At a Board of Directors meeting last February, the fact that this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Bull Terrier Club of New England was brought up and it was decided to research the Club’s history. What began as a matter of curiosity for me soon developed into a mild obsession. One thing led to another and Pam Docherty and I found ourselves at the American Kennel Club library poring over old books and Gazettes and back issues of the weekly publication Popular Dogs. One of our objectives was to compile a list (from 1938 on) of the winners of the T. Dickson Smith Memorial Trophy and the other was to dig up as many facts as we could about the Club’s early years. Our venture was a complete success and in the process we were treated to a look at what the world of dog shows was like fifty years ago. It was a fascinating experience and a big surprise to learn that some things really have not changed all that much! If you ever get the chance to stop in at the library don’t pass up the opportunity to browse through all the old dog papers. I can guarantee you’ll enjoy it. Now, a brief look back. . .
The year was 1931. Raymond Oppenheimer had yet to appear on the Bull Terrier scene and the list of England’s top breeders included Mrs. Gladys Adlam (BRENDON), Mrs. D.H. Robbe (CYLVA), Mr. W.J. Tuck (GLADIATOR), Dr. G.M. Vevers (REGENT), Mrs. M.L. Grey (H0WSDEN) and Mr. H.K. McCausland, whose white dog, Ch. Ringfire of Blighty, was to be awarded the Regent Trophy that year. In the United States the ear cropping controversy raged on and the colored variety of Bull Terrier had not yet been introduced .Popular Dogs, the American illustrated weekly for kennel, field and ring featured breed columns as well as show results and critiques and in issue of August 8th, carried the following item;
On Wednesday, July 29th a new dog club, the Bull Terrier Club of New England was formed in Boston by admirers and breeders of the White ‘Un. The club enjoyed a very auspicious beginning as thirty eight prospective members appeared. It was formed for the purpose of furthering the interests of our breed, to induce Bull Terrier lovers to own them and to encourage those who do own them to exhibit them . Judging by the enthusiasm shown at this initial meeting, the club is bound to succeed. Membership will be open to all lovers of the breed in the New England states. Meetings will be held each fourth Wednesday of the month at the University Club, Boston, Massachusetts. —Edward C. Law
A set of by-laws and a constitution were drawn up and the official Club seal featuring a likeness of the English Ch. Howsden Bailfire was adopted. Still active today, this regional club figured prominently in the Bull Terrier world of the thirties and forties, at one time boasting of a larger membership than the parent Club.
The driving force behind the BTCNE in its early years was Mrs. Drury L. Sheraton, founder and first president. ‘Bud’ Sheraton of Hingham, Massachusetts, who used the kennel prefix QUEEN ANNE described as a fantastic person who ran an enormously successful and prosperous Club. She was, it would appear, the darling of the Bull Terrier fancy – a very powerful woman who also served as the Secretary and Treasurer of the Bull Terrier Club of America and in 1932 was elected to an honorary membership in the Bull Terrier Club of England. She was the author of many articles which appeared in breed periodicals and for a number of years wrote the breed column for the American Kennel Club Gazette. She became an AKC judge and continued to hold office in the BTCNE into the forties.
Another charter member of the Club was Mr. T. Dickson Smith. Mr. Smith was a prominent Boston attorney, a graduate of Harvard University and the Boston University Law School. He was a distinguished judge of all breeds though his special interest was the Bull Terrier. He was for over thirty years a member of the BTCA and long its Vice President and in 1931 he helped to organize the BTCNE in which he held office as second Vice President and Chairman of the Board of Governors. He was also a founding member of the Eastern Dog Club, it’s President for three years, a member of its bench show and executive committees since its inception and, at the time of his death, served the Club as Secretary. Each year since 1938, the Bull Terrier Club of New England offers a trophy for best white bitch at the Eastern Dog Club show in his memory.
Throughout the thirties and forties reports of Club luncheons, business meetings, clinics and puppy matches appeared regularly in “Popular Dogs”. Typical of the publicity afforded the Club is the following excerpt from the March 1, 1936 issue;
“As we go to press, we have a flash from Boston! Topping all entries, for the first time in history at any major dog show, Bull Terriers were out in front with 71 entries to their credit for the 26th annual show of the Eastern Dog Club on February 21-22. Almost every member of the Bull Terrier Club of New England is represented by an entry. This is indeed a remarkable event and is a notable example of just what can be accomplished in our breed by an ardent group of fanciers – a group which puts aside all personal likes and dislikes for the unselfish advancement of the Bull Terrier to that topmost niche where he belongs. We salute, with doffed hat, the Bull Terriers Club of New England. — J.M. Creighton
And the membership continued to grow. Seventy members were listed at the end of 1932 and by February 1938, when an amendment to the Club constitution permitting non- resident members was passed, there were one hundred and forty eight. Counted among these were a number of prominent fanciers whose effect on the breed would be profound and who would devote years to furthering the best interests of the Bull Terrier through both this regional Club and the Bull Terrier Club of America.
Dr. L. Cabot Briggs (CALLENDAR) was long a member of both the BTCA and the BTCNE serving on various committees for the former and on the board of directors of the latter. His book, “Bullterriers, The Biography of a Breed” of which only five hundred copies were printed in 1940, is a true collector’s item. His first Bull Terrier was a gift from his wife and marked the beginning of his interest in the breed.
Dr. Briggs was the donor of the Ch. Bubbles Gift Challenge Bowl which for many years was presented in honor of his first Bull Terrier to the best Bull Terrier (if white ) at the Ladies Dog Club show in Wellesley. The list of famous Bull Terriers he owned included English & American Ch. Maldwyn, English & American Ch. Rebel of Blighty (the controversial color-bred white) and the white bitch, English Ch. Isis Vabo who had completed her championship at seven and one half months of age but died shortly after being imported to the United States. Dr. Briggs is undoubtedly best known to exhibitors as the donor of the English Ch. Isis Vabo Memorial Trophy which, until the emergence of the Silverwood Competition for best American bred Bull Terrier, was the most highly prized award a Bull Terrier could win. He passed away in 1975 and although the Club attempted to secure the Trophy, it has been sadly lost.
Mr. & Mrs. R. Wallace Mollison imported the first colored Bull Terriers in 1934 (the brindle dog Brigadier of Blighty and the black bitch Tisman’s Tango) and were instrumental in eventually securing recognition for the coloreds. They had previously imported the BIS winning white bitch Int. Ch. Faultless of Blighty and although they resigned their membership in the BTCA over the colored controversy, they persevered along with Herbert Stewart in the fight for acceptance. The illustration is from an ad they ran in the 1939 BTCA Annual.
Lindley R. Sutton (ELLARESS) was a breeder judge for nearly fifty years and AKC delegate from the Bull Terrier Club of America until 1977. He was a staunch supporter of the Bull Terrier Club of New England serving as President of the Club for nearly thirty years and striving to keep the Club going during the fifties and early sixties when the membership had dropped to only six. The BTCA presented Mr. Sutton with the Bar Sinister Trophy in 1975 in recognition of his many years of service and his devotion to the breed.
Al Bibby (HOLCROFT), whose association with the breed began in the thirties, is today still an active member of the Club. Although his membership in the BTCNE was interrupted during the forties, he rejoined and along with Mr. Sutton he struggled to keep the Club alive during its leanest years. Through the years Al has owned a number of outstanding Bull Terriers, notably the imported stud dogs English & American Ch. Kowhai Uncle Bimbo, Ch. Krackton Robin of Wentworth and the Regent Trophy winner white Knight Of Lenster. His special service to the breed however has been his willingness to befriend and advise the novice and for this reason he was awarded the Bar Sinister Trophy in 1976.
Mr. & Mrs. Oliver Ford (BEDFORD) have been members of both the BTCA and the BTCNE since the forties. A past President of the parent Club, Mr. Ford is also an AKC judge who has officiated at many specialties and several Silverwoods.
Bitches bred or owned by the Fords won the T. Dickson Smith Memorial Trophy a record ten times during the eleven show period from February 1953 through November 1962.
Dr. & Mrs. Harry Otis (WINSTEDJ also appeared on the Bull Terrier scene during the forties. Their interest in the breed included both varieties, with a special emphasis on versatility. Dr. Otis owned and trained the first Bull Terrier ever to earn the title UDT and through the fifties he put Tracking and Obedience titles on a number of his dogs. A licensed AKC judge, Dr. Otis was also a past President of the Bull Terrier Club Of America.
I must pause at this point to mention that most of the information I’ve recovered about the history of the Bull Terrier Club of New England has been gleaned from old show catalogs, BTCA periodicals and annuals and from the pages of the now defunct Popular Dogs. It is indeed sad that no written records from the Club’s early years exist. If such records were kept, they have vanished. One can only guess therefore, what circumstances surrounded its decline and near demise. Beginning in the late forties and lasting through the early sixties the Club was virtually inactive with membership limited to little more than the Club officers! Renewed interest in the breed seems to have surfaced in the New England area during the sixties with people like the Arnauds and Marilyn Drewes acquiring their first Bull Terriers. By 1970, things were definitely looking up. The first Colket Memorial book, published in that year by the Bull Terrier Club of Philadelphia, features a full page ad in which a group of enthusiastic BTCNE members are pictured with their dogs. Marilyn Drewes is listed as the Secretary and the caption “Now In Its 40th Year” sits proudly under the Club seal.
Mike and Peggy Arnaud (RAGGED HILL) had by that time bred several litters. Their Ch. Killer Joe marked the beginning of what was to be more than a decade of successful breeding and Bull Terriers bearing their kennel prefix are still winning at today’s specialties and Silverwoods. The Arnauds have annually hosted the BTCNE Silverwood qualifying round and picnic at their home in West Brookfield and Peggy has served the Club for several terms as Vice President
Marilyn Drewes (NlPPY‘S) has been breeding Bull Terriers since 1969. She succeeded Lindley Sutton as President of the Club in 1973 and held the office until 1980. She has been a member of the BTCA Board of Directors for a number of years and in 1970 she became an AKC judge. Now licensed to judge a variety of terrier breeds, Marilyn is currently the Bull Terrier columnist for the AKC Gazette and is also the author of “Your Bull Terrier”.
It was during the seventies that the Club seemed to have come full circle, once again scheduling regular meetings and supporting local shows. In 1975, the Bull Terrier Club of New England newsletter was initiated by Drue King (WESTBROOK) who for six years acted as it’s editor. (Future Club historians will be happy to know that a complete set of these newsletters is now being kept.) Membership has been steadily on the rise, topping 100 since 1977. In that year the Club added another major trophy to its list. Adam’s Bowl is a huge silver bowl donated to the Club by Greg & Helga Senko to honor their Adam, the colored Ch. Humphries. Adams Bowl is presented each year at the Eastern Dog Club show to the best colored Bull Terrier. The Club’s annual meeting is also held at the Eastern show and since 1976 a plaque bearing the replica of a medallion recovered from the estate of Dr. Briggs is presented to Club members for each championship or obedience title they have earned during the year. The Club has presented a variety of informative and entertaining programs of late and for the past three years has sponsored a spring fun match in Dedham, Massachusetts. This match has proven to be a most popular event, this year attracting fifty entries in breed and obedience representing each of the New England states and New York.
As July 29, 1981 will mark the Club’s golden anniversary it seems only appropriate that the BTCNE has chosen this year to update and reorganize itself and to that end a new Constitution has been adopted. If Popular Dogs was still in print, I would certainly submit the following paragraph:
“ Congratulations to the Bull Terrier Club of New England on the event of its fiftieth anniversary. This regional Club, which enjoyed it’s hey day during the thirties and forties has resumed its role as an active member of the Bull Terrier world and has recaptured the vigor and enthusiasm with which its founders were blessed. It can count among its members both devoted long time fanciers and enthusiastic newcomers and, from the venerable “Holcroft” to the fast rising “Westbrook” a select number of dedicated breeders. A forward moving club, to be sure, but one which still holds true to the ideas of its originators, that its objectives shall be “to further the interest of the Bull Terrier, to support dog shows and to promote a spirit of good sportsmanship among the owners”.
May it continue to flourish for another half century.
Christine St. Cyr