Remembering Morris & Essex, By Anna Katherine Nicholas (Part Two of Three)

Longtime dog-show judge Anna Katherine Nicholas shared her remembrance of the heyday of the prestigious Morris & Essex Kennel Club dog shows with the AKC Gazette in September 2000. Read Part One here.

As many as 57 rings were used for Morris & Essex — yes, that’s right! — and all were going at once so the show could fit comfortably into the day. Furthermore, judging never commenced before 10 a.m., since to start earlier would have been considered uncivilized.

Each Morris and Essex judging table was covered by its own brightly colored umbrella. The superintendent’s area, presided over by George F. Foley, Howard Foley, and the members of their staff, was at the center of the field. And there was a vast refreshment area—tented, of course—where gourmet food was served to all.

The food was catered by the famous Longchamp’s chain of New York restaurants, both for the judges’ and stewards’ luncheon and for the general public, if they wished. Priced nominally for such quality, fried chicken, spaghetti, and the famed Longchamp’s fruit cream tarts were the order of the day. Close to 5,000 of these luncheons were served annually.

To make things more civilized, Mrs. Dodge had pipelines installed throughout the show grounds, bringing running water to the benching and ring areas. For safety and security, approximately 90 police and other officials handled the flow of traffic though the town of Madison. And just to make things even more inviting, welcome banners were strung across the streets and in the well-organized parking area.

While we now see vans, motor homes, and trailers at dog shows, Morris and Essex unfolded in the era of the station wagon, which was the principal form of transportation for exhibitors. Many private passenger cars brought fanciers with smaller breeds or just a dog or two.


Stewards Charles Gashlin and Robert Griffing with show superintendent Howard Foley in 1951.


Dr. Karl Glaser, with help from steward Mrs. Harry Pickup, presides over the German Shepherd Dog ring in 1952.


Boston Terriers Neighbor’s Citation, left, handled by Hilda Neighbor, and Ch. Fascinating Honey, handled by Mrs. H.N. Clasen, take Best of Breed and Best of Opposite Sex under judge Byron Hofman in 1952. The show was known for its trophies and cash prizes.


Trophies and Prizes

Perhaps the best way to explain the magnanimity of the trophy table is to describe a page from the 1936 catalog, on which a photograph depicts a huge trophy table from the previous year. The caption beneath the photo reads: “There were 189 sterling silver trophies offered at this present show, May 23, 1936, to be won outright.”

The awards included sterling-silver trophies for best in each variety group, and bronze medals for Best of Winners in every breed and variety. The famous and highly coveted M. Hartley Dodge Jr. Sterling Silver Memorial Trophy was given for first prize in a special class in each breed for American-bred dogs and bitches. This was a class for which separate entries were made, and to win it was the dream of many breeders of the day.

Morris and Essex also furnished significant prize money at the “average exhibitor” level—not for the Best in Show and variety group awards, as is sometimes done nowadays, but for every regular class throughout the show, regardless of competition and with no restrictions concerning the number of entries in the class.

Just glancing through the 1936 catalog, one notes that class cash prizes are $10 for first, tapering down to smaller amounts. How about that—a single entry in the class being able to leave the ring with not only a blue ribbon but $10 cash as well? The nice part about it was that in those days this amount was well in excess of the entry fee.


Anne Rogers Clark, left, and Jane Forsyth, when they were still Anne Hone Rogers and Jane Kamp, handle winning English Cocker Spaniels under judge Alfred Loveridge at the 1956 Morris & Essex show.


Walter F. Goodman, left, handles his Skye Terrier Ch. Glamoor Going Up to Best of Breed in 1956.


The Best in Show lineup at Morris and Essex’s 1957 show was one of its finest. The top prize was won by miniature Poodle Ch. Fircot L’Ballerine of Maryland, far right, owned by Mr. and Mrs. Saunders L. Meade and shown by Ruth Burnette Sayres.


Prestige and Elegance

To judge at Morris and Essex was, of course, the ambition of practically everyone with a judging license. People felt that the prestige of doing so was on a par with Westminster.

The Morris and Essex catalog, with its bright orange cover and purple letters, featured photos of some of the club officials, the chief steward, and every one of the judges.

I still have some of my badges from the events, each topped with a solid-bronze medal at least one-and-a-half inches in diameter bearing the Morris and Essex insignia, to which the judging ribbon was attached. Stewards received smaller versions of the same. Still among my treasures is the sterling-silver perfumette that the lady judges were given as a souvenir of the 25th anniversary show in 1952. (The gentlemen judges received money clips as their gifts, if memory serves.)

On the evening preceding the show, Mrs. Dodge always opened her lovely home to guests and entertained at least several hundred fanciers, including judges, exhibitors, stewards, and friends, at a lavish, formal, and magnificent party. This type of party would be probably frowned upon nowadays by the AKC, but there were no feelings against them in those days, and the engraved invitations to attend were coveted by everyone in the sport. The prominent members of the fancy always seemed to be there, with the charming hostess finding time to chat with everyone, obviously enjoying the proceedings thoroughly.

(To be continued in Part Three)

—Anna Katherine Nicholas, from the September 2000 AKC Gazette

For information on the 2015 Morris & Essex Kennel Club dog show and more of the club’s fascinating history, visit the Morris & Essex website.