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The Trenton Strain of Racing Homer

 

The Origins of the Trenton Strain

Conrad A. Mahr, started flying homing pigeons in 1886. His first club was a “family club” made up of Conrad and several of his schoolmates. One of these schoolmates had a cousin (Mr. Bond) who kept homing pigeons and who was moving out of the area. It was decided that the loft and birds would be moved to the schoolmate’s house.

Conrad and his friend got a horse and wagon and moved the loft and birds. For his labor, Conrad received some homing pigeons, including “137 Trenton” out of an old imported pair (blue bar cock and red slate hen) of the Gus Offerman Strain. This pair had won for Offerman, in 1881, 1st and 2nd National in the most prestigious long distance race (550 miles) of all Europe at that time.
The Offerman Strain was basically a cross of the birds of an Irish flyer named McCluthian with the birds of Henri Soffle. The strain of Henri Soffle was founded on birds of Baron Ulen, the fancier credited with having formed the first reliable strain of racing pigeons derived from other varieties of pigeons (The Liege, the Antwerp, the Brussels, etc.). The McCluthian birds were descendents of “ship birds”. These ship birds; were used by captains sailing the channel ports, to relay messages to the owners about when the boats would be docking and the extent of the cargo carried. As a side note: the Hansenne strain also had the ship birds in their background.
"Ship birds" trace back to the 1850's and were developed by Dutch fishermen. A Mr. Giles brought a group of "ship birds" back from Antwerp to England in the early 1850's and described their heritage as being the "Antwerp" type; a cross of the Antwerp Owl and the English Dragoon. However, Andres Cooper, secretary of the Belgium racing society, relates that the base of the Belgium racing pigeon was the Cumulet of Antwerp crossed on the Smerle of Liege. Later, around 1825, the Belgium birds were crossed on the English Dragoon.
The Cumulet of Antwerp, is a high flying endurance pigeon that was known to fly so high that it would disappear from sight. The Smerle or Liege, is a pigeon that was know for rapid flight over short distances.
The Dragoon, is one of three breeds developed in England (the Horseman, the English Carrier and the English Dragoon), all considered to have descended from "Bagdad" carriers. The "Bagdad" carrier was known to have been introduced to England during the 15th century.
Other lofts founded on Offerman birds were:
Mr. W. H. Cottell of Wood Vale, Forest Hill, supreme champion of the old Columbarian Society in the south of England.
One of the four foundation birds of the loft of Charles Thorougood of Sefton, Liverpool, was a cock number 109083 which was of the Posenaer strain bought from Offerman. Upon the Thorougood bloodlines, J. Kenyon built his Black Pieds family and Peter Guy his Scarisbricks family.
(NOTE: When the Posenaer birds were crossed with the Trentons they produced what was called the Philadelphia Blacks or the Black Diamond strain. Many of the present day Trentons contain this blood. Black in a Trenton is almost a sure indication of Posenaer blood).
One of the greatest English racing pigeons was Excelsior bred by E. E. Jackson in 1899. The sire to Excelsior was an Offerman.
In 1889, Conrad crossed in a pair of birds he obtained from a Mr. C.O. Barrett. This pair was of the Gits and Van Opsal strain and was related to many champions for Mr Barrett, all 500-mile day birds.
From John Caddoo of New York, Conrad used a few Barker birds bred close to those coming from "Marcia," said to be the greatest producing hen that ever lived.
In 1894, Mr. W.B. Ganairants of Newark, NJ sold all of his birds to Conrad. Included were Noah and Thunder (brothers of “137 Trenton”) and a hen called Bright Eye, who when mated to “137 Trenton” produced well over 25 – 500 mile day birds. Bright Eye was a niece of “137 Trenton”.
Many flyers of the time were made famous flying the Trenton blood including C.W.Oetting, Dr. Schilling, H. Beaches, A. Nemachek, J. Sheppard, J. Howard, T. Rival, C. Hub, T. Hickey, D. Flynn, and others.
The Trenton strain produced many of the first outstanding day-birds at 500, 600, 700 miles. The Indiana Trentons, from 1905 forwards, were regularly flown out to 1000 miles. In the Pittsburgh, PA area, the Harry Elston strain (strongly Trenton bloodlines), were flown out to 1300 miles.
Conrad A. Mahr, started racing in 1888. In 1898, a fire destroyed his home, loft and all his birds. Nonetheless, from the birds that were sent out prior to the fire, the Trenton strain went on to create a lasting legacy as the foundation of many of the great long distance lofts in the United States.
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 History of the Trentons
Source of the following information was obtained from the ATB website.
What follows is a reproduction of an article published by the late Otto Meyer about 1980 which gives a little background on the Trentons and the ATB.

American Trenton Breeders
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by Otto Meyer, Publicity
Rt. No. 1. Box 331-B
Madison Heights. Va. 24572
The original purpose of the American Trenton Breeders was to promote and perpetuate the Trenton Strain of racing pigeons. When the ATB was organized 23 years ago, there were only a very few fanciers who had any Trentons, and the strain had almost disappeared. Today there are several hundred fanciers who have at least a few Trentons and some of the members have nothing but Trentons. This was one of the greatest strains of pigeons ever in America. Never in the history of pigeon racing has any strain won as many races as was won by the Trentons. This was during the early part of the nineteen hundreds and this winning trend went on for a period of about 25 years. The Trentons made more world records at the long distances (1000 miles and further) than all other strains combined. These records were printed in this publication about two and a half years ago.
Anyone who is interested in becoming a member of the ATB is welcome to join. You are not required to have Trentons to participate in the activities of the organization. The ATB has encouraged many things to improve our pigeon society. For a long time a national trophy was awarded each year to the owner of a 600 mile bird with the fastest speed. A national trophy was also awarded for the fastest speed at 500 miles. Then came the 1000 mile classics for which Harold L. Driver was primarily instrumental in establishing. Eventually these races may become the National Classics of America.
Milton E. Haffner of Fort Wayne, Indiana is recognized as one of the best 1000 mile racing pigeon experts in the United States.In November 1979 he was the guest speaker at the Washington State R.P. Organization Convention. He has permitted me to quote all or any part of his presentation. I am happy to quote the following parts that will be of special interest to fanciers who wish to fly some of their birds in the 1000 mile classics:
"The Fort Wayne Racing Pigeon Club has been in existence and has had young bird series and old bird series since 1887 or for 92 years. Around the turn of the century. four or five of the local fanciers ordered direct from Conrad Mahr four or five pair of his Trentons. It was from these Trentons blended with Grooters that the Fort Wayne fanciers started making long distance records, some of which still stand today. During the period from 1905 thru 1930 the Fort Wayne flyers were flying 2 and 3 1000 mile old bird races and a 1000 mile young bird race, it definitely required a different type of bird than the Sprinters and Speedsters in short races where money is the big factor. It required then and still does today, a bird that comes home on his own initiative and determination to get home.
Oscar Anderson is the oldest living flyer in Fort Wayne. He is 92 years old and up until a year ago. could tell all about his flying with the Old Timers in 1902 and 1903. It is rare in a 1000 mile race that two birds will come together. The 1000 mile world record established in Fort Wayne was by Dr. Schilling's Blue Checker Trenton, named Hagen, who made the flight in 2 days, 3 hours, and, some minutes from Abilene, Texas. Needless to say, the publicity his bird got only gave the local boys something to shoot for as they all wanted to beat Hagen's world record. In 1910 Hagen's record was beaten by a Red Slate Trenton cock flown by Henry Beach. He called his bird 'Abilene'. Henry Beach's bird made the 1000 mile flight in 2 days, 2 hours and some minutes. Needless to say, Abilene's performance gained a lot of national publicity in pigeon circles.
Henry Beach sold many Trentons and many prominent flyers obtained their first Trentons from Beach. Among the well known flyers of today who obtained birds from Beach are Otto Meyer and Art Nemechek.
Three years later on July 11, 1913, a Blue Checker Trenton-Grooter cross hen named 'Bullet' homed in Fort Wayne from Abilene, Texas, 1000 miles late in the afternoon of the 2nd day to the loft of Oscar Anderson, whom I referred to before. Only a died in the wool pigeon fancier can dream of the pleasure young Oscar had when his 'Bullet' made the world record in 1 day. 11 hours, and 24 minutes, and 6 seconds making a speed of 1042.54 yards per minute. This was not the first good performance for 'Bullet' as she had previously flown 500 miles same day two different times. I might add that Oscar disposed of his last pigeons in May 1979. He said at 92 it was too hard for him to get up into his second story loft in his barn.
In 1927, the 24th of June, Bullet's record was broken by "Wayne Jr." another full Trenton bred and flown in Fort Wayne by the late C.W. Oetting and to the best of my knowledge this record still stands for a club sponsored race from 1000 miles. Wayne Jr. flew 1005 miles to his home loft in I day, 10 hours, 22 minutes and 20 seconds, with a speed of 1122.43 ypm. Wayne Jr. was bred down from the Mahr Bright Eye Trenton strain. Mr.Oetting sold quite a few birds in the 30's and 40's and I am sure some of his blood lines exist in many lofts around the country.
Not long after Oetting's record, the Depression of the early 30's came. Hard times followed & the local club had difficulty in keeping its ranks together as everyone was pinched for finances. Then the unforgetable war years from 1941 thru 1945. During the period 1931 till 1945, pigeon racing all over was at a low ebb. Only short races were flown and rarely a 1000 mile race.
Around 1948 as an admirer of the 1000 mile performances, I started promoting a 1000 mile race again and it was not until 1953 that our club started flying the 1000 miles again. and with the exception of a few years. it has been scheduled as an annual race.
In 1958 on Thursday, July 3rd our race birds were released at 7 AM Fort Wayne time. Friday the 4th of July, was a holiday and of course, in as much as the weather was favorable. I did a lot of looking for a bird. Saturday morning I had to go to work till 12 o'clock noon. When I returned home at 12:15 my wife nonchalantly told me she clocked a bird around 10 o'clock. I went into the loft and it was the bird I later called 'Abilene Jr.' He had flown the distance in 2 days, 2 hours and 58 minutes. 'Abilene Jr.' was then put into the Golden Cage and used for breeding only.
In 1960. two years after Abilene Jr. made the good time. a bird I later called 'Ditto'. a full brother to Abilene Jr flew from the same 1000 mile station in 2 days. 4 hours. and 59 minutes. 'Ditto' won this race by a full 24 hours to the next bird home in the club, which was my bird called 'Spotty'. Spotty flew from the 1000 mile station a total of five times. During the period from 1958 till 1968, we had birds home almost every year on the 3rd and 4th day.
In 1977, we participated in the 1000 mile race from Houston, Texas. This race has been known as the Atlantic Coast Thousand. We are over the 1000 mile dis- tance so we participated in 1977 and 1978. Lofts from North Carolina, South Carolina. Virginia. Maryland, Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana participated. Approximately 35 lofts with 105 to 140 birds were entered in this event. In 1977, Fort Wayne birds won 2nd and 3rd and in 1978 we won 1st and 3rd. The same 3 birds that in 1977 won 1st 2nd and 3rd came in 1st 2nd and 3rd in 1978 only in a different order. Is it coincidence, or does this tell us that some birds will come from the 1000 and some just won't? In the last 18 years, I have shipped a total of 66 birds to 1000 mile race stations and of this total of 66 birds. 48 have returned home. This is quite a good return home percentage.
My family of birds which I call my Abilenes are a four way cross - the old Fort Wayne Trentons, Grooters, Bastins and Bricoux which I myself brought into Fort Wayne. I found back in the late 40's that this four way cross gave me everything I wanted in the way of good type and smart birds.
I do admire long and wide flight feathers which is a characteristic of my birds. I do not like to ship a bird to the 1000 mile station until it has been to the 500 and 600, which means it must be in its 4th year of flying. I do not like to send yearlings to the 500 or 600. only to 275 miles. Then the 3rd year to 500 and 600.
Now, how do I prepare the bird for a 1000 mile flight? The year that I intend to ship the bird to the 1000 mile race, I only enter it in the first 100 mile race of the season. Then for about three weeks before the 1000. I try to get the bird or birds to 50 miles about 3 times a week. and feed them quite heavy so they have good body.
I like a cock bird on a 10 day old youngster and a hen on eggs about 12 to 14 days. I have had much better results with the cocks at 1000 than the hens.
Here in the United States, popularity of a 1000 mile race seems to be gaining. More and newer clubs are sponsoring a 1000 mile race each year. In European countries a 1000 mile race is rare. There have been so many wonderful performances by fanciers in this country with birds of the Trenton background, I cannot but help think this All American strain should get more credit. They definitely have a stronger homing instinct and will work home from some of these SMASH races all clubs seem to be experiencing today."
I respectfully thank my good friend and ATB member, Milton E. Haffner for per mitting me to quote the above information. Many fanciers will be happy to broaden their knowledge on the 1000 mile flights to better prepare them for the American Classics.
The Trenton book, "I Kept Them Flying" by Conrad A. Mahr is being reprinted for the 4th time. It seems to be the best seller of all books.
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 The Trenton Strain Of America
Text : Liam O Comain
Edited : Degrave Martin
To have written about Belgium, Dutch and British strains of racing pigeons and ignore a strain formed in the United States of America would perhaps have illustrated a prejudice which does not in reality exist. Therefore I have set out in this article to convey to the reader some knowledge about an undoubtable great strain of long distance racing pigeons - the Trentons.
Based upon research this famous strain has an input from a fellow Irishman called McCluthian for the pigeons of Henri Soffle coupled with the latter lay at the basis of the Trenton strain. The latter two families were crossed by a Belgium émigré to the USA called Gustove Offerman who settled in Brooklyn in the eighteen seventies. Offerman had almost instant success with his family of racers and eventually when he returned to Belgium the success continued and in due course his family crossed the English channel to influence the inmates of British lofts. Osserman also judged in England during this period. Furthermore one of the greatest English racing pigeons bred by E. E. Jackson was'Excelsior' and its sire was an Offerman. Upon his return to Europe Offerman soon afterwards won a 550 miles race and also took second position. This was in 1881 and he sold both pigeons a cock and a hen to Fred Whitly of Newark, New Jersey. It was from this pairing that 'Trenton' or as he is often called '137 Trenton' was bred. A niece of the latter with the same bloodlines was 'Bright Eye' but it required an intelligent mind to blend both birds together to create the first and perhaps the greatest long distance strain of the USA. And that mind belonged to Conrad A. Mahr who formed what is known as 'The Great American Strain'.
To digress, for a moment, in about 1894, Mr. W.B. Ganairants of Newark, NJ sold all of his birds to Conrad Mahr
which included 'Noah' and 'Thunder' ( both brothers of 'Trenton' ) and the aforementioned ' Bright Eye', who when mated to 'Trenton' produced approximately thirty 500 mile day birds. Now there are sources who believe that the Trentons should rightfully be called the Offerman strain but it is acknowledged by the majority that it was Mahr who really formed the strain. The latter of good intellect although lacking in formal education coupled with a very good horse sense and powerful dedication lay the ground for historic flights of 1000 miles plus across regions of the American continent. Sadly the bird that was to give its name to the strain and the first American one perished when Mahr's loft burned down on September 5, 1898, at 55 Magazine Street, Newark, New Jersey. As a great dealer however Mahr had sold much of the Trenton bloodlines and as a result the strain spread like a prairie fire throughout the land of its origins and indeed beyond.
Another Belgian fancier called Posenaer had brought his birds to United States and when some were crossed with the Trentons they produced a black colour in the Mahr strain. Thus black in a Trenton is almost a sure indication of Posenaer influence.
Let us look at a few records flights by the Trentons: in July 11, 1913, a Blue Checker half Trenton known as 'Bullet' homed into Fort Wayne from Abilene, Texas, 1000 miles late in the afternoon of the 2nd day to the loft of Oscar Anderson, a world record in 1 day, 11 hours, and 24 minutes, and 6 seconds making a speed of 1042.54 yards per minute. On the 24th of June, 1927, 'Bullet's' record was broken by 'Wayne Jr.' a full Trenton bred and flown into Fort Wayne by C.W. Oetting. 'Wayne Jr.' flew 1005 miles to his home loft in I day, 10 hours, 22 minutes and 20 seconds, with a speed of 1122.43 ypm. Much has happened since then in relation to this fabulous strain. In fact one of the great exponents of the Trenton's- Milton Haffner of Fort Wayne, Indiana, according to my sources in a period of 21 years sent 79 birds to races of 1,000 mile distances and realized a percentage of 71%- that is 57 returns.
This is phenomenal! One of the latter a cock named 'Spotty' flew 1,000 miles five times collecting a first and a second with his last race at the age of nine years old. And today representatives of the strain continue to cross the one thousand miles barrier. In fact this great strain of distance racing pigeons went on to create a lasting legacy as the foundation of many of the great long distance lofts in the United States of America.

Oshaben Trenton's

Ed Oshaben passed away November 10, 2002.  He wrote the following story the night before he had his stroke.

The story of Ed Oshaben's True Trentons

I started with my first Trenton in 1933 at the age of 10.  I bought my first Trenton at the Chicken Market for 35 cents.  All I knew was that it was a Homer.  His band number was 456 M-33 AU.  He was a Blue Check broad breast with a lot of bronze on his chest and heavy ceres.  I didn't find out much more until I was 14.  I met a pigeon flyer by the name of Stan Persin, he looked up the bird and we found out it belonged to a Westside(Cleveland) fancier by the name of John Brigiel.  My older brother drove to John Brigiel's house.  He was very happy to know that I had #456.  He told us that someone stole the birds from him.  He not only gave me permission to keep him but gave me a mate for him and another pair of Trentons.  His Trentons were of the Beach strain. In 1938 I joined the White City Homing Club in Cleveland and started to fly.  After awhile I purchased some Beach Trentons from a fancier by the name of Patrick McDonahue from Youngstown, Ohio.  They were the old time Beach Trentons with heavy ceres and wattles.  After I purchased two hens from Art Nemechek and two Red hens and a Black cock from Otting and also got three birds from Schumaker which went back to Connie Mahr.  So I have a combination of all the best Trentons available.  All my birds had to fly the 500 each year.  I flew birds in Cleveland for 35 years.  I brought twelve pairs of Trentons with me, all were 500 milers.  Flying here in Lisbon, I made a practice of flying all my birds in the 500 each year and some went to the 600.  Right now I have a loft of 30 pair of Trentons, one nicer than the other.  They come in Blue Checks, Blue Check Smokes, Slates, Bronzes, Solid Reds, and Red Mottles, Red Smokes and Slates, Dunns, Yellows, Blacks, and some colors there are no names for.

Ed never lost his love to maintain a pure strain of the True Trenton.  He carried strong convictions for the standard of a True Typical Trenton.  Although he ruffled feathers at times, his point was always proven by the quality of his birds and by the number of trophies he received at ATB Conventions.

Pigeon fanciers in as far away countries as Belgium, Japan, England, Germany as well as Canada and most of the fifty states have purchased birds from Ed's loft.  Many of his evenings were spent conversing by phone with new and old pigeon flyers alike, sharing his love and knowledge of Trentons.

This tribute is in loving memory to a great man.  Although Dad has passed on, he will never be forgotten.  All the men and women who knew him and bought Trentons from him will continue his legacy with their love for the True Trenton.

History of the Oshaben Trentons written by Ed Oshaben
 submitted by Chuck & Ginny Oshaben
Email:keystrees@earthlink.net

 

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