Learning the History of our Sport While Preserving It
Collecting dog show memorabilia started with the search for meaningful gifts for a Maltese regional show that I was working on with a friend. That’s when I caught the “time travel” bug. With each piece that I found, there was more mystery to solve and the research has felt much like time travel for me. It’s not the sterling silver trophies or the fine art that draws my attention. Instead, it’s the bits and pieces of our history—saved by those who came before us—that tell the story of the remembered and treasured moments of dog show history in America.
From candid photos to win photos, letters, tickets, children’s books, magazines of the past, and show catalogs, the evolution of the sport of purebred dogs in our country is told. Of course, my own breed, the Maltese, is one of my favorite subjects to collect. However, I am also intrigued by the people who started kennel clubs and dog shows. Returning lost history to the all-breed clubs for their archives is part of the joy of collecting. What started as a way to fill a boring afternoon has become a mission and a passion.
Historical collections don’t do anyone any good by sitting in a dusty drawer or in boxes in the attic. Collections are only as valuable as you make them; by sharing them with the younger generation of dog fanciers. Many items can be scanned so that the original is able to stay with the collector. It’s also quite valuable to share what you find on social media and to use the platform to promote your breed—and our sport in general. I’ve had some wonderful conversations on social media by sharing what I’ve found, and by asking for help in putting the pieces of the puzzle together to tell the story.
One example is a letter, which I’d purchased online, that is from James Mortimer to Mr. G. M. Rundle of Danbury, Connecticut. After much conversation with others and a good deal of research, it was determined that this letter references Danbury Fair’s dog show beginnings. Making historic items available to their original clubs is also a meaningful gesture, as many are working on their history archives. Some have even written books.
I’m just your average breeder/exhibitor. I’m not steeped in dog show history, but collecting has awakened a passion that I hope I might share with others in our sport. We can save our bits and pieces, and use them to inspire the next generation through the story of our amazing evolution.