Fanciers Show Medal(1886)

Category Medal
Artifact Bronze Award Medal
Date circa 1886-1888
Connection Regional or Borough Fanciers Show (UK)
Collection The Harrison Weir Collection
Description A rare unengraved Bronze Medallion (approx 1.5 inches diameter) featuring two longhaired cats and three cavies.
Brief History An Award pre-dating NCC Shows, when Regional, County, or Borough Fanciers shows were more common, sometimes combining Rabbits, Cats and or Cavies, many of them centred around Bradford.
Acquisition Purchased by John Smithson, for The Harrison Weir Collection, 2019.

Photos: Helmi Flick 2019
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Inc.

Although Specialist Shows for only CATS had been actively pursued in Britain's main centres since the advent of the Crystal Palace Shows of 1871, over the next two decades many smaller, Regional, County, and/or Town Borough shows were held all around the country, often catering for multiple small animal fancies in order to attract enough entries and variety, to make them financially viable.

Shows catering for Rabbits and or Cats, and or Cavies, were not uncommon, some even including mice and other small domesticated animal pets, and even cage-birds, pigeons or poultry. A number of shows similar to this, were regularly held in and around the Yorkshire town of Bradford, which was considered to be the centre of the small animal fancy, and from which sprang the early 'fancier' publications such as 'Small Pets' and eventually, Fur and Feather.

While cat fancy award medallions from recognised cat clubs and societies won by registered cats are themselves rare, awards from these earlier County or Borough Shows catering for multiple fancies, are in fact rarer, and seldom come to market.

Many of our earliest cat judges, came from other domesticated animal fancies, particularly from either to dog or poultry fancies in the very early years, folk with whom Harrison Weir had associated, either in his capacity as a poultry and cage-bird judge, or as an illustrator.

Since the mid to late 1840's, Weir had illustrated Pigeon and Poultry shows, continuing to breed, exhibit, and judge them for many years. He acted as an advisory capacity, to Dr. Charles Darwin, when that eminent naturalist sought to become a pigeon breeder, even asking Weir to source stock for him and visiting him at his home in Matley, Kent.

When dog shows were instigated around 1860, it was Harrison Weir who was sent by The Illustrated London News to illustrate many of their first big shows. Later, Weir was associated with The Fanciers Gazette and Fur and Feather making firm friendships with the likes of Mr. T. B. Mason, (author of the specialist rabbit book, Something About Silvers and Secretary of the Silver Club); Mr. T.J. Ambrose, (author of Dutch Rabbits and Belgian Hare Rabbits and President of the United Kingdom Dutch Rabbit Club); Mr. Enoch Welburn, (a renown rabbit breeder and shorthaired cat breeder); and the young Mr. Charles A. House, (author of a variety of books on Canary's, Poultry, and later Cats).

These gentlemen were all small animal fancy specialists and journalists, in one or more disciplines; usually of either Rabbits or Cavies and/or Poultry. These gentlemen he drew into the greater cat circle, and they each became well-known as judges of cats; as did Fred Gresham, a well-known dog fancier and judge, (author of Everybody's Dog Book); and fellow dog breeder and judge, Charles H. Lane, the author of both Dogs and Doggy People (1900) and Rabbits, Cats, and Cavies (1903).

Mr. Mason, Mr. Ambrose and Mr. House's books were all realised through their Association with Fur and Feather and Mr. House tells us that he personally reviewed Harrison Weir's manuscript for his classic work Our Cats and All About Them just prior to its publication in 1889, but published independently by R. Clements and Company, at Tunbridge Wells.

The delightful bronze medallion, manufactured for a Fanciers Show; depicting two long-haired cats and three cavies, is a survivor from this highly active, pre-Registry period of the Cat Fancy. It was clearly minted with a dual purpose in mind, as an award for either a winning long-haired cat, or a winning Cavy. The design has been beautifully executed and is a delightful piece of cat fancying history.

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