The handsome mug in the photograph above lives at the Jay Heritage Center, a gift from a member of the family that owned the mansion prior to its becoming a museum. The signature of the artist, Gustav Manz, can be spotted just above the second "A" in "America." The Van Nordens bred many champion breeds at their estate in Rye, New York—from bat-eared Frenchies shown at the 1900 Paris Exposition, to Highland cattle brought to the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair.
The inaugural meeting of the French Bull Dog Club of America (FBDCA) was held February 12, 1898, and the medal commissioned from Manz was presumably carved after that date. Admired for his animal and botanical designs, Manz (1865-1946) supplied fine gold and platinum jewelry, as well as small silver and bronze objets to the merchants affluent dog fanciers patronized: Tiffany, Cartier, Black Starr & Frost, Marcus & Co, and Shreve, Crump & Low, and in the case of this medal, jeweler F. Walter Lawrence, whose upstairs salon was located on Union Square.
Coincidentally, Lawrence's son, Walter B. Lawrence, went to Yale, where Cole Porter had penned the college's fight song enshrining the school's original mascot, Handsome Dan (d. 1898).
Athletic, fraternal, and sororal societies at elite colleges and boarding schools purchased elaborately carved class rings and pledg epins from the same retailers their parents patronized for cufflinks, signet rings, gold-mesh bags, watch pins, and bronze and silver trophies for their prized animals. Directly or indirectly, Manz's studio benefited greatly from Old School competitive spirit. Throughout the Edwardian period, his workshop produced scarf-pins and charms portraying favorite show breeds, including French and English bulldogs, some in 14kt gold and others, in diamond studded platinum.
Numerous canines and felines passed through the Manz household, and the artist was said to be partial to St. Bernards (in line with his Swiss-German roots). During his early years as a designing jeweler in New York, the Frenchie was introduced to America by society breeders. And despite early skirmishes with fans of rose-shaped ears (preferred by English breeders)—leading to the formation of the FBDCA—pups with bat-ears were favored by judges, and continue to charm.
(Mathews Family Collection)
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