Ragdoll History 1969-1975

1970 saw the Ragdoll make its first appearance onto the cat world stage. Almost from the beginning it was involved in myths, controversy & conflicts, which continues to this day. The Los Angeles times had a short article about a new breed of cats called Ragdolls which the Daytons had seen. As they read the article their interest grew, but Denny was reluctant to see them as “he hated cats.” However, when they saw the Ragdolls they knew that they were destined to buy a breeding pair. Ann Baker, the developer of the breed, convinced them that they were the cats of the future. In 1969, Ann Baker sold her first breeding pair of Ragdolls to Laura & Denny Dayton.

Upon accepting the responsibility of becoming breeders, they realized that they needed to chose a cattery name, and registered it with all the cat associations. They chose the name Blossom Time for their cattery, and it was Laura’s wish that the future Ragdolls would be named after plants, flowers, etc following a theme of things that would flourish and grow. They applied for a business license in order to do business in a residential district. They soon learned that detailed record keeping was an absolute must. A full time study of the individual habits of the cats was a situation that turned into a never ending study. Their full cattery of 18 Ragdolls kept them both busy, especially at mealtime. Witnessing the birth of their first born kitten made it all worth while. A large amount of money went for advertising, show fees, spay fees and general Vet fees.

In September 1971 a lady by the name of Opel Jensen who owned 5 female Ragdolls that she had bought from Ann, decided that she had had enough, and wanted out; so she offered to sell all 5 of them to Denny & Laura, who agreed to buy all 5. In Feb 1972 a gentleman by the name of Bob Minter who had bought Pancho Villa and Melonie wanted out and offered to sell both of them to the Daytons who agreed to buy them also.

At about this same time, the Daytons agreed to buy Pecos Bill and Barbie from Nancy & Phil Delano. At the peak, Denny said that he had 18 Ragdolls and they were all Raggedy Ann Ragdolls from Ann Baker. Ann claims that Denny was the first Ragdoll breeder; one thing for sure is that Denny was the first Ragdoll breeder to stick with it, and for this we will be eternally grateful.

It was hard getting started in the early years with a new unknown breed, but in 1974 Denny put an ad in the Los Angeles Times advertising their Ragdolls and you might say that the floodgates really opened, and for a long time the Daytons were unable to keep up with the demand for their Ragdolls.

Denny was soon bitten with the show bug. Show Time was a word that his Ragdolls would soon learn. “The height of excitement is when your first Ragdoll is shown.” This was the beginning of years of showing, and always trying to move forward to gain recognition and on to Championship status in all associations.

During their 13 years of breeding Ragdolls they created the Ragdoll Genetic Chart, formed the Ragdoll Society, and served as its first President, started the first Ragdoll newsletter, and played a huge role in getting our Ragdolls registered in all cat associations except CFA.

In 1982 after 13 years of breeding Ragdolls, and enjoying a very educational and wonderful journey, they retired from breeding with the rewards of satisfaction of knowing that they had helped establish the legitimacy of the Ragdolls in the cat fancy.

In 1972 a lady from Indiana named Blanche Herman became interested in the Ragdolls and contacted Ann Baker about buying a breeding pair from her. In 1973 Blanche flew out to California to see Ann’s Ragdolls. She agreed to buy a franchise and a breeding pair from Ann, for which she paid $2500, $1000 for the 2 Ragdolls and $1500 for the franchise. Blanche’s state of Indiana would be the only State other than California where a franchise would be set up. Blanche bought Bam Bam a blue mitted male and Pebbles a seal mitted female. Not long after, Blanche would buy 4 more Ragdolls from Ann including Susie, and her Ragtime cattery was on its way

Blanche and Ann seemed to hit it off together at the beginning, as Ann immediately appointed her the Vice President of the East for IRCA. Blanche soon learned as many before had learned, that working with Ann was no easy task. Blanche continued trying to work with Ann up until about 1978 when she finally gave up, and began devoting all of her energy to the RFC/RFCI full time.

As early as 1974 Blanche established contact with the Daytons and flew out to California in 1975 to spend some time with them. She soon saw that the future of the Ragdolls as a breed, lay with the Daytons and the Ragdoll Society, rather than with Ann. She completely broke away from Ann and joined the Ragdoll Society and became very active in it serving as Secretary-Treasure for 4 years, and Ragdoll Breed Chairperson ACFA for 4 years. She loved to show her Ragdolls showing them in CFF, TICA, and ACFA, as well as exhibiting them in CFA. She worked hard with the Ragdoll Society to get the Ragdolls accepted in ACA, ACFA, & TICA. She was voted in as a Lifetime member of RFCI.

The Ragtime cattery produced a number of well known Ragdolls who appear in many of todays pedigrees and were well known in the show halls. Perrywinkle soon became a favorite in the show halls, he was a favorite of Tom Herbst, an ACFA judge. On the RFCI site under winners he is listed as one of the winning Alters from 1982-1985 show season, finishing 3rd, 2nd, & 2nd during those years. In 1986 Perry was the ACFA Best Ragdoll of the Year. Dixie was another favorite in the show halls and appears in many pedigrees. In the 1982-83 season she was the 3rd Best Ragdoll in Championship. By far the most famous Ragtime Ragdolls was Bartholomew who is the ONLY Ragdoll to ever appear in the Guiness Book of Pet Records. He appeared in the 1984 book as one of the largest domestic cats.

During these early years, the Daytons & Blanche would be the dominant breeders of the Ragdolls.  Others who joined in with them to show & advance the Ragdoll breed, were Ruby Spagnol who would serve as the first Sec’y-Treasure of the Ragdoll Society in 1975, Elaine Fagerstrom, Pat Garner, Kit & John Pope, and Gladys & David Allen.

From the beginning, the Daytons tried to work with Ann Baker to promote the Ragdolls nationwide, unfortunately they were like oil and water. They had two different visions for promoting and marketing the Ragdolls. Ann sought to promote the Ragdolls using hype, claiming outrageous things such as they were a phenomena of nature, they felt no pain, non fighting instincts, non-shedding & that they all go limp when picked up and handled. This helped her, but did little for other breeders who were buying her Ragdolls and starting catteries of their own. From the start, the Daytons and other breeders saw that they needed to get their Ragdolls out where people could see them, and they could market them in a manner that would help their sales. The Daytons and the other breeders saw that Cat Shows would be the place where their Ragdolls could obtain the greatest exposure to the public.

In a letter dated August 19, 1973 Ann Baker wrote to Ruby Spagnol : “I cannot work with Mr. Dayton who fights me every step of the way as our minds don’t seem to run in the same channel. I must have someone to work with who will further the breed for national recognition on a high level and not the cat show level.”

This was to be the major conflict between Ann and those who were buying her Ragdolls, and who were looking for different ways to market their Ragdolls. Ann had written the original standard for the Ragdoll, but it was only for the Mitted Ragdoll. This was the standard that Ann submitted to NCFA for the Ragdolls. This created a situation where they could only show their Mitted Ragdolls, while the vast majority wanted to show all three patterns.

Ann was content to only have the Ragdolls registered in NCFA, while the other breeders wanted to be able to register them in all associations. As most of you know each cat association has its own terminology which requires a slightly different standard for each association. Ann claimed that there was only ONE standard for the Ragdolls, and that was hers, and she was not going to change it for anyone, least of all for some cat association.

Ann claimed that in 7 generations, all Ragdolls would be mitted, and therefore there was no need for a standard that included the Bicolors & Colorpoints. The problem with this was that the Ragdolls were already in their 8th generation, and there was no sign that the Bicolors & Colorpoints were going to just disappear.

Another disagreement was over what to call the 3 patterns. Ann had been calling them the black legs, white legs & mitteds and was happy with those names. The other breeders wanted something that would be more acceptable to the different cat associations they were trying to get accepted in. They came up with the names we now use : Bicolors, Mitteds & Colorpoints.

Ann wanted to have TOTAL control over the Ragdoll breed, and her greatest fear was that if she allowed other breeders to have a say in the formulation of the Ragdoll breed, that she would lose that control. She wanted to have the authority to always make all final decisions regarding the Ragdolls, no matter what others might suggest or want. Things only got worse as more and more Ragdoll breeders began to support the Daytons and the approach they were advocating to market and advance the Ragdolls by getting them into all the show halls where the public could see them.

By 1974 the Daytons realized that they and the others were never going to be able to achieve the goals that they felt were necessary to advance the Ragdolls within the Cat Fancies where they felt their market was. The final blow came from Ann Baker, when she called the City Council of Thousand Oaks and turned the Daytons in for having a cattery in their home without a license. For many like Denny & Blanche, showing was the supreme joy in breeding. If they couldn’t show the Ragdolls that they were producing, what was the point in breeding? It was during this time that the Daytons and the other breeders felt that they needed to organize themselves, and work together to achieve their goals. They began to put their ideas together, and out of these ideas would come the First Ragdoll club named the Ragdoll Society in 1975.

Written by Wain Pearce based upon information from Denny Dayton and Blanche Herman.

Bron: Ragdoll Historical Society