Old Photos on Facebook
Whenever I have the time, I like to put old photos, usually black and white, of dogs from the past on a Facebook page that's exclusively devoted to them: “Great Show Dogs of the Past.” I have done this for more than a year; must have posted several hundred photographs by now, which were scanned mostly from my collection of more than a hundred years of Kennel Review magazine, sometimes from other old dog publications in my archives, and photos from “The American Kennel Club Blue Book of Dogs 1938.” Recently I have also included some pictures from a copy of the book “Great Show Dogs of America” (inherited from Tom Stevenson), which contains photos and details of 400 top winners at AKC shows from the beginning of the rankings system in 1956 through 1966.
Afghan Hound Ch. Shirkan of Grandeur, 23 BIS 1957-1960 and one of the top-ten all-breeds three of those years, BIS at Westminster 1957, 42 champion get. Photo Ludwig.
Photography has been around since the 1800s, and the oldest photos I've posted are from before 1910, but it wasn't until later that people first started thinking show dogs were worthy of the considerable expense that was then involved in any photography session. As the years go by the photographs become more numerous and gradually also more professional looking, but it's important that the dogs in show photos of the past are almost never portrayed as they are today, and not groomed as they are today either. Color photography didn't exist other than in very rare instances before 1970. (Printing color in a publication remained too expensive for most dog people until well into the '90s, even when the original photograph was in color, which from the late 1970s and '80s it often was.) I've only got as far as the late 1950s/early 1960s yet …
Dalmatian Ch. Roadcoach Roadster, BIS Morris & Essex Kennel Club 1956, 15 BIS 1956-1957. Photo Tauskey.
In spite of the Facebook page's name, all the dogs pictured aren't necessarily great; I thought it was important to include some “ordinary” show dogs that may have finished but perhaps weren't all-time top BIS winners. Almost all are champions, though, for the very simple reason that if a dog was not at least an aspiring champion, there would not be much reason to feature it in a national publication. We shall probably never know just what the great mass of dogs that never finished looked like …
Mrs. H. Earl Hoover circa 1922 with her Chow Chows Victorious of Tien Hsia (about one year old) and Ch. Lu Cheng.
It is interesting to see what kind of response these pictures get. Initially I posted the photographs simply because it was fun to do so, and I didn't expect many people to care. I have found, however, that there is a much greater interest in what the dogs of yesteryear were like than I thought: The expressions of real concern, caused by the absence of photos when I had to focus on more pressing issues a couple of times, have convinced me that there is a relatively large group of fanciers — at least several hundred, probably thousands – who really want to look at old photos. It's very encouraging that so many people take an interest in the relatively long and always fascinating history that our sport has!
(Not that there are close to as many “Likes” on this page as even a moderately successful show weekend generates on a personal page. I frankly don't look at many other pages, but whenever I do, I am always amazed by how many comments you get for any win at all that's announced on Facebook. Usually it's very short – “Congratulations!” – but so many of them …)
Smooth Fox Terrier Ch. Warren Remedy, BIS Westminster 1907, 1908 and 1909.
The people who look at old photos are probably not the same anyway as those who send greetings to their friends on a win. They differ more between themselves than those who write letters for publication in printed magazines, from the rawest novice to well-known breeders and judges. Of course I don't know for certain that some of the comments are made by complete newcomers; it would, in fact, be a blessing if all names came with a little bio so you know the writer's background, but remarks like “My aunt and uncle had a dog just like that!” don't sound like you have a really deep personal experience of whatever breed is pictured … On the other hand, you can often get a really good lesson on breed type: Someone innocently remarked that a Scottish Terrier that was pictured had a really long, beautiful neck, and a breeder whom I don't know personally but whose kennel name is quite famous pointed out that the AKC standard asks for the neck to be “moderately short, strong, thick and muscular” … Staying with Terriers, Amy Rutherford asked if there were any photographs of Ch. Warren Remedy, the Smooth Fox Terrier that won BIS at Westminster in 1907, 1908 and 1909. We have all seen the drawing, but when I searched I actually found one photo that (for its time) was quite good.
Bedlington Terrier Ch. Center Ridge Snow Classic, five BIS 1956-1957, one of the top-ten Terriers both years. Photo Tauskey.
I try to remain neutral as far as possible: Post a photo, write a caption that includes the dog's most important wins and usually don't include my own opinion. OK, a couple of times I have done that, but only when a breed I know really well (Whippets!) is involved: After all, the photographs are published for all to see, so they must be considered fair game. (Some photos are also posted on Whippet Review's page or Sighthound Review's page.)
Labrador Retriever Eng. & Am. Ch. Sam of Blaircourt, imported from Scotland, seven BIS 1960-1962, 33 champion get. Photo Tauskey.
There has also been a lively discussion recently regarding the Labrador Retriever's development, to mention another post — but that subject also is an example of the common glorification of the past. The most common remark when anyone sees a photo of a past winner — regardless of breed — is, in fact, “Those were the days when XXXX looked like they are supposed to!” Sometimes the comments are justified, and you really wonder what today's breeders and judges are thinking … but it's worth remembering that the past was NOT a wonderful world where all dogs were much better than they are today, where all the judges were honorable and fair, and sportsmanship was always rampant. In fact, in most respects the dog world — and the world in general, too — was as messy, complicated and unfair as it is today, if not worse.
But I do sympathize: It is VERY easy to succumb to the temptation of watching the past through rose-colored glasses. I feel very comfortable in the past, and I think I'll stay there for a while …
The photos accompanying this article are from before 1910 up to the early 1960s, and help give an idea what the best dogs of the first 50 years of dog photography looked like. If you want to see more, go to “Great Show Dogs of the Past” on Facebook.
Pug Eng. Ch. Banchory Lace, winner of 25 Challenge Certificates 1950s, BIS Birmingham National championship show 1957. Photo Fall.
Whippet Eng. & Am. Ch. Courtenay Fleetfoot of Pennyworth, 29 BIS 1963-1964, BIS Westminster and #1 All Breeds 1964. Photo Nina Leen, Life magazine.
German Shepherd Ch. Hugo of Cosalta, BIS at both all-breed and specialty shows circa 1937.
Pekingese Ch. Chik T'Sun of Caversham, imported from England, #1 all breeds Canada 1956, #1 All Breeds U.S. 1957-1959, BIS Westminster 1960.
Boxer Ch. Utz von Dom, imported from Germany, group winner Westminster 1940, sire of 37 champion get.
Wire Fox Terrier Ch. Flornell Spicy Piece of Halleston, BIS Westminster 1937.
Miniature Poodle Eng. & Am. Ch. Adastra Magic Fame, #2 All Breeds 1956 and 1957, during which time he won 43 BIS, #1 Non-Sporting both years.
Pembroke Welsh Corgi Ch. Fitzdown Paul of Andersley, imported from the U.K., on the cover of Kennel Review, 1939.