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Amelia and Martha White
Kandahar Afghan Hounds
and Rathmullan Irish Wolfhounds USA
(Author, Steve Tillotson, January 2012)
Amelia White and Hounds c. 1933/c 1930
(IWT Editor note - this is just a starter page on the Rathmullan Irish Wolfhounds, we will expand it as our research progresses. Steve Feb 4th 2013) . I thought the following extract would be an interesting start to this section as it was written by a non Irish Wolfhound expert who was writing on a different topic and "discovered" the White sisters involvement with the Irish Wolfhound and wrote about them accordingly. Source of the introductory comments is - "Culture in the Marketplace: Gender, Art, and Value in the American Southwest" By Molly H. Mullin, 2001)
F. THE IRISH WOLFHOUNDS
In the history of Irish Wolfhounds in the United States, the Whites are described as having "made breed history" during a period in the 1930s, but they are also mentioned as examples of individuals who made brief forays into an actvity more demanding than man people realize (Starbuck 1970: 52-53). In the late 1920s Elizabeth and Martha White had marveled at the Irish Wolfhounds - the first to be exhibited in the United States - they saw at the Westminster Kennel Club show at Madison Square Garden. Irish wolfhounds are the most giant of dog breeds (and, especially in the 1920s quite rare in the United States), and the two sisters seemed especially to appreciate the combination of their massive size with "gentleness" and "trustworthiness" (Jones n.d.:9), qualities they are said to have "sensed.... when looking into the deep, understanding, dark eyes of thsoe specimens at Westminster" (8).
By the early 1930s - probably the peak years of Elizabeth White's efforts to promote American Indian art - they had purchased and bred Irish wolfhounds of their own. In the dog-breeding world, individual dogs help to make the reputation of particular "kennels", which are embued with distinct identities as producers of past and future dogs. The White sistes established "Rathmullan Kennels" (named after a castle they had once visited in Ireland) on their property in Santa Fe, with individual rooms built to wolfhound scale and a full-time and professional dog handler, Alex Scott. During the next several years, Scott would show the Whites dogs at Kennel Club shows throughout the country. After Marth White's death in 1936, Elizabeth began gradually dismantling the project they had started, though she remained involved with the Irish Wolfhound Club of America through the 1940's.
Though dog breeds are in some ways rather modern inventions, since the nineteenth century they have been imagined as relatively pure descendents of ancient varieties (Ritvo 1987: 93-94). At the time of the White sisters involvement, breeders of Irish wolfhounds considered the breed something that they had rescued from the brink of extinction. Though a history of some controversial cross-breeding (with Scottish Deerhounds) was acknowledged as occuring in earlier years, by the 1920s and 1930s American breeders considered the Irish wolfhound a commodity with a firmly established, distinctive identity. Breeders cast themselves as visionary pioneers in developing Americans appreciation for this commodity - a commodity they saw as stil rare and at rick of corruption by uneducated consumers (Starbuck 1970)
The search for "drama, history and variety" that Sharon Zukin observes among consumers in general (1925:255) can be seen in countless markets, including those for art, dogs, landscapes, therapies, and even tarantulas. Before my reconsideration of the dogs, I had tended to assume that the White sisters wre focused almost exclusively in connecting to an American past - especially that of the Southwest. But in a promotional pamphlet written about Rathmullan Kennels in the mid 1930s, I see that th Whites dogs provided a link to a dramatic and ancient past of a different sort: an Irish one. I was aware that the Whites had more than once traveled in Ireland, and I suspected that their interest at least in part stemmed from a lifelong affection for the Irish Nanny, Mary Ann Carrol, in charge of raising the sisters after their mothers death. But after I had spent so much time with materials that emphasized their concern with maintaining a purity of local identity in Santa Fe, I was surprised to see this elaborated connection to the dramatic and ancient past of another former colony, Ireland. Elizabeth White is described in the Rathmullan pamphlet as busy with "Indian Welfare work" and the secretary of the National Association on Indian Affairs, with a strong interest in Indian art. Then we jump to ancient Ireland: "The breeding and raising of Irish Wolfhounds at the Rathmullan Kennels is being done in the finest traditions that have existed since earliest times in Ireland... This breed is one that carries a glorious heritage of sport, afield, and of royal environment. It was known and revered in Erin long before the Romans swept over Britain, and it is welded inseperably with the folklore of the Irish people (Jones n.d.:6). The pamphlet seems to have been written to appeal to potential dog buyers.
Molly H. Mullin, 2001
Steve Tillotson February 2013,
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