The staff of the Hattie Weber Museum is putting together an exhibit on an organization from Davis’ agricultural past — The Purple Circle. Members of this group, which was active from the 1920s through the ’60s, were mainly ranchers committed to raising purebred livestock, for which many had distinguished themselves by winning grand championships (purple ribbons) in competitions from Yolo County to the international level.
It was Gordon True, chairman of the University Farm’s Animal Husbandry Division from 1914 to 1926, who coined the term “purple circle” to refer to the state’s largest concentration of prize-winning animals.
Today’s Davisites, unaccustomed to seeing cattle or sheep, may be surprised to learn that the circle enclosed all land within 10 miles of “the Davis to Woodland axis,” and in the 1920s included 46 ranches as well as the University Farm itself. Ranches closest to Davis were owned by the Rowe, Schmeiser, Roby, Irwin, Pierce, Hopkins, Anderson, Swingle, Dolcini and Briggs families, and the Davis Horse and Cattle Company.
True had created interest in high-level livestock competition as early as 1916, when steers and sheep from the Animal Husbandry Division won purple ribbons at the Chicago International Livestock Exposition. (“University Farm Stock Carries Off Highest Honors,” shouted The Davis Enterprise.) In following years, animals from both the University Farm and several area ranches would receive top awards at this prestigious event.
The tradition of the Purple Circle annual dinner, where the completion of the livestock-show season was celebrated and the year’s winners recognized, began in 1925, when a banquet was held in Sacramento’s elegant Senator Hotel. It would be continued, at similar venues, until well into the 1960s.
The Hattie Weber is looking for items connected with the Purple Circle to borrow and include in the exhibit. If you have items related to this group, or to area livestock breeding in general, that you’d be willing to lend for a few months, contact Mary Lee Thomson or Merrily DuPree at email@example.com or call 530-758-5637 on Wednesdays and Saturdays between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m..
The museum, which showcases Davis’ history, is at 445 C St., in the northeast corner of Central Park.