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Closer look at Orphington chickens, Part 3

Blue Black Splash Orphinton pullet, Walburga, 2009 Alaska State Fair Reserve Champion.
Blue Black Splash Orphinton pullet, Walburga, 2009 Alaska State Fair Reserve Champion.
Dorene M. Lorenz

Orpingtons have a wide chest, broad back, and a relatively small head, comb, and tail; a combination which creates gentle contours that are attractive to the eye. Soft, profuse feathering, which almost hides the legs of the bird, creates a curvy shape with a short back and U-shaped underline. A heavy bird at eight to ten pounds, its fluffy feathers make it look distinctively large.

In 1902, Cook was honored with an award of the Poultry Club Medal.  His thriving business interests included poultry farms from South Africa to America.

A New York Times article that ran on January 10, 1903, covering the New York Poultry, Pigeon and Pet Stock Association Annual Show at Madison Square Garden read:

“William Cook of Kent England, who has been very successful in the matter of prizes, spoke highly of the American judges and the American breed of poultry yesterday.  He said that the judges here were vastly superior to those who officiate in the majority of poultry shows in England, and that their awards were in every instance very satisfactory.  The Cooks, father and son, had a large number of Orfingtons on exhibition, and they won twenty-three first and seventeen second prizes for birds, and a first prize for eggs.  In two classes they were beaten by the birds shown by the Willow Brook Farm, Berlin, Conn., which was awarded first prizes for its single-comb buff Orfington pullet and cock.”

Cook arranged his great string of English Orpingtons in a clever manner at one end of the show’s big arena, and the fulsome press notices of his exhibits in the daily papers launched a real Orpington boom in the United States and Canada. 

Willett wrote that “as an advance agent, William Cook was in a class by himself; as a salesman he was a star, the prices realized by him for Orpingtons at that memorable show being exceedingly high. The purchasers were men of wealth, as a rule, who realized that aside from the fancy end, it would be a good business investment as well. A study of the comparative growth in popularity of Orpingtons…will justify the judgment of these shrewd fanciers who bought at that time.”

Orpington fever was running high when William Cook died in 1904.  Cook was sick when he returned to England, went for a brief holiday to Skegness, took ill on the day after his arrival, and died from emphysema.  He was buried with his wife in Star Lane Cemetery.

Wallace P. Willett became the editor and publisher of "The Orpington." He and Charles Vass, Dr. Paul Kyle, Frank W. Gaylor and William Davis were the early pioneers of the breed in America.




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