BLUE JACK (c1889)
PHOTOS | SOCIAL MEDIA | REFERENCES
In truth, we do not know exactly when 'Blue Jack', (NCC:1149),a Blue Persian male bred by a Mr. Young, was born. But we can narrow down the range by knowing that he won a prestigious Silver Medal and Prize Cup at the Crystal Palace Show of 1891. We also know that he was the sire of a blue male named 'Prince Doris',(NCC:1132), who was born in May, 1890. So although he could be older, this points to his date of birth being circa 1889, or quite possibly earlier.
However, he came to a degree of fame only after he became the property of Mrs. Louisa Herring, whose name had figured prominently in the cat world for many years, and who continued her all-consuming hobby as a breeder and exhibitor, right up to the early 20th century. Mrs. Herring had a very eclectic taste in cats, and owned or bred Persians in many colours, including Blues, Reds and Silvers or Chinchillas; as well as Siamese, Russian Shorthairs, English Shorthairs, Abyssinians, and Manx. In particular, her she was very well known for her winning Long-hairs and English Shorthairs.
In an interview in 1895, she was asked "Have you shown cats many years?" to which she replied:
"In 1877 I exhibited 'Chin', a lovely silver-grey Chinchilla, and was so successful that at the next cat show I sent a pair, and since then I have gone on increasing until now I have about fifty cats and kittens here."1
She was, in fact, an active member of The National Cat Club from its inception in 1887, and is listed as a member of its Committee, in its first published Stud Book, dated 1893. She was a relative by marriage to Harrison William Weir (1824-1906), both being married to siblings from the Herring family. Louisa married a younger son of John Frederick Herring Snr; while Harrison's first wife, Ann Herring, was the eldest daughter. In effect, that meant that Mrs. Louisa Herring was an auntie to Harrison's four children.
Unknown Unknown | Unknown Blue Jack, Unknown c1889, Blue M | Unknown Unknown Unknown
'Blue Jack' was bred by a Mr. Young, from unknown (or unrecorded) parents, probably born in 1889 or earlier. He quickly became the property of Mrs. L. Herring. An analysis of all the registrations of cats owned by Mrs. Herring that appear in The National Cat Club's Studbook and Register, shows that a disproportionate number of cats registered in her name, are of unknown parentage. Although in the early years this may have truly been a necessity, one is left wondering if perhaps her paperwork was not as good as it either could, or should have been.
From a total number of sixty-two entries owned by Mrs. Herring in the first five volumes, only twenty-five, have both sire and dam recorded. Some have one recorded parent, and the rest have unknown parentage. Nevertheless, we cannot underestimate Mrs. Herring's passion for her cats and for the cat fancy.
In an article on "The Cult of the Cat" written by W.M. Elkington, for The Lady's Realm in 1900, we glean another insight:
"For many years the name of Mrs. Herring has figured prominently in the cat world. Indeed, Mrs. Herring's catteries are so extensive that one might be tempted to term the place a farm, if one did not remember that all the beautiful creatures to be seen are pets. There are blues, silvers, browns, oranges, blacks, whites, tabbies and almost all the sub-varieties of the most popular breeds. And the remarkable fact is that Mrs. Herring is able to recite the name and pedigree of each and every one of her numerous family, and to relate with just pride their achievements in the exhibition world….
"Mrs. Herring's house is full of trophies, cups, medals, and special prizes won by her cats; and no wonder! Such care and attention was never expended upon dumb animals as Mrs. Herring lavishes upon her pets. Her fame has even spread as far as Turkey, and the Sultan has purchased direct, a beautiful brown tiger tabby, with which he has expressed the greatest pleasure, and declares that he admires it greatly.
"Mrs. Herring is on the committee of the National Cat Club, and is, I believe, a relation of Mr. Harrison Weir. She tells me that none of her cats leave home for any show unless she accompanies them. Such is Mrs. Herring's devotion, and it finds ample reciprocation in the love of her pets."2
From an earlier writer who paid her a visit in 1895 we get a more detailed description and the below photograph:
"Mrs. Herring's beautiful animals have long been known to me from the show benches, but until this day I had no idea how complete in everything conducing to their comfort, pleasure, and general well-being their home life has been made by their devoted mistress.
"On an emerald lawn some splendid full-grown cats lay basking in the sun, while the fluffy kittens amused themselves tumbling one another over with all the natural grace and true poetry of motion inherent to most young animals.
"There was the beautiful 'Champion Jimmy', and the graceful Chinchilla 'Irene'; the stately English tabbies, 'Sir Peter Teazle' and 'Tommy Dodd'; the magnificent orange 'King Harry', and an exquisite pure-blue kitten with topaz eyes, the offspring of 'Queen Nita' and 'Blue Jack', with many others, most of them the winners of numberless firsts, specials, team, brace, and challenge prizes….
"Mrs. Herring, though a most evident object of adoration to her dogs, confesses that her cats are nearer her heart, and asserts positively that, if properly treated, they are the equal of dogs in intelligence and affection."
There are no recorded siblings.
As a leading blue male from the early 1890's 'Blue Jack' held his own in the show ring and therefore also as a stud whose residence was within striking distance of London. Among his registered progeny are, (in approx. chronological order):
The following are more named progeny of 'Blue Jack' but with dates of birth or colour missing:
'Blue Jack' was from the middle period of Mrs. Herring's heavy involvement in the world of cats. His birth dates from the first active years of the National Cat Club and prior to the formal registration of cats in a Stud-book, from 1893. He also jointly heralds that period between 1887 and 1895 which constitutes the birth and early establishment of the 'pure blue' in Persians.
It is important to remember, that cat fancying in general provided upper middle class and aristocratic women with a new hobby, one from which it was not inconceivable that they might derive a small but steady income. Mrs. Herring was a widow. The dogs and cats she kept and bred, provided her with much-needed companionship, a reason to live, provide and plan for, and a social life serving on committees, competing at exhibitions, and when winning, pride in accomplishments.
By the new century however, she represented the 'old school' and a new type of breeder was emerging in England. The new generation were interested in the science of breeding, the purifying and perfecting of colour and patterns, the development of breed standards, and in advancing both old and new varieties. Many had come from a background in either Poultry, Pigeons, or Horticulture, and as such, had already honed an eye for detail, as well as recognising the value of applying a more scientific approach to the propagation and improvement of breed varieties.
With the birth of the specialist clubs around 1901, the cat fancy entered into a new and exciting, sometimes divisive, and dramatic phase of its ongoing development. It was now like an adolescent, struggling to cope with changing hormones, trying to balance its seemingly unbridled passions with its natural desire to claim the rights and responsibilities of adulthood. The pure blue was at the forefront of this charge into the twentieth century. But it was cats like 'Blue Jack' that were on the bottom steps of the stairs leading the development of the blue as a 'force majeur', between 1890 and the turn of the new century.
Registers associated with this article include The Incorporated Cat Fanciers Association of Great Britain (TICFAGB), National Cat Club (NCC), The Cat Club (CCR), Beresford Cat Club (BCC), Feline Federation Francaise (FFF), Siamese Cat Registry (SCR), US Register & Studbook for Cats (USR)including Supplement(USRS), The Studbook of the American Cat Association (ACA), and the Studbook & Register of the Cat Fanciers' Association (CFA).
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