In 1938, the American Kennel Club published the AKC Blue Book of Dogs of “bench show dogs” that provides a snapshot of the sport as it existed in the US more than 80 years ago. Described as a volume devoted to the outstanding dogs of the preceding year, this one of a kind “Blue Book” features many imported and American-bred dogs that helped to raise the visibility of purebreds during the Great Depression. At a time when people yearned for trustworthy allies and creature comforts, pedigreed dogs (particularly Toy dogs) found greater acceptance as both companions and comforters. Dog shows of the day appealed to people from all walks of life, although these events certainly found their greatest supporters among the nation’s hoi polloi. As recognized breeds became a status symbol of sorts, their patronage by ladies of society propelled Poms, Pekes, and Pugs into the American consciousness—and into American homes.
The collection of Toys that follows provides a photographic record of a dozen recognized breeds that were embraced by the American fancier and, subsequently, by the American family. For some, the heady days of popularity seem a distant memory. For others, the best is certainly to come.
A wedding gift of a Brussels Griffon inspired Rosalind Layte to begin her hobby kennel in Short Hills, New Jersey. In the AKC Blue Book of Dogs, Mrs. Layte relates, “I was so excited…really, I do not know which got the more attention, the dog or the groom!” The breed’s newest fancier reportedly “…searched England for the choicest foundation stock that could be purchased and [her] selections made history in many show rings.” The Burlingame Kennels housed both imports and homebreds, including Ch. Hitane, Ch. Idla, Ch. Gerrards Chiff Chaff, Ch. Bridesmaid, and Ch. Austral Lil Black Sambo. At 18 months of age, the kennel’s American-bred Ch. Burlingame Dubarry won the parent club specialty. Not to be outdone, Ch. Burlingame Hellzapoppin won the Toy Group at Westminster in 1940—owner-handled.
“The Toytown Pekingese will spend their summers on Cape Cod,” reports an AKC staff writer in the Blue Book. “An island has been purchased. An ideal summer kennel has been erected… They will have one entire end of the island to themselves.” This idyll life on Pine Island, Osterville, Massachusetts, was the vision of a New England mother and daughter team. “It has always been the aim of both Mrs. and Miss Connell to own only the best Pekingese that could be purchased or bred,” the 1938 publication advises. “They have imported 60 of the finest bitches and dogs they could find, and from these they are breeding outstanding American-breds.” One of Judith Connell’s top winners was Ch. Honey of Toytown, Best in Show at the national specialty in 1939 under Mr. Frank Downing. Another outstanding Toytown Peke was Ch. Hop-O of Hartlebury. “He was chosen by his owner as the best young dog in England, in her opinion, after visiting 23 of the leading kennels and seeing championship shows in various parts of the country,” the Blue Book claims. This import hailed from the legendary Caversham Kennels of Miss Mary de Pledge.
At the 1935 Morris & Essex Kennel Club dog show, the entry of 3,175 was the show’s largest up to that time. (The 1939 event was the show’s grandest with 4,456 entries.) In his coverage of preparations for the event, New York Times writer Fred van Ness reported, “$20,000 in cash prizes and 220 trophies will be distributed.” Although Harry Hartnett handled the celebrated Irish Setter, Ch. Milson O’Boy, to Best in Show under judge G .V. Glebe that year, other winners emerged from breed entries deep in quality. Among them was Ch. Jin Rickey, a Pug owned by Mrs. Edna Hillgamyer of East St. Louis, Illinois. The entry was reportedly one of the largest the breed had ever seen in America. The win certainly gave the Midwest Toy a lot of exposure. During the 1937 show season, the fawn dog was Best of Breed on six occasions, placing in the Group each time. Mrs. Hillgamyer’s kennel also included eight “very fine” brood bitches as well as three champions at stud, as noted in the AKC Blue Book.
JAPANESE (SPANIEL) CHIN
When Ch. Kumochi-No-Koban appeared on the bench in America, his breed was known as the Japanese Spaniel. (In 1977, the AKC officially changed the misnomer “Spaniel” to the appropriately royal designation, “Chin.”) The little dog’s owner, Mrs. Edward H. Berendsohn, was one of the breed’s earliest promoters in the US. In 1932, the lady judged the Toy Group at Westminster and gave the win to Keuwanna Titi, the breed’s first Group Winner at the Garden. Mrs. Berendsohn imported the Austrian-born Nagako v. Miniatur, a bitch that proceeded to win specialties in 1933, ’35 & ’37. Of particular interest to students of 20th century American dog shows, Dr. and Mrs. Berendsohn introduced Alva Rosenberg to purebred dogs. The future all-rounder worked in the kennel at the couple’s home in the Park Slope section of Brooklyn.
Mrs. J. De Forest Danielson was gifted a pair of Papillons from Paris by Mrs. William Storr Wells in 1907. In the years that followed, the Boston native imported another pair, one of which produced a dog named Jou Jou, the first Papillon registered with the AKC and the breed’s first American-bred champion. In 1915, the year of the breed’s recognition in the US, Mrs. Danielson resided at 4 Commonwealth Avenue, her childhood home that had been built by retail druggist William Brown on land purchased directly from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Mrs. Danielson was the parent club’s first president and the breeder of Am. Eng. Ch. Offley Coquette, the first Papillon in America to win the Toy Group, and Am. Eng. Ch. Offley Black Diamond, the breed’s first Best in Show winner. By the time Ch. Itho of Offley appeared on the bench, the lady divided her time between a townhouse at 28 Commonwealth and Pound Farm, her country home in Medford, Massachusetts.
In 1929, the American parent club of the Miniature Pinscher was formed, four years after AKC recognition. Interestingly, the “King of Toys” originally competed in the Terrier Group. Among the breed’s early supporters in the US was Mrs. B. J. Wentker of Burlington, Wisconsin. (A brew pub by the name B. J. Wentker’s operated in the city, though it is unclear whether its German immigrant proprietor and his wife were associated with the Min. Pin.) In any event, Ch. Princess Sylvia v. Konigsbach was owned by a Mrs. Wentker and competed successfully on the bench during the breed’s earliest years in America. As detailed in the 1938 Blue Book, “This beautiful little Miniature Pinscher set the circuit ‘on fire.’ She would show ‘just enough’ against her own breed. In the Groups she would get steamed up, but when she was in against larger breeds she’d really ‘turn on the heat’ and show her champion class.”
By the 1930s, the Poodle had become a force to be reckoned with in the ring. The dogs of Pillicoc, Misty Isles, Fair Acres, and Blakeen feature prominently throughout the pages of the AKC Blue Book of Dogs. Most, if not all, are Standards, with a few gorgeous Miniatures included for good measure. A notable exception is a small white Toy that appears on page 126, sandwiched between two Pomeranians. Mitor of Muriclar is the sole representative of the variety that would ultimately capture the hearts of innumerable fanciers in the US and around the world. Owned by Mrs. Charles Clark of San Francisco and bred by Florence Orsie, the coy little coquette is listed as having been sired by Happy Chappy out of Orsie’s Mit Zee. According to Mackey J. Irick Jr. in The New Poodle, many US Poodles can be traced back to this particular sire. Mrs. Clark’s involvement in the breed apparently spanned several decades. In a 1951 San Francisco Chronicle article covering the Golden Gate Kennel Club Dog Show, one of the lady’s Toys is featured in a photo with a caption that reads, “Ticky, the parti-colored Toy Poodle, challenging a teddy bear to a fight.”
CHIHUAHUA (SMOOTH COAT)
Mrs. Henrietta Proctor Donnell Reilly was an American promoter of many Toy breeds, most notably the English Toy Spaniel, Miniature Pinscher, Affenpinscher, and Chihuahua. In its heyday, her Etty Haven Kennels in Larchmont, Westchester County, New York, was home to more than 100 dogs. Mrs. Proctor Donnell was co-founder of the Chihuahua Club of America and its president for eight years. She was also the first president of the Progressive Dog Club, the revered Group show where a Group First is officially considered a Best in Show win by the American Kennel Club. The Etty Haven Kennel’s top-winning Chihuahuas included littermates Ch. Uz of Etty Haven and Ch. Buz of Etty Haven, and the diminutive Ch. Cecillee of Etty Haven. Beginning in 1933, Ch. Joya Preciosa was a reliable winner for the kennel, earning Best of Breed wins and multiple Group placements for three years running.
According to the AKC Blue Book, Pomeranian fancier Mrs. Vincent Matta was “one of the most prominent personages in ‘Poms’…representing years of careful breeding and fearless showing.” A resident of Astoria on New York’s Long Island, Mrs. Matta is described as favoring line-breeding based on several imports, including Ch. Sealand Moneybox and Ch. Little Sahib, both grandsons of Ch. Woodfield Diamond King whose progeny influenced the breed in America and Australia. In 1937, Little Sahib won Best of Breed 21 times, Best Toy 20 times, and Best in Show on three occasions. He was top American-Bred Toy for 1936 and runner-up for Best American-Bred dog all-breeds the following year. For three consecutive years, he was Best of Breed and Best Toy at Morris and Essex. “The record of this orange Pomeranian establishes him as one of the greatest Toys of all time,” the 1938 book reports.
ENGLISH TOY SPANIEL
Information is scant on the Celamo Kennels of Rochester, New York, owner of the English Toy Spaniel Ch. Bridegroom of Celamo. What is clear is the handsome dog that appears in the AKC Blue Book is a Blenheim, one of four accepted colors of this “comforter spaniel.” Named for the English country house of the Duke of Marlborough in Oxfordshire where a line of red-and-white Spaniels had been bred, this variety wears deep red or chestnut markings that are evenly spaced against a pearly white ground. The Blenheim’s soft and appealing expression is accented by red ears and cheeks, and the blaze of white that extends from his well laid-back nose to his high and well-domed skull gives the variety an aristocratic look. It is unclear, however, if this early American champion possessed the attractive “Blenheim Spot” atop the center of his skull that is still coveted by admirers of his breed today.
The progeny of the outstanding Yorkshire Terrier, Ch. Petite Byngo Boy, determined that he would have enormous influence in the American Toy Group. His breeder, Mrs. Goldie V. Stone of Columbus, Ohio, was an early proponent of Yorkies in the US. Her Petit Kennels was established on the pairing of the homebred Byngo Boy to Madame Be You, a bitch produced by Mr. and Mrs. Henry Shannon of Fox River Grove, Illinois. So sure was Mrs. Stone of this combination that she undertook the pairing on five separate occasions, producing five AKC champions. Two sisters became multiple Group winners; Ch. Petit Baby Jill won nine Groups and Ch. Petit Wee Wee earned 14 Group Firsts. A brother, Ch. Petit Magnificent Prince, became the first American-bred Yorkshire Terrier to earn an all-breed Best in Show. More than four decades after this win, it was reported in the press that Mrs. Stone passed away at the venerable age of 105.
Another notable dog from the Etty Haven Kennels of Mrs. Henrietta Proctor Donnell Reilly, the Affenpinscher Niki v. Zwergteufel made his show debut in 1938. The German import’s name translates to “dwarf devil,” and the little “monkey-like Terrier” wasted no time be-deviling American judges. For six consecutive years (1938-1943), this little black dog introduced the breed to fanciers at Madison Square Garden. An imported kennelmate, Ch. Everl v. d. Franziskusklause, was breed winner each of the four years that followed. The Affenpinscher was just beginning to gain notoriety in the US before the Second World War halted additional importations from Germany. Perhaps this explains why no records exist of these Etty Haven Affens producing in America. It would take another half century for the fearless and friendly “monkey dog” to gain its rightful place among the nation’s top Toys.
The 1938 AKC Blue Book of Dogs offers today’s preservation breeders a dependable blueprint for managing a breeding program and promoting purebred dogs. The only difference between today’s participants and the fanciers of yesteryear is the society in which dog shows are held and kennels established. Gone are the days of 100 dog operations and four-dollar entry fees. Gone too is a general public clamoring to see purebred dogs in person. In its place is a computer literate society that embraces dogs that appear online—not necessarily in person. For the future of purebred dogs in America to be assured, today’s breeders would do well to find inspiration from the dedication of breeders of yore, even as current technologies are embraced. Though they may have had greater means, 20th century breeders did not have what today’s breeders have—a sense of urgency.