Best in Dog Show Memorabilia

Westminster Kennel Club. Best of Breed 1953

Black Starr & Gorham sterling medal for the Westminster Kennel Club. Best of Breed 1953.

DOG SHOW MEMORABILIA has a small but growing group of collectors and currently pieces can be bought for very reasonable prices.

Items range from show programs and other ephemera to ribbons, rosettes, medals, photographs, trophies, bowls and plates. Everything from paper to silver can be found representing any recognised breed. Pieces date from the late 19th century to modern.

Many of the trophies, bowls and plates are magnificent items and their beauty adds to the pleasure of owning an historical piece from a particular breed or club’s history.

It is not uncommon to come across silverware made by Tiffany & Co, or Gorham Silver.

Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Paul Revere style bowl

Tiffany & Co Sterling Silver Paul Revere style bowl was awarded by the American Fox Terrier Club in 1946 to the owners of the Champion Show Dog WRIGHT SMART.

The history of dog shows themselves is a little hazy. The forerunner to British and US dog shows included activities such as bull-baiting, dog fighting, agricultural fairs and livestock shows, and field trials. Just about anything that humanely compared dog against dog in any sort of trial eventually became an organised dog show event.

In the UK the first official dog show took place in 1859 at Newcastle upon Tyne. An organising committee of eminent gentlemen and sportsmen ensured the show, held in one of the galleries of the Horse and Carriage Repository, Birmingham was a successful event for the 80 or so dogs entered in the 14 classes. The National Dog Show, Birmingham, continues to be a success to this day.

Prior to this time competitions which compared dogs’ various talents were held in pubs and clubs and other such establishments, throughout the United Kingdom.


Crufts is named after its founder, Charles Cruft an entrepreneurial gentleman who took up initial employment selling “dog cakes”. Travel to Europe in 1878 put him in contact with French dog breeders who invited him to organise the promotion of the canine section of the Paris Exhibition.

Broome County, 1956, Amateur Shooting Dog

Sterling silver trophy bowl bearing the engraved inscription Broome County, 1956, Amateur Shooting Dog.

In 1886, back in England, Cruft took up the management of the Allied Terrier Club Show at the Royal Aquarium, Westminster.

The first Crufts show in its name was booked into the Royal Agricultural Hall, Islington in 1891. This was the start of a long series of shows to take place there, during an era where it was possible for individuals to run dog shows for personal profit.

Cruft died in 1938 and his widow ran the 1939 show. Three years later, with Mrs Cruft finding the show increasingly demanding to run she asked the Kennel Club to take it over, and it was sold to them. The first show under its auspices was held in 1948 at Olympia and was an immediate success.


Westminster’s origins lie with a group of sporting gentlemen who would meet in a Manhattan bar and boast about their shooting accomplishments and the talents of their dogs.

Eventually these gentlemen formed a club (naming it after their favourite hotel) and thus the Westminster Breeding Association was born. The club owned a kennel and raised Pointers for hunting and field trials.

Westminster Dog Show Ribbon

1944 ribbon awarded at the Westminster Dog Show fetched $99 at auction in 2007

The Westminster trophy itself features the emblematic Pointer, inspired by a dog known as Sensation, bred by J.D. Humphries of Shrewsbury, Wales, in 1874, and imported to the Westminster Breeding Kennels. Although Sensation had an impressive bench show record and enjoyed many admirers, some authorities found him “lacking in spirit and dash”.

In 1876 the Westminster Breeding Association helped stage a dog show in Philadelphia as a celebration of America’s centennial. Its success saw the members hold their own dog show to allow them to compare their dogs in a setting away from the field. Their organisation’s name was changed to Westminster Kennel Club.

The First Annual New York Bench Show of Dogs, under the auspices of the Westminster Kennel Club, was held in the Hippodrome at Gilmore’s Garden, New York City. An impressive entry of 1201 dogs was drawn and public interest was so overwhelming that a fourth day was added to the show’s schedule.

Memorabilia from many of these early shows continues to appear at auction. Some pieces attract a cross-section of collectors and vigorous bidding, whilst others are attainable for very reasonable prices.

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Posted by Edman on Nov 12 2010. Filed under Featured Dogs, Show Memorabilia. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Best in Dog Show Memorabilia”

  1. [...] to be too much work and sold the dog show to the Kennel Club in England three years later. By then, Crufts dog show had over 10,000 entries and remains to this day as the world’s largest [...]

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