My Book

Who was Claudia Lea Phelps?

Claudia Phelps (1894-1984) was one of three children born to a prominent American family. Seeing a Westie for the first time in 1911 at the Morristown, N.J. dog show, both Claudia Phelps (as a seventeen year old girl) and her mother, Mrs. Sheffield Phelps, fell in love with the breed. The following summer in London, the family bought their first Westie. Both Claudia Phelps and her mother were active showing and breeding Westies. Claudia Phelps finished her first champion in 1912.

Between 1913 and 1928 with the help of the best English bloodlines which she imported, as well as her own excellent breeding program, Miss Phelps had many of the best West Highland Whites in the show

ring.  Miss Phelps occupied a unique position with regard to her favorite breed. She became known as the American Sponsor of the West Highland White Terrier. Miss Phelps was president of the West Highland White Terrier Club of America in the early formative years of the club.  She also was active judging the breed at the age of 22 years.  Her breed judging activities in this country and abroad demonstated conclusively her knowledge of the West Highlander.  About 1916 Miss Phelps imported a West Highlander from England named “Ch. Clarke’s Hill Snooker. This dog had won the 1916 English Cruft’s show and once imported was considered by the majority in the States as the best in the country.   He was to become the first Best in Show West Highland White Terrier in America.  Whelped December 27, 1913, by English breeder, Beatrice E. Greenhalgh, his pedigree traces back to within three generations of the great English West Highland White, Morven.

        • West Point Ladas
      • Ironmouth
        • Sunshine
    • Clippings
        • Chawston Jerry
      • Hill Crest Meg
        • Swinger
  • Ch. Clarke’s Hills Snooker
        • Morven
      • Cairn Nevis
        • Corymona
    • Hill Crest Madcap
        • Colonsay Calma
      • Mary of Argyle
        • Sunshine

Ch. Clarke's Hill Snooker

Clarke’s Hills Snooker was already an English Champion when imported. A year later he was an American Champion as well.

Int. Ch. Clarke’s Hills Snooker was awarded Best In Show at the Ladies

First American Best in Show Westie

Kennel Association exhibit of Massachusetts, which was held at the Beaver County Day School in Brookline, Massachusetts at on July 17, 1922. On the day Snooker won the breed’s first Best in Show he was 8 1/2 years old and was handled by his owner, Miss Phelps. The fact that Snooker was chosen to illustrate the standard of the West Highland White Terrier Club of America speaks for his show qualities. During the period from 1920 through 1929, the Rosstar kennel produced more champions and had more top producing dogs and bitches than any other kennel. At least 10 of the 33 champion titles earned during this decade carried the Rosstar prefix.

Other than a few recorded dates and tidbits of information, fanciers of the West Highland White Terrier knew little about Claudia Lea Phelps. Through a wonderful turn of events that started with the discovery of a few old photographs this was all to change.

I made contact with a relative of Miss Claudia Lea Phelps.  She graciously invited me and my husband to meet with her, tour the estate, and learn more about Claudia.  She told us of the old photographs her daughter had and she felt would love to share.

Once I saw the photos I knew that somehow I had to have copies that I could look at over and over.  And I did just that many times. Then I felt the need to share them with other Westie lovers. How could I be so selfish to keep them just for myself? I also felt there was a “greater” reason that these pictures had come into my life. Hence the book which includes wonderful never seen before pictures of early West Highland White Terrier show dogs, their various kennels, the Aiken Estate, and of course Claudia Lea Phelps

Claudia Phelps (Claudia Lea Phelps mother) with pet Westie and Scottie.

If you are interested in learning more about Claudia Lea Phelps “Claudia Lea Phelps, American Sponsor of the West Highland White Terrier” purchase the book. It’s an excellent way to learn more about her and her important early contributions to establishing the breed in America. This publication includes wonderful photos of her early westies never seen before by the “Westie World”. Books will be available at the next club meeting or on our website at

Westie Foundation of America.

This book was written by Gilda Mallik, and fellow club member, Sandy Stryker helped with the graphic production. The price is $35.00 and the profits from this book are donated to the Westie Foundation of America. This non-profit organization is active funding research in several health related problems that affect our breed.

Claudia Lea Phelps with one of her prize pointers.

All photos above were provided by S. Wilds

Book Signing

A special private book signing took place at Brandon Hall School in Dunwoody, Georgia on June 24, 2001 hosted by Gilda Mallik and Sandy Stryker. Family friends, personal aquaintenances and member of the WHWTCGA were all invited.  It was truly an honor to also have in attendance members of Claudia Lea Phelps family from Aiken, South Carolina and Black Mt., North Carolina, as well as one of Claudia’s childhood friends. Guest perused the lobby area that displayed photo albums and pictures that were included in the book, enjoying a video display of actual film

 footage taken in the early 1900s of Claudia Lea Phelps and her dogs, and sampled a wonderful orderve buffet. Later in the auditorium Gilda spoke

regarding Miss Phelps, her important contributions to the West Highland White Terriers introduction to America and her book, Claudia Lea Phelps, American Sponsor of the West Highland White Terrier. She introduced Claudia’s niece and her daughter who both spoke of their personal memories of Claudia Phelps. What a wonderful treat for all those in attendance. Sandy Stryker, the graphic editor whose contributions were invaluable, spoke to the group about her involvement with the book.

All those in attendance were given the opportunity to purchase and have their books signed by the author and graphic editor. It was truly a memorable day for all in attendance and it was very exciting to start the book sales off with a whopping 80 books sold in one day!

Phelps Honored

Fellow Westie Club member, Laurie Spriegner thought of a wonderful tribute to Claudia Phelps. She suggested that our club have a bronze plaque made and place at Claudia Phelps gravesite in Aiken, South Carolina. With this inspiration our plans began for the production of a wonderful bronze plaque with a hand-sculpted westie head based on the photos of Claudia favorite westie. Sandy Stryker worked with a west coast artist to produce the sculpture and local monument dealer to complete the beautiful plaque. With this as our mission members of the WHWTCGA

started our trip to Aiken, South Carolina and the gravesite of Claudia Lea Phelps.

Aiken Standard account of the Dedication Ceremony.


Four small white terriers panted as they watched the more than 30 people gathered around a grave site in St. Thaddeus Cemetery Sunday afternoon.

Not completely understanding the meaning of the occasion or the noises, Raleigh barked when the group applauded, circled around his owner’s feet a few times, barked at a photographer; then sat down and panted some more. The white terrier was just not interested in what was going on.

What was going on was a ceremony honoring the late Claudia Phelps, a Winter Colonist and former owner of Rose Hill. She died in 1984 at the age of 90.

Phelps was a woman who followed her own path, interests and passions. One of those passions is what led members of the West Highland White Terrier Club of Greater Atlanta to travel to Aiken Sunday. Members of the club, family members, friends and others officially dedicated the bronze plaque the club had made honoring the woman who is credited with introducing the breed of terriers to the United States.

We the members of the West Highland White Terrier Club of Greater Atlanta, are here to honor her developmental work and introduction of the West Highland White Terrier to America,” said Gilda Mallik, author of Phelps’ biography. “Even those of you who knew Miss Claudia personally probably have little knowledge of her important contributions to the growth and development of the early West Highlands in this country. During her lifetime, she was referred to as the ‘American Sponsor of the West Highland White Terrier.’ She was among the first American West Highland White Terrier breeders and exhibitor.”

Mallik also said that Phelps was the owner and exhibitor of the first Best in Show West Highland White Terrier in America in 1922, and retained the award for two decades. She was also a judge in a time when few women were even participating in the sport.

Another sport that Phelps pursued and excelled in before other women was field trial. Mallik explained that field trials were outdoor events spent riding

horseback and following retrievers through all types of terrain and in all types of weather.

“She accomplished great recognition with her outstanding kennel of field dog champions and had the fame of being named the ‘First Lady of Field Trials.’ Needless to say when Miss Claudia became involved in field trial work, she was most probably the only woman attending these events too,” Mallik said.

As she ended her speech with Raleigh sitting at her feet, Mallik said, “I know I speak for all my fellow club members when I say that we as breeders and fanciers of the West Highland White Terrier can scarcely imagine a day without our Westies. Thank you, Miss Claudia.”

After the ceremony, the group toured the grounds of Rose Hill where one of her three kennels was located.

Estate Tour

The grounds of Rosehill, covering an entire city block, have been restored approximately to the period of the 1930’s. The new owner had hired three landscape firms to work simultaneously in various sections of the gardens. At times there were as many as 40 workers on the grounds.  Walking up the drive, the first thing we saw was the capped ornate well from which Miss Claudia’s father contracted Typhoid fever and died. From there we entered

a large pillared garden with a Gazebo in the center. Alex, Claudia Phelps’ great nephew related that the garden was originally a tennis court. As the story goes, one day Claudia’s young nieces and nephews were playing there and brazenly sent one of the servants to the house to fetch them each a Vodka and Tonic. When Miss Claudia heard about this she immediately ordered the tennis court be razed and turned into a garden.

The kennel building with its cork floor and dog doors to outside runs looked like it might have been used just yesterday. A kitchen at the end of the building was used to prepare meals for all the yapping Westies. We passed the whelping or “puppy house” next; a small building about six feet by ten feet divided into two pens with large southern windows for warmth. Stables and one time vegetable gardens were at the far end of the grounds. Claudia would often saddle a horse and ride in the nearby Hitchcock Woods with a pack fifteen or more Westies. The hospital kennel still sports the blue clay tile roof that all the kennel buildings once had. The three-car garage, complete with hand cranked gas pump. Alex, told the story of the Phelps Pierce Arrow being loaded onto the deck of a steamer so that when Claudia and her mother toured Asia they could ride in relative comfort, at least where there were adequate roads. At one time there were ten small houses on the grounds, which provided living quarters for some of the servants and staff. All the small houses across the street from the stable were likewise owned by the Phelps family and used by the staff.

On the South side of the main house are the formal gardens, complete with pools, walkways, cypress trees, and hundreds of ornate shrubs and surrounded by eight-foot high brick walls. Too bad the camellias were not in bloom. The large main house is New England shingle in appearance and built over the original farmhouse.

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