Rats, Cats, and Pumpkin-Carriages

As your personal curator (hate that word) of vintage weirdness, I take my role as a historian of holiday deltiological iconography very seriously. So when I find a trend that seems odd, it’s my duty to figure out WTF.

In this case, I cannot figure out the F.

The F in question is a trend of rats/cats being used to pull a pumpkin carriage. Now, granted, it’s a very light trend. And it’s not really a mystery because, let’s admit, it’s a pretty obvious kinda thing to do with a pumpkin when you’ve already shown people holding them, carving them, turning them into “people,” and even hiding inside of them.

I usually don’t feel bad for cats. But I make an exception for this guy.

Vintage cards always end up showing creative and impossible modes of transport at some point. Santa on a train! Santa on a plane! Santa in a new fangled horseless carriage! Or take Thanksgiving — run out of ideas? Make a kid ride a turkey! And I’ve already written about balloons. (And I should write another entry on Christmas balloon cards, too.)

But… I dunno. Something about the pumpkin as a means of transport just seems particularly inefficient. And I know Cinderella did it, but these are all before Disney took over at least half of our baseline cultural imagination. I guess, to be honest, that notion could have already been there since Perrault put the pumpkin in the Cinderella tale in 1697. But none of these cards have that kind of magic transformation-into-an-actual-coach thing he does. They just slap some wheels on a pumpkin or in some cases just strap some animals to it.

What about the bats and cats, huh?

But the other odd trend is making mice cart the thing around. Black cats make sense because, of course, they’re ubiquitous on Halloween stuff, almost always have been. But why mice? The only one that really seems appropriate is this one where the cat is obviously toying with them.

I love the guy in front who looks like he’s about to pull a Bartleby and say he’d prefer not to.

But there are others with mice pulling the pumpkin that don’t have the old cat vs. mouse thing going on. And these seem a bit more random.

The “up-to-date witch”? Does that have anything to do with rats pulling her gourd?

The ones that actually make me sad are like the first one up above, where there’s just one lone critter strapped to the thing and forced to labor on its iconic holiday. It lends itself to idea of forced slavery even when it tries to make it seem all fun and festive like this one:

The cat’s smile is a lie.

Nothing merry there at all.

And it’s usually kids that seem to have strapped these poor creatures to a giant gourd. On the one hand, they’re lighter, I guess, so it’s not as painful for God’s poor innocent critters. And maybe you can excuse them because of “innocence” or some other lies, but it almost makes it seem more cruel to me.

Oh, God. Even these Kewpie things got in on it.

So, I dunno. Maybe I’m overreacting. As I always tell myself, they mass produced these things in such volume and at such speed that they didn’t spend a lot of time thinking through the ideas. Some seem like they dashed them off in only a few seconds, but even if they didn’t intend anything awful, it certainly means that a lot of folks’ subconsciousness really wanted small creatures to pull other creatures on something that wasn’t meant to be pulled.

Is that a cat or just a bigger rat?

The one above at least directly points to Cinderella, and maybe in the end, that’s the source. You’ve got pumpkins as an iconic Halloween thing, and before jack-o-lanterns became ubiquitous, Cinderella was the only pop culture reference for pumpkins. Who knows. It still bugs me. That’s really all I’m trying to say.

In the meantime, here are just a few other “pumpkins-as-means-of-conveyance” that stand out. Enjoy. Or, ya know, don’t. It’s up to you.

Lots of flying pumpkins, too….

This is a nice riff on the trend. And maybe it’s easier on the bats being all anti-grav somehow.
Self-propelled! At least there are no indentured creatures.
What, do you imagine, is hauling the owl?
Pumpkin boats are a real thing, turns out.
Gotta share at least one legit pumpkin-balloon.
At least these aren’t the same kinds of “creatures”… or I guess they are, but… ya know, I don’t even know.
This one has more of a Thanksgiving vibe for some reason. But, no.
What horrors man has wrought… It’s like a Frankenstein thing. (And is she wearing lettuce as a cloak?)
Not a pumpkin, of course, but with the strapped cats, it seems to fit.
And, yeah, eventually it moved into the Thanksgiving cards, too. This is just one example of… many.


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