Rainbow Moon; Wishing Seat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: There’s a first time for everything and today I claim a Pictorama first. Our featured photo is one of my husband Kim and his brother Simon. Family photos make occasional entries here, although usually a few generations back and until now always my family. However, Kim’s currently working on a story that involves his Mom, Marie, and her Mom, Kim’s grandmother which means a number of family photos have wandered out of storage and into the apartment for perusing. (See last week’s post here for a pencil detail of the story which also boasts an elephant bank I recently purchased.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This photo would be Pictorama perfection even if it wasn’t of a young Kim and Simon, which of course does make it that much more interesting. Moon photos are a bit of a sub-genre of the Pictorama library, although it is a competitive market and so I tend to only buy those when opportunity presents itself. (For a moon photo or two you can look early posts here and here.)

Deitch Studio Collection.

I am crazy about this weird rainbow moon with its big lips, staring eye and bushy eyebrow! Kim looks like he’s having a pretty good time and Simon looks a little less sure. (I can’t blame Simon – it would be fair to be terrified of this as a small child perhaps.) Wishing Seat is painted in wavy letters behind them.

A careful look and we see that the “rocks” are all concrete and in a wavy design like hard clouds. There’s a nice little bench to perch on for your photo however and you can lean back against one of the rocks. There are trees behind them and a nondescript bit of greenery up front. The photo is a bit torn on the lower right corner – it looks like it was in an album and removed.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Kim’s already growing into a lanky build that will define him going forward, his hair already thick but cut short so mastered for the moment. Simon will remain a bit shorter, his hair straighter here at least. Kim thinks this would have been taken in about 1951 making him about seven and Si about four I think. (Sadly, Simon died recently and his passing was noted in a post found here. Youngest brother Seth yet to be born.) They were living in Detroit at the time, but Kim speculates that they could have been there or on vacation elsewhere. Car vacations were far flung affairs according to him, so there’s no real way of knowing. It was unidentified on the back so I put some notes in pencil for future generations.

It goes without saying that the moon is eerily and almost comically Deitchian in its demeanor and one can’t help but wonder if a young Kim’s brain was busy recording it and tucking it away for future artistic anthropomorphic cartoon contemplation.

Women on Bikes

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photos came from a collection clearly belonging to a single person or family, parts of which were being sold on IG recently. The photos centered largely around the woman on the front of the motorcycle in the photo on the left. There were numerous photos of her, all with the same great smile and general enthusiasm for what she was doing. I chose this as an especially good example and the other just because all these women driving motorcycles of a certain period are appealing to me.

These photos have no notations on the back and there is no evidence that they were in an album so I guess it could have as easily been a shoebox of photos. There were lovely photos of her at various ages – with dogs and horses, sporting trousers, climbing trees, mugging with friends, at various ages over probably several decades; a life well-lived. They were being sold by my Midwest maven, @missmollystlantiques.

I was sorry to see this group of photos broken up, but by the same token couldn’t really quite justify the whole lot of them in my collection either. So I chose these two as sort of stand alone and noteworthy to add to the Pictorama library and bring to you.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I don’t know much about motorcycles so I can’t comment on the makes or models. Hers as above seems to have sort of saddle bags for transporting stuff hanging off the back wheels. Her older passenger, perched on the back, looks decidedly less comfortable, her hair tied in a scarf, practical shoes and ankle socks. Taking mom out for a ride? Our driver is wearing a spiffy height of style forties jacket, trousers and some sort of mannish oxfords.

The second photo, I believe, is one of the same motorcycle with a different driver. She has taken the sartorial styling to an even higher level and her trim fitted jacket is over a shirt with a collar like a men’s button down. Her hair is a differently exacting style of the time, practical in length but a bit iron clad too.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

I have written a bit before about how changing transportation impacted the changing face of the American woman through the early decades of the 20th century – first by bicycle and then with the early days of the automobile (as written about in my post in the series novels The Automobile Girls which can be found here) and the role that mobility played in their growing independence. These motorcycles or motor bikes seem to have a wartime efficiency about them and one can imagine them being pressed into the sort of wartime service a young woman might have taken on in her own town or city.

I have written before (here) and recently shared again, a photo of my young father at a time probably a bit later, with a rickety motorcycle he would take on an adventure across the country. It would give out in California and require that he hitchhike back.

Elliott Butler in an undated photo. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

(I purchased another early motorcycle photo from the same source. That photo is below and the post can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Meanwhile, there exists somewhere a wonderful snippet of early film of my maternal grandmother and grandfather on their wedding trip to his parents in the midwest (Missouri) on a motorcycle of this period, perhaps a bit earlier. Unfortunately I do not believe there is a still photo image. I saw it many years ago now but my grandmother, a young woman from an Italian immigrant family whose family had settled on the East coast shore town where I was eventually born, looked game for the motorcycle ride but maybe had misgivings about the trip to meet her in-laws. (I have written about her part of the family based on some photos here and here before.)

Her new husband, Frank Wheeling (who was eventually to be my Poppy), had the mind of a gifted engineer which was frequently employed with the tinkering with and building of engines. Not surprising that a young Frank had a motorcycle and I bet it ran like a charm. Boat engines and their building and repair his strong suit which supplemented his income later in life. That the catch from fishing and hunting helped feed the family during the deepest part of the Depression and after.

He’d met my grandmother, Anne, while traveling on a dog racing circuit – no idea what he was doing for them. They settled on the East coast in the shore town where her family was and where I would eventually be born. Poppy could build anything, fix anything and eventually went to work for Bendix where he worked until his untimely death by heart attack in his fifties.

I regret I haven’t spent much time on a motorcycle – it seems a bit late now as I don’t even drive a car. However, I do understand the appeal and I will say the motor bikes that are suddenly popular do have a certain appeal for me.

Girls, Chickens and Kitties

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I feel like it has been awhile since I have had a straight ahead photo post and this is a worthy entry, just in as grabbed off of eBay recently. (This is the first of several – there has been some action on the photo purchase front.) The card was never sent and there is nothing written on as clues about when it was taken or about the girls in it. Their clothes and hair make me think early 20th century.

The girls are so lovely with their pretty matching cotton dresses with big collars and cuffs, their hair pinned up loosely. Each clutches a kitty and a chicken which by any way of thinking is an odd combination, however all the animals seem unperturbed (despite one squirming puss) by this. The chickens actually seem pretty cheerful and sit up contentedly, fluffy and alert, in the arms of the girls.

The cat with his or her back to us (stripes and spots) looks like they would prefer a firmer grasp, but the proximity to our feathered friends does not seem to be especially on his or her mind. The other puss, a nice tuxie, seems fairly content, less squirming there and looking lovingly at the little girl holding her.

My guess is that these are all special pets of the girls and are used to spending a fair amount time together. What lucky little girls to have such nice playmates! It appears like quite the idyll. I think I would have liked tea parties with pet chickens and kitties as a tot.

The girls appear to be twins and fairly identical from what we see here. They look very happy with their pets in this sort of riotous garden, roses at their feet. Sadly the photograph is a bit overexposed (I have done what I can with some electronic magic to improve the quality some) fading out entirely into the sunlight at the top. The edges of the image are soft and add to the dreamy quality of the image and gently yank us back into the pleasant world of this long ago summer day.

British Black Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Kicking off the holiday weekend with another lucky black cat post. I am, for the first time in several years, typing this out on a laptop while seated on a bus for work, in this case heading for the final concert of our season in East Hampton.

I’m not traveling with the orchestra – who are making a long trip in from Ontario, I think, and out to Long Island tomorrow – but instead I am on the Hampton Jitney which, for those of you not familiar with it, is a sort of luxe bus experience from Manhattan out to the Hamptons. (That is if a bus can actually be luxe – I happen to be of the opinion maybe not so much, but I am a bit of a bus hater.)

I myself would have probably opted for the train on this holiday weekend, but easier for my host this way so we are crawling along the LIE as I write. (In the end I could have flown to Paris in the amount of time it took me to land in Wainscott from the Upper Eastside today.)

View from the lovely home I am staying in, East Hampton.

So, now, onto the the kitties. This is an interesting early photo which I purchased on eBay recently. It did come from Britain. It  originated Britain (a land where black kitties are celebrated as lucky, unlike my own native land) and is early but with no indication of age. It is a cabinet card, mounted on ancient faded bit of cardboard and obviously it had the misfortune to spend some time in the sun and we can see those fade marks as well.

However, for me it doesn’t take away from the extravagant portrait of these two kits which was done with great care. Charles XII and Nigel the Raven are carefully posed, to the extent you can pose a cat. If you look closely you will notice that kitties are carefully tethered on leashes. No kitty chaos in the studio with cats on the loose.

This portrait was the produce of J. Russell & Sons, Photographers and they are qualified as By special appointment to His Majesty The King. The studio had locations at 17, Baker Street, W 80 (?) and 13 High Street Windsor. They were active from the 1850’s through the 1940’s, quite a long run. So these were some high faluntin’ felines.

A handsome Blackie Butler basking in the sun recently. You can see a little white badge on his chest if you look carefully.

Unlike the unbelievably handsome Blackie Butler, Charles and Nigel have no visible white spots. Now, whose to say if a nice white spot couldn’t be found on the tummy of one of these pusses, or even one hidden under a leg. Kim has a theory that because people are superstitious about all black cats that almost all have had a bit of visible white bred into them. However, my mom has a boy named Beau (Beauregard Butler) who is as thoroughly black as these two cats appear to be.

Beau Butler (of the New Jersey clan) a very black kitty indeed.

I can’t say that C and N look like they are enjoying their turn in the limelight; they would very much prefer to be curled up at home in the sun on their favorite pillow – and of course they couldn’t know that I would be admiring their glossy beauty a hundred or so years later. Being cats, nor would they care.

Biker Pic

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Admittedly this seems like an unusual photo for me to have purchased. Like yesterday’s post, it might typically have been one that I would have a look at, but not purchased. Photos with old motorcycles in them tend to be in demand and they largely fall out of my realm of vintage photos of cats and toys. However, it caught my eye, mostly because accidentally or intentionally, it is a very good photo. And in the end, we here at Pictorama are ultimately suckers for a good photo and will follow our nose in any direction really.

There is no information on this photo and no evidence of having been in an album. Like the photos from yesterday’s post of traveling musicians (which can be found here) it came from the Midwest and I would hazard a guess that is where it was taken. (As yesterday a nod to my source, IG seller @MissMollysAntiques, for this purchase.)

I gather that WWII was a major boon to the motorcycle industry and disenchanted former soldiers continued to favor riding them after returning home postwar. Their leather flight jackets ultimately morphing into the biker look as it evolved through the 1940’s into the ’50’s when Marlon Brando takes it centerstage in film and makes it iconic. However, the guy in this photo looks like square one with his open necked shirt with sleeves rolled up, boots, jaunty hat and a whole lot of attitude posing with his bike. Although his face is in shadow, we otherwise get a good look at him.

It has to be said that the car to his right is the other star of this photo. I know nothing about old cars, but the shining grill on this one is great with a certain anthropomorphic charm, grinning genially at us with wide eyes. Someone better versed in cars and bikes could probably date the photo with some accuracy. I put it in the late forties.

I love moving back further into this photo and looking at the row of folks with their backs to us on a park bench in the middle ground. The guy with the suspenders and the straw hat just gets me. They all seem to be looking at or watching something, other benches are scattered around and there seems to be a playground or more likely a pool in front of them. That part of the image, in a puddle of bright sun, cannot be made out entirely. It is a picture of two worlds, the one of the biker and the other where everyone is enjoying the day and whatever it is this park offers.

On the other side, behind the car, we see folks gathered and walking and some concession type signs. The edges of the photo blur and only the center is entirely in focus. The tree behind him and in the center neatly divides the photo into light and dark, but the front wheel of the bike and his leg compose this composition perfectly. The person taking the picture had a great eye for putting it together or it was very lucky shot.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

This photo of my dad, Elliott (a photo I wrote about in an early post which can be found here), was probably taken at least several years later. My father is shown with a broken down old bike which, according to family lore, got him part of the way across the country, but which ended in him hitchhiking back. Dad, a city boy, is exuding somewhat less cool than his Midwest counterpart, shown here in Washington Heights as he starts off on his odyssey. However adventure and the open road awaited him nonetheless.

With the Band

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: These photos arrived in the mail last night with another which I will share in a later post. At first I hadn’t realized that there was more than one (it was on Instagram, they are similar and I wasn’t really focused), but the seller (@MissMollysAntiques) suggested I buy all three and I am glad I did as they do belong staying together.

I like to look at old photos of musicians and traveling bands from the early 20th century, but I don’t generally purchase them for the Pictorama library. There is interest in them and they often seem to go for a lot of money, but I like to look at them. After all, until March of 2020 I found myself on the road with our orchestra on a regular basis, although our buses and wardrobe folks and whatnot don’t much resemble this. (I wrote about my first trip with the orchestra in a post that can be found here, and a trip to Shanghai where they were playing a few months after I started and that post can be found here.)

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Touring, even now, is a pretty grueling process and for all the late night post-show drinking or pancake sessions, there’s a lot more trying to sleep on a bus and grinding the miles at 5AM. Even the small amount I have dipped into it has convinced me it isn’t what I am built for. I find myself eating more junk food in a matter of days than I usually do in months and keeping up good exercise habits is hard.

I have used my favorite of the three at the top of the post, with the two men holding their mandolins. A drum case and a large drum front and center, a banjo case is on the running board of the car. It would take a better forensic thinker to unpack with precision what year this might have been. The suits, the location behind them and the car could have belonged to a few decades. The printing of the photos and the film is fairly primitive, but those persisted for decades, especially for home use. We can’t quite see the car they are traveling in but it looks like an early roadster complete with running board.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

They seem to have a set order that they pose in, leading up to the tall fellow but a short guy on each end. The instruments are also posed in front of them in a neat pointing pile. This was obviously well thought out. Hats on and hats off being the other variation.

These photos hail from the midwest and I suspect that is their place of origin from looking at them. Nothing is written on them (except inventory numbers) and there is no evidence that they were ever in an album. The nature of the poses, hats on and hats off, suggests that maybe these were taken for a commercial use, but the reproduction of them is too low in quality to imagine them being useful that way.

I would like to hear these guys and I wish there was some identification of who they were. I have a feeling that they would have been right up my ally, small traveling band from the 20’s or 30’s playing roadhouses and restaurants and whatnot. It is the period of music I love most. I can imagine sitting in a roadside establishment in 1931, beer in hand after a long day, hanging with my honey and listening to these fellows and being on top of the world.

David, Our Favorite

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I devote space to this nice little cat photo postcard. We can see that the name David was etched, carefully, into the negative, complete with quotation marks and a swirl below. The card is a bit dark, but we can see that David is a handsome, spotty puss. He sports a collar and although we don’t see it too clearly I like the spot on his forehead, right between his eyes. He looks like a lively fellow and something has his attention in another direction while having this photo taken. One imagines he was off and chasing after it moments after the shutter clicked.

This penny postcard card was mailed from Lisbon, Ohio on August 8 at 8 AM. It is obscured, but I think the year is 1912. It was sent to a Mrs. Chas Lutes, at 515 N. Park Street, McKeesport, PA. It is inscribed as follows, You may not know who this is but he is my favorate. We did not get a very good position yet it looks like him. Gaskills. Kim and I had some morning discussion around the signature, Gaskills. Last name used as moniker? Not sure really, but we agreed that was what the neat, if faded, script says.

Gus and Beau in their respective boxes at Mom’s the other day. Gus is also a recent rescue and Beau from Newark several years ago.

Our beloved pets! We keep photos of our kits and pups (bunnies and what all), but a bit interesting that this one was kept by the recipient (at least I assume it was she who kept it) carefully as well. Of course which detritus of the world ultimately sticks to any of us is a bit mysterious.

Like children, I guess I have always thought one shouldn’t have favorites among the cats. You do I guess, but it doesn’t seem right to cop to it anyway.

As some Pictorama readers know, I spend part of my time with my mom in New Jersey these days. She recently identified a new stray cat in her backyard and mom had cousin Patti and I feeding it until it trusted us enough for someone to come and trap it yesterday morning. Turns out to be a young female, longish hair with stripes, gray and black – she was mostly a blur to me as she dashed off while I offered food. I hope to have photos soon to share soon.

Peaches, another relatively recent rescue who lives with mom, still won’t let any of us near her although she does follow me upstairs to observe my endless Zoom calls while I am there.

Mom is full up with cats in her own small home, but we are determined to find a permanent loving home for this little girl. She is going by Stormy for now, named in honor of the windy and wet morning she was finally caught on. Stormy is with the rescuer for now, getting some tests and medical attention. As mom and I both said, we both slept better last night knowing that little kit was warm inside with a full tummy for the first time this winter.

This is the little sweetheart mom just rescued! Email for info! We need to find her a home.

An Abundance of Cats

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Readers here know that toys and photos of cats are the mainstays of the Pictorama collection. This pleasant pile of pusses cheered me immensely when it crossed my path. Cow spotty mom and dad kitties (maybe – they look a bit possessive anyway) mill around with three evidently all white fluffy kittens. Playing with them are these no less picturesque women in early 20th century dresses, hair piled high, brooches pinned on lacy bodices. A careful look shows other women in the background, also in summer cottons of the period.

Kittens, even in small doses, are a bit of work to live with and when our adored Cookie and Blackie entered the picture I was reminded. Less needy maybe than puppies (which seem to rank somewhere just newborn children for labor intensiveness in my opinion) kittens will still race around your house (in this case our single room) knocking things over, scratching and have their decidedly stinky and disastrous moments. Nonetheless, there is little as cheerful and charming in my mind than a pile of kitties.

The image cuts across the more than 100 years since this photo was made. Interesting to think that playing with kittens on a spring day in the yard remains the same activity it was then.

Naughty but charming Cookie and Blackie as kits, sitting on Kim’s desk – forbidden of course, but so cute!

I have only lived with a litter of kittens once in my life during what I have described before as an especially cat rich time of my childhood. Our cat Winkie escaped outside and mated before we were able to have her spade and her calico design when combined with a local tabby tom resulted in two all grays, a long thin drink of water orange stripe and a black and white tabby. They were in turn named Ping and Pong, Squash and Tigger. I don’t remember who in the family did the naming honors, but I do remember that Winks chose my parent’s closet to birth her kittens. (This after my parent’s bed had been rejected as the site by said mom and dad.)

Winkie was in turns both a very watchful cat mom and sometimes a neglectful one. She went through a period of dutifully moving the kittens from one hiding place (stuffing them under a low dresser at one point) to another because we insisted on looking at them and playing with them. Or was she actually trying to lose them? She would occasionally forget to move one with the others and said kitten would be found crying and rescued. Winkie was an unusually smart cat – barn born and polydactyl, with big mitt like front paws. She may have had a kitten abandonment plan which we continually thwarted. As soon as they were sufficiently grown she immediately forgot she had had anything to do with their genesis and generally look upon them as interlopers.

So tiny they fit together on our computer chair which remains a favorite perch.

We kept all four kittens which did mean our cat population burgeoned overnight. I believe we were already in possession of at least one other cat, another orange tom named Pumpkin. Since we lived in a house, albeit a large one, that was a lot of felines although that was still at a time when they were free range in the neighborhood, and roamed in and out of the house more or less at will. In my memory at least, a good time was had by all during this period, although our German Shepherd was probably a bit put upon, not to mention my mother who had the daily responsibility for cats and kids. (Dad traveled a lot for work and seemed both unperturbed, but also less engaged with the pet excess of those days.)

This postcard was never mailed and clearly remained evidence of a lovely day in the yard, enjoying cats and kittens.

Cabinet Card Cat

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: One somewhat sleepless night my phone buzzed a few times and instead of ignoring it I had a look. A dealer I follow was having a late night sale and she was sending me an advanced heads up on a few things she thought I might like. In my bleary state this one jumped out at me and I bought it – and went back to sleep. However, I was quite pleased with myself when it arrived. (Tip of the hat to @missmollystlantiques.) There is a nagging thought about another photo of a young girl with a cat in her lap I didn’t buy, but what can you do?

The composition on this card is kind of great with this natty fellow standing in front of the pole and the shadow of it going at an angle behind him. I could have asked that the darks be more distinct, either in the shooting or the printing, but even with that he forms an interesting triangle in the middle. His hat is tipped over his eyes so they are in shadow, roguish, but kitty is in full light and leaning toward the camera a bit – while safe in his arms of course. Is that a cigarette hanging from his mouth we see the shadow of?

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Kim is thinking it is from the 1890’s. I am not so good on dating men’s attire – any thoughts out there? I agree that the picture really looks like an early Kodak snapshot, despite being printed and mounted this way.

The background is a bit winter bleak with the trees and the ground barren. The sky is a flat cloudless white, it was hard if not impossible to capture clouds on film at the time. It appears to be a sort of residential urban spot, houses to our far left and a storefront peering out to the right, street behind him. It came to me from the midwest and there are no markings on the back so I will assume it may have originated there.

The rowboat pond in Central Park on Thursday this week.

It is a chilly, but sunny November morning here – clocks fell back and Marathon here in NYC today. I was largely sidelined from outside by a bad cold for a week, but made the trip through Central Park twice toward the end of last week for work. Almost overnight the trees have gone to an aching beauty of all too brief color, and the light has what I think of as a golden fall hue which seems particular to the northeast at this time of the year. (The one fall of my life I spent in London I was shocked by its absence. I went to Berlin for a weekend in October and there it was. Go figure.) One cat is snoozing endlessly on the couch while the other is chasing her tail in the bathtub.

This fall respite seems brief and fragile as we go headlong into winter and I know soon the trees will be bare and that light will have turned pale like it is in this photo. I have been adding to my inventory of layers for running and trying to remind myself I ran through it all last year so it is possible. Yes to gloves, no (at least for now) to hand warmers, and yes to a hat. Shall we try fleece lined tights? I feel the cold deeply so it is sheer discipline and these layers that will get me out the door in these coming mornings. (My true inclination and nature would be to curl up in the warm apartment and stay in bed.) I am having one of those years when it seems like wait, winter was just here and where did summer go?

Squirrel posing for a bunch of us at the south end of Central Park. Num, num, num!

The squirrels have been in a frenzy. Perhaps I have just never noticed before, but as I walk through the park I see them congregated in groups and they are stuffing their little faces madly with nuts and burying them at an equally notable rate! Wow! They are so distracted with their nut consumption that they allowed me and my fellow denizens to take photos of them munching away. (Admittedly, me and my fellow New Yorkers are easily attracted by even these nominal displays of nature.) Of course their wild activity is creating a great stir among the many dogs being walked there and a sort of unbridled squirrel chasing ensues. Distracted or not, dogs chase but never catch squirrels in the park. It is like an endless comforting cartoon animation cycle.

This from a week ago in Central Park. Already most of these leaves already gone.

Meanwhile, I am fervently hoping these squirrels don’t know something we should and that they are preparing for an especially cold winter. We are continuing to work largely from home until February for now so my trips will remain a few times a week for outside meetings meetings. (Perhaps even outdoor, we’ll see.) For now I am going to put a few layers on and get over to the East River and get started. Let’s enjoy fall while we can.

Felix at the Chelsea Arts Ball

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Recently I have been in the midst of chasing down the remains of a Felix postcard collection, but this one popped up on its own from a different source in the middle of it. Felix on parade could be a real sub-genre of Felix photo collecting. Unlike the photo postcards of folks posing with Felix which hail exclusively from Britain, Australia and New Zealand, the parade photos are as often from the US. While many seem to be variations on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloons, the best of them are from small parades elsewhere in the county. (Some of these previous examples can be found in posts here and here. Some of the photos from those posts are pictured below.) However, it has been a long time since one has come up for purchase. Hang onto your hats though folks – I think this is an interesting one.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Today’s comes to Pictorama from Great Britain and celebrates the Chelsea Arts Ball. The card was never sent. The only information printed on the back is Pathe Freres Cinema Ltd. Series Copyright. It turns out to be the 1922 edition of the ball. A bit of further research reveals that the design was overseen that year by artist Fred Leist and the theme (somewhat ironically as I write now in 2021) was Brighter London 100 years Hence. (I am thinking another worldwide pandemic was not on his mind at the time having just lived through the 1918 one.) That year the revelers danced to the Ceadon-West Orchestra, noted as a Big Band, but I cannot find many traces of them online.

Meanwhile, the Chelsea Arts Ball dates back to 1891, as far as I can tell from a brief history on the website of the club, (found here – and note the image of Felix on the side of their building in the photo!) having grown out of a tradition of fancy dress parties in the studios of artists in the 1880’s. It was meant to rival the already established Arts Club of Mayfair. (A side note that women were not admitted for membership in the Chelsea Arts Club until 1968!) The balls typically seemed to take place over New Year’s and/or Mardi Gras and eventually settled in at the Royal Albert Hall as a venue for a decades long run until the 1958 one was so raucous (Wikipedia sites, rowdiness, nudity and public homosexuality – which was illegal at the time – as what caused the ousting) that the ball was banned from the venue for the next 30 years. If I understand correctly, I believe that the party tradition continued until December of 2020 when, for Covid reasons, it was banned. The parties have been held at the site of the club at 143 Church Street in recent years.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

The hope had been to rival the French equivalent, the Bal des Quat’s’Arts established in 1892, I gather a similar soiree produced by architecture students there. They achieved their goal and the Chelsea Arts Ball grew to be extravagant affairs with a hundred performers, lavish decor and thousands of participants who partied until dawn when breakfast was served. It was, according the the Chelsea Arts Club website, the centerpiece of London society. I will also credit them with providing the quote, The mere mention of the Chelsea Arts Ball would make the debutante blush and the dowager blench. Lady Muriel Beckwith, 1936. It leaves me with questions about the participants – had the ball left its roots among artists and become a fête only of the wealthy? Or was it an event that embraced both, high and low brow so to speak?

Felix stereocard. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Each ball was punctuated by a parade at midnight – presumably we are seeing some sort of a dry run here with a photo taken during a misty day and used for promotional purposes. There is no real indication, London weather being what it is, if this was a Mardi Gras or New Year’s version. While seemed to me that it is a New Year’s version, no hint of spring in this photo, research shows that this ball was held on February 8 of 1922 – still very cold, and a bit early for Mardi Gras. Very chilly for those short dresses! Somehow the gray mistiness of it adds to the appeal and creates the right atmosphere in this photo.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

And oh what a photo is it is! A giant paper-mâché Felix with a distinctly worried look (hands behind his back in the Felix Thinking Position) hovers over this bevy of women in short white dresses – it is hard to see their masks but I believe they are little birds; I think I see beaks! They are cute little white fluffy skirts however, with ruffles and a bow. As noted, they are not warmly dressed. The dancers are being herded by Felix costume clad men. These gents are also in charge of Felix’s movement and he is balanced (precariously?) on a sort of dolly. Felix appears to have three of these escorts. A few folks are onlookers, as they are largely men and hard to see them clearly.

The real scoop here is that film exists of the pre-ball parade shown on this card. It can be found on the British Pathe website. However a superior and decidedly longer version exists on Youtube and can be found here or below. This one goes on to show the assembled costumed performers and even some of the individual wild costumes that could be found. The Felix men and white dressed women join hands and dance around Felix in a delightful fashion!

An interesting and somewhat moving account of the party given to celebrate the end of WWI, also found on the Chelsea Arts Club site, describes it as the most famous one, held on March 12, 1919. It used the concept of Dazzle, the Navy camouflage process which owed its roots to Cubism and Vorticists. (Okay, I had to look that up – Vorticistism was a brief industrial influenced abstract art movement of the pre-War teens in Britain – one of my facts for the day!) Dazzle is described as a visible expression of jazz syncopation. Here they were in 1922, a few short years later, wondering what the next hundred years would bring.

Another photo related to the ball, from the Royal Albert Hall website.