I was drawn to the “Ameracauna” because of the colored eggs they lay and because of a family connection to Chile where chickens used to breed the blue egg layers originated. Tracing them is somewhat like solving a puzzle, not at all like the piece I did on the Orpingtons.
Truthfully, much of what is found in print on the breeds is at least partially myth if we are to believe archaeologists and such respected sources as the Ameracauna Breeders Club. Some sources claim the Ameracauna was created from the Araucana although there is a mere 8 years between when the breeds were officially recognized, all agreed, however, that they both descend from South America, and Chile in particular.
The debate about the evolution of this breed stems from a great deal of research to determine whether chickens are native to America or whether they were brought over with the earliest explorers. The Araucanas and Ameracaunas are not considered an ancient breed but they were created from chickens known to inhabit parts of South America by at least as early as about 1500.
Some 83 ancient chicken bones have been unearthed near the central Chilean coast (about 530 Km south of Santiago and 100 Km south of Concepcion and claims are that they have been radiocarbon dated from 1321 to 1407 AD.
Did the chickens travel from Europe to South America? “Maybe. The earliest recorded introduction of Chickens to the Americas was in 1500, when Pedro Álvares Cabral gave a single hen to a Brazilian Indian. But whether her offspring could have been carried to Argentina, where they were reported by 1515 or to Peru by 1532, when Pizarro arrived and they were already supposed ‘an integral part of Incan economy and culture,’ seems unlikely.” – Anthropologist Jim Stewart.
DNA testing suggested a Polynesian route to South America, however, most have disregarded that theory.
Jesuit Father José de Acosta wrote in 1590 that there were some hens in the Indies before the Spanish came.
The Portuguese explorer, Magellan, has been credited with describing poultry similar to Araucanas on the west coast of South America in 1519 as did the Spanish naturalist and general, Cabot, in 1526. Cabot noted the blue eggs.
Clemente Onelli (1864-1924) said, “Without any doubt the blue egg chickens originated in a region between South America Pacific and the Andes, location 37⁰ to 43⁰. Missioners and historians living from 1560 to the 17th century always stated that the Araucana Indians knew and tamed these chickens before the arrival of the European breeds.”
“Some would say that it is “America’s NEWEST breed”, emphasizing its most recent developments; but that description overlooks and would deny the long history of the bearded, muffed, tailed, blue egg layers that existed long before adoption of the ABA and APA Standards for “AMERAUCANAS”, when such birds were being raised and shown as one type of “ARAUCANA”, going back to imports from southern Chile in the 1930’s.” – Richard A. Orr, Eastern District Director, Monroe, CT. 1998.
The Araucana got its name from a poem written in 1556 by Alonso de Ercilla. He praised the Mapuche Indians for their bravery when attacked by the Spanish and the name Araucana from the title of the poem “La Araucana”, came to refer to the Mapuche. “The name derives from the Gulf of Arauco, near Concepcion, Chile”. – Orr. 1998.
Most published information indicates the Ameraucanas were bred from the Chilean Araucana, a rumpless chicken that came in various sizes, shapes, and descriptions. The one unifying factor was the laying of blue eggs. The Ameracauna Breeders Club, however, says both the Araucanas and the Ameraucanas were bred from mongrel (mixed breed) chickens. The first was recognized as a breed in 1976, and the latter in 1984.
Dr. Rueben Bustos, recognized as a chicken expert in Chile, developed a strain of chickens which he described in 1914. The breeds didn’t become well recognized outside Chile until Professor Salvador Castello, another poultry expert, photographed the chickens being exhibited in Santiago in 1914. Later the birds were described in a paper to the First World’s Poultry Congress held in the Hague in 1921.
Mr. Orr places the confusion regarding Araucanas at the feet of Prof. Castello who unknowingly said in his paper that the Araucana was a breed of chicken, but instead it was actually the outcome of several years of cross-breeding done by Dr. Bustos. Prof. Castello corrected his paper in 1924 but the damage was done as the information in his original 1921 paper had already been circulated far and wide, and remains in print and is still in circulation today.
The chickens were not called Araucana in Chile, but Gallina Mapuche. In 1924, Professor Castello established the following types of Chilean chickens, each of which probably mixed to form what we know as Aracauna and Ameracaunas:
- The common Chilean chicken, similar to ordinary European chickens, some lines laying blue eggs. The size, crest, and colour of plumage depend on the parents.
- A considerably smaller and rumpless, thus missing the tail, and more common than the other two types. They are called Collonca or They all lay blue eggs.
- The “normal” chicken with a rump/tail, tufted, and commonly called Some of these laid blue eggs.
According to the Ameraucana Breeders Club, Dr. Bustos used a “composite of breeds” to breed the original Araucana. Whether a single variety of South American chicken or a combination of breeds of South American chickens were bred to create the variety, the fact is that they all originated in South America, Chile to be precise. The contention regarding the history of the breeds seems to be a difference between muffs and tufts both of which could be found in native South American breeds.
“An Araucana chicken has ear tufts (not the same as muffs) and is rumpless, meaning it doesn’t have a tail. An Ameraucana has muffs and a tail. Both breeds have pea combs and lay blue eggs, but have just as many differences as similarities or common traits according to the Standard”. – John W. Blehm, as found in the June/July 2007 issue of Backyard Poultry.
The first American to publish a description of the Araucana was John Robinson in the “Reliable Poultry Journal” in 1923.
In Britain, the standards for the Araucana breed came from chickens that escaped after a shipwreck of a Chilean freighter in the Western Isles of Scotland, coincidentally where my ancestors are from.
Mr. Blehm said in his article that there are only two true colors of eggs – blue and white. The gene for blue egg shells is dominant over the white. He says brown eggs are really white eggs with a brown tint or coating and green eggs are really blue with a brown tint or coating. “You can tell if an egg is truly white or blue when the inside egg shell color matches the outside”.
Dissecting the gene pools of these chickens is much like separating out my own DNA. I am the sum total of generations of intermarriage and as such my make-up is unique to me, yet my children have my total DNA as well as that of their father. I am not a “pure bred” Scot although the majority of my ancestry is Scottish. I have a couple of English ancestors, but technically, aside from their political differences, Brits and Scots hail from the same island. Full-blood Native Americans like to consider people like me with some, but not all, Native American ancestry inferior, much as some like to do when arguing about the ancestry of the Araucana/Ameraucanas. They’ll point out that So and So used an Orpington or a Rhode Island Red somewhere in the cross-breeding process, much the same as I can find a couple of German and a French ancestor when I dig deep enough and dig even farther back and there are quite a few Scandinavian ancestors. None of that changes the person that I am. Granted I am not “full-blood” Scott or Native but I am true blue American.
According to the Ameraucana Breeders Club a full 99% of chicks sold in this country by commercial hatcheries are mixed breeds, or what they term mongrels. This can be traced to the original fervor for the breeds when hatcheries began crossing the Araucanas or Ameracaunas with other breeds in order to crank out blue egg laying chicks as fast as possible. Chickens that lay blue eggs but do not meet the physical traits for true Ameraucanas are often called Easter Eggers. If purchasing chickens to show, do diligent research and make sure the chicks you buy are pure and possess the necessary traits for judging, otherwise choose what you like.
For my interest, whether you call it an Ameracauna or an Easter Egger or a mongrel chicken, my chickens lay claim to a South American/Chilean blood line and lay blue eggs. I don’t really care to dissect their DNA further than that.
The Ameracauna/Easter Egger has a tail, is muffed and bearded, has a pea comb and white skin. Wattles are small or absent. Earlobes, comb, and wattles are red. The shanks are slate-blue color which is closer to black in the dark or black color of the chicken. They begin laying when 5 or 6 months old and lay somewhere around 250 eggs annually in shades of blue.
Those in my flock have legs and feet that are a dark bluish-green-black color. My first three are muffed and are the lovely blue wheaten color as shown on the Ameracauna Breeder’s Club photo page. It is too soon to tell what the four chicks that hatched just a few days ago (from eggs of a different source) are going to look like except that they will be darker in color with more markings on the wings.
For clarity’s sake: A muff is usually associated with a beard – they are tufts of feathers sticking out from the chicken’s cheeks. Beards are feathers that stick out underneath the chicken’s beak. Think of them as chicken whiskers.
Recognized colors for true Ameraucanas include black, blue, blue wheaten, brown red, silver, wheaten, and white.
Prof. Salvador Castelló Carreras (photo above) was born 21 Aug., 1863 at Arenys De Mar, Spain. He studied Natural History at the University of Barcelona and Agriculture at Madrid and Gembloux, Belgium. He started a Poultry Breeding School in Spain and the title “Royal” was bestowed on it by His Majesty, King of Spain. The government granted it an annual subsidy and it was dubbed the Official Government-Institution. In 1914 when he photographed the chickens of Dr. Bustos, he was teaching in Chili and the Argentine. He created the first National Poultry Society in Spain in 1897. He planned an agricultural show at Madrid in 1902.
Dr. Rueben Bustos, a veterinarian of the Army of Chile, claimed to have encountered the chickens while a Chilean military officer in the jungles of Araucania, during the Pacific War (1879-1883). He stated he encountered chickens without tails and when he asked about them the chief explained that foxes grabbed chickens by the tail and if the chicken had no tail it could more easily escape. In his writings, Bustos said he lived for 10 months in Chile and knew the chickens throughout Chile and Santiago.
Clemente Onelli (photo below) was the Director of the Buenos Aires Zoo from 1904 to 1924. In a letter written by Senõr José Cantilo, Onelli was referred to as the founder and director of the Zoological Gardens. “This wonderful garden has been the life-work of Senõr Onelli, and to him the people of Buenos Aires owe an inestimable debt of gratitude.” He edited the zoo’s Journal in which he contributed 64 articles on animal behavior between 1905 and 1922. He worked as a border surveyor before accepting the position at the zoo.
See: Browman, David L. “Advances in Andean Archaeology”. 1978.
Jones, Storey, Matisoo-Smith, Ramirez-Aliaga. “Polynesians in America: Pre-Columbian Contacts with the New World. 2011.
Martin, Franklin Henry. “South America from a Surgeon’s Point of View”. 1922.
Storey, A. A., et al. “Radiocarbon and DNA evidence for a pre-Columbian Introduction of Polynesian Chickens to Chile”. Ntl. Academy of Sciences, USA.
“Honey is the pure, sweet nectar of flowers, gathered by the bees, and stored in hives, where a chemical change and the evaporation of excess water transforms it into a clear, flavor honey”. That definition from 1865 is pretty straight-forward, yet for the last several decades delineating between “honey” and “honey product” hasn’t been so clear.
Honey was being adulterated with foreign substances as early as the mid-19th century, most commonly with glucose, inverted sugar, or cane sugar. Adulterants were less expensive than honey and an unscrupulous dealer could increase profits by replacing a portion of pure honey with these substances.
While we wouldn’t want to pay for syrup sold as honey, syrup is probably one of the more innocuous adulterants. By the 1880’s studies documented the use of such items as gypsum, chalk, pipe clay, and starch in addition to the above additives. In 1855, Hassal included honey in his list of adulterated foods, something Accum had not done in 1820.
Hoskins published the first book on adulterants in the U.S. in 1861 and stated that hardly any honey on the market did not contain sweetened syrup or other matter.
With honey, the old adage, “you get what you pay for”, may be all too true as cheaper brands of honey may be honey blended with sugar or corn syrup and foods that list honey in the ingredients may contain this same diluted honey, if any at all.
Much of the diluted honey is produced in China where they add rice syrup or tapioca syrup as filler. Dan Whitney, a honey producer and president of the nonprofit Minnesota Honey Producers Association, says that by cutting the honey with syrup importers avoid import duties and the diluted honey is then sold to consumers under the name “honey” or used in processed foods.
Whitney further said that because of laxity in the label wording the only way to know one was getting 100% pure honey is to purchase it from a local producer. Solidifying that statement, a study by the Food Safety News declared that 75% of honey sold in the U.S. is not pure honey.
That study also pointed out that most honey sold in markets has been ultra processed to remove all trace of pollen after which it is no longer technically honey. No pollen, no honey. Samples used in that study were found to contain strong antibiotics and heavy metals, neither of which we want to consume.
Honey from China imported by a California company who sold it to a raw material supplier who then stored it in a warehouse in Philadelphia was confiscated by federal marshals, analyzed, and found to contain chloramphenicol, an antibiotic not allowed in food.
In an operation known as “honey laundering”, Chinese companies ship their tainted honey to another country where it is put into different barrels to disguise it and then imported into the U.S. in order to flood the U.S. market with antibiotic-laden honey product and ultra-refined honey.
Not readily apparent to most of us, is the fact that removing the pollen makes it impossible to identify the source of the honey, and honey of unknown location may be better received in the U.S. than honey from China where these adulterations are known to be common. “Honey laundering” is beginning to look a little more sinister. One can almost envision a masked man shielding a honey bear container full of honey under a heavy dark cloak when reading about the covert actions taken to disguise the Chinese honey product on our market shelves.
Besides the obvious, one must note that the perceived health benefits of pure raw honey are reduced drastically in honey laced with fillers, and in heat treated pasteurized or ultra-refined honey.
Countless reports indicate the FDA has known about these issues for some years but it wasn’t until some legislators took up the crusade to better define “honey”, and get it labeled appropriately that any action was taken. It is sad to find forums online where consumers are questioning whether store-bought honey is 100% honey and nothing else and see how many people trust the labels on products that are not what they seem.
Some of the brands known to contain adulterants are listed on the Food Safety News website.
Brands that were tested and were NOT honey include:
American Choice Clover Honey
Archer Farms Orange Blossom Honey
Archer Farms Organic Classic Honey
Busy Bee Organic Honey
Busy Bee Pure Clover Honey
Fred Meyer Clover Honey
Full Circle Pure Honey
Giant Eagle Clover Honey
GE Clover Honey
Great Value Clover Honey
Haggen Honey, Natural & Pure
HT Traders Tupelo Honey
Kroger Pure Clover Honey
Market Pantry Pure Honey
Mel-o 100% Pure Honey
Natural Sue Bee Clover Honey
Naturally Preferred Fireweed Honey
Rite Aid Honey
Safeway Clover Honey
Silver Bow Pure Honey
Stop and Shop Clover Honey
Sue Bee Clover Honey
Thrifty Bee Honey
Walgreen MEL-O Honey
Western Family Clover Honey
Wegman Clover Honey
Winnie the Pooh, Pure Clover
I ask you, would you rather trust a local bee keeper to give you 100% pure honey or buy one of the above products knowing it is not what it is advertised and labeled to be? I agree with the Indiana Board of Agriculture when they said, “Every adulteration of honey is not only a fraud upon the purchaser, but is down right robbery of the honey growers”.
This may be considered a followup to yesterday’s post on Orpington chickens. It will chronicle the lives of the creator and of his children who carried on the business after his death.
All agree that William Cook created the Orpington breed of chickens, first the black, then the buff, but the waters are somewhat muddied regarding the creation of subsequent breeds like the Cuckoo. With that in mind, let’s look at the Cook family and see what part each member played in Wm. Cook & Sons.
An article in the Northern Advocate , on Jan. 26, 1901 discussed a local man who had ordered Orpington chickens and ducks from William Cook & Sons of Orpington House, St. Mary Cray, Kent, whom the writer referred to as one of the greatest poultry breeders in England, if not the world. “He exports hundreds of birds every year to all parts of the Empire, and on a recent trip which he made to Australia he brought out no less than two hundred thoroughbred fowls. It was on his farm of 3000 acres in Kent where he keeps no less than 8,000 birds that the now famous breeds of Orpingtons were produced, taking their name from his house and farm. Mr. Cook is among that unfortunately small number of breeders who believe in breeding for utility more than for ‘show points’. Before the Orpingtons were introduced, it was thought to be well nigh impossible to combine in one fowl all the best qualities of the table and laying varieties. But Mr. Cook by judicious selection and crossing at last succeeded, and all those who keep fowls for profit owe him a debt of gratitude.”
William Cook was born in 1849 in St. Neots, Huntingdon, England. He began working as a carriage driver at age 14. One account said he was breeding poultry by 1869 and established a poultry business at St. Mary Cray, near the town of Orpington, Kent, England in 1886. If those dates are correct, then he spent several years raising and cross-breeding chickens before making a career of it. His son said in an interview, years later that his father spent 10 years developing the first Orpington chicken which means he would have started work in developing them around 1876 which probably leaves about 7 years for the transition from beginning to professional. An article on Orpingtons said William Cook spent 15 years breeding and perfecting the first Orpington.
He began publication of a magazine in 1886. He was a keen businessman who promoted his poultry with tours, lectures, and the magazine which he edited and also contributed articles to. He called it, William Cook’s Poultry Journal. The title was later changed to William Cook & Sons’ Poultry Journal. The journal was filled with ads for Cook’s poultry – namely the Orpington chickens and Orpington ducks.
The blue duck (1896) was the first of the Orpington ducks followed by the buff (1897). They are good layers and quick-growing meat ducks. Apparently they were first shown in the U.S. in 1908, and were admitted to the American Standard of Perfection in 1914. Like Orpington chickens, Orpington ducks are a dual-purpose breed.
William Cook & Sons created a bird hospital and sold medicines, vitamins, and feed for poultry. There were Cook’s Poultry Powders, Cook’s Roup Powders, Cook’s Improved Insect Powder, Ointment for Destroying Nits on Fowls, W. Cook’s Fattening Powders, Poultry houses, sitting coops, drinking fountains and corn bins, W. Cook’s book, The Poultry Keeper’s Account Book, W. Cook’s Flint Grit, etc. Between selling poultry and selling all the products needed to keep them they had quite a monopoly going.
William Cook was also a horse breeder and developed products for horses such as W. Cook’s Horse Powders.
Percy Cook was using peat moss brought over from England on the floor of his chicken houses because it absorbed odors, it could be stirred occasionally so it continued to absorb the droppings, and when it was changed, the material was used as fertilizer.
All of Cook’s children had a hand in running the business at one time or another. There were Elizabeth Jane, the oldest; William Henry, the oldest son; sons Messrs. Albert Lockley and Percy A. Cook; and a young daughter, Lily, who married Arthur C. Gilbert. No indication was found that Lily took part in the business, but her husband did.
Elizabeth Jane married R. Wakeman Clarke. She was forward-thinking in many ways, such as being the first to ship poultry via airplane. Accounts credit her with having created the Cuckoo Orpington although other accounts gave that honor to her brother-in-law, A. C. Gilbert.
Elizabeth Jane ran the poultry yard when her father was away on business or in seclusion writing and became quite talented in raising poultry. After her father died she managed the firm.
William Cook wrote in 1901 that the Orpington ducks were being marketed under a different name by a different party. He named no names, but his children would not always be as discreet. He could have meant Mrs. A. Campbell who is credited with having created the Khaki Campbells, Miss N. Edwards who bred a fawn colored duck, or he most likely meant his eldest son, William Henry Cook, who by that time had left the firm and gone out on his own. It has been written that the family squabbles stemmed from William Cook having lent William Henry money to buy his home, Elm Cottage, which was not paid back in a timely manner. Some accounts claim he did eventually repay the debt hoping to share in the inheritance, but there is no indication he received anything.
Tragedy struck June 25, 1903 and took the life of William Cook’s wife, Jane. She accompanied her son, William Henry, and daughter-in-law, Catherine, on a visit to Lily and A. C. Gilbert’s home. Afterward, she went with them to the property owned by William Henry and Catherine which was undergoing restoration. Noticing a gas chandelier that was lowered, William Henry raised it, when the flame set off an explosion that destroyed the house and rattled the nearby neighborhood. Jane’s death was recorded in The Express July 3, 1903. William’s death was reported by Feathered Life on July 6, 1904. Both are buried at St. Mary Cray Cemetery, Greater London, England.
William Henry first carried out his wife and went back inside to rescue his mother. All three suffered serious burns, with Jane’s being the worst. She died the next day. William Cook died almost one year later of emphysema at age 55. In William’s obituary it was noted that all his children (Elizabeth Jane was now the wife of R. W. Clarke) and Lily’s husband, A. C. Gilbert, would be running the business. Mr. W. H. Cook was said to have relinquished his connection prior to his father’s death. Elizabeth Jane then bought out her other two brothers’ and her sister’s interest in the English branch of the business.
William Henry was called, “Poultry Farmer of the Model Farm” in documents related to his father’s estate. When William Henry advertised his poultry claiming that as the eldest son he had managed his father’s concern until 1903, his sister, Elizabeth Jane, did some advertising of her own claiming her brother had no ties to William Cook & Sons and that anyone who wished to correspond with the business should address their requests to Orpington House where she would receive it.
One of those ads in the International Poultry Book noted William Cook & Sons, originators of all the Orpingtons, had been in business upwards of half a century. “The Original Cook Strains are only obtainable from their one address in England, St. Mary Cray, Kent. They have NO BRANCHES ANYWHERE and no connection whatever with anyone else of same name”. – Woodard, George. Victoria Australia. 1913.
That wasn’t exactly true as her brother, Percy, was operating in New Jersey, USA, and brother Albert operated another branch in South Africa, but Elizabeth Jane’s admonishment was probably never seen outside England in which case it would have had no effect on either of the brothers.
William Cook and Sons became an international entity, operating simultaneously in England, South Africa, and the U.S , each under the care of a different child of William and Jane Cook. “The first foreign plant was started at Sydney, in Australia. After this got under way and a manager placed in charge, another plant was started in England by P. A. Cook, called the St. Leonard’s Poultry Farm. This was sold at a good profit after running for seven months. Then after one month Mr. Cook started for South Africa with eight hundred birds.
The first plant started in South Africa was near Durban in Natal, a beautiful spot. Then a manager was left in charge there and a hurried trip was made to England and from there to the show at Madison Square in New York. Mr. Cook and his father visited this show and won 23 firsts out of 25, then on to Boston and Chicago. They brought 108 birds and sold 107. This was in 1902, and since then they made the raising of Orpingtons worth while in the United States.
Mr. Cook reports that people told them that it would be impossible to sell a bird for more than $50. They said nothing but thought the more, and by the end of the week all their best birds were sold for $200 each, and breeders were looking for more.
After the shows in America, Mr. Cook sailed for England then to Belgium and France to some shows, and back to South Africa, where he started another farm at Johannesburg, having a town office in that town, and the farm eighteen miles out at Misgund, a ride on horseback of thirty-six miles every day. There Mr. Cook demonstrated that an egg will stand more rough usage than was thought possible and still hatch. He tied a box of thirteen eggs on my back, and rode thirty-six miles each day for two weeks, and jumped everything in the way, then set the eggs under a hen and hatched and raised ten good chicks”.
That article said Cook had shown birds and lectured in South Central and Northern Africa, Tasmania, India, Ceylon, New Zealand, South America, Bermuda, Russia, Spain, and Austria.
“It was in 1904 that he came to this country to live [U.S.], and he has never regretted it, and has succeeded in building up one of the largest poultry businesses in the world”. It was in 1904 that Percy’s father died. – Poultry Success. Dec. 1916.
Percy Alexander Cook was born in 1882 and was involved in poultry raising by the time he was seven years old. He married the very wealthy Beatrice M. Davidson on Jan. 2, 1915, the ceremony taking place at the home of the bride’s mother, Mrs. Anna F. Davidson in Saratoga, NY. Beatrice was 34 years old when the couple married. The couple honeymooned in Bermuda and Florida.
Beatrice Cook and her mother were well placed financially in the motor car industry prior to her marriage with Percy which meant they were a very wealthy couple. Margaret E. Knight and Anna Davidson, of Saratoga Springs, received credit for a patent on a “resilient wheel” in 1910. Anna and Beatrice were listed as Corporators for K-D Motor Co. with $100,000 capital to manufacture motors the same year.
“The Knight-Davidson [K-D] Motor Co. was formed with three women, namely, the inventor of the motor, Margaret E. Knight of South Farmington, Mass; Anna E. Davidson and Beatrice M. Davidson, both of 259 Union Avenue, Saratoga Springs, NY.” For three women to form a company with that much working capital in 1912, was unheard of. They were certainly ahead of their time.
These ladies were related, however the exact nature of their kinship is not known. Over the course of 45 years Knight was granted 22 patents. Her first was for a machine that manufactured “satchel-bottomed” paper bags [modern grocery bag], her last for improvements in the internal combustion engine in 1915. Knight was awarded the Decoration of the Royal Legion of Honour by Queen Victoria in 1871.
The K-D Motor Co. produced an automobile with the little known K-D engine invented by Knight and Anna Davidson. It was a five passenger touring car and it sold for $6,000.
An obituary in The Westfield Leader [NJ] on November 20, 1958 for Mrs. Percy Cook says she died Monday, Nov. 10 at Cook Island, Summerland Key, Fla. She was “of the Cook Bird Farm, Route 22. She was the wife of Capt. Percy A. Cook, noted sea explorer and retired officer of the British and U.S. navies”. She was buried in Key West, FL. As an author I am reluctant to pass along information without being certain of the facts, in this case I am not certain this refers to the Percy Cook of Wm. Cook & Sons, but it certainly does seem to. The obituary appeared in a New Jersey newspaper where the Cooks were known to live, it references Cook bird farm, and it is true that Percy Cook, son of William, served in the British and American navies, having achieved at least the rank of Lieutenant. The reader will decide whether or not the obituary applies. No obituary was found for Percy as of this writing.
In 1909, Percy Cook attended the Crystal Palace Show after which he brought home to New Jersey 250 Orpingtons, several of which had won first prizes at the show. [This may have been the same year his father exhibited poultry at that facility.] In 1914, he was elected Vice President of the American White Orpington Club and served on the Executive Committee. – American Poultry Advocate. April 1914. – Poultry Journal. April 1909.
After William Cook showed Orpingtons in Boston, New York, Chicago, etc. demand was high and Percy opened the breeding yard at Scotch Plains, N. J., also named Wm. Cook & Sons, to help fill orders for chicks and eggs. “Every one of the old school remembers Peggy the Kellerstrass White Orpington hen valued at $10,000., a 99 score fowl. The many eggs laid by that hen and her prodigy sold at $5 an egg”.
“About 1,500 fowls, including all the varieties of Orpingtons are kept constantly on hand and fresh pedigreed birds are imported from England at the rate of four to six hundred a month. Thus purchasers are sure of stock directly imported from the offspring of the original flock or from birds raised in America from the same stock; the same may be said of the eggs. A careful record is kept of every bird sold so that if a buyer wishes unrelated fowls for the sake of new blood they can always be furnished to him. All fowls coming from the Wm. Cook & Sons Farms are guaranteed to be in good condition.” – Country Life in America. March 1905.
American Poultry Journal called William Cook & Sons the, “well-known originators of all the Orpingtons”. They voiced the opinion that Scotch Plains would have been better called Cookstown, “as nearly everything belongs to them anyway”. Their record was over 12,000 first prizes won in the U.S. shows and the exhibition at the Crystal Palace in England. – June 1910.
“Cook’s Farm”, operated by Percy Cook was once owned by Wesley Roll, a local farmer. It sat on the, “old Springfield Road”, between Springfield and Scotch Plains, NJ. The Roll home was torn down prior to 1855 when Wesley Roll died. Ownership of the property passed to at least one other party who then sold it to Percy Cook about 1904. – Franz, R. J. The Roll Family Windmill: Genealoty of the Roll Family. 1977. http://homepages.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~windmill/html/letter.html
“During the World War Percy joined the forces of the United States in Uncle Sam’s uniform, and the plant at Scotch Plains discontinued furnishing stock, but under a skillful poultryman the breeding stock was kept up and increased in order to take care of the demand after the war. I had a long talk with Mr. Cook a short time ago and he told me he was proud to say that his stock is better than ever and the stock and eggs he will sell will sure make his customers happy. Besides being the originator and breeder of Orpingtons, Mr. Cook breeds most every kind of water fowl and ornamental bird. He is also a lover of animals even to lions. One large African lion used to be chained like a huge dog on the front lawn. Instead of a flivver [car] Percy Cook rides in an airplane.” – Poultry Success. June 1921.
The ornamental fowl shown by William Cook & Sons, Scotch Plaines, NJ in Atlantic City included: cranes from Austria, India, and Madagascar; white and gray Java Sparrows; Cut-throat and assorted Finches; Austrian Paraquets; talking Beebee Parrots; Brazilian Cardinals, Canaries, and the Dove with the bleeding heart. Besides, they showed Buff Orpington Ducks from England; Cayuga Ducks from East Indies; Mallard, Pin Tail and White Call Ducks from America; Rouen Ducks from France; Famosa Teal Ducks from East Indies; Chinese Mandarin Ducks from China; Tree Ducks from Japan; and a White Trumpeter Swan from America. He also showed Black, Buff, and Blue Orpington chickens. – American Poultry Advocate. Sept. 1913.
Many of the land birds were killed or scattered when a storm blew away the aviary in which they were housed. There were twelve species of cranes, “some costing up to $200 each”, many pheasants and other birds. “Up to the present all the cranes, peafowl, and storks have been caught, and a number of the pheasants but some three dozen are still at liberty but around the place, they will now be left to roam around the gardens and make rather a pretty sight…The damage done amounted to about $2,000 but no part of the poultry plant suffered.” Percy had won 170 first and 106 second prizes during the year 1913 alone.
Percy sold various birds other than chickens and ducks from the New Jersey plant which incidentally was referred to as the largest in America. “Wm. Cook & Sons also breed a fine line of ornamental land and water fowls that they offer at reasonable prices.”
Something happened just prior to 1913 that caused a reduction in orders for chickens, not just from the Cook’s, but nationwide. What exactly caused the “nationwide panic…which has affected the demand for all varieties of poultry more or less”, is not yet known, but Percy Cook said in an interview with Poultry Success that Wm. Cook & Sons was seeing a renewed interest in Orpingtons and an increase in orders. Perhaps the panic was WWI (1914-1918), but it seems a little odd that economic recovery would come during the war. – Dec. 1916.
William’s son, Albert Loxley Cook, established and managed a branch of the business in South Africa and the Orpington club of South Africa still exists today.
Arthur C. Gilbert, Cook’s son-in-law, continued to show Orpingtons after William Cook died, exhibiting birds in a show at Madison Square Garden in Feb. 1905 for which he took several prizes and was still showing blue Orpingtons in Madison Square Garden in April 1918. He was almost certainly living in the U.S. at that time as the American Poultry Journal noted that “A. C. Gilbert, who for a number of years was manager of William Cook & Sons plant in England, has accepted the position of assistant manager of the American plant. P. A. [Percy] Cook is still active manager and will continue to personally attend to the selection of all orders. Both Mr. Cook and Mr. Gilbert are well known in Orpington circles”.
William Henry Cook moved his business to Orpington where he seems to have had great success, enjoying, in addition to his mail orders, increased chance sales at his farm from passengers arriving or departing from the train station as his farm sat within sight of the station and the name Cook was easily recognized by everyone interested in poultry. William Henry Cook operated his business until he retired at age 75 in 1949. He died the next year in London.
His sister, Elizabeth Jane, produced two editions of her father’s book, “The Practical Poultry Breeder and Feeder”. She managed William Cook & Sons until 1936 when the company may have gone bankrupt. She died in 1947 at home in Orpington House. Some accounts say she died of a massive stroke, another says she was attacked and may have died of injuries afterward. Her actual cause of death remains unknown.
Copyright 2014, Victoria Rumble
See: Thompson, J. M. “The Orpington Ducks”,
American Livestock Breeds Conservancy
Show Poultry of South Africa
Nielson, Bent. “The Story of Orpington”. Translated online.
The Poultry Item. April 1918.
Ohio Farmer. Aug. 12, 1916
The Westfield Leader [NJ] on November 20, 1958
Poultry Success. Feb. 1916.
Poultry. April 1906
Poultry Success. March 1916.
Official Gazette of the U.S. Patent Office. 1912.
Motor World. June 27, 1912. NY.
Automobile Topics. June 29, 1912.
Khan, B. Zorina. The Democratization of Invention. 2005. NY.
1901 England census
Non-commercial chicken enthusiasts often don’t want to, or can’t, keep large numbers of chickens but want to get meat and eggs from their efforts, thus enters the dual-purpose breeds. Dual-purpose chickens are good layers and also produce tender delicious flesh for the table. The down side is they don’t grow as quickly as assembly line chickens but the quality over-compensates for the extra time to reach maturity. The four most prominent all-purpose breeds of poultry in America were the Plymouth Rocks, Rhode Island Reds, Wyandottes, and Orpingtons.
In 1890/91, Mr. William Cook exhibited the first Orpingtons shown in America under the guidance of the Massachusetts Poultry Assoc. After Mr. Cook died, his son said it took Mr. Cook 10 years to create the Orpington breed. The first variety was the single comb black. The Buff Orpington single comb followed shown in 1899 in Madison Square Garden.
Mr. William Cook was both a well informed and talented breeder and a phenomenal businessman. Through the late 19th and mid-20th centuries the Orpingtons were an outstanding success and for many they are still the breed of choice.
[William Cook, Creator of the Orpingtons]
In 1912, Thomas McGrew said, “The first Buff Orpington fowls were made by William Cook, of Orpington County, Kent, England,  who set out to produce the best all-purpose breed by crossing, “Minorca cocks with Black Plymouth Rock hens, then clean-leg Langshan cocks were bred to the above hens”. Another account says Golden Spangled Hamburgs and Buff Cochins were crossed and then those offspring were bred to dark or colored Dorkings. Those offspring were then bred to Buff Cochins and thus was born the Buff Orpington.
“When Mr. Cook decided to give to the world the Orpington fowl he did a service to the poultry fraternity that never can be repaid. It consisted in furnishing us with one of the best and most popular varieties of fowls that has ever been dreamed of. They surely can be termed the sporting and utility variety as there is no better variety for family use, or one that gives the poultryman more genuine pleasure to produce and exhibit.” – The article noted that Wm. Cook & Sons had taken over 13,000 first place prizes, not counting any of the others for 2nd or 3rd place. “Suffice it to state that they have won at all the largest and most important shows in America from one end to the other.” – The Poultry Item. Jan. and April 1914.
One of the goals in breeding them was to get a white-skinned dual-purpose breed for the English market. Americans usually preferred yellow-skin, but the English had a different preference. Mr. Cook compared his Orpingtons to turkeys in flavor and in the color of the meat
Mr. Cook, proprietor of William Cook & Sons, showed two of his Orpingtons at the Crystal Palace, after which he received orders for birds he could not fill because he only had the stock birds he was using as breeders. Sometime later he did sell two hundred sittings of eggs and in 1887 they were acknowledged as a pure breed. A club was established that year to promote the breed. [The Crystal Palace was built in 1851 and stood until it was destroyed by fire in 1936 so it is difficult to attach a date to Mr. Cook’s presentation.]
The marketing strategy for pure Buff Orpingtons worked so well it was impossible to keep up with the demand and some unscrupulous poultry yards began to cash in on Mr. Cook’s success by selling chicks as Buff Orpingtons which were just the offspring of Buff Cochins and Dorkings. One English breeder said up to 75% of chicks sold as Buff Orpingtons were not. “Anything bearing the name Buff Orpington was saleable, or as a Lincolnshire breeder wrote us, ‘If I call my birds Lincolnshire Buff, I cannot get more than 4 s. each for them; if I call them Buff Orpingtons, they readily sell at 10 s. each’”. There is little wonder that advertisements for Cook & Sons promised pure bred chickens from the original strain.
Cook’s second variety was the, buff followed by white, Jubilee (speckled) and Spangled (mottled). It is difficult to tell who actually created the blue. Some accounts say Cook’s son-in-law, Arthur C. Gilbert, should receive credit, some sources give credit to Mr. Cook’s daughter, Elizabeth Jane Cook Clarke.
Elizabeth Jane has also been credited with having bred the first Cuckoo in 1907.
The Jubilee Orpington was named for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee (a commemoration of the queen’s 60 years on the throne). Mr. Cook was able to present some Jubilee Orpingtons to Queen Victoria during the Diamond Jubilee in 1897.
Most people couldn’t tell any real difference in productivity or flavor between one color and another. Mr. Cook created the many colors so that growers might choose a color that appealed to them.
“The Orpingtons have made a reputation for themselves as the best winter egg producers we have, and the reputation is increasing by leaps and bounds, because the fowls live up to expectations when given half a show.
The chicks are hardy, quick growers and until they begin to run to leg are always ready to sell for broilers or fryers. As roasters they are world beaters and the most remarkable feature of the Orpington hen is, that it continues to pay its board until six or seven years old. At three years old they are in their prime and will lay quite as many eggs as in the first year if kept from putting on fat. This can be done with exercise and correct feeding”.
Orpingtons lay somewhere around 200 light brown eggs per year on average, and continue to lay through winter. They will go broody and are good mothers.
The Black Australorp was bred from the original Black Orpingtons as created by Cook. It was produced in an effort to tailor the Orpington for South African commercial production.
William Cook also bred dual-purpose Orpington ducks in several colors. The duck is considered “threatened” by the American Livestock Breeds Conservancy. The breed was recognized in England in 1910 and in America in 1914.
See: Drevenstedt, John Henry. “Standard-bred Orpingtons, Black, Buff and White. 1911. Quincy, IL.
Wheeler, Arthur Stanley. “Profitable breeds of Poultry”. 1912. London.
Swaysgood, Susan. “California Poultry Practice”. 1915. San Francisco.
Basley, A. “Western Poultry Book. 1912.
Bourbon Red turkeys originated in Bourbon County, KY, probably a cross between the wild turkeys found in mountainous areas and white domestic turkeys. The American Standard of Perfection accepts Bourbon Co., KY as their home and indicated they descended from the wild yellow turkey. They found their way into the Ohio and then to other areas, and were admitted to the American Standard in 1910.
There are naturally a few contradictory accounts regarding the origins of this majestic bird. One school of thought says they were bred in Pennsylvania where it descended from the Tuscarora red and Buffs. That source says from Pennsylvania they were taken to Kentucky where the color was enhanced. With either story, the bird as we know it seems to have come from Kentucky.
Breeders claimed the bourbon reds were more disease-resistant than other breeds, some of which were susceptible to blackhead.
Reds have pin feathers that, “did not show as plainly as darker colored birds, being nearly the color of the skin”, and poults are larger when hatched and also more disease resistant. One breeder said the hens layed larger clutches of eggs, up to as many as 30, they were great rangers, always returning at night. “They are well feathered, and endure the cold winters without shelter. They make fine market birds, having plump, yellow-skinned carcasses…”. The breeder went on to say that if there was a plentiful supply of grasshoppers and other insects, berries, etc. they required no feeding at all. They do certainly enjoy a juicy grasshopper or cricket.
Bourbon reds were described in the Standard of Perfection as being “deep brownish-red” with the head being rich red changeable to bluish white”. The throat wattle is “rich red changeable to bluish white”. The wing bows are “deep brownish red; primaries and secondaries white.” The tail is white. Shanks and toes are reddish-pink. When the males drop their wings the white feathers stand out against the deep cinnamon color giving them a rather striking appearance.
The reds don’t mature as fast as the assembly-line white broad-breasted, so the breed probably wouldn’t be a good first choice if the goal is to get them to weight as fast as possible for market.
Those who appreciate the beauty and the personal characteristics of heritage breeds might look a little closer. A true heritage breed is defined as one that reproduces naturally and grows slowly feeding on its own in the outdoors. Mine meet those requirements although I do keep them in a movable enclosure to keep my girls from flying off to join their wild counterparts and to protect them from preditors. Their pen can easily be moved to allow them access to tender fresh clean grass.
Toms top out at about 23 lbs., hens at around 12, down somewhat from 100 years ago when the toms often reached 30 lbs. Reds are on a “watch” list meaning that while they aren’t common enough to become lost in the shuffle, they aren’t critically endangered either, and I like being able to keep this fine old breed going.
My turkeys like scratch feed, bugs, and greens or grass. They aren’t as fond of cracked corn as the scratch though I sometimes mix extra corn into the scratch. I’ve planted a patch of greens primarily for them, but I do hope to gather a few for myself as well. I add 1 to 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to each gallon of water for them to promote good health through probiotics.
My tom is heavier than his ladies and doesn’t fly as well, but he can get himself hoisted onto the roosting pole in the enclosure at night. My plan is to replace him with a younger, perhaps more virile, fellow within the next year or two and retire the present laird after which he will have free run of the place to do as he will.
Sources: “The Country Life”. Vol. 23. Nov. 1912.
McGrew, Thomas Fletcher. “The Book of Poultry”. 1921.
“The American Standard of Perfection”. 1910.
Last week I started a blog for GRIT magazine called “Letters from Alabama” and I wanted to share that with my readers. Some of the content will be similar to TheHistoricFoodie, some will be different posts all together. “GRIT”(rural know how) and “Cappers” magazines appeal to an audience who aspire to be self-sufficient, productive, and keepers of the land. Each can be found online for more information.
Next week’s post on Letters from Alabama will explain where the name came from and why.
An article I wrote on saffron was published in this month’s “Early American Life” magazine. I learned a great deal researching that one and perhaps others will be interested in growing and using it.
Everyone have a great weekend. I appreciate your interest and enjoy the positive comments left from readers. – THF
The idea for today’s post came from the book, “Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South”, by Grady McWhiney. In the chapter on herding, he discusses driving free-range hogs to market saying, “Throughout the antebellum period Southerners drove enormous herds of livestock over long distances to market. Thousands of swine went east, north, and south each year along established routes.” He went on to share numbers showing more hogs were herded between 1866 and 1880 than cattle.
In 1820, Winchester, Virginia passed an act to the effect that citizens within the town could not keep hogs and let them go at will because doing so tended to spoil the water for human consumption. The act, however, did not limit a non-resident from driving his hogs through the town in order to get them to market, to butcher them, or to drive them from one plantation to another. – March 1st, 1761.
Just what was it like herding hogs? “The hog is one of the most difficult and unsatisfactory animals to drive and particularly so if an effort is made to force the animal or animals in question. On the other hand, hogs are very easy animals to lead if they are trained to it, and the best way to train them is to get them in the habit of following a man with some feed, which feed they get after they have followed him a certain distance.” This is an excellent example of how a thing was not hard to accomplish when one knew how, but in later years when the knowledge was lost tended to seem very difficult.
How many head could be driven at a time? For the answer to that we look at an account from an old retired farmer in Missouri. He noted seeing 2,000 hogs pass through Columbia on the way to St. Louis. They were divided into, “lots of convenient size. The drovers had long whips which they cracked as they went along”. Cracking the whips was accepted, but striking the hogs with the whip was not as it bruised the meat.
The gentleman claimed that ten miles per day was about the most that could be covered and except for the man in charge the drovers walked along with the herd. The man on horseback was responsible for riding ahead to procure corn to feed the hogs when stopped for the night.
Indeed, farmers often profited from the sale of corn to the hog drovers along established routes. Some farmers planted large fields of corn for this purpose and rode several miles out to meet with the drovers to negotiate the price of said corn. “It is said that the soil of Teay’s valley [W. VA] was worn out by continued cultivation of corn to supply the demand of hog traffic”.
“It was generally the depth of winter during the hog-driving season”, and the drovers found lodgings at a tavern or a farmhouse, most having a room set aside for the use of such persons. When the rivers were frozen hard enough the hogs were marched across at other times they were ferried across.
“The present generation is little aware of the long distances which hogs used to travel during the thirties and forties of last century [1830-40]”, up to the use of the railroads. The railroads eliminated the need to drive large herds but did not bring about an instant end to hog driving because small farmers who could not afford to ship by rail had no choice but to continue to drive their hogs to market.
The books of a Kentucky man were examined and quoted in a book published in 1838 showing the number of animals that had passed his door headed South in 1835. There were 4,716 horses, 1,951 mules, 2,485 beeves, 2,887 shoats, 1,320 sheep, and 69,187 hogs.
As one would expect, the extreme heat and humidity of July and August was noted to make the process more difficult and sometimes the condition of hogs that had been herded some distance at that time of year suffered.
A Cincinnati paper contained an article on pork coming in for slaughter saying that farmers sometimes banded together, each having his own hogs intermingled in the numbers being driven to market, while others chose to sell their hogs to drovers who resold them upon reaching Cincinnati. The greatest danger in combining animals in this way was the spread of disease from sick animals.
Who was doing the driving? In short, just about anybody. Numerous sources depict boys and men of various stations taking the job of driving hogs in order to make wages. Horace Greely noted women doing hard work around farms including driving hogs to and from market. Even the military got into the act of driving hogs as evidenced by a letter from G. W. Randolph, Secretary of War, to General Marshall asking if his cavalry could be employed in driving hogs out of eastern Kentucky [Nov. 12, 1862).
With the introduction of refrigeration, driving hogs to a major market was no longer necessary as they could be processed in smaller numbers wherever needed. While Hollywood isn’t likely to depict a hog drive in a movie, I think we’ll all agree it was big business, as much so as herding cows. ©
Guilford, William Sumner. “California Hog Book”. 1915. San Francisco.
“Transactions of the Illinois State Agricultural Society”. 1870. Springfield.
Henning, William Waller. “The Statutes at Large”. 1820. Richmond.
Missouri Dept. of Agriculture. “Bulletin”. Vol. 20. Nov. 1920.
U.S. War Dept. “The War of the Rebellion”.
“The Cultivator”. May 1843. Albany, NY.
West Virginia Geological and Economic Survey”. “Fayette County”. Vol. 2. 1919.
“The Wool Grower and Magazine of Agriculture and Horticulture”. August 1851.
The pears from my tree have been made into preserves to go on peanut butter sandwiches, ice cream, in oatmeal, or whatever other way I decide I want them. The recipe is pretty simple – 16 cups finely chopped ripe pears, 10 cups sugar, juice of 1 lemon or slices of ginger to taste, and 1 – 20 oz. can of crushed pineapple. Combine, bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer until it thickens. That should take about an hour.
My internet and home phone were installed July 3rd, today is July 29. The installer strung a cable across my property (on the ground, not on poles), across an adjacent farm road (on the surface of the road, not lifted over the road), and up the main road to a connection box promising to return within a maximum of 2 weeks to bury said cable. I knew when he left we’d seen the last of him and sure enough the cable is still across the farm road with tractors and farm equipment, pick-up trucks pulling heavy loads of cattle, etc. driving over this cable dozens of times a day, every day. I’m surprised this cable isn’t already cut on rocks and gravel and the next time it rains and I get nothing but static I may well find out that it is already worn through.
When I called customer service I immediately knew I was speaking with someone physically sitting at a desk outside the U.S. After trying twice to explain the situation and the customer service agent having no clue what the situation was, or why it was a problem, I asked to speak with someone who could speak English well enough to understand what I was saying. She summoned her supervisor, Chris, who was little better. I asked him where he was and his comment was they are in the Philippines. I have nothing against anyone from the Philippines, but there are two things very wrong with this scenario.
First, while able to speak rudimentary English, the agent was totally unable to comprehend what I was saying enough to understand the problem and that I wanted it remedied. It took me 20 minutes on the phone before her supervisor came in and finally understood the situation enough to put in a work order. I think both of them thought I was just fortunate to have internet and phone regardless of how shoddily it was installed whereas I am opposed to having heavy equipment driving on the cable to my devices dozens of times per day.
Second, when the unemployment rate in this country is at an all time high and the economy is completely in the toilet, why can’t AT&T (and other companies) employ Americans at home in the U.S. to man these customer service lines? Outsourcing these jobs is a direct affront to the American people who want to work for wages and support their families. AT&T – you do not deliver what you promise and if being scored between a low of 1 and a high of 10, right now you’d get about a 2 at best.
UPDATE 8-6-14. I received a call from a repairman this morning saying he was there to bury the cable. He wanted to tunnel under the concrete driveway – which is the OPPOSITE DIRECTION from the way the cable has to be run. It is laying there on the ground, all he has to do is walk from the house and follow the cable to wherever it meets the box up the road. How did this man possibly decide to dig the trench for the cable in the opposite direction??? Having this installed was obviously a mistake, but one I’m now roped into until the contract expires.