KING TOM (circa 1883)


Illustration: W.H. Ryder, Fur and Feather, Sept.25th, 1890 Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


'King Tom' is described as a rich 'Brown-Sable Persian,' which was invariably, a description given to a Brown Tabby Persian with an exceptionally warm rufous ground colour, topped with dark even markings which are brown rather than brown/black. The term 'Sable' was in relatively common use in this period, and in the Registers we find it still in vogue up until just after the turn of the century, after which, it appears to have fallen out of fashion. 'King Tom' was also both a forerunner and contemporary of another famous Tabby Longhair from this period, the Blue Tabby male 'Woodburn Billy'. However, it was 'Billy' whose image was the first to be featured in the pre-cursor publication to Fur and Feather, namely in The Rabbit Keeper and Show Reporter, which was published during 1888. This was followed by Small Pets during 1889, and then finally published in the form known so well to us today as Fur and Feather, from 1st May 1890 onwards. 'King Tom' was therefore one of the first Persian cats ever be featured on the cover of Fur and Feather specifically.

As a colour variety Brown Tabbies remained popular for a more than a quarter century, roughly between the years 1883-1913; but sadly lost dominance during the rise of the Blue Persian and the Chinchilla during the same period and were largely decimated by the advent of the First World War.


'King Tom' came to prominence in the years before the founding of the National Cat Club, during a period when cat shows were proliferating nationwide, and held in even relatively small centres. We do not know who bred him, or have any history that would help to identify his parentage. All of our information is limited to that provided in a small article, which formally accompanied a full front page illustration of him, in the Thursday September 25th, 1891 edition of Fur and Feather. The drawing of him was by W.H. Ryder, whose work had already appeared in this weekly periodical. The caption and the article both however confirm his ownership:

"Our illustration consists of a likeness of 'King Tom,' the well-known rich brown-sable Persian cat, belonging to Mr. D. Teale, of Burnley."1

    |   Unknown
King TOm, circa 1883, brown tabby, M
    |   Unknown


Likewise, there is no definitive information available about possible siblings, but from the same piece we learn considerably more about his busy and somewhat exemplary show career in the northern counties.

"King Tom has had a long and remarkably successful show career, as will be gleaned from the fact that he made his debut in 1885,and has successfully competed on the show bench ever since. He has won four firsts and three specials at Halifax, four firsts at Whalley, three firsts at Clitheroe, two firsts and one special at Burnley, two firsts at Bingley, three firsts at Todmorden, two firsts at Worsthorne, three firsts and the special at Haslingden, six firsts at Nelson, and five firsts at Padiham.

"He has also taken first at Wardle, Edgeworth, Kirkby Stephen, Blackburn, Mytholmroyd, Accrington, Rossendalea, Sowerby Bridge, Gomersal, Southport, Otley, Altrincham, Church, Oswaldtwistle, together with ten second and one third prizes. It may be mentioned that these honours have been won under all the known Northern judges."1


Even though 'King Tom' does not himself appear in the first Stud Book of the National Cat Club, we do find a possibly entry for what may be one of his daughters. A blue-eyed white Longhair female, named 'Snow Queen'(NCC:1635), is listed as bred by Mr. H. Underwood, of Hatfield, and is owned by the Misses S.M. and C.J. D'Oyly, of Chilton-Polden, Bridgewater, Somersetshire.

Her sire is listed as 'King Tom' (Mr. Underwood) and her dam as 'Twilight' (Mr. Underwood), with her date of birth given as January 1893; only 16 months after this published illustration of 'King Tom'. Although this is not definitive proof that the 'King Tom' listed is the same cat, it does raise the possibility that if it is, then 'King Tom' may have by that time passed into the ownership of Mr. Underwood.

In fact, 'Snow Queen' appears twice in the Stud Book of the National Cat Club, the first entry appearing in Volume 2, along with her wins at shows recorded as - First and special, Bath, 1893; 3rd, Newton Abbott, 1894; and 2nd, Bath, 1894. She then appears again in Volume 3, with an additional notation - that she was now in the possession of the well-known and experienced breeder, Miss F. Moore, of Oakwood, Beckenham, Kent.3


Illustration of the Brown-Sable Persian 'King Tom', by W.H. Ryder
Fur and Feather, September 25th, 1891.1
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

Cover Page from Fur and Feather featuring the drawing of 'King Tom'
Fur and Feather, September 25th, 1891.1
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection


There are no advertisements for 'King Tom' at stud, and the newly constituted Fur and Feather magazine was trying hard to encourage feline fanciers both to subscribe and to be involved in what was in effect, the only relatively major periodical dedicated to the 'small animal fancy'. To this end, when there was an unexpected change of guard in the committee of National Cat Club in 1890, the Editors duly encouraged the new Secretary Pro-tem, Mr J. Townsend to write a series of articles that would appeal to cat fanciers, on a range of feline topics, including breeding and showing. A few classified listings began to appear, the below being just an example of the more interesting ones.

Stud advertisement for 'Emperor', a white longhair, recently imported from Persia.
Fur and Feather, May 8th, 1891.2
Image courtesy of The Harrison Weir Collection

In Summary:

It is important to remember, that during the 1870's through to the 1890's the British Empire was at the height of its influence internationally. Both Long-haired and Shorthaired Cats were being imported from all corners of the globe, but especially from the middle and far east, including Syria, Africa, the Persian empire that today equates to Iraq and Iran, the Indian sub-continent, from the South East Asian provinces of Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Singapore, and Hong Kong; and from the Far Eastern empires of China and Japan. Britain became a naturalist's clearing-house, with an appetite for the new and unusual bordering on insatiable.

Long-haired cats such as 'Emperor' and 'King Tom' were therefore shining examples of the power of British diplomacy. We can later find white male 'Emperor' listed in the first stud-book of the National Cat Club, (NCC:1046), by that time under the ownership of Miss F. Moore. (Yes, the very same Miss Moore who had later also owned a white daughter of 'King Tom'!)

Although, the Cat Fancy, was still in its infancy, it being only 20 years since the first Crystal Palace Cat Show instituted by Harrison Weir; the fancy had grown to exponentially new heights. It would of course, continue to flourish and expand throughout the British empire and around the world. British fanciers were a vital part of that expansion, and would continue to play an active role in it, for more than another eighty years.


  1. Fur and Feather, September 25th, 1890.
  2. Fur and Feather, May 8th, 1890.
  3. National Cat Club Stud-Book & Register, Vols.1 & 2.
  4. 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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