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Mrs. Gertrude Cheever Porter – Dog Show Domination

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228 – April 2019


It’s often said that when true love hits there’s no going back. Unfortunately, in Mrs. Cheever Porter’s case, the object of that desire didn’t happen to be Mr. Porter.

Gertrude Cheever, born on May 3rd, 1889, and raised as a classic New York blueblood debutante, seemed to have made the ideal match when in 1911 she wed Seton Porter, heir to the National Distillers fortune. It provided a nice balance to her own very substantial trust fund as sole heir of her family’s banking, manufacturing and real estate holdings.

The Porter wedding was announced in The New York Times, the glitzy reception took place at her parents palatial mansion…let’s skip to the interesting stuff. Their 1924 divorce was a turning point in her life. Now, Gertrude was an interesting character. She possessed a genuine taste for competitive sports; prior to her marriage she had been a championship figure skater with Olympic aspirations and maintained her ties to competitive skating throughout her life as executive director of the annual MSG Skating Carnival. However, it was purebred dogs that truly reaped the benefits of her dedication.

Although she was blessed with abundant natural charm and athletic grace, she never remarried. She also had an independent streak, along with a very practical nature. Throughout her life she continued using the Porter surname and collecting his monthly $840 alimony payments. And that was quite a tidy sum back when typical annual salaries hovered around $3000.

Quite likely, much of it was spent in pursuit of her true and lasting love, the Irish Setter. The same year she divorced Seton, Gertrude purchased her first Irish Setters, and she didn’t low-ball those acquisitions, Ch. Lord Palmerston II and Ch. St. Cloud’s Fermanagh III, called Dixie, were top cream. The St. Cloud bloodline was American-bred, a distinctive feature in an era when most major AKC winners were imports, and Setters arrived here from Ireland by the ton.

Dixie’s beautiful balance, glorious head type, smooth neck and shoulder, and deep chest embodied the stylish, streamlined, elegant look that would come to characterize the modern Irish Setter. Linebred and prepotent, he would sire some of Gertrude’s greatest winners, among them Fermanagh IV “Dixie Jr.” whelped in 1931 and the legendary Ch. Milson O’Boy, whelped March 8, 1932, a dog that made an indelible mark on the sport and her heart.

In 1930 Harry Hartnett, Sonn’s kennel manager, became second of four owners who would eventually utilize the Milson prefix. Hartnett was best known for handling the breed’s foremost star of the 1920s, Ch. Higgin’s Red Pat who retired with 24 BIS including the first Morris & Essex show in 1927. That was a remarkable record considering that AKC didn’t formally award BIS until 1925.

Click here to read the complete article
228 – April 2019

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