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Closer look at Orphington chickens, Part 2

Blue black splash Orphington pullet, Walburga, 2009 Alaska State Fair Reserve Champion.
Blue black splash Orphington pullet, Walburga, 2009 Alaska State Fair Reserve Champion.
Dorene M. Lorenz

Anchorage chicken affectionaires who want to consider a cold-hardy rare breed should consider the history of the Cook's Orphinton chickens.  There is more than the popular Buff Orphington available.

1897 saw the introduction of the introduction of the Speckled or Porcelain Orpington, which was named “Jubilee” after the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, who accepted a pen of these birds. The Buff Orpington Club was founded in 1898.  The late H M Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother was Patron of the Club and showed regularly.

Cook and his children continued breeding Orpingtons to other color variations including Blue, Mottled, Spangled, Red, Partridge, Birchen, Chocolate (Bantam only), Cuckoo, Gold Laced, Lavender, Lemon Cuckoo, and White.

Cook made a large exhibit of Black Orpingtons at the 1895 Madison Square Garden Show in New York, but they were slow to gain popularity.

In 1896, four Blacks were exhibited at New York by C. S. Williams of New Jersey. William McNeil of London, Canada entered one Black cockerel at the Boston show in 1897, and five Blacks were shown in New York, by George M. Shaw in 1898.  A careful examination of records shows no other entries at poultry exhibitions in the United States.

New Jersey’s Wallace Willett wrote that in October of 1897 Farm Poultry printed a picture of William Cook and his Black and Buff Orpingtons, along with Editor A. F. Hunter’s account of meeting Cook and touring of his Orpington poultry farm.

Hunter said that Cook's business included the shipment of 10,404 sittings of eggs in nine months. This instantly gave Willett “Orpington fever”, and he immediately took steps to import two sets of Black, Buff and White Orpington eggs from Cook.

Previous to 1898, perhaps a dozen Blacks had come to America.  Willett imported the first of Cook’s Buff and White Orpingtons into the United States, but he wasn’t the first New Jersey boy with skin in the Buff Orpington game. 

New Jersey’s Charles E. Vass imported Buff Orpingtons from another successful English breeder, and was the first to exhibit them in America at a show in Pennsylvania. Vass made two entries at Boston, and he and his neighbors made seventeen entries when Single Comb Buff Orpingtons were first exhibited at the Madison Square Garden Show in 1899. 

There were 43 entries at the New York show in 1900.  Willett made his first exhibit at Madison Square Garden, winning two firsts with his two Cook Blacks and nothing with his two Cook Buffs.

In 1901, Vass, Willett, and Doctor Paul Kyle increased their entries to nineteen single and one pen of Buffs.  Orpington fever took hold in America.  By the 1910 New York Show, 157 Single Comb Buff, 122 Single Comb Black, 134 Single Comb White, 17 Diamond Jubilee, 5 Spangled, 25 Rose Comb Buff, 13 Rose Comb Black, and 5 Rose Comb White Orpingtons were exhibited, for a total of 478 Orpingtons. 


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