I am aware that I might be creating an inaccurate impression of my friend Gabby. Two facets of Gabby appear on these pages – excerpts of his memoirs from his time with the United Farm Workers and his collections. The collections part is what concerns me. He is not as crazy as the collecting of his collections might make him seem. He is much more than his collections. He collects in bursts, and with a sustained eye. He doesn’t hoard, not much at least. When he thinks that it is the right thing to do, he will give a collection away. Without thinking much of it. He doesn’t make lists or catalogs. It is all by eye.
So with that caveat, here is another Gabby collection – trading cards of the dog art of Cassius Marcellus Coolidge (and isn’t that a GREAT name?). He lived from 1844 until 1934 and is most famous for his dogs playing poker paintings. There are many imitators, but only one Cash. The original series was painted for Brown & Bigelow to advertise cigars. Gabby has them all. Here they are, plus an added bonus of one painted after the original series.
That is a pretty cool, pretty restrained collection, no? They remind me of lunches with my family in the 1950s at the Wursthaus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Just to keep it real, Gabby took a few photos of the some of the miscellaneous dressed dog cards he keeps in a couple (okay, may half a dozen) cigar boxes:
Gabby in large part drew the line when it came to dressed cats. Sure, he says, he had a nice group of so-called Mainzer cats.
The paintings are by Eugen Hartung. The Hartung dressed cat postcards were originally published by Max Kunzli in Switzerland, and then from the 1940s on by the Alfred Mainzer Company in Long Island. Here is what Gabby wrote about them: “The cards are beautifully composed. They are skillfully executed. And they are just a little bit creepy, at least from my point of view.”
My friend Bobbie favored these postcards. All during my United Farm Worker years she wrote me on Mainzer cat postcards. She was in La Paz, the UFW headquarters in the Tehachapi Mountains, working in the garden one summer, I think 1974. This is what Bobbie looked like in those years:
She is really something. We read Cat’s Cradle together driving from Colorado to California to New Mexico back to Colorado over Thanksgiving weekend in 1969. She was so far ahead of us that it wasn’t funny. There wasn’t anything that the three of us wouldn’t do for her.
But back to dressed cats – Gabby didn’t go overboard with them the way he did with the dogs.
I showed these photos to my friend. He too knew Bobbie, and seeing this photo of her from 40 years ago really threw him for a loop. A big loop. I went back to the dressed dogs. He chuckled. What did he think of them?