Adventures in Historical Preservation of The Great Pyrenees | Featured photo from Mary Cane Collection.
When Mary Crane (the Founder of the Great Pyrenees breed in the United States) passed away, she willed several boxes of her personal kennel records, a few paintings, a bronze FATH statue, and hundreds of photographs to the Dog Museum (then in St. Louis). The paintings and FATH statue were occasionally on display within the museum, but for the most part, the papers, records, and photographs were stuck away in boxes up in the attic.
One of our GPCA Members (Jo Stubbs) who lived nearby, took it upon herself (over a ten-year period) to sort, categorize, and make some sense of the boxes hidden away. She would go over on weekends and try to match up which dog went with which pedigree, and determine who owned which dog and what awards or winnings went with whom. Part research project, part labor of love, she did a fantastic job and ended up documenting the collection into albums entitled, pedigrees, photos, correspondence, advertisements, and friends. The collection sat in the Dog Museum attic “all dressed up but with nowhere to go” for years.
Sometime later, after a dog show in North Carolina, we were invited back to Judy Brown’s house (another longtime GPCA Member and Breeder) for lunch. We were talking about the HP projects and the progress made, when Judy mentioned that she had a few boxes in her attic (what’s with all the stuff in the attic?) that were given to her by Mary Crane. I immediately pestered her to show me and was thrilled to see pictures with comments on some of the earliest memories of both the GPCA and Mary Crane herself with Great Pyrenees. Judy mentioned that she had only a part of the collection; that most of it was at the Dog Museum. After a few phone calls (including offering my first born as collateral) we were given permission to take the entire paper portion from the museum to copy and scan, and to display at our national specialties. Jo Stubbs again came to the rescue when she picked up all the boxes and hand-delivered them to me in Ohio at our next national specialty. Then we started what I thought was going to be a “month or two” project. Little did we know that it would take us over 24 months to complete the task!
What ended up happening was, each time I went to the desk and started working, I spent just as much time reading as I did scanning. I spent hours looking at the photos—and the notes written in the margins next to them. Reading about common kennel problems, health issues, and some of the same issues that confront us today with this breed, I realized how far we had come with health issues, breeding issues, and living with and loving this breed.
Our final result is the Mary Crane Collection, available for all to view on our club website: www.gpcaonline.org. Go to the Historical Preservation Section and read away! With over 1,000 photographs, 200 kennel pedigrees, and countless comments and descriptions, it is truly a collection of historical relevance. What did Mary suggest that you feed your puppy? How many litters did that bitch have? Which titles? How many shows entered? How do you housetrain a puppy? How about which dog was the first to achieve a CDX title in the breed? Who was the first dog to achieve an Obedience title? How did Mary set up her kennel runs? All the answers are in the collection.
Our current project is to modernize our film collection. We currently have old 8mm, reel to reel, videos, CDs, and DVDs ready to be digitized. We are almost halfway completed and expect all to be available on our website when finished.
When I took over the The Great Pyrenees Historical Preservation work for the GPCA, I had no idea of the many hours I would spend learning about our breed, happily reading old articles and letters from past breeders. I strongly encourage everyone who loves showing their dogs to spend some time learning about the history of their breed and the breeders of the past. You just might fall in love with your breed history as much as I have. (We can trace the Great Pyrenees being brought to this country in the 1800s, and the first Pyrenees being bred in the US in the 1930s!) You just never know what is in those dusty old attics, and you may come across a treasure or two.