A Brief History of the Pigeon Genetics
American Pigeon Journal
Several months ago, I took a cue from something mentioned in a personal letter from Dr. Willard F. Hollander that inspired me to write the following article. I was unaware at the time that he had already submitted a similar article to the A.P.J., entitled ... "50 Years Of The Club That Ain't" [see Dec. 1988, A.P.J., pages 75-76]. In spite of similarities, I submit this article as a sincere effort to further enlighten fanciers about a unique association that may have been unknown to them and/or one of which they may want to become involved.)
For over 30 years there has been a subculture in the pigeon fancy with an analytical attitude towards the breeding of pigeons. Until the discovery of the "gene" as a unit of heredity in all living things, pigeon breeding was considered an "art". Today, the "art of breeding" is a catch-line among lay animal breeders that is rapidly waning, as widespread knowledge about the principles of genetics penetrates their ranks. It seems relevant to mention that at one point in time, the most serious students of heredity theorized that the "blood" carried material that was passed on to future generations. A reference to "bloodlines" still conveys that idea but in fact means little.
Newsletters ..., are information bulletins, written in casual, brief style, that have become a vehicle through which participants communicate and disperse information. In January 1957, the first issue, of a four-paged newsletter, entitled "Pigeon Genetics News Letter", sprang into being. Rather than explain the guidelines of the Pigeon Genetics News Letter, (referred to as ... PGNL); selected lines will be quoted from page one in their sequential order.
"This little bulletin is being sent to over 50 pigeon genetics amateurs, most of whom are listed in this issue... For the first year quarterly issues are planned; and editing, multigaphing, and mailing will be at Ames, Iowa, under the auspices of he Iowa State College Agricultural Experiment Station. Beyond that here is no definite plan, and the rest will depend on you.... Previously there has been poor liaison among the experimental breeders. Here is a vehicle for sharing discoveries, problems, and ideas .... Your interest is essential. It is not always possible to make a discovery, but you can always put in your oar or comment or question. If you don't say something at least within 6 months, you may not receive another issue ... Items from your letter will be extracted for the newsletter, if they seem appropriate ... If you have birds of unusual kinds in surplus. please notify! The newsletter will list them. It is understood that they are offered gratis...”
It may come as no surprise that the first editor of PGNL was none other than Dr. Willard F. Hollander of Iowa State University. For ten years Hollander edited the four to six page newsletter, establishing the format of the newsletter and guiding the readership toward a more scientific approach with respect to pigeon breeding. The Term "blood" began giving way to "genes", "art" to "science", and ignorance gave way to awareness and enlightenment.
Breeders began transferring traits from breed to breed with confidence and certainty. With growing clarity, the knowledge that many traits are single (gene) units which could be incorporated into any breed, invaded the thoughts of pigeon fanciers. During Hollander's ten years as editor many pigeon breeders became amateur geneticists. His students became teachers to other students. The movement was underway...!
After 10 years and 40 issues, Hollander relinquished the editorship to Joe Quinn of Atwater, Ohio. Issue 41 made print in January 1967. Quinn began expanding PGNL well beyond the four to six page format. He included reprinted material of importance to fanciers that had no way of finding such material. Other items of pigeon/dove science were included, not particularly oriented towards genetics. Issue #46 had grown to 44 pages long, and #56 and #57 exceeded 80 pages. The use of stencils was the current method of copying and the effort was Herculean. Endurance was a key to being editor and the continued rising costs apparently became a concern. The number of participants had grown to well in excess of 100; and personal donations helped defray printing and mailing costs. No subscription rates were charged for PGNL up to this point. Issue #72, October 1974, was the last issue edited by Joe Quinn.
At this point in time, a change for financing was apparent. David Rinehart of Tallmadge, Ohio, accepted the editorship. After a change in name, the pigeon genetics enthusiasts again received the newsletter. However, instead of a quarterly, it was published three times a year and the subscription rate was $10.00 per year. The name was changed to "Pigeon Science and Genetics Newsletter".
Issue #1 came out in January 1976 and was 47 pages long. The printing was done professionally and was bound with printed soft-cover paper, and punched for 3-hole notebook rings. Photos were reproduced in black and white and the print was much clearer. Rinehart edited nine issues of PS&GN and arranged for photostatic copies to be made available at Heidelberg College, Beeghly Library, Tiffin, Ohio 44883.
The next person to assume editorship was Lester "Paul" Gibson. of Plain City, Ohio. This time the publication was called "Pigeon Genetics, News, Views and Comments", and was to be a quarterly, limited to 26 pages and material generally restricted to pigeon genetics. By this time, photocopying was common-place and the slick, soft-covered issues put out by Rinehart changed to photocopied print.
Issue #1 of PGNV&C was out by January 1983. The subscription. rate was $10.00 a year but rising costs forced future increases. In issue #23, September 1988, the subscription rates are listed as follows: one (1) year - $15.00 for Canada, Puerto Rico, Mexico and the United States - $19.00 for Great Britain, Europe and Africa - $21.00 for Australia and New Zealand. Pigeon Genetics, News, Views and Comments, Dr. Lester P. Gibson, 417 S. Chillicothe, Plain City, Ohio 43064.
Over 30 years of reported breeding data, comments, observations, ideas and reprinted articles and reports, put into print for those who have a desire to sort out the truth. Involvement or knowledge of the latest discovery, regardless of how minute. New acquaintances from all walks of life, sharing of birds, corresponding over details, etc., gradually occupy a place in life that was nonexistent and will not vanish, even with great neglect -- quite a different view of pigeons than the usual show mania!
Whether or not a pigeon genetics newsletter will exist for another 30 years is anyone's guess. Publication costs, dedicated editors and a steady influx of newcomers seem to be the key elements. The world of pigeon breeders owe a great debt of gratitude to editors, Hollander, Quinn, Rinehart and Gibson for undertaking such a thankless, profitless undertaking.
Soon after the purchase of our first home, in 1968, a new pigeon loft was constructed and the increasing desire to learn more about pigeons followed. A letter to Wendell M. Levi, asking questions about difficulties encountered studying pigeon genetics from his book "The Pigeon", was forwarded to Dr. Willard F. Hollander for a reply. Hollander's letter of March 7, 1970 was the first of hundreds over the past 18 years. My introduction to PGNL came with Issue #54, during Joe Quinn's editorship. The World of Pigeons began to expand like the opening lens of a camera. The realization that there are usable truths about pigeons and that pigeon breeders exist who are willing to share those truths; all intricately bound together by the ongoing Newsletter, is a phenomenon that must be experienced and not explained.
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