The first recorded Cavaliers in the United States came from England in the 1940s, although several Colonial American paintings include small spaniels of a similar type. Robrull of Veren and Bertie of Rookerynook, two older males belonging to Mrs. Harold Whitman and Mrs. John Schiff, respectively, were thought to be the first imports. However, the true beginning of the breed in this country was in 1952, when Mrs. (Sally) Lyons Brown of Kentucky received a black and tan bitch puppy, Psyche of Eyeworth, as a gift from her good friend in England, Lady Mary Forwood. As happens to most of us, Mrs. Brown found that one Cavalier was not enough, and soon more followed. Mrs. Brown was frustrated to find that she could not register her dogs with the American Kennel Club, because the breed was not recognized at that time. Therefore, she set out to contact any owners whom she could find on this side of the Atlantic, which at that time numbered less than a dozen. She established an active little nucleus of Cavalier enthusiasts among her family and friends in the Louisville, Kentucky area and in 1954 founded the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA (CKCSC, USA), the official breed club and only registering body for Cavaliers in the United States for more than fifty years. Originally begun as an American chapter of the English Cavalier Club, the existence of the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club, USA, is directly attributable to Sally Brown's steadfast efforts in creating a stud book and her tireless work to establish the fledgling club. Incorporation took place in 1956, with Sally Brown serving as the club's president until 1962.
It is Mrs. Brown's sister-in-law, Gertrude Polk Brown, who is neverthelessthe acknowledged guardian of the breed in the United States. Trudy Brown was the enthusiastic owner of a puppy from the first litter born to Sally Brown's bitch, Mercury of Eyeworth. After ten years of unyielding efforts to create a solid club and an impeccable stud book, Sally Brown handed over the reins to her sister-in-law, who became its guiding spirit. Trudy's husband, GeorgeGarvin Brown, died in the early 1970s, and several years later she married JayAlbrecht. The death of Trudy Brown Albrecht in 1983 was greatly mourned by all Cavalier enthusiasts.
Another influential person in the early years of the breed in the United States was Elizabeth Spalding. Working with Sally and Trudy Brown in the club's formative years, Miss Spalding also was an exhibitor at club shows, where her dogs were consistent winners. Miss Spalding owned Pargeter Lotus of Kilspindie, who won Best in Show at the first National Specialty in 1962, as well as Pargeter Mermaid, Reserve Best in Show and Best Opposite Sex at that same show. This first specialty show had fourteen dogs and twenty-one bitches entered'seventeen Blenheims, eight tricolors, four rubies and six black and tans'for a total number of twenty-six exhibitors, a far cry from the numbers exhibited today.
Early on, the CKCSC, USA applied to the AKC for Miscellaneous status, whichwas granted in the 1962. After several applications by the club to gain full recognition were rejected by the AKC, the CKCSC, USA proceeded to go about its own business. A stud book was established, a show system was developed, and a stringent code of ethics was adopted. Although few Cavaliers were exhibited in the Miscellaneous classes, CKCSC, USA members did participate in and enjoy AKC obedience events. In 1962, Elizabeth Spalding was the first to complete AKC Companion Dog obedience titles on Miss Eda of Manscross and Kingfisher of Kilspindie.
The CKCSC, USA membership was polled on numerous occasions over the years regarding full recognition, but they felt that the club's strictly enforced, stringent code of ethics afforded the breed a protective umbrella, precluding it from being commercially bred. They had as an example the enormous rise in popularity of the breed in England after Alansmere Aquarius won Best in Show at Crufts in 1973. The vote for full recognition was defeated by a large margin each time it was put to the membership, although Miscellaneous status was retained for obedience enthusiasts.
In 1992, the CKCSC, USA was invited by the AKC to become its parent club for the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, but the membership voted nine to one against accepting the AKC's invitation to affiliate. A small group of CKCSC, USA members formed the American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club (ACKCSC), and they applied to the AKC for parent-club status. This was granted, and in March 1995, the breed was officially recognized by the AKC. The CKCSC, USA continues to operate as an independent breed registry with its own specialty- show system, while the ACKCSC became the parent club for the breed within the AKC. Cavaliers went into competition in the Toy Group in the AKC as of January 1, 1996. The ACKCSC held its first National Specialty in May 1997.
January 1997 saw a historic first when a Cavalier, won Best of Breed and aToy Group placement at the prestigious Westminster Kennel Club show. The long-term effect of AKC recognition of the breed in the United States is yet to be determined, but one thing is certain'The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel will continue to be protected by those in both old club and new, who are truly dedicated to its preservation.
This article was reprinted with permission from Barbara Garnett Wilson's New Cavalier book