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The charming photographs of 'Cora' in Frances Simpson's The Book of The Cat (1903) have delighted and inspired fanciers of Siamese cats for well over a century. Cats such as 'Cora' and 'Eve', 'Ah Choo' and 'Polyphema', also carried the banner for the females of the breed, and as founding mothers to this new and emerging force within the Fancy.
"There is certainly a great fascination about this peculiar breed of cats, which is yearly becoming more popular and fashionable."1
The writer can certainly identify with this experience, having felt similarly impressed when first laying eyes on a 'row of Siamese kittens' penned for a show. The image is one of pointed patterns and wonderfully deep blue eyes, like sapphires drawn from the water. But equally this fascination can apply when first laying sight on a row of Himalayan Persian kittens, as the draw-card of both the pointed pattern and blue eyes, appears to be universal in its appeal to those who have only ever before seen predominantly solid or tabby coloured cats with yellow or orange eyes. The effect, if never seen before, is quite startlingly beautiful. The Himalayan of course, inherited its sensational colour from a hybridisation of the Persian, to the Siamese.
A decade earlier, John Jennings, in 'Domestic and Fancy Cats' (1893), had written in almost reverent terms about the Siamese cat:
"THE SIAMESE, or Royal Cat of Siam, by which name it is also distinguished, from the fact that it is propagated and protected under Royal supervision, is without doubt a magnificent animal and well worthy of the kingly patronage."5
"The Special colour of the Siamese is a clear dun, with no trace of sooty blemishes on body. The extremities, viz. nose, ears, feet, and tail, have black markings, and those on the nose should extend and encircle the eyes. The coat is particularly short and close in texture, even, and brilliant; the tail is not s tapering as in ordinary cats, while as regards size, medium and certainly not large, can be taken as a correct description. The eyes are deep blue in the pure breed, and are therefore important."5
So it was left to cats like 'Cora' to be ambassadors of the rising star of 'Royal Cat of Siam'.
According to the Siamese Cat Register, compiled by Major E. Sydney Woodiwiss in 1924, 'Cora' was born in 1898. (exact date not known) and was bred by Messrs Wakefield and Lever, from an unknown sire and dam. She appears to only ever have been owned by Miss Armitage, of whom we have very little information other than she is recognised in the writings of Frances Simpson as one of the strong early supporters of the breed.
Unknown Unknown | Unknown Cora, 1898, Seal Point Siamese, F | Unknown Unknown Unknown
On breeding Siamese, Miss Armitage writes in 'The Book of The Cat' (1903):-
"I find the way to succeed in breeding and rearing Siamese kittens is to only keep a few. I strongly believe in putting them forth into cottage homes. Distemper spreads like wild-fire among this breed, and it is heart-rending to lose whole litters at once. It is strange how much stronger the female are than the males. I have never lost a female kitten yet, but, alas! many a promising male."1
Frances Simpson then recounts:
"I remember a beautiful male bred by Miss Armitage, that she exhibited at one of the Manchester Shows. 'Sam Sly' was as near perfection as possible, and after taking everything in the way of prizes, medals, and championships this fine fellow came home and died."1
Frances also attributes 'Sam Sly' to 'Champion Wankee' in her reference to 'Wankee' in Cats and All About Them (1902), where she states:
'CHAMPION WANKEE, the noted Siamese, is owned by Mrs. Robinson, of West Kensington, who has always been an enthusiastic and successful breeder of Siamese. He has won over 30 prizes, and sired, among others notable kittens, Beba, Menelik, Sam Sly, and Chaseley Robin, all winners of championships."4
Given Miss Armitage's view on keeping to small numbers, it would not be unreasonable to assume that both 'Sam Sly' and 'Chaseley Robin' being bred by Miss Armitage, that these two males could indeed both be sons of 'Cora' from an earlier breeding to 'Champion Wankee'.
No records exist for any siblings of 'Cora'.
Her one major win, appears to have been at a First and Championship at the Manchester Show of 1903.3
This is confirmed by two show reports that were published in the 7th February issue of Our Cats, the first being an excerpt from a report on the "Championship Show of the Northern Counties Cat Club" held at Manchester, on 29th January, 1903.
"For the first time since the founding of the Northern Counties Cat Club, the sun condescended to shine upon its efforts, and the noted Manchester rain decided to suspend its damping operations on the occasion of the Sixth Club Show, held at Belle Vue on January 29th.....
"The Siamese Championship was won by Miss R. Armitage's Cora, who apparently is the happy possessor of all the virtues, her kittens being noted as certain winners, whenever shown."3
Then in the Shorthair Judge's report, furnished by R.Kohnel:
"Class 29: Siamese (3): 1, 1st, Championship and two specials, Miss Armitage's Cora, large, good-headed cat, body colour not so good as it might be, nice eyes; 2, same owner's Chaseley Mascotte, a most perfect creature, lovely points, eyes nice, light body coat, we preferred this very much, and must have been put back on account of its shyness."3
Although we are informed by Miss Armitage that 'Cora' was the mother of her Siamese cats and kittens, (indicating earlier successful litters from her), we can only find three kittens, of which only one is recorded an official register. These were 'Chaseley Mascotte', (a female), 'Chaseley Valentine', (a male), and 'Chaseley Robin' (presumed male). The first has a recorded date of birth of 14th April, 1902, which matches precisely to her age in a commentary by Miss Armitage, given to Frances Simpson for The Book of the Cat. The last, given that he is accorded a Championship and mentioned in Cats and All About Them (1902) suggests that he may in fact have come from an earlier litter than that which produced 'Mascotte' and her litter brother 'Valentino'.
'CHASELEY MASCOTTE' is found in the Siamese Register, compiled by Major Woodiwiss in (1924) and is the prize-winning kitten pictured in Frances Simpson's 'The Book of The Cat', along with her dam.1
The next two males, are both confirmed as sired by 'Ch.Wankee',and both are confirmed as bred by Miss Armitage, however there is no direct connection to 'Cora'. But it is distinctly possible, if not likely, that both could be from an earlier breeding between 'Wankee' and 'Cora'.
'CHASELEY ROBIN', is only to be found in a note by Miss Frances Simpson, stating that this is one of 'Ch. Wankee's' progeny to gain a Championship.4
No verifiable progeny from any of the above three cats have yet been found.
We find an indirect reference to 'Mascotte' and her early start in life, in Frances Simpson's The Book of The Cat, supplied to her by Miss Armitage:
"Miss Armitage of Chaseley Field, Pendalton, has sent me some charming photographs of her pets. She writes:
Another male Siamese, which is often attributed to 'Cora', is the sealpoint 'FUERTY SPRITE', sired by 'King Kesho' and out of a dam named 'Cora'. But this dam is a different female named 'Cora', as 'Fuerty Sprite' was born in 1896 and Miss Armitage's 'Cora' was not herself born, until 1898. The breeder of 'Fuerty Sprite' is also someone named Mrs. Hankey, so for 'Fuerty Sprite' to be the kitten of 'Cora' would necessitate both a significant change to her date of birth and to her original breeding and ownership records.2
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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