The Long and the Short of It

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: The folks in these photos are costumed, but it might be a bit of a stretch to say these are Halloween photos, nonetheless I offer them for your pre-Halloween delectation today.

These photos are 9.5″x 3.5″, a size I have never encountered before. They are printed on a heavy stock – it might be fair to say photo postcard paper, but since they were long glued into an album (black paper sticks to the backs) it is a bit hard to tell exactly what their original weight was. Quite simply, these appear to be a miniature version of the foot long or panorama photo. They are slightly solarized, the silver somehow working its way to the surface as they aged.

On the technical side I am unsure exactly what camera would have sported this film, although the desire to make panoramas goes back to daguerreotypes – starting with the fitting together of consecutive shots, something that continues into the wet plate era.

Kodak was evidently making a panorama camera back in 1898, but my guess is that this photo may have been made with a 1911 Kodak model sold through the Sears & Roebuck catalogue. (I am not that smart about these this and some of these tidbits come from a larger article that can be found at A Brief History of Panoramic Photography.)

Generally panoramic photos were larger and made by either the lens moving or the camera and film rotating, but it seems that home panorama camera kits were mass produced, used roll film and the swing lens theory, but did not require a tripod. They made for smaller photos, topping out at around 12 inches. The negatives could be enlarged or contact printed. Given the information in these photos and the size I would guess their were contact printed. The edges of these photographs are a bit over-exposed and diffused which I am guessing either this particular camera or perhaps was prone to or that that process was likely to have.

Some of you might remember that there was a brief fad for disposable panoramic cameras, shortly before digital cameras (ultimately followed by the phone-photo) became the rage. They had a generally unsatisfying picture quality however, the dimensions somewhat shorter and wider than these. I was more a fan in theory than fact. (There was a more rarified 3-D disposable camera which I purchased, but sadly my photos were lost in the development return process so I cannot comment on the quality.) Somehow the panorama quality of my phone camera also disappoints and I use it rarely if at all.

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If you look carefully at these pictures you can tell that the leafy surround of the stage is the same in both photos although the elaborate costumes and backdrops make me think these are entirely different productions. Both appear to be of a historical nature, but one has thrown in a number of angels, even two who “float” above the group, a technical triumph I am sure.

These pictures found their way to me from the mid-West (as many photos have recently) and there were a smattering of others, apparently from still other productions, that were sold at the same time. I was fascinated by the size which I had not encountered before.

Meanwhile, I would say that all evidence points to these kids really knowing how to put on a show. If I had to choose I think I would be partial to seeing the one with the angels doing their thing – although perhaps their special effect was only for this picture.

As an aside, a little known Pictorama fact is that I was an active participant in high school dramatics. Plays found me onstage and musicals behind the scenes as an assistant to the director. As such I can still recent lines from Harvey and know most of the lyrics to things like How Are Things in Glocca Morra? I’ve painted my share of scenery and assembled all sorts of costumes so I can appreciate the work that appears to have gone into these productions. (I am not much of a singer so Kim and the cats are blissfully spared my actual vocalizing of show tunes.)

For a number of years I have searched for the right panorama photo to find a home here at Deitch Studio. We have so little wall room that I have long held out for the right one, perhaps a wild west show, although of course something with cats would really be best. I am agnostic on size, although some are really quite huge. Most of what has come my way for purchase has been gala dinners for salesmen so I continue to wait for the right one to come along. I did post about a sort of faux panorama of cats, Kitty Sextette Singers, which can be found here which was assembled through a bit of photo negative magic.

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Kim tells a good story about being in a panorama photo as a kid at an animator’s picnic with his folks – that or even one like it would be the real find. He also points out that with the roll film or rolling camera and film, a trickster who thought ahead could race from one end of the photo to the other and appear on both ends – a long forgotten joke of a bygone era.

Halloween in the Snow

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: This is another photo I have been holding onto in the run up to Halloween, purchased earlier this fall. Sadly there were several that ideally would have stayed together, but alas they went to high for me to achieve that goal. I liked this one best for its composition and our subject’s attitude.

Among the others were several similar shots and another in a group shot of five revelers standing in a line, four in similar homemade clown costumes and the fifth in a sort of Swiss maiden outfit. Another that I missed and would have been nice to have was nine folks, also all lined up at some sort of wooden balcony railing (eight of the nine were clown hat clones and presumably similar costumes from what we can see), appearing to be watching something, a parade most likely, together. These once again offered by Miss Molly, my mid-west maven of photos and things Halloween. Still, it is something that these all found loving homes even if it means they scattered across the country and perhaps even further.

The homemade costume was probably a relatively simple design – although I assure you beyond my capacity. As Pictorama readers might know, while I learned to sew buttons at some point, otherwise my sewing experience, via machine, is an endless tale of bobbins which were never the same for my acquaintance. I am old enough to have had Home Ec, perhaps among the last for whom it was required, before it was abolished or at least made optional. Meanwhile, I never met a sewing machine I didn’t manage to mangle with my ham handed ministrations. (I did better when it came to cooking.) As in many things my sister achieved substantially better than I did in this area and was pretty good, sewing some items she wore. She was also good at making bread – another area I have failed to achieve highly in, alas.

This photo is very jolly – showing off her nice costume out in the snow with her bit of attitude and eclat, a capsule of a time long gone by yet the homemade Halloween spirit which we can appreciate. She is justifiably proud of the handiwork on her costume. Whatever the accommodation she has made for her feet I cannot quite tell, although she has forgone snow boots. The other photos do not show evidence of snow and must have been before or after it had melted. I hope she had a nice day for when she was sporting it for a long time. (I hate to think of her suffering cold wet feet due to understandable costume related vanity.)

Although I cannot begin to remember most of my Halloween costumes from childhood and into adolescence (they sort of mostly mash together in my mind) I do know that while I had store bought costumes as a very young child (I did not come from a crafty DIY costume making type family at large), as soon as I was old enough to assemble my own I did with great joy. I can also say I still enjoy a good witch hat, worn at a saucy angle, not to mention a pair of cat ears which I have been known to wear to work on the appropriate occasion.

As an aside, Jazz at Lincoln Center is the first place I have worked where costumes were embraced by a swath of the staff for Halloween. (Just not a Met Museum thing.) I have a vivid memory of sitting in a meeting my first year with our Comptroller in gore strewn regalia much to my surprise. It is something I will miss this year, although I will keep my cat ears handy for a Zoom call or two on Friday.

I loved Halloween and we grew up in the right sort of neighborhood to be able to cover many houses on foot in the course of an early evening with neighborhood friends in a loosely age appropriate pack. It felt so exotic to walk the neighborhood on a chilly October night with your friends, knocking on the doors of houses you walked by constantly, but did not frequent. The candy was often kinds my somewhat limited experience had never allowed for – my introduction to things like wax lips and bottles of sugar liquid. A world of Mary Janes and fertile ground for tooth decay.

When younger, my sister and I were close enough in age that we went together of course, and then morphed into a neighborhood group that included both of us, before we drifted into our own groups over time. I don’t remember Loren being that enamored of Halloween now that I think of it – I believe she dispensed with it much earlier on than I did. I continued find excuses to dress up through college and even a bit beyond.

The last time I remember being in full Halloween regalia was probably the last Halloween I was still seeing my pre-Kim boyfriend. It was a huge gallery opening for a Robert Crumb exhibit. I was young enough still to be impressed that there was hot food served. I didn’t know Kim well at the time, but was surprised he wasn’t in attendance. (Looking back, my antenna already unconsciously tuned.) I was in a long black dress, black velvet opera coat and witch hat. I remember being very pleased at having a chance to wear the vintage velvet coat.

Fast forwarding, Halloween now falls immediately after our wedding anniversary (last week) and the anniversary of our first date – Veteran’s Day weekend. Therefore it has been somewhat supplanted by these bookends of dates of Deitch Studio/Pictorama importance. Today we have determined to make a mini-adventure via ferry (my new favored mode of transportation) and I am leaving off to go prepare for it. With any luck, more about that to come.

Wrestling: June 25, 1906

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: I needed a giggle and this card provided it for me so I purchased it – and I hope it does as much for you, Pictorama reader. As we can see from the front, this card was sent on June 25, 1906. It appears to be Compliments of RJH. What we know from the back of the card is that it was postmarked from Cleveland, Ohio at 12M and arrived in Brooklyn on June 26. It is neatly addressed, Miss Emma Lampe, 2680 Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn, NY.

While I for one immediately assume that RJH is the fellow with his buddy tossed over his shoulder looking out at us, I guess it could also be the guy held aloft, also looking at us. Of course, it could be the third fellow or anyone for that matter.

I don’t know what we want to make of the fact that the card was purchased from the Midwest, near its place of origin – making me wonder if Emma and RJH eventually got together, she went out there or returned to there, and she brought the card with her. Perhaps that is reading a lot into it however. So now, on the next leg of its journey more than hundred year journey, it has come to rest a borough away from its original Brooklyn destination. Kim has done a good job scanning this card. In person it it actually is a bit hard to see – the surface has silvered and reflects the light.

With all due respect to RJH it is a goofy (albeit perhaps also charming) way to woo Emma Lampe. Meanwhile, their 1906 state of the art gym clothes fascinate me – the layers! Sort of black stockings as the bottom layer, then the white trousers, all topped off by shorts. No wonder they are outside. Like the swimming clothes of the period – how could they maneuver in all of that? Each seems to have a strap across their chest, even the fellow looking on – perhaps better informed readers can tell me what that does for you when wrestling. The ground does not look especially soft so I hope the guy on his shoulder doesn’t get dumped unceremoniously there.

Kim is feeding me tidbits of wrestling lore as I write this – he knows quite a bit about wrestling, which may seem a tad strange, but is true. It is one of those facts about Kim that I have known for quite awhile now, but surprised me upon discovery. He just told me there was a time when someone could have had another person in a headlock for an hour. Oy, that sounds bad for everyone involved. (Kim’s interest in wrestling came and went long before we got together so it is neither a particular interest of mine, nor one I am knowledgeable about by association. I know nothing about it.)

Meanwhile, Kim is commenting that wrestling seems to have evolved into some sort of strange entertainment over time – part athletic feat, part theater. Actually very Deitchian now that I think about it. There are some Deitch drawings about wrestling out in the world (I believe they were made for friend and collector Glenn Bray and can probably be found in the book about his collection), but no Deitch stories about wrestling. Hmm, maybe we’ll have to get him to see about that one of these days.

Bathing Beauties

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s post focuses on a small bevy of beach beauties all originating from a single album. If I understand correctly, although found in the Midwest, these photos were probably taken in New London, Connecticut. Fastidious Pictorama readers may remember that I graduated from Connecticut College, located in New London (a post about that can be found by clicking here on Train tracking), and therefore these images strike a particular cord of memory of the beaches there.

As college students we did occasionally find our way to the beaches of New London and the surrounding areas. However, given that I returned home to the Jersey shore for the months of June, July and August, I tended to be in New London off season and have no memory of having been swimming there, nor do I think I ever even wore a bathing suit while there. I do have a very fond memory of being at Harkness beach late one night in the snow however. There is a boardwalk sort of arcade. It was very beautiful and I remember regretting that I never had seen it in season.

At the time of these photos New London was still largely an enclave of some wealth and privilege. The college was already there, attracting the more Bohemian young women of a moneyed class. As I have written previously, for a variety of reasons the town has mostly fallen on hard times, a cycle of struggling and failing to achieve urban renewal. However, there is an area near the water where the old mansions still exist and the shoreline is largely beautiful, if somewhat marred now by industry.

Given the singularly female focus of these photos I wonder if they were attending the college which was at that time, a single sex all-women’s school, although for them, like me, this would be out of season. Or perhaps at least they were chums from school there.

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I purchased other photos from this album which I will share in future posts, but I will note, these women liked to be lined up for a photo. (You will see more of this in those later posts.) Looking at what to us today appear to be impossibly ancient swimming attire, they appear quite natural on them and they certainly do not seem encumbered by them as we might think today. The water is crowded with people, wading and lounging in what looks to be fairly shallow water, perhaps on a sandbar of some kind. I look especially at the picture of them submersed in the water, up to their necks, and I envy them! This is what vacations were when I was a kid.

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Meanwhile, I especially like the image of the woman alone on a now deserted beach. Her long white cotton dress and a jaunty scarf. Perhaps early morning or evening, before or after the crowds of the day, both lovely times to be at the beach.

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By comparison Kim and I are more or less wrapping up our sort of a summer vacation this year. At some point we mostly gave up and shifted into working, albeit perhaps a bit less than usual, slowing to a jog instead of the long hard sprint of spring into summer. I have never failed at vacationing so resoundingly, my list of household ambitions largely unsatisfied, truly unable to unplug, let alone visits to the shore or lazy days.

Sidewalk dining at Veselka earlier this week.

Some ambitions were met, new shades were finally installed (this after our window replacement last October, the huge boxes containing them sitting in our one room like furniture since March), the bottom of a closet cleared out as needed for storage. However, other bookcases that required sorting out – in one case a coat of paint needed (I got as far as purchasing the paint), and a new carpet for the living room were among the items not achieved.

Kim and I ate out for the first time since March, Veselka in the East Village, and we tried a Vietnamese restaurant for take out near home. Our old favorite Mexican joint across the street reopened, to our great happiness and surprise as we thought they were clearly victims of the virus economy, closed first for renovation and then through the intervening months since March.

However, I cannot say I really got rested – I suspect Kim would say the same; he returned to several hours of inking daily in week two. Work continued to need my attention and I remained restless. I will take this last week before Labor Day at something less than full throttle and see if I cannot rest up a bit more. Somehow this year, with the whole world standing on end and trying to reinvent itself, letting go of the reins entirely was not possible, not for me. Labor Day weekend is on the horizon, let fall begin.

Flat Felix Prop

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Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: For experienced Pictorama readers it is known that this sort of a Felix photo find represents a good day here at Deitch Studio. Although these are technically one of a kind photos, I admit this one was so similar to another in my possession that I double checked to make sure somehow there wasn’t a second copy or version. But no, remarkably it is the same Felix and background, presumably the very same studio, but a different small child.

In poking around for this post I have found yet another in my possession, of two men this time, which seems to be the same Felix, but a different background. There’s yet another in this genre which seems remarkably similar, but Felix has his arms in a different position and the background is different.

Was sure that this was the same location, but Felix has his arm up here and the background is different. Pams-Pictorama.com

It has to be noted that this studio produced a lousy photograph. Kim has juiced the contrast on this, but as a group they are poorly developed, probably not washed properly, and therefore have faded. It is crooked across the bottom as if the negative was torn somehow before printing. (The other one from this studio also has a crooked bottom – it was clearly an ongoing issue!)

Like most of these, this card was never mailed and there are no notes on the back. Based on my other photos I believe that this was taken at Blackpool. (I admit that this is frequently noted by sellers, but there is no actual evidence that supports the idea that Blackpool was indeed the particular seaside town that this, and the others, originated from.) Unlike most of my photos of folks, young and adult alike, posing with stuffed, oversized versions of Felix these children are less than jolly.

The little girl has slipped her hand into the crux of Felix’s arm, but (much like the other photos of same) she does not look the least bit happy about it; she is almost reluctant. This off-model Felix does look a tad lascivious admittedly though. She is dressed up for the occasion it seems, over-sized bow in her hair, ruffly dress, neat socks and mary-janes clad feet. There is a bit of flotsom on the floor behind Felix, a somewhat tatty studio we can’t help but feel. Still, I can’t help but imagine I would have been grinning from ear to ear, given the chance to have my photo taken, arm and arm with Felix.

If you want to stroll through the whole series of similar Felix photos click on any of the following titles: Flat Felix Photo Finale, Installment 3; Blackpool, Felix Cutout Continued; Economical Felix; Felix Photo, the Cut-outs, Part 1.

I am inspired now to assemble all of these photos and get them up on the wall this weekend. They have earned a place of their own on the Felix wall of fame here.

VIM

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Something about the composition of this photo, and the women in their wonderful hats, made me grab it. This was purchased, like many recent photographs, during what I think of as the lightening rounds of sales, mostly on Instagram. (I have written about these a bit recently, highlighting purchases from @missmollysantiques in a post here and here.)

Upon reflection I wonder if this is the sort of thrill my paternal grandmother got from her somewhat compulsive visiting of auctions. It is known to have been her hobby to haunt the Manhattan auction houses of her day, buying up gorgeous enormous Turkish carpets that originally were meant for hotels, heavily gold-leafed mirrors and formal furniture from an earlier time. Those items would eventually make their way to the house where I grew up, existing in a strange contrast with our otherwise casual life of kids, cats and beach.

While I don’t have the additional complexity of bidding and deciding the ceiling of what I will pay, there is just a short moment of viewing the image before claiming it. Some sales give advanced warning (I will be keeping an eye out for one by @wherethewillowsgrow later today) and others just appear without warning at odd times.

Today’s image comes from the buy I did from an online sale held by dealers who were missing the economic boost of the enormous, in-person, quarterly Brimfield flea market multi-day fiesta. The buying was (somewhat) less frenzied. This was the seller I purchased my glorious snapshot of Lucy the Elephant Hotel from and which can be found here. There was an additional shot of these ladies which included a truck (presumably a VIM), but it didn’t have as much charm and so I only purchased this one. I regret that a bit as I write that now.

I wonder if these could have been employees of VIM Motor Trucks. (If you look carefully, there’s a man and a boy to the back of the group.) VIM Motor Trucks, under that name, was only in business between 1915 and 1921. Based on the women’s clothing I would lean toward the earlier part of the run. Women were entering the realm of office work at about that time – it is pure speculation but possible.

VIM was a Philadelphia company which made the sort of small delivery trucks that would have been used by farmers, lumberyards and those having like hauling needs. It had a brief meteoric rise and then, with no explanation I could find, it largely dissolved and the company was sold to the Standard Steel Car Company which itself disappeared not many years later. Perhaps it was the very nature of commerce that was changing and the small business was already giving way to larger enterprises. That span of years is a fascinating one in our country’s history – the years leading up to 1918 when war and influenza catch up with a run that seem to have spawned endless creativity and inventiveness.

I share an ad for VIM and a photo of the badge that graced the trucks below. The ad seeks to illustrate the necessary difference between the brutal strength of the VIM truck, making it a better choice for a commercial vehicle – and unlike pleasure cars with their delicate electric starter and other effeminate fittings the sturdy VIM with its abnormal mechanical safety factors…The emblem shows their truck versus a horse drawn cart – the cart only covering a 5 mile radius to the truck’s 20.

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The VIM sign contributed to my decision to purchase this photo, as well as the friendly and nicely attired group in front of it. The women are fashionably, if practically, dressed for a photo on what appears to be a nice, sunny day. The woman closest to us (with the large hat) is looking away from the camera, probably at someone we cannot see. It’s a pretty spring day, VIM Motors is prosperous and the future rolls out ahead of them.

 

The Drinkers

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today’s photo is part of a run of early photos I have purchased either on Instagram or in an online version of the Brimfield sale. (I have only been to Brimfield a few times and it is one of my life’s ambitions to go again. As a car-less non-driver there is no good path from Manhattan. Fellow junk collectors who would like to make the trip in future less disease inhibited times, please do advise. Happy to fund gas.)

This photo postcard came out of the Instagram haul. Purchasing on Instagram is like being in a real time auction although there is no raising of a bid – just who gets to claim it. Some are fast paced and other items just sit and get marked down. It is interesting to me to see what @MissMolly thinks I would like from what I have already purchased and when she DM’s me about one. She’s low on cat photos though and I have yet to manage to purchase one from her.

The Brimfield sale (those to follow in future weeks) moved at a somewhat slower pace, which works better for me. I do like to have at least a bit of time to ponder and consider. The Instagram sales are definitely you snooze you lose – the Brimfield one largely allowed for some consideration and even negotiation before things started to get snatched up.

This photo postcard is entirely unmarked and was never sent. I suspect that it was the composition that caught my eye. The photographer caught a good moment with the legs of these gentlemen, their shoulders and that flag creating a triangle in the middle – a sort of perfect composition – with those table legs adding to it. All the gents sport ties so they were dressed for the occasion, the one even completes the ensemble with a vest and watch chain. I would hazard a guess that it wasn’t a day that started out with drinking and smoking, but was ending with it.

Each fellow has a liberal shot of what appears to be hard liquor, with a bottle of beer chaser as well. (Or so it appears to me.) The two younger men may be brothers, a thought that only occurs to me when I start looking hard at it. Cigarettes spring from the mouths of the two guys. I think it is fair to say this is serious business, they do not appear jolly. Their attire marks this photo as very early. The room is pretty nondescript although there is an oddly incongruent and cheerful boarder of flowers on the wall near the floor and what I thought was a series of either small holes or something along the middle of the wall, but turns out to be something on the negative or in the printing. It’s hard to see, but there’s a happy flowered carpet on the floor too.

I spent a little time considering the flag at the back and its position. Taking out the possibility that somehow the photo negative and printing process somehow flipped which could be possible, I wondered what the statement might be. As many readers probably know, an upside down flag is a signal of duress. I had not encountered backward.

Our friends over at Google informed me that the military positions the flag this way (blue section, stars up highest) on uniforms, vehicles and whatnot, making the flag look as if it is waving as the person or the vehicle moves forward. I don’t know that I agree that they achieve this effect, but I guess it isn’t for me to weigh in on. Meanwhile, I admit that somehow I have never noticed this. So much for my general powers of observation. I cannot find any other reference to this positioning of the flag. (Someone with better eyes might be able to date this within a range by counting the stars on that faded flag.)

Meanwhile, I believe there is a general sense that our prolonged quarantine has increased people’s drinking (um, why wouldn’t it?) and probably not always in a good way. Zoom cocktails (starting earlier and earlier in the day it seems) being the social version of this – although here in New York you can sit outside with someone and drink if you are comfortable doing it in what turns out to be a not-quite socially distanced way. (I have yet to do it but I did have an in-person work breakfast outside on the corner of York and 86 the other day. It was very hygienic and just fine.)

When it comes to work if someone invites you to Zoom cocktails it to be a way of saying it isn’t really a work meeting, and maybe you will talk a little work, but you’ll also chat about other things. (Strangely though, like the meetings we have all tuned into, they tend to last exactly an hour.) Whether you have a jam jar of white wine in one hand, cold hibiscus tea (my favorite summer drink which makes me look like I am guzzling red wine), or something harder, it’s up to you and anything pretty much goes – after all, you’ll on someone’s laptop or iPad screen. I personally seem to be consuming the large quantity of my calories through baked goods rather than alcohol, but to each their own.

However, the other evening we (meaning we at Jazz at Lincoln Center) hosted a Dizzy’s Club online event and sent out the offer for cocktail and mocktail fixings for the guests. Although I purchased the requisite box (which came with salted peanuts in a nod to Dizzy himself) featuring Negroni fixings, instead I made a vodka tonic the way I like, with a ridiculous amount of fresh lime. (I had spent the day packing the apartment for the installation of bookshelves and needed the pick me up – more on this in a future post.) In this way, I found myself on Zoom with 60 or so jazz lovers. The evening kicked off talking to the great Catherine Russell followed by a clip of her at Dizzy’s. (I don’t have that clip but instead offer another which at the time of writing can be found here.)

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Our apartment packed up for the bookcase installation.

 

However briefly it did seem we were transported to a summer’s evening, wiled away at Dizzy’s, sweating drinks in hand – a serving of spicy mac ‘n cheese within reach and maybe some fried pickles, enjoying some companionable time, listening to the music and watching the view of the sun setting over Central Park. I must say, those were the best Zoom cocktails so far.

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View of Dizzy’s, Central Park and the East side out the windows.