The Power of the Pen

The Formation of the American Kennel Club


The American Kennel Club was founded Sept. 17, 1884. Decades of turbulence led to this event and more followed. Every agonizing step was chronicled and analyzed by a group of self-appointed watchdogs through their personal media empires.

The Players
Arnold Burges came from a prominent family of congressmen and judges and worked as a lawyer and oil broker before gravitating to journalism. By the early 1870s he was editor of American Sportsman and Rod and Gun.“It was about this time that field sports were beginning to be regarded as fit for gentlemen,” and the Burges family fortune gave him “every opportunity for gratifying his taste for field sports... (H)e was among the first to advocate improving American sporting dogs by importation from the best kennels in Europe... (I)t was not long before he became a recognized authority on all subjects pertaining to field sports.” (American Field, March 31, 1888) In 1868 Burges began importing Llewellin Setters from British nobleman Richard Purcell Llewellin, to found his legendary Rob Roy kennel. In 1876 he published The American Kennel and Sporting Field, documenting Sporting breeds during a critical phase of their development. This was the first American stud book, recording the lineage of 327 Pointers, Clumber, Cocker and Irish Water Spaniels, Irish, English and Gordon Setters and 44 crossbred setters. After issuing a revised edition in 1882, Burges announced that he was “withdrawing since a national club could give to such a work a character no private individual could.” (AKC Gazette) Burges continued contributing his views on the American dog world until his death in 1888 at age 48.

Dr. Nathaniel Rowe began his career as a physician but his real passion was journalism and Sporting dogs. He started as a billiard columnist for Turf, Field and Farm, and worked his way up to editor of The Field at age 34. “Rowe’s interest in all sorts of matches and field trials was intense and his knowledge as to how they should be conducted was extensive. For these reasons, his efforts towards regulatory guidance became ‘the law.’ When a committee was in doubt they generally found it best to ‘ask Dr. Rowe.’” (AKC Gazette) He helped organize America’s first successful bench show on Oct. 7, 1874 in Mineola, and the earliest field trials for the Tennessee Sportsmen’s Association, with J. M. Taylor, who later became AKC’s first president.

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