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Collections Cameo, April 2017
By Abigail Toohey, LFC '17, Leslie T. Chapman Museum Intern
When it was a country estate and gentleman farm owned by the A. Watson and Elsa Armour family, Elawa Farm housed an assortment of animals including cattle, chickens, dogs, and horses. This dog kennel registration certificate from 1937 indicates that the Armour family valued man’s best friend, and bred various animals.
In 1884, the American Kennel Club was established in New York City by a group of well-known sportsmen. From its founding it has become the world’s largest purebred canine registry, recognizing over 200 different breeds. The Club continues to advance the maintenance of purebreds and allow owners and breeders alike to register their dogs. It has reached national legislative attention for its work in protecting commercial breeders and promoting responsible pet ownership. Moreover, it hosts many of the most supreme dog shows and competitions across the United States each year which are widely attended.
In order to acquire a studbook from the American Kennel Club— also known as a breed registry— the owner must give a complete record of the animal’s pedigree. This includes the dog’s parents, litter, and any other lineage details known. As noted on this certificate, Watson Armour provided his Irish terrier’s birthdate, breeder, and color. Additionally, the dog’s father was noted, Slemish Splendid, a dog that was especially well-known for winning “best-in-show” at multiple Chicago shows. Additionally, the American Kennel Club must be informed of the dog’s death and if there is a transfer of ownership, the new owner must complete a form of his or her acquirement. These requirements demonstrate the Club’s selectiveness.
While the Armours may have had multiple breeds on the Farm, a notecard (see right) from the same time period demonstrates that they paid particular attention to their Irish terriers. The breed is an ideal family dog; active, social, and relatively easily trained. A typical male stands at about eighteen inches tall and weighs between thirty to thirty-five pounds.
In a 1937 issue of the Lake Forester, an advertisement by Charles B. Armour, the sixteen-year-old son of A. Watson Armour, claims that they are “excellent companions for children because of fine natures, alert watch dogs.” Considering that the family did show their terriers, it is no surprise that the members were specific in noting the best characteristics for an Irish terrier when breeding including straight shoulders and high set tails. The same card mentioned particular dogs from their kennel that fit these characteristics and drawing examples.