Alice Throckmorton McLean (1886 - 1968)

Credit Where Due

The Enigmatic Woman Credited with Helping Introduce the Norwich Terrier to America

 

by Leandra Little

TONI FRISSELL, TONI FRISSELL COLLECTION, LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, BY PERMISSION OF MOIRA HOEN.

 

In 1937 Alice Throckmorton McLean’s Norwich Terriers Cider, Porky, Riddle, Twink and Vim all appeared in the AKC stud book, which served at that time as a registry. They were amongst the first Norwich to be listed in this country and thus helped to lay the foundation for the breed. Recognized by the AKC in 1936, four years after its official debut in England, the Norwich Terrier had been from its inception a breed of the upper classes. Alice T. McLean was very much a part of this milieu. But who was this enigmatic woman who was a founding member of the unofficial Norwich Terrier Club of the 1930s? Why is her name an obscure footnote to the breed, mostly forgotten by present-day fanciers? Because ultimately between her first imports in 1936 and the last ones noted in the stud books in 1951, she would breed, import or be closely connected to nearly 70 Norwich Terriers. It’s a life story emblematic of a bygone age.

 

Alice T. McLean was born in New York City on March 8, 1886, the third daughter of James and Sarah Throckmorton McLean. James (1846-1920) had made his fortune with the Phelps-Dodge Corporation, a diversified American mining company founded in 1834. McLean made millions as partner, vice president and major shareholder of the company and it was under his tenure that the company became infamous for a particular anti-labor incident. In 1917 Phelps Dodge with vigilante help kidnapped nearly 1200 striking copper miners and their supporters in Bisbee, Arizona, and deported them in manure-carpeted cattle cars without food or water to New Mexico, warning them not to return; a dark day in corporate-workforce relations.

 

But no shadow darkened Alice’s idyllic youth. Her financier father was an art collector, a connoisseur and an avid horseman who doted on his youngest child. Moira Hoen, Alice’s granddaughter, recollects, “Her father adored her and indulged her in many, many ways.” Privately educated, Alice traveled widely, spoke several languages and was at home on both sides of the Atlantic where they would journey each year for the fox hunting season. Traveling first class on the Cunard lines they would take along a retinue of servants and favorite hunters.

 

Described as tiny with a “distinguished nose and a small, tight mouth and dark eyes,” Alice inherited her father’s love of horses and despite her lack of stature became a noted horsewoman. Moira adds, “She did hunt extensively in the UK and I believe that the Pytchley was one of the many hunts she frequented.”

At home in the US she indulged her love of hunting, riding and driving both in her family’s country seat in South Kortright, New York, and on Long Island. She is noted on occasion during her youth in the social pages too, most notably on August 21, 1904, when the New York Times’ “Society At Home and Abroad” announced her marriage to Edward Larocque Tinker.

 

A New York City man from a wealthy family, Tinker was educated at private schools, was a member of the right clubs and a graduate of Columbia and NYU Law School. He was also an expert horseman, a dog lover, an attorney and heir to a banking fortune. His father, who had done well as a partner in the brokerage firm Fahnestock & Co., was a noted yachtsman and sportsman. Edward was 23, Alice, just 17. 

 

Ten years after the vows had been exchanged, after sons Edward and James had been born and countless headlines had rushed by in the torrent of human events, the marriage was over. No doubt bored with endless social obligations in the east, Tinker had decided to reside where the action was. “My restless heel began to itch and I decided to go to El Paso, Texas, which in 1912 was a most exciting place. It was right on the border, the Mexican Revolution was in full swing and the town was swarmed with spies, gun-runners, racing touts, adventurers and Secret Service men.”

Alice T McLean with her whippets.

TONI FRISSELL, TONI FRISSELL COLLECTION

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, BY PERMISSION OF MOIRA HOEN.

Edward’s suit for divorce made the front page of the El Paso Herald, vying with the latest news from the European front. “The plaintiff alleges that he was married to the defendant on August 20, 1904 at South Kortright, NY and that two children were born to them. They resided in New York until January 20th when he came to El Paso. He alleges that on that date his wife left his bed and board and has not returned since that time.” [El Paso Herald, 3/24/15]

 

The Alice years are omitted from The Memoirs of Edward Laroque Tinker. He simply doesn’t mention his first marriage and his two sons, as if it had all been a tumbleweed-strewn mirage. Tellingly, less than a year after the divorce, Edward remarried. His union with Frances McKee Dodge is noted in the New York Times on January 19, 1916. The article also mentions that Mrs. Dodge had been listed in the Washington Social Register living with her husband O. Colby Ford Dodge in 1915 on N street. (The marriage to Tinker was the third union for Mrs. Dodge, who was widowed from her first husband.) So it’s no surprise that Alice was so disaffected from her former husband that she changed her name and that of their two young sons back to McLean. Neither ex-spouse, however, was dropped from the Social Register.

 

Her relationship with her parents remained close and she chose to stay near them. They watched far-off events unfold from the vantage of their homes in New York City, St. James, Long Island, and from Riverside, their lavish bucolic estate in the Catskills. The enormous copper-roofed mansion on the west branch of the Delaware River was the centerpiece of an enterprise which encompassed stables, kennels, extensive gardens, riding trails and a lake for swimming.

 

The next year James and Sarah gifted Alice their home in St. James (the former William A. Minott mansion) for one dollar “and their love and affection.” Her father, however, did not live to see her long ensconced there, passing away just a year later, leaving an estate valued at nearly $12 million to his wife and three daughters. According to a New York Times story, “He left 3,000 shares of Phelps Dodge [flags were flown at half staff], valued at $707,176 to each of his daughters, Helen, Ethel L. and Alice and left the rest to his wife Sarah.” (No doubt the Bisbee miners did not mourn.) This at a time when a wage earner’s average annual salary amounted to $1,236. The estate was settled by December of that year. At 34 and independently wealthy, Alice was now free to continue the life of a society matron. 

 

In 1921 Warren G. Harding was president, the war was formally ended, women finally had the vote and the 18th Amendment was passed, ushering in Prohibition. Despite this repressive act, the Roaring Twenties bubbled with an exuberant effervescence. It was the Jazz Age, a time of raised hems, flappers, bathtub gin, F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald.

 

For her part, Alice took the bit as an independent woman with a strong will. Family members referred to her as “The Boss.” At that time Long Island was the epicenter of the horse world. Polo was particularly a favorite pastime in the community and Alice was the sole woman player of the Smithtown Polo Club. In the era of “Doo Wacka Doo,” polo was the rage. Top players were idolized by the public and breathlessly followed by the media. In 1924, in one game at the nearby Long Island Meadow Brook Club, 40,000 people, including Edward, Prince of Wales, watched as the American idol Tommy Hitchcock and his team bested the British in two matches—16-5 and 14-5. 

 

Alice was surely in that crowd. Since she left behind no memoirs, it’s speculative to suggest that she knew the Prince of Wales but she certainly traveled in the same circles. Th e Prince was an avid polo player and brought along eight ponies on his trip. Anticipating holding a lavish party in his honor, Alice constructed a ballroom on her property. Alas, she was disappointed. Edward was otherwise engaged. Regardless of social disappointments, though, she continued to acquire property and barns to house her animals: sheep, cattle and of course hunters, polo ponies, driving horses, saddle mounts and jumpers.

She was a member of the Smithtown Hunt and was from 1922 to

1924 joint master with Edward H. “Ned” Carle. According to Richard B. Hawkins, writing in Head of the Harbor—A Journey Through Time, Alice made a striking figure dressed in a Roman habit with a top hat and veil tight across her face as she pursued the hounds across the shorn fields of stubble. She was also an active member of the Meadow Brook Hunt and it was probably here that she became reacquainted with the diminutive sporting terrier then called the “Jones,” which had been taken up in hunt circles. One prominent member of the Meadow Brook, Eugene Reynal, had a famous black-and-tan pair which made their appearance around 1921.

 

The practice of taking a sporting terrier along to flush a fox from a hiding place was noted in a New York Times article as early as 1907, but rather as a curiosity. “One of the peculiar features of the Meadow Brook hunts is that a fox terrier is taken with the hounds and in case the fox runs into a drain the terrier is sent after it to drive it out.” This practice was taken directly from England, where hunt terriers were commonplace.

Edward T McLean, Alice's son

 

BY PERMISSION OF MOIRA HOEN.

Fox terriers were the “fox-bolters” of choice but any game, small terrier like Reynal’s could be enlisted. Alys Serrell, writing in her 1907 book With Hound and Terrier in the Field, comments that a working terrier should not be over 14” or weigh more than 18 pounds. “A size even smaller than this is better but on no account must he be light and weedy, or in any degree toyish-looking in appearance. On the other hand, there is no reason why a working terrier should not be as good-looking as he is useful, for with a little care in breeding, a smart, handsome and intelligent-looking little fellow can soon be arrived at.”

 

It’s open to debate whether the small terriers Mr. Reynal owned were actually the eponymous Jones Terrier. The “breed” had first been introduced to America by Robert Strawbridge of the Philadelphia department store family in 1914. Mr. Strawbridge, an avid huntsman, had gone looking for a new horse when he first came upon the small mixed breed terrier in the stables of roughrider (horse breaker) and terrier breeder Frank Jones near Market Harborough in Leicestershire. At the time, Strawbridge was the MFH of the famed Cottesmore Hunt (a singular honor for an American). He noted, “They were not known at that time as any special breed.”

 

He was right, because they weren’t. They were a hodgepodge of breeds, the singular requirement being that they be dead game. Nevertheless, as Alys Serrell points out, they could still be captivating. So Strawbridge found a puppy in the Jones stable and took him home to America just at the outbreak of World War I. He introduced Willum Jones to his peers, most of whom, like Alice and Edward L. Tinker, were found in the pages of the Social Register.

 

Interestingly, Alice as a young woman had oft en hunted in the Leicestershire area of England and continued to travel there annually, so it’s entirely possible that she may have become first acquainted with the nascent breed at the same time in the same locale as Robert Strawbridge. Moira Hoen, Alice’s granddaughter, concurs. Be that as it may, Willum Jones is credited as being the first “Norwich” in America. Once landing on these shores Willum then had many “wives” because it was the fashion at the time for the affluent to own and breed not only horses but dogs, fox-bolting small terriers among them. But it took until 1932 before a breed standard for the Norwich (aka Jones) could be written and accepted in England, and until 1936 before they were recognized in the US. 

 

Between the wars Alice lived the sporting life . In 1926 her address is listed in the Social Register as being in Creaton, Northamptonshire, England, prime fox-hunting country just west of Cambridge and bordering on Leicestershire. And even after the music stopped for most of America with the stock market crash of 1929, Alice’s lifestyle hardly changed. She continued her annual trips to England to hunt, bringing along her driver and general factotum Jimmy Reynolds, as well as her grooms and horses. She also loved dogs. And like others of her class she indulged her interest by collecting several different breeds: boxers, whippets, greyhounds and Jones terriers, among others.

 

Showing dogs during that period was a pastime of the wealthy. Even during the Depression hordes turned out for the Morris & Essex Kennel Club dog shows held on the polo fields of Geraldine Rockefeller Dodge‘s estate. In 1937, as the Depression waned, more than 50,000 spectators descended upon Madison, New Jersey, to watch the show. Great kennels of many breeds emerged during this period. At the 1937 Westminster show nearly the whole entry of 19 whippets came from the Virginia-based Meander Kennels. Norwich were supposed to make their debut at Westminster that year. Mr. Oliver C. Harriman had an entry of two: Windholme Scrap (Ch. Red Dog X Neachley Tawny) and Neachley Tawny (Joe Buffin X Neachley Bracken). Neither appeared.

 

Alice’s Norwich appeared with other entries the first time at Westminster in 1938; no stage fright for the breed on the second go. Henry Bixby, an early afficionado who preferred the dropeared Norwich, wrote “...that not one out of ten ringsiders had ever seen one in 1938.... The enthusiasm at Westminster that year produced some real activity in our Breed. A fine start was made with an entry of seventeen.”

 

Alice had six in the Open class: Cider, Porky, Riddle, Twink, Vim and Airman’s Brown Sarah. These were all imported from England and were among the first to be registered in this country. There were eight in the Am-Bred class including Alice’s Monkey, who did not place. First through fourth were all awarded to Windholme Norwich owned by Harry T. Peters Jr. But in those days the fanciers knew each other and helped by trading puppies and making studs available. Alice’s granddaughter Moira Hoen notes, “They all fox hunted so they had a very close relationship.”

Windholme Snuff , who placed third in Am-Bred at the first Westminster, was sired by Alice’s Airman’s Sam Brown out of Twink. The breeder is listed as Tulip Knoll Farm. BOB went to Henry D. Bixby’s Merry of Beaufin from the open class. Merry was a drop-eared bitch who became the first American champion. Drop ears were mixed with prick ears but Mrs. McLean’s preference was for the prick ear. Moira Hoen recalls that, “All the ones I ever knew had docked tails and prick ears.” Mr. Bixby wrote that the enthusiasm of Westminster “resulted in the formation of a club, to guide the Norwich destiny as a show dog, and to acquaint judges with the Standard and the character of a working terrier.” Alice was counted amongst the founding members.

She was obviously keen about establishing the breed in America and followed Cider, Porky, Riddle, Twink and Vim in 1937 with 26 more in 1938. As England geared up for war Alice didn’t hesitate. She observed the preparations and sent 20 home out of harm’s way; the remaining six she registered that year were home-bred. It’s almost certain that Alice’s drive to import Norwich was not just motivated by a notion of establishing the breed but in response to the too near thunder of world events. Britain declared war against Germany in September 1939. 

Jimmy Reynolds, Alice's chief factotum, with whippets.

TONI FRISSELL, TONI FRISSELL COLLECTION

LIBRARY OF CONGRESS, BY PERMISSION OF MOIRA HOEN.

At that time America had a strong isolationist mindset led by notables like Charles Lindbergh and many in Congress. In contrast to England, life in the USA was so normal that Henry Bixby could unimaginably write as if there was not much else of concern, “In 1939 Norwich Terriers were shown at twenty-four shows. Our worst trouble was the small number of judges who knew what to look for in the breed, probably due to the fact that both prick and drop ears were allowed. The decidedly different look of the dogs with prick, from those with drop ears, resulted in judges ‘going’ for either one or the other.”

 

As seemingly blue as the skies were over America, the UK’s were inscribed with indelible ink. Alice knew Britain could not sustain its large kennels while enduring the privations brought on by food shortages and wide-scale dislocation. Lynne Olson, writing in Citizens of London, noted, “More than a million people...were evacuated from their homes or left voluntarily, marking the largest migration in Britain since the Great Plague of 1665.”

 

Americans in England were advised to leave. More than 10,000 packed their bags, half leaving within 48 hours of the formal declaration of war. A sad secret: literally hundreds of thousands of pets were put down. They were the first casualties of the anticipated shortages of the war. So Alice must clearly have been thinking to save the nascent breed. In four short years she imported 31. She couldn’t save them all but she could safeguard some. After 1940, there were no further McLean imports. There was only the war.

 

Alice did not enter Norwich at Westminster during those years, but dogs she’d bred (but did not own), were there. She was far too busy with the war effort. In 1940 she founded the American Women’s Voluntary Services (AWVS) corps which prepared women to serve on the home front in a variety of ways. It was an incredible effort. The national membership grew to over 300,000 women. According to the New York Times obituary, “During WW II, its members drove ambulances in this country, conducted first aid and other courses and sold war bonds.” Following the British model, women were taught to serve as cryptographers, salvage materials, operate military canteens, practice conservation and a myriad of other services.

 

To publicize the AWVS Alice worked with Eleanor Roosevelt, traveled extensively and attracted media attention with events like the gargantuan barbecue she threw for 6,000 at Riverside in South Kortright. Her efforts were a success and she harnessed the energies of women all over the country. She had found her mission in life, the meaning she’d been searching for through all the peripatetic years.

 

The last Norwich bred by Alice T. McLean was Sister Sparkle of Ash Ridge, born in 1942 and listed in 1945. Son Edward continued to breed an occasional litter. His daughter Moira remembers, “Cinnamon (Neachley Citron X Spark) was the first Norwich I ever knew. There were probably three or four milling around all the time: Thyme, Nutmeg, Sage and MacArthur. They weren’t the square blocky ones you see now.” She adds that to her knowledge the family Norwich were rarely shown. Spark’s Cinnamon had been especially beloved by Edward, who had her portrait painted by Franklin Voss, one of the great sporting artists of the 20th century. This charming painting hangs in an upstairs bedroom of the family home.

 

Mrs. Hoen still owns two Norwich: Quail Call Truffle and Quail Call Fig Newton. Her grandmother never used a kennel name. Quail Call is Moira’s. Truffle and Fig descend from the Oakley line developed by Mrs. Theodora Winthrop Randolph. She was described in Norwich Terriers U.S.A. by Constance Stuart Larabee and Joan Redmond Read as “one of the most successful and prolific breeders in the U.S.A.” Mrs. Randolph’s pack was descended in part from Ch. Apple Jack. He was the first American prick-ear champion dog, BOB at Westminster, 1941. Ch. Apple Jack (Airman’s Sam Browne X Vim) was bred by Alice Throckmorton McLean. Both Truffle and Fig go back to Apple Jack so it’s fitting that they reside with Mrs. McLean’s personable and charming granddaughter.

 

Alice Throckmorton McLean died in 1968, essentially penniless. She’d spent her entire fortune in sporting pursuits and ultimately in sustaining the AWVS. Riverside is now Phoenix House, a Catskills substance-abuse rehabilitation center. Tulip Knoll is the Harbor Country Day School. They still remember Alice there and honor her. She is not forgotten in South Kortright either. Her children, grandchildren and now great-grandchildren all have Norwich. Perhaps now this remarkable woman’s contribution as one of the founders of the American Norwich Terrier will be remembered as well. 

From the forthcoming book The American Terrier© Leandra Little

 

Grateful Acknowledgement to:

Mary Betz & Margaret Kenyon, Hobart Historical Society

Mary E. “Crickett” Goodall, Outfoxed Farm

Bradley Harris, Smithtown Historian

Wilber Haynes, Kortright Historian

Moira Hoen, granddaughter of Alice Throckmorton McLean

Elaine Jong, MD, for her editor’s eye and invaluable friendship

Blair Kelly and his invaluable Norwich pedigree database

Frank L. Rogers, Penn Oak Norwich and Norfolk Terriers

Craig P. Savino, Archivist, American Kennel Club

James Fagan Scharnberg, writer and historian

Margaretta “Missy” Wood, Terrapin Norwich Terriers