Mr. P.H. Bryson, of Memphis, Tennessee was a Civil War veteran who was released after the War ended so he could “go home to die so that he might have a decent burial”. This wounded, weak and emaciated soldier weighed only 110 pounds and could not walk 100 yards without stopping to rest. When he reached home, his family physician, Dr. D.D. Saunders, advised that he take all the outdoor exercise that he could stand. A wise physician for his day, the good Dr. Saunders recommended a Bird Dog and a gun, stating that hunting would be an incentive to outdoor exercise. The weak, but courageous soldier acquired a “bobbed-tail Pointer” and a “pin-fire gun” and walked out into the rolling fields of Tennessee.
At first, Mr. Bryson could not walk far but his strength slowly began to improve. Mr. Bryon bagged one bird, then several, then a small bag of birds. As his gun eye improved, his hand held steady and with the help of his loyal bird dog he brought home even larger bags for the table. Mr. Bryson went from 110 pounds to 210 pounds and in time completely recovered, thanks to the exercise with his bird dog.
As time passed and Mr. Bryson became a more avid sportsman, he switched from Pointers to Setters. With his brother, David Bryson, they imported some of the world’s finest Setter bloodlines. The Bryson Setter Kennels of Memphis, Tennessee, gained national recognition and acclaim. Then, the old soldier began a new campaign – a campaign for Dog Shows in America. Mr. Bryson was the first man in America to advocate, through writing in sporting journals, the holding of dog shows in the United States of America. Mr. Bryson did this through that highly respected sporting journal, TURF, FIELD AND FARM. The Field Editor for this Journal at that time was Colonel Frederic Gustavus Skinner. Colonel Skinner was himself an avid outdoorsman and one of America’s greatest sporting editors. In consequence he gave Mr. Bryson’s articles advocating dog shows top billing in his magazine.
P.H. Bryson, his brother, David Bryson, and Mr. W.A. Wheatley planned a combined Bench Show and Field Trial near Memphis, Tennessee for November 1874. The dog articles which Mr. Bryson had been writing were so challenging and convincing that they motivated other sportsmen in other parts of the country to also plan Dog Shows.
THE FIRST DOG SHOW was June 4, 1874 – Chicago, Illinois.
The Illinois State Sportsmen’s Association knew a good idea when they read about it and quite obviously borrowing their dog show idea from Mr. Bryson, they announced a Show for June 4, 1874 in Illinois. This was five months ahead of the Show that Bryson had planned for Memphis, Tennessee.
THE SECOND DOG SHOW JUNE 22, 1874 – OSWEGO, NEW YORK
THE THIRD DOG SHOW OCTOBER 7, 1874 – MINEOLA, NEW YORK
THE FOURTH DOG SHOW OCTOBER 8, 1874 – MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE
Mr. P.H. Bryson, his brother his brother, David Bryson, and Mr. W.A. Wheatley succeeded in holding the first multi-event dog show in the United States. A combined Field Trial and Bench Show, sponsored by the Tennessee Sportsmen’s Association, the Show was governed by the English Kennel Club rules, and the Field Trial was conducted according to the rules of the English Field Trials. An extract of the Best of Breed and Best in Show winners follows:
The 1874 Memphis, Tennessee dog show judging for Best of Breed and Best in Show reached an emotional high that was not seen again until Elvis Presley performed here in the Twentieth Century. When the dog show judge was through reviewing the Pointers, he made his selections for Pointer Best of Breed, a Pointer Bitch named “MAY”, owned by Dr. D.D. Saunders. When he was through examining the Setters, he selected for Setter Best of Breed, a Setter Bitch named “MAUD”, owned by P.H. Bryson.
Then the moment of truth arrived. The spectators held their breath as both the old soldier and his physician with their respective bitches walked into the center of the dog show ring to compete against each other for Best In Show. The solemn faced dog show judge stepped into the ring, fully conscious of his responsibility. Dr. Saunders and his Pointer moved about the ring as one. The old soldier and his Setter moved with the same military precision he had learned on the Civil war battlefield. After thoroughly examining both dogs, the dog judge walked over to the Pointer, stopped, and ran his hands over the length of her back and down her thighs. The judge then turned to the Setter and examined her as well. The suspense mounted as the dog show judge stalked over to the table to record his decision. In his book the judge wrote, “Cup for best Setter or Pointer of any age or class of the Show, MAUD, P.H. Bryson”.
The dog show judge then walked back to the center of the ring with the trophy cup in his hand and pointed to the old soldier and his Setter bitch MAUD. The spectators at ringside exploded with applause, cheers and shouts of applause.
We are indebted to the AKC Librarian Ms. Barbara Kolk and her able Library Assistant.