2012-03-14 / Columnists
Pets, Pets, Pets
Westminster Wellstood Mystery Part 2: An artwork trace overlaps the search for Sensation, Westminster Kennel Club’s (WKC) iconic Pointer buried in Babylon in 1887. Last week’s “Pets” described the 1879 Wellstood steel engraving of Sensation’s silhouette which became symbolic of the famous dog show. Part 2 will trace the convoluted, “crime show” history of a copy of that print that found its way to Babylon, hours before a presentation about Sensation.
Brief Recap of Part 1: In 1879, a Wellstood engraving of Sensation at point was offered to the best of his offspring at the WKC show. The print was displayed over the celebrity Pointer himself in the benching area, and was awarded to his daughter Dutchess who happened to be a Babylon WKC puppy. Furthermore, the winning pup’s Dad and “Whisky” her Mom were buried in front of the WKC clubhouse near Southards Pond. The whereabouts of that prize print and its original plate remain unknown. Rare black & white 1879 copies do exist.
For a long time, WKC didn’t have a Wellstood, until one was discovered in 1935 among the collection of a South Carolina sportsman named Kirkover. A year later, WKC borrowed that print to make “a sufficient number” for members and select friends reproduced by the “Max Jaffee process”. Exact quantity unknown. The full Part 1 is available online in last week’s “Pets” (Beacon 3/8/12).
Wellstood on Ebay: Last June, while I was preparing for a talk about my Babylon WKC findings at the Old Town Hall Historical Museum, research pal, Karen Blasche, historian for the American Pointer Club, found a framed copy of the print in Texas on Ebay. She documents all things Pointer for Pointer posterity, and had kept a scan of the last Wellstood she saw for sale in 2000. Her friend won that one unframed. We compared dimensions and detail. They matched except for the color.
The latest seller had copied the blurb off Westminster’s website, including the part about Sensation being buried in Babylon. I got the impression he wasn’t an expert on dog art. Did he understand the print’s significance? He said he worked for Mayflower movers. He collected old prints, lithographs and antiques. A year before he made an offer to a customer with some old, unwanted prints in her closet. Imagine the discarded treasures movers see. Of course, I had to bid on the Wellstood, and hope someday to preservation frame it so it can hang in the same museum where Sensation made a brief easel debut last spring.
Other color copies, perhaps: At the time it seemed odd that the latest Wellstood was in muted color, rather than black & white, but that was before we knew the Jaffee “collotype” process could reproduce high-quality copies in monochrome or color. When I asked Mr. Stifel, WKC historian, if he had ever seen any like this listing, he replied that a copy in the WKC office had vestiges of color and that, in 2002, a Salt Lake City woman tried to sell Westminster a similar sounding copy that had been in her stepfather’s billiard room for several thousand dollars. He believed hers and mine might be 1936 Kirkover reprints but it appeared the Library of Congress line was missing on both so he couldn’t be sure. They might be from a different plate. I feared a cheap commercial copy.
Upon closer inspection under a magnifying glass, the Library of Congress line and the corner notations of “Drawn by J. Wellstood” and “Engraved by W. Wellstood” are faint but definitely evident on my color copy. I was ecstatic, thinking it one of the 1936 WKC commissioned Kirkovers.
Tracing the Texas Print: Because we suspect but cannot verify the print’s previous owner’s connection to a crime, names have been omitted to protect identities. So how did the print get in the lady’s closet? Luckily the Fort Worth framer had tagged the back of the print with his phone number. Would he remember this job? He told me that over 20 years ago he framed many dog prints, of which Wellstood may have been one, for a local man who owned Poodles and had a grooming “camp.” He gave me a first and last name, and added he hadn’t seen him lately.
Seems that everyone in Texas uses three names, and a Google search turned up that exact name with Wayne as a middle name of a man from Fort Worth who had died in 2009 at age 62 awaiting a liver transplant. His sister was his caretaker. Might she be the woman the mover met with the prints in her closet?
The deceased brother was an Air Force veteran, later policeman and private pilot who flew Lear jets out of Love Field which is an ironic tie-in, because the 1918 aerial photos taken over Southards Pond that appear to show the Westminster clubhouse right before it burned down, were taken by the 277th Aero Squadron which was organized during WWI at Love Field.
Further digging uncovered a 1981 US appeals court brief where a Texas pilot of the same triple name testified against his employers and pleaded guilty during a case involving marijuana smuggling and destroying a leased plane in Mexico. Though I desperately wanted confirmation, I never got up the nerve to call the framer back to ask if his late Poodle owning customer was also a pilot. Was my Wellstood print of Sensation once purchased with drug money? Inquiring minds want to know.
Adoptables at Babylon Town Shelter (631-643- 9270) Lamar St. W. Babylon: This tiny Maltese/Westie leprechaun #12-153 was found in N. Amityville. He is an older cutie, content to sit on your lap. “Samantha” #12-115 a stray PBGV mix needs a home without cats or small kids. What’s a PBGV, you ask? The letters stand for the breed- Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen.
Male: two Puggles; Tobey, the Hound mix pup; a parade of pleasant Pits.
Female: Delilah, queen of the shelter office; Lucy- Lab/ Chow; Diamond, Ms. Piggy, Emma from the Pit parade.
** Please visit and LIKE the revamped Babylon Animal Shelter Facebook page.
** Almost Home Chinese Auction Extravaganza-Sat. 3/24 at Elks Lodge in Smithtown call 631-627-3665.