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Between The Lines – The 1926 Sesqui Centennial

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80 – August, 2018

by Wayne Cavanaugh

To me, the Sesqui Centennial Catalogue is far more than a ninety-two-year-old piece of dog show history. It’s a conscious voice sitting on our shoulder with a true balance of humor, fun, and tradition.

Though I can feel the whack of Professor Klukoff’s wooden ruler on my knuckles as I type this, my most cherished book from 1926 is not Sinclair Lewis’ social satire, Elmer Gantry. Close, but instead it’s a gently worn, 373-page treasure: “Catalogue – The American Kennel Club Dog Show; Sesqui Centennial International Exposition; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, September 30, October 1 and 2, 1926.” Although it may not exactly be a classic social satire, it clearly is an entertaining and revealing snapshot of dog shows peppered with some eye-popping reminders of the sport, the dogs, and the footloose spirit of the Roaring Twenties.

The 1926 Sesqui Centennial was the first dog show ever held by the AKC. Ironically, it wasn’t designed to celebrate an anniversary of the AKC – it was to celebrate the 150th birthday of United States of America. Imagine that! What better way to celebrate independence from England than to host a dog show with a soul that clings desperately to, well, England! Accordingly, every year, as the Fourth of July fireworks frightens the neighbor’s cat, I’m reminded to give the old pearl another read. And while occasionally distracted by the high humor of its curious trophy lists and trivia, I attempt to dig deeper to discover something about the early days of the sport, the evolution of breeds, and perhaps a few clues about where the sport is headed.

British influence was pervasive at the big American “Sesqui” show to say the least, from subtleties like the spelling of “Catalogue” to a less subtle line in the prize list: “An Antique Silver Cup will be awarded for Best In The Show by The English Kennel Club, Headquarters, 84 Piccadilly, London, England.” To think, there was a time when “The Kennel Club” used its geographical prefix in its club’s name! Of course, many of the top dogmen and winners of the three-day extravaganza weren’t long away from England. Many of the keys players made their livings importing good dogs to the States including the ultimate winner, the English import Sealyham Terrier, Pinegrade Perfection. Perfection was shown by the storied and perfectly mustached human import, Mr. Percy Roberts. The same great team then went on to win Westminster in 1927.

Click here to read the complete article
80 – August, 2018

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