It is one of the most endearing stories I know: a tale of a boy who had a crush that turned into an over 50-year marriage. The boy, Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), became a famous artist and his wife, Phyllis Mills Wyeth (1940–2019), his muse. It is a story of triumph, of spirit, and of tenacity. It is a Wyeth story, it is a Mills story, and, at the heart of it, it is a celebration of life. Jamie Wyeth expressed this enchanted tale in his paintings. I cannot think of anything more intimate or pure, and to preserve this sentiment, I will refer to them as “Jamie” and “Phyllis” in this blog entry.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), …And Then Into the Deep Gorge, 1975, oil on canvas, 36 x 46 inches, Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

In 2014, Jamie discussed his artistic process in the short film, Inferno: “I just look at myself as a recorder. I just want to record things that interest me in my life…it’s as if I’m doing a diary.” What must it have been like for Phyllis to so deeply inspire someone that he painted her over and over again? Moreover, what was it like for that painter to be “the” Jamie Wyeth?

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Connemara, 1987, oil on canvas, 37 x 73 inches, Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

When Phyllis passed away in January 2019, the Brandywine River Museum of Art organized a tribute exhibition within two months. Beautifully curated, the paintings and sketches in Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration, spanning over 50 years, lay bare the essence of Phyllis’s uncontainable spirit and the magnitude of Jamie’s artistic talent. The combination is a moving visual journey of a woman who, despite being dealt what could have been a cruel deck of cards, lived life to the utmost.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Sable, 1988, oil and gesso on panel, 30 x 40 inches, Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Phyllis was a force of nature. A child of Alice DuPont Mills and James P. Mills, who established the Thoroughbred breeding and training operation Hickory Tree Farm and Stable in Middleburg circa 1950, she too was an avid sportswoman from her earliest days and loved to ride and jump horses. She went to the Hill School in Middleburg and was friends with Jacqueline B. Mars, daughter of Forrest E. Mars, Sr. Her father was the driving force of Mars Incorporated, introducing M&M’s in 1941, among other now-household names. The girls along with Phyllis’s older sister Mimi were the first children to hunt with Orange County Hounds in The Plains. It was an idyllic life in the Virginia Piedmont.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Iggy Visits Union Rags—Fairhill 2011, 2011, mixed media on toned paper, 4 ¼ x 8 ¾ inches, Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Phyllis went on to graduate from the Ethel Walker School, major in Political Science at Finch College, and work for John F. Kennedy when he was Senator and later President. Just shy of her 22nd birthday in 1962, Phyllis was in a life-changing car accident. A head-on collision left her with a broken neck and a year of rehabilitation at a New York City hospital. She walked with crutches (and was confined to a wheelchair later in life).

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Point Lookout Farmlife, 2005, oil on panel, 48 x 48 inches, Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Following her accident, when she was able, she attended the Maryland Hunt Cup. There, Jamie, five-and-a-half years her junior, saw her and was again captivated after having danced with her at a party. They had met by the time he was 12 years old. The couple married in 1968 and moved to Point Lookout Farm, a 240-acre farm in Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. There they surrounded themselves with a menagerie of animals, among them her prized Connemara ponies and Paint horses. After her accident, she turned her love of horses to carriage driving, both for pleasure and competitively. She started Chadds Ford Stable, a breeding operation that produced Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags in 2012. Dogs were the Wyeths’ constant companions, and they split their time between Pennsylvania and their property in Tenants Harbor, Maine.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Winner’s Circle, Belmont Stakes, 2012/2019, oil and acrylic on panel, 36 x 30 inches, Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

All the while, Jamie painted and captured the narrative of Phyllis’s sporting life and her multifaceted character for decades. The leaps and bounds he took away from his early subdued palette are seen in full force in these paintings. Perhaps he felt freer to experiment when he tried to encapsulate her vibrant spirit and fortitude, using electric colors and throwing paint. In pairings such as …And Then Into the Deep Gorge, completed in 1975, and Out of the Deep Gorge, the same subject revisited in 2002, Phyllis transforms from an enigmatic siren descending into the shadowy forest to a triumphant foil illuminated by a swirl of neon yellow. Jamie’s paintings of Phyllis are a mesmerizing and transfixing journey.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Out of the Deep Gorge, 2002, combined mediums on toned board, 24 x 29 ½ inches, , Collection of Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

At the opening event at NSLM, Jacqueline Mars said that her childhood friend Phyllis has come home. It is a poignant return, and the sentiment rings true in the NSLM galleries as Phyllis Mills Wyeth’s life unfolds through the eyes of her husband from one room to the next, an intimate experience in the original wing of the museum that was once a Federal-style house. At the event, Jamie shared an exchange he once had with Andrew Wyeth. He asked his famed father why he painted, and his answer was, “Well, Jamie, I paint for myself.” Jamie said he also thought of himself in the same way until recently, noting, “Now I know I was painting for Phyllis.” It is an honor to be the final venue for Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration and to share it with our community.

“Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration” is on view through June 28, 2020. It was organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art and was generously underwritten at NSLM by Jacqueline B. Mars.


pfeiffer

Claudia Pfeiffer is the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

One of the great things about this job is how often interesting tidbits of information unexpectedly crop up during routine work with the collections.  In library circles this phenomenon is known as serendipitous discovery and usually refers to how books on a subject or related subjects are shelved together or nearby each other.  This allows the searcher that finds one book on their topic to “serendipitously” find additional useful resources.  “I didn’t know I needed it until I found it,” is the usual comment.  In similar fashion, during reference work I often find fascinating information only tangentially related to that I was originally seeking.  This occurred most recently last month, when a question about our Facebook post for National Horse Day led me to discover the colorful character, Henry Augustus Ward.

The Facebook post was about a fossilized prehistoric horse tooth in the collection and a reader asked how the NSLM had acquired it.  Unfortunately the Library doesn’t have any record of who donated the tooth and the only documentation accompanying it is a specimen tag stating it was Eohippus species, dated from the Eocene, and was found in the Willwood Formation in Worland, Wyoming.  The bottom edge of the tag listed the supplier as Ward’s Natural Science Establishment, Inc. in Rochester NY.  On a whim I checked to see if the company was still in existence.  It is, and today they specialize in supplying classroom materials for science education.  Ward’s Science, as it is called today, was founded in 1862 by Henry Augustus Ward — a man whose life of adventure and travel sounds more like fiction than fact.

Henry Augustus Ward. From Wikimedia Commons.

Ward was born in Rochester, New York in 1834.  At the age of twelve he ran away from home and made his way on foot and by lake steamer to visit his father who was working in Chicago.  It was the first of many adventurous trips.  He was interested in geology and attended several universities, including Harvard where he studied under Louis Agassiz.  At twenty he landed a job as a tutor for his friend Charles Wadsworth.  They attended Mines School in Paris.  The two of them traveled throughout Europe but eventually Wadsworth’s poor health sent them south to warmer climes.  They journeyed to Egypt where they ascended the Nile 1000 miles and then traveled overland from Alexandria to Jerusalem, including a stop to climb Mt. Siani.  Ward stayed on in Europe after the tutoring job ended and began financing his education through the buying and selling of specimens.  It is during this time that he hits on making a career out of building specimen collections for museums and universities. 

On his way back to Rochester from this first European trip, Henry ended up contracting a fever (or small pox depending on the source) and was marooned somewhere along the western coast of Africa by the ship captain for fear of contagion among the crew and other passengers.  He was cared for by the locals and eventually made it back to Rochester, where at 26 he married and was appointed a professor at the University of Rochester.  He reportedly brought home upwards of 40,000 specimens from Europe and his obsession with collecting continued to grow. 

Catalogue of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes (1877). From the special collections at University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries

Within two years he founded the Ward’s Natural Science Establishment and began to sell not only geologic collections, such as fossils and minerals, but also natural history collections featuring skeletons and taxidermy mounts.  Ward’s would prove essential to the foundation of many American museums, allowing their core collections to be assembled quickly.  The company was also instrumental in the development of the science of museum taxidermy.  Many of the taxidermists that would eventually serve in America’s finest natural history museums had their start working for Ward’s.

After five years Ward abandoned the teaching profession and continued his life of adventure.  He dabbled in gold mining for a time both in the American West and in the Carolinas.  He became friends with Buffalo Bill Cody and P.T. Barnum, mounting buffalo heads for the former and no less than Jumbo the Elephant for the latter. 

P.T. Barnum’s Jumbo. From Ward’s Science.

He continued to travel to all parts of the world in search of specimens.  In later life he was especially interested in meteorites and amassed an impressive collection of them.  Even in death Ward was singular.  In 1904 on the 4th of July he was hit and killed by a car in Buffalo, NY.  His was the first pedestrian fatality caused by an automobile in that city.  It was a hit and run, although the driver was found and charged with manslaughter. The Buffalo Commercial ran a lengthy article about the accident that may be read here.

Henry Ward with a meteorite. From Wikimedia Commons.

Although Henry Ward wasn’t stuffed and mounted like his specimens, his brain was given to the Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell University, for research on the “physical characteristics of a brilliant mind.”  Ward’s ashes are interred in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester NY.  His grave is marked by a large jasper-flecked boulder that he brought back from Canada for the purpose. 

Ward’s grave in Mount Hope Cemetery. From Linda Hall Library.

It goes without saying that there is quite a bit more to learn about Henry August Ward than what I included in this short article.  I’d like to share my favorite description of him as well as some sources for further reading.

William T. Hornaday described Ward like this:

“His height is five feet eight, and at present his weight is 172 pounds.  If one could examine him analytically it would be found that internally he is composed of raw-hide, whale-bone and asbestos; for surely no ordinary human materials could for forty-five years so successfully withstand bad cooks, bad food and bad drinks that have necessarily been encountered by anyone who has, so recklessly of self, traveled all over creation.”— W. T. Hornaday, Biographic Memoirs of Deceased Fellows, Proceedings of the Rochester Academy of Science Vol. 5, pp. 241-251, May 1919. 

Resources for further investigation :


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail.

I love my job. Period. Full stop. End of sentence.

George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer and I travelled to New York City for the American Kennel Club’s (AKC) Meet the Breeds event at the Jacob Javits Center, January 25-26, 2020. Two days of dogs, puppies, slobbery kisses, pats on the head (the dogs, not us), exhibition promotion, museum collaboration, and a few sneezes. Turns out, I have a slight allergy.

As mentioned in my previous blog entry on dog collars, the NSLM is partnering with the Museum of the Dog in New York City for the exhibition Identity and Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar. Selections from our dog collar collection will be displayed alongside artistic representations loaned by the Museum of the Dog. What better way to promote this than to go to the source?

American Kennel Club Meet the Breeds at Jacob Javits Center, NYC, January 25-26, 2020

The Museum of the Dog kindly allowed us to share their booth at the convention, where we set up a small display of collars and encouraged guests to visit the exhibition when it opens in 2021-2022. It was a great chance to spread the word, meet our colleagues at the Museum, and do a little research. We wanted to see some of the breeds, like the various hounds and dogs, we generally come across as a Sporting Museum.

Selection from NSLM Dog Collar Collection, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2015

“Meet the Breeds” is not just a clever name. We literally “meet the breeds.” Each breed has its own booth with both human and canine representatives. As the AKC website states, “Almost 200 breeds of dogs and cats will be on site in elaborately decorated booths with elements from the breeds’ history creatively displayed as well as opportunities to learn from the experts about each breed in attendance.” This did not disappoint.

The sweet Scottish Deerhound was still waking up when we approached. She was certainly more interested in her owner’s glazed doughnut than the strangers who were hoping for a little love. She lived up to her reputation as being one of the taller breeds, coming up to our waists.

Scottish Deerhound enjoying a treat!

Another tall friend was Jamie, a Borzoi, who was particularly in love with Claudia. Jamie sidled up to Claudia for a scratch and then slowly started wrapping her nose around Claudia’s legs, not allowing her to move. When she was finally able to sidestep a little, Jamie inched along with her, head still pressed against her legs.

Jamie the Borzoi and Claudia

Finn, an Irish Red Setter, enjoyed letting us coo and scratch his ears. Secret, a Scottish terrier, allowed us to pet him as his owner gave us insight into the breed.

During our important research, we also wanted to see the dogs that were near and dear to our hearts.

Full disclosure: I grew up with dogs, but in the last decade, I’ve been a committed rabbit and cat owner. Being at the Javits Center, though, reminded me why dogs were my first loves.

Please bear with me as I briefly reminisce: my first dog was a Siberian Husky, Ninotchka, whom my parents brought home shortly after they were married. By the time I came along, she was an older girl who was very patient with two toddlers. After an incident with a larger dog who just wanted to lick me to death when I was five (the breed shan’t be named), I had a fear of all dogs that weren’t my beloved husky. That changed a few years later when I met Molly, my godparents’ Rhodesian Ridgeback. I would curl up with Molly and we’d fall asleep together after crashing from full bellies after Thanksgiving dinner. But, my number one girl was a German Shepherd/Golden Retriever mix, Annie, whom we adopted a few years after Ninotchka passed away. We were together for 13 years before Annie passed away at the old age of 15.

Thankfully I was able to see the brethren of my old friends here. I made a beeline for the huskies, where I met Foxy. Wearing black was a poor choice, but like everyone else there, I didn’t care. I just wanted to find a way to take Foxy back to Virginia with me. My plan was foiled, but Foxy did allow me to take a picture with her.

Can you come home with me?

I also gleefully saw the Ridgebacks and both German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers, who (not surprisingly) had a very long line.

Claudia saw a poodle, who looked just like her beloved canine companion, Kasey. After staring longingly for a few moments, Claudia decided to greet this doppelganger and quickly became friends. Claudia also had the luck of being on the receiving end of love from the cutest Staffordshire Terrier puppy we’d ever seen.

Have you seen a sweeter puppy?

Our booth was next to the Rottweilers and, decked out in their lederhosen and dirndls, they were extremely popular. When there was finally a small break in their crowd, we darted over to say hi to Maverick, who promptly backed up into me and sat on my feet. Not only were Maverick and his cohorts fashionably attired, but it helped dispel the negative stereotypes about this loving and biddable dog. This is one of the reasons why Meet the Breeds is so important: to inform and educate people, to provide the correct background and knowledge of the different breeds.

True Love!

Attending this event was wonderful in so many ways. Promoting the exhibition and getting such an encouraging response from the crowd was more than we could hope for and it was great to meet our counterparts at the Museum of the Dog. Identity and Restraint: Art of the Dog Collar is going to be a unique exhibition that will show how the relationship between humans and canines have evolved using tangible objects and fine art. But, also, it was rejuvenating. It had been a long week, a long drive to NY, and I was getting delirious. Walking sleepily into the convention center Sunday morning, I was instantly in a good mood getting kisses from the Akitas and Bergamese. We had fun recalling our pets from childhood and exchanging stories with our new colleagues and strangers alike, because nothing brings people together like a shared love of animals. Everywhere I looked, there was just an excitement and joy between attendees, both two-and-four-legged. Really, could there be a more wholesome event? In the words of wholesome Golden Girl Rose Nylund, “that’s dog love in your eyes!”

For more photos of dogs we were able to meet, check out our Facebook page or Instagram.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

   By Tracy A. Brown

Frederick Macmonnies (American, 1863–1937), Red-Haired Student at Easel, 1898-99,
oil on canvas, 32 x 21 ¼ inches, Private Collection

Reading other people’s diaries has long been a guilty pleasure of mine. Thanks to the publishing of their private writings, I’ve painted along with Alfred Munnings, peeked at the tortured existences of John Cheever and Virginia Woolf, and ventured into Studio 54 with Andy Warhol—to name just a few. So when NSLM’s George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Curator Claudia Pfeiffer asked me to transcribe the portrait painter Ellen Emmet Rand’s handwritten diaries in preparation for the Leading The Field: Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition now on view through March 22, 2020, it was my dream job come true. It was not only a vicarious thrill but an honor to be part of the behind-the-scenes preparation of an NSLM exhibition.

In 2016, Claudia had painstakingly photographed Rand’s diaries held in the University of Connecticut’s Archives and Special Collections*, page by page, and for the next couple of years a few of us Visitor Services Associates attempted to decipher Rand’s handwriting—which was no easy task. As Rand probably didn’t foresee her diaries being transcribed or published, she was a bit fast and loose with the punctuation and spelling. But apparently reading my grandmother’s “chicken-scratch” letters as a child had prepared me well, and I enjoyed solving the puzzle of every sentence. It helped that much of Rand’s vocabulary was from my grandparent’s era, as well: photographs were “Kodaks,” sick people felt “punk,” odd ones were “queer,” and most children “cunning.” The artist wrote descriptively about her portrait subjects, and was often amusing:

Thursday, May 23, 1935

“I worked very hard today, + if I did not make the portraits good, at any rate I made them liked by the family – I got Mr Clay about finished, he has been too ravishing all day, with twinkling eyes + a running nose, humming Yankee doodle perfectly in tune. I’ve yet to see his equal for charm.”

History is not a topic I’ve studied with enthusiasm in the past, but through Rand’s diaries I got a personal account of the news of the day. Topics she discussed included the Lindbergh baby kidnapping and trial (at which Rand was in the audience sketching), the Hindenburg disaster and disappearance of Amelia Earhart, as well as the crash of the stock market, the Great Depression, and the events in Europe leading up to WWII. Rand was invested in not only her family, community, and church, but the happenings of the world at large:

Tuesday, December 31, 1940

 “The war news is of such a nature that just today I did not turn on the radio much – just too disheartening…how can we be cheerful with the world in such a terrible state + England most of all – humans are strange things + will dance to the bitter end + insist on happiness, until it is taken by force.”

I’d thought the diaries would be largely about art, since Rand was a hugely successful painter. But over the years painting seems to have become chiefly a business to her, means to badly-needed income to support her family. As the effects of the Great Depression were realized, her worry became palpable. She agonized over unpaid bills and overdue portrait fees and raged at income tax time. As a result, her health and spirits began to flag.

Saturday, January 7, 1933

“…life on the whole has such a precarious undertone that at times it is a bit unreal & I don’t dare to enjoy it — I realize that everything depends on me + my work is so threatened just now.”

detail of Wednesday, March 10, 1937 diary entry by Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875–1941) with income tax cartoon

Monday, November 13, 1939

“…I am ashamed that my life is so controlled by my finances my happiness + content + discontent are all trackable to whether or not I have the price, not to indulge but just to live + pay bills.”

Surprisingly, Rand was largely without ego for one so successful; even in her private diary she never bragged.

Tuesday, April 18, 1933

“…I dropped my card at the White House, it may and it may not bear fruit, at any rate it’s the best I could do.”

Wednesday, August 9, 1933

“…Today was mostly notable for the fact that I did get a real honest to god order to paint President Franklin D. Roosevelt for the White House. I had a letter from Eleanor Roosevelt in which she said that he wanted me to paint him …I may go over there tomorrow to see him, or at least see the light.” 

Friday, November 24, 1933

…I worked practically all day on F.D.R’s portrait + if I’m not greatly mistaken I improved it, but I may be greatly mistaken.”

Figure 5. “Posing for Official White House Portrait,” The Hartford Courant, September 3, 1933.
Published in 2015, Enabling Authority: Ellen Emmet Rand, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and the Power of Portraiture by Emily M Mazzola

It was difficult to witness Rand’s self-esteem decline over the years:

Friday, April 21, 1933

“I rose up early, with something like pessimism in my chest – feeling that my portrait was not too good…last night I made a sketch of myself at about 12.30 in the mirror, just to get my hand in, it was quite good and quite like me but so hideous that it would knock your eye out.”

Tuesday, April 10, 1934

“The first shock I got today was my picture in both Herald Tribune + Times both photos were so ugly that I could not shake it off but just felt hideous all day, in spite of which I brought a new… dress…trying to get some self respect I suppose, my looks are getting so offensive to me that I can no longer laugh it off.”

The diaries are chock full of minutiae, as Rand habitually recorded not only the comings and goings of her family and various guests, but also the more intimate ups and downs of married life. Rand’s portrait of William Blanchard Rand, her husband of 30 years, hangs at the top of the stairs in Leading The Field, and on my morning rounds through the museum I mutter a few choice words at him as I pass by—because I know intimately the pain and humiliation his dalliances and absences caused Rand, although she tried to rise above it:

Thursday, July 24, 1930 

“…I was out of sorts from early morning on account of not being able to locate Blanchard, + I am in a general sense enraged at his being at Lebanon so much of the time – Then I painted very indifferently and accomplished practically nothing.”

Thursday, February 1, 1934

“…Edith is of course going to Virginia with Blanchard. I wonder if she is planning to take my saddle as well as my husband, well I can’t do much about her taking him, or him taking her, but my saddle is still mine. “

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875–1941), William Blanchard Rand, Esq. M.F.H. The Old Chatham, 1936, The William Benton Museum of Art, University of Connecticut, Storrs, Connecticut [image source: University of Connecticut website, Ellen Emmet Rand Gallery, https://benton.uconn.edu/ellen-emmet-rand-gallery/ ]

Of course there are two sides to every story, but I only have access to hers: what an engrossing story it was. It pained me to reach the final entry—Thursday, May 8, 1941—when Rand abruptly announced the end of her daily record. She died a few months later. 

“I will close indefinitely writing my diary. I think I will begin again in July, my fingers are still queer + numb + though they hardly ever hurt, they are awkward when I write… It does not bother me to paint I am at it every day. Today was bad, in more ways than one. I got on poorly with M.W. Clement who posed rather spasmodically…The weather was poor…Well better luck will be reported when I take it up again. Anyway…tomorrow may be brighter – until probably July then goodbye.”

It’s my understanding that relatively few people have read Rand’s handwritten diaries in their entirety, so I consider it a privilege to have helped transcribe them. I hope she doesn’t mind. And I hope visitors will come in droves to see her amazing work at NSLM.

*All quotes are from diaries held in the Ellen Emmet Rand Papers, Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, Finding Aid


A person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera

Description automatically generated

Tracy Brown is a Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts graduate and retired commercial artist-turned-fine artist. She has served the National Sporting Library & Museum as a Visitor Services Associate for nearly three years. She also rides, hikes, and raises Angus cattle on her farm in Culpeper, VA.

By John H. Daniels Fellow, Professor Mike Cronin, Boston College

As an historian of Ireland, I have been the lead researcher in the Irish government’s digital history offering for the period 1913-23, namely the decade of upheaval that led to the creation of an independent Irish state. The project, named Century Ireland, explores the day to day history of Ireland in real-time on the web and twitter. The period begins in 1913, when Ireland was in a state of turmoil. The Home Rule bill, that would potentially lead to Ireland’s independence was working its way through the British Parliament, but had met with a violent response from the unionists of Ireland (those people, mainly Protestants, who wished to remain part of Britain). There was a major general strike that was ongoing in Dublin, a housing crisis that was symbolised by the deaths of seven people in the collapse of a tenement building, and levels of poverty and illness that led Dublin to be unfavourably compared to the destitution of contemporary Calcutta. To many observers in the press there was a sense that Ireland was in utter crisis, and many writers and politicians argued that the country was heading towards civil war. This would be fought by those nationalists and Catholics who desired an Ireland independent of Britain, against the unionists and Protestants who wanted Ireland to remain part of Britain and Empire. The threat of civil war was not idly made, as both sides had spent much of 1912 and 1913 arming themselves and organising their men into private armies.

Home_Rule-_'Oh!_Henry_where_did_you_get_that_cigar_and_why_are_you_smoking_it_'_(22906005345)
British politicians forced to forced to endure the stink of Campbell-Bannerman’s “cigar” of Irish Home Rule.  From Wikimedia Commons

In the event the threat of civil war in Ireland was side-lined by the outbreak of World War One. Some 210,000 Irishmen, both Catholics and Protestants fought against Germany and her allies, and some 35,000 of them would die. At the end of World War One, Ireland did not find peace. Between 1919 and 1921 a War of Independence was fought against the British. When this did not produce the complete freedom that many Irish had dreamt of, the nation drifted into civil war which would run from 1922 into 1923. The end result of this decade of upheaval was a tremendous loss of life, the destruction of much of the national infrastructure and a political settlement that created a truncated Irish independence. The southern twenty-six counties of Ireland were formed into a sovereign state, titled the Irish Free State, while the six northern counties, renamed Northern Ireland, remained part of Britain. The island was split by a border along ethno-sectarian lines. The Free State was predominantly Catholic, while in Northern Ireland a Protestant majority held sway. As a result of the fighting and upheaval many Protestants, around 60,000 people, could not see a future in the Irish Free State and left for Northern Ireland or a home elsewhere.

DSCF5375
Harry Worcester Smith of Worcester, Massachusetts, U.S.A.  Master of the Westmeath Hunt, Ireland, 1912-1913, at the kennels.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 40.

So how is all this relevant to the collection at the National Sporting Library and Museum? I was fascinated to see, when I looked at the Library catalogue, that Harry Worcester Smith had visited Ireland and had written about his experiences. Travel writing is not unusual, but the date of Smith’s journey and the social world into which he entered were extraordinary. Ireland had been in a state of political and economic turmoil ever since the Great Famine of 1845-51. Indeed, as one writer noted in the pages of Baily’s Magazine of Sport and Pastimes in 1896, the upheavals in the country meant that ‘the fair land of Erin is even now almost a terra incognita to the great majority of travellers.’ The Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, Lord Houghton, had even gone so far to give the country the name ‘unvisited Ireland’. That Smith chose to live in Ireland when he did is quite remarkable as it was not a country often embraced by outsiders.

DSCF5371
Title page to Harry Worcester Smith’s A Sporting Tour (1925)

Smith took the job of Master of the Westmeath Hunt for a year, arriving in Dublin in August 1912 and departing for England, and a stop at Aintree’s famous Grand National, in March 1913, before his return to the United States. What Smith offers in his two volume A Sporting Tour Through Ireland, England, Wales and France (Columbia: State Company, 1925) is a unique insight into the lives of a hunting and racing fraternity in 1912 and 1913 which, due to the chaos of the revolutionary period in Ireland and the loss of life during World War One, had all but disappeared by the time the book was published.

DSCF5377
Knockdrin Castle.  Westmeath Hounds, the Master Servants and American Horses. From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 16.

Against the backdrop of political upheaval and the gathering storm clouds of war, Smith enjoyed a full season of hunting in Ireland. He hunted across the island, in Westmeath where he was based, across to Galway and down to Cork and beyond. His book recounts not only the hunts themselves, but the hectic social life that accompanied the Irish hunt season. He wined and dined (and sometimes danced) with the elite of Anglo-Irish society. There were days at the Dublin Horse Show, masked balls at the Rotunda in Dublin, meetings with the British Vice Regent and dinners with the British military top brass stationed in Ireland. His book is a journey through the world of Irish Lords and Ladies, the landed elite whose presence in Ireland was so problematic to the nationalists who wanted independence for their nation. Smith, nor the Anglo-Irish elite he hunted and socialised with, would have realised it in 1912/13, but most of them were enjoying their last ever hunting season in Ireland.

DSCF5376
On the lawn.  Harry Worcester Smith, M. F. H., the late Sir Richard Levinge, the now Sir Richard Levinge and lady Levinge.  From A Sporting Tour (1925), vol. 1, facing pg. 42.

The description of the hunt balls in Volume 2, shortly before Smith leaves Ireland is most revealing. Drinks prior to the hunt ball of Smith’s own Westmeath hunt, for example, were hosted by Sir Richard and Lady Levinge at Knockdrin Castle, a 12,000-acre estate which had been in the family since the late seventeenth century. Sir Richard, the 10th Baronet of Knockdrin, like many of his social standing (including all four of his brothers), was among the first to sign up to fight in World War One. He was killed in the third month of the war, on 24 October 1914, by sniper fire in France. By the end of the war his younger brother had also been killed, and a further brother had lost his leg. In the wake of her husband’s death, Lady Levinge left Ireland for London and rented out Knockdrin. During World War Two it was commandeered by the Irish state to house troops, and finally, in 1946, the Levinge family sold the estate.

DSCF5388
Ringside Dublin Horse Show, 1912.  From A Sporting Tour, vol. 1, facing pg. 18.

Equally telling, in Volume 1, just after Smith’s arrival in Ireland, is his attendance at the famed Dublin Horse Show. There he met Lord Castlemaine of Moydrum Castle, which sat in the east of County Westmeath. Castlemaine was a subscriber to the Westmeath Hunt, and he and Smith would meet often during the latter’s stay in Ireland. Moydrum Castle had been completed in 1814, and Lord Castlemaine was the fifth baron to occupy, overseeing an estate of some 11,000 acres. On 4 July 1921, at the height of the Irish War of Independence, Republican forces targeted Moydrum Castle, as a symbol of British rule in Ireland, and set fire to the building, which was completely destroyed. The family left Ireland for Britain, and the remaining estate was taken off them by the new Irish state in the 1920s, and sold on. Between 1919 and 1923, approximately 170 of the ‘big houses’, with which Smith would have been so familiar, and wrote about in depth, were destroyed by military action.

Smith enjoyed a life as a huntsman and, as is clear in the holdings of the Library and Museum in Middleburg, was a prodigious collector and recorder of the hunting he experienced. His two volumes recounting his Irish experience fit into the pattern of his life. What makes the books, and the associated notes and photographs in the archive, is that Smith was observing a way of life, a social elite at play in Ireland, that would cease to exist. Smith was not simply recording the hunting life of Ireland in 1912/13, but rather he was unknowingly recording a collection of hunts, social and sporting events, people and buildings that would be largely erased from history by World War One and the specific train of events in Ireland between 1916 and 1923. This is a work and a collection to be treasured for unwittingly capturing a key moment, a last bright blooming, of an Anglo-Irish way of life.


Mike Cronin

 

Michael Cronin is a professor at Boston College, teaching in Dublin, Ireland.  During his John H. Daniels fellowship at NSLM he worked on a project about the life of James Brendan Connolly, the first modern Olympic champion.  His research at NSLM served to set Connolly’s life within the broader sporting context during the period from 1890 to 1914.

The National Sporting Library & Museum is proud to be the home of The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports, published in Boston by M.M. Ballou in 1855. This is the second post of four discussing important works on Early American sport.

Image from The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports, Boston: M.M. Ballou, 1855.

The Sportsman’s Portfolio is one of the rarest sporting books in America. When Ernest Gee commissioned the Derrydale Press to run a second print of the book in 1929, he noted that only three were known to exist, with all three existing only in private libraries. The book is short, at 44 pages (8vo), with a little over half of those pages being illustrated wood engravings depicting the popular outdoor sports of the time.

The publisher, Maturin Murray Ballou (1820-1895), was the son of the American Universalist clergyman, Hosea Ballou, who founded the Universalist Review, a popular Protestant publication. Publishing seems to have run in the family, for while he passed the exams and requirements to attend Harvard University, he chose not to attend and instead became a pioneer in American illustrated journalism.

Ballou was editor of Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, a 19th century illustrated periodical, bought out the paper from the owner, and continued the publication under the title, Ballou’s Pictorial. Ballou began another paper, Ballou’s Dollar Monthly Magazine, a general interest magazine. Later, in 1872, Ballou assisted in the founding (and was its editor-in-chief) of the Boston Daily Globe, which was originally called, “Maturin Ballou’s Globe.” (Winzeler, 2014)

Image from: https://www.bostonathenaeum.org/library/book-recommendations/athenaeum-authors/maturin-murray-ballou

The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports was first published in Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion sometime during 1853-1854, a year or two before Ballou decided to re-print it as its own standalone publication. (Doyle Auctions, 2018)

Image from The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports, Boston: M.M. Ballou, 1855.

Moose hunting, grouse and woodcock shooting, and bass fishing are depicted in the publication.  I was drawn to this book because each beautiful wood engraving is accompanied by a brief, yet thorough, description of the sport, perfect for a sporting novice like myself!

If you would like to see, and other Early American Sporting texts, contact the Library to make an appointment!

Image from The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports, Boston: M.M. Ballou, 1855.

Sources Cited:

Winzeler, A. (2014). Maturin Murray Ballou. [Blog] Boston Athenaeum. Available at: https://www.bostonathenaeum.org/library/book-recommendations/athenaeum-authors/maturin-murray-ballou [Accessed 12 Jan. 2020].

Doyle Auctions. (2018). Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. [online] Available at: https://doyle.com/auctions/18jj02-hunting-books-collection-arnold-jake-johnson/catalogue/8-american-field-sport [Accessed 12 Jan. 2020].

Books serve to preserve and transmit information both geographically and temporally but almost from the very beginning they have often also been objects d’art.  From the earliest illuminated manuscripts to today’s deluxe editions, scribes, printers, and bookbinders have enhanced the value of manuscripts and books by adding elaborate decoration to the information contained within them.

Manuscripts have decorative illuminations that range from simple enhanced capitals or rubrics, to intricate and colorful capitals, borders, and full illustrations.

A page from the Book of Kells (c. 800 AD) showing illuminated capitals. From Wikimedia Commons.

Decorations have been applied to every surface and aspect of the book. The endpapers have been colored, marbled, bordered with gilt tooling, and featured pictorial decorations. Special paperstock, color plates, and original illustrations often appear in modern limited editions. Some books have elaborate book clasps, slipcases, or clam shell boxes. The edges of the page block have been gilded, colored, marbled, and even enhanced with full paintings known as fore-edge paintings.

Fore-edge painting of a polo scene on Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott (1873). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The outside of the book has also been used for decoration.  Vellum, leather and cloth covers have been produced in many different colors. Sometimes covers feature designs made with inlaid elements, gilt tooling, or embossing.  Gilt lettering appears on the boards as well as the spine, as do pictorial decorations. To get a closer look at a wide variety of book bindings I highly recommend visiting the Folger Shakespeare Library’s special digital collection of bindings here.

The Library’s collection contains many examples of decorative bindings. Recently I was working with our rare books on dogs and hounds for another project and noticed a profusion of decorative covers that I’d like to share.  

Some of the designs, although detailed, are small, such as this fox terrier which appears in the bottom corner of the front cover of its book and is only about two inches across.

A History and Description, with Reminiscences, of the Fox Terrier by Rawdon B. Lee (1890). The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Many of the covers feature portraits such as these noble looking hounds…

Upper left: Dogs of the British Islands by J.H. Walsh (1878). The gift of Dorothy Wagstaff Ripley. Upper right: Scotch Deer-Hounds and their Masters by George Cupples (1894). The gift of Dr. Timothy Greenan. Lower left: Spaniels by H.W. Carlton (1931). The gift of Jacqueline B. Mars. Lower right: The Dog by William Youatt (1858).

Others depict full body images such as this training manual featuring what appears to be some sort of pointer, although one with an oddly shaped head.

Dog Breaking by W.N. Hutchinson (1848)

Some of the covers incorporate the title of the book into the decorative image.

Left: Training and Handling of the Dog by B. Waters (1894). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels. Right: The Spaniel and its Training by F.H.F. Mercer (1890).

I especially like the unusual cover for Dogs and Their Doings. This book is a collection of anecdotes describing the surprising and often heroic actions of specific dogs.

Dogs and Their Doings by Rev. F.O. Morris (1872). The gift of Mrs. Eva C. Stewart.

Although most of the images were gilt, which is eye-catching and would have been especially so when the volumes were new, there were a few decorated in either color images or black images

Left: British Dogs at Work by A. Croxton Smith (1906). The gift of Joseph B. Thomas IV. Right: Hunting Dogs by Oliver Hartley (1909).

If you’d like to explore books as objects d’art or to read about the history of bookbinding, you’re welcome to come browse the Main Reading Room.  If you’d like to get a look at some of our more elaborate bindings or editions, you’ll need to schedule a visit to the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.  Contact me for an appointment, I’d love to share some of our treasures with you.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail.