The King one of the American breeds

The Breeds of the United States
If you have been around these pages awhile you may well come away with the assumption that all of the breeds today are steeped in exotic and rich European or Middle Eastern ancestry. It was commonly believed, before Charles Darwin, that many if not all of these numerous classical breeds were indeed different species as are Robins and Crows. Darwin demonstrated to the contrary that all of the domesticated breeds of what we now term pigeons are all actually derived from one single source, the Rock Dove.

It was the persistent, skilled and lucky breeders of the centuries past that brought us the incredible number of wonderful old breeds. Over 800 of these old breeds are still providing amusement and affection throughout the whole world. But just as in the centuries before us, serendipity coupled with persistent and skillful breeding continues to provide us new, beautiful birds. Even if few of these new breeds have been created in the United States where the progenitor of all of the breeds, the Rock Dove, was unknown.

The earliest and the most recent American creations were both white-colored breeds. The White Kings were crafted just over 100 hundred years ago, and the newest masterpiece of the breeder's skill, the Seraphim, nicknamed the white angel, was created in this decade. These are not the only two breeds originating in the States. There have been several others, including some that have already disappeared from the pigeon fanciers' world.

The King
Necessity, the mother of invention, firmly planted the seed for the first American creation - the White King in 1890. Harry Baker, the recipient of that seed, created the first Kings much more through tenacious, planned, and skillful breeding than serendipity. Although, readers, lady luck always plays her role, pun intended, in genetic couplings. What Harry needed was a bird that was both beautiful and productive. Productive at this time meant a pigeon that could pay its own way, so to speak.

Squab production during those days played a much larger role in pigeon breeding than it does today. Baby pigeons about four weeks old, squabs, were bred and sold for the specialty meat trades much as Cornish Game Hens are today. Pigeon magazines of the time focused on squab production, rather than on the beauty and elegance of the breeds. Squab prices in the various markets were published, and for a short time it was even possible to buy canned squab
So, one side of Harry needed a squabber, and the other, elegance and grace. From 1890 to 1892, he very deliberately chose a few of the available breeds for his palette. The exact composition of that palette has been lost to antiquity, but all sources agree that the Homer was one, selected for vitality and fertility, the Maltese for its compact chicken-type form, the Roman or Runt as it is often called for size, and the Duchess for that all important element, elegance. Harry choose only pure white specimens for his creation. This decision was made in part to satisfy the squab's marketability, and also for show considerations.
The squab market demanded only white-skinned animals, and since many colored pigeons have darker colored skin, the colored pigeons were dropped from the palette. Also, setting a particular color pattern can take many generations, and Harry, it seems, was in a hurry. While he may have had strong desires to create a show bird, a par-excellence squab producer was clearly the primary target, and he did not miss.
By 1892, just two short years later, Harry was so pleased with his results that he called them the King of Pigeons. From that name, I believe Harry could have found a career in advertising. They were prolific, white-skinned, cobby in form, and around one pound in weight dressed at four weeks of age. While they were certainly not up to the standards we find today, they were the perfect squabbing breed for the day. Life sometimes has a way of forcing us to retreat from our loves and Harry had to let go of his White Kings. In 1895, Harry disposed of his flock to local area fanciers, William McMahon and Harry Troth.

But it was not McMahon or Troth that really projected the Kings onto the world stage. That was done by the Giroux brothers. They understood the worth of this new breed and invested heavily. Within but a few years, they had the largest squab producing plant in the United States. The White King Squab Company produced thousands of young per year.

Unfortunately, Harry Baker was never to breed his pigeons again. He was killed at a railroad crossing just a few years later, before his creation became nationally, and now internationally, known.
They advertised effectively to market their product, and thereby the White King gained national prominence, and the breed's popularity grew accordingly. In 1915, the American White King Association was established, and now the show side of the breed was off and running.
On the other side of the world, well, California, another squab breeder threw his skills into the creation of Kings. It was just after the turn of the century that a man, coincidentally named King, started his project to develop Kings, but of a silver rather than white color. C. Ray King used basically the same stock as Harry Baker, consisting equally of Homers, Maltese, Mondaines, and Runts. The Duchess was missing from his stock, and this is probably the germ that led to more blocky examples being developed on the West Coast than on the East. By 1921, the Silver King had become common on the West Coast of the States, and at the fifth annual show in Oakland, California, the White King Association accepted the new color class and changed its name to the American King Club to accommodate the new addition. In just eleven more short years, because of dedicated breeders whose names I do not know, four more color classes, the Blue, Dun, Red and Yellow Kings were brought into existence.
The King today remains one of the most popular show birds in the States and abroad. It is found in even more colors and patterns than those currently noted in the National Pigeon Association standard, including the popular Andalusian. And undoubtedly, out there somewhere, a few dedicated, enterprising breeders will borrow a gene from another breed and develop even more colors and patterns for the King to wear. Long live the King.