2012-03-07 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Westminster Wellstood Mystery Part 1: Sensation, the Pointer synonymous with Westminster Kennel Club, was buried in Babylon at the turn of the last century. An 1879 Wellstood steel engraving of Sensation is the model for the Westminster logo. A daughter and a mate of the prominent Pointer, also from Babylon, play integral parts in the history of the iconic print.
Sensation’s image remains ubiquitous during the dog show. Therefore, it is only fitting that a Wellstood print has sniffed his way back to his old stomping grounds, and hopefully will hang one day in the Babylon Old Town Hall History Museum. (More about that print next week.)
Regular “Pets” readers know that from 1880 to 1904 Westminster Kennel Club (WKC) maintained a clubhouse and kennels, housing up to 200 dogs, on 64 acres just west of Southards Pond. Sensation spent time here in his retirement. When he died in June 1887, he was buried under a flagpole on the lawn of the Babylon clubhouse. Atop the flagstaff was a Pointer weather vane with a statue of a Pointer, pointing always into the wind.
Wellstood prize has ties to Babylon: Mr. Bill Stifel, WKC historian wrote: “At the third annual Westminster Kennel Club show in 1879, a copy of the print was offered by W. Wellstood & Co. “for the best dog, bitch or puppy sired by Sensation.” The NY Times of 8 Apr 1879 describes it as “an artist’s proof.” On the following day the paper noted that above the bench where Sensation himself was on display hung “a very fine steel plate engraving of him, richly framed.” The winner of this prize was Dutchess, a two-year old lemon and white bitch owned by George Van Wagenen of NYC. She was by Sensation out of Whisky. We have no idea as to the whereabouts of that print.”
During the 19th century, magazines contained detailed pen and ink drawings. One illustration exists showing the Wellstood print on display amid the crowd at the Gilmore Garden. Furthermore, in the first WKC catalogue of 1877, Dutchess, the Wellstood winner, was listed as one of five Babylon Sensation/Whisky puppies at the show. Keep in mind, that her mother, Whisky, was later buried under a rock to the side of Sensation’s grave in Babylon.
The famous dog club takes its name from the now gone Westminster Hotel on Irving Place in NYC where the charter members would meet. Charles Dickens stayed there also. Some believe Whisky’s lineage helped cement the name “Westminster Kennel Club”.
Many of the first WKC Pointers like Sensation and Whisky were imported from England. Whisky’s littermate “Juno” happened to belong to the Duke of Westminster. Babylonians might recall that our Village had Anglophile inclinations too. Argyle Lake, once Blythebourne Lake, was renamed for the heir to the Dukedom of Arygll because he was an investor in our long-gone lakeside hotel, birthplace of the Cuban Giants, the first all-black baseball team in America.
Original Wellstood engraving: William Wellstood (1819-1900) was a well-known engraver. Most of his prints were landscapes or historical portraits. His son James, the artist for the Sensation profile, died in 1880 shortly after the prize was offered. This may well be their only piece of “dog art.”
No one knows where the original plate is or how many copies were made from it. However, the NY Spirit of the Times in 1881 Jan.-Dec. advertised prints for sale at $2 each. Mr. Stifel added that: “We also know that at some point, Westminster gave a copy of the print to Stephen T. Hammond who handled Sensation to a number of wins in field trials. After Hammond’s death, this copy was returned to
Westminster by his daughter, and it hangs in Westminster’s office in Manhattan today. Westminster also purchased a copy of the print in the 1930s, which hangs in the Westminster office.” I think this one has vestiges of color which may be significant to my mystery print.
Authentic copies have “Drawn by J. Wellstood” under the image in one corner; “engraved by W. Wellstood” in the other corner, and the inscription: “Entered according to Act of Congress in the Year 1879 by W. Wellstood and Co. in the Office of the Librarian of Congress at Washington.” in between. The title underneath reads: “The Pointer;” with (Sensation) below that. The 1879 copies are in black & white. Rare 1879 copies do exist. Several Pointer fanciers have found them at auctions.
1936 Kirkover reprints: I am not certain what year the Hammond family returned the print to WKC but, for a long time, WKC owned no copies of the Wellstood. In 1935, a copy was found in the art collection of Harry Kirkover, a sportsman in Camden, S.C. Mr. Stifel said: “Kirkover was not about to part with it but was willing to lend it to us. It was brought to New York and put in the hands of Richard A. Loederer, a well-known artist of the day. What this man planned to do was written up in the American Field from Jan. 4, 1936: (It) will be reproduced by Arthur Jaffee, Incorporated, under the celebrated Max Jaffee process. A sufficient number of reproductions will be made for the members of the club and a few friends.” How many? No one knows.
The Max Jaffee process employed color, and my Wellstood from a dealer in Texas is in color.
This Wellstood print was discovered online by Karen Blasche, historian of the American Pointer Club. I had to bring Sensation home, and by some minor miracle, he arrived via Fed Ex hours before my Westminster program at the Old Town Hall Museum last June. It’s as if Sensation knew that he had to be there.
Is he authentic or a cheap copy from Sears? Is he an 1879 or a 1935? Tracing the print’s back story has been almost as convoluted as “digging up dirt” about Sensation in Babylon. More next week in Westminster Wellstood Mystery Part 2.
For adoption at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643-9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: “Miss Piggy” is a plaintive Bulldog/ Pit mix who wants nothing more than to be with someone. She is dog friendly. “Ella” is a timid Chihuahua, overlooked because she is timid.
Female: “Hope” Shepherd mix; “Diamond” Pit mix.
Male: Puggle; “Romeo”- lover boy Pit.
*Correction. Last week I put the wrong date for the Last Hope low-cost vaccine clinic which is this Sun. March 11 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Last Hope in Wantagh. See www.lasthopeanimalrescue.org.
*Upcoming huge Chinese auction fundraiser for Almost Home on Sat. March 24 from 11:30 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. at the Elks Lodge in Smithtown. Call 631-627-3665.