Monday, May 13, 2013

Cats Are Everywhere, Vol. 1

As I'm sure you're aware, cats are everywhere on the Internet.  They leap gracefully in and out of boxes, beg for cheeseburgers, trip their feeders (cats do not have "owners"), even articulate an existentialist creed*, all for our entertainment.

It's not surprising.  Cats were popular long before computers were invented.   The Egyptians (officially) worshipped them.  They lost their mittens and had no pie, fell into wells and were rescued by good children, in nursery rhymes.  Beatrix Potter sometimes dressed them up in little clothes. 

Source:  Project Gutenberg

They appear in vintage magazines (see the magazine cover above), on old greeting cards, and more.

I have limited space (and tolerance) for cute "kitty stuff" in my house, but I do like finding nice pieces at estate sales. 

Here's a vintage apron, fashioned out of a tea towel designed by Tammis Keefe.  This Mama Cat and her kittens look happy.  This apron is a candidate to be resold on line, or "gifted" to someone else who likes cats.

Another tea towel, this one unsigned, featured a 1960s-era cat wearing a necktie and an inscrutable facial expression.  It went to a friend who "repurposes" vintage textiles into pretty and useful things.  Maybe she can figure out what he's thinking.

I don't have a lot of space, so I limit the number of cat collectibles I actually keep to the ones I really like.  This one is a candidate to be a keeper: her name is Kitty Cucumber.  She was sitting in an old trunk at an estate sale, surrounded by larger teddy bears and plush Disney animals.  I brought her home.


Kitty Cucumber is a standing joke in this house.  Many years ago, my mom and I spotted a small ceramic Kitty Cucumber figurine in a gift shop and pointed it out to The Man of the House, who was patiently enduring the gift shop experience.  Seeing Kitty Cucumber elicited an over-the-top gagging response from TMotH, so of course I had to buy her and bring her home. 

Kitty Cucumber is not an antique, but she does have a certain historic significance.  She shows up on the Smithsonian Institution's website:

Kitty Cucumber (a cat character) first appeared in 1985, in a die-cut booklet produced by B. Shackman & Company, Inc. This firm has sold toys and printed materials since 1898. The Victorian-style Kitty's name was invented by the daughter of the president of the company for a favorite doll. Her mother designed the Kitty Cucumber now used on a variety of products, such as books, paper dolls, and art work. 

Following that is a description of the small collection of Kitty Cucumber items in the Smithsonian's collection.  

You can still find them online and, of course, at yard sales and estate sales.  Most of them are quite affordable. Kitty Cucumber has quite a following in the blogosphere, so you can see lots of images of her and her friends by doing a simple online search...that is, if she isn't a little too twee (as the English would say) for you.

Kitty Cucumber paper doll by B. Shackman & Company, Inc.

I have more Kitty Cucumber items in my collection than the Smithsonian does: the die-cut paper dolls (above), some stickers, a few ceramic figurines and fabric versions of Kitty and her friends.  They live in a smallish box and come out only at Christmas time, so that throughout the rest of the year, they're safe from the competition.

*If you really are interested in cat videos and haven't explored them yet, here are my favorites:

Maru the Cat  Maru lives in Japan.  His person's charming commentary enhances the videos and his blog

Simon's Cat  The very British Simon's Cat is animated and highly addictive.

Ennui-ridden Henri, Le Chat Noir's YouTube page is at .  Skip past the cat food commercials that feature Henri (even though they're cute and help pay his bills) and start with his second video, which Roger Ebert called "the best Internet cat video ever made."

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