Tracing The Origin Of The English Trumpeter
Having dealt with this topic in the November 1976 Trumpeter special. 1 find it exceedingly difficult to fashion a piece of literature that is new, exciting and different. Taking these limitations into account the writer asks those reading this essay to be understanding of the necessary paraphrasing from my previous article.
Although the proper name English Trumpeter does not begin to appear in literature until the 19th century there does exist the mention of Trumpeters as far back as 1582 (a German work Unsere Hanstadben by Horst Marks.) Of late consideration interest has been shown in old pigeon books. It seems likely that we may discover the Trumpeter is even older than presently believed. Who knows what scholarly research may uncover in the future
These primitive Trumpeters mentioned in these should be considered common ancestors to the various breeds of Trumpeters with us today. In the English language the first mention of a Trumpeter comes to light in John Moore s book The Columbarium (1735). He says,
"The Trumpeter is runtishly made, generally pearl-eyed. black mottled. very feather-footed and legged, turn crown like the Nun. The best characteristic to know them. is a tuft of feathers growing at the root of the beak. The reason of their name, is from their imitating the sound of a trumpet."
From Where Do They Come?
A variety of countries have been mentioned as the point of origin for the breed. Levi (Encyclopedia of Pigeon breeds, p. 508) suggests Arabia, Egypt and Russia as possible homelands. Of the three sites this writer would tend to favor Russia. the reason being we know for a fact that the Bokhara Trumpeter was developed in the monasteries of Bokhara, Turkestan in Central Asia. They had to be developed from an ancestor with muffs, tug ' and crest. It. seems unlikely that muffed pigeons would be developed in hot desert countries such as Egypt or Arabia. Fanciers of these countries have historically tended to favor clean legged flying pigeons.
Although certainly not the original homeland of the Trumpeter. Germany should be given credit for developing many varieties such as Bernburgers. Dresdens. Votlanders. beak crested. etc. One wonders what progress would be made if the gifted german fanciers suddenly took an interest in developing the English Trumpeter.
The Trumpeter found in England which later came to be referred to colloquially. as the English Trumpeter likely prospered from 1700 to 1860. These dates are arrived at by figuring Moore's work of 1735 mentioning Trumpeters. and later works by Herbert Smith and Robert Fulton that state the introduction of the Bokhara Trumpeter into Britain (1860). caused the old style English Trumpeter to go into a steep decline.
Records of American pigeon hobbyist before 1870 are spotty at best and close to nonexistent at worse. We do know from our studies of history that large waves of immigrants came to this country during the 19th century. The hearty pigeon fancier who came to American seeking a better life. no doubt refused to leave behind his beloved birds. So with their few worldly possessions crammed below deck these brave immigrants apparently. included a pair or two of a precious living cargo
English Trumpeters. Not knowing if they might ever return to the land of their birth. quite understandably these fanciers were reluctant to leave without their feathered companions.
We know from show records that English Trumpeters were in the U.S.at least by 1870. There are no records to substantiate any culture center or any entries of large numbers. Most likely they were simply. a rare
breed with specimens showing up here and there. No breeder appeared to raise them in large numbers or promote them over many years as Sid the famous Baltimore Bokhara Trumpeter breeder Frank Rommel.
Paul Stefanson (deceased) of Berwyn, Illinois. one of the most prominent fanciers of the 1940-1960 time period often claimed the breed had become extinct by the 1930's. However, recent research using American Pigeon Keepers as source material dispute this theory. Small shield Wing are recorded in the ages Of the American Pigeon keeper during the 1920's and 1930 surprisingly enough there is evidence (American Pigeon Journal 1922) that English Trumpeters had found their way west as early as 1922. This show report from the Orange County Fair listed red and black baldheads and shield marks being shown by Mac O. Robins of Santa Ana.
The breed also found its way to Canada. By the late 1920's, a showing of 55 birds at the Canadian National Exposition was noted.
Earliest Known Standard.
According to the June 1923 issue of the American Pigeon Journal, a standard was drawn up by A.B. Warder of Ontario, Canada. Although, many of the terms and features described and used in that first standard are familiar to us today, some ideas are contrary to today's thoughts. For example can the reader imagine a desirable crest as being straight across the head showing no sign of being circular? The perfect tuft according to Warder's standard was to be ' thick and cover as much of the wattle as possible and show no break between skull and tuft feathers." For some reason this standard was never widely circulated for the breeders of the 1940's and 1950's never mentioned it. Rather they believed the standard written at Watertown, Wisconsin in 1947, to be the first.
The real birth of the breed in this country can be traced to the late 1930's and early 1940's. Paul Stefan- son, a fancier of Bohemian ancestory, played a pivotal role in their popularization. Stefanson recounted to this writer in letters and personal onversations that the so-called English Trumpeters he was able to come by at that time were a "bodge- podge" of various Trumpeter varieties. Many obviously crossed with Swallows, Barnburners. Dresden. Bokhara and German Double Crested Trumpeters. As Stefanson bought up whatever he could find advertised as English Trumpeters in the various pigeon publications, he was dismayed to find in the crates the railroad express agents brought him, such a divergence of style and type as to question the credibility of dignifying them with the name English Trumpeter.
However. instead of discouraging him, Stefanson rather plowed ahead into his project of' making this breed uniform and beautiful. Photographs of his birds taken in the 1940's com- pared with what he sent to California in 1955-58. speaks highly of his ability as a breeder. It should be mentioned his wife, Mildred, shared in the care and love of the birds. Paul often gave her credit for the astounding progress made. The real extent of time breeding influence has been difficult to determine due to the passage of time.
It would be incorrect to portray the major improvements in the breed as the exclusive achievements of the Stefansons. Their contemporaries Urban Bilimcier (Illinois). Orvilic Vocks (Wisconsin), Gene Darnel (Colorado). Tom Nack, John Pfieffer and Gene Ottenbacher of Wisconsin all contributed significantly during the 1947-1957 time Period.
The year 1947 is an important landmark in English Trumpeter history. The English Trumpeter Club of America was organized and the first in depth, modern standard of perfection was written that year. The club is still functioning 38 years later and the standard remained basically the same until 1979. Paul Stefanson de- serves a lion's share of the credit for keeping the club active and progressive. He served as See.-Treas. for 23 years (1947-1970). During this time he faithfully published a bulletin and saw to it an annual show was held. English Trumpeter Culture centre Moves West
Harvey Gatlin. then living in Montrose. California, began importing English Trumpeters from Orville Vocks and Paul Stefanson around 1955. These birds were the first ,colored English Trumpeters seen on the west coast for many, many years. Gatlin had been working with whites
since about 1948. He tried unsuccessfully to interest adult Fanciers in the bred but to no avail. He then turned his efforts Towards junior fanciers. It was here :hat the seeds of future fanciers fell on fertile soil and took root. Among those 13-14 year old juniors were Kit Palumbo, Ralph Rodheim, Arnold 3creovitz, Ed Sieckert, John Peter- ;on, Dave Crockett and of course,
this writer. Gatlin sold us very good ,h luality birds at $3-5 each. Not only were they easy to breed but since ompetition was sparse (with the exception of Gatlin) these juniors had immediate success in the show ring. About 1956. ice ambitious teenagers sent to Orville Vocks. Paul Stefan- son. Gene Darnel and Urb Billrneier for birds. All of the above mentioned fanciers sent us eager juniors very fine English Trumpeters. Stefanson was probably the most generous. sending us many top show birds. In 1958. due to advancing age and neighbour problems he sold his entire stud to Arnold Bercovitz and myself. From this base most of today's English Trumpeters have descended. The birds 1 sold John Heppner between 1964-1966 were almost exclusively Stefanson bloodlines and Heppner's degree of success should be at least partially credited to the work of Paul Stefanson. While all this progress was _going on in California. the English trumpeter was falling on hard times in the mid-west. By 1963, many of the veteran supporters of the breed dropped out. During the 1960's the culture center for the breed switched to the West Coast. By the 1970's. new fanciers from the Midwest
wanting quality had turned full cycle .
A major was the good bird sent west but also in 1957 the formation of the Western American Trumpeter Club. This club was the child of Harvey Gatlin. Grant Hibbard. one of the few adult breeders Gatlin had been able to enlist. and an experienced pigeon man, Brad Atwood. helped to write the constitution and by-laws the club was to function under.' With a long list of shows to participate in and a leader like Harvey Gatlin who knew how to relate well to teenage boys the club was a big success from the very, beginning
Top Breeders Over The Years
Harvey Gatlin had the top birds of the 1950 s. Arnold Bercovitz and Bob Nolan were the acknowledged leaders of the 1960's. The 1970's and 1980's belong to John Heppner and of late Jerry and Sharon Holmberg are challenging Heppner's dominance. Heppner's first big win was Best Young at the 1970 Pageant. with a red splash lien #206 which he called "Miss Pageant." As the years went on many of her offspring' became dominant in the winner's circle. Lately the Holmbergs have produced a family of black splashes with incredible head power and short cobby bodies. Their weakness being often no rosettes and a poor or nonexistent mane. At present they are closer to Heppner than anyone has been in a long time When they are able to improve their manes and rosettes they will be his equal.
In closing this difficult assignment Mention should be made of the contributions of the National English Trumpeter Club and the English Trumpeter Club of Canada. they have played significant roles in popularizing the breed in their areas. the English Trumpeter Club of Canada was formed in 1964 through the efforts of John Heppner and Peter Wollf. Since Heppner's move to California in 1972. Wolf has been the Driving force behind the aassociation .
Although they have been unable to generate consistent growth they have provided the Canadian fanciers an annual show which boast between 200-300 birds. The National English Trumpeter Club was formed in 1979 by Wes Shores. He along with Eddie Lujan have been its best known successful breeders. They have filled a need by hosting a series of small shows in many tar flung locations where English Trumpeters are not raised in large numbers. This has not allowed breeders not able to attend the major English Trumpeter classics to show. their birds in moderate competition. Their shows usually attract between 75-180 birds. With the exception of Shores and Lujan their members have not tackled the tough shows like Des Moines and the Pageant. They have a large membership (approx. 100) and do an excellent job promoting the English Trumpeter in virgin territory.
The English Trumpeter Club of American has followed a different philosophy. They host but two shows a year: the Lumberyard Show held at Cottonwood. Minn., in Oct., and the annual meet held at Des Moines in December. The Des Moines show is considered second only to the P cant in difficulty of competition with sometimes over 400 birds being shown. Breeders from as far away as California fly in for this show. The Lumberyard Show is strictly a young bird show and attracts 150-200 birds.' Norm Geihl is the man responsible for the growth of this show.
The history of a breed is never completely written for new history is constantly being added. It would appear that steady growth of the breed has occurred since the 1976 English Trumpeter special. The state of the fancy is such that this pattern should continue for the next decade as well. My apologies to any and all fanciers or events that I have over-looked in writing this narrative. To error is human to forgive is divine. I have proved myself to be human time and time again .