We can trace the presence of the Kerry Blue Terrier in the United States as far back as the 1920's. At that time he was known as a Blue Black Terrier. A Mr. James McCashin and Mr. H.H. Fleitmann were showing a brace of untrimmed Blue Black Terriers in the Miscellaneous Classes at Westminster. These two old Terrier men considered the Blue Terrier as just a passing fad.
The records show that only a few terrier fanciers were importing from Ireland. One in particular was Dr. Fottrell of San Francisco, who imported a pair of Kerries from the Tailteann Kennels, Dublin, Ireland. They had been bred by his brother, Henry Fottrell, the famous International Judge and breeder of some of the very early Kerry Blues in Ireland. There were several other Kerries scattered about the U.S. but they were pets, and there are no records to indicate that they were bred or exhibited.
The Kerry Blue Terrier Club of America was formed in New York City on February 9, 1925. In May of the same year, it was admitted to active membership in the American Kennel Club. The Irish and English Standards was used as a guide for forming an American Standard. The members of the newly formed club finally agreed to follow the English Standard more closely than the Irish Standard. However, opinions varied regarding weight, color, coat and trimming. Much information and many suggestions obtained from authoritative terrier people aided materially in drafting the Standard. Although Ireland is entitled to the credit for developing the breed, the English contributed greatly to the refinement of the Breed and to its excellence in the show ring. The English have always been know as great terrier fanciers. Their wide experience and constructive breeding methods were respected. With this thought in mind, the English Standard was followed in all major categories, in preference to the Irish. The first Standard of the Kerry Blue Terrier was drawn up by the K.B.T.C. of America, Inc. and accepted by the A.K.C. in September 1926.
The Club held its first Specialty Show the day before the Westminster Show in 1927. The Judge was the noted Irish Terrier Judge and Breeder, Wilmont R. Evans of Boston. The Best of Breed was Mr. Jerome Megargee's "Champion Grabhaire". That same year, several champions of record were finished, including Mrs. William Randolph Hearst's "Seamus of Creina" (left dog in the picture on the left), Mr. Dexter Steven's "Lissmore Lass", Colonel L. Conley's "Biddy of O'Dornevabby" and Mrs. W.R. Hearst"s "Kenmare Peggy".
In 1927, forty-one American bred and twenty-eight imported dogs and bitches were registered. This was a remarkable increase over the registrations in the previous year. In the show ring, Kerry Blue Terriers continued with great wins. "Ch. Grabhaire" had the honor of being the first Kerry to win a Terrier Group at the Lackawanna K.C. Show on April 23, 1927. "Ch. Lienster Leader" was the first Kerry to win Best in Show at Stockton, California in 1929. The Kerry Blue Terrier was very successful in establishing himself on the North American Continent. In 1932 the Breed Standard was revised and reworded. Throughout the 1930 a number of Kerries arrived in this country such as the great "Ben Edar Blaise" (right) "Ben Edar Bawcock". There were also several royally bred "Princeton " Kerries, owned by Mrs. Violet Handy, whose kennel prefix was "Blue Demon". Mme. Soresi's Oakcrest Kennel, managed by Ed. Sayres is remembered, as well as the famous International Champion "Watteau Prince of Blues" and "Ch. Watteau Princess Carrie" of the well known Chevin Kennels.
In 1936, a new club was formed, the United States Kerry Blue Terrier Club. This club merged with the existing K.B.T.C. of America, Inc.. These combined clubs became the present day U.S.K.B.T.C. That year showed a great increase in breed registration and exhibition I quote Mr. Pattison, Jr. from his Gazette column: "I do believe that the fellow who is going abroad to buy a Kerry with the idea that he will knock the American Show World stiff, is due for a big disappointment. I think that there was a time when foreign Kerries were that good, but it has gone with the wind. Records prove this to be true."
Kerries still were being imported in large numbers throughout the 1930's and 1940's, predominately from England. Kerries such as English Ch. "Princeton Hell of a Fellow', a son of Ch. "Blue Leaders Helter Skelter" ex "Lady Blyth Colleen", a Ben Edar bitch. The famous International Champion, "Princeton Red Pepper" stayed with Edwin Sayres, Sr. during the Second World War. The dog finished his American Championship and later was returned to his English owner, Major Nethersole. Mr. and Mrs. Roessle McKinney imported Ch. "Ben Edar Bridesmaid" and Mr. And Mrs. Ed Kelly brought Ch."Stocksmore Sendoff of Kelkerry" to this country.
We should remember that a number of great Kerries made their way to Canada. One of the most successful sire was Ch. "Lisnalea Enbuska" (left) imported by Mrs. Spiker. The dog was later sold to Mrs. Nelle Smit Urmston of Trucote Terriers fame.
There were also several famous dogs from Ireland, such as Ch. "Garrybawn Bouchal", Ch. Grabhaire, Ch. "Poulaphouca". Ch. "Bregia of Blue Leader", International Ch. "Grand Duchess", Ch. "Grafton Belle", Ch. "Rose Marie of Cheriton", Ch. "Leinster Leader" and the famous International Ch. "Blue Leader's Helter Skelter". It can be seen that American breeders had representatives of the best basic stock of England and Ireland. The early American breeders knew these lines well enough and also what to expect from each one. Good conformation and soundness were of great importance. But there were also setbacks, like slow turning color and sometimes no color change.
In a general statement, I think it is safe to say, that today in America, the Kerry Blue Terrier breeders lack no bloodlines of basic importance from either Ireland or England. The problem confronting American breeders is solely that of combining existing bloodlines to produce still better Kerry Blue Terriers. American Kerry Blue Terriers are descended from the best bloodlines in the world. If future imported Kerry Blue Terriers are superior to the dogs we presently breed from stock already present in this country, it is because some foreign breeders are more skillful in the art of breeding. The quality of the bloodlines we have to work with in America is as good as any in the world. Exploiting our existing Kerry gene pool is the challenge that must be faced by American breeders.
References: "The Complete Kerry Blue Terrier", by E.S. Montgomery, the catalog from the Kerry Blue Terrier Club's first Specialty Show, Feb. 1927, The Kerry Blue Terrier Handbook, 1958 issue, and "The Kerry Blue Terrier" by Edith Izant.
Pictures of Ben Edar Blaise and Lisnalea Enbuska with permission of Denlinger's Publishers, Ltd. from "The Kerry Blue Terrier" by Edith Izant.