Pam’s Pictorama Post: This great photo postcard appealed to the latent cowgirl in me. I know very little about these things so I don’t know if this nice fringed outfit is real or costume – even her nifty boots have fringe. She wears it with aplomb and a good bit of attitude, riding crop in hand. Undeniably she is an indoor cowgirl here on a living room carpet and in front of a curtained window. Her kerchief and hat are both at jaunty angles.
While I have never been on horseback (nor have I ever resided on a farm, let alone a ranch) I had an early enthusiasm for a fantasy version of them as evidenced by my being an early and avid adopter of the Jane West toys.
There was something endlessly satisfying about the sturdy plastic, jointed limbs. She had a cowgirl outfit molded to her body and heavy rubbery accessories. She was made to stand with some authority (unlike my beloved Barbies who of course had feet designed for perpetual, fashionable high heels) and somehow the fact that she was cast entirely in blue plastic did not detract from her appearance. Jane had a wonderful palomino horse which she could sit astride on.
In my otherwise Barbie-oriented childhood it is a bit hard in retrospect to know what the cowgirl thing was about. Unlike Barbie’s adventures (my Barbie was named for Jo in Little Women and she was a globe trotting journalist), I do not remember the play I dreamed up for her.
Notably Jane did not need a cowboy equivalent of Ken, at least mine did not. In my world she stood on her own and didn’t even deign to date GI Joe – my Barbie’s fallback companion. I believe she is a head taller than both.
My mother was horse-y as a young woman. I am not sure how she started riding, but I know that not coming from a wealthy family she worked mucking stalls along with her childhood friend Jackie so they were able to ride. I gather Mom was mad about horses until one day while they were riding her friend was badly thrown onto a fence. Luckily for her the fence was old and just gave under her otherwise he back would have been broken. It left mom skittish about riding and although my older sister had a few desultory riding lessons I never had the chance to even start.
As a teenager a good friend gave me an excellent vintage Annie Oakley jacket of the softest butterscotch colored suede which she found in her attic. As a very little girls she and her mom had had matching jackets! It was much beloved by me and I wore it until it literally fell to pieces. This was perhaps my best personal cowgirl moment. It was as close as I was to come. (During the pandemic I also read all of the volumes of the Ranch Girls series. A post that touches on them can be found here.)
I came across a Jane West doll several years ago and snatched her up for my toy collection. It felt good to have Jane in the house again and she lives on my shelf, ever ready for some cowgirl action.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: I was thinking this morning that Pictorama is seeming a tad Felix deficient so I will swell the Felix quotient with two “walkers” that are currently in residence here. One I bought earlier this year from my antiques friends down in Texas (@curiositiesantiques) and the other which just wandered into the apartment from a Pictorama reader who contacted me and sold a few items to me recently, others to appear in future posts. So if you are inclined, settle in for a bit of contemplation on Felix and his favored mode of locomotion.
Felix and his walk have always been a matter of some interest. His trademark hands behind the back walk as he thinks and dreams up tricks is a significant aspect of his devilish charm. It has been celebrated in song and film (the very funny lyrics to Felix Kept on Walking can be found here, and an early post I wrote on some of my cat sheet music including this one can be found here), but also graces everything from dishes to postcards. It was used for advertising and sometimes took on a more adult meaning – usually involving an enticing girl cat and sometimes batches of kittens.
I share two recordings of the tune which were available at the time of publication. The Savoy Havana Band does a jolly instrumental illustrated with great photos, below. While a rendition with the lyrics sung by Clarkson Rose can be found on Youtube here.
Meanwhile, I found an interesting essay which discusses the dialogue between Buster Keaton and Felix from the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (which can be found here) noting that Keaton’s film Go West could have been inspired by a Felix cartoon a year earlier, Felix Goes West, and Keaton pays that off with a bit of the Felix walk while contemplating his situation.
The walker from Texas is a somewhat more available model and mine is missing the stick with which to animate it. This one is a simple toy and a stick would have affixed to it for a child to push it forward. There are no indications of where the stick attached and no evidence that this fellow ever had arms. His feet are the only bits animated, head and tail do not move. I like his simple stenciled face – and there are two mysterious purposeful sort of holes in his eye which I cannot image what they were for. His silhouette is a bit bottom heavy rotund. He is made of a light balsa type wood.
A very similar item is for sale on eBay with the stick in place and as far as I can tell there is a space between back of head and tail where it would have gone. The item on eBay has a date of September 8, 1924 scribbled on the back. I would have thought this was a bit later myself. I think these days we might be a tad concerned about toys for small children that are animated with large sticks out of the back, but as I do not have any small children I cannot say if this is a fact.
The more recent acquisition is by far the more substantial of the two toys, made from thick wood and with a hefty roller and even the stick is a more finished item with a handle making it seem like it is less likely to poke an eye out. This Felix animates with arm movement and he seems to have had a moving tail at one time, there is a slot for it. One arm on mine still moves but the other is disengaged – it would be easy enough to reattach with a tiny nail although I don’t think I am that person. Nonetheless, this fellow does indeed keep on walking.
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
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.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: At a quick count this is the seventh Valentine reveal we’ve had here at Deitch Studio and Pictorama. The actual tradition of Kim making me Valentines goes back to the first year Kim and I were together though and this November we round the two decade mark.
Of course, like many folks, we’ve spent the past year knitted tightly together in our one room, with our two kitties, Blackie and Cookie. My days are punctuated by doing the small stuff, like fighting the cats for my desk chair (Cookie is sound asleep in it right now, I swear she’s smiling), or making us grilled cheese with jalapeno peppers for lunch. Somehow talking about our home life always comes back to food for me and my at home days have given birth to a revived interest in cooking – necessary and nurturing, it is at the heart of home.
My newly persistent home life means two distinct meals a day here – breakfast happens on our own (I myself am partial to yogurt and berries and the occasional sumo orange, Kim is on an avocado toast kick at the moment), but now lunch and dinner are more proper meals. Sometimes lunch is a bit of a pick up of leftovers, soup or a large salad, and sadly I have been known to eat mine while on a call or Zoom meeting. But more often than not is is taking a break and sitting down together at least briefly and consuming something nutritious. (I think back to many years ago in cooking school when a French chef-instructor, Guy, saw me eating standing up and he found me a chair and then lectured me on the importance of taking the time to appreciate the food and to focus on eating it. Very sweet and oh so very French!)
Dinner is really a proper homemade meal now with a couple of veggies and a protein. As some of you know, I passed through a baking phase early in the pandemic, recreating some of my grandmother’s recipes and finding some of my own. (A few of those posts along with quarantine life musings can be found here and here. Oh, cheesy olive bread!) I have moved into soups as part of my part two pandemic diet. These are hearty affairs which are closer to stews and are the centerpiece of the meal. Some recent recipes and thoughts on my confinement cooking can be found here and here. (Keep a weather eye peeled if you are a fan of the food posts, I’m currently dreaming up a vegetarian version of matzoh ball soup and my paternal grandmother’s split pea and veggie soup.)
Post-bookcase installation and re-arrangement of our apartment, my desk (an old and not especially beautiful drawing table that a friend was throwing out many years ago and has somehow stuck with me) is now placed about three feet from Kim’s large, wooden table he uses as a desk. (This table was acquired by us at the 26th Street flea market in the early years of living in this apartment. It was newly made and is substantial, although now one leg has been scratched on a bit by Blackie and it has its wonkinesses and weaknesses around the drawers too. I remember being somewhat amazed that we were making such a big purchase – what if we measured wrong? What if it didn’t hold up?)
As a result of our newfound proximity, Kim knows every aspect of my work life, fundraising for Jazz at Lincoln Center, and I hazard that he could easily take over for a day if pressed into service – repeating phrases and numbers he hears again and again. He knows the exact percentage we are at in our annual income budget and rejoices with me when the percentage point creeps up a notch or two. I sometimes consider if he ever really wondered what I did at work all day, as he himself has never worked in an office such as mine, but man, he sure does know about it now.
When I look at last year’s Valentine, memories of last year’s life (in the before time) come rushing back. The fantasy of a Felix-filled cottage at the British seaside, like the locale of many of my posing with Felix photos. It is a reminder of how much change a year can bring and we have certainly all seen it in a variety of ways. I was in the midst of hectic domestic travel to some very snowy locations and I was exhausted from it and frankly welcomed the time at home. Of course, it begs the question of where we will all be when this time rolls around next year and we are presumably in what I call, the after time. I am sure many of you are thinking along the same lines.
This year’s card focuses in on my domain – our 600 square feet we call home and office. I get to sport a sort of semi-animated Felix necklace (Kim has a way of inventing bits and outfits I would love to own), but otherwise the players are (almost) all denizens of our tiny corner of the world. Cookie and Blackie are there, of course. Giant Mickey Mouse (a huge Dean’s Rag Doll display who inhabits the space near the bottom of our bed) waves his arms.
A line-up of a few of my favorite Aesop Fable dolls, along with a rather excellent Bugs Bunny I purchased randomly on eBay making an appearance. They are lined up behind Kim on his desk, in front of the ever-growing stack of finished pages of art that resides on his desk. A tiny Dean’s Mickey (Minnie really) Jazzer fills out the group on the desk. (They were designed to sit on the arm of your record player – yep, there’s a lot to absorb in that sentence and probably a bad idea for the records, which would have been 78’s at the time.) Kim is like the master of ceremonies – he has gathered the group to pay tribute!
Meanwhile, Waldo is there and he is checking out Felix’s girlfriend, and while she is a creation of Kim’s mind, the Felix is not. He is a splendid, sizable example I purchased at auction because, although I have other somewhat similar examples, I couldn’t resist the bargain he was. (Of course, I have never regretted the purchase.)
What can such a fortunate girl say? I’m very pleased to be at the heart of this particular kingdom. Although not always absolutely peaceable, there is nowhere I would rather be. I hope to reign here, benignly of course, for many years to come.
Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Frankly I don’t remember exactly when this Felix family photo wandered into Deitch Studio, but when I was clearing a work space for myself it turned up. It is a small photo, sort of 3″x5″, and June 1927 is all that is written, in ink, on the back.
There is great contrast in this photo between the family sporting their best summer bib and tucker and the pleasantly rundown and overgrown yard they pose in. Why they have grabbed up these two good size composition Felix-es is of course also utterly mysterious. Each is held by one of the be-suited men. The third man has one of the women perched on his knee and the second woman is tucked between them, all posed on these inviting broad steps – just meant for sitting on.
The porch is inviting, or at least it is to me from the limited environs of Deitch studio at the moment. There is a deep wooden rocking chair almost out of sight and a less comfortable chair where a newspaper was hastily abandoned in a heap atop of it – the reader perhaps hopping up to pose for the photo. The early summer is unfurling into lush, green overgrowth around them. I think of upstate New York, but it could be many places. (I tried to check but I cannot find a purchase history to see where it even shipped from.)
The phenomena of having your photo taken with Felix is of course the original premise of this blog. However, even as someone who has collected many photos of people posing with Felix (usually the human-sized stuffed ones of seaside resorts and fairs – an example can be found here if you are new to Pictorama) these sorts of family snap shots with Felix remain a bit cryptic to me. Had they just won them at a fair perhaps?
I remain somewhat baffled by family photos where folks just snatch up a Felix statue or toy for the family photo – was the message that Felix was an important part of the family? Or just such a part of the times – they probably didn’t realize that it would eventually mark their family photo as somewhat iconic of the period.
Meanwhile, I cannot imagine the equivalent for my family growing up. (Despite having been the daughter of a photographer we didn’t do a lot of family photos and they were sort of starchy compared to these folks and their Felix dolls. There are no photos of me and Barbie – there is only one of me with a toy that I can think of and I wrote about it a long time ago here and I once again share me and the much loved Squeaky below.) I have a clutch of other photos from the late 1920’s and early ’30’s with Felix joining the family for a photo. Off the top of my head though, I want to say those photos are all from Britain and it is usually a stuffed Felix that gets the place of honor. (One of those posts can be found here.)
Me with my beloved toy dog Squeaky, probably around 1968
Whatever the early 20th century motivation for posing with Felix toys, I am glad to see these treasure turn up today – sometimes finding new ones in my own apartment. Let’s see what else turns up here at Pictorama, shopping in our own closet as it were, for items of interest while enduring and also enjoying bunker days here.
Pam’s Pictorama Post: This sharp little number is the other pig purchase made on in honor of my birthday, also from The Antique Toy Shop, New York. It is little, only about six inches high and is just the right size for a pint-size person.
This is a very sturdy little pail and, although it looks fairly pristine, it was well built for days of sand castles at the beach and the like and may have seen days of service. As a former sand castle building aficionado I note only that although the handle moves it does not go all the way down. This would be very inconvenient for the making of towers from piles of wet sand and the like. It looks as if it is nicely water tight however, which is another important feature, hauling water from the ocean to your construction site and all.
Unlike the mug featured yesterday (see that post here) which shows the pigs having firmly trounced the wolf, this one shows two irresponsible pigs at play and the stolid one with his bricks, building, with the Wolf in his full glory. Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf ?is around the top. The responsible brick laying pig has wolf proof paint (something I think we could all use, right?) and the other two dance a jig in front of the half finished straw house. (This shoddy straw house looks a bit like one of the shacks from the Gilligan’s Island reruns of my childhood. I watched them every afternoon, The Flintstones on one side or the other of it. If I ever saw those again I could probably recite parts of dialogue.)
The stick or wooden house is absent. I have remarked before that the swift collapse of the wooden house confused me as a child who lived in a wooden house. My parents failed to supply a sufficiently comforting explanation to me and I can only hasten to point out that you will find Deitch Studio located in a large brick high rise building.
This pail has a mark from the Ohio Art Company, a tin lithography company still in existence today. It’s a good story and I share an excerpt from their history, from their website:
Dr. Henry S. Winzeler, a dentist in Archbold, Ohio, who sold his practice because he was convinced novelty manufacturing held great promise for him. Renting part of a band hall and employing 15 women, the company was soon shipping picture frames to all parts of the country, as well as Canada and Mexico. Business grew rapidly and Dr. Winzeler needed a larger plant.
Through the efforts of local citizens and the Chamber of Commerce, enough money was raised to build a new factory and lure The Ohio Art Company to a new location – Bryan, Ohio. With larger quarters and better shipping facilities, the firm continued to grow…Soon after the move to Bryan in 1912, the company installed metal lithography equipment, an addition that would shape the company’s future. New items began to appear; advertising signs, scale dials and a few small wagons, representing the beginning of a long and successful run in the toy business.
Ohio Art litho toys from a Little Red Riding Hood set.
When WW1 halted the flow of German toys to this country, American manufacturers had a tremendous opportunity to surge forward. Quick to realize this, Dr. Winzeler increased his line of toys and toy parts and business boomed. A quality (and very popular) tea set line was introduced, and in 1923, sand pails appeared. In the early 1930’s, Ohio Art was one of the very first companies to license a character from Walt Disney for a toy; Steam Boat Willie, the precursor to Mickey Mouse. Other successful early metal lithographed toys included tops, shovels, farm houses, drums, globes, checker sets and more.
Once plastic takes over in toys the company diversifies again and makes the film canisters for Kodak and premiums for companies like Coca Cola and Budweiser even today. The mark on this pail, Ohio Art Co Bryan O USA, refers to the company’s post-move location in Bryan, Ohio.
So, my advice is always be mindful of construction materials, build thoughtfully and work hard – and then you too can dance a jig and sing, Whose Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Sharp eyed readers may have noted last week that I made not one but two birthday purchases at Doyle’s recent auction. This delightful Mickey was the other winning item that came home with us that day.
Mickey is small of stature – only about ten inches high. He is made from nice velvet and he has a on-model face which makes me think he was made with the knowledge and approval of the folks over at Disney. His ears are a stiff sort of velveteen. He is very well made and despite his advanced years there’s something sturdy about him. His tail especially entertains me – long and very mousy showing that Mickey was still a bit of a rodent at the time and had not been converted wholly into pablum for kiddies.
Mickey back, Pams-Pictorama.com collection
Frankly, Mickey’s mugshot in the auction catalogue did not flatter him, somehow it just featured his grime. However, he was much more charming when we showed up in person at Doyle on the aforementioned afternoon preview. (That was last week’s post on Olive Oyl which can be found here.) I put together an aggressive bid strategy and Mickey and Olive came home with us – Mickey is a birthday gift from Kim. Thank you Sweetie!
Mickey is unmarked and was tagged with Dean’s as the maker. Since he wasn’t bearing a toothy trademark Dean’s grin I knew that wasn’t the maker. (I have a number of Dean’s Rag Mickey Mouse toys, including one the size of a small child. Those posts can be found here and here for starters.) This one below isn’t one of my fellows which are admittedly a bit tattier and this pristine one was handy.
A nice Dean’s Rag Co. Mickey not in my collection.
So the minor Mickey mystery was on as I puzzled through possible makers. If you look closely at Kim’s Valentine (below and revealed in full in a post that can be found here) this errant Mickey is running off the page on the bottom left.
While drawing him, Kim observed the specific likeness of Mickey to my Aesop Fable dolls which he has also devoted hours to drawing in recent years. It is true when you consider the pie eyes, the hand and the feet specifically that there are significant similarities. That would make Mickey the output of the somewhat mysterious W.R. Woodard Company which produced those toys for a limited time and haven’t left many tracks as toy makers in the industry. (I examine those toys in many posts but delve the best I can into Woodard in a post to be found here.)
Mickey Mouse, Pams-Pictorama.com collection
Still, it itched at my brain that it seemed unlikely. So I turned to my friend Mel who is the Zen Master of all things early Mickey, and in fact, all things toys. (Toy enthusiasts all know his site, Mouse Heaven which can be found here.) It was Mel who suggested Steiff and Knickerbocker as possible makers. I expressed doubt about Steiff at first – Mickey’s ear where his button would be is a bit misshapen so I cannot see if there is a hole or a mark where it would have gone. However, a quick search turned up many very similar period Mickey brethren online. Mel hit it on the head. It would seem he is indeed made by the famous German toy makers, Steiff.
A few Steiff toys have wandered into my collection – a few striped kitties (one of those can be found in a post here), a bird and a bear that I can think of offhand. The bears seem to have very human expressions. And, if you stay tuned to Pictorama, there might be another Steiff toy in the offing in coming posts she typed with a mischievous grin…
As this posts on my site I will be in the frosty winter land of Chicago. Hopefully Sunday will find me back in this chair and bringing you more toy fodder!
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: Toy collecting is much like the rest of life, while you may head in one direction, opportunity may present itself in one you had not considered in another and take you there. My career has been entirely like that – who thinks about becoming a fundraiser when they grow up? I had not considered working for Jazz at Lincoln Center until suddenly here I am, almost three years later.
I don’t generally collect comic figures outside of the cats (Felix and Krazy) and Mickey (because you have to have mice if you have cats), but occasionally things present themselves that need buying. In this way I have a small enclave of Little Orphan Annie (those items can be found here, here and here, for starters) and a soft spot for Donald Duck I have never much explored in this blog. The occasional Pluto. Bonzo has proliferated, which might fall under the heading of if you have cats you need a few dogs too. However, I am perhaps light on the broader universe of characters.
When an acquaintance at Doyle Gallery told me that they were having a January toy sale I knew I would want to check it out for potential birthday fodder. It was a sale from the estate of a single collector and I felt like you could sense his or her eye in all of the choices in the collection which always interests me.
An unintended selfie while aiming at this goat toy
Kim and I had a delightful afternoon looking at a large collection of toys, primarily early mechanical banks and early mechanical toys. People were stationed to help us by taking the toys out and showing the action of each. These toys, while utterly delightful, are another area of collecting I have never gone down, but I can easily understand falling in love with them. I was especially enamored of this swan toy and this tiger toy below which I did bid on.
However, one of the reasons I started collecting in the area I do is because, compared to these toys, mine is a relatively affordable avenue. The toys above ultimately went for several thousand dollars each, considerably above my humble bids. There was also a lovely wooden Noah’s Ark, but I knew it was out of my league in every sense including space for it in the apartment. (Among the surviving animals shown below are insects which sort of cracked me up.)
However, there were two items which caught my attention, in part because they were very different than the rest of the sale, and today’s Olive Oyl was one of them. We all know Olive as Popeye’s paramour in Segar’s comic strip where Popeye makes his appearance in 1929. Olive had been around in the earlier Thimble Theater strip since its inception in 1919 where she was the youngest in the Oyl family, sister to Castor and Crude Oyl, and engaged to Harold Hamgravy; he who she eventually dumps in favor of Popeye, her true love. I have read some of those early Thimble Theater strips and would very much like to dig deep into them sometime. Olive starts her life modeled on the flappers of the day – a long, straight drink of water to the extreme and maintains her girlish figure, so to speak, throughout her life.
Olive Oyl bank I was less interested in at Doyle auction
The toy collector whose collection was being auctioned had two Olive Oyl toys, indicating an interesting particular affection for her. The other item was a cast iron bank which could have been original or a reproduction and I didn’t care for it. But there was something about this Olive Oyl that I couldn’t resist. She appears to be a one of a kind but nicely made wooden toy. Her arms, feet and head are painted but her costume covers a simple wood and wire constructed body. Heavy wire connects her arms and legs enabling limited motion in each. Her head turns and her arms go up and down.
Olive Oyl, Pams-Pictorama.com collection
For me there is something especially engaging in her outfit although I can’t really tell you why. I think if asked, she would have preferred far more fashionable garb. There is something endearing and specific about her cowl neck sweater and the somewhat oversized pattern on her rickrack trimmed skirt, probably a bit longer than she was wearing them in the day. She has characteristically large (but not clownish) feet. For me this is a Depression era Olive at her best in every sense.
I assume there is a Popeye mate for her somewhere in the world, or at least there was. (Kim pointed out that he is a heck of a lot more ambitious to have to carve. He’s also come up with a story where Olive is carved by a man in prison for his girlfriend…) I have looked online to see if there’s any indication that this is not a singular piece. At a minimum the person who made it was skilled and my guess would be that this was not his or her only rodeo in this area.
If you are wondering, Olive joins a very slim collection of a single stuffed Popeye and Wimpy dolls. I bought them from a dealer in Canada many years ago and was disappointed to discover that they had lost much of their stuffing (sawdust) on their trip to New York. They are now so fragile that I am loathe to take them down from their high shelf and photograph them, but will try to find a way for Olive to join them. Excuse the dusty chaos – I was perched on the edge of the bed taking this earlier!
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This ancient children’s whistle adds to my somewhat meagre, but slowly growing, holdings of toys related to Norakuro an early Japanese Felix-y cat-dog like character. (I have written about these toys previous and a few of those posts can be found here and here.) This whistle appeared, as things occasionally do, listed as Felix on ebay. Everything vintage associated with this character is extremely expensive – I just spied a DVD of the cartoons for $150 – which perhaps in part is exchange rate, but I also chalk up to a fairly limited and rarified collecting area. My quest for an early plush toy of this character (if such thing exists) continues – maybe I will make 2020 the year of Pictorama Norakura collecting. (Bank account beware!)
This humble whistle is in a style that seems to be from the 1930’s, but it continued with variation for a decade or two and who knows how long they were produced and exported from Japan. (This is marked Made in Japan in English and Japanese, so I assume it was made for export.) I think it is fair to say that the Japanese were significant contributors to the tin whistles in the US marketplace of this era.
In researching this a bit, I saw a few early examples of these tin whistles as premiums for kids for things like shoes. This snappy one below is for Poll Parrot shoes. (I never heard of this brand, but Kim has just told me he wore them as a kid and that they were a sponsor of Howdy Dowdy. Buster Brown was the property of Smilin’ Ed…) I must say I do like this image of a shoe clad parrot! I may have to find myself one of these, but most are much more beat up than this fine example shown here.
In general the condition of these whistles seem to be pretty rough and it is easy to image that they spent much time in the grubby pockets of small children. Their survival at all is somewhat impressive when considered.
I do not have children, but I guess that giving your child a whistle is like giving your cat a toy with a bell, or that makes any noise. You should think twice about doing it if you don’t want to hear that sound a lot. (And in the case of kitties, probably in the middle of the night.) There is something about the very existence of a whistle that makes you want to blow it. This whistle wasn’t out of the package five minutes when Kim blew on it. It makes an awful sound and the cats freaked out. He said he’d never do it again, but did (repeatedly) a few minutes later. The cats did not run, but they remained deeply suspicious – ears perked and staring wide-eyed. Evidently adults are not immune to the appeal of tin whistles, but cats are.
I do not remember any significant tin whistles in my childhood. Sadly the world had moved onto plastic more or less entirely. I include a photo of the only whistle I remember from my own childhood, an Oscar Mayer Wiener one. I do not remember how I came into possession of it – I vaguely remember that it came to me in some sort of trade with a friend. Nor am I positive this was the precise design (several were in play in the early 70’s according to my friends on Google) of the one I owned. It was somewhat beloved though, however modest it now seems in comparison to these splendid tin affairs of childhood longer gone by.
My very own Felix toffee pail! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Pam’s Pictorama Toy Post: This is one of those lovely occasions when I get to write about acquiring something I have wanted for ages! Today it is this wonderful Felix toffee tin turned toy pail.
Allow me to start by saying that I love toffee. Seriously, caloric concerns are thrown out the window as soon as I see sticky toffee…followed by virtually anything written on a menu. It is a little known fact about me, but a fact nonetheless. I came to it late in life, but I think that has more to do with having had limited exposure to it when younger. I believe if I had been introduced to it earlier I would have been a life-long toffee fanatic. Somewhere in a parallel universe I am simply ruining both my teeth and my waistline contentedly stuffing myself silly with toffee.
So if nothing else for me the vision of this delightful pail stuffed with British toffees is a wonderful one indeed. Oh the gluttony! Oddly and somewhat mysteriously, the tin bears no label for said toffees sold, only the maker of the tin, E.T. Gee & Sons and this pail is always advertised by that name. One might imagine that a toffee maker of the time like Mackintosh’s might have filled it. The candy descendants of Macintosh’s Toffee exist today and are the makers of Rolos and other delights. Macintosh was definitely selling similar pails of toffee, but those are all emblazoned with their name leaving me wondering and somewhat stumped. It is possible that the lid had a name embossed inside perhaps, or that there was a paper label/sticker. One version online seems to have the remnants of an odd sticker that says …sweet little babies.
E.T. Gee & Sons is not especially well documented as a company – I could not find much history on them. However, I find tracks showing they made a whole line of similar candy containers that were also tin toys once emptied of their confectionary treats so this must have been the side of the street they were working. Although the Felix pail is the most prevalent one, I found evidence of two others online and sadly could only fine this single small image of the house which held creams. (Google images revealed no larger photos nor additional examples.) The house, doubling as a bank, is a photo from the Worthpoint auction site and the biscuit tin wagon from an auction site called Bukowski’s.
At auction on Worthpoint, a toffee tin that doubles as a bank.
A biscuit tin that doubles as a toy truck, image from the Bukowski auction website.
Meanwhile, I have been admiring this Felix pail for a number of years now, stealthy hunting of it on eBay, tracking prices and failing each time to be the high bidder. A version in condition only somewhat superior to my own, but with the top (shown below with this mischievous Felix whose tiny rendition of the toffee pail is stuffed with toffee – mine does not have the top sadly) went for more than $3,500 just several years back at Hake’s. I have lost several on eBay that went for much less than that, although probably all without the top. My example does come from Hake’s – just a bad day at auction?Maybe, but clearly for whatever reason the price of them has dropped considerably. I paid a tiny fraction of that for mine.
From a Hake’s auction catalogue, lid to the Felix pail which mine is sadly missing.
The decoration is decidedly and delightfully cryptic – the scenes are certainly comical, but you really have to wonder where they came from. On one side Felix rides a white horse or pony (sort of Felix as Lady Godiva in my mind) along the water’s edge. He is being chased by a young boy (with an outsized head) brandishing a spatula? Or perhaps it is the shovel to a sand pail? The boy seems to be running full speed while the awkward drawing of the horse seems to have Felix at a slower pace. (His toes curling upward in an interesting manner.) Most bizarre of all however, is the female Felix in an old fashioned bonnet and dress, taking the scene in at the water’s edge. A broken fence in the foreground leads the mind further down the path of an unknown narrative. The horsey hardly looks like he’d break down a fence. Curious indeed!
My very own Felix toffee pail! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
The more benign scene on the other side is my favorite – a large family of Felix-es, Mom, Dad and three babies – having their photo portrait taken! Of course as someone who collects photos of people posing with Felix on the beach this is a very funny inside joke. They are dress for the occasion – the Dad in a vest, mom in a long dress – in this alternate universe Mrs. Felix evidently dresses like a Mennonite. One child splashes in the water with a small sand shovel, the other getting his feet wet while a small girl perched on a rock beckons to him. The photographer, complete with tri-pod, camera with bellows and (I think in my mind) long exposure film, appears to be a young boy. Daddy Felix is gesturing approvingly to the camera. A toy looking sailboat appears in the distance. A splendid Felix walking decoration rings both top and bottom of the pail.
My version of the pail is about 8″ high and I understand that there is a slightly smaller version with a single row of Felix around it. (I’m glad mine has those!) It has a satisfying sturdy handle for holding and swinging merrily as you walk, and I think it would make a jolly pail at the beach, although I am pleased this one doesn’t appear to have spent much time in that capacity.
As a child who grew up on the shores of the Atlantic ocean I know a little something about playing in the sand at the beach and I can assure you much could be accomplished with a nice little pail like this, accompanied perhaps by a small sand shovel. One could dig deep caverns, carry water to fill moats or to dampen sand into the proper consistency for the construction of castles and related buildings. One’s pail was essentially a ticket to hours of beach fun and this would make a splendid addition to any discerning child’s collection.