Here is a letter that was among Harriet's files. It is from Elsie Fisher (Praha cattery) about her beginnings in the breed.
I thought you might like to know how I first started to breed Birmans. I went to a Paris Show, just out of curiosity, and first say my lovely Birmans. I saw a beautiful little Blue Birman Kitten, belonging to Madam Yvonne Droisier, naturally, I asked if she was for sale, and I got the answer that she was the first blue Birman to have been bred in France, and she was not for sale. I was very disappointed as you can imagine, this happened in 1965. But Madam Droisier said that if I was not in a hurry, she would let me have the next 'Best Blue Kitten'. I waited very patiently, and then I got the news that there was one for me, and although I never saw her, I had so much confidence in Madam Droisier, that I immediately had her sent to the quarantine Station.
This was Osaka de Lugh. She is now a full champion several times over. I was very curious to see her when she came out of quarantine, where she had to stay for six whole months, this is the law here. And when I saw her, she was the most beautiful cat I have ever seen. She appears in the Book of the Champion Cats of the World. I still have her and she is still very beautiful, and she has produced many Champions both blue and seal, one of them now owned by Mrs. Frances Price, Int. Champion Praha Shawnee. And another Champion Paranjoti Katmandu, a lovely Blue also owned by Mrs. Price. The latter is the Dam of my exquisite stud, Champion Praha Michel, who had won 8 c.c.'s and he is only 1 year 10 months. CH Praha Sik-Kim is another of her offspring, I could mention many more. These grace the show bench all over the world. The most famous of these is GD Int. Champion Praha Hu-Tsung who appears in most cat books today. He is now in Australia and I hear that he has won the highest award at his last show.
Before he left England, he sired a lovely boy Praha Nephseni who is following in his father's footsteps. He was nominated for "Best in Show" and won four firsts at the Southern Cat Club Show on March 28th, 1973. There were 18 Birmans in the show.
Since 1966, I have bred 30 Champions, Grand Champions and International Champions. This I think is quite a record, and can only be achieved by select breeding. They are now all over the world, from Australia, New Zealand to Jamaica, not to speak of Canada and the United States. In Europe, they are in Sweden, Germany, France, Switzerland, Denmark and, of course, in England. I am very proud of my lovely Birmans and they have become very popular over here. I am not surprised as they are not only very beautiful, they are the most intelligent and loving animal I have ever bred, and as companions, there is none better in the world. I can recommend them as wonderful pets as well as good mothers. They love their young and tend them almost like humans.
On March 17th, I attended a Cat Show in Pilzen in Czechoslovakia, as the guest of a German Breeder who breeds Cameos and Smokes. It was very interesting for me as I speak the language, having lived in Prague for a number of years before the War, and hence the name of my prefix "PRAHA". this being the capital of Czechoslovakia. The show was very interesting, especially as the Chairman was indefatigable. Dr. Raijdl was at everyone's beck and call, all the two days the show was on. It was held in a huge place, in fours pavilions, and well organized. I was amazed at the enthusiasm of the people, as there were at least 5,000 visitors to the show. In my time there, no one was interested in cats, only dogs. Now this is seemingly changed as cats were there from East Germany, West Germany, Austria, Holland and, of course, from Czechoslovakia. There were 300 cats on exhibition. Only two Birmans unfortunately, one good, and one not so good. The good one was Cunga Antharis and the male which I did not consider so good was Justin von Assindia but nevertheless they both won their CACs. I am afraid I am very particular about the quality of all the Birmans I see. I see their good points and also their lesser good points, which I consider the correct way if one wants to better the breed. I was horrified at the idea of anyone wanting to cross the Birmans with the Balinese and I sincerely hope this will not take place. What does the breeder hope to achieve? The Birman is a pure breed and please all of you breeders, do keep it so. If you mix Balinese with the Birmans, all you will get is the long Siamese face which everyone wants to avoid, and the very long thin tail. Who wants this? Can anyone enlighten me? I have been asked to cross them with Himalayans and I always refuse. I want to keep the Birmans as they are, a lovely pure breed, quite different from all others. Don't all you other Birmans Breeders agree with me?
Good luck to you all, From, Elsie Fisher, Praha Birmans
These are Harriet's writings about her association with Gertrude Griswold, who is recognized as one of the leading figures in the history of the Birman breed.
Ralph and Gertrude Griswold lived in Tacoma, Washington. They were fond of birds and animals and owned some various ones. I was told that Ralph was disabled during W. War 11, but the handicap did not limit him from building a nice cattery and doing things about their comfortable place.
Gertrude from all indications was an extraordinary person; whatever, she ruled the early Sacred Cats with an iron hand. More than normal, her word was law as she found this special breed to be a great happiness. It is "handwriting on the wall" from the work that passed along after her demise Dec. 17, 1976. Gertrude was President of the International Birman Society that was founded in 1970.
During the year of 1960 Carter Townes that was in service with the government in Bottomback, Cambodia owned a female Temple Cat, a gift to him from Madam Juliette's spinster sister in Cambodia. Mr. Townes' houseboy was In Dim that owned Bok Khmer; the female's name was Schiaffia of Asia. The two men returned to the states to visit Mr. Townes' sister, the Allan family in Tacoma. The two Temple Cats did not get along with the Allan family pets so Gertrude took them for him to board. Mr. Townes had mentioned he would give the litter choice to her for a special price. The kits were born, Pkaa and Klaa Khmer and Gertrude bought the pair for $100 each. Reg. Sept. 5, 1963.
Pkaa - Seal Pt CFA (Primary Records) May 18, 1960 181-0002 PR-1 V96 (13B) Died Aug. 31, 1968 Klaa Khmer CFA (Primary Records) May 18, 1960 . 180-0002 PR-1 V96 (13B) Died 1970 The 2"' litter was born March 6, 1963 Reg Sept. 5, 1963 Sire: Bok Khmer and Schiaffa (1955 Mme. Gillet's breeding)
T'Boung CFA 181-0003 PR 1 (Female) Luong CFA 180-0003PR 1 (Male) Since Gertrude was active in cats, in a correspondence she met Dr. and Mrs. John Seipel that had imported Sacred Cats from France. Dr. Seipel was the first Sacred Cat of Burma breeder to import. They exchanged photo, pedigrees and information. He gave up breeding and allowed Cheryl Van Grundy some of his stock.
Tana White was editing a book on various breeds of cats and had made contact with Madam Poirier in France. Mrs. White relayed facts to Madam Poirier of which received the information regarding his two Temple Cats. After checking the facts, Madam Poirier (des Crespieres Cattery - France) wrote to Gertrude. She offered Korrigan and Leslie for a sum on monies and requested kittens in return for the two Sacred Cats. Korrigan arrived January 13, 1963 and Leslie was imported Feb. 11, 1963. (Note: some records mention Korrigan was 16 months and Leslie was 8 months.)
April 2, 1963 brought forth June 4, 1963 (Griswold's first kits - Martine of Clover Creek, Belyea and Lucine.
Ralph & Gertrude's imports: Gertrude fulfilled the request of the exported kittens to Madam Poirier.
Kora des Crespieres - from Madam Poirier June 26, 1964 CFA # 181-0020 - PR 1 (Chocolate Pt Prefix) LOF (Reix) 404-13A - 3 years old (April 4, 1961 birthdate) Sire: Eloi Du Clos Fleuri Dam: Eve Des Crespieres
Kora was a beautiful black longhair with white gloves. Her daughter, CH Griswold's Ondine appears as the color and characteristics of the Sacred Cat of Burma. Griswold's Andy, the littermate, was smoke color. (March 25, 1965)
Ophelia Des Crespieres import from France born July 21, 1965 sent to Gertrude Sept. 23, 1965. Trans. 3735 Reg. - France LFOF 8497 CFA # 183-0019 V101 Seal Point Female Died Feb. 1975
Dam: Martine of Clover Creek
Opale de Khlaramour born March 2, 1965 (Note: Littersister Orlamonde de Khlaramour imported to England to Elsie Fisher and Margaret Richards (Paranjoti Cattery in London). Both were blue points. Gertrude imported Opale at 2 months of age. CFA # 181-0025 V98
Sire: Iros Du Clos Fleuri LOF (Reix) # 1038-13c blue point
Dam: Lika de Khlaramour LOF (Reix) # 1061-13c blue point
Opale and Orlamonde brought forth several well marked kittens, the two breeders shipped to other countries to start show and breeding of the Sacred Cats of Burma.
Gertrude adopted the imports that Dr. & Mrs. Martin Rau had brought with them from France when Mr. Rau had returned to the States, and later retired from breeding. Dr. Rau allowed Miss Verner Clum to have the Birmans. She had 2 litters, then sold them to Gertrude for $1,500 along with Quiff that Clum bred herself.
1 . Int. CH Neko de Lao Tsun Br: Rau #182-0004 V99 Seal Point (2-25-64) Hamlet de Madalpour x Karyne
2. CH Opaz de Lao Tsun #183-0006 SP Female (8-2-65) Neko x Karyne 3. CH Opom de Lao Tsun #183-0001 V99 SP (7-29-65) Mikado Du Clos Fleuri x Mousmee Du Clos Fleuri 4. CH Pia de Lao Tsun # 183-0003 V101 SP Female Neko x Mousmee
Dr. Rau kept Mikado BR: Madam Surcell/France & Karyne D'Ormailley OW: Madam Vandaille
Korrigan was Gertrude's great love, although he was not a "people's cat" but a fantastic Sire. His lineage on many old pedigrees speaks of the rank that was equal to his beautiful kin - Hamlet de Madalpour, "Father of the French Sacred Cats"! Korrigan was a huge boy, good sturdy bone structure. Some of his photos do not give him justice - taken after siring or moulting of his coat. He had a "woolly type" coat, thick and heavy, somewhat dark regarding the "Golden Mist" over the back and sides. His baby pictures appear as a huge teddy bear, and I believe just that until the urge to populate the race of Mother Nature's calling. As Gertrude told me in that 3 hour phone call, he lived in the house until the day he forgot his manners, sending Gertrude to the hospital to have her leg dressed and bandaged. From that time on he was only a Sire living in the Cattery.
It is difficult to know how many offspring were titled since they were registered in several Cat Associations but held the honor of the first CFA Grand Champion son, Griswold's Romar of Bybee, and the third Grand Champion as a grandson, Keystone's Victor (of Jazzee) Ow: Johnston
The older Sacred Cats developed the "hood-type" of head coloring - Korrigan held the tradition along with other early imports. He was a little tall on legs but had the thick torso and elongated body. One of his outstanding characteristics was the genuine Roman Nose. As Judge Betty O'Brien mentioned, "if a Birman was stripped of its coat and coloring - one would know it was a Birman from the head type and bone structure. No other breed of cat has the resemblance" - and dear old Korrigan had it all! Today the breed reaps genetically of his stamp - "Korrigan was here!"
After the demise of Gertrude in 1976, Al & Helen Moore adopted him, hand carrying the old King to his new home in Maryland. He lived out his days peacefully and they took good care of his wants and needs where he passed away at 18 years and 2 months. October 15th . Helen called me, we both cried for we had known how much he had prospered this special race of cat.
(Korrigan's right ear was deformed from an accident, it is not a hereditary problem but during a scuffle with a difficult breeding queen. Some photos show it, others don't.)
Early in the breeding of Birmans, Gertrude had strived to keep the Birmans under control. One could adopt a female for breeding, but to breed, a notarized agreement was stipulated that the sire would have to be her selection and sale of the kittens placed under her jurisdiction regarding adoptive homes. As far as the notarized agreement of sales of kits, breeding of a female to a registered Sacred Cat of Burma sire, this was greatly sanctioned, however, the shipping of a queen to a cattery, I was against the issue due to the diseases that could be carried. We had maintained our own sires and rarely had a queen in for service, breeding Russian Blues, Siamese, Rex. Thus we desired to find a pair of Birmans to show and breed. From contact with England we had been promised a top show pair but had to be patient. After the long wait a good show pair arrived from England then we found our L'Enchante Bai and her half-sister L'Enchante Lisa. We gladly signed and notarized the stipulations of the breeder in California holding to the agreement in breeding and kitten placements. I do not agree that the Birmans should be adopted by limitations of ownership. If people agree to alter a Pet quality sale, and prove their honesty to love their pet - why should the race be controlled by certain breeders! Others felt as we had in breeding to sires, thus by 1972 there were 27 import males & females, a good gene pool for the Birman breeders to get this special breed in quality progress to the 1967 Birman Standard that had been the breeding formula from France in translation to America.
Gertrude bred and placed many beautiful Birmans. From speaking with her and exchange of a bit of correspondence, she missed little in the world of Birmans. Shows were Birmans were exhibited, she usually was able to get a catalog and since Birmans were not too plentiful, it was not difficult to follow the breeders and kitten placements for the show quality. Records were kept listing names, and several of her "protege" reported, relaying things that happened at the judging of Birman classes. She always made and filed all carbon copies of her letters that she wrote. She wasn't backwards in expressing her opinions, thus some loved her, some tolerated her advice and others did their own supervision of their Birmans showing and breeding together with sales of their kittens.
She lived within her means, but never neglected to help the Birmans if there was a need. As in breeding some placements do not work out, Gertrude would always accept the kitten back into her fold, even older cats that the adoptive parents could care for no longer.
I understand she wasn't easy to get along with, she held to her own ways, persuasive to the point - and if you didn't agree the friendship ended! A few of the early Birman folds can verify that fact, and they have told of the issues that happened over the past if their opinions were expressed that differed from Gertrude's.
She was gracious to help with information, be it friend or foe. I will stress that if any reflection of an untruth was told about a person, she would go to the limit to rectify and strive to restore the truth of enlightenment. She was serious as to her nature in dealing with people - one could feel the concern for her cats. When her health declined and she was to be hospitalized, she found homes that would care for her Birmans. She had to have oxygen and had a small portable machine, this limited her care of the many cats she possessed. Ralph helped a great deal and her neighbor Kay Heim stepped in to do many tasks such as helping to prepare the Birmans for vet calls and shipping them to new homes. Gertrude had become a lot more mellow to me, and in her last long (long!!) letter she poured her heart out, expressing some regrets and writing various things about people that we both were acquainted with in breeding and working with Birmans.
I have the most respect for her love for this special and precious breed of cat! After heartbreaks, one becomes more mellow to breeders that strive to hold the Birmans up, and I know Gertrude had acknowledged all we strived to accomplish with the Sacred Cats over past years of showing, breeding and adoptive sales of our Rindy's Haven homebred Birmans.
The good Lord bless Gertrude for all she had done for Birmans. Many would not have found the true joy and happiness but for her work tasks for this Birman
KORRIGAN DE LA REGNARDERIE (FRANCE)
Name changed to: Korrigan of Clover Creek (after importing)
Born: August 16, 1961 Seal Point Demise: October 15, 1978
Breeder: Madam Lavoinne (Thiouville, France)
Owner: Madam Elisabeth Bour - Paris, France
Exported to: (1 - 13-19 63) Ralph & Gertrude Griswold Cattery Name: "Clover Creek" until name prefix was changed to "Griswold"
Registrations: France - LO-FFF # 454-13c
America - CFA # 180-0001 - PR 3 Vol. 95, ACA - # A-3612
CFA - Registered as Chocolate Point but changed to Seal Point. Korrigan was 16 months old when imported
by Griswold. He died October 15, 1978
Sire: Ch. Int. Eloi
Dam: Ch. Int. Hebe D'Irrouada
Note: Korrigan is listed in Volume 95 of CFA Stud Book. His registration is listed under chocolate point prefix of "180" even though his coloring was changed after registration to a Seal Point color. Once a cat is registered and is credited to progeny, the registration number at the time the first litter is born cannot be changed, but is noted on his CFA records. (The change of color)