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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Creepiest Postcard I Have Ever Seen

Over the years I have handled many types of postcard, from the earliest chromolithograph cards offering scenes, greetings, sites, events such as World Fairs and expositions, and on through the eras of photography, color printing, and linens.

I have seen postcards made of cactus wood, celluloid, redwood, leather, burlap, embroidered silk and other materials. Many cards were made that incorporated elements such as feathers, ribbons, bows, buttons, “rolling” eyes, horsehair tails, fur, plant materials, etc. There have been puzzle cards, transformation cards, “hold-to-light” cards, and other gimmicks.

Just about any subject under the sun has been stuck on a postcard! But in all that, ONE stands out as the weirdest, creepiest, oddest card I have seen. I have kept it just because it is such a puzzle. It is an image of a cat, mailed in 1910 and probably produced around that time.

Of course, cats have always been popular as subject-matter, as much as they are today.

Some were sweet, like a colorful chromo-lithograph card of kittens mailed from Toledo, Ohio, in 1911.

Photographers loved the subject, as a photo card of two kittens and straw hat from the Rotograph Co. with a copyright date of 1905 demonstrates.

Cultural biases notwithstanding, a black cat with googly eyes purports to be a “good luck mascot” on a card mailed in 1915.

But there is just no explanation for this evil-looking cat dressed as a woman, and with the caption, “There is’nt [sic] an honest man living. I hate ‘em all.” The publishing information is K.V.I.B, 12 “serie 1255” on a divided back. I can’t find much information about this company, which seemed to be fairly prolific in production at the turn of the century. The card was no doubt printed in Germany. It was mailed in 1910, somewhere in Eastern Washington, probably Tacoma. (The cancellation is only partial, although “T” is visible and the sender describes having gone to Yakima for dental work.) She sent the card to her sister in Broken Bow, Nebraska.

There is no indication of the artist, although he or she must have been somewhat – um – odd to have produced this message and image. I had thought that it might be by Louis Wain, a postcard artist whose schizophrenia caused him to create some devilish cats later in his career, but a Wain collector has assured me that this is not his work. Perhaps it was an attempt to imitate him. The cat itself looks rather evil, with fangs visible, ears like devil horns, and glassy, staring eyes. I do love the effect of the tail thrown over the arm, the only bit of comic relief on the entire card. I still find it very, very creepy though.