APA Standard Changes Overview

This article on APA Standard changes is being reprinted from February 1923 Reliable Poultry Journal.

The first compilation of standards for all breeds of recognized breed character was made by the London Poultry Club in 1865 or 1866. The exact date is not obtainable from any source of information accessible in America. Presumably some copies as published by the London Poultry Club reached this country, but none are known to be in existence. For knowledge of the English arrangement of this Standard we are indebted to the 1867 edition of “The Poultry Book” in which it was printed by W. B. Tegetmeier as an appendix, the author adding the standards for the French breeds.

The first American edition of this “Standard of Excellence” was

published in 1867 by A. M. Halsted, New York. with the endorsement of the American Poultry Society, which was the organization then holding poultry shows at New York. This was a 32-page unbound pamphlet, the last two pages containing poultry advertising. The picture in the series of Standards on opposite page shows this edition as bound in leather tor preservation.

The “Halsted Standard” made several changes in the arrangement of the original, the most important being the placing of the Brahmas at the head of the list. It also added descriptions of White and Dominique Leghorns, Bronze Turkeys and Cayuga Ducks, and the descriptions of French breeds from “The Poultry Book.” This Standard used the English scale of points, in which the total was 15, and made scales of points on the same basis for the American breeds that were added.

apa standard changes

The ”Halsted Standard” of 1870:

This is a reprint of the 1867 edition with a paper cover and a few additional pages of advertising, and it has the further endorsement of the New England Society and the Pennsylvania and Connecticut State Societies.

The “Halsted Standard” of 1871

It is a revision of the preceding, with changes approved “by the conventions” of 1871 not specifically named, and with the addition of a chapter on poultry diseases and one on artificial incubation, obviously to help sales. The whole made a paper covered book of 60 pages.

This is the first Standard in which the American scale of 100 points is substituted for the English scale of 15. Mr. Halsted edited and arranged this as Secretary of the New York State Poultry Society.

This Standard contained descriptions of Plymouth Rocks, Dominiques and Brown Leghorns. In it, the description of the Dominique preceded that of the Plymouth Rocks, and an editorial note following the later stated that the color description of the Plymouth Rock was “probably erroneous.”

The “Lockwood Standard” of 1871

Dissatisfaction with the treatment of the new Plymouth Rock by Halsted appears to be the cause of the publication of another Standard, also purporting to give the action of “the conventions.” This was published by W. H. Lockwood, Hartford. Conn., Secretary of the Connecticut State Society. In it the Plymouth Rock description immediately followed the Asiatics, while the Dominique went with the miscellaneous breeds at the back of the book, thus avoiding close comparison of their color descriptions. This conflict of standards was the immediate cause of the movement to organize a national association to control the Standard.

Mechanically the Lockwood Standard was a much more creditable book than the other. It had smaller pages and the text was set the width of the pages in clean type. It was printed on good paper, and bound in fine leather, with gold decoration. This ”Lockwood Standard” was also published in paper covers by the Massachusetts Poultry Association.

First American Poultry Association Standard of Excellence – 1874

This version of the Standard was prepared by a committee appointed when the American Poultry Association was organized at Buffalo, February, 1873. In form it followed the Lockwood Standard, but it rescued the Dominique from the obscurity to which that edition had consigned it, gave it precedence of the Plymouth Rock, and gave the latter the most incoherent color description ever made for a Standard fowl. Its numerous other faults caused a demand for immediate revision. It was a paper covered book of 102 pages, and contained two pages of instructions to judges, the first recognition of the necessity for authoritative instruction in regard to the interpretation and application of the Standard description.

The American Standard of Excellence of – 1875

This was the real beginning of distinctively American standards. In it was carried out systematically the more elaborate division of sections and the studied arrangement of the “scales of points,” regarded as essential to the application of the method of judging by discounting for faults which the American judges, headed by I. K. Felch, had developed.

All the descriptions were elaborated with the greatest care to avoid obscurity and ambiguity in statements of requirements. Each variety of every breed was fully described separately thus greatly expanding the text and making a book of 243 pages.

In this Standard the “Instructions to Judges” were replaced by a single page of “Suggestions to Judges,” and a glossary of technical terms taken from Lewis Wright’s “Illustrated Book of Poultry,” was added.

This 1875 edition of the Standard was a remarkable piece of work, especially so when we consider that it appeared within ten years of the first attempt to compile a general Standard and was made by judges and breeders whose opportunities to study high class birds were very small as compared with those of the modern specialist. It was bound both in stiff and flexible boards.

light brahma, apa standard changesThe American Standard of Excellence – 1878 and 1879

Except for some slight changes in the APA Standard text the edition of 1878 was identical with the 1875 edition. The changes in this APA Standard, including numerous errors, led to an immediate revision and the issue of an edition of 1879.

The American Standard of Excellence – 1883 and 1886

These editions, like the two preceding, are the same as the 1875 edition, with the addition of the new breeds and varieties admitted from time to time, and with occasional slight changes in the text. The change in the APA Standard of 1883 is chiefly notable as that in which the Wyandottes first appear, and the 1886 edition as the last to bear the title “Standard of Excellence.” It may truthfully be said that the Standard of Excellence as published by the American Poultry Association in 1875 stood without material change until 1888.

The American Standard of Perfection – 1888

Bearing this year’s date there are two editions. The first, known as “the obsolete edition,” was the first attempt to make an illustrated Standard, showing correct types. It contained outline profile drawings intended to represent the ideal in Plymouth Rocks, Wyandottes, Dominiques, Leghorns, Exhibition Games, Russians, Sebright, Rose Comb, Japanese and Polish Bantams. These outlines were serviceable only in that they emphasized the limitations of the poultry artists undertaking them. The omission of certain principal breeds was due to the refusal of the committees on those breeds to approve the outlines submitted. The condemnation of the outlines accepted and published was so general that the edition was declared obsolete and another edition, minus the profiles, was published. This authorized edition of 1888 differed little from earlier editions except that the suggestions to judges slightly extended, again took the tone and title of “Instructions,” and that the new breeds recognized were added. The Standards of Perfection bearing dates 1890 and 1892 were printings of the 1888 revision.

The Standard of Perfection – 1894

Except as it included new breeds and varieties, the changes to this APA Standard differed so little from its predecessors that the period in which it was in force, and especially the latter part of that period when the association was making the quinquennial revision required in its constitution, was characterized by agitation against the frequent revisions of the  Standard, that without making any material changes made it necessary for breeders and exhibitors to buy the latest edition of the Standard in order to be sure that they were informed in all the details of the rules in force.

The Standard of Perfection – 1898

Because of the popular attitude toward frequent revision of the Standard, an attitude shared by the considerable element of the members, the revision and changes of the 1898 APA Standard was undertaken with a rather indefinite general understanding that with its adoption the old practice of a general revision once in five years would be discarded.

With this thought in the minds of some members, and all being impressed with the importance of thoroughly considering everything relating to the Standard, the Revision Committee made special efforts to improve all descriptions, and in every way to bring the Standard down to date.

For the first time in the history of Standard making, a large committee, representing breeders of all classes of Standard poultry, met and remained continuously in session until it had painstakingly discussed every detail of the Standard, decided upon certain progressive features and systematically reconsidered the entire Standard in relation to these changes.

The special features of the 1898 Standard were:

  1. The separation of shape and color descriptions to avoid unnecessary repetition of shape specifications with each color variety. This was in reality a return to the method of the original London Poultry Club Standard from which the American Poultry Association had departed in the Standard of 1876.
  2. Identical color descriptions for the similar varieties of different breeds. The ten years preceding this revision of the Standard had witnessed an extraordinary increase in the number of color varieties. In every case the breeders were insisting on making the color description to suit themselves, regardless of the confusion arising from a lack of harmony in detailed specifications for the same color pattern as developed in varieties of different breeds. This was causing the greatest confusion, and making it often impossible for a judge to place awards without constant reference to the book.
  3. Standardization of only one shade of each variety color. The object of this was to secure uniformity in color as a necessary condition to more uniform judging of color, and to check the tendency to divide color varieties into sub-varieties, differing only in shade of color.
  4. The listing together of general disqualifications, and placing special breed disqualifications with the breed description and special variety disqualifications with the variety description.
  5. The inclusion in the Standard of a short list of specific cuts for common defects. The object of this was to secure more uniform judging by giving a Standard “scale of cuts” to apply where judgment was on facts and easily measured differences, not wholly a matter of opinion.

The last two features were of great importance because with them began the standardization of judging practice gradually developed in succeeding revisions and still in progress.

Mechanically the 1898 Standard showed no improvement over its predecessors. It was a cheap book in cheap binding; in use it gave fair general satisfaction so much that there was no popular demand for change. Due to the operation of its more uniform and specific color requirements, breeders were making marked improvement in color in many varieties.

appleyard ducksThe Standard of Perfection – 1901 and 1903

The 1901 edition of the standard was the same as that of 1898 with the addition of varieties admitted at the annual convention in 1901. The 1903 edition included varieties admitted in 1903. Both editions also had some minor changes in text.

The Standard of Perfection – 1905

The notable lack of uniformity of type in many Standard breeds, each year more strongly emphasized by contrast with the progressive improvement in color, began about 1902 to revive the idea of model illustrations in the Standard which had been given a severe setback by the experience of the Association with profiles in 1888. The project now however, was not to give simple outlines, but to show male and female of each variety. Illustrated in profile drawing, but with full development of every detail of form and color of the bird as seen in that pose, the high skill that had been attained by American poultry artists made this plan practical. The idea of adequately illustrating the Standard was carried out in this edition with full-page reproductions of male and female, separately, of forty-three standard varieties.

Other features of this edition were:

  • Substitution of an enlarged and carefully prepared “Glossary of Technical Terms,” freely illustrated with appropriate drawings of the same high quality as those of the Standard models.
  • Recognition in the “Instructions to Judges” of the comparison system of judging, which because of the failure of the American Poultry Association to develop the score-card system of judging it had introduced, had supplanted the score-card in the leading shows.
  • Additional instructions to judges.
  • A largely increased list of specific cuts for defects.
  • Very great improvement in the mechanical structure of the book. In this edition the Association broke away from its traditional policy of publishing a Standard as cheaply as possible, and selling tt at a “popular” price and adopted the policy of making the Standard as good as possible.

The illustrated and improved Standard of Perfection had a sale far exceeding that of any previous edition. Through increased circulation, and the influence of a wide distribution of graphic illustrations of Standard requirements, it’s influence upon the improvement of Standard poultry was immediately apparent. The several printings of this edition bearing dates between 1906 and 1910 are identical except that each later printing usually has some corrections of typographical errors discovered in the preceding edition.

The Standard of Perfection – 1910

The new changes to this APA Standard were the substitution of half-tone reproductions of “idealized photographs” for the reproductions of line drawings of model birds in the 1905 Standard, and the publication, with the glossary, of five color plates of feathers.

The making of satisfactory illustrations of the kind desired proved more difficult than had been anticipated and the first edition printed had so many defective or otherwise unsatisfactory illustrations that steps were immediately taken to correct its faults. The corrected edition appeared within a year. Provision had been made for the exchange of copies of the defective first printing for correct copies, but very few availed themselves of this privilege.  The popular view was that the fault of the first printing were technical rather than material, and that as they were limited to the illustrations, it was hardly worth while for owners of the first printing to take the trouble to exchange their copies.

The Standard of Perfection – 1915

The most important changes to this APA Standard edition are differences between this and the 1910 Standard. They were the extension of the list of cuts for defects, the omission of the color plates for feathers, and the partial adoption of a different form of description for the hackle feathers commonly and customarily called “striped.”

These were all slight changes. The first was of most importance in its relation to Standard making because it indicated a tendency to carry this feature to its full development, a result which logically leads to a reconstruction of the system of score-card judging incorporated in the Standard. The omission of the color plates was a negative act, merely registering the general opinion that the time had not arrived to develop color illustrations as a feature of the Standard.

According to the constitution adopted in 1914 this edition of the Standard was to stand without general revision for eight years, but changes in the form of corrections of manifest errors could be made at any time and new breeds were to be included in the first printing made after favorable action upon them by the Association.

No material differences in the different printings of the 1916 Standard appear until 1920. The book bearing that date describes the Brown Leghorn as of two color sub-varieties, “Dark” and “Light.” This was done in accordance with the action of the Association at its annual meeting in 1919. That action was a revival in one instance of the policy put into effect in the 1898 Standard in regard to color sub-varieties.

The effect was destructive to established principles of Standard-making and to the authority of the American Poultry Association. The action of the Association in this matter was directly responsible for the demand which almost immediately came from all sides, that the Association should accept the recommendations of specialty clubs to Standards for the varieties they represented, regardless of all other considerations.

tolouse gooseThe Standard of Perfection – 1923

The principal distinctive changes to this APA Standard edition is its specific recognition of the economic qualities of Standard bred fowls. This recognition is given in two ways:

  1. In a general introduction to the Standard emphasizing the fact that American Standards have always been made with a view to the development and preservation of economic qualities
  2. In the addition to the chapter of ”Instructions to Judges,” of sections dealing with the judging of utility classes of live birds, the judging of dressed poultry and the judging of eggs. A special series of illustrations of the anatomy of the fowl and of the relation of body shape to feather contour is a prominent feature of the book.

The principal changes in specifications relating to exhibition poultry are along the line of greater rigidity in requirements.

“Alternative” specifications as ”white or creamy white” are abolished. Disqualifying clauses tolerating degrees of fault are very generally eliminated and specifications made more severe. Thus the Association is at the same time raising the standards for exhibition poultry to the limit, and establishing standards for the commercial products of Standard poultry.  What the result of this will be, only time can tell, but the inconsistency of doing these things in the same Standard is obvious, the advance in Standard requirements is in purely superficial matters.

Several improvements in arrangement of text are made in this latest Standard, and various items of appropriate information are added. Considering the further development of its new features, it stands out in the full series of Standards used in America, with the Standards of 1876, 1898 and 1905 as distinctly registering progress.

Addendum by Mark Fields in 2018

From 1953 until the first color edition was released in 1983, all editions were the same except for the 2 supplements that were added in the sixties as changes to the APA Standard.

The changes to the APA Standard in the 1983 edition saw the first colored standard and a change to table top format as well.