* This was printed and distributed in the AHCA publication, "Afghan Hounds in America," in 1973. (Edited then by Sue Hamlin).
Donald A. Smith
In 1926 - presumably at the urging of those who became the first registrants - the American Kennel Club opened its Stud Book to Afghan Hounds and adopted a brief, descriptive standard from British sources.
In the first five years thereafter the breed showed every sign of zonking out in this country. By the end of the first decade, however, annual registrations were soaring into the 80's, the breed clearly seemed here to stay and both the AKC and the fancy increasingly felt a need for some sort of national sponsoring body.
Toward that end, an organizational meeting was held at the Westminster show in 1937, with about a dozen leading fanciers in attendance. A slate of officers was elected, but reportedly there was no other activity or event (except for the disappearance of the treasurer) until five of the group met a year later. These held another election, and from that point things began to move forward fairly rapidly.
In May, 1938, the club formally adopted a set of by-laws which placed the management in the hands of a seven-member "Executive Committee", which was elected by the membership and which, in turn, nominated and elected the club officers from among its own members.
The next major step of the infant Afghan Hound Club of America was to apply for membership in the American Kennel Club. The application was accepted by the AKC early in 1940, and Dr. Eugene C. Beck was named Delegate. In June 1940, the AHCA held its first match at the Florsheims' Five Mile Kennels in Darien, Connecticut, with handler John "Harry" Hill as judge. Later in 1941 the first issue of the club's "Bulletin" was published, featuring a story and pictures of the match.
Although at the time the air was filled with the perennial complaint of "outs" that the club was doing too little too slowly, actually a great deal was accomplished in the first few years - at a far faster pace and in the reverse order of what would be possible under today's more highly structured rules, regulations and policies.
This is not to say that all went smoothly and serenely. For the first dozen years, in fact, the scene was generally stormy and the existence of the club often hung by a thread. Among the members (and fanciers outside the club) there seemed to be a penchant for forming into factions and doing battle on almost every issue that came along.
One of the last major factional fights came in the late 1940's when a committee was set up to draft a new set of by-laws. When
the draft was submitted there seemed to be no doubt that the proposed by-laws were much clearer and more business-like than the rather loosely written ones adopted in 1938. The committee and its supporters, however, managed to confuse the issue by linking the new by-laws to an advocacy of moving the club meetings and shows to places other than New York City. For both partisan and non-partisan reasons, there was considerable opposition to this, and when the by-laws came to a vote at the meeting of February 1949, the club found itself split right down the middle. The proposal was defeated through use of a parliamentary technicality based on one of the loop-holes in the old by-laws, but the aftermath was so bitter that it was another 20 years before anyone dared propose major changes in the by-laws.
In the interim the old by-laws provided a workable basis for club management and operations under the conditions which generally prevailed throughout the 1950's and 1960's, when there was an almost unanimous desire for peace and non-partisanship above all. At its meetings, the Board of Directors was almost invariably able to arrive at a consensus on policies and other decisions through informal discussion. The joint efforts of the President and the Secretary-Treasurer or Secretary and Treasurer in handling day-to-day operations were generally harmonious. It was not as exciting as the earlier years, it was an effective modus operandi.
One positive by-product of the 1949 by-laws battle was the realization that for the protection of its members the club should be incorporated, and a motion to that effect was passed at the same meeting. After the legal preliminaries - including amendments to the by-laws such as the one changing the name of the "Executive Committee" to "Board of Directors " - the Afghan Hound Club of America became a "Membership Corporation" under the laws of and in the State of New York.
Work began toward a new constitution and by-laws in the late 1960's. By then, it was found, the AKC had developed a suggested model for parent clubs, and this model with only minor modifications became the by-laws adopted in 1971. Along with much more specific rules and regulations, it provides for direct election of the officers by the members, and to meet the increased work load, divided the secretarial functions between a Corresponding Secretary and a Recording Secretary.
From the time the club was first organized, one item on which some fanciers wanted immediate action by it was a new or "clarified" standard. Indeed, the desire to have somebody to either defend or revise the sketchy Afghan Hound standard they had "bought" in 1926 may have been a major factor in the encouragement and cooperation the AKC extended to the club in its formative years.
World War II and other preoccupations, however, deferred any concrete action on the subject until February 1946, when the AHCA established a "Committee for the Study of the Standard," looking forward to the day when it could be changed advantageously," with Mrs. William E. Porter as chairman. A few months later, Mrs Porter circulated to the committee a "Tentative Standard" which she had drafted on the basis of the current English and American standards.
The English were at the same time working on a revision of their standard, and it was Mrs. Porter's hope that a common standard could be adopted in both countries. Toward that end she sent a copy of her draft to England for comment. She never received any comments, but just prior to the membership meeting of the AHCA, held at the September 1946 specialty, she did receive a copy of the proposed new English standard, which incorporated many features of her draft. At the meeting, therefore, she submitted the English standard, rather than her draft, and a second entirely different standard, illustrated by Mrs. Sylvester Bussen.
The only action taken on the two standards, however, was a vote to circulate copies of both to the membership in time for the February 1947 meeting. In February, though, the matter was postponed again to give everyone more time to make his opinions known to the Standards Committee. In the next several months, these opinions - mostly on relatively minor points - began to become heated, and so did the pressures to have a new standard to submit to the membership and the AKC in 1948.
Accordingly, in August 1947, the Executive Committee named Charles Wernsman and Muriel Boger to work out an acceptable draft, which they did and which was approved with some revisions by the Executive Committee in October of that year. At the annual meeting in February 1948, this "Clarified Standard" was presented but discussion was tabled until copies could be sent to each member prior to a special meeting in April for voting on acceptance. At that meeting, with eight members in attendance and 25 voting by proxy, the new standard was accepted with very minor revisions and was then submitted to the AKC, where it received final approval on September 14, 1948.
Although its authors and others were forever insistent that it was not a "new" standard but the old one ''expanded and clarified", it was really an entirely different document from the previous standard and from the various previous drafts. In most opinions, it was also a better standard, and after 25 years without revision or amendment, it continues to serve us today.
Shows and Matches
For the first five years (1940-1944) the AHCA specialty was held in June in conjunction with the Northern Westchester all-breed show. In 1945 wartime travel restrictions brought the suspension of virtually all outdoor dog shows and when activity resumed in 1946, the Northern Westchester Club had disappeared from the scene and the AHCA specialty was held in September at Glen Cove, Long Island in conjunction with the Interstate Kennel Club.
Prior to the 1946 show, however, the Executive Committee had made the decision and arrangements to hold an independent specialty in New York City in February on the day before Westminster. Although an attractive offer from Interstate was to lure the club back for a "Summer Specialty" at Briarcliff Manor, New York, in September, 1948, the 1947 show set the pattern for the "New York Specialty", which has remained a fixture up to the present.
For more than 20 years this event was very much the personal creation of Charlotte Coffey, who either handled or closely supervised every detail of its planning and arrangements. Its character and much of its success stemmed from Miss Coffey's own unique and daring concept of it, not so much as a national competition for Afghan Hound exhibitors, but as a dignified "exhibition of the Afghan Hound to the public", in a showcase setting and at the time and place of peak interest in purebred dogs on the part of the national media and the public.
The first show in this long series was held in the Crystal Room of the McAlpin Hotel at 34th and Broadway on February 11th - a Tuesday, since Westminster then was held on Lincoln's Birthday and the day before or after it. Charles A. Wernsman was the judge, and there was an entry of 70 dogs, although only some 40 of them were present and competing. The room was a relatively small one with a "sunken" central area surrounded by mirrored pillars serving as a show ring and with spectators and benching on the raised perimeter.
The show was held again at the McAlpin in 1948 with an entry of 57 and in 1949 with an entry of 93. Seeking a larger show ring, better visibility for the spectators and a hotel management that would allow dogs in the rooms, the event was moved to the Belvedere Hotel on West 48th Street for 1950. There the need to have the benching on the floor above the show ring proved unsatisfactory, and it was back to the McAlpin for 1951. The McAlpin, however, was unobtainable for 1952, and a desperate search was made for a new site. The happy outcome was the Tudor Room at the Henry Hudson Hotel on West 57th Street, where the specialty remained for 15 years. Remodeling plans at the Henry Hudson forced a change of site in 1967, when the show went to the Hotel Biltmore, and since 1968 it has been held at various locations within the Statler Hilton - although space limitations there required shifting in 1970 from the Sunday - before - Westminster to the Saturday - before.
From the very start the magic number for the parent-club specialty had been 100 entries, but this goal was not reached until the 20th specialty and 13th independent specialty in 1959. Within the next ten years, however, the emphasis suddenly reversed from how to get an adequate entry to how to accommodate an entry that could run to 200 and then 300 or more. The AKC having repeatedly ruled out selective limitations, thus has had to take the form of limiting entries on a first-come basis, plus the conversion of the show from a benched to an unbenched affair in 1969. The problem could be a continuing one, but thus far increases in the limit seem to have generally kept pace with the number of would-be exhibitors.
The history of the AHCA in sponsoring matches is spotty, and much as this form of activity is to be encouraged for local clubs, it is perhaps doubtful whether they are really appropriate for a national parent club. Two were held by the club in its early days - one, as noted above, in 1941 and a second at the same site in September, 1942.
Thereafter, as far as I know, no other matches were staged until October, 1954, when a highly informal "fun match and get together" took place in our backyard in Chappaqua, New York. The following year a much larger and better organized fun match was held at the Riverside, Connecticut home of George and Betty Skinner, with John "Harry" Hill as judge and with top honors going to a puppy named "Shirkhan of Grandeur".
In 1956 and 1957 it became a sanctioned match held at the Thomas O'Connors' in Green Village, New Jersey , and in 1958 at the Tongrens' in Bloomfield, Connecticut . In 1959 and 1960 it was held at the Magills' in Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, in 1961 at the Duffys' in Saugerties, New York, and in 1962 the final one at a picnic grove in Hillside, New Jersey.
At the time these matches were an annual event, there was no regional Afghan Hound Club in the New York City area nor any nearer to it than Baltimore-Washington. The general understanding was that the AHCA, although it had nationwide responsibilities and membership, had its base in and the show giving "franchise" for the New York area , and therefore had an obligation to provide activity for members and fanciers in that area comparable to what regional clubs provided in other parts of the country. The matches faded from the scene partly because, even though there were a good many parent-club members in the general area, they were too scattered to work together closely on the planning and handling of such events.
Prior to the one you are now reading, the AHCA has had two publications, each of which appeared sporadically throughout its history.
One was called "The Bulletin", intended to be a yearbook and printed by offset, with illustrations and without advertising. Altogether only four issues ever appeared - the first in 1941, the second in 1942, the third a combined 1943-1944 issue and then, after a long lapse, a 1951 issue. As editor of the last I can testify that the work was more than anyone could cope with every year, and without advertising revenue, the cost was more than the club could afford.
The other publication was called "Afghanews", and it was a mimeographed newsletter appearing monthly - or as often as the editor could get around to it. Although records on it are almost totally lacking, it was published with some frequency during the 1940s, first under the editorship of Eve Miner and later Mrs. Bussen. The problem was the perennial one - the editor got no news or contributions - just complaints. So it, too, lapsed in the late 40's.
In 1952, Afghanews was revived under my editorship and with a slightly different format in which we tried to emphasize longer articles, breed statistics and news coverage of the parent club and regional specialties and a few major all-breed show results. Altogether I managed to get out nine issues between December 1952 and April 1957. In 1958 Alys Carlsen became editor, and in 1959 the Waskows took over the reins and kept it going through, I believe, 1965.
As before, the editorship of Afghanews continued to be difficult and time-consuming, but we felt it met a real need for the club, and for the fancy, in an era when there was very little in print about the breed. With the coming of several good breed books and of commercially published periodicals on the breed, much of the motivation for a regular parent-club publication is gone.
The one constant channel for printed communication by the AHCA throughout its history has, of course, been the "member club" space provided in the AKC Gazette/Pure-Bred Dogs. As far as I know, this column has had only four authors over the years Muriel Boger until about 1945, Charlotte Coffey until the end of 1953, myself until late 1971, and Herman Fellton currently.
The key officers of the AHCA from 1938 through 1972 are shown in a separate tabulation. Although terms generally ran from February of one year to February of the next, the years given are those in which elected or re-elected. A full term was served in every case except in 1961, when Alys Carlsen was re-elected president and then found that for personal reasons she could not serve and resigned in May. The first and second vice-presidents declining, the third vice-president got the job back.
In the early years of the club the presidency was looked upon as a largely honorary office, and a single term was the norm. As it became customary for the secretary-treasurer to succeed to the presidency, it evolved into a "working" office with a correspondingly lower turnover rate.
The Afghan Hound Club of America, Inc., now has behind it some 35 years of rich and varied history, filled with lively events and peopled with fascinating personalities. The foregoing is really only the bare bones of what is a well fleshed and highly human story. For it is people that have made the club and will continue to make or break it - people motivated to give a lot of themselves, never for profit, sometimes for vanity but most often by the desire to insure the welfare of a breed of dog and the effectiveness of an organization devoted to it.