from my beloved edition of Popeye dailies published by Fantagraphics.

Among the discoveries, such as characters Ham Gravy and Castor Oil, was Eugene the Jeep. The Jeep, for those of you who have not encountered his mystical self, is a dog-like animal from Africa who can, (among other things) appear and disappear at will, walk on his hind legs, always tells the truth, and can utter the single word, Jeep! (Wikipedia has a rather cogent explanation of him and his back story which can be found here.) The Jeep represents a sort of the high point of that strip for me – a charming and mystical character which possesses somewhat limited if extraordinary powers.

The first mention of the Jeep appears in March of 1936, although he takes his place in the strip later in 1938. While researching this and the dates associated with it I had a moment of wondering how the first mention might have intersected with the introduction of Punjab into the Little Orphan Annie strip. The equally mystical Punjab was introduced into that strip almost exactly a year before in February of ’35. Makes me wonder if it inspired Segar or if there was something else afoot in the world that inspired both. I am not well versed enough in these things to say, but will perhaps pose the question to one of our better informed friends such as Bill Kartalopoulus, comics historian. Maybe it was just in the air. (The question of whether or not the army vehicle with this moniker has the strip as the origin remains somewhat unclear to me, but is definitely possible.)

Much like Krazy Kat, and even Felix to some extent, the relatively simple shape of this character seems to have inspired somewhat strangely inaccurate three dimensional recreations and I have looked for a splendid soft Jeep toy for a very long time. Kim has spoken of one that passed through his hands in the late 80’s which I have had trouble finding. I think it might be this model below, just spotted on eBay.

Not (yet) in Pams-Pictorama.com Collection. Interesting that the lucky clovers deteriorated into spots here.

While the earnestness of this Dean’s Rag incarnation cannot be denied, down to the lucky four leaf clovers which decorate him, somehow he is a bit off kilter. He is about 7 inches in height. (I have not had a chance to dig really deep to see if he came in a number of sizes, although as a rule Deans character toys did. Having said that he does seem a tad rarified so there isn’t much online. Somewhere I have a CD which has the history of the Dean’s catalogue on it which will enlighten me if I can find it.) My example has a small tear on the neck and toward the tip of the tail. The only other example I can find has a worse tear at the tail with stuffing emerging – at first I thought it was a characteristic of the toy.

He has, as is necessary, the wonderful Dean’s Rag Book Company imprint on the soles of his feet. (For some reason those imprints fill me with great joy – if I were to come back in a future life as a vintage toy I would very much want to be a Deans Rag toy proudly sporting this indicia.)

Lucky Jeep! Deans Rag Toy tag.

As toy collector and seller Peter Woodcock pointed out in an email these small toys soiled and tore easily with handling and did not survive in large numbers. (Peter will emerge further as a subsequent character in the tale of this sale as he parted with something truly delightful which I purchased as well.) A quick look over at Mel Brinkrant’s collection shows a few pristine examples, as well as one or two other examples I must keep my eye out for – I can see the corner of another of the Deans Rag ones and I would say yes, it is larger. (For all things Mel and his beyond extraordinary collection you can go here. Talk about a happy rabbit hole!)

Jeep not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection – but you never know…For me this one is the best design relative to the drawing in the strip.

Researching this wonderful toy has reminded me that within these cramped four walls is a new volume of the pre-Popeye Thimble Theater strips. (It can be found here on Amazon.) I think I need to curl up with that oversized volume in bed for the remainder of the weekend. It is snowing gently outside and I cannot think of a better way to wile away this afternoon and evening.

A Halloween Post!

Pam’s Pictorama Post: The Halloween season is upon us and brief morning trips to run in the park have revealed some serious dedication to decorating for the holiday. I used to enjoy seeing the townhouses near the Met decorated for the season – some would really pull out all the stops and put on a show. I am less often over there now, but one townhouse near Carl Schurz Park is really throwing down the holiday gauntlet with this tableau of a chain of skeletons climbing down the front of the house from the attic!

Decorated townhouse near East End Avenue, taken this week.

The Mansion Diner, on the corner of 86th Street and York Avenue, has long dedicated themselves to decorating their entire building for the holiday. They were a little late getting them up this year and I wondered if, short handed, they would skip it, but the decorations appeared earlier this week.

It’s interesting that I only rarely had reason to frequent The Mansion pre-pandemic, but now it is a regular stop for breakfast sandwiches post run and frequent meetings with a Board member from work who lives around the corner. I spent the summer eating ice cream outside while talking with him about work, Frank Sinatra being piped out loudly for our listening pleasure.

The Mansion Diner on the corner of 86th and York, also earlier this week.

But if part of your collecting gig is black cats this is a great time of year. I think I have mentioned that my collecting has blossomed thanks in part to an online dealer from the Midwest, Miss Molly (@missmollysantiques). My friendship (consumership?) started with purchasing a black cat jack-o-lantern head. (You can see that post here and the kitty below.) Overtime I have also purchased photos from her (the most recent of those can be found here). And she nicely gives me a heads up on cat items before posting them, but once in awhile it is the stuff around what she is posting that catches my eye and she sold me the wonderful Krak-R-Jak Biscuit box that sits on my desk. (That is a sort of oddly outrageously popular post that can be found here.) I have a rather spectacular Nestle chocolate tin box to share in a future post as well, but today we are talking Halloween.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The fact is my yen for these early paper mache cat JOL’s goes way back. I remember visiting a store in Cold Spring, New York that had a huge collection, but very expensive and utterly out of my reach. (Fall is a beautiful time to visit that area, an hour and a half or so up the Hudson, right on the water. It is a picture perfect little river town and Kim and I spent one night there for our “honeymoon” there, 21 years ago this past week.) I had resigned myself to never owning one, but the internet has become a great equalizer and prices are lower – and I spend more money!

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

All this to say, recently she came up with this cat jack-o-lantern and it entered my collection as my second such item. Like the first one I purchased, the paper inserts remain intact. It is hard for me to imagine safely putting a candle in these, but I guess that was the idea. There is no evidence of this on the inside, but there is a wire on the top for hanging it and that would have been jolly indeed.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

He shows some signs of wear, especially the tips of the ears, which I guess if you were hitting the hundred year mark you would too. It is a common design and I assume it is a black cat sitting on a fence post, green eyes and red mouth glowing. His fur and whiskers are embossed. (The molds that these were made around must have been great – would love to see one of those.) He would be just the right combination of scary and wonderful. I get the vague idea that these are German in origin, although upon reflection, do the Germans even celebrate Halloween? It would seem that it is a recent development (according to Google), so perhaps these were German American companies? Anyone who knows how all that works give a shout and let me know.

Meanwhile, Halloween is the seasonal gateway to fall and then winter. I have already started eyeing warmer running togs and dreading those very cold mornings to come. Nonetheless, I think I probably have a few more Halloween collectible posts in me this season. More from Pictorama to come.

Following Up, Filling in and Fall-ing

Pam’s Pictorama Post: It’s an overcast fall morning and I am waiting for hot coffee to finish brewing so I can wallow around in a few mugs of it. Our windows are open as a nod to plaster from recent repairs to dry and as a result our shades are uncharacteristically wide open, also as an assist to the workmen and to keep them clean in the demolition and repair of the ceiling and wall around them. (Some posts devoted to the clean up post Hurricane Ida can be found here and here.)

View from our currently denuded windows this AM.

October showed up last week and I still feel only a reluctant recognition of the fact. However, there is no stopping the march of the seasons and I no longer run in shorts and have even layered the occasional long-sleeve top. While I haven’t seen many leaves start to change yet, some trees have already lost theirs. There is a final hurrah of fall flowers in the park which I am grateful for and in the way that October has yesterday was downright hot in the sun, while today is gloomy and chilly.

Kim and I were married in October – our anniversary comes up this week. It was a freakishly warm and gloriously sunny Saturday, after a prior weekend when a tropical storm had raged here in New York. October turns this black cat collector’s mind to Halloween and some related posts are likely to come soon.

Miniature boat pond in Central Park this week. This pair from a family which hatched early this spring and are now mature. They seem to like this little raft which is sort of funny since they are ducks.

For those of you who follow the adventures of my work life, I can say that there are more days I wander in and out of the office and evenings at our jazz club, Dizzy’s. I have always been fond of Dizzy’s, but somehow it has really been a bit of a beacon from the past as I formulate a work vision of the future. Our concert season doesn’t commence here in New York until November which seemed like a long time ago until now it does not. But somehow a few hours of live music and dinner at Dizzy’s, overlooking Central Park and Columbus Circle, is comforting in a way I had not imagined. It is a bridge between the then time and now.

Finding a new routine, tried a new diner near work for breakfast this week.

Otherwise, I largely trot around the city in a rotation of breakfast, lunch and drinks meetings related to work, largely seated outside. (My 3 mile morning run expanding to include daily walks to locales around Manhattan, now racking up as much as another 7 miles a day!) It will be interesting to see if these meetings move inside as it gets chillier or cease for the moment. My team joins me with a combination of trepidation and some enthusiasm. An October date for a full on return to the office has been pushed back, but for how long we are unsure. I understand the peevishness of my staff at the uncertainty, but remind them we are getting the job done and there is nowhere to go but forward.

Drayton in an undated photograph.

Meanwhile, I have a rare post follow-up (last week’s post can be found here) and discoveries made post publication. I had penned my post on a cast iron puppy piggy bank I acquired earlier in the week and when Kim read it he informed me that the designer noted, Grace Gebbie Drayton, is actually of some commercial art and comics note.

Puppy bank designed by Drayton, shown here in shop window. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Speaking dog bank also in the window of the store – this just because I missed it last week!

Born in Philadelphia in 1878, her father an art publisher, she attended Drexel and the (then) Phildelphia School of Design for Women where she studied under Robert Henri. She married, and divorced, twice (she seemed to have a hard time getting much passed the decade mark with husbands) and Drayton is the moniker of husband number two.

Campbell Soup Kids figures by Drayton.

Her significant claims on fame are the creation of the Campbell Soup Kids advertisements beginning in 1904 and a comic strip called Dolly Dimples. In reality she had several such comic strips, all with somewhat saccharine names, among them – Naughty ToodlesDottie DimpleDimples,  and The Pussycat Princess, some strips (The Adventures of Dolly Drake and Bobby Blake in Storyland and The Turr’ble Tales of Kaptin Kiddo) were written by her sister, Margaret Hayes and illustrated by Drake.

Fairly rare kiddie volume from 1910 by Grace Drayton, under her first married name, Grace Wiederseim. Not in Pictorama.com collection.

Cuteness seemed to be her professional beat although there is something about her bio which suggests it may have been less in evidence in her personal life. Drayton owns the title of first woman to be a cartoonist for Hearst. She specialized in round faced, chubby child characters and in addition to the comics and commercial work she illustrated children’s books. An abundance of her Campbell Soup Kids and Dolly Dimples work survives (the Dolly Dimples paper dolls proliferated), and Drayton’s work is in the collections of several museums here in the United States and Great Britain. Drayton died young at age 56 in 1936.

September Morn by Drayton, not in Pictorama.com collection.

Kim had recognized the style of the bank even before knowing that Drayton had a hand in it. While researching her we turned up this nifty cat bank and doorstop variations, shown below. It is a bit less available than the pup, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it (or a slight variation) doesn’t enter the Pictorama collection. More on that if it it comes to pass.

Cat doorstop designed by Drayton and produced by Hubley. Not in Pictorama.com collection.
Cat bank designed by Drayton. Not in Pictorama.com collection – yet!

My bank had the rattle of a few coins in it and Kim was itching to see what they were. I was reluctant to unscrew the bank which shows no evidence that it has been apart in many decades. Much to my surprise Kim displayed his adeptness of a childhood skill which involves coaxing coins out of a bank through the deposit slot. Only a bit rusty, he had four wheat back pennies, and one Lincoln, out in no time. (I do wish I had taken a photo of this process!) Wheat backs were minted between 1909 and 1959. One of these is dated 1924, three are from the 1940’s and one is from 1975. As Kim cheerfully volunteered, this proves all of nothing, but somehow is still interesting. I am toying with the idea of putting them back in the bank, but Kim has the finders keepers on that one and he can decide.

And that, dear readers, is my update for today.