Club History

The Basset Hound Club of America, Inc.


The Club was started in 1933, at the home of William Fritz, in Detroit, Michigan.  The charter members are listed as having been Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Bissell, B. B. Chaney, Harold R. Frazee, William Fritz, George C. Gregg, Carmon Klink, Alfred E. Kannowski, W. P. Klapp, Jr., James E. Lee, Ann Levy, Gerald Livingston, Carl Nottke, Effie Seitz, and Lewis Thompson.

The Constitution and By-Laws were drawn up in 1934 and they were adopted in 1935 during the Club’s first Annual Meeting.  The rules for Field Trials were drafted in 1936 and the Club became an American Kennel Club member club in 1937.  The Constitution and By-Laws were revised and the Incorporation of the Club was approved at a special meeting.  The incorporation, at Racine, Wisconsin, was accomplished through the efforts of Cathryn A. Burton, James Fornary and George R. Simanek.

According to Mercedes Braun, in her book, The New Complete Basset Hound,, Fourth Edition, 1979, and now out of print, the original Standard for the American Basset Hound was written by Will Judy, publisher of the well known Dog World magazine,  a well known dog man in his day, Mr. Judy did the initial work on a number of new breed standards.  This attempt at approving a standard was rejected by the membership at its 1940 Annual Meeting with forty members in attendance and voting. Available records indicate no further action was taken concerning the standard until 1953.  A six member committee composed of Loren Free, Dorothy Hardy, Jean Look, Helen Nelson, Effie Seitz and Chris Teeter presented a proposed Standard at the Annual Meeting in 1955 and it was accepted by majority vote.  A restlessness concerning the Standard seemed to prevail, and in 1961 the membership apparently decided that it should be revised. Braun states: “A committee was appointed headed by Peg Walton.  Others on the committee were Dick Bassett, Effie Seitz and Walter Brandt.  The final draft was sent to the Board in 1962.  However, this was rejected by AKC. The Board took over the work and it was again presented to the membership in October of 1963.  The present Standard was accepted by the AKC in 1964.”

As the Club grew, it was determined that the By-laws needed revision and work was started to accomplish such in 1964 under the chairmanship of Col. Julian Dexter.  The 1965 Annual Meeting was conducted under those new By-Laws with one major change being in the method of the election of the Officers and Directors. Previous elections had been by nomination from the floor and limited to those members who were present at the Annual Meeting.  Another major change was reflected in the appointment, by the Board of Directors, of individual members to fill certain positions within the Club.  The By-Laws were revised again in the mid 1970’s and in the mid 1990’s.  The 1970’s effort was chaired by Finn Bergishagen, who withdrew after being elected President and the work was finalized under the guidance of Bob Swanson. The proposed revisions were not finally approved by the membership until 1980.  The 1990’s effort in this area was again chaired by Finn Bergishagen and approved by the membership in 1995.  This latest change was major in that it changed the composition of the Officers and Board of Directors by the addition of a Second Vice-President and a Corresponding Secretary.

The First Annual Specialty Show was held in Chicago in 1955 with an entry of forty Basset Hounds.  The Annual Specialties continued to be held in Chicago, in the spring, in conjunction with the Chicago International K.C. all breed show through 1959, and after 1960, came to be known as the Spring Nationals.  The first Fall Annual National Specialty was held in Lebanon, Pennsylvania on October 7, 1960.  While there is now only one National Specialty each year, the Club did continue to host a Spring Nationals at Chicago through 1962.  In June of 1963 the California clubs hosted a Spring Specialty at Long Beach and after that the Spring Show moved to different areas by invitation of a local club.  This has since changed to having the local clubs being authorized to host a BHCA Regional Specialty Show each year, but being limited to one show per region, per year.  The Annual National Specialty now runs four full days during the week of the first full weekend in the month of October each year.  The locations move each year, limited only by the availability of a local host club and the availability of Field Trial and Tracking Grounds, and the entries are, of course, significantly higher, numbering in the several hundreds.  Judges for the conformation events are nominated and elected by the membership and must come from among the members who are AKC-approved judges.

By about 1963 there was considerable interest in obedience and an Obedience Committee was appointed.  Benjamin Harris was its chairman and other members were Mercedes Braun, Bob Noerr and Lena Wray.  Initially, the Basset Hound was required to jump one and one-half time its height for the high jump exercise.  It took quite some time for the committee to have the Basset included among the other breeds that were required only to jump their height, rather than the one and one-half  times their height, but they were eventually successful.  Virginia Jones and Joan Thurlow were on the committee at that time and worked very hard for this change.  The Club offered Obedience Classes for the first time at the 1968 Nationals. Tracking was added to the list of events at the Nationals in 1970 with Lena and Billy Wray being among the early leaders of this discipline.  

Until the mid to late 1960’s, the Club had continued to be guided by the Field Trialers, a normal progression of leadership since they were the ones that had started the Club.   Astutely, as pointed out by Merce Braun in her book, “They could foresee the day when it would be possible that the Club would be governed by persons who might be unsympathetic, perhaps even opposed to the sport.  Bill Rider proposed that a committee could be formed to look after the interests of field trials.  The Board appointed him chairman of the Field Trial Rules and Running Order committee.  In 1963, the AKC agreed to give Bassets running rules of their own although they are still, largely, run under the same rules as Beagles.  By 1969 the committee, as it is known today, came into being.  Each trial giving club has a representative on what is now called the Field Trial Advisory Council.  This group reviews proposed changes in regulations, submits needed proposals, oversees the trial schedules, and is in charge of field activities, subject to Board approval.  John Eylander succeeded Bill Rider for a short time, and then Kenneth McWilliams became chairman in 1971, serving until 1977 when Leonard Skolnick took over.  Dale Fleming followed, with Dick Spurling next, and Ken McWilliams taking over again in 1992 and still serving “to keep the hounds running!”

All disciplines of the breed, Conformation, Obedience, Tracking and Field Trialing, are held at the Nationals each year.  BHCA is one of the very few parent breed clubs to do this and it gives interested observers the opportunity to see the hounds perform in whatever area their interest may lie.

In the early days of the Club, a Newsletter was published, at first by the Secretaries and then by elected Publicity Directors.  According to Merce Braun, Ethel Ferge was the last to put it out in newsletter form, but this writer can find no record confirming that.  Merce also states that Ruth Turner was elected the first Publicity Director and changed it to a magazine type publication.  Merce Braun followed Ruth in 1963 and Kay Ellenberger took it over in 1965.  After the By-Laws change in 1965, the editors position was appointed by the Board of Directors. Jean Spaulding was the first appointee to this Herculean task, followed over the years by Jeanne (Dudley) Hills, Eileen Schroeder, Pat (Fellman) Gellerman, Beverly Stockfelt, Pat (Fellman) Gellerman again, Vicki Steedle, Sherry Neiberger, Vicki Steedle (temporary), Tonta McHale, Brenda Jubin & Eva Balogh (jointly), Vicki Steedle again, Melody Fair, Francisca Vassy, Marjorie Wikerd, Loraine Russell, Mary Ann Clark, Carolyn Young and our newest appointee, Carol Ann Hunt.