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pigeon The North American Roller Pigeon
Fascinating Historic Information & Details
Kelley D. Spurling, 1 Jan 1993

Chapter 2


Over the last 120 years, many fanciers have bred and flown North American Rollers. A select few have made a significant impact upon the breed, either as a breeder or a spokesman. It is important that the legacies of these fanciers and their birds are not forgotten. In the chapter that follows I will make a discussion of famous groups of North American Rollers and the men that developed them.

I realize that some names and strains of rollers may be missing; this is due only to a lack of information; and not a lack of space. To my knowledge this is the first and only time that this information has ever been printed together. It is the result of nearly a decade of collecting information.

RICHARD R. KRUPKE, Canton, Ohio (June l3th, 1873-April 23rd, 1970) One of the greatest fanciers of all time was Richard Krupke of Canton, Ohio. Krupke played a major role in the development of the North American Roller, along with Liebchen, Schlicter, and others. Krupke may have played the role. For over 80 years he bred and flew North American Rollers. He was born in Elbon, Germany and immigrated to Canton, Ohio at age 13 with his parents. Krupke has said, "Dad had raised pigeons in Elbon since 1858. We were in Canton only a month when we imported Tumblers."

Krupke and his father also made important contributions to the fancy breeds of this country. In 1889, they imported Shields, Komorner Tumblers, Beard Tumblers, and Magpies from Germany at great expense. They also developed quality Frills, Pouters, Dragoons, and Runts. Krupke is still better known as a roller fancier, his kits went up for thousands of spectators over the years. It seems they never failed to please. Krupke's strain was developed mainly from birds he acquired from Licter and Liebchen, but also from birds bred by an English immigrant named Tom Guild. Guild had succeeded in bringing his pigeons over in a basket at age 17. Krupke used birds from Guild on a regular basis.

Krupke generally bred 150 birds a year, three kits; from the 19 pair of his best performers from the year before. Then he would sell all 19 pair. He did this each year, constantly replacing one generation with the next. He had so much faith in his birds even the best never stayed more than one season. On breeding Krupke says, " I always bred the deep spinners to short snappy rollers that were good kit birds and like to fly. When necessary, I bred from Rolldowns. I selected the breeders from the air. When I was sure it was the one, I removed it to wait for the breeding season. When my nineteen pairs were selected, I sold the rest."

F.W. LIEBCHEN, Cleveland, Ohio (? -?) Liebchen is said to be the first American fancier to practice the method of mating Birmingham Rollers to Asiatic Rollers. It was from this mating that the long roll was finally obtained, and Almond Rollers procured. According to Krupke, Liebchen kept about 200 rollers in a large barn and they were as good as they get. Liebchen was also influential in the writing of the first written aerial standard by American fanciers. Unfortunately little else is known about him.

F.S. SCHLICTER, Portsmouth, Ohio (?-?)Very little is known about Schlicter even though he is one of the major developers of Rollers in North America. It was through a friendship between Schlicter and Mr. Crangle, that many long rollers were imported into the U.S. After a shipment arrived, Schlicter would immediately send some of the new arrivals to Krupke in Canton, and Liebchen in Cleveland.

ELMER R. B. CHAPMAN, Stoneham, Massachusetts (? -?) Chapman is considered one of the pioneers of the Pigeon Fancy in North America. He was considered an authority on many breeds, but was more so a Roller fancier. Whatever the case he wrote many small booklets on the various facets of pigeon keeping. He acquired his first rollers from Chas. Lienhard of Cincinnati, Ohio in 1884 and kept them for nearly 60 years. Chapman also experimented with many other breeds of performing pigeon so as to gain a further understanding of his Rollers. He as well, corresponded with fanciers of performing pigeons of all sorts by the hundreds, not only in North America, but also England, Europe, and Asia. In 1934, Chapman published a book on rollers entitled "Rollers and All About Them". Among his observations are the following: "A kit is a family, and the best kits were found to have been bred off of one bird or family which had the properties required." "Don't believe everything written or printed about rollers. Read, study your kit and use your own experience as a guide and you can have a kit that will fly high and long, spinners or long rollers, and birds that will always stay home."

O.C. CASPERSON, Wisconsin (? -1930) Another famous fancier was O.C. Casperson of Wisconsin. His strain was highly prominent during the 20's and 30's. It is a well known fact, that Casperson purchased many Valuable birds of Whitting~ descent from an 'Old Man' Stevens of Toronto, Canada; about the period of 1905. Shortly after Casperson's death in 1930, L.G. Eldridge of East Greenwich, RI purchased Casperson's entire stud from his widow at an unheard of sum. Through Eldridge, the strain became even more common; especially in Rhode Island. Unfortunately, during WWII many fanciers were forced to sell out due to hard times to the dealers of pigeons. From then on this grand old strain was absorbed into other strains.

Throughout the entire course of my research, I only discovered two fanciers who still kept this old strain. One lived in Rhode Island, and the other was W. Paul Bradford of Salt Lake City, Utah. 3radford said that he purchased these rollers at the age of nine from railroad man named Tat Taylor in Salt Lake City. He described them as all either Black, Red, or Yellow self’s. Bradford, age nine; paid One dollar a pair of each color. Taylor purchased these birds from Eldridge, no doubt after 1930.

J.V. MCAREE, Toronto, Canada (? -1956) Prior to about 1950 the supreme Roller fancier in all of Canada was none other than J.V. McAree of Toronto. He is of course best known for his importation from all three generations of Whittinghams. Beginning about 1905, McAree began importing a half dozen pair per year from the Whittinghams for roughly 45 years. McAree kept the Whittinghams for nearly 50 years, and gained quite a reputation as a fancier.

One of his greatest achievements actually came through his student, and best friend; the Rev. James E. Graham of Ontario, Canada. Graham of course wrote a book entitled 'Acrobats of the Air' in 1931, and achieved a huge following. McAree had aided Graham to a large degree in writing the book, and received constant mention in its pages. To the effect of: "J.V. thinks...." in regard to such and such subject, Graham also says; "What I have seen Mac deem as worthless, most would place at the front of their kit." On breeding, McAree says he "always mates one. long roller to another long roller; breeding at times from a rolldown." McAree inbred his birds closely for many years.

He goes on to say: "Some rollers will be mere tumblers or mediocre performers for two or three years or even longer, and then will begin to roll well. Some of the best Rollers I have ever seen would have been killed and left no descendants had it not been for the accident of having given them away, when they were destined for pie… …they had not developed as youngsters and I was discarding them, for it was my practice for some years to begin on the first of the year following that in which the pigeons were bred to begin killing those which had not begun at least to tumble… …this was folly on my part, for undoubtedly I ignorantly destroyed many birds that would have proved valuable."

In 1956, we find that Graham moved next door to McAree in Toronto and purchased all of McAree's birds. They were housed in a large barn behind McAree's, along with Graham's other birds. They must have been the finest Roller collection known to the world at the time.

JAMES E. GRAHAM; Kirkland Lake, Ontario, Canada (? -1982) As we already know, the Rev. James E. Graham was a studen of J.V. McAree of Toronto, Canada. In 1916, Graham purchased some Whittinghams from McAree For nearly 60 years, Graham maintained a pure family of Whittinghams. In 1931, Graham published "Acrobats of the Air". It was the first book upon Rollers written by a North American fancier, but since Graham had only had Rollers for 15 years and considered himself still a novice; he enlisted the aid of not only McAree, but also E.R.B. Chapman of MA, Ray E. Gilbert of Salt Lake City, UT, and Ken L. Payne and Wm. H. Pensom both of Birmingham, England.

The book was an instant success, and Graham became rather famous. Within the book's pages was a striking photo of a fabulous Red Brooch cock with jet black eyes that had established himself as a favorite in Graham's loft. Graham chose the name "FIREBALL" to add a flavorful touch. Inquiries from everywhere poured in about the bird, including one offer for $50, an unheard of figure in those days. Of course, he was not for sale, but Graham sold many of his young and other birds. From then on, the entire strain was known as "The Fireballs".

The first Fireballs sent to the U.S. were sent to a teen aged fancier named Tom Butler, by way of train in early 1932. Incidentally, I spoke to Mr. Butler during the summer of 1992. He was residing in Deer, AR and still had some Fireballs.

It was an interesting conversation that I will always remember. I am sorry to report that I was informed that Mr. Butler passed away on Sept. 29th, 1992. By 1940, the Fireball strain became so widespread that the Fireball Roller Club was formed. Among its charter members were Dr. C.A. Nordland of Portland, OR and Samuel Saunders of Maine.

Both became the club's workhorses and each held several terms in the office of President. Graham was often fond of saying that his entire strain descended from "The Fireball", while this is true; "the Fireball" was not the foundation pigeon. 1933, found Graham relocating to Northern Ontario. Since he had just moved and it was winter, Graham housed his birds temporarily in a small woodshed.

Upon the second day, "Fireball" escaped; he took several rolls and was never seen again. A blizzard struck only hours later, and temperatures plummeted far below zero. Fireball no doubt perished. Graham did have one son of "Fireball", a Red Beard; and it was this bird that founded the entire strain. In 1956, Graham moved next door to McAree, and purchased all of his birds.

They were kept in McAree's barn. Graham then selected his ten best pair, and McAree's ten best pair as breeding stock. The rest of all the birds he sold off. Upon McAree's death that same year, 1956; Graham again relocated this time to Wisconsin where he stayed until 1972.

At this point, all the birds were sold and Graham moved to retire in Bradenton, Florida in 1980, Graham released the 3rd revision of "Acrobats of the Air" which was anything but successful. 1981 finds the Fireball Roller Club bankrupt due to its Sec/Treas. having stolen the funds and leaving for parts still unknown with a woman other than his wife. Here ends a major chapter in North American Roller history.

LESTER J. MANZ; Riverside, New Jersey (? -1976) Another famous fancier was Les Manz of NJ. He is also the mentor of one of our modern day old timers, none other than Chandler B. Grover of Elk Grove, CA. Manz was a proficient writer on Rollers, and respected by many.

Les Manz's strain of rollers hold their origin to a group of Whitting-hams brought to Camden, NJ in 1925 by an Englishman named Hargrove. Hargrove immigrated to work at the Easterbrook Pen Factory in Camden, NJ. A fancier named Bygraves secured a good many of these Whittinghams from Hargrove, and upon his death in 1929, Manz purchased the entire stud from Bygraves' widow. Then in 1934, Manz along with a fancier named Frank Sinclair purchased the entire outstanding stud of A.C. Karp of Cleveland, Ohio.

Karp was a top-notch fancier, and an authority on Rollers. At that point, Les Manz blended the Whittinghams with the Karp birds even though they were totally different in type. The result was a family of Reds, Yellows, Blacks, Duns, Bronzes, and Sulfers-all marked birds.

Upon Manz's death in 1976, his breeders went to a Mr. Chas. Hubbs and the kit birds went to Chan Grover. Twelve years later, Chan Grover later sent the author the remnants of this old family. Three birds I bred down from these are solely responsible for my entire family of Red and Yellow Whitesides. I believe I had in my possession the very last living Les Manz bred bird in existence.

This was an Odd-Eyed Red Spangle Cock NIRC #3732-76. He as a favorite among my loft visitors and they reference to him as "Old Odd-Eye". He produced into his 13th year, and at age 17 escaped from my breeding loft where he resided as a foster parent; often I could trust the old boy with as many as 4 or 5 young and once with 7 babies. The latter time was totally an accident, as he actually stole a clutch from another pair! One thing is certain; at the very least this grand old family make excellent feeders. Once I had a hen fall ill with her first round of young, she continued feeding them right up to the day she died. Another fancier reported a similar incident with the same family.


Certainly other fanciers and their birds deserve mention in this section, unfortunately; the history of North American Rollers has been lost with time. The early fanciers were seldom-skilled writers, and it generally took an outsider to write about someone's pigeons. It is ridiculous that we know more of 5000-year-old Egyptian mummies than we do of 70 year old Roller strains. Other deserved fanciers were Jack LaRue, A.D. Blackburn, Hagernorst, Tom Barnum, Russ Harter, S.P. Mathie, Wm. Ross, August Nue, Rube George, Francis Buckley, the Dubois Bros., J.A. Smith, Wm. Tie Mey, G.E. Wuthew, and many others I have perhaps never heard of. Should the reader hold any valuable historical information on Rollers, or Pigeons in general; please document it in writing and send it to one of the periodicals.

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