APA Celebrates 150 Years

Honoring the American Poultry Association

APA Celebrates 150 Years

Reading Time: 6 minutes

In 2023, the APA (American Poultry Association) celebrates 150 years, culminating at its November show in Columbus, Ohio. “It’s going to be a year-long event,” said John Monaco, former APA president, commemorating the founding of the organization. “We want to get as many members involved as possible.” 

Events during the year will focus on commemorating the association, and participants will be receiving some special gifts. For instance, every exhibitor at annual and semiannual meets will be given a special commemorative pin to recognize the anniversary. A book on the organization’s history will also be given to every exhibitor. The pins or other special awards may also be gifted at District meets. Members who were present during the 100th anniversary in 1973 will be invited as honored guests to a special banquet. 

In addition to celebrating adult members, the APA also provides educational opportunities to kids, teaching them all about how to raise, care for, and exhibit poultry. The Youth Exhibition Poultry Association (YEPA) provides information for youth leaders and hosts the Poultry ACE Program Achievers. Doris Robinson, who led the YEPA “Did a great job all those years,” according to Monaco. Amy Gabbard of Michigan now leads the YEPA and coordinates youth leaders for each state. 

“We’re sort of old-fashioned, but we know that we have to bring the organization into the modern age. We need to think about the future but remember the past,” Monaco said. “There’s a lot of history here that we can’t forget, but we also have to know that we are in a different era.” 

APA History 

APA member Mark Fields began to gather historical materials to write a book but instead ended up archiving documents on the APA History website. Access to these original documents and the proceedings of APA meetings is invaluable for members and others interested in the history of poultry in the U.S. and the history of the APA itself. Like many organizations, there’s an interplay of personalities and rivalries enacted in their pages. 

His untimely death in 2021 left the organization with this unfinished project. Monaco approached me to take it on. I was honored that he would ask and eagerly accepted. What a journey it has been! 

APA Celebrates 150 Years
 
These men, described as “the Pillars of Poultry,” had a vision for improving poultry by setting standards for the breeds. They, along with others, founded the APA. 
Courtesy of the APA. 
 

One of the founders, Ike Felch was a popular breeder and held a No. 3 judges license. Affectionately known as Uncle Ike, he bred White and Barred Plymouth Rocks, White Wyandottes, Brown Leghorns, and is credited with founding the original pedigree strain of Light Brahmas in 1847. According to the APA History website. “‘Felch offers…’ came to mean, to the buying public, a guarantee of quality whether for breeding or exhibition purposes.”  

Another founder, Charles Sweet’s specialty was old-fashioned booted Bantams, but he was a serious breeder of Dark Brahmas. 

Illustrating the Standard 
 

One of the major accomplishments of the APA has been creating and updating the Standard of Perfection book, now in its 44th edition. The 45th edition will be published in 2023 as part of the 150th celebrations.  
 
Getting illustrations right, in the beginning, was a long process. In 1888, Philander Williams advocated for illustrating the Standard with line drawings. Twenty pen drawings were included in that Standard, “but the pictures met with wide-spread disfavor, and the edition was declared obsolete,” according to the 1906 edition. 

The 1910 Standard was the first with color plates. Five pages of illustrations showed several different colored feathers in solid, barred, penciled, and laced patterns. That edition met with outrage. The May 1911 issue of American Poultry World criticized it at length. 

First, a large number of the illustrations to be found in the new Standard of Perfection do not correctly interpret the word descriptions in the book; second, the pictures do not agree, one with another, i.e. they are not consistent — in some cases the differences being so great that the effects are grossly misleading and ridiculous. 

18,000-19,000 copies of 25,000 printed were sold, $1.50 individually and $.80 in lots of a dozen or more. Postage was 13 cents. 

APA Celebrates 150 Years
Illustration from 1910, a half-tone Minorca and Black Spanish tail. 
Courtesy of the APA. 

The printers, Murray & Emery, lacking expert poultry knowledge, had made changes to the artists’ work without consulting with them or the Standard committee. The results were lamentable. Franklane Sewell responded at length. His Barred Rock illustration was shaded and drawn over to “fake” the Dominique illustration. The editing and publication committee met in October 1910 to discuss the problem. They found the worst mutilated illustration was the White Plymouth Rock male — which American Poultry World found wanting even in the original — as depicting the bird in “a crouched position.” American Poultry World described it as “literally butchered” and “bunglingly destroyed,” first erasing the outline and then re-drawing it incorrectly. Worse, the printer added two Leghorn feathers to the tail. 

APA Celebrates 150 Years
Schilling cartoon One of the Live and Palpitating Questions of the Hour. Originally published in American Poultry World ca. 1915-1916. 
Courtesy of the APA. 

The printer denied that any material changes were made to the illustrations, although they showed obvious signs of being changed. Eventually, Mr. A.N. Murray, president of the printing company, met with the committee. He explained that Sewell’s missing Barred Plymouth Rock male drawing was found under the Dominque picture. 

The artists were outraged. Schilling wrote, “Poor workmanship was so very evident that my suspicions were aroused even then, that the pictures had been tampered with, but I could hardly make myself believe that any artist, unfamiliar with work of this character, would be so bold or would attempt so unreasonable and unjust an act, as to alter the work of another artist.” 

Despite the uproar, most purchasers didn’t bother to turn in their Standards for the new, revised edition. 

“The popular view was that the faults of the first printing were technical rather than material. [sic]And that as they were limited to the illustrations, it was hardly worthwhile for owners of the first printing to take the trouble to exchange their copies,” Mr. Robinson wrote in his 1923 review. Those illustrations were the APA guide until 43 years later, in the 1953 version. 

Etching of feathers for identification of features. 
Courtesy of the APA. 
1911 announcement of the New Standard for breeds. 
Courtesy of the APA. 

Carrying the Baton 

Mr. Fields’ notes are invaluable as is the work of Cassandra Everly of Everly Preservation Center in Missouri, who is organizing his material and archiving it for future use. 

From the Gilded Age through two World Wars to the turn of the 21st Century and the Digital Age, the APA has guided its members with the Standard. Today, the APA stands on the shoulders of giants to continue its leadership. 

“The one thing that has not changed over the years is the dedication of the many members and officers that have worked endlessly for the betterment of the poultry fancy and the Association,” Mr. Monaco said. “The APA has survived the hard times and flourished in the good times but has been able to continue as an organization because of the willingness to change its course, sometimes reluctantly, when needed. By continuing in this fashion and embracing the technology of the 21st century, the American Poultry Association should have a bright future.” 

This article is adapted from the APA History website. 




CHRISTINE HEINRICHS is the author of How to Raise Chickens, available through the Countryside store, and How to Raise Poultry and the Backyard Field Guide to Chickens, available on the APA’s website: https://amerpoultryassn.com/store/



Originally published in the October/Novemeber 2022 issue of Backyard Poultry and regularly vetted for accuracy.

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