Finding Aid – Mastiff Club of America Collection

2009:003;010

Collection processed by Norma Rosado-Blake

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PROVENANCE

A gift from the Mastiff Club of America (MCOA).

ARRANGEMENT

The collection is arranged into seven series including (a) Documents; (b) Meeting minutes; (c) Publications; (d) Miscellaneous; (e) Photos; (f) Audio/Visual; (g) Chapman papers. The documents series is organized by order of importance with historical material further organized by date.  The Publications series is organized with the parent club’s newsletters first and regional newsletter thereafter. The Publication series also include catalogs which are organized with the parent club’s show first and local club organized alphabetically.

SCOPE AND CONTENT

The bulk of the collection consists of publications.  It contains the parent club’s newsletters as well as regional and some Canadian newsletters. The MCOA’s first newsletter was published in 1965 and the name The Journal was added in the Fall of 1974. The collection does contain an issue of the first newsletter from 1965; it is contained in the oversized box number one.

The Chapman papers are a collection of photographs, correspondences, registration certificates and other items from an English family who imported two dogs:  Bernardo of Pinetrees and Mattesdon Tondelayo.  Interestingly enough, the Chapman’s dog, Bernardo, was donated and preserved at Yale University Peabody Museum of Natural History as part of their breed preservation program.

The historical material in the documents series is of note for its contents which include very early meeting minutes from the club.

HISTORY

The Breed
It is a breed that evokes strength, durability and loyalty. Ancient cultures used mastiff-type dogs as a central part of their culture. There is much archeological evidence to prove this. They appear on Babylonian bas reliefs from 2,220 B.C. The Assyrians depict mastiffs on their pottery and terra cotta images. And the Greeks and Romans were known to use mastiff-type dogs as part of their daily lives.  There should be something said about the term “mastiff” which is a bit of a misnomer. Before 1800 the term wasn’t associated with any particular breed, but rather was associated with any large and strong dog. Nonetheless it’s long history is well documented.

In modern times it is believed that the mastiff was associated with primarily England, however as evidence suggests they are primarily associated with Asia and other European countries.  In England this breed was used as watchdogs and even accompanied knights and warriors into battle. Eventually a decline in mastiffs occurred when breed crossing began. As a result it was a struggle to maintain a healthy number of mastiffs and by the 20th century it was all but extinct. It was the English aristocrats that managed to protect and maintain a pure bloodline, however, this is wasn’t enough to ensure the future of the breed. So during the 1920s the English began a campaign to save the breed.  American’s also heeded this call and joined the campaign. With the founding of the Mastiff Club of America in 1929, an interest and a revival of the breed was underway. However, another set back in the breed’s development in Europe occurred with the onset of World War II and many of the English breeders were forced to export some of their finest specimens to America.

By 1932 it was estimated that there were 35 mastiffs in America with only eight registered with the American Kennel Club. At about the same time, Peach Farms owned by Patty and John Brill acquired their first mastiffs, Manthorne Peach Farm Matilda and Manthorne Mogul.  It is believed that most mastiffs of today can trace their linage back to the Peach Farm bloodlines. They produced such champions like Ch. Funk Farm Lulu, the MCOA’s national specialty Best of Breed in 1951 and Hobo the 1952 MCOA national specialty Best of Breed. They continued to raise and show dogs up until the mid-1980s.

Another important kennel established early on was owned by Colonel P. Hobart Titus.  His Manthorne kennel produced champions such as Ch. Manthorne June.

The Altnacraig kennels also fit prominently in Mastiff history.  It was owned by Mr. & Mrs. James Foster Clark and situated in Greenwich, Connecticut. Writer Arthur Frederick Jones describes the Clarks and their breeding program as, “…they are breeding mastiffs in such a way as to preserve their legendary charm, yet doing it in a manner that will fit these big dogs to modern standards and the swinging tempo of this age.”1

Between 1950 and 1959 registrations for mastiffs nearly tripled. Obviously, interest in the breed was gaining favor. During this time Marie A. Moore became an important force in the mastiff world. Patricia Hoffman writes in her book The History and Management of the Mastiff, “It is sage to say that without her kennel, Mooreleigh, and that of the Brille’s Peach Farm, the breed in the United States would have virtually died out.” An important step in the breed’s history and its relation to the AKC was the establishment of a regular breed column in the AKC’s Gazette in 1965. Marie Moore was a long time contributor.

The 1970s began with some great interest with the breed as well as over-breeding. In 1970, AKC records indicate that there were 285 mastiffs registered. Puppy mills and over-breeding lead to a huge increase in the number of mastiffs. By 1975 the total number of registrations almost tripled. At about the same time an important bloodline was on the horizon.

In 1970 Deer Run Kennels was established. Owned by Tobin Jackson, he began his kennel with Ch. Deer Run Jupiter and a steady stream of additions thereafter. His best achievement was Ch. Deer Run Wycliff who produced 45 champions and considered a top winning sire. Dee Dee Anderson estimates that 95 percent of all Mastiffs today descend from Deer Run kennels.2

With such a long and documented history, the mastiff is a fine example of the bond between humans and dogs through the ages.  Whether they were used as working dogs or companions this breed is exemplary for its versatility and enduring devotion.

The Club
The Mastiff Club of America was founded on 13 March 1929. Shortly thereafter they were incorporated under New York State laws. On September 7 they held their first meeting on Elizabeth Stillman’s Kenridge Farms, Cornwall-on-Hudson, New York. There they established the bylaws and constitution as well as the breed’s standard. Also during that first meeting they elected their first executive officers including: F. J. A. Bier, President, John Barnhard, Vice-President, Paul Chapman, Jr. Vice-President/Treasurer and C. R. Williams Secretary.  Early on the club was focused on not only preserving the bloodlines of the mastiff but also revitalizing an interest in the breed which is why they developed something called the “Adoption Plan.”

The Adoption Plan was created to allow those dogs that were adopted from kennels to remain under breeding control by the kennel owners. The person adopting the dog obtains it without any initial costs. Male dogs are used as studs for only approved matings by the kennel. Both the adopter and kennel equally share in the stud fees. With bitches there are the same constraints with the additional stipulation that the resulting litter be divided equally between the adopter and kennel. The club’s work with this plan was an extraordinary step in building up the number of mastiffs in this country.

In 1940 the MCOA held it first national specialty with the Old English Mastiff Club Challenge Trophy going to Aldwin of Altnacraig. Another important milestone in the club’s history was its acceptance as a member into the AKC in 1941. In the same year the club adopted the breed’s standard. By 1943 the club boasted 41 members. By 1978 they had 228 members.

During the 1970s and 1980s the breed experienced rapid growth through over-breeding and puppy mills. The MCOA answered this by creating their breed rescue organization in 1988. It now boast a nation wide network of volunteers aimed at rescuing mastiffs.  It has been documented that in 1999, 366 mastiffs were rescued by the organization. In addition to rescue, the club is also dedicated to protecting the health of the breed through genetic testing.  The club began the Genetic Data Collection wherein dogs are tested for various diseases such as hip dysplasia, Von Willebrand’s disease and other ailments.

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1 AKC Gazette, Jan 1942.
2 Dee Dee Andersson, Mastiff Aristocratic Guardian, Doral Publishing, Nashville, TN, 1998, p. 72.