We Are Siamese - Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow
by Betty White
From the 1987 CFA Yearbook
Part One - Our Early Years
How do you write about Siamese cats without all the legends? Since the origin of the breed is impossible to prove empirically, one is left with the apocryphal stories of palaces and royalty of Siam. Because it is certain that the Siamese did, indeed, originate in the land of Anna and her whimsical King, it follows that such a wonderful cat had to have the bluest of blood. So it goes.
What we know for a certainty is that the Siamese cat made its way to England in the latter part of the 19th century and appeared at a show in London's Crystal Palace in 1885. It was not long in crossing the Atlantic Ocean. While neither the name of the first Siamese cat in America nor its owner is known, we do know that Siamese entries are found in the first volume of the Beresford Cat Club Stud Book published in 1900.
Mrs. Clinton Locke, the founder of the Beresford Cat Club, had the first Siamese to win a Best Cat award in America, Lockehaven Siam. This notable win, made in Detroit in 1907, was followed by another Best Cat win by Lockehaven Elsa in Chicago the following year. Nothing quite succeeds like success; increased interest in the breed grew apace. Yet there were enormous obstacles to the would-be breeder/exhibitor. Enteritis plagued the Fancy in those days and the Siamese experienced heavy losses. Hardly of less significance was the high cost of breeding stock. The early imports are reported to have cost at least $1000 plus transportation and various fees. Even American-bred Siamese were commanding high prices. Enthusiasm for the breed grew despite these formidable drawbacks, resulting in the founding of the Siamese Cat Society of America in 1909. The rest, as they say, is history. And, there is no finer record of the early years of any breed of cat than Carlon Boren's "History of the Siamese" which appeared in serial form in the CFA Yearbook, 1959-1962.
Because the early Yearbooks are no longer available to new fanciers, it seems especially appropriate to recall a few breeders and cats of the early days. Could our breed have flourished had Virginia Cobb of Newton, Massachusetts, not attended a cat show in New York's Madison Square Garden in 1928? She was enchanted by the Siamese, and shortly afterward imported CH DjerKits Chinkaling of Newton. "Chinky". Pedigree research inevitably turns up the name, CH Oriental Nanki Pooh of Newton, Imp. "Nikki" sired over 1300 kittens and lived to be 17! Newton's Jay Tee was the first sealpoint to win a CFA Grand Championship, and she did it at age 10! Mrs. Cobb not only bred and exhibited Siamese, she was also active in genetic research and as avid an author. In association with a Harvard geneticist, Dr. Clyde E. Keeler, she explored the genetic background of the Siamese with particular attention to color and Siamese influence on other breeds.
While sealpoint and chocolatepoint Siamese are mentioned in the earliest English and American show records - although the chocolatepoint was lumped in with the seal in the English registry - there is no reference to the bluepoint Siamese. The first recorded appearance of a bluepoint in an English show was in London in 1896. The Siamese Cat Club of England refused to recognize the bluepoint in 1902. What were its origins? Virginia Cobb and Clyde Keeler, along with Doris Bryant, determined to solve this mystery. The result of their research was published in The Cat Gazette, November, 1934, and was titled, "The Genetics of the Blue-Point Siamese Cat". Another article by these same authors appeared in CATS Magazine in October of 1946, containing the following summation:
Our investigations show then that the Blue Point Siamese possesses the Maltese-Blue gene and hence might rightfully be called the Malto-Siamese just as the Seal Point might be called the non-tabby Siamese. Since the Siamese people kept no records on their cats and usually allowed them to mate at random, mutation of black to blue within the stock seems much less likely than hybridization in Siam with the cats already possessing the Maltese-Blue. True it is that the Siamese cats imported into England in the early days rarely carried the blue gene or it would have cropped out more frequently and early in the history of the fancy in England and would have been well known to the judges in 1896. In absence of information to the contrary it would appear that CH Carlisle may also have introduced the blue gene through an outcross to a short hair Blue. And Russian Blues were popular in his day in England, we are informed. This may be true of Cairo Rameses, whom we have heard say was a French cat.
Whether the Maltese gene was added in Siam alone, or whether in Europe as well, the Blue-Point Siamese variety is here to stay. It will breed true when mated and will constantly crop out of untested Seal Point stocks, just as Blue Persians crop out of Black Persians hybrid for the blue gene.
The bluepoint Siamese was given recognition by the English Siamese Fancy 30 years after its initial appearance in that country; it was given recognition in America upon acceptance of a new Standard by the Siamese Cat Society of America in 1934.
Mrs. Cobb served as Secretary and Treasurer of the Siamese Cat Society of America from 1933-1940. This organization was quickly becoming the preeminent organization for fanciers of Siamese cats. To quote Mrs. Boren:
In 1935, the Siamese Cat Society of America had grown to a membership of 60, with a good bank account and a fine cup list. 50 to 60 Siamese entries were not unusual in the Siamese specialty shows held in some parts of the country, particularly in the East.
In 1914, the SCSA had voted to abandon the English Standard and formulate its own; in 1927 the organization was accepted for membership in CFA. Prehaps the influence of the society was at its peak in 1944 when a committee was appointed, chaired by Virginia Cobb, to write a new Siamese standard. In due time a new Standard was adopted and submitted to the CFA Board of Directors. Desiring less detail, the CFA Board promptly revised it. Siamese breeders were adamant about their Standard, and with a feistiness present fanciers can recognize, severed their connection with CFA. The Siamese Cat Society has been an independent entity since February 7, 1945.
But CFA needed a Siamese group within its body politic. The void was filled in 1946 with the formation of The National Siamese Cat Club, and this organization has enjoyed a steady increase in membership and prestige to this day both within and without CFA.
With the tremendous surge in popularity of the breed during the 1930's came the inevitable problems associated with the desire of a capricious general public to own the latest "in" animal, the Siamese cat. If one travelled to the Orient, a prized-souvenir might be a pair of Siamese. Unfortunately, the cats imported during this era were not the same animal protected by order of the King in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, nor were they selected for anything other than their color pattern. A movement to stress type commenced in the 1940's during a time when it was reported that color was often the prime consideration in the show ring. To add further confusion to an unsettled time, the inferior specimens from abroad did exhibit pale coats; along with their coarser bone, shorter heads, and paler, more rounded eyes.
The chocolatepoint Siamese, as was mentioned, had been around for as long as the sealpoint. However, many breeders considered it an undesirable variant of seal and had neutered and spayed the chocolates they produced. The color was both misunderstood as to just what it was and unappreciated for its unique beauty. There were enthusiasts for the color, and their point of view prevailed in 1950 when the GCCF in England formulated the chocolate standard and chocolatepoint registry. American associations followed suit and the chocolatepoint Siamese was recognized by CFA in 1952.
The impetus for recognition of the lilacpoint Siamese came from the West Coast, and Carlon Boren credits her husband, Dr. Ralph C. Boren, and Mrs. Leigh (Ann) Manley. A number of shows in California held exhibitions for lilacpoint Siamese and a California club proposed a standard for the color to CFA in 1953. While the color class was denied in that year, formal recognition came to the lilacpoint in 1955. This time America was first; England recognized the lilac in 1960.
As we approach the last 25 years of the history of the Siamese cat, a period of time beginning when many of our present shorthair breeds and a few longhair breeds as well were no more than faint glimmers on the horizon. It is both fascinating and moving to quote one of the closing paragraphs of Mrs. Boren's "History of the Siamese":
New catteries are being established or have been established for the breeding of the Siamese; it is impossible to mention them all. The Green Lane cattery of Mrs. Rex Naugle, is well known for its Chocolate Point, and especially one familiar to all of us here in California, is the lovely GRC Green Lane Beryl, owned by Mrs. Leigh Manley. Mr. & Mrs. C.H. Krebs have made a name for their Blue Point Siamese, and here on the Coast we are familiar with the catteries of DiNapoli, known for their Blues, and the Redell Cattery for its Frosts or Lilac Points. Some of the catteries of the East that are coming to the fore are Mon-Chang, Bridle Trail, Singa and Thani. In the South we hear of the Van Lyn Frost Points, the Daz-Zling Blue Points, the catteries of Ty-Ru (Mrs. A.P. Tyler) and MaKhanDa (The Platts) of Texas. In the Midwest we have the outstanding catteries of Tap-Toe, Madali, New Moon, Kalyan, My-Lo, Brindell and Bercrest.