A BRIEF HISTORY OF CAT SHOWS
2003 - 2013, Sarah Hartwell
This is "very brief history" provides a background to some of the "retrospective" pieces covering British cat care from the 1930s through to the 1970s. It is not intended to be a definitive history of cat shows or cat fancies. Cat fancies will be able to provide far more detailed information on their own history, right down to "which cat won which prize in which year, and who were his parents?". For definitive information or for information on the cat fancy outside of the UK, you are advised to visit the official sites of the registries whose history interests you.
In "Animals, Their Nature and Their Uses" (1850s), Charles Baker wrote, "The Cat must be considered as a faithless friend, brought to oppose a still more insidious enemy. The domestic cat is the only animal of the tribe to which it belongs, whose services can more than recompense the trouble of its education." To Baker, cats were useful for controlling vermin, rather than being valued for their appearance.
Not all cat lovers would have agreed with this view. Some were already trying to perpetuate certain looks though there seemed to be no co-ordinated efforts and the habit of letting cats wander freely undermined their attempts. In "Origin of Species" (1859), though Charles Darwin acknowledged the attempts and the difficulties, he was dismissive of the selective breeding of cats, "...cats from their nocturnal habits, cannot be so easily matched [bred] and although so much valued by women and children, we rarely see a distinct breed long kept up."
Nevertheless, owners were breeding cats for their appearance and trueness to type. It was natural that they should want to compare their efforts against those of other breeders.
The earliest recorded cat show took place in England at the St Giles Fair, Winchester, in 1598 though we have no details of the exhibits or how they were judged. A cat show was held at a London house in 1861 and another was held at the Crystal Palace in 1868. During the 1860s, the first cat shows in North America took place in New England, being county fairs featuring farmers' cats: the local Maine Coon breed. Official Cat Shows (Championship Cat Shows) with rules and breed standards began in 1870s Britain as part of a general public enthusiasm for seeing exhibitions of objects and of animals.
THE VERY FIRST BRITISH CAT SHOWS
Although Harrison Weir is considered the father of the modern cat fancy, he did not organize the first ever cat show at the Crystal Palace. That distinction goes to naturalist, Mr Fred Wilson, in 1868. Wilson was superintendent of the natural history department at the Crystal Palace so it was perhaps natural that he wanted to arrange displays of animals there. Wilson’s Crystal Palace Cat Show is reported on page 6 of the London Standard for Wednesday 18 October 1893 celebrating 25 years of cat shows at the Crystal Palace:
“CAT SHOW AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. Twenty-five years ago, Mr Fred Wilson had the happy idea of organising a Cat Show at the Crystal Palace. In this early exhibition only sixty-five animals were shown; but such was the novelty that immediate popularity was attained, and from that day to this the Show, under the auspices of the Crystal Palace Company and the National Cat Club, has gone on increasing, until yesterday about six hundred of these domestic pats were ranged before judges for inspection. It has, indeed, been found necessary to amalgamate several classes, and to put certain checks upon the entries, in order that the works of judging might be brought within reasonable limits.”
Page 5 of the Bath Chronicle and Weekly Gazette of Thursday 20 July 1871 confirms Wilson’s role in the development of the first cat shows: “THE CAT SHOW AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE… Over 150 specimens have been sent in, although the entrance fee is 3s. 6d., but then it must be recollected the directors of the Crystal Palace Company have held out the inducement of nigh £70 in prizes. Mr F. W. Wilson, the superintendent of the natural history department, has to a great extent been instrumental in collecting so large a congregation of cats, and heaps of difficulty he had in many instances to overcome the objections of fair ladies to part even temporarily with Pussy.” This article was published in 1871; the year that Harrison Weir is credited with running the first cat show at the Crystal Palace.
On Page 5 of the Morning Post for Saturday 26 October 1872 Fred Wilson and Harrison Weir are both credited as originators of the Crystal Palace shows, but the underlying concept of a competitive cat show is credited to Baroness Burdett Coutts, the Duchess of Sutherland, and her “catty” friends.
“CAT SHOW AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. The fourth National Cat Show at the Palace was opened yesterday afternoon for private view, and also for the awarding of prizes by the judges. This show, which will be thrown open to the public to-day, and again on Monday and Tuesday is the largest that has yet been held here, or indeed anywhere else in the country, there being 300 entries, which include, with kittens, no less that about 370 specimens of the domesticated feline race. Although exhibitions of cats on so extensive a scale may be said to have chiefly originated with Mr. Harrison Weir, the artist, and Mr. F. W. Wilson, of the Natural History Department at the Crystal Palace, yet the credit of the idea should be given to the Baroness Burdett Coutts, the Duchess of Sutherland, and a few other ladies, who, with a view to encourage the humbler classes to take an interest in and treat with kindness poor Puss, had previously given rewards for the best specimens of cats bred by working men.”
Page 2 of the London Standard of Monday September 22nd, 1873, states “The judges of the merits of the animals were Mr. Harrison Weir, Mr. J. Jenner Weir, and Mr. P. H. Jones ; and the general arrangements of the show were under the direction of Mr. F. W. Wilson, of the Natural History Department of the Palace.” i.e. Harrison Weir had judged at the show, but the show’s organiser was Fred Wilson. Wilson’s contribution to the cat fancy has probably been overlooked as he was not part of the “catty” circle who went on to found or join cat clubs, while Weir's contribution is recognised as he set down the first judging standards for championship shows and wrote prolifically about cats.
While it appears Weir did not organise, as is often stated, the first cat show, he did set down standards for methodical judging of cats and he was a founder member of the first cat club and organiser of their first Championship Cat Show as reported on Page 3 of the Morning Post for October 14 1896: “CAT SHOW AT THE CRYSTAL PALACE. The first Championship Show held under the auspices of the National Cat Club was opened yesterday at the Crystal Palace. The club, which contains many distinguished members, some time ago appointed a special Show Committee, consisting of Lady Marcus Beresford, Mrs Balding, Mr. S. Woodiwiss, Mr. Hawkins, and Mr. Gresham, and every effort was made to render the exhibition a great success. The services of Mr. Harrison Weir, Mr. Louise Wain, Mrs Vallance, Mrs Bridewater, and Messrs. Welburn, Billett, and Jennings were secured as judges.”
BRITAIN'S FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP CAT SHOWS
Barely twenty years after Darwin had been so dismissive of selective cat breeding, the world's first "Championship Cat Show" was staged at London’s Crystal Palace on Thursday 13th July 1871 (some sources quote 12th or even 16th July, press reports support the date of 13th July). Although the first Crystal Palace Cat Show had been held several years previously, a Championship Cat Show was the brainchild of writer, artist, and noted cat lover, Harrison Weir who wrote breed standards against which the entries would be judged and he was one of the three judges. Weir suggested the idea of a cat show to Mr Wilkinson, the Manager of the Crystal Palace which was one of London's leading venues at the time, so this really was a high profile event! Before the day was over, the Crystal Palace Company presented Harrison Weir with a pint-size silver tankard "in recognition of his suggestions and services."
Weir grouped the cats in different classes according to length of fur, colour, shape and build. He drew up guides for judging and called these "Standards of Excellence" or "Standards of Points". For the first time the number of marks awarded for the colour of coat or the shape of the body were laid down. Weir's work was later incorporated into a standard manual for cat show organisers, "Our Cats" and he is recognised as the father of the cat fancy.
He later wrote that he had "conceived the idea that it would be well to hold ‘Cat Shows’ so that the different breeds, colours, markings etc. might be more carefully attended to and the domestic cat sitting in front of the fire would then possess a beauty and an attractiveness to its owner unobserved and unknown because uncultivated before". He had been distressed by the long ages of neglect, ill-treatment and absolute cruelty towards domestic cats had suffered, and his main objective in organising the first show was promoting their welfare rather than providing an arena for competitive cat owners.
"The first cat show led up to the observation and kindly feeling for the domestic cat. Since then, throughout the length and breadth of the land, there have been Cat Shows, and much interest in them is taken by all classes of the community. Having before my mind many instances to show that Shows generate a love for cats I have never regretted planning the first Cat Show at the Crystal Palace."
The Victorian public at that time had a great appetite for exhibitions. The Crystal Palace had housed industry exhibitions showcasing inventions from around the Empire. Other fancy animals were bred and exhibited and cat lovers were not to be outdone. Many exhibits were Longhairs, though these were shorter-coated and longer-nosed than modern Persian Longhairs. Weir himself he preferred the shorthairs and it would be some years before the Angoras and Persians came to dominate the shows. It attracted thousands of cat lovers, many of whom went on to organise local cat shows on similar lines.
The show manager was one Mr Wilson and the judges were Harrison Weir, his brother John Jenner Weir and the Rev J MacDona (or McDonald - reports vary!). It was well advertised in London and posters showing a large head of a black cat were widely distributed. The cat show was advertised in The Times of 10th July 1871, "The Cat Show is to be held on Thursday next", but no-one was certain of what to expect. Weir, the show's organiser, had some concerns en route to the show - he had no idea how many exhibits he would find there, nor how they would behave. It was feared they would sulk or be distressed. The official show advertisements stated 25 classes comprising nearly all the known species of Eastern (i.e. Angora and Persian) and other foreign (Russian, Siamese) cats, as well as the British varieties (Shorthairs, Manx). The show attracted 170 exhibits and awarded 54 prizes; the large number of prizes being an incentive for future shows. The prizes were awarded to 32 gentlemen, 15 married ladies and only 4 spinsters - apparently dispelling the myth that cats were pets for spinsters. The Daily Telegraph urged its readers to ‘"Hurry down as soon as they had finished reading these lines" and there were such vast numbers that it was sometimes impossible to see the cats. The cats themselves were penned in cages borrowed from the Pigeon Society and most were quiet and well behaved.
There were novelty classes which would not be permitted today including a prize for the fattest cat (won by a huge 20 lb cat belonging to a Mr Nash) and also for the biggest cat. Some of the more unusual exhibits included an Algerian Cat, listed as a French African cat. The Duke of Sutherland exhibited a British (i.e. Scottish) Wild Cat which had lost its right front paw and behaved like a mad devil, no doubt through terror. The two Siamese cats brought varying opinions. One writer described them as ‘an unnatural kind of cat’, whilst another thought that they were ‘singular and elegant in their smooth skins’. The Daily Telegraph, which had earlier urged its readers to go to the show, described the Siamese cats as curious, unprepossessing and their colours completed "the resemblance of the little brutes to a pair of pug puppies". One of the winners was Harrison Weir's blue tabby, "The Old Lady" who was fourteen at the time. For many years after this win her owner wore on his watch chain the silver bell that The Old Lady had worn round her neck at the Palace.
According to the following day's Morning Post: "‘The greatest novelty of the day in the way of shows is the show of cats at Crystal Palace. We have had cattle shows, horse shows, dog shows and shows of various other animals more or less domesticated. hut this is the first cat show of an extensive and thoroughly organised character the world has ever seen." After the event, several journals reported Weir's cat show. Prior to the show there had been concern over how the cats would behave and Harpers Weekly of 19th August 1871 described the problems of caging one cat on the day of the show. It also seemed that one day was not enough for some people as The Illustrated London News of 22nd July 1871 reported "The show was only open one day." So successful was the show that later in 1871, a second show was held at the Crystal Palace, this time a three day show running from Saturday 2nd to Monday 4th December according to a report in The Times on the 4th December.
The legend on the 1871 illustration of prize-winning exhibits reads:- Top left-to-right: Persian rare colour Violet; Hybrid Wildcats; Silver Tabby. Middle left-to-right: Best Litters of Kittens; Mouse Colour English. Bottom left-to-right: Tortoiseshell Tom; Persian; Abyssinian.
Cat breeding and showing had mainly interested middle and upper class women, with several aristocrats participating, so how did the "working men's" classes begin? One version (which corresponds to Weir's original aims) is that those upper classes (who were always keen on educating the masses) wanted to promote better cat care among the lower classes. Hence the earliest shows had classes for "Cats Belonging to Working Men". Another version of the story goes that when that first show was held at Crystal Palace, not enough cats could be found as exhibits. The cellars at the Crystal Palace were full of stray cats, so workmen were told to round them up. The generous prizes on offer prompted the workmen to enter their own pet cats for the show as well, leading to working men's classes.
The catalogue of the Fourth National Cat Show held at Sydenham, England, October 26th, 28th and 29th, 1872, lists on page 15 under the heading " Class 21 -Short-haired Unusual Colour She-Cats " the entry " 127 Lady Dorothy Nevill, Pure Siamese ' Mrs. Poodles'." Page 12 of the 1875 catalogue carries under the same heading the entry: " 112 Mr.J. Walter, Siamese, 'Mymie,' aged five years. Winner of First Prizes Crystal Palace 1873 and 1874." At this time there were Chinese and Japanese cats as well as Siamese and Abyssinian, so the early "Siamese" cats may have been different to those sent to England in 1884. Some of those "Unusual colour" cats might have been brown Burmese cats or the intermediates now called Tonkinese.
In 1873, a cat show was held at the Alexandra Palace, north London and another was held in Birmingham. The 1875 show in Edinburgh attracted 570 exhibits while the Crystal Palace show of the same year had 325 exhibition pens and included a special class for "Wild or Hybrid between Wild and Domestic Cats". The wildcats class was won by an ocelot. Bengals, Chausies and Savannahs may seem like modern fads, but hybrids have been shown right from the early days and the 1871 illustration depicts Hybrid Wildcats (top row centre).
The prizes on offer would certainly have encouraged the working class to enter. First prize might be as much as 30 shillings. Entry fees and prizes in the Working Men's classes were lower than in the other classes. This also made show cats, particularly winning cats, very valuable and hopefully better cared for. At this time, an exhibition quality longhaired cat might cost the equivalent of a housemaid's annual wages, with some Champion cats being worth twice or more that amount. Exhibitors were soon less interested in cat welfare than in promoting their own breeds and, most importantly, in winning prizes. They were, to use a term from the world of horse events, pot-hunters.
The Cat Fancy's early beginnings in Britain were also described by a ship's doctor, who was also a veterinary surgeon, writing circa 1872. Doctor Gordon Stables listed the classes at what he refers to as 'pussy shows' taking place at the Crystal Palace and at Birmingham. In his list of the classes at the Crystal Palace and Birmingham shows, Dr Stables discussed the points to be looked for in the exhibits. Regarding shorthairs he wrote "Class 1. And first on the list comes Tortoiseshell Tom" Stables found Tortoiseshell Tom an ugly cat and expressed surprise that he only seen one tortie tomcat, and that one died at three months old. In many of the classes listed, the exhibits were to be judged by 'size', and Stables observed that the Black and White "...is a large, handsome, gentlemanlike fellow". Stables gave unusual advice to exhibitors in the matter of preparing an exhibit's coat for the show: little dabs of fresh cream here and there over the cat's fur so that the prospective contender will wash his coat so thoroughly and so extensively as to produce a beautiful, shining pelage. Stables, writing in the 1870s and before the era of genetics, would not have understand the scarcity of tortie tomcats. Stables' book suggested there was no class for the Blue cat, however he does mention the "Blue or Silver Tabby" while "Unusual Colour" there is a "Maltese" which was describes as all of one colour, "a strange sort of slate colour or blue: even the whiskers were of the same hue."
By 1887, cat shows were regular events and the National Cat Club was founded in London. The National Cat Club aimed to promote the breeding of pedigree cats (and the proper keeping of pedigrees) and organise shows. The first National Cat Club Show was held at the Crystal Palace, London, in July 1887. The Show Manager was Mr F Wilson and 323 cats were entered. It was judged by Mr and Mrs Harrison Weir and Dr Gorden. The Entrance fee was 3 shillings and sixpence with an additional 2 shillings for Miscellaneous Club classes. The National Cat Club's first President was Harrison Weir, but he resigned because he felt that members were more interested in winning prizes than in promoting the welfare of cats (the reason he has organised the 1871 show). He was succeeded by the artist Louis Wain.
Until 1910 the National Cat Club was also, the Governing Body of the Cat Fancy. In 1910 the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy (GCCF) was formed. The National Cat Club Show was held at Crystal Palace until December 1936 when the venue was destroyed by fire on the eve of the National Show. Fortunately for the NCC, they had not taken their trophies there on the day before the show as was the usual practice! In the following years, the show was held at a number of different venues: Paddington Bakers Hall, Kentish Town Baths, Paddington Baths, Seymour Hall, the Royal Horticultural Hall, Olympia and Earls Court. The current venue is Olympia, although it is often uncomfortably crowded for visitors (especially in comparison with the Supreme which is held in the more spacious surroundings of Birmingham National Exhibition Centre).
The following words were written by Harrison Weir in 1903 for the preface of Simpson's "Book of the Cat". Thirty years had elapsed since his Crystal Palace cat show and his words make it evident that he was disenchanted with the course the cat fancy had taken:
"Thirty years ago it was apparent to me that cats were not valued at their true worth, and then I suggested a show of cats! Let anyone try to start anything new, though novelty is said to charm! Many were the gibes, jokes, and jeers that were thrown at me then. But nothing succeeds like success. Now, if I may without offence say a few word as to present day shows, it is that they have not answered my expectations. Why? Because particular breeds are catered for an run after. Why such breathless talk about long-haired cats, be they blues or silvers? This is not cat breeding. I want, I wish, and, if I live, I hope to see far more of the 'harmless necessary cat' at our shows; for a high-class short-haired cat is one of the most perfect animals ever created. […] Far more I might, and perhaps am expected to add; but my life's work is well-nigh done. He who fights honourable the good fight sinks at last."
While Weir preferred shorthairs, Frances Simpson and others championed the Persian. The weekly "Fur and Feather" magazine first appeared in 1890 and Persian cats were offered for sale in its columns. It also contained letters and one cat exhibitor wrote to Fur and Feather complaining that "The last time I showed my Russian was in a class supposedly for Russians only. She was, however, beaten by a round-headed British Blue."
In 1898, an aristocratic breeder, Lady Marcus Beresford, founded a rival organisation called The Cat Club. Its members included some of the most important people in the land. However, The Cat Club foundered in 1903. It was replaced by yet another group, the Cat Fanciers Association.
The Victorian cat shows were undoubtedly popular. Most judges were all-rounders who judged not only all breeds of cat but also birds, dogs, flowers and so on. At the beginning of 20th century at a London cat show, there were five different breeds of cat competing. There were two longhaired varieties, the Angora and the Persian, and three shorthairs, the Siamese, the Manx and the "shorthair" (domestic shorthair) though the shorthair came in nine colour varieties.
Breeder, judge and persian enthusiast Frances Simpson wrote "The commonest of all cats are Shorthaired Tabbies and Whites or Black and Whites. The markings are sometimes quite grotesque in their distribution. It seems almost a pity to so far encourage these cats as to give classes for them at our Shows." The longhairs were not the snubby-nosed Persians we are used to seeing today. Miss Simpson also stated "Apart from the length and texture of fur, the points of the animals are practically the same, whether long- or short-haired. They should be cobby in build and short on the legs, the head should be round and broad, eyes large and full, nose short, ears small and wide apart."
When the Governing Council of the Cat Fancy was founded in 1910 there were 16 cat clubs represented. Most were regional clubs or for certain varieties, excepting the short-lived "Wilson's Ltd Cat Club" which appears to have been a business venture. The first cat registers had already been set up by the Cat Club and the National Cat Club. Rivalry meant that cats registered with one club could not be registered with the other. When the GCCF became the sole registry, it inherited those early registers to set up a combined registry. In 1910, the register had four sections: Longhairs, Shorthairs, Abyssinians and Siamese. A pedigree cat was defined as one with registered parents, grandparents and great-grandparents (i.e. three generations) and this definition is the one still recognised by modern Trading Standards Officers. In order to have a place on the Full Register, cats must not only have the three generations of registered ancestors, those ancestors must be of cats within their own section of the register. Apart from information surviving in the Stud Books, which go back to 1910, those early registry records have been lost. Some enthusiasts have put together partial records based on fragmented information in books such as Frances Simpson's 3 books published between 1901 and 1924 and from the Stud Books listing those cats that were "placed" (won their class) at Championship cat shows, along with those cats' parents.
The following letter from Louis Wain was published in the issue of "Our Cats" (the first magazine that bore that name) which was published weekly at ld. It appeared in the issue for 18th November 1911.
To the Editor of " Our Cats " Dear Madam, The Crystal Palace Show.
This is Coronation Year and, although the Coronation itself is a thing of the past, people are still striving to make this a memorable year in every way in all branches of private and public work I to make it, in fact, a banner year in the history of our times. It is not too late to make the coming show of the N.C.C. at the Crystal Palace a Coronation Show. May I also ask exhibitors to support Lady Decies' Ring Classes on the second day of the show. Lady Decies has been so consistent a supporter of the N.C.C. that I feel sure she will have a good entry. The Ring Classes being judged mainly for good deportment in the ring, and after all the judging of the other classes for show points is over, Lady Decies is not precluded from exhibiting in other classes than her own, of course. Yours obediently, (Signed) Louis Wain
Even into the 1930s cat breeding was considered to be a cheap hobby that could be turned into a money-making career. However, after the Second World War, shortages meant reduced cash prizes at shows and kitten prices dropped, although pedigree kittens could still cost the equivalent of several week’s wages for a working man.
NOTES FROM THE 1888 CRYSTAL PALACE SHOW CATALOGUE
When Cyril Yeates died suddenly in 1950, his collection of cat literature was passed on to Mr P M Soderberg for use in his writing on “catty” matters. This included a collection of show catalogues dating back as far as 1888, and with an uninterrupted run of show catalogues between 1900 to the end of 1949 (shortly before his death). Rather than split these catalogues up between the various cat clubs who ran the shows, Soderberg contacted the Reading Room of the British Museum, and donated the catalogues to the National Library so that they “may be read by all who are prepared 'to take the trouble to obtain permission to enter the Reading Room.”
In “Our Cats” of May 1950, Soderberg reproduced items from the catalogue of the National Cat Show held at the Crystal Palace on 23rd and 24th October, 1888. That catalogue had once belonged to Frances Simpson, whom Soderberg described as founder and first President of the Blue Persian Cat Society, and who, throughout her long life as a fancier firmly refused to join any other club (I believe Soderberg may have been in error as Simpson was listed as President of the Brighton and Hove cat club in the posthumously published 4th Edition of “Cats for Pleasure and Profit” – or maybe she died before taking up the planned post).
One of the judges at this National Cat Show in 1888 was Harrison Weir, founder of cat shows in Britain. Indeed, Frances Simpson dedicated " The Book of the Cat," (1903) to him. There were a surprising number of cat shows up and down the country in 1888. The catalogue stated that the 1888 Palace Show was the twentieth in the series and mentioned shows in 1880 at Pulborough, Alexandra Palace, Bath, Brighton, Bexley, The Albert Palace, Halifax, Crawley, The People's Palace and Maidstone. Sadly there were no catalogues for any of those shows in Yeates’ collection.
The classification was limited to Longhaired cats (White, Black, Brown or Red Tabby, and Blue or Silver Tabby). The Shorthairs classes had more colour divisions and there were two classes for Manx, which attracted a total entry of twelve cats. The Siamese did not have a class to themselves as they had only been in the country for about four years, so it was quite an achievement that there were ten Siamese entered in the two classes. One was " imported direct from the King's Palace," and one named of Fatima (exhibited by Mr. Nutt) had apparently “come straight from the harem” though she only achieved a Commended card. Mrs. Herbert Young was showing a female by the name of Lady Siam, which was said to be the Only Chocolate in Europe. This would likely have been a solid brown cat, since Chocolate Pointed Siamese wasn’t known till at least ten years later and only the Seal Point or “Royal” Siamese was accepted as a point colour in 1888.
There were three cats in that show described as “thumb cats,” two of which were kittens with six toes. Tortie and Tortie-and-White Shorthairs were popular and well represented. One named Tilly must have been an outstanding specimen as she won a first at the Palace for seven successive years, the first being in 1882. There were one or two cats entered as Blue Persians, these being rare at the time. The Abyssinian and Russian Blue, also very rare so early on, were mentioned by name. The name Angora (a breed that declined due to the preference for cobby Persians) was also still used at the time for some of the longhaired cats.
The twentieth Crystal Palace show was held in 1888, meaning there must have been 2 years between 1871-1888 in which two shows were held at the Palace. Descriptions and sketches of the prize winners for the years 1885-1900 (and possible a little later) appeared in the "Ladies Pictorial" of the time
NOTES FROM THE 1889 CRYSTAL PALACE SHOW CATALOGUE
The Crystal Palace Show of 1889 attracted 289 exhibitors with nearly 600 cats and cats. From Thornton Heath came three cats owned by the aptly named Mowsers. The judges would have included Harrison Weir and his brother, John Jenner Weir, along with George Billett.
A short-haired Persian called Tilly, who had previously won her class at the Palace seven years running was making her eighth and final appearance for Mr Highton. The AOV Shorthair class included a "Pure Blue Persian" female called Bogey, who competed against several Siamese, ticked cats, spotted cats and a "French Tabby" (either a visitor from France of a tabby Angora, since they were also known as "French" cats). Evidently "pure bred" Bogey's ancestry included a shorthair since there was a class for Longhair Blue, Self-Colour, Without White (attracting 10 males and 7 females). That Blue Longhair class included Mr Hunt's "Banquo", Miss Simpson's "Beauty Tom" and Miss Rosa Bray's "The Friar". Photos of the time show these to have longer noses, longer tails and larger ears than modern Persians.
Mr Moss's "Tibs" was mentioned in the catalogue; by 1889 he was already the sire of more than fifty prize winners and he continued to sire kittens for several more years after that show. A Red Tabby called "Colonel" was described as "shakes hands and can be put on a chain." In those days cats might be exhibited in leash classes, and Frances Simpson recommended (in "Cats for Pleasure and Profit") that males become accustomed to be tied to on a leash to get the air and also for photos as it is a mistake to give them their liberty. Other remarks might have been more useful e.g. "can be handled with safety" or "quite affectionate". Not all cats could be safely handled - Lord Sutherland once exhibited a Scottish Wildcat at an early show.
"Prizes offered for Cats belonging to Working Men" covered the household pets of the working classes. The owners of pedigree cats tended to be "Lady" or "Honorable", showing quite a class divide in those days. Many of the "Working Men's" cats were for sale (i.e. not listed as "Not For Sale") very cheaply. Many would have been acquired cheaply just for entering in the shop in the hope of winning a money prize, but others would have been pets and probably much loved by the exhibitor's family. All of the best cats could win Emu Egg Sugar Basins or Challenge Vases.
NOTES FROM THE 1891 CRYSTAL PALACE SHOW CATALOGUE
Information is hard to find on the 1890 shows, but 1891 was a good year for cat shows, with at least forty shows - from Canterbury in the east to Penzance in the west, from Brighton in the south to Ayr, Dundee and Dalkeith in the north. Croydon had a show in 1891 as did more obscure places such as Downend, Dalmellington and Eggleston, but as usual, the outstanding show of the year was the National held at the Crystal Palace. This attracted over 400 exhibitors and almost 600 cats, although two longhairs called "Sandy" and "Tiger" arrived too late for judging.
In the Shorthair section, the class for "Tortoiseshell and Tortoiseshell -and-White Males" had only one entry - Mr. Johnson's "Tommy", but judge George Billett decided that Tommy was not worth a first prize (for those who can't work it out, cats are judged against a breed standard and not against each other). There were eighteen cats in the "Tortoiseshell and Tortoiseshell -and-White Females" classes. There were three classes for tabbies. Mrs Herring's Silver Tabby Shorthair, Jimmy, continued his successful show career with another First. In 1890 he had won his class and won the gold medal for the Best Cat in Show at Brighton.
There were only six entries in the Siamese class and the first prize was won by Mrs Lee's Meo, who had already won a National Cat Club gold medal. Mrs Wellman's White Shorthair was another cat that continued an already illustrious show career. Minnie had her first win at the Crystal Palace in 1884 and had won again in 1885. She got Seconds and Thirds between 1886 and 1888, then got Firsts in 1889 until her last appearance on the show-bench in 1892 after which she retired. As with most cats, the catalogue had a claiming (sale) price - if the breeder didn't really want to sell the cat, this was set very high. Minnie's claiming prize was £10 - a very large amount at the time.
The Longhair entries in 1891 were much more numerous at the shows than Shorthairs. There were two good classes for White Longhairs, attracting 12 cats, though only "Prince Rupert" had blue eyes and he only achieves Commended. Later, orange eyes and odd eyes would be penalised in Whites. Thirty-one Blue Longhairs were entered in two classes, quite an achievement for a variety that had only recently been granted a class of its own. The classification stated the cats must be "blue without white" - breeders had not then eradicated white lockets or bell markings. Frances Simpson obtained a Third in the Blue Longhairs with "Beauty," a cat she had bought at the 1890 Crystal Palace show. Beauty must have been out of sorts at the Crystal Palace show as she had won firsts at Crystal Palace and Brighton in 1890 and she went on to provide some outstanding kittens. Simpson went on to become Secretary of the Blue Persian society and bred some excellent cats.
The cats in the A.O.V. classes at the Crystal palace in 1891 included a "Cheetah Cat." The catalogue doesn't describe exactly what this is and it is unlikely (though not impossible!) to have been a Cheetah, although small wildcats were exhibited. There were two Black cats "imported from China " exhibited by Mrs Warner. Mrs Carew-Cox exhibited a blue-and-white Russian cat and also a Blue Archangel called Lingpopo who was described as "very tame". Mr. Jagel exhibited three kittens under six weeks old (unthinkable by modern standards), but did not win a prize or even a card.
The Brighton show held on 26th and 27th November 1891 described itself as "Under the Patronage of the National Cat Club," and inside the catalogue was a statement of the aims and objects of this Club, which had been founded a few years earlier. The Hon. Secretary at the time was Mr. J. W. Townsend. The show itself was a great success for a provincial show; attracting nearly 150 exhibitors and 250 cats. Frances Simpson judged cats for the first time at this show. The two judges who had been appointed were George Billett and A. A. Clarke (Treasurer of the National Cat Club), but George Billett was ill on the days of the show and Frances Simpson was asked to take his place. This was an important milestone in her "catty" career.
NOTES FROM THE 1892 CRYSTAL PALACE SHOW CATALOGUE
The Crystal Palace Show of 1892 took place on October l8th and 19th.
One of the specials for Best in Show was presented by Louis Wain, the President of the National Cat Club. It was " one of his Framed Humorous Drawings of Cats" and was won by Mrs Pattison with a red-and-white tabby Longhair called Chicot. It is not known what eventually became of Wain's drawing.
Despite the high entrance fee (3 shillings and sixpence) and the low First Prize in each class (a Pound) the 1892 show attracted 606 cats. In those days, cats were only entered in one class. Nearly 150 of those cats were shown by working men who had a reduced entry fee of eighteen pence and a similarly reduced First Prize of ten shillings and the possibility of a silver medal. Interestingly, many of the exhibitors were men - very different to modern shows where women predominate in number.
Harold Leeney, M.R.C.V.S., was the Hon. Veterinary surgeon to the show and the catalogue carried an advertisement for his services. Mr. Leeney had been studying canker for more than twenty years and believed that he had found the infallible cure. He was prepared to visit cats in their own homes for an inclusive charge for advice and medicine of a shilling a mile, but with a minimum charge of half-a-crown. Incidentally, the advertisements in the 1892 catalogue included one for a hanging chart (24 inches by 18 of varnished Linen) for the children's nursery where you could read at a glance what to do if the child was drowning or swallowed coins or buttons.
Tabbies were well to the fore numerically and the different colours had a generous classification. The Longhair section had separate classes for Blacks and Blues. For the first time Blues "without White" outnumbered Blues with white. The best Blue male was Mrs. Thompson's "Blue Boy the Great", a consistent winner all over the country. Among the females there were plenty of veterans, but none with a previous record of successes. In the Black male class, 1890 and 1891 winner "Satan" took only Second prize, losing the First prize to "Castor". Castor is another cat whose name vanishes forever.
Among the Shorthairs there was a special class for Blues, and three out of the eight were definitely stated to be Russians. Once again Mrs. Herring's Russian "Roguey" won the first prize. Roguey had been a winner all over the country, though it is unclear in retrospect whether he was closer in type to a Russian or to the emerging British Shorthair Blue breed. The Commended card went to a Russian owned by Mrs. McLaren Morrison.
There was a class for Siamese of either sex which attracted nine entries. Mrs Herring's entry, Lady Curly Tail, received no award. The name suggests a tail with several kinks, something not uncommon at the time. The further description of the class was "Black Malay or Siamese imported from the Philippine Islands." It seems solid Blacks occasionally appeared in the early litters of imported Siamese, suggesting a female had mated with cats other than a selected Siamese stud. Among the entries were "Lolo" who was " a dark fawn with light points"; and "Prince Bigit" who was "a dark fawn with dark points," and "Titti Shang" who was described as "fawn grey." The First prize was won by "Siam" who had also won at the Crystal Palace Show in the previous, and at the NCC show, and Redhill, Ealing and Halifax. In addition to his First prize, Siam was awarded the Special for best Shorthair. Unfortunately he seems to have disappeared completely after the Crystal Palace show of 1892, though of course he may have been sold and renamed (or succumbed to Show Fever).
The class for Manx attracted seven entries. One had appeared at the previous year's Crystal Palace Cat Show; this being Millie. In 1891, Millie was listed as being five years old, but in 1892 she was listed as being four years old! Millie does not appear to have won any prizes in 1892.
NOTES FROM 1894 CRYSTAL PALACE SHOW CATALOGUE & 1894 BRIGHTON SHOW CATALOGUE
1894 was the twenty-sixth National Cat Show. The judges that year were all men. There were 568 entries at the National in 1894, one more entry than Crufts attracted that same year. The classes of that time all stated "with or without white" as breeders had not then eradicated white spotting.
The adverts in cat show catalogues give an interesting insight into cat ownership at the time. A chemist called Mr. James of The Promenade, Cheltenham bravely advertised a list of "infallible remedies for all the diseases to which the cat is liable." These remedies were a variety of powders that could be bought in boxes of several sizes up to five shillings. Twelve different powders covered everything from "out of sorts to rheumatism" and cost 2d for postage. Many of those powers were herbal remedies and some would have contained minerals and vitamins that supplemented their often poor diet.
The catalogue prominently states that "telegrams or letters asking for the result of judging cannot be answered." At that time cats could be sent to shows unaccompanied. Telegrams were the email of that age and absent owners would have to wait for their cat to be returned with any prizes it had won, or for results to be published, and not expect the judges to sent a telegram telling them how their cat had fared the moment judging finished.
In the Shorthair classes, Tortoisehell (with or without white) attracted the highest entries with 26 cats listed. The best Shorthair was Mr. Sam Woodiwiss's Brown Tabby, Champion Xnephon (a typo for Xenophon). Woodiwiss would later become associated with the Manx breed.
In the Longhaired Smoke classes there were 13 entries. Longhair Blues were rising in popularity and there were 30 cats (15 male, 15 female) entered in one of the two Longhair Blues classes. A Longhair Blue male took Best in Show that year, this being Mrs. Horril's Locksley which had also won a First and an NCC medal at Bath earlier that year. Locksley was only 11 months and 2 weeks old when exhibited at the National. Famous Chinchilla sire Silver Lambkin was also on display that year.
The two-day 1894 cat show at the Aquarium at Brighton was a smaller show than Crystal palace, but regularly attracted more than 200 exhibits. The catalogue carried an advert for the Cats' Home (for stray and starving cats), a voluntary organisation run by Miss Harper, requesting donations. She helped her fundraising by advertising "for hire" (i.e. stud services) an "Imported Silver-Grey Stud Cat." This cat's offspring are noted elsewhere as Longhairs. Silver-grey was a term often used to describe Chinchillas.
In 1894 it attracted 257 entries in 33 classes. The classes were all small apart for the "Kitten Pairs" class. There was no Best in Show award, but the best Longhair was Silver Tabby "Queen of the May" aged 6 and three-quarter months. The best Shorthair was also a Silver Tabby, this one called "Laurel Queen". Laurel Queen had earlier borne the name "Shelley of Kingswood" - in those days a cat's name was not fixed at registration, but could be changed, especially when it was sold on.
Although not a winner at Brighton, a cat called "Topsy Glym" was evidently very well-travelled in 1893 and 1894; being shown at Witney, Worcester, Henley, Northampton, Abingdon, Uxbridge, Woodstock and Kidlington (those latter two being villages not far from Oxford).
THE CRUFTS CAT SHOWS 1894-1895
Nowadays, “Cruft’s” is synonymous with dog shows, but back in 1894 entrepreneur Charles Cruft also staged cat shows. Cruft was a showmen and he tried to introduce American marketing and presentation tactics into the rather sedate world of the Victorian animal fancy. Cruft was born in Bloomsbury, London in 1852, the son of a goldsmith. In 1866, the 14-year-old Cruft decided not to follow the family trade and instead he became an office boy for James Spratt, manufacturers of dog biscuits. Through hard work, he rose to travelling salesman; this acquainted him with the growing dog fancy. By 1878, 26 year old Cruft was manager of Spratts. That same year, he organised the dog section at the Paris Exhibition. In 1891 he staged the first Crufts dog show in London; this was an immediate success. In 1894 members of the cat fancy approached him with an idea for a cat show, hoping he could raise the profile of cat shows as he had done with dog shows. Cruft rose to the challenge. The first Cruft’s Cat Conformation Show - "Cruft's Great International Cat Show" - was held on March 7 and 8, 1894, at St Stephen's Hall, Royal Aquarium in London. Charles Cruft hoped to repeat the commercial success of his newly-established dog shows. Despite the "international" moniker, the most distant exhibitor came from County Down in Ireland. In typical showman style, his guest list included aristocrats and public figures (although it must be admitted that many cat fanciers were aristocrats anyway). Patrons included the Duchess of Newcastle, the Countess de Sefton and Lady de Trafford; in total there were two Duchesses, two Countesses and plenty of titled Ladies, many of whom attended the opening day.
The four judges included Harrison Weir, who staged the first-ever cat show in 1871, and his brother John Jenner Weir. At that time, it seemed there was hardly a show at which one or other of the Weir brothers did not officiate. The third judge invited by Cruft was Mr J Jennings, a rising authority at the time. The fourth judge was a Miss Gresham, and this appears to be the only show at which she judged (unless she later judged under a married name). Except for a mention in 1895, her later history as judge and fancier is unknown.
This first Crufts Cat Show attracted 567 exhibits in 74 classes. The "Brace" class had 30 entries i.e. 60 cats to be removed from, and returned to, their pens. The exhibits represented the few recognised breeds of the time and some categories received no entries at all (these no doubt included the tortoiseshell male cat category!). Cruft entered his own tabby cat “Tiddley”.
Blue Longhairs were extremely popular, and in the two open classes there were 38 cats. There was no "Best in Show," but had there been, a contender would have been Wooloomooloo, a Blue male owned by Mrs. Hawkins. Wooloomooloo appeared to be an exceptional specimen, but his parentage and age were unknown - what we might now consider a "foundation cat." Smokes were also plentiful, and the two open classes had 8 males and 12 females. By comparison, there the Shorthairs appear to have been unremarkable, many being exhibited as pedigree unknown. They wee very much eclipsed by the Persians and there is little doubt that Shorthairs were still very variable at that time: "pet quality" compared to modern Shorthairs.
Siamese were represented in the form of 5 males and a single female. First prize went to seven month old male, Siamese Mew; this young upstart beat well-known Siamese as King of Siam and Kitza Kara, whose points were said to be almost black. The Manx or Any Variety Foreign class included George Billett's two "wild tiger cats," And Lord Lilford exhibited an " imported wild cat." There is no definitive description of species involved. Wild exhibits must surely have been judged from a safe distance, and must have been a hazard to transport and pen
The exhibition cats had far longer times than their modern counterparts. Not only was Cruft's show a two-day show, it was also open to the public until ten o'clock at night. For the owners of winners there may have been some compensation for this effort of endurance in the form of the "handsome illustrated Prize Card" awarded to each prize-winner. The prizes were very generous. In most classes there were three prizes: First Prize being 30 shillings; Second Prize being one Pound and Third being 10 shillings. The Specials were numerous enough to satisfy even the most exacting exhibitor. Some cups worth up to 25 guineas could be won outright and there was a gold medal for the best "Team". One lucky exhibitor's cat was awarded three Pounds, two cups, a silver cigarette case, a silver whistle/matchbox combined, and a medal.
The show hall was decorated with “masses of red drapery, Japanese lanterns, umbrellas, flags and magnificent palms” and the show catalogue was embossed. Poor weather kept the general public away and the press also took little notice. The show made a loss of £100, however, cat fanciers were enthusiastic. The show was featured in London's "Black and White: A Weekly Illustrated Record and Review" on Saturday March 17th, 1894.
Sensing a opportunity, the railways went out of their way to be helpful to exhibitors. Both the Great Northern and the Midland ran full-page advertisements and provided a through van all the way from Inverness and even sent a representative to the show for the sole purpose of helping exhibitors. The railways would have been hoping the show drew visitors from out of town. The catalogue carried an advertisement offering through vans for exhibits to St. Pancras from many important towns on the Midland Line. Mr. Mugliston, thc Superintendent of the Line appeared prepared to go the extra mile to ensure the comfort the cats and their owners.
The newspaper of the animal fancy was “Fur and Feather” and this stated in its editorial “Mr Cruft has succeeded in getting together a collection of cats as we have never seen before... Cruft’s Cat Show has come and it has come to stay... henceforth we shall look forward to the Cruftonian event as one of the great features in the cat exhibition world.” The financial loss incurred by the first Crufts Cat Show made him reluctant to stage a second one. However influential, and probably aristocratic, cat fanciers persuaded him to stage a Second Crufts Cat Show in 1895. By comparison to the first show, this was a half-hearted affair. It was poorly advertised, the show hall was not grandly decorated and Cruft didn’t bother to enter Tiddley into the show. The prize money dropped to between 30 shillings and 5 pounds, compared to a prize of 25 guineas the previous year. Although Fur and Feather predicted it would be a great success, and later gave it glowing reviews, it was again poorly attended due to poor weather. The Fur and Feather reviews praised him for the innovation of “ring judging”. It should also be noted that Cruft allowed exhibitors to sell their cats to the attending public.
Cruft was a businessman and did not hold a third cat show. Fur and Feather announced in March 1896 that the cat show had been postponed due to Cruft's other business commitments, but he never went on to run such a show again. Cruft's two cat shows had both made losses and despite the enthusiasm of exhibitors and Fur and Feather, he wanted to concentrate on events that made, rather than lost, money. Perhaps if the British weather had been kinder to him in 1894 and 1895, Britain might now have a Crufts Cat Show as well as a Crufts Dog Show.
THE FIRST AMERICAN CAT SHOWS
Though cat shows were featured at county fairs in 1860s New England, America, most people date the beginning of the American cat fancy from a show organised in 1895. Enthused by a cat show at Crystal Palace, Englishman James Hyde, organised the show at the Madison Square Garden, New York. It promoted sufficient interest in cats to lead to the formation of many cat clubs. The 1899 show in Chicago led to the founding of the Chicago Cat Club and then the more powerful Beresford Cat Club, named in honour of Lady Marcus Beresford, founder of the short-lived The Cat Club in Britain.
Around 1890, the year "Fur and Feather" appeared in England, Mr C H Jones launched the American monthly "Cat Journal", probably the first magazine devoted exclusively to cats. American Helen M Winslow, was the auther of "Concerning Cats" (1900) , a book on cats and the cat fancy in America. At that time, the American cat fancy lagged behind the British scene hence her description of English shows written for the benefit of American cat fanciers! You can find more details on the British cat fancy in excerpts from Frances Simpson's book (published 1903) later on. This is the chapter entitled "Concerning Cats and Cat Shows" from her book. "High-bred" meant cats of recognised breeds and known ancestry, what would now be called purebreds and pedigrees. Winslow wrote:
The annual cat shows in England, which have been held successively for more than a quarter of a century, led to the establishment in 1887 of a National Cat Club, which has steadily grown in membership and interest, and by the establishment of the National Stud Book and Register has greatly raised the standard of felines in the mother country. It has many well-known people as members, life members, or associates; and from time to time people distinguished in the cat world have been added as honorary members. The officers of the National Cat Club of England, since its reconstruction in March, 1898, are as follows:-
Presidents:- Her Grace the Duchess of Bedford; Lord Marcus Beresford.
Vice-presidents:- Lily, Duchess of Marlborough, now Lady Wm. Beresford; the Countess of Warwick; Lady Granville Gordon; Hon. Mrs. McL. Morrison; Madame Ronner; Mr. Isaac Woodiwiss; the Countess of Sefton; Lady Hothfield; the Hon. Mrs. Brett; Mr. Sam Woodiwiss; Mr. H. W. Bullock.
President of Committee:- Mr. Louis Wain.
Committee:- Lady Marcus Beresford; Mrs. Balding; Mr. Sidney Woodiwiss; Mr. Hawkins; Mrs. Blair Maconochie; Mrs. Valiance; Mr. Brackett; Mr. F. Gresham.
Hon. Secretary and Hon. Treasurer:- Mrs. Stennard Robinson.
This club has a seal and a motto: "Beauty lives by kindness." It publishes a stud book in which are registered pedigrees and championship wins which are eligible for it. Only wins obtained from shows held under N. C. C. rules are recorded free of charge. The fee for ordinary registration is one shilling per cat, and the stud book is published annually. There are over two thousand cats now entered in this National Cat Club Stud Book, the form of entry being as follows (L. F. means long-haired female; C. P., Crystal Palace):-
No. 1593, Mimdatzi, L. F. Silver Tabby.
Miss Anna F. Gardner, Hamswell House, near Bath, shown as Mimi.
Bred by Miss How, Bridgeyate, near Bristol. Born April, 1893. Alive.
Sire, Blue Boy the Great of Islington, Io9o (Mrs H. B. Thompson).
Dam, Boots of Bridgeyate, 1225 (Miss How).
Prizes won— 1st Bilton, 2nd, C. P. 1893, Kitten Class.
No. 1225, Boots of Bridgeyate. L. F. Silver Tabby.
Miss E. How, Bridgeyate House, Warmly, Bristol.
Former owner, Mrs. Foote, 43 Palace Gardens, Kensington.
Born March, 1892. Alive.
Some of the cats entered have records of prizes covering nearly half a page of the book. The advantage of such a book to cat owners can be readily seen. A cat once entered never changes its number, no matter how many owners he may have, and his name cannot be changed after December 31 of the year in which he is registered. The more important rules of the English National Cat Club are given in condensed form as follows:-
The name is "The National Cat Club."
Objects: To promote honesty in the breeding of cats, so as to insure purity in each distinct breed or variety; to determine the classification required, and to insure the adoption of such classification by breeders, exhibitors, judges, and the committees of all cat shows; to encourage showing and breeding by giving championship and other prizes, and otherwise doing all in its power to protect and advance the interest of cats and their owners. The National Cat Club shall frame a separate set of rules for cat shows to be called "National Cat Club Rules," and the committees of those cat shows to which the rules are given, shall be called upon to sign a guarantee to the National Cat Club binding them to provide good penning and effectual sanitation, also to the punctual payment of prize money and to the proper adjudication of prizes.
Stud Book: The National Cat Club shall keep a stud book.
The club shall consist of (1) patrons, (2) life members, (3) president, (4) vice-presidents, (5) exhibiting members and (6) non-exhibiting members, an unlimited number whose names and addresses shall be kept by the honorable secretary. Each candidate for election shall be proposed by one member and seconded by another, and the election shall be vested absolutely in the committee.
The fee for each member shall be one guinea. Life members may be elected on the cash payment of eight guineas. No member whose subscription is unpaid shall be entitled to compete for any special prize, vote at any meeting, or enjoy any of the privileges of membership, until his or her subscription be paid. Every member shall strive to promote honorable dealing in feline matters by bringing to the notice of the club committee any apparent dishonesty at cat shows, etc. Every member to report the carelessness of the club attendant, etc., and to use his or her best endeavors to promote the success of the club by keeping "accuracy in pedigree and statements, and good faith in all his or her transactions." The committee shall endeavor to found a Library of Kennel Reference for the National Cat Club, and all members are invited to contribute gifts of books relating to cats, etc.
The cat-show rules, under which all shows connected with the N. C. C. are given, provide that no cats shall be shown, except in "Local Classes" or for litters of kittens, except such as have been previously registered at the Cat Club offices. Neuter (gelded) or spayed cats are allowed to compete for prizes, but are not eligible for entry on the stud book. A duly qualified veterinary surgeon is appointed at every show to act as inspector, who examines every cat before it is benched, and rejects any that exhibit any sign of disease.
The N. C. C. keeps a "black list." People eligible for this have been guilty, as members or otherwise, of fraudulent or discreditable conduct in regard to cats and cat shows, and are not countenanced by the N. C. C. in any capacity. All prizes won are recorded in the stud book. The other rules do not differ materially from the rules of cat shows in this country.
The offices of the National Cat Club are at 5 Great James Street, Bedford Row, London, W. C., and the annual and championship shows have so far been held at the Crystal Palace. There is also a Ladies’ Kennel Association, which holds shows of great interest, many of its members being connected with the N. C. C. The definition of classes, both in England and America, is as follows:-
Open Classes. - Open to cats, prize winners or novices.
Novice Classes. - Open to cats of any age that have never won a prize.
Neuter Classes. - For gelded cats.
Kitten Classes. - Single entries over three and under eight months.
Kitten Brace. - Kittens of any age.
Brace. - For two cats of any age.
Team. - For three or more cats, any age.
In Paris, although cats have not been commonly appreciated as in England, there is an increasing interest in them, and cat shows are now a regular feature of the Jardin d’Acclimation. This suggests the subject of the cat’s social position in France. Since the Revolution the animal has conquered in this country "toutes les liberties," excepting that of wearing an entire tail, for in many districts it is the fashion to cut the caudal appendage short. In Paris cats are much cherished wherever they can be without causing too much unpleasantness with the landlord. The system of living in flats is not favorable to cat culture, for the animal, not having access either to the tiles above or to the gutter below, is apt to pine for fresh air, and the society of its congeners. Probably in no other city do these creatures lie in shop windows and on counters with such an arrogant air of proprietorship. In restaurants, a very large and fat cat is kept as an advertisement of the good feeding to be obtained on the premises. There is invariably a cat in a charbonnier's shop, and the animal is generally one that was originally white, but long ago came to the conclusion that all attempts to keep itself clean were hopeless. Its only consolation is that it is never blacker than its master.
It is well known that the Persians and Angoras are much esteemed in Paris and are, to some extent, bred for sale. In the provinces, French cats are usually low-bred animals, with plebeian heads and tails, the stringlike appearance of the latter not being improved by cropping. Although not generally esteemed as an article of food in France, there are still many people scattered throughout the country who maintain that a civet de chat is as good, or better, than a civet de lièvre. M. François Coppée’s fondness for cats as pets is so well known that there was great fitness in placing his name first upon the jury of awards at the 1896 cat show in Paris. Such other well-known men as Emile Zola, André Theuriet, and Catulle Mendes, also figured on the list. There is now an annual "Exposition Feline Internationale."
In this country the first cat show of general interest was held at Madison Square Garden, New York, in May, 1895. Some years before, there had been a cat show under the auspices of private parties in Boston, and several minor shows had been held at Newburgh, N. Y., and other places. But the New York shows were the first to attract general attention. One hundred and seventy-six cats were exhibited by one hundred and twenty-five owners, besides several ocelots, wild cats, and civets. For some reason the show at Madison Square Garden in March, 1896, catalogued only one hundred and thirty-two cats and eighty-two owners. Since that time there have been no large cat shows in New York.
There have been several cat shows in Boston since 1896, but these are so far only adjuncts to poultry and pigeon shows. Great interest has been manifest in them, however, and the entries have each year run above a hundred. Some magnificent cats are exhibited, although as a rule the animals shown are somewhat small, many kittens being placed there for sale by breeders.
Several attempts to start successful cat clubs in this country have been made. At the close of the New York show in 1896, an American Cat Club was organized for the purpose "of investigating, ascertaining, and keeping a record of the pedigrees of cats, and of instituting, maintaining, controlling, and publishing a stud book, or book of registry of such kind of domestic animals in the United States of America and Canada, and of promoting and holding exhibitions of such animals, and generally for the purpose of improving the breed thereof, and educating the public in its knowledge of the various breeds and varieties of cats." The officers were as follows:-
President:- Rush S. Huidekoper, 154 E. 57th St., New York City.
Vice-Presidents:- W. D. Mann, 208 Fifth Ave., New York City; Mrs. E. N. Barker, Newburgh, N. Y.
Secretary-treasurer:- James T. Hyde, 16 E. 23d St., New York City.
Executive Committee:- T. Farrar Rackham, E. Orange, N. J.; Miss Edith Newbold, Southampton, L. I.; Mrs. Harriet C. Clarke, 154 W. 82d St., New York City; Charles R. Pratt, St. James Hotel, New York City; Joseph W. Stray, 229 Division St., Brooklyn, N. Y.
More successful than this club, however, is the Beresford Cat Club formed in Chicago in the winter of 1899. The president is Mrs. Clinton Locke, who is a member of the English cat clubs, and whose kennel in Chicago contains some of the finest cats in America. The Beresford Cat Club has the sanction of John G. Shortall, of the American Humane Society, and on its honorary list are Miss Agnes Repplier, Madame Ronner, Lady Marcus Beresford, Miss Helen Winslow, and Mr. Louis Wain.
At their cat shows, which are held annually, prizes are offered for all classes of cats, from the common feline of the back alley up to the aristocratic resident of milady’s boudoir. The Beresford Club Cat shows are the most successful of any yet given in America. One hundred and seventy-eight prizes were awarded in the show of January, 1900, and some magnificent cats were shown. It is said by those who are in a position to know that there are no better cats shown in England now than can be seen at the Beresford Show in Chicago. The exhibits cover short and long haired cats of all colors, sizes, and ages, with Siamese cats, Manx cats, and Russian cats. At the show in January, 1900, Mrs. Clinton Locke exhibited fourteen cats of one color, and Mrs. Josiah Cratty five white cats. This club numbers one hundred and seventy members and has a social position and consequent strength second to none in America. It is a fine, honorable club, which has for its objects the protection of the Humane Society and the caring for all cats reported as homeless or in distress. It aims also to establish straightforward and honest dealings among the catteries and to do away with the humbuggery which prevails in some quarters about the sales and valuation of high-bred cats. This club cannot fail to be of great benefit to such as want to carry on an honest industry by the raising and sale of fine cats. It will also improve the breeding of cats in this country, and thereby raise the standard and promote a more general intelligence among the people with regard to cats. Some of the best people in the United States belong to the Beresford Club, the membership of which is by no means confined to Chicago; on the contrary, the club is a national one and the officers and board of directors are:-
President:- Mrs. Clinton Locke.
1st Vice-president:- Mrs. W. F.ames Colburn.
2nd Vice-President:- Mrs. F. A. Howe.
Corresponding Secretary:- Mrs. Henry C. Clark.
Recording Secretary. — Miss Lucy Claire Johnstone.
Treasurer. — Mrs. Charles Hampton Lane.
Mrs. Elwood H. Tolman.
Mrs. J. H. Pratt.
Mrs. Mattie Fisk Green.
Mrs. F. A. Story.
Miss Louise L. Fergus.
The club is anxious to have members all over the United States, just as the English cat clubs do. The non-resident annual fees are only one dollar, and a member has to be proposed by one and endorsed by two other members. The register cats for the stud book are entered at one dollar each, and it is proposed to give shows once a year. The main objects of the club are to improve the breeds of fancy cats in America, to awaken a more general interest in them, and to secure better treatment for the ordinary common cat. The shows will be given for the benefit of the Humane Society.
The Chicago Cat Club has done excellent work also, having established a cat home, or refuge, for stray, homeless, or diseased cats, with a department for boarding pet cats during the absence of their owners. It is under the personal care and direction of Dr. C. A. White, 78 E. 26th Street. The first cat to be admitted there was one from Cleveland, Ohio, which was to be boarded for three months during the absence of its owner in Europe and also to be treated for disease. This club was incorporated under the state laws of Illinois, on January 26, 1899. In connection with it is a children’s cat club, which has for its primary object the teaching of kindness to animals by awakening in the young people an appreciative love for cats. At the show of the Chicago Cat Club, small dogs and cavies are exhibited also, the Cavy Club and the Pet Dog Club having affiliated with the Chicago Cat Club.
The president of the Chicago Cat Club is Mrs. Leland Norton, of the Drexel Kennels, at 4011 Drexel Boulevard, Chicago. The corresponding secretary is Mrs. Laura Daunty Pelham, 315 Interocean Building, and the other officers are: Vice-president, Miss Gertrude Estabrooks; recording secretary, Miss Jennie Van Allen; and treasurer, Mrs. Ella B. Shepard. Membership is only one dollar a year, and the registration fee in the Chicago stud book fifty cents for each cat.
The cat shows already held and the flourishing state of our cat clubs have proved that America has as fine, if not finer, cats than can be found in England, and that interest in finely bred cats is on the increase in this country. The effect of the successful cat clubs and cat shows must be to train intelligent judges and to raise the standard of cats in this country. It will also tend to make the cat shows of such a character that kind-hearted owners need not hesitate to enter their choicest cats. As yet, however, the judging at cat shows is not so well managed as in England. It should be a rule that the judges of cats should not only understand their fine points, but should be in sympathy with the little pets.
Cat dealers who have a number of cats entered for competition, should not be allowed on the board of judges. In England, the cats to be judged are taken by classes into a tent for the purpose, and the door is fastened against all but the judges; whereas over here the cats are too often taken out of their cages in the presence of a crowd of spectators and judged on a table or some public place, thereby frightening the timid ones and bringing annoyance to the owners.
Again, there should be several judges. In England there are seven, including two or three women, and these are assigned to different classes: Mr. Harrison Weir, F.R.H.S., the well-known authority on cats, and Louis Wain, the well-known cat artist, are among them. In this country there are a number of women who are not dealers, but who are fully posted in the necessary qualifications for a high-bred cat. American cat shows should have at least three judges, one of whom, at least, should be a woman. A cat should be handled gently and kept as calm as possible during the judging. Women are naturally more gentle in their methods, and more tenderhearted. When my pets are entered for competition, may some wise, kind woman have the judging of them!
In judging a cat the quality and quantity of its fur is the first thing considered. In a long-haired cat this includes the "lord mayor’s chain," or frill, the tail, and, most important of all, the ear-tufts. The tufts between the toes and the flexibility of the tail are other important points. The shape of head, eyes, and body are also carefully noted. A short-haired cat is judged first for color, then for eyes, head, symmetry, and ears.
In all cats the head should show breadth between the eyes. The eyes should be round and open. White cats to be really valuable should have blue eyes (without deafness); black cats should have yellow eyes; other cats should have pea-green eyes, or in some cases, as in the brown, self-colored eyes. The nose should be short and tapering. The teeth should be good, and the claws flat. The lower leg should be straight, and the upper hind leg lie at closed angles. The foot should be small and round (in the maltese, pointed). A good cat has a light frame, but a deep chest; a slim, graceful, and fine neck; medium-sized ears with rounded tips. The croup should be square and high; the tail of a short-haired cat long and tapering, and of a long-haired cat broad and bent over at the end.
The good results of a cat show are best told in a few words by one who has acted as judge at an American exhibition. "One year," he said, "people have to learn that there is such a thing as a cat; the next they come to the show and learn to tell the different breeds; another year they learn the difference between a good cat and a poor one; and the next year they become exhibitors, and tell the judges how to award the premiums."
A 1936 American essay on cat shows noted that the show season opened in November and "Among the first shows in New York City are those held by the Cat Fanciers' Association, Inc., and the United Cat Clubs of America, Inc. Each of these organizations has many member clubs in the United States and Canada. There are other large societies, such as the Cat Fanciers' Federation and the American Cat Association, and all of these, and their member clubs, have shows through the autumn and winter. There are cat shows from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Maine to Florida." Each claimed to be the biggest and best of its kind. Persian cat clubs continued to outnumber all other breed clubs and long-hairs continued to dominate the multi-breed shows.
Shows were considered necessary to the cat fancy, but an "ordeal for most home cats". Despite the many precautions taken by show manager, there was always the danger of infection where numbers of cats were gathered together. To be eligible for exhibition, the cat had to be registered with one of the recognized cat clubs and the owner had to be familiar with that club's standards, classifications and rules: "Select the club that is sponsoring the show you mean to enter, for rules differ". If the cats were well cared for, special conditioning was not necessary, but a neglected cat would have to be conditioned and groomed or would be rejected when it arrived.
PEDIGREE CATS OF THE 1880s and 1890s
The earliest cats shows had paid particular attention to shorthaired cats such as the Archangel (Maltese or Russian Blue) and Manx. In 1889, Harrison Weir wrote and illustrated "Our Cats". Weir had arranged the first formal cat show in England in 1871 and produced the first breed standards. Excerpts from "Our Cats" illustrate cat types during the 1870s and 1880s. Weir preferred the shorthairs over the longhairs.
In contrast, Frances Simpson was a champion of the longhairs. This is reflected in her 1903 work "The Book of the Cat" (she was editor rather than author). The extracts from "The Book of the Cat" describes the British longhair (the Persian) and its American equivalent, the Maine Cat. The excerpts follow the progress of Simpson's beloved White Persians (one of the most popular varieties) and the much newer Cream Persian which looked set to become fashionable after having been overlooked previously.
As well as describing the then common breeds, these two authors, and the contemporaries whose letters and comments also appear in their works, give some insight into how cats were cared for, how they were bred, how they were prepared for a show and some now quaint ideas about inheritance! It also provides some comparison between Britain and America.
Classes were generally "longhairs" and "shorthairs" with no distinction between different breeds within those groupings. For example, Persians competed against Angoras with the result that the less extreme Angora type was lost. Two interesting sections from Frances Simpson's work are on the White Persian (which was shifting from yellow-eyed to blue-eyed) and Cream Persians (a new development). In 1926, Cat Gossip editor H C Brooke noted that at a cat show in Lille there were classes for "Short-hair Persians" (chats persans a poil ras) as well as the normal Long-hair classes! Brooke wondered how "Short-hair Persians" were distinguished from ordinary Short-hairs. In those days, the Persian had not yet become the flat-faced creature we see today and might have been termed a "British Longhair".
In 1903, Frances Simpson wrote in "The Book of the Cat" "In classing all long-haired cats as Persians I may be wrong, but the distinctions, apparently with hardly any difference, between Angoras and Persians are of so fine a nature that I must be pardoned if I ignore the class of cat commonly called Angora, which seems gradually to have disappeared from our midst. Certainly there is no special classification given for Angoras, and in response to many inquiries from animal fanciers I have never been able to obtain any definite information as to the difference between a Persian and an Angora cat. Mr Harrison Weir, in his book on cats, states that the Angora differs somewhat from the Persian in that the head is rather smaller and ears larger, fur more silky with a tendency to woolliness."
Simpson championed the cause of the long-hairs which were, by then, outnumbering short-hairs at cat shows by about four long-hairs to every short-hair shown (this probably did not include Foreign short-hairs such as Siamese or blue Russian) . "The Book of The Cat" has relatively few photos of short-hairs and Simpson wrote that she had included so few pictures of short-haired cats in her book because the long-hairs were so much more attractive that more photographs existed of them than of short-hairs. Because short-hairs were both cheaper and less pretty, fewer people bothered to take good photos of them.
From that point onwards, her comments were applicable to the cat we now know as the Persian. She considered the Persian to be less amiable and less reliable in temperament than the short-haired (British) cat, but considered them more intelligent and as keen when hunting prey as were short-hairs. However, they were less healthy than short-hairs and the longest haired kittens were the most difficult to rear. She attributed this to in-breeding.
Because cat shows were traditionally held in the summer months, Persians were rarely shown in their full glory and often presented an unkempt and moth-eaten appearance because they were moulting. On the other hand, the summer coat made it harder to disguise poor conformation or "a multitude of sins". Illness and skin problems also caused loss of coat, in those days before vaccinations and when enteritis and cat flu and various parasites were more common, Persians were considered at a disadvantage - so much so, that some breeders turned their attention to short-hairs instead.
According to John Jennings book "Domestic or Fancy Cats", "Of the many varieties or breeds of the cat with which we are now familiar, it must be remembered that, however crossed, selected, re-crossed, domesticated, or what not, we have but two breeds on which the super-structure of what is known today as the 'classification of varieties' has been reared - viz, the long-hair or Eastern cat, and the short-hair or European. The term 'breed' is even here used advisedly, for whatever the outer covering or coat, colour, or length of fur, the contour of each and all is practically the same. Nor is this confined to mere outline. Take the skull, for example, which measured in the usual manner with shot, making due allowance for difference in size, is not only similar in the different varieties of either long- or short-hair, but even in the wild cat the anatomy is similar, the slight variation being in a great measure explained by its different conditions of life and diet, and is in unison with the fact of how even the ordinary domestic cat will undergo a change in taking up a semi-wild, outdoor existence."
For details of the different breeds, see Retrospective Index 1880s to early 1900s section
A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GCCF
As well as the Crystal Palace cat shows which began in 1871, shows were held at Brighton, Richmond, Hounslow, Harrogate, Sandy (Bedsfordshire), Newbury, Reading and at several London venues including the Crystal Palace, Westminster and the Botanical Gardens (Kew). These early shows became so popular that, at a show held at the Alexandra Palace in summer of 1887, a number of fanciers formed The National Cat Club. Membership was by invitation, there was a committee with elected officers and the National Cat Club formulated rules for cat shows. The foundation of the National Cat Club in 1887 is considered by many to be the birth of the Cat Fancy. From 1887 until 1910, the National Cat Club ran many shows including its Championship Shows at the Crystal Palace. It remains the premier cat club of Great Britain, and from it in 1910 The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy was born. From 1887 to 1910, the National Cat Club carried out the functions which are now performed by the GCCF including keeping breed registers. It also became a court of inquiry/appeal in cat-related matters. In 1893 it issued the first ever cat stud book.
The Scottish Cat Club was formed in 1894, and this early club ran many shows which were staged in Glasgow. Later, numerous other clubs were founded, and when the GCCF was instituted, these came under its jurisdiction. Among the specialist breed clubs formed in 1900 were The Black and White Cat Club; The Silver and Smoke Club (later incorporated with The Chinchilla, Silver Tabby and Smoke Society); The Orange, Cream and Tortoiseshell (which later became The Red, Cream, Tortoiseshell, Tortoiseshell-and-White, Brown Tabby and Blue-Cream Society). The Siamese Cat Club started in October 1900. These were followed in 1901 by The Blue Persian Cat Society; The Manx Club and The Short-hair Cat Society. There was also the Neuter Cat Society, the British Cat Club (Sir Claude Alexander was Hon. Secretary), Richmond Club (long defunct), Wilson's Ltd. Cat Club (long defunct) Newbury Club. Several regional clubs were also instituted: The Cat Club (1900); The Northern Counties Club (1900); The Midland Counties Cat Club (1901) and The Southern Counties Cat Club (1904).
The earliest first record of the Siamese Cat Club is a show catalogue of "Billetts Great Open Cat Show" held at Reading on the 27th and 28th February, 1901. At that there were three special prizes " Open to members of the Siamese Club only". Entries of Siamese at the Crustal Palace Cat Shows remained small until 1903. Between 1871 and 1887, only 19 Siamese were exhibited (15 females, 4 males). In 1903 there were 25 exhibited at that show, after which the Siamese continued to increase in numbers.
By 1898, the rival "The Cat Club" was founded by Lady Marcus Beresford and drew up its own rule and held its own successful shows at the old Westminster Aquarium. The Cat Club published a 2-volume stud book in 1899. Some clubs sided with The Cat Club while others remained attached to The National Cat Club. In 1904, these 2 rival clubs decided to try to settle their differences, but for the next 6 years there was general unrest in the Cat Fancy, and a Cat Fanciers’ Association was formed. The National Cat Club (and several others) did not take part in the often fierce arguments and controversy and made the first move towards peace. In April 1909, The Cat Fanciers’ Association was invited to send 3 delegates to confer with 3 members of The National Cat Club to consider "the condition of the Cat Fancy generally". Neither party was satisfied and negotiations continued until March 1910 when a historic conference of the Cat Fancy took place at 11, Victoria Street, Westminster. This conference resulted in the formation of The Governing Council of the Cat Fancy.
The National Cat Club agreed to hand over its governing powers to the newly formed GCCF and in return was granted 4 delegates in perpetuity; other clubs affiliated to the council were granted 1 or 2 delegates. In later years attempts were made to change this numerical representation. Mr FW Western said "in Council" that he recognized that The National Cat Club had certain rights, and that he would resist attempts to reduce their representation The handing over of registrations and fees to the GCCF meant a huge loss of revenue to The National Cat Club, but the club agreed that it was for the overall good of the Cat Fancy.
The Midland Counties Cat Club, The Southern Counties, The Northern Counties and The Blue-Persian Cat Society were each permitted 2 delegates. The Blue-Persian Cat Society was the only breed club to be granted 2 representatives at that time and other breed clubs (The Black and White and The Brown Tabby (later The Red, Cream, Tortoiseshell, Tortoiseshell-and-White and Blue-Cream Society); The Chinchilla, Silver and Smoke Society; The Short-hair Cat Society; The Siamese Cat Club and The Neuter Cat Club (later combined with the Kensington Kitten Club) were granted only 1 delegate, though this could be increased to 2 if their memberships increased. One regional club was also allowed 2 delegates: The Newbury Cat Club.
The Siamese Cat Club grew rapidly and in 1930 had 4 delegates, the maximum number permitted. All clubs which had a certain number of delegates allowed to them by 31st December 1930 were allowed to retain that number in perpetuity even if their memberships decreased. This was accepted by the GCCF when its Constitution was revised in 1932. The Croydon Cat Club had one delegate in 1920 and a second in 1923. The Kensington Kitten Club was allowed 1 delegate a little later. The Siamese Cat Society of the British Empire and the Abyssinian Cat Club were each permitted one delegate from 1930. Later, many clubs were formed and became affiliated to the GCCF and were also granted representation. Some of the early clubs ceased to exist and were thus no longer represented.
Before the Second World War, The Southsea Cat Club and The South-Western Counties Cat Club became affiliated. In 1946 The Notts and Derbyshire Cat Club was formed. In 1947, the Blue-Pointed Cat Club, which had ceased to exist during the war, was re-affiliated. In 1948, The Herts and Middlesex Cat Club appeared. The Scottish Cat Club, had been hard hit during the period of distress on the Clyde and had dropped out as a member of the GCCF. It nevertheless carried on with shows and eventually rejoined the Council. In 1950, The Edinburgh and East of Scotland Club was affiliated. In 1951 The Lancashire and North-Western Counties and The Yorkshire County Cat Club also became affiliated. Soon after, the Russian Blue Club was affiliated, but did not have sufficient members for it to be granted a delegate.
The GCCF's preliminary meeting was held on the 17th May 1910, at the Inns of Court Hotel and a chairman(Russell Biggs), officers and a committee were appointed. The Constitution and Rules were drafted in outline. The first official meeting was 11th October 1910. In 1911, the GCCF's Constitution and Rules were drawn up by Mrs Slingsby, Mr Little and Mr Russell Biggs. The first General Meeting of the GCCF was a historic event for the Cat Fancy. Those present were Mr Russell Biggs (Chairman and representative for The National Cat Club), Mr de Vere Brooke, Miss Burton, Miss Cope, Mrs Fosbery, Miss Jay, Miss Kerwell, Miss H Lea, Mrs TB. Mason, Mrs Robinson, Miss Frances Simpson, Mrs Slingsby, Mrs Spoforth, Miss Wood, Mr Cox, Mr R Little, Mr T Watson, Mr J Wilson and Mr S Desborough (Secretary).
Following the First World War (the "Great War"), Mrs Slingsby was responsible, with several others, for rallying the Cat Fancy. She later helped redraft the Constitution and Rules, which were not amended again until 1932. The Constitution was further revised in 1953.
Sir Claude Alexander was for some years Chairman, succeeded in 1926 by Cyril Yeates (a delegate from The Black and White Club since 1921). Yeates' popularity made it impossible for him to retire; when he did finally retire in 1949 he was elected the first President of the GCCF. Physically unimposing, he was considered a giant in the role of legislator, breeder, judge, show manager and "keeper of the peace." He was known as "King of the Cats" and later the "Grand Old Man of the Cat Fancy". He was show manager at most of the Crystal Palace Cat Shows until the venue was destroyed by fire. Yeates died in 1950 aged 75 and was remembered as a far-sighted chairman who also assisted cat clubs outside of Britain. Along with his wife Gretta, Yeates assisted the formation of The Cat Club de Paris and other French clubs along the same lines as the GCCF. GCCF secretaries not only attended all GCCF meetings, they also controlled the registrations and transfers of kittens and cats and are responsible for show catalogues and records of Challenge Certificates and Premier Certificates. Secretary for some years was Miss H Lea, followed by Mr Edmonds, Mr Barratt and Mr Herbert Thompson.
After Yeates, Miss Kit Wilson was the next Chairman, but she resigned after only one year due to personal commitments and was succeeded by Miss Kathleen Yorke, an all-breeds judge.
The first show run by the GCCF's was held in celebration of the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II in 1953; the Coronation Show was held at the Royal Horticultural Society’s New Hall. It was attended by cat fanciers from many parts of Europe and also from the USA and South Africa; some as judges and others as observers. By the 1950s, several overseas clubs and foreign governing bodies were also affiliated to the British GCCF: The Cat Club de Paris; The Cat Club Vaudois (Switzerland); La Société Royale Feline de Flandres (Belgium); Felikat (Netherlands); Norsk Racekatten (Norway); Svenska Kattklubben (Sweden); Racekatten (Denmark); JYRAK (Denmark). The clubs of many nations were also represented by La Fédération Internationale Feline d’Europe (FIFE).