Cruft's Cat Show Medal(1895)

ArtifactCrufts Cat Show Gold Medal 1895
DateMarch, 1895
ConnectionThe 2nd Crufts Cat Show - St. Stephen's Hall, Westminster
CollectionThe Harrison Weir Collection
DescriptionAn engraved Gold Plate medal cast with the rare Crufts 'Cat' Emblem unique to the only TWO shows run by Charles Cruft for Cats, in 1894 and 1895.
Brief HistoryAwarded to 'Holmwood Doris' & 'Holmwood Trixie II', litter sisters and daughters of 'Champion Holmwood Trixie' - Crystal Palace Winner in 1893: (probably for the winning Team in the Brace Class).
AcquisitionPurchased by John Smithson, for The Harrison Weir Collection, 2018.

Cruft's Cat Show medal, awarded to 'Holmwood Doris' & 'Holmwood Trixie II', 1895
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Inc.

Charles Cruft was already famous as the instigator and organiser of the Great International Crufts Dog Shows, when in 1894 he was persuaded to take a serious look at the running and sponsorship of Cat Shows. His specific expertise was in organisation, and in promoting and catering for such events, usually well patronised by active, notable and/or aristocratic elements within society.

The following excerpts taken from 'Crufts The Official History' by Frank Jackson beautifully illustrate for us, the perspective of the times into which 'cat shows' temporarily at least, made their entry into this emerging equation:

Dog Shows and Doggy People (1900) by Charles Lane
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Inc.
"By 1894 Charles Cruft could look back to three very successful dog shows which had carried his name as well as a series of terrier shows on which he had satisfied himself that he could achieve success as an independent promoter of shows. Inevitably he looked round for other events on which his talents could be exercised. The agricultural societies, some of which had already been running shows for over one hundred years, were prepared to use Cruft as an organiser but there was no room among these events for an independent show promoter intent on private gain. Among shows devoted to other forms of agricultural or domestic livestock none came within sight of the popularity of dog shows but cat shows were a distant second. Perhaps cat shows would provide an additional opening for Cruft's talents and so, with what now seems to be uncharacteristic haste, Cruft decided that he would try his hand at Cat Shows.

"On 7 and 8 March 1894 Cruft's Cat Show took place at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster with Lord Marcus Beresfordas President of the new venture and a list of aristocratic patrons which included the names of some of those to whom Cruft looked for support of his dog shows. The patrons included Her Grace the Duchess of Newcastle, Her Grace the Duchess of Wellington, the Countess of Sefton, the Countess of Warwick and a galaxy of Ladies including Lady de Trafford. Among the fifteen patrons were only two men, a sharp contrast to the male dominated world of dog shows. The show offered 'Nearly 50 Special Prizes from guineas, 75 Classes from £5' and a panel of four judges which included the two Weir brothers John and Harrison, John Jennings and Miss Gresham.

"Fur and Feather was unequivocal in their welcome of the new venture.

'Mr Cruft having turned his attention to matters Catty, it was only to be expected that he would eclipse all previous efforts at a Cat Show, and such expectations have not been belied…With only six to eight weeks in which to develop matters, Mr. Cruft has succeeded in getting together such a collection of cats as was never before seen, and this has been accomplished with the intervention of his Great Dog Show in that short space of time. What he would have done had the Cat Show claimed his undivided attention from the time of its inception till its close we know not, neither can we imagine. Be that as it may, Cruft's Cat Show has come, and it has come to stay. Its future is secure and henceforth we shall look forward year by year to the Cruftonian event as one of the great features in the Cat Exhibition world'"

"With over six hundred entries the show was certainly bigger by far than any previous cat show, but the entry was a product of classification which was itself far bigger than anything which had gone before. The generous classification was supported by a list of special prizes and awards which also eclipsed what cat exhibitors had hitherto been accustomed to. Even so, perhaps as a result of the impossibly short time in which the show was organised, Cruft himself seems to have been far less confident about the new venture than were Fur and Feather. Even the show's title Cruft's Cat Show is strangely muted when set alongside that of Cruft's Great International Dog Show and Exhibition of Sporting Appliances and Fine Arts Society."

Drawn by Alfred Elwes, Published in 'Black and White' Magazine, March 17, 1894.
Below left, in front: Mr. Charles Heslop's 'Xenophon'; First Prize and Four Specials.
Top right: Mr. E. Hill's 'Siamese Mew' (Ireland), First Prize and Special.
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Inc.

Mr. Frank Jackon's historical commentary continues:

"The advertising which had preceded the cat show had also been, by Cruft's standards, almost reticent. Nor were Cruft's fears proved groundless. Some classes, even entire breeds, received very few, if any entries, though it was still possible to trumpet the cat show as the biggest ever. Still worse than a disappointing entry was, from Cruft's point of view, a spell of unusually atrocious March weather which deterred the public from supporting the show. Even the press, with the exception of that section which might be said to have had a vested interest in the success of the new venture, gave the show scant attention. Charles Cruft may not have taken the view that the event was a failure, and especially for an inaugural event, but it certainly was not the sort of success to which he had become accustomed or which he expected.

"Yet, in the short space of time available to him he had done wonders.

'The masses of red drapery', enthused Fur and Feather, 'the innumerable Japanese lamps, umbrellas, flags, and other ornaments which adorned the walls and roof, to say nothing of the magnificent palms which were largely in evidence about the floor of the building, all helped to give visitors the idea that they were attending some fashionable fancy fair rather than a Cat Show whilst the daintily arranged tables and seats helped to convey an idea far remote from a Cat Show….the disinfecting was beyond praise….after twelve years' experience of the leading cat shows, we have never met anything like it. This perfection was arrived at by the use of Spratt's new pens, fitted with earth drawers, and Mr. Carvill's Air Purifier.'

"It is ungenerous to wonder what Cruft received, pure air apart, for promoting Carvill's Air Purifier?

"After what Cruft could only have regarded as a lukewarm reception there were doubts that he would venture another, though Fur and Feather did its best to ensure that another Cruft's Cat Show would take place. In September, 1894 they announced that 'several leading Cat fanciers have asked Mr. Cruft to continue holding his great London Cat Shows, which were so auspiciously commenced last March, but as the first fixture lost considerably over £100, Mr. Cruft does not at all feel inclined to go on with any further exhibitions of cats, unless those who benefit by them are disposed to lend a helping hand'. The fact that the chief beneficiary of the cat and dog shows was intended to be Charles Cruft himself was being diplomatically ignored, though it was recognised that 'Mr. Cruft does not for one moment wish to hide the fact that so far as he is personally concerned these Cat Shows must be a purely commercial transaction. He has not the slightest interest in Cats, but is willing to place his knowledge and energy at the disposal of those friends of Poor Puss who may desire it, provided he is not left to do all the work, and then find himself out of pocket at the finish.' Exhibitors were encouraged to rally round the suggestion that, during the early days of his dog shows, 'Mr. Cruft had to face losses, but exhibitors soon saw that it was to their interests to support such undertakings."

"Nevertheless it seems that subscribers were forthcoming for, in March 1895, Cruft tried again and once more Fur and Feather were predictably unrestrained in their enthuisiasm.
'No better place than the St. Stephen's Hall, the entrance to which is opposite Westminster Abbey, for the purposes of such an exhibition, could be found in any part of the country, the prize list is by far the most liberal, and the schedule the most extensive ever known, the judges are all thoroughly competent authorities, every possible precaution that can be desired will be taken to ensure the safety and comfort of the Cats, and, lastly, Mr. Charles Cruft's lengthy experience will assure both exhibitors and the public receiving every possible courtesy and attention at the hands of the director who has well earned himself the soubriquet the "Prince of Showmen"

The Penny Illustrated Paper (aka P.I.P.) March 23, 1895.
Courtesy of The Harrison Weir Inc.

It was at this show, that Miss Jay exhibited her two blue females out of Champion Trixie, namely 'Holmwood Doris' and 'Holmwood Trixie II' and at which they won the Crufts Cat Show gold medal for Best 'Brace' or 'Pair'. By this show, they were young adults, approximately one year old.

'Doris' went on to win Best Cat at The Crystal Palace, following in the footsteps of her dam. Sadly, this was to be the last Cat Show run and promoted by Crufts, which makes these medals the more sought after by collectors of feline memorabilia.

Mr. Jackson's commentary illuminates the probable reasons for its demise:

"After the show Fur and Feather was once more lavish in its praise but among the bouquets were one or two brickbats. The hall's decorations were praised but exhibitors were said to have 'groaned about the absence of the velvet curtains and the little tea tables.' The entry, smaller than the previous year, was blamed on the trying time of year, which in some ways better than that chosen by Cruft for his dog show. But even without a big entry a number of judges struggled to complete their assignments. It seems that Cruft had tried to economise by reducing the size of his judging panel. He also tried to economize by replacing the previous year's splendid catalogue with a very ordinary and much cheaper affair. Cruft seems not to have had his heart in the event. Was his absence of interest in cats the reason for his apparent lack of enthusiasm for his cat show? Against such a background it is, perhaps, hardly surprising that there was little or no mention of public enthusiasm for the event."

Despite the fact, that Cruft never again planned or supported a Cat Show, the memories associated with his efforts nonetheless left a lasting impression on the participants and have been imprinted on the annals of feline show history. Other great winners of medals at his shows, included such cats as 'Ch. Woolloomooloo' arguably the most popular Blue Persian stud male of the early 1890's, and the exceptional shorthair, 'Ch. Xenophon' who was still winning accolades under his later ownership by Mr. Sam Woodiwiss and finally under the care of Lady Gertrude Decies. Examples of these precious Cruft's medals, like the ones shown here, are held today in the archives of both The CFA Foundation's Feline Historical Museum, and The Harrison Weir Collection.

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