Hoodoo in Theory and Practice by catherine yronwode
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The Kansas City Kitty Dream Book features an interesting cover depicting
a kitten with seven ribbon-strung keys. Each key bears a number.
Sections inside the book include
a 1 page introduction, 12 pages of birthday horoscope numbers,
88 pages of dream keywords, 14 pages of women's names, and 12 pages of
men's names. There are no interpretations for
the dreams, just sets of number picks in the following format:
457 - Lottery - 799 4-11-44
The real name of the person who wrote the Kansas City Kitty Dream Book is not known, nor is the book's original publication date available. The closest we can come to determining its construction is that, according to the current publisher, Andres Visnapuu of Eagle Supply Co. (interviewed by Anthony Shafton in 1995) Ralph Anderson, the founder of Eagle Supply, purchased the rights to publish the Kansas City Kitty Dream Book from the book's author during the mid 1960s, before Visnapuu joined the company. Visnapuu recalls that the writer of the book was from Columbus, Ohio, and was probably a black man.
What sets this dream book apart from others is the cute artwork on the covers and internal pages -- Rev. I. Doolittle says: "Brethren and Sisters, If ... you MUST play 'em, BOX 'EM."!
The art work is unsigned and the artist's name, like the author's, is unknown (and, of course, they may both be one and the same person). Whoever made the pen-and-ink drawings was seemingly an amateur artist working under the strong aesthetic influences of Leslie Rogers and Jay Jackson, two prominent African American cartoonists of the time period. This adds weight to Andres Visnapuu's contention that the author was black, for there would have been few white amateur cartoonists of the era who would have copied the styles of Rogers and Jackson.
Leslie Rogers was the creator of -- and a long-time contributor to -- "Bungleton Green," the weekly comical adventures of an African American "average Joe" type character that ran in the black-owned and nationally distributed Chicago Defender newspaper from 1920 to 1964. One of Rogers' replacements on the series, Jay Jackson, originally worked in Rogers' big-foot style, during the 1930s, then forged ahead with his own more realistic type of adventure art during World War Two as Bung Green was joined by the Mystic Commandos.
The link between Rogers and Jackson, two highly professional cartoonists, and the seemingly amateur artist of the Kansas City Kitty Dream Book is not simply a matter of derivative line-work and cross-hatching methods, however: From 1934 until the mid 1950s Rogers and Jackson depicted Bung Green's weekly gags and social dramas in a strange world where boxed numbers appeared on random surfaces. These numbers were set forth without comment, for the benefit of policy and lottery players who happened to read the strip and hoped to catch a hit. Thousands of people bought the Chicago Defender to check the weekly "Bungleton Green" series for winning combinations.
The link between "Bungleton Green" and lucky numbers extended outside the newspaper strip as well: Rogers (or Jackson in his Rogers-like early period) also illustrated a few labels for gambling incense that were utilized by the old Sonny Boy Products curio company -- or, as is more likely, the Sonny Boy company appropriated some "Bungleton Green" art for use on their labels.
The name Kansas City Kitty is as evocative as the artwork. It was the title of a jazzy pop tune released in 1929 by Harry Reser's Syncopators, but probably the best-known person to use the nam, at least in the black community of the era, was an otherwise anonymous blues singer -- probably Jane Lucas, Mozelle Anderson or Victoria Spivey -- and my bet is on solidly on Lucas, for what it's worth. As the mysterious vocal partner of the great hokum piano player and song writer Georgia Tom (who later gained even more fame as "The Father of Gospel Music" under his real name Thomas A. Dorsey), Kansas City Kitty was hot stuff. Her 1930 duet with Dorsey, "How Can You Have the Blues," remains a much-played and often-covered favourite to this day. I must confess that the name Kansas City Kitty is very special to me, as well: it was the name i chose for the character that represented me in a sequence drawn by the comic book artist Brent Anderson as part of a collaborative homage i helped organize to celebrate Will Eisner's "Spirit" comics back in the 1970s, when i was the reprint editor of the series.
These chronological hints -- the 1929 introduction of the "Kansas City Kitty" song, the 1930 blues recordings by a black woman calling herself Kansas City Kitty, the 1934 introduction of lucky numbers into Leslie Rogers' weekly "Bungleton Green" comic strip and the aping of Rogers' art techniques by the amateur illustrator of the Kansas City Kitty Dream Book -- and other clues, such as clothing and hair styles in the drawings and the lack of the word "Television" in the word-lists -- have led me to assign African American authorship and an original publication date of 1935 - 1940 to The Kansas City Kitty Dream Book. I would welcome any further information on the author and the artist, of course.
More general information about dream books, policy wheels, and lottery betting will be found in the page about "Aunt Sally's Policy Players Dream Book"
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