In the Beginning
The Santa Barbara dog show is one of the oldest in the U.S. and has been held for either more than 100 years or almost 100 years …
How is it possible that we don't know such a crucial fact? That's because the covers of both the 1919 and the 1925 show catalogs call their show “the first.” Both catalogs still exist, left to me by Tom Stevenson, who — together with his wife Ann — made sure that the show was greater than ever for a number of years, even the biggest in America at some point. But even Tom was not around when the SBKC show was first held …
We know that a dog show hosted by an organization called Santa Barbara Kennel Club was held on Friday and Saturday, August 1 and 2, 1919. The cover of that catalog stated that this was the “First Annual Open Air Two Day Dog Show” — and there is no reason to believe there had been a one-day, indoor show before that. The mystery really is that exactly six years later the Santa Barbara Kennel Club held a show that, on the cover of the catalog, was advertised as the “1st Annual All Breed Dog Show.” How can that be possible? How can the same club hold its first dog show twice?
I tried to find out via the daily newspaper, published since 1868 and bound to have a report of the events. Perhaps there would be an explanation in the write-up? That didn't work: The Santa Barbara News-Press informed me that they didn't have back issues that old. Since none of the SBKC board or show committee members at the 1919 show are also listed in the 1925 catalog, it is of course possible that they were unaware that a show had already been held, particularly since there is no record of a show being held during the four years prior to the 1925 event. (There was a show in 1920.) The dates of the show are identical, but Wikipedia informs me that August 1 and 2 in 1925 were Saturday and Sunday, so obviously the show was held one day later in the year than in 1919. The superintendent was also different: In 1919 it was John Bradshaw, from a family that still organizes dog shows in California, but in 1925 the superintendent was August L. Rosemont, of 21 Rosemont Place in San Francisco.
The total number of dogs entered in 1919 appears to have been 280 (among that number was a single entry in “Miscellaneous Sporting,” an Australian Kangaroo Hound named Nick: “Particulars not given. For sale.”). In 1925 there seem to have been at least 388 dogs entered. There were five judges in 1919, three from Los Angeles, one from San Francisco and one all the way from New York City. It says a lot about the different breed interest in those days that one judge, Mr. Ernest E. Betts, judged only Boston Terriers; another, Mr. F. W. Paget, judged only Bull Terriers; and a third, Mr. James Ewins, judged only “English Bulldogs.” Mr. C. H. Edmunds judged “Setters, Pointers and all Sporting Spaniels,” while Mr. J. L. Frothingham, the judge from New York City, took care of “all other breeds.” The catalog also announced that “Messrs. Frothingham and Betts” would judge “Mixed Specials” with Mr. Ewins as “Refeeree in case of a Tie.” (Exactly what “Mixed Specials” means is not clear; this was a few years before AKC introduced a consistent way of judging Best in Show and groups.)
The catalog even includes a schedule of points “as adopted by the [AKC?] License Committee” for Division 2, which included the Pacific Coast and stipulated that the following number of dogs competing were required to obtain five points: Cocker Spaniels, 30; Collies, 25; Bulldogs, 35; Airedale Terriers, 45; French Bulldogs, 25; Boston Terriers, 60, and Wirehaired Fox Terriers, 25. On the other hand, a large number of breeds only required five dogs to be present for the winner to receive that number of points.
The show was famous as a playground for the rich and famous from the start, but obviously the club had some early problems. In 1954 the following statement appeared in Kennel Review: “The presently formed Club was organized in 1937 as a non-profit corporation of the State of California. No member of the Club receives either directly or indirectly, any remuneration, or benefit, from the Club. Its purpose is to conduct a one-day show each year devoted to the highest interest of the sport and to reflect thereby the spirit of the community in wherein it is given.
“The show is noted for the beauty and appointments of its setting, the high type of its judges and for the quality and generosity of its trophies.”
It's still true today!
Some Santa Barbara Kennel Club Best in Show Winners
1935 Cocker Spaniel Ch. Sinaloa Moonshine
1937 Borzoi Ch. Otrava of Romanoff
1941 Cocker Spaniel Ch. Stockdale Town Talk
1947 Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Elskling of Foxlore
1949 Irish Wolfhound Ch. Arnold of Edgecliff
1951 Miniature Poodle Ch. Blakeen Christoff (No details of who the German Shepherd was. There was no Reserve BIS, but perhaps it was High Scoring in Obedience Trial?)
1953 German Shepherd Dog Ch. Alert of Mi-Noah’s
1954 Afghan Hound Ch. Ophaal of Crown Crest
1955 Keeshond Ch. Wrocky of Wistonia
1956 Bulldog Ch. Banshee of Beechlyn
1957 Bulldog Ch. Kippax Fearnought
1958 Boxer (Ch.) Evo-Wen’s Impressario
1960 Miniature Poodle Ch. Estid Ballet Dancer
1963 German Shorthaired Pointer Ch. Gretchenhof Moonshine
1967 Pekingese Ch. Dan Lee Dragonseed
1968 & 1969 Miniature Poodle Ch. Tranchant Annabelle
1970 Norwegian Elkhound Ch. Vin-Melca’s Vagabond
1971 Miniature Poodle Ch. Tally Ho Tiffany
1972 Standard Poodle Ch. Acadia Command Performance
1973 Doberman Pinscher Ch. Galaxy’s Corry Missile Bell
1974 Norwegian Elkhound Ch. Vin-Melca’s Homesteader
1978 Doberman Pinscher Ch. Marienburg Mary Hartman
1979 Norwich Terrier (Ch.) Thrumpton’s Lord Brady
1981 & 1983 Smooth Fox Terrier Ch. Ttarb The Brat
1984 German Shepherd Dog Ch. Covy-Tucker Hill’s Manhattan
1985 Pekingese Ch. St. Aubrey Bees Wing of Elsdon
1986 Miniature Poodle Ch. Hello Again of Sheleen
1987 German Shorthaired Pointer Ch. NMK’s Brittania v. Sibelstein