We Are Siamese – Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow

by Betty White
Originally published in 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 with Siamese kittens

Pictured: Mrs. Clinton Locke and her Siamese kittens,
“Calif” and “Bangkok”

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 seal point 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 seal point and chocolate point Siamese are mentioned in the earliest English and American show records – although the chocolate point 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. Perhaps 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.

Pictured: Carolyn Boren with F.P. Boren’s Boufant, and S.P. Boren’s Tweeter

The chocolate point Siamese, as was mentioned, had been around for as long as the seal point. 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 chocolate point registry. American associations followed suit and the chocolate point Siamese was recognized by CFA in 1952.

The impetus for recognition of the lilac point 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 lilac point 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 lilac point 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.

Part Two – the ’60’s and ’70’s

Pictured: John Dawe judging at the All-Siamese show

Was there any discernible trend of the 60’s; what was the overall quality of the cats? What was the Siamese Fancy like in general? This was a time when cat shows were dominated by Persians and Siamese, with Burmese and Abyssinians a distant third and fourth. Kim Everett remembers classes of 30-35 sealpoint novice and opens alone, with total classes of 60 or more not uncommon. Empire Cat Club would have two shorthair specialties, one for Siamese only and the other for all other shorthair breeds. Jeanie McPhee remembers taking her GRC Co-Mc Coronation to the Garden State show and competing with 56 sealpoints in a total entry of 126 Siamese! Marge Naples fondly remembers that her very best show ever was winning best with GRC DiNapoli’s Blue Tango in a class of 32 bluepoints and second best with his daughter, just two days out of kitten classes. Barbara St. Georges said that judges in those days planned to spend at least one whole day judging only Siamese, and there were always 3 or 4 truly outstanding specimens. Kim said that while winners ribbons were difficult to come by in those days, judges had less difficulty in identifying the “diamond” in the class. Classes then were filled with many local Siamese wherever a show was held. Jeanie recalled that most breeders were “breeding in their own cat pen”, so to speak, with not a lot of breeding between breeders. This observation was echoed by Harriett Little of Lilliput who said also that it was difficult for new breeders to break “into the ranks”.

Attention was being directed to refining bone in the 1960’s, although Jeanne Singer was quick to point out that there were dainty cats around. She particularly mentioned a bluepoint, Bult’h Hex and the dilutes of Mrs. Naugle (Green Lane), specifically Green Lane Chulalongkorn and Green Lane Vance. The Green Lane cats also had wonderful color. Jeanne credits Hex, a bluepoint with deep blue eyes, as the cat responsible for convincing the CFA Board to remove “china blue” from the Siamese Standard. Thereafter, eye color was standardized for all Siamese colors. She also says that Hex’s litter brother, Houdini, was a dark sealpoint. However, his type was so outstanding that he won despite the fact that color had been all-important up to that time. Bult’h was the cattery name of Dana Learn of Virginia.

There were other movements afoot in 1966 as the Standard was being updated and revised. Working on this project, Jeanne Singer remembers the battle over the Siamese profile. Many breeders insisted, vociferously, that a “straight line” profile was impossible. Not only was this impossible, but many also insisted that it was undesirable because it would “leave no room for the brains”, thereby impairing the cat’s mental capacity! If that were not enough, the rest of the argument stated that the health of the Siamese cat would be destroyed because the straight profile would “distort the sinuses so that the cat could not breathe properly.” This particular “silly season” in our history often erupted into shouting matches, including the Board Meeting where the Standard was finally approved!

A proposal to add Albino classes to the existing four color classes of Siamese was presented to the September 1966 CFA Board Meeting. It was defeated and presented again in September of 1967 after having been referred to the Board unfavorably by the delegates at the 1967 Annual Meeting. It was decided to reconsider the matter at the Milwaukee Board Meeting in 1968 where the proposal failed again.

In her article on sealpoint Siamese in the 1966 Yearbook, Jeanne Singer refers to the great improvement in head type during the preceding decade and mentions style setters, GRC Bult’h Houdini, GRC Fan-T-Cee Tee Cee, and the Medicine Lake cats. Looking back on the era today, we are able to gain further perspective. While Houdini produced little of note, Tee Cee and the Medicine Lake cats cast giant shadows.

MaKhanDa WillaThe Best Siamese and Best Opposite Sex Shorthair in the 1965 Hydon-Goodwin awards was GRC MaKhanDa Matil, a sealpoint female bred by Mary Frances Platt of Houston, Texas. Best Opposite Sex Siamese was also a MaKhanDa, Gizmo II. The MaKhanDa wins of 1964 were hardly unexpected. Two MaKhanDa sealpoints had granded in 1963 in a season that celebrated GRC Fan-T-Cee’s Flycka of Bograe, owned by Grace Forrest and the Quiners, and GRC Jen-Kins Victor Rhee. Two Daz-Zling Siamese had also done well, and a Florida bluepoint, GRC Erickson’s Baron of Mai-Profile. Best Siamese in 1963 was a sealpoint GRC Rogers Hts. Rockette of Bercrest, bred by Willa Rogers (Hawke) and owned by Mrs. Richard C. Bertch.

Ask any long-time judges and breeders to remember Siamese of yesteryear and the name MaKanDa Willa recurs with frequency. This extraordinary sealpoint female was #5 Shorthair Female in 1965 and Best Cat Opposite Sex in 1966. (Jeanie recalls that Willa went to 35 shows, which surely qualified her as a modern-day campaigner!) As a novice breeder in 1968, I was an avid reader and researcher of all things Siamese. Armed with pencils, paper, and the 1966 Yearbook on summer day in 1969, I determined to study MaKhanDa breeding by filling in pedigrees from Mrs. Platt’s article, “The MaKhanDa Story”. Before the day ended, it was clear that the essential ingredient in the Platt mix was a sealpoint male, Medicine Lake Mikado bred by Mrs. Adolph (Ellie) Olson. Mrs. Platt described him as a heavy-boned boy, but having large ears that matched the wedge, a straight profile, and a short, silky, close-lying coat.

Purr-Du PersisAs Jeanne Singer remarked to me recently, “Medicine Lake heads were as good as you could get.” To view a picture of GRC Medicine Lake Texess Rose and her grandson, another famous male of the 60’s, GRC LeShin-Wieler Saipan (#2 Shorthair Male in 1965) is to begin to understand the contribution of this cattery to the Siamese fancy. Take it a step further and compare the profiles of GRC Kalyan Kavalier of Krebs, Best Chocolatepoint Male in 1966, GRC Purr-Du Persis, #4 Shorthair Female in 1965 and Best Chocolatepoint Female in 1966, and GRC Purr-Du Challenger of Chat de Clair, #5 Shorthair Male in 1967 (owned by Clair Trapnell), and one is almost close to the truth. The common denominator was Green Lane and Medicine Lake.

When asked to remember Siamese of years ago, Kim Everett immediately mentioned two, MaKhanDa Willa and a female from the 70’s, GRC Sia-Mews Dixie Dream. Kim also recalled Kalyan Kavalier of Krebs, bred by Eleanor Hamling. Kavalier’s litter brother, Kalyan Cho’Co of Purr-Du, was an important male in Mrs. William C. Klein’s (Purr-Du) breeding program. Mrs. Klein purchased Cho’Co upon the death of her own stud because he echoed the breeding of her own cats – again, Mrs. Olson’s Medicine Lake and that other fine line mentioned by both Carlon Boren and Jeanne Singer, Green Lane.

Le Shin-Wieler SaipanGRC LeShin-Wieler Saipan, bred by Eberhardt LeSchin and John Wieler, was remembered by Jeanne Singer as a fine Siamese, somewhat heavy boned, with excellent ear set, a great stud male. This boy also contained the fine breeding of Catherine Hoag of Bridle Trail and that of Singa. Another LeShin-Wieler sealpoint was Best Shorthair Female in 1969, GRC Suda-Suy.

Bridle Trail breeding was, in fact, an essential part of the breeding of many Siamese of the 60’s. Bridle Trail Ping Mo, and his son, Bridle Trail Pingson of Alray out of Singa Godiva, can be found on the pedigrees of many famous cats of the time. Mrs. Hoag had imported a fine male, Silken Pedro of Bridle Trail and combined other fine imports from Holmesdale and Pristine. Singa Godiva herself was the daughter of another Holmesdale male, Caraban of Wu, and the daughter of Silken Pedro. Many famous cats of the time were indebted to this breeding of Bridle Trail by way of Astra and Sherwood that resulted in Aline Walrath’s Alray’s Angus of Sherwood, one of the finest producing studs of the era. To mention a few of his progeny: GRC LeShin-Wieler Tuy Han, sire of Saipan; GRC Thaibok Ruby Foo, #3 Shorthair Male in 1968; GRC Alray’s Cullaloo; GRC Karnak Zapata, CFA’s Best Cat in 1970; GRC Alray’s Outlaw of Zirkle; and a 1969 winner belonging to Ed and Donna Davis, GRC Zirkle’s Blue Champagne, #4 Shorthair Female.

Jen-Kins Rebel of CataraCertainly no discussion of the 1960’s should overlook Mrs. Laurel Jenkins. Already winners as Carlon Boren wrote her history, the Jen-Kins cats continued their winning ways. Jen-Kins Rebel of Catana, a lilacpoint male owned by Sandra S. Mitchell, was #4 Shorthair Male in 1965 and his progeny are legion. (Indeed, the Catana lilacs following Rebel were exceptional Siamese, a blend of primarily Jen-Kins and Kalyan stock.) Readers of the Gulf Shore Siamese Fanciers Quarterly will remember an article by Norma Salzman in a 1986 issue about Jen-Kins Jasmine, the chocolatepoint female that was her inspiration in breeding that color. Kim Everett recalled Jen-Kins Dark Hussy, as did Jeanie McPhee, a lovely sealpoint female that she often agented and who became CFA’s #4 Shorthair Female in 1966. Another lovely Jen-Kins cat of the era was GRC Jen-Kins Tora of Queen’s Canada, owned by Marjorie Buckner. In 1969, the #3 Shorthair Female was Jen-Kins Dina’ste of Tris-n-my, owned by Martha Minton.

Fan-T-Cee Tee CeeBut what of that other “style-setter”, Fan-T-Cee Tee Cee? Probably no other cat or cattery has been so misunderstood, so maligned as that of Mrs. Fred (Peggy) Galvin. Tee Cee was a remarkable Siamese, ahead of his time in head type and elegance of boning. He was also tightly bred. As a stud, this was ideal for reproducing type. One of his sons was GRC DiNapoli’s Blue Tango, and Marge Naples still has “tango”, his 18-year-old son. (Jeanie McPhee, incidentally, remembers the DiNapoli Siamese as nicely balanced cats.) Several catteries were quick to realize the potential of Fan-T-Cee, notable Daz-Zling, DiNapoli, Dahin, Maloja, Tap-Toe and Ty-Ru.

The best Siamese male in 1966, a bluepoint, was bred by Helen Weiss of Texas, GRC Daz-Zling Mirage. Mrs. Weiss was a widely respected Siamese breeder before she launched into her Rex program. Jeanie McPhee credits an earlier male, Daz-Zling Firefly, as having an impact on our breed.

Ty-Ru's CopicatA spectacular bluepoint in 1967 became #4 Shorthair Male. He was GRC Ty-Ru’s Copicat, bred by Mrs. A.P. Tyler of Houston. I can still remember the length of that boy’s head!

In 1968, other famous cats shared the spotlight with Ruby Foo, the #3 Shorthair Male. The #4 Shorthair Male was Maloja’s Mr. B, bred by Vivian Wheaton, followed by #5, Kay Kohl’s Koh-Ling Symmetry – both bluepoints. And there were females. Gen Scudder of San Diego bred the #4 Shorthair Female, Arista Genevieve of Bur-Sis (SP), and John Dawe showed DiNapoli’s Dresden Doll (BP) to #5 Shorthair Female. Mr. B would go on to put his mark on the Siamese breed by becoming a great sire. Gulf Shore Siamese Fanciers were proud to confirm his Distinguished Merit Award for our breed in 1987.

DiNapoli Flycka TuThe decade ended in 1969 with familiar names yet again. Best Shorthair Female was Marge Naples’ DiNapoli Flycka Tu of Cher-Lan (BP) owned by the Quiners and Grace Forrest. Karnak Zapata was #2 Shorthair Male. The #4 Shorthair Male was Sia-Mews Blue Cavalier of Che’Ree, bred by Camille Flankey, sired by Mr. B and owned by Sherrie Bender of Huntington, New York. Thaibok Ruby Foo proved his quality by winning yet again, #5 Shorthair Male.

Barbara St. Georges’ all-time favorite Siamese cat remains GRC Sia-Mews Blue Cavalier of Che’Ree. She said that she will never forget the Rochester show in 1969, her first Best-of-the-Bests. As she came up on the stage to commence judging, she observed the cats were placed in a horseshoe arrangement. Blue Cavalier was about in the center, and he was the first cat that caught her eye. She remembers her thought, “Something has got to be good to beat you!” She said he had a swan-like neck and she has never seen another just like it.