Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

A Grand Pigeon Shooting Match Over Washington's Birthday Weekend in Pelham on February 22, 1889

As part of the celebration in Pelham of the anniversary of George Washington's birthday in 1889, the Country Club hosted a grand, two-day pigeon shoot on its grounds at Bartow along Shore Road.  The New York Times published two detailed descriptions of the two-day event that together shed meaningful light today on what such a sporting spectacle was like in Pelham during the early days of the evolution of the sport known today as Trapshooting.

I recently wrote an article on the history of trapshooting in Pelham that explained live pigeon shooting and the role it played in that history.  See Wed., Jan. 18, 2017:  A History of Trap Shooting in Pelham, Including Amateur National Championships.  

Though live pigeon shoots today seem brutal and shock modern sensibilities, the competitions played an important role in the sporting history of Pelham Manor.  That sporting history, in turn, shaped perceptions of the beautiful community on the Sound at precisely the time it was beginning to develop into a bedroom community and an early railroad suburb of New York City.  Understanding such sporting events and how they influenced our forebears can help us better understand how our community evolved and became what it is today.

During February, 1889, anticipation was building among those who planned to attend the pigeon match on the grounds of the Country Club at Bartow.  The event was listed as part of the "Social Calendar" in New York City.  One publication noted that it was among the events "where fashionable folks" would gather over the Washington's Birthday weekend.  Indeed, the same publication, The Daily Graphic, made much of the fact that the "Pelham aristocracy" would be in attendance and that a ball at the clubhouse would close the festivities.  Clearly the pigeon shoot at Bartow was viewed as a social spectacle where the "aristocracy" would gather as part of the social season.  Once again, Pelham Manor and its Country Club would be a focus of the social elite of New York City and the surrounding region.  Such events shaped perceptions of Pelham Manor as an exclusive and affluent community that served as a playground for the wealthy.

The Country Club treated the pigeon shoot as a grand and important social event.  It built a "gayly-colored" grandstand for spectators next to the shooting box.  It paused the event in the midst of the first day for a lovely and social luncheon.  It hosted a ball in the evening after the first day of shooting and a "private dinner" at the end of the second day of the event.  

Though it may have been, principally, a two-day social event, the importance of the actual shooting match should not be underestimated.  In addition to the live pigeon shoot, there were sweepstakes shooting events at the end of each day's pigeon shoot.  All who participated were charged an entrance fee of $5.  The Country Club offered a silver urn trophy cup fashioned by Tiffany & Co. worth $500 as first prize.  It offered cash prizes for second and third places.

Shotgunners competed in teams of two shooters.  Representatives of the following nine clubs were invited to compete in the pigeon shoot portion of the shooting matches (although it appears that not all nine clubs sent teams to the competition):   the Country Club (at Bartow), Tuxedo Club, Westminster Kennel Club, Carteret Gun Club, Rockaway Hunt Club, The Meadow Brook Hunt Club, Philadelphia Country Club, Riverton Country Club, and the Country Club of Boston.  Each club sponsored two teams of two shooters, specified as Team 1 and Team 2.  Half of the teams competed on Friday, February 22, 1889.  The other half competed on Saturday, February 23rd.

The rules were simple, and were enforced by Referee John G. Hecksher.  Each man would be presented with fifty live pigeons released from traps ahead of them.  The released birds were to be allowed to rise for thirty yards and then had to be shot and dropped to the ground before reaching a boundary fifty yards away.  Any birds that fell outside the fifty-yard boundary were deemed "lost" birds.  The kills and misses of each teammate in a pair would be added to determine the team's total score out of the 100 birds presented to the pair of teammates.  In the event of a tie score between teams, there would be a five-bird shoot-off.

The pigeon match began in front of a "large assemblage" of spectators on the Country Club grounds at 11:00 a.m. on Friday.  The shooting was thrilling and the conditions were good so that the shooters that day performed well.  At about 1:00 p.m., the shotgunners took a "recess" for a luncheon, but continued the match thereafter.  At the end of the first day of the match, there was sweepstakes shooting in front of the spectators.  According to one account, a ball was scheduled in the clubhouse that evening.

Shooting conditions the next day were poor due to high winds.  The pigeons were difficult to shoot as the wind whipped them in the cold air.  Consequently, the scores were far worse that day.  When the match ended, the scores for the two days were tallied and the initial results were:

Westminster Kennel Club, Team No. 1:
     W. Chauncey Floyd-Jones, 41; Dr. Knapp, 38; total, 79

Riverton Country Club, Team No. 1:  
     Dando, 39; Handy, 37; total, 76.  

Carteret Gun Club:  
     Pearson, 40; Smith, 36; total, 76.  

Riverton Country Club, Team No. 2:  
     Randolph, 42; Dolan, 33; total, 75.  

Westminster Kennel Club, Team No. 2:
     G. Floyd-Jones, 36; Wilmerding, 38; total, 74.  

Country Club (Westchester,) Team No. 1:
     Thebant, 34; Iselin, 35; total, 69.

Country Club (Westchester,) Team No. 2:
     Page, 36; Gladwin, 33; total 69.

With the score tied for second place, a shoot-off was required with five live pigeons presented to each of the two members of each of the two teams that were tied (Riverton Country Club Team 1 and Carteret Gun Club). The tie was shot off, five live birds to each man, and was won by the Cartaret Gun Club, killing 9 out of 10 birds to the Riverton's 8.

The first place team (Westminster Kennel Club Team 1) received the silver urn Tiffany trophy worth $500.  The second place team (Carteret Gun Club) received a cash prize of $180.  The third place team (Riverton Country Club Team 1) received a cash prize of $80.  

That evening, a private dinner was hosted in the clubhouse to end the two-day event.

MERIDEN CONN." This 1893 Trade Card Shows a Pigeon
Match Underway. Four Parker Plunge Traps Are Visible on
the Ground to the Right With Cords Extending Back to The
Handler Standing to the Left of the Shotgunner. NOTE:
Click on Image to Enlarge.

As one might expect, live pigeon shoots are banned most places now.  Recently live pigeon matches have been replaced in many locations by a new sport known as Helice (or "ZZ Shooting").  In ZZ Shooting, there is a white plastic target called a "witness" that looks like a clay target and fits into a pair of plastic propeller-like wings.  (Helice means propeller in French.)  The shooting field is set up the same as a live pigeon ground, but the pigeon "traps" consist of five electric traps that randomly spin off the targets.  On the shooter's call, one of the traps (selected randomly) releases the spinning dipsy-doodle target.  The shooter must hit the target with sufficient force to "break" the target by popping the "witness" out of the plastic propeller wings before the target reaches a boundary fence.  The shooter may take two shots at the target.  The propeller wings are reused until they are visibly damaged (which occurs frequently).  

Live pigeon shooting, of course, is a sport no longer practiced in Pelham.  Its modern replacement, Helice or ZZ Birding, is a sport that likely never will be practiced in Pelham. 

*          *          *          *          *

Friday, February 22. . . . 

Mr. and Mrs. James M. Waterbury, Mr. and Mrs. Marion Story and some others of the 'Pelham aristocracy' have made up large home parties who go out this afternoon and stay until Monday.  Washington's Birthday will witness the pigeon shoot for a $500 cup at the Country Club and there will be a most animated contest.  A ball at the club house will end the day's festivities. . . ."

Source:  SOCIAL CALENDAR -- WHERE FASHIONABLE FOLKS WILL GATHER TOMORROW -- Friday, February 22, The Daily Graphic [NY, NY], Feb. 21, 1889, p. 831, col. 3


There was a large assemblage of people at the grounds of the Country Club at Bartow, Westchester County, yesterday, to witness the pigeon shooting for the five-hundred-dollar cup offered by that club.  The prize was contested for by teams of two from the different clubs.  The clubhouse presented an inviting appearance, and the scene was rendered additionally attractive by the gayly-colored [sic] grand stand at the right of the shooting box which was used for the guests who watched the match.  Among them were many ladies.

The shooting began at 11 o'clock in the morning, and the day's session lasted until 3 o'clock.  The conditions were:  Each man 50 birds, with a rise of 30 yards, and the boundary to be 50 yards; ties, 5 birds, and entrance fees, $5.  The cup offered was made by Tiffany, and was of silver, urn-shaped.  The shooting started off briskly, and few misses were made.  The birds rose well.  There were seven team entries:  The Country Club No. 1, C. O. Iselin, W. Thompson; the Carteret Gun Club No. 1, F. Pierson, W. B. Smith; the Riverton Country Club No. 1 of Philadelphia, T. S. Dando, W. Handy; the Riverton Country Club No. 2, Randolph and Dolan; the Country Club No. 2, Williams and Gladwin; the Westminster Kennel Club, G. Floyd-Jones, G. Wilmerding, and the Carteret Gun Club No. 2, Chauncey Floyd-Jones and Dr. Knapp.  The shooting continued briskly up to 1 o'clock, when a recess was held for dinner, after which the match was resumed.

During the day a number of guests visited the club grounds, both from the city and New Rochelle and Pelham.  The first shooting was done by Randolph who only missed 8 birds out of the 50.  C. Floyd-Jones also did good shooting, missing only 9 out of the 50.  It was arranged that only half of the men making up the teams should shoot yesterday, the other half continuing the contest to-day.  The men who shot yesterday were those whose names were registered at No. 1 of their respective teams.  They were Thompson, Pierson, Dando, Randolph, Williams, G. Floyd-Jones, and Chauncey Floyd-Jones.

At the close of the match shooting for the day short impromptu sweepstakes were shot by the different club members.

The score for the day's work at the match shooting was Randolph, 42, 8 missed; Chauncey Floyd-Jones, 41, 9 missed; Pierson, 40, 10 missed; Dando, 39, 11 missed; Williams, 36, 14 missed; G. Floyd-Jones, 36, 14 missed; and Thompson, 34, 16 missed.  The match will be continued to-day.

Among the spectators were Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Sands, Mrs. J. Lorillard, Theodosius Bartow, Mr. and Mrs. C. Oliver Iselin, Mr. and Mrs. William E. Iselin, Mr. and Mrs. M. T. Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. T. L. Gladwin, T. W. Thorne, N. D. Thorne, Mr. and Mrs. C. D. Ingersoll, P. H. Adee, Mr. and Mrs. G. A. Adee, F. W. Adee, Mr. and Mrs. M. Dwight Collier, Mr. and Mrs. Gerdon MacDonald, John C. Furman, W. H. Jackson, and F. W. Jackson. . . ."



A big silver cup, worth about $500, is a prize the possession of which will depend on the number of pigeons that the aspirants for it can kill.  The competition began yesterday at the grounds of the Country Club of Westchester County.  The shoot was open to teams of two from the following clubs: -- Tuxedo, Westminster Kennel, Carteret, Rockaway Hunt, Meadow Brook, Philadelphia, Riverton, Country Club of Boston and the Country Club of Westchester.

One member of each team shot.  The others will shoot to-day.  Altogether the sport was good, and the day thoroughly enjoyable.  Fifty was the highest possible score.  Following is the result so far:  --  

Name                                   Club                Birds
Mr. Dando...........................Riverton...........42
W. Chauncey Floyd-Jones..Carteret...........41
Fred. Pierson......................Carteret............40
Mr. Daniel...........................Riverton...........39
Mr. Tabor.............................Westchester....34
Mr. Williams........................Westchester.....36
The shooting will be continued at noon to-day."

Source:  SHOOT AT THE COUNTRY CLUB, N.Y. Herald, Feb. 23, 1889, p. 6, col. 2.  


A strong wind, keen and frosty, made what was known as a 'rough day' for the sportsmen who took part yesterday in concluding the pigeon-shooting match begun on Friday for the five-hundred-dollar silver cup offered by the Country Club of Westchester.  On Friday one member from each of the seven teams entered shot, and yesterday the remaining team members took their turn.  The shooting began at 11:30 o'clock on the grounds of the club at Bartow, on the Sound.  As on Friday, a large number of guests gathered to witness the match, and the grand stand erected near the shooting box sheltered many ladies.  The birds rose well, and the wind gave the sportsmen no little annoyance, as it frequently carried birds nearly killed but with life enough to fly a few seconds out of bounds, adding 'lost' birds on the score.  John G. Hecksher acted as referee, and the men who shot were C. O. Iselin of the Country Club, Team No. 1; W. B. Smith of the Carteret Gun Club, Team No. 2, of Philadelphia; Mr. Handy of the Riverton Club, Team No. 1, of Philadelphia; J. L. Gladwin of the County Club, Team No. 2; L. Wilmerding of the Westminster Kennel Club, Team No. 2, and Dr. G. L. Knapp of the Westminster Club, Team No. 1.

In spite of the day the shooting was good, but not up to that of Friday.  The best work was done by L. Wilmerding and Dr. Knapp, both killing 38 birds out of a possible 50.  A brilliant shot was made by Mr. Smith of the Carteret Gun Club in shooting off the final tie between that club team and team No. 1 of the Riverton Club for second place.  The bird rose a few feet and took a swift zig-zag dodge to the right.  The first barrel made some feathers fly, but the bird sped rapidly on.  The second barrel, a long side shot, caused the fugitive to turn a complete somersault and fall dead.  

The shooting for the match continued up to a little after 3:30 o'clock, and the sportsmen kept steadily at work.  The score for the day stood:

Iselin, 35 killed, 15 missed; Smith, 36 killed, 14 missed; Dolan, 33 killed, 17 missed; Handy, 37 killed, 13 missed; Gladwin, 33 killed, 17 missed; Wilmerding, 38 killed, 12 missed; and Dr. Knapp, 38 killed, 12 missed.

These, added to the scores of Friday, made the totals:

Westminster Kennel Club, Team No. 1 -- W. Chauncey Floyd-Jones, 41; Dr. Knapp, 38; total, 79; Riverton Country Club, Team No. 1 -- Dando, 39; Handy, 37; total, 76.  Carteret Gun Club -- Pearson, 40; Smith, 36; total, 76.  Riverton Country Club, Team No. 2 -- Randolph, 42; Dolan, 33; total, 75.  Westminster Kennel Club, Team No. 2 -- G. Floyd-Jones, 36; Wilmerding, 38; total, 74.  Country Club (Westchester,) Team No. 1 -- Thebant, 34; Iselin, 35; total, 69.  Country Club (Westchester,) Team No. 2 -- Page, 36; Gladwin, 33; total 69.

This score gave the cup to Team No. 1 of the Westminster Kennel Club, W. C. Floyd-Jones and Dr. Knapp, and made a tie for the second place between the Riverton Country Club, Team No. 1, and the Cartaret team.  The tie was shot off, live birds to each man, and was won by the Cartaret Club, killing 9 out of 10 birds to the Riverton's 8.

By the conditions of the match the cup went to the club winning first place, 60 per cent. of the entrance money over the cup value to the second team, and 40 per cent. of it to the third.  The Cartaret team received $180 and the Riverton $80.

One of the features of the match was the retrieving of the Country Club's dogs, the setter Goldie, the English setter Fan, and the pointer Fairy.  

Among those present at the match were J. Lorrillard, Theodore Bartow, Mr. and Mrs. W. E. Iselin, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Waterbury, Mrs. J. L. Gladwin, Mr. and Mrs. C. D. Ingersoll, Mr. and Mrs. M. T. Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. De Lancey Kane, T. W. Thorne, N. D. Thorne, John L. Kane, P. H. Adee, William Sands, Mrs. J. S. Dando, Mrs. Gordon McDonald, the Misses Thorne, Miss Roberts, and Mr. and Mrs. Jordan L. Martin, Jr.  In the evening W. B. Cutting gave a private dinner at the club. . . ."

Source:  SHOOTING IN A WIND -- A WESTMINSTER KENNEL CLUB TEAM WINS AT BARTOW, N.Y. Times, Feb. 24, 1889, p. 6, col. 2.  

Some Closing Scenes of a Rather Eventful Season.
And Soon Lent Cometh When All of Us May Sleep. . . . 

Out of town! is the cry on such days.  Mr. and Mrs. James Waterbury, whose various houses seem never closed or servantless, entertained a large company at luncheon out at Pleasance, and then drove them over to the Country Club to watch the clever pigeon shooting which was going on.  Another lot of people went down to Tuxedo, where the skating, tobogganing and ice boating are pretty near perfect. . . ."

Source:  THE BEGINNING OF THE END -Some Closing Scenes of a Rather Eventful Season -- DOGS AND DARLINGS -- And Soon Lent Cometh When All of Us May Sleep, N.Y. Herald, Feb. 24, 1889, p. 18, col. 1.

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