The American "Philadelphia" Veiltail Goldfish

Probably the most elegant -- and difficult -- tail type in goldfish is the Veiltail. Also referred to as a broadtail or a fringetail, this large, square-ended double-tail type can occur in any fancy long-tailed breed. Because of the size and delicacy of the finage, fish of this type demand sterling water conditions and care.

The Philadelphia-style Veiltail is a round-bodied fish with normal eyes and no adornments besides the finage. The fish has a short, deep body, as is typical of most fancy double-tailed varieties and a pointed head reminiscent of a Ryukin or Fantail. The dorsal fin is erect and as high as the body is deep. All other fins are double and free-floating: the caudal being fully double and square ended, up to one and half times as long as the body.


The Veiltail goldfish has several stories about is origins in America. One of these tales talks about Imperial Goldfish being sent to the city of Chicago, USA from Japan to be exhibited at the Columbian World Fair, which opened May 1, 1893. It was told that these fish became sick, with most of them dying. A few were rescued by William Seale, who was at the fair as the head of the US fish exhibit. At the close of the fair, Seale returned home to Philadelphia with the World Fair fish, and later sold it to Franklin Barrett. With this fish Barrett began the famous line of American, or "Philadelphia" Veils.

Another tale about the start of the American Veil, and perhaps the truth, is given in the Aquarium Magazine of March 1968. On page 55, William Seale gives his account of the World Fair fish. Seale reveals that no live fish were in the Japanese exhibit, only goldfish preserved in jars with alcohol. However, the Wisconsin State Fish Commission had imported from Japan fringetailed Ryukin goldfish for their exhibit at the fair. It was these fish that became sick with fungus and so were not shown at the 1893 Fair. At the end of the fair, Seale saved five or six of the Wisconsin Fringetail. He did return to his home in Philadelphia with the saved goldfish. He did sell one of these goldfish to Barrett for $15. The fish was a pearly, or white metallic male, having no special finnage. Later on it did develop classic fringetail finage. There are no photographs of this fish, but a very nice drawing of it can be seen in Herman T. Wolfe book - Goldfish Breeds, page 46. (1908). The quality of this veil line can be seen in the 1917 Innes book "Goldfish Varieties". A Barrett Veiltail called Sunset is the frontispiece of this book.

Originally the Barrett Veiltail strain was produced from a Japanese Fringetail and a Chinese Telescope Eye with a short but very square tail. John Cugley of Philadelphia imported these Telescope Eye fish and shared them with Barrett to establish a very good line of American Veiltails.

In the 1920's, the Veiltail goldfish abounded in both the US and Britain. There is no certainty as to how precisely the Veiltail got to England. What is important is that the Philadelphia-style Veiltail has flourished in Great Britain in the hands of breeders like Captain Betts, Frank Close, Joe Linnale, and George Fern. By comparison, in the United States the Veiltail was almost lost until the 1970's. The recovery of the Veiltail in the US brings to mind the names of John Anderson and Al Thomma as key proponents of the resurgence of the variety.

Barrett shipped his fish to others and without doubt some of these shipments were International. Two articles in 1950 about Charles Whitehead, in the Portsmouth Evening News and the London Evening Standard, indicate that he was either a source or the origin of the English Veiltails. Whitehead likely obtained his first Veiltails from the US just prior to WWI.


Interested breeders are working cooperatively to try to create robust strains of Philadelphia-style Veiltails. Strategies include the use of imported English stock, and out-crossing with other goldfish varieties, including Telescope Eyes, Ryukins, and Orandas. Great progress has been made, but much work remains to create a variety of stable color variants with a large enough base of breeders to ensure their continuation.