Photo: 'Harpers Bazar', 14th December, 18981. Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


If it had not been for the industrious journalism of Helen M. Winslow, this image and the short history behind it, may never have seen the light of day. As an ardent admirer of cats, this author of Concerning Cats (1900) wrote a great many newspaper articles about 'high-bred cats' in the years before her book was published and this image was found in one of them, along with the historic links to her breeder, Mrs. Leland Norton of Chicago.

Mrs. Norton was the founding President of the Chicago Cat Club, which was incorporated under the state laws of Illinois, on January 26th 1899. But this Club, under Mrs. Norton's leadership, had been notionally formed prior to this date and had also successfully conducted a Cat Show in the First Regiment Armory, in Chicago, on December 7th to 10th, 1898. At this show, which was a most sumptuous affair managed by Mr. W.T. Waithall Jnr, were a good number of society women who acted as patronesses and assured that it was a social success. The show had exhibits from as far afield as New York, St. Louis and New Mexico. A detailed report of the show and its exhibits was given by Jennie Van Allen, in the columns of Harpers Bazar, only days after the event.

In The Book of the Cat, in the chapter on "American Cats", written by Mr E.N. Barker, we are informed that this cat show was the first to be held in Chicago and took place three years after the New York Show. The Chicago Cat Club was soon however dwarfed by its new rival, the Beresford Cat Club, which was formed by Mrs. Clinton Locke, in Chicago, in 1899. This club, in turn held some of the largest Cat Shows in America. The writer then goes on to say:

"The vicinity of Chicago has been the centre of the Cat Fancy in America, and in this city and its vicinity there have been more steady breeders and more people who have selected, bred, and reared the best cats they could obtain, so that, of course, the shows have been the best and biggest ever held in America."5


        Dixie, White
    Royal Norton, White
    |   Chiffon, White
Bydie Young, c1897, Amber-eyed White, F
    |   Joe, White
    Madge, White
        Snow, White

As to a date of birth for 'Bydie Young', we must be forgiven for taking a degree of artistic license, as 'Bydie' was not recorded in any of the official registers. However, we do know of her parentage from a well-written article by Helen Winslow, and it matches that of a full younger sibling who was subsequently registered and his date of birth recorded. But it is clear from the photograph included in the article and shown here, dated 14th December 1898, that 'Bydie' was most likely to have been at least a year old. This would put her date of birth at the very latest, to around December of 1897.

Mrs. Leland Norton, President of the Chicago Cat Club and mistress of the famous 'Drexel' Kennels.
Photo: The Puritan, 1898 4
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

As to her breeder, Mrs. Leland Norton, we go to journalists of the period to gain further insight. In an article written by Delia T. Davis, and published in Metropolitan Magazine in 1900, which is entitled "Cat Culture in Chicago", she states unequivocably of Mrs. Norton:

"Mrs. Norton Leland Norton has won for herself a national reputation as a breeder and raiser of thoroughbred cats, and the Drexel Kennels' stock takes rank with the very best in the country."3

In a second article, in an edition of The Puritan from 1898, by an undisclosed writer, we have a description of a visit to the Drexel Kennels to see the cats:

"Mrs. Leland Norton, of 4011 Drexel Boulevard, owns the finest private collection of Angoras in the world. In her kennels are 18 splendid Angoras, with snowy white coats and tails like the plumes on a knight templar's hat. They have blue eyes, green eyes, amber eyes, and, for the sake of variety, one of them has a blue and a green eye, and another is blessed with the rare combination of amber and blue.

"It is a captivating sight to see this procession of high bred cats caper through the drawing rooms, for they are like a swirl of snow, driven by a Klondike blizzard. Another interesting moment is at mealtime, when they tumble over one another, like snowballs fired from a catapult."4

"Mrs. Leland Norton has won for herself a national reputation as a breeder"

For confirmation of the parentage of 'Bydie Young', we turn to an article about high-bred cats written by Helen Winslow in 1898, in which she states:

"Mrs. Norton has for several years been an enthusiastic breeder of Angoras, and has nineteen remarkably beautiful creatures in her kennels. Her 'Madge' is one of the most valuable females in the country, and was directly imported from Persia. 'Royal', a beautiful white male, is another of her fine cats; and the kittens produced from these two, of which 'Bydie Young' is one, are among the finest cats in this country."1

Above left: 'Royal Norton', from Concerning Cats (1900) by Helen M. Winslow.2
Above right: 'Madge' from an article by Helen Winslow, published in Harpers Bazar, 14 December, 18981

Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


It is rare that we can find registered siblings to unregistered cats, but it does happen from time to time. In this case, 'Bydie' appears to be the full older sister of ROYAL II (USR 241) who is recorded as also by Royal Norton and out of Madge, but born 4th February 1899. Interestingly, the owner of 'Royal II' was none other than Miss Jennie Van Allen, who wrote the article on the first Chicago Cat Club Show, which was published in Harper's Bazar, on 14th December, 1898. Another sibling from the same litter is to be found in the register of the Beresford Cat Club. OASIS HIS MAJESTY (BCC 198) was a white male owned by Mrs. Mary Thurston, but he had originally been sold to a Mrs. Bull, from Leleigh, Pennsylvania. So this appears to have been a combination that Mrs. Leland liked and subsequently repeated. We do find however, a conflict over the purported origins of Madge, who is reported by Winslow as 'directly imported from Persia', but whom in The U.S.Register and Studbook for Cats, has a recorded lineage, being sired by 'Joe' (White) and out of 'Snow' (White). 'Joe' is then recorded as from 'Unknown' and 'Imported Dam'.6

But regardless of from where 'Madge' came, we have been able through to identify and match the lineage of 'Bydie Young' to the images of her parents, 'Royal Norton' and 'Madge'. Although we have no proof of such, it seems very likely that 'Madge' would have been exhibited in the first Chicago Cat Club Show, held over the four days of 7th to 10th December, 1898. However, no wins are recorded.


Although there are a number of progeny registered from 'Royal Norton', there are none on any register from 'Bydie Young'.


'Bydie Young' bred by Mrs. Leland Norton
Amber-eyed White, by 'Royal Norton', out of 'Madge'
Photo: Harpers Bazar, 14th December, 18981

Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


None currently available.


  1. Harpers Bazar, article by Helen M. WInslow, 14th December, 1898
  2. Concerning Cats by Helen. M. Winslow, 1900
  3. Metropolitan Magazine, article by Delia T. Davis, 1898
  4. The Puritan, 1898
  5. The Book of The Cat, chapter by Mr. E.N. Barker, 1903
  6. The U.S.Register and Studbook for Cats, 1906
  7. Photos and quotations as per sources quoted.

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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