History of the American Boxer Club
Adapted from Suzie Campbell, "Our History," The American Boxer Club 50th Anniversary Album (1985)
The 1930s were a period of great development for the American Kennel Club (AKC) and dog shows in general. By the end of this decade the AKC Rules & Regulations had assumed essentially the form that we know today. Obedience regulations were adopted in 1936. Handlers were required to be licensed. The first Professional Handlers Assn. (PHA) meeting was held in Cleveland, Ohio in June 1936. Keynote speaker for this event was William Z. Breed, who later married Miriam Hostetter Young (Barmere). In 1938, double handling and artificial coloring were strictly prohibited at shows. July of 1938 also saw the advent of championship certificates issued by the AKC. By 1940, ribbon colors were standardized and kennel names had to be registered if they were to be protected.
To encourage participation in purebred dog shows the AKC, from 1935 until 1940, offered cash awards . These were available to member-clubs for competition at their shows. Amounts included: Best in Show (BIS) $25; Group First-Fourth went $15, $10, etc., and Specialty Best of Breed (BOB) $15. They also offered annual cash awards for American Bred competitors: $200 for dog or bitch winning most Group Firsts, (if registered); $50 each to the dog or bitch with the most wins in its group; $25 to the dog or bitch with most BIS wins, and an additional $10 if the dog was bred by the exhibitor. Many of the top winners had been imported from Europe, and the AKC wished to encourage American exhibitors to show dogs of their own breeding.
Independent specialties enjoyed some additional cash awards. They offered $25 for Best American Bred if registered, with $10 added if Bred by Exhibitor. Also, $15 each for Best American Bred Dog and Bitch. But only the Boston clubs were then holding any significant number of specialties.
It may seem strange today that these awards are for American Bred only, and even more strange that there were dogs being shown and being awarded championships--- including Boxers---who were not AKC-registered. Actually, unrecognized breeds could be shown until 1942. Some of the dogs listed as not registered when they received their titles were undoubtedly imports whose paper work hadn't caught up with them.
The 1930s saw the formation of many parent breed clubs, including the American Boxer Club (ABC) in 1935. It wasn't until 1942, when the AKC drew up the list of recognized breeds and varieties, that new breeds were required to form parent clubs first and maintain their own registries until later officially recognized by AKC.
The first Boxer to finish an AKC championship, Sieger Dampf v Dom, had done so in 1915. His owners, Governor and Mrs.Lehman of New York, were Boxer fans and early members of the ABC. Dampf had no lasting influence on the breed, as there were very few bitches in America for breeding. There were, however, several other interested fanciers, most of them in the Midwest, during the 1920s. This included the Judics, who were the first to advertise in a magazine (1926). But it wasn't until the early thirties that the Boxer began to catch on.
International Champion (ICh.) Check v Hunnenstein arrived in the U.S.in 1932. He was the 1932 German Brindle Sieger, and his new owners, Marcia and Joseph Finesse of Cirrol Kennels, campaigned him extensively. He was the first Boxer to go BIAS (1932), and the first to place in the group at Westminster and Morris and Essex, going 3rd in both in 1935. He attained a lifetime record of ten Group Firsts and four BIS with handler Harry Harnett. Check's exceptional personality won many friends for the breed. He was the grandsire of Dorian (from a litter sired in Germany) and sired the first litters bred at both Mazelaine and Barmere. He died in late 1936.
In 1933, Ch. Dodi v.d. Stoeckersburg, bred by Henry Stoecker and owned by Miriam Breed, became the first bitch to complete a championship. That same year Birbama Crab, owned by Douglas and Mary Hunt of Birmingham, Ala., became the first American-bred Boxer to place in group competition--- it would be 1938 before an American-bred won one.
May, 1934 saw the importation of the Grand Old Man of Barmere, ICh. Sigurd v Dom of Barmere. Sigurd was imported by Charles Ludwig for Mrs. Breed (then Miriam Hostetter Young). Sigurd was four years old when he reached the US and had been Austrian Sieger and twice German Sieger (Fawns and Bridles were shown as color varieties in Europe, so he was the Fawn Sieger).
Also shown by Mr. Harnett, Sigurd won BOB at Westminster in 1935, and attained a lifetime record of 2 BIS, 54 BOB and 43 Group 1s (Non-Sporting). He was the leading sire in 1936 and second in 1939 and 1940. Sigurd was very prepotent, dominating every breeding and founding a line that was easily recognized. He is the grandfather of the other three foundation sires. In all, he sired sixteen American-bred champions and ten imports.
Sigurd was shown many times at ABC shows and matches. He consistently won the Stud Dog class and Veterans until his death at around 12 years of age.
At their first recorded meeting, the group of fanciers who organized the American Boxer Club met February 16, 1935, in Luchow's Restaurant in New York City, . After several subsequent meetings, Mrs. Rudolph Gaertner, Secretary, made a formal application for membership in the American Kennel Club on March 21. Total membership: seventeen.
The application listed Harold Palmedo (se Sumbula) as President and Alexander A. Nitt (Esto Alpha) as Treasurer. Mrs. Gaertner (mother of Mrs. Palmedo) was Secretary and Dr. Clinton Reed Barker, AKC delegate. Also on the board were Mrs. Arthur M Lewis (a judge), Miss Marcia Fennessey (Cirrol), Mrs. L.W. Whittemore, Mrs. H.B. Palmedo (Lillian), F. Greenhagen (asst. secy.) and A. V. Barber. Other original members were Mr. and Mrs. John P. Wagner (Mazelaine), Miriam Hostetter Young (Barmere), Max Ketzel, Mrs. Durfee, Walter and Katherine Lippert (Hinschenfeld) and Mrs. Nitt.
The club received membership in the AKC on May 14. Immediately they petitioned to have the Boxer moved from the Non-Sporting Group to Working, which was granted Sept. 1. The AKC ran their first Boxer cover on the July Gazette - Ch. Sigurd v Dom of Barmere, owned by Mrs. Young, had the honor. Mrs. Lewis was responsible for the AKC Gazette Boxer breed column, the first of which appeared in the June 1935, and continued sporadically thereafter. Covered in these early columns were the clubs activities, obedience tests, worms, dirty kennels, and ear cropping (considered doomed then).
A copy of the annual report for 1936, the earliest available, shows a membership already expanded to 35. With 35 Boxers competing on June 6, 1936, the club held its first specialty in conjunction with the Greenwich (Conn.) KC. at Porchester, NY. The following year, the club held its Specialty with North Westchester KC (Katonah) and continued to do so until 1943.
Ch. Corso v Uracher Wasserfall se Sumbula won the first specialty, a win he repeated in 1937. Corso had been imported by the Palmedos and finished in late 1935. He, too, was handled by Harry Harnett.
The Gazette for this year lists Mrs. A.M. Lewis and James Trullinger as two of the eight judges approved only for Boxers. All-rounders included Tony Rost, Alva Rosenburg, Frank Foster Davis, J.J. Duncan, Anton Korbel, Enno and Marie Meyer (who had Boxers), Louis J Murr and, for Working Group only, Earl T. Adair.
Frank Bigler, a well known columnist and Boxer breeder, took over the Boxer column in Popular Dogs. He had previously written for Dogdom and Kennel Review. Alice Rosenthal and J.P. Wagner handled similar duties for Dog News.
Probably the most controversial issue of the day revolved around the official Standard. There were several bones of contention--- the most frequent being proportions (especially of the head), color and size. The first Standard adopted by the ABC had been espoused by a group led by the Palmedos. From what can be determined, they assisted the AKC in translating the first Standard from German into English.
Both Lillian Palmedo and her mother, Ida Gaertner, spoke fluent German. They apparently had either a very early, unrevised copy of the German Standard (from before 1920) or the Austrian Standard prior to the time the Austrians adopted the newer German version. The Palmedo's se Sumbula Boxers were heavily bred on the ben Satan line from Austria. Boxers in Austria were then very plain, no white was allowed above the shoulder line and no white at all was considered even better! Also, the Standard adopted by these people provided for exact proportions of the dog's body and head which were, at that time, actually measured by the judge.
This first Standard was adopted and sent to the AKC before the ABC membership--- such as the Wagners---heard about the proportion and color requirements. Most breeders here had been using the current German Standard. An explosion was not long in coming!
Perhaps this quote from Dan Gordon's book, The Boxer, gives the clearest view of the situation:
The original members of the ABC were not at that time prominent in breeding circles and were not too familiar with the German Standard or the dog then considered most acceptable in German circles. Much of the stock seen then was of an old German and Austrian type. This group was working under an obsolete standard.
As most importations were from Germany, they conformed to that Standard, but on arrival here, they were to be judged under an entirely different standard. Confusion reigned. The original heads of the ABC were also opposed to white [markings], a color very prevalent in the von Dom breeding. It was soon realized that something would have to be done. And something was. In April 1938, the Standard was revised.
John Wagner fired the opening guns of the loyal opposition in the July, 1936, Popular Dog article, "Correct Boxer Type vs American Standard." Wagner pointed out the color discrepancies and the fact that a section on head proportions which had been dropped from the 1911 German Standard sometime prior to 1920, now found a home in the new ABC Boxer Standard.
Mrs. Wagner followed with an article on color in the July Dog News, followed by another article by John Wagner in the Feb., 1937, Popular Dogs, "More About Boxer Type," which was a plea to adopt the current German Standard.
We quote Mr. Wagner:
The German Boxer is so new to America that most of our basic breeding stock is of German origin, with additional imports arriving almost daily. Under these conditions, the adoption by the ABC of its own standards, definitely differing from, rather than conforming to, the accepted German version was an unforgivable blunder bound to cause trouble.
The German publication, Boxer Blaetter, even took note of the situation, criticizing the head proportions found in the AKC version of the Standard.
ICh. Dorian v Marienhof of Mazelaine - who had gone BOB at Westminster in 1936---became the first Boxer to win the Working Group there in 1937 and was a strong contender for Best in Show. He remained undefeated in his breed and set the first BIS record for Boxers with twenty-two all-breed BIS wins. Dorian was a large, impressive brindle male. He had been Schutzhund-trained and never forgot it. Film is still available of him moving and going over a six-foot jump at about eight years of age.
Jack Wagner always said Dorian was their greatest boxer, and one suspects Wagner had Dorian in mind when working on the Standard. Dorian was the leading sire in 1937, 1938, and 1940, and tied with Lustig in 1939. He sired a total of thirt-nine American bred and imported champions and eight producers of champions.
ICh. Lustig v Dom of Tulgey Wood followed Dorian to the U.S. in March, 1937. He finished in one week for owner Erwin Freund, with one BIS, two Group Firsts and one Group Fourth. Lustig was considered to have an outstanding head and expression. He too went BOB at Westminster. Lustig never met Dorian in the ring here, as they were both shown by Jimmie Sullivan. He was the leading sire in 1939, tied Dorian in 1941, was second in 1937, 1938 and 1940. A total of forty-one American-bred and imported champions and five producers were sired by Lustig.
Despite all the controversy raging over the standard, the club put on their first sanctioned match May 9, and held their second specialty with North Westchester Kennel Club at Katonah in June.
The Puppy Match was held at the estate of Mrs. Lawrence Whittemore, St. James, LI, NY. An entry of thirty-eight turned out for it. This match was the first of many. Two or three matches were held annually, a tradition which continued well into the 1960s.
Mid-West Boxer Club was organized in March, 1937 by John and Mazie Wagner. They also served as officers for several years. Mid-West Boxer Club held the very first independent Boxer specialty, Nov. 20/21, 1937 with an entry of 48 (14-19-10). Judge was August Belmont. Entered for exhibition only--- as announced several months in advance--- were Dorian, Lustig and Pitt von der Wurm (then of Tulgey Wood).
The great standard-controversy was only resolved by bringing Philip Stockmann (vom Dom), Chief German Breed Warden, to the United States. Herr Stockmann came over to judge Boxers at Westminster in February, 1938. He drew the then-unprecedented entry of 102. In addition, he and John Wagner worked till the wee hours of the night in a hotel room translating the German Standard, which had by then been adopted by almost all other countries. They were assisted by the AKC Recording Secretary, Enno Meyer, noted breed artist and judge, who acted as interpreter, and Mrs. Palmedo and Mrs. Gaertner. All three spoke fluent German.
Again we quote Dr. Gordon:
Altho [sic] not perfect, the new revision omitted much of the confusing measurements, etc., in the old, such as exact measurements of the various parts of the head, and the revision made for a more understandable piece of literature. White [flash] was permitted, altho checks were ruled out in conformity with the Germans who, after again ruling-in checks, had made another about face and voted them out of the stud books effective 1-1-39. [Checks, I/3 to 2/3 white, were allowed in 1937 and 1938 in Germany. Whites over 2/3 were not. Both were eliminated to attain working dog status during the war as breeders were allotted food for breeds used as war dogs.--Ed.]
The new Standard was approved and published in the May 1938, Gazette. Mrs. Lewis suggested in her August column that an illustrated Standard be done by the parent club to better define types in Boxers.
Herr Stockmann's judging formula was passed on to American fanciers in the Sept. 1938, Dog News, as follows:
General appearance shall dominate over all other qualifications...Minor faults are to be overlooked..Only those faults which are extremely difficult to eliminate from the breed are to be severely penalized......... Unsoundness, unless of a hereditary character, is of slight consequence. Herr Stockmann and Mr. Wagner concurred in the opinion that lack of stop, long back and bad hindquarters were the hardest faults to eliminate.
In addition to settling the Great Standard Controversy, 1938 was a year of reorganization for the ABC. A complete change in officers occurred, and John Wagner was voted Honorary Secretary. The membership had practically doubled, standing at 106.
Eastern Boxer Club now formed and held their first show with Bryn Mawr KC in May. The entry was thirty Boxers. Mid-West Boxer Club now held their second independent specialty, Dec. 19 & 20, with an entry of forty-four.
The Boxer had first been introduced to the United States in 1904. There were eighteen registered in the next twenty-two years. By 1934, seventy-one had been registered. But by 1938 this figure had jumped to 724. The Boxer was becoming better known.
In 1939, the ABC filed incorporation papers in New York as a nonprofit organization. There were nine directors required. Richard C. Kettles became the new AKC Delegate, a post which he held for the next sixteen years. Mid-West Boxer Club and Eastern Boxer Club were accepted as the first two member clubs. New Committees included Librarian, filled by Charles O. Spannaus and Obedience, headed by Katherine Lippert, who had organized the first Training Committee the year before.
The AKC Gazette column was turned over to the new Publicity and Promotions Committee, headed up by Mrs. George Ross Hall and staff members Mrs. J.P. Wagner, Mrs. H. Palmedo, Fred Hamm and Alfred Cousins. An additional duty of the Librarian was historian, and members were encouraged to send in their Boxer clippings and pictures for his files. [Unfortunately we have no record of anything being sent - Ed.]
The Annual Specialty, held June 10, with North Westchester in Katonah, NY on the Estate of Mrs. T. Whitney Blake, became a memorial to Mr. William Z. Breed, one of the pioneer Boxer breeders of the U.S. From the records, it would appear that Mrs. Breed was to have judged, but Mr. Frank Simms stood in for her after the death of her husband. Judge Simms had an entry of seventy-four.
Best of Breed was Ch. Biene v. Elbe-Bogen se Sumbula, owned by the Palmedos. Biene became the first bitch to make a record in our breed. She had been campaigned extensively by Harry Harnett and became the first bitch to win a BIS. She finished her career with four BIS and was still winning Best of Breed from the Veterans Class in 1941, also a first.
The Boxer, by John P. Wagner, appeared in time for the Annual Specialty. This book became, and remains today, the Bible for Boxer breeders. It went through several printings between 1939 and 1952, with Utz and Brandy on the dust covers. It can still be found today with some persistent searching.
Mr. Wagner had a tremendous wealth of knowledge derived from his contacts with the German breeders, particularly the Stockmanns, and from ten years of his own breeding on a very large scale. Mazelaine undoubtedly had the largest Boxer kennel in the United States, often having 80 to 100 Boxers in the breeding program. Mazelaine still holds the record today for most champions bred, owned or finished, with well over 130.
The fourth ABC Fun Match took place July 8, at Miss Francis Crawford's, Ridge Street, Port Chester, NY. BIM was Mr and Mrs Wager's Serenade of Mazelaine, later to become a top winning Boxer. Best Puppy Dog was Ludwig's Alex, owned by C.O. Spannaus. The entry was a hefty fifty puppies.
A minor discussion occurred that fall over whether to divide the Open class by color at the ABC shows. Mid-West and Morris and Essex were both doing so, and it was very well received. Thus, the ABC adopted the practice the next year.
In September, 1939, war was declared in Europe, effectively cutting the U.S. off from importations and advice for the duration of the conflict. But Boxer clubs continued to form during this time.
Southern Boxer Club formally organized Nov. 4, in Birmingham with twelve members. This was a regional club with members from all over the South. The President was Douglas 1. Hunt (Birbama of Birmingham). Among the other members were Mr. and Mrs. Adams (Bellum -Atlanta). Also involved were Mr. Booth (Dunroaming-Tenn), Mr. Craig (Nashville), Anthony Constans (Birmingham) and Mr. Osborn and Mr. Milner (Atlanta). Southern's first supported entry was at the Atlanta KC. The club became inactive during the war.
The same month saw the formation of the Michigan Boxer Club. There were many well-known Boxer people in the Detroit area, and among the first members were President - Dr. Douglas Schellig, VP Dr. Gerald Fitzgerald, Sec./Treas. Earl Davidson and Board Members Dr. L.E. Daniels (owner of Kapellmeister), John Beale and Dr. Dan Gordon (Bladan).
Pacific Coast BC (Long Beach) also got started in November of 1939, joining the ABC in 1940. Their first specialty was held June 22-23, 1940, with Long Beach KC. Officers were President Dr. R.C Harris, VPs - Paul Ladin and Edward Prinz, Secretary Dr.Blake H. Watson, Treasurer George Zimmerman, and Board members Mrs. Gross and Mr. Sullivan. All of these were very active Boxer breeders in California.
The years 1940/41 saw little change in the makeup of the ABC board. Mr. Wagner became the first Honorary Vice President at the December, 1940, meeting. The spring ABC match was held Feb. 11, the day before Westminster. John Wagner judged an entry of 50.
The Potomac BC of Washington, D.C. was started by Keith Merrill, also the new ABC Columnist, and Mrs. Jouett Shouse, who served as President.
John Wagner judged the ABC Specialty on June 8, with an entry over seventy. BOB went to the Kettles' Ch. Kurass vd Blutenau of Dorick. Kurass had gone Group Second at Morris and Essex the week before. He was also the first Boxer to go BIS in Canada (1939).
When the ABC fall specialty took place on September 22, judge Dr. S. Potter Bartley picked the elderly Sigurd as winner of the Progeny Dog class and Ch. Kitty vd Uhlandshohe for Progeny Bitch. A Parade of Champions thrilled all, and later counting revealed that Dorick had sired the most entries in the parade - five.
Fall 1940, saw several firsts in the Boxer world. Ch. Brace of Briarnole, owned by Dr. W.D. Schellig of New Baltimore and handled by Marvin Young, became the first American Bred Boxer to go BIS. He was by Lustig out of Frey of Mazelaine. This was followed shortly by Ch. Serenade of Mazelaine going BIS to capture first American Bred Bitch BIS honors. Biene, an import, had already gone BIS to capture the first BIS bitch honors.
Potomac Boxer Club held their first puppy match Nov 2, with entries. Here there was an obedience demonstration by Coquette v. d. Stuttgarter, CDX, owned by Glenn W. Studebaker, and, if the records are correct, a good time was had by all.
The Mid-West BC specialty on Nov 30 and Dec 1, achieved distinction by offering another innovation in the classes, a Best American-Bred Champion's class. Winner of this class went on to compete for BOB. This had been introduced earlier that year at Morris and Essex and was adopted enthusiastically by Mazie Wagner at MWBC. Entry that year was fifty-nine. Winners Dog was Pancho von Dom, from 9-12 Puppy class. This puppy had not been bred by the Stockmanns and the use of their kennel name on him, even though he was a good specimen, resulted in the von Dom kennel name being registered in the United States to protect it from such use. MWBC also introduced another innovation that proved very popular: the pre-show dinner. During the early 1940s at least, their independent specialty - and the good times had by all - made Mid-West the show to attend for everyone.
By early 1941, Dog Fanciers in the United States began to take notice of the war in Europe. All proceeds from the Westminster KC show went to the American Red Cross. It was a foreshadow of more serious things to come.
ABC elected its Board and Officers at their February meeting. Among others on the Board were Lt. Com. Keith Merrill (USNR and General Patton's brother-in-law), Mrs. Palmedo, Dr. Bartley, and Al Cousins.
Potomac Boxer Club and Pacific Coast BC both joined the ABC in 1940, bringing the total member-clubs to 4, with the Mid-West and Eastern Boxer Clubs. Other clubs now formed and preparing for membership were New England BC, Boxer Club of Pennsylvania, and Southern Boxer Club, which had supported the entry at the Nashville KC show in April. New England Boxer Club numbered Miss Marcia Fennessy, Mrs. Harold Palmedo, and columnist John J. Baird among its members.
Potomac held their first specialty with Old Dominion KC, April 26. Judge for this event was the very popular Fred Hams. The new American Bred Champions class was offered at this show also.
Summer brought several important Boxer events, including the ABC summer puppy match, and the Annual Specialty with North Westchester. The June 8, ABC match was judged by Mrs. A.M. Lewis at St Albans Golf Club on Long Island, with Serenade taking BOB. A forty-six-dog entry was topped by Kalmar of Billysee from the 9-12 class. A Parade of Champions again included 5 Dorick champions ---Serenade, Rido, Dorn, Heidi and Kurass. A week after that match, the ABC Specialty had an entry of fifty for judge Engle. Mid-West BC held their 5th Annual Specialty and Dinner Nov. 29 & 30, with an entry for Alva Rosenberg of fifty-nine.
The euphoric feeling of a growing, successful American boxer Club was part of the country's calm before the storm, but a nation's hopes to avoid the "European conflict" came to an abrupt end on Dec. 7, at Pearl Harbor. We were suddenly at war in both the Pacific and Europe.