Sometimes the best things are found by accident, and that is what happened when I came across this photo album in the archives. I was downstairs looking for some photographs of Middleburg, but instead came across this album on the Los Altos Hunt. I was pretty excited, as a native Northern Californian. I was born in Redwood City, not too far from Woodside and Portola Valley, where the Los Altos Hunt Club would meet.

Anyway, I was very confused about why the archive box also contained several baby albums, until I realized I was in the Wallace W. Nall collection at the NSLM.

Wallace W. “Wally” Nall (1922-2003) was a painter involved with horses for most of his life. After service in the Army’s First Cavalry during WWII, he studied at the College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland, California. His early career began with fashion illustration in studios in San Francisco and New York.

In addition to judging and showing, Nall founded the Los Altos Hunt in Woodside, California, in 1953 and served as its first master until 1956. Nall designed the hunt buttons for the Los Altos Hunt. In later years he lived in New Jersey, riding to hounds there, before establishing himself as a highly sought-after portraitist in and around Middleburg, Virginia in the 1970s.

Wally Nall brought his firsthand knowledge of horsemanship to many of his commissioned portrait work, which is in many collections in Virginia. Many of Nall’s works include foxhunting scenes, drawn from his experience riding to hounds. The Virginia huntsmen Nall portrayed include Melvin Poe, Orange County Hounds; Albert Poe, Piedmont Fox Hounds; Charles Kirk, Piedmont Fox Hounds; Fred Duncan, Middleburg Hunt; and Charlie George, Middleburg Hunt.

You can view this album at the NLSM! Just drop me or Erica a line.

It would have been easy for Jamie Wyeth to rest on the laurels of his family’s legacy and The Brandywine Tradition that grounded him. As a third-generation painter, he is the son of famed Andrew Wyeth and taught by his aunt, Carolyn Wyeth, who in turn had honed her talent by learning from Jamie’s grandfather, Newell Convers Wyeth. Jamie would have easily attained commercial success staying in this lane. But he didn’t.

Wyeth said in an interview in 2003, “I’m not interested in interesting faces. What I am interested in is a face that I’ve known for years, something that I can go beyond just the face and go into the head of the person.”[1] It is then completely unsurprising that he continually returned to his wife and muse Phyllis Mills Wyeth as a sitter.

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

Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration, the exhibition organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art currently at the National Sporting Library & Museum, is a beautiful tribute celebrating Phyllis Wyeth’s spirit. (To read more about the Wyeths’ life together and her equestrian pursuits, read the blog, Phyllis Mills Wyeth Comes Home) The paintings and works on paper, however, also develop a picture of the directions Jamie Wyeth’s artistic path took over a span of fifty years.

Cover of Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration hardbound exhibition catalogue

Wyeth once said he gravitated toward oil paints because they looked “edible.”[2] While his painter’s palette, arguably, may not have changed much over the years, with juicy dollops of pure pigment, the way he mixed or didn’t mix them certainly did. He evolved from the more earthy colors of his earlier work to embracing bolder and bolder colors. Photographer Robert Weingarten immortalized Wyeth’s palette in 2005 as part of a series of photographs of various accomplished artists’ palettes. The lush green at top left of the image below is then in the words of Director of the Brandywine River Museum of Art Thomas Padon, “Phyllis’s Green.” Wyeth selected a vibrant, almost neon green for the front cover of the exhibition’s catalogue to represent his wife.

Robert Weingarten (American, b. 1941) Palette Series: Jamie Wyeth #1, 2005, Archival pigment print on Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper, 21 1/4 × 30 inches, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Gift of Daniel Greenberg and Susan Steinhauser, 2016.129.4 © Robert Weingarten [source:]

Is there symbolism in the green? It is a color that comes to the fore more and more in paintings of Phyllis over time. It is a hue that reverberates spring, rebirth, and vitality.

Southern Light, 1994, documents Phyllis’s recovery from a significant surgery, yet another battle hard-fought with the spinal cord injury she sustained in a car accident when she was 20 years old. She had been unsure if she would be able to make the trip to Southern Island, Maine, again, but she was able to recuperate there.[3] In the middle of the composition with a soft palette, is a swirling pop of color, the churning green water seen through the window in the distance.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946) Southern Light, 1994, enamel and oil on board, 36 x 48 inches, on loan from The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Painted 20 years later, Night Vision, 2002, is on the surface a commemoration of the Vietnam War. It is an artistic interpretation of the view through night vision equipment. Phyllis Wyeth, however, was a sitter for it: she is also the determined soldier at the center of this green and yellow starry, starry, night. At the time she would have been about 62 years old and in a wheelchair.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946) Night Vision, 2002, oil on canvas, 39 ¼ x 29 ¼ inches, on loan from The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Jamie completed Catching Pollen, 2012, a decade later. For it, he revisited a painting he had done in 2004, Catching Snowflakes. Both recall a young and exuberant Phyllis, but the 2012 version’s palette electrifies the scene. It is a brilliant color study; the riotous backlit yellows and greens offset the cool purples in the foreground, and the red flower anchors the subject’s face at the center.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946) Catachin Pollen, 2012, enamel, oil, and gesso on canvas, 60 x 40 inches, on loan from The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

When Phyllis passed away, Jamie retouched a painting for Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration, Winner’s Circle, first completed in 2012. In contemplating the direction of his palette choices, I found the changes striking. I had not seen the work before the exhibition and was privileged to view an image of the original version. The vivid greens added over shades of browns are a far cry from Jamie’s Brandywine roots: the re-touch completely transforms the composition with a transcendental halo, the pièce de résistance of a life well lived and well-painted as only Jamie Wyeth could, over a lifetime of going into the head of Phyllis Wyeth.

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

“Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration” is on view through August 30, 2020. It was organized by the Brandywine River Museum of Art and was generously underwritten at NSLM by Jacqueline B. Mars.

[1] Jamie Wyeth: Art as Witness to History, (The Kennedy Center Performing Arts Series, 15 May 2003), Web, 25 May 2020, <>
[2] David Houston, Jamie Wyeth, (Boston: MFA Publications, 2014), 29
[3] Ibid., 128


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

Have you ever seen a horseshoe nailed above a door for good luck?  This superstition is widespread, although with some regional variations.  I’ve always heard that the open end of the horseshoe should be pointed up to hold the luck in, but I recently found out that there’s another school of thought on the matter.  The open end is pointed down to shower luck upon all who enter.  Regardless of its orientation, I wondered about the origin of idea of the lucky horseshoe.  Fortunately I work in a library devoted to all things equine and as luck would have it, we have a book on the subject. 

The Magic Horse-Shoe with Other Folk-Lore Notes (1898) by Robert Means Lawrence.

The Magic Horse-Shoe with Other Folk-Lore Notes by Robert Means Lawrence was published in 1898. As the title suggests the book covers more than just the horseshoe, but about half the volume is devoted to the topic.  Lawrence states in his preface that, “It has been the writer’s aim to make the chapter on the Horse-Shoe as exhaustive as possible, as this attractive symbol of superstition does not appear to have received hiterhto the attention which it merits.  This chapter is the outgrowth of a paper read at the seventh annual meeting of the America Folk-Lore Society, at Philadelphia, December 28, 1895, an abstract of which appeared in the Society’s Journal for December, 1896.”  By the end of the section on horseshoes, he has described no less than 16 sources for the belief in the magical properties of the horseshoe.  Because today is May 19th, I’d like to focus on one origin story specifically, the tale of St. Dunstan and the Devil.

Monastic Chapel 1920, Holy Cross Monastery, West Park, New York. This is the Christian saint Dunstan in stained glass form.   Wikimedia commons

May 19th is the feast day of Saint Dunstan.  He was born in 909 and would begin his life with the church as a young boy, studying with the monks at Glastonbury Abbey.  He excelled in artistic craftsmanship, in particular smithing and illustration, and was devoted to scholarship.  He also became a skilled politician and was able to successfully navigate the turbulent social and political environment.  Over the course of his career he would become successively, Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, Bishop of Worcester, Bishop of London, and Archbishop of Canterbury.  He died in 988 and would be canonized in 1029. For 200 years he was the most popular saint in England, largely due to impressive tales of his deeds, especially those in which he personally outfoxed the Devil himself.  It is one such tale that brings us to the lucky horseshoe.

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Dunstan shoes the Devil’s hoof. Illustration by George Cruikshank, from The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of St Dunstan and the Devil (1871) by Edward G. Flight.
Wikimedia Commons

Dunstan is said to have been working at his forge when the Devil appeared disguised as a traveler.  The devil asks to have a horseshoe replaced on his horse.  Dunstan sees through the Devil’s disguise and manages to trick him and nail the horseshoe tightly to the Devil’s hoof rather than the horse’s.  This causes the Devil great pain.  Dunstan forces the Devil to agree not to enter any building with a horseshoe mounted above the door in exchange for the removal of the horseshoe from his foot.

The Devil agrees to Dunstan’s terms. Illustration by George Cruikshank, from The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of St Dunstan and the Devil (1871) by Edward G. Flight.
Wikimedia Commons

The details of this story vary widely, as it’s been told and retold for 1000 years.  Sometimes the Devil appears as a woman to tempt Dunstan but he sees her cloven hooves.  Sometimes the horseshoe is hot and burns the Devil’s foot until he agrees to Dunstan’s terms.  There is a popular related tale in which Dunstan grabs the Devil by the nose with hot tongs.  A relatively recent version of the tale was published in 1871 as a lyric poem called, The Horse Shoe: The True Legend of St Dunstan and the Devil, by Edward G. Flight.  The poem was illustrated by the famous English illustrator, George Cruikshank, two of whose illustrations I’ve shared here.

The Library is currently closed but when we reopen I’d be happy to show you Lawrence’s book in which you may read about an additional 15 sources of the belief in lucky horseshoes.  He also covers some other interesting superstitions such as, the omens of sneezing, the folk-lore of common salt, and superstitious dealings with animals.

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.

In honor of Mother’s Day, I thought it appropriate to highlight a few sporting artists, who were also mothers, we have featured at NSLM.

New York native Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917-1994) studied at the Grand Central Art School, the National Academy of Design, and the Scott Carbee School of Art. She became known for her equine portraits and counted influential equestrians amongst her many patrons, including George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., Paul Mellon, and the British Royal Family.

Jean Bowman Pentacost moved to Middleburg, Virginia, and married her second husband, NSLM co-founder Alexander Mackay-Smith in 1944. In 1980, she was one of ten artists who founded the American Academy of Equine Art. Though she is primarily known as a painter, she was also a sculptor and illustrator. She was the first contemporary American artist whose work was reproduced on the cover of The Chronicle of the Horse. Bowman had one son, John Pentacost, and was later a grandmother. She sadly died in a plane accident in 1994. In 2006, a retrospective of her, and fellow sporting artist W. Smithson Broadhead, was held at the Sporting Gallery in Middleburg.

In the collection:

One of our most recent acquisitions we received was a Jean Bowman painting, Eglinton and Caledon Hunt with Major Charles Kindersley as M.F.H. and Richard Kindersley as Whipper in. This painting was donated by Mrs. Lynne Kindersley Dole, the first librarian (1954-1977) of the National Sporting Library (now the NSLM) and the the daughter of Major Kindersley.

Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917-1994) Eglinton and Caledon Hunt with Major Charles Kindersley as M.F.H.and Richard Kindersley as Whipper in, 1963 oil on canvas, 27 1/4 x 43 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Lynne Kindersley Dole, 2019
Detail of the artist’s distinctive signature, Eglinton and Caledon Hunt with Major Charles Kindersley as M.F.H.and Richard Kindersley as Whipper in

Another artist and mother in our collection is Clarice Smith (American, b. 1933). Born and raised in Washington, DC, Smith attended the University of Maryland and George Washington University, later receiving honorary doctorates from both institutions. Influenced by 19th-century artists James McNeil Whistler (American, 1834-1903) and Édouard Manet (French, 1832-1883) and 20th-century artist John Singer Sargent (American, 1856-1925), she produces a wide range of subjects, from still lifes to portraiture. Her first exhibition was held in 1985, and she has continued to regularly exhibit her works, both as a solo artist and as part of group shows. Her recognition extends internationally having exhibited in London, Paris, Zurich, Maastricht, and Jerusalem. In 2014, Smith had a solo exhibition at the NSLM, Clarice Smith: Power & Grace.

Along with her late husband, Robert, Smith is a notable philanthropist. An array of organizations and institutions have been the recipients of their generosity, from universities and historic sites to local and religious communities.

Smith is mother to three children, Michelle, David, and Stephen, as well as a grandmother. With her son David, she has created several books, including Afternoon Tea with Mom: The Paintings of Clarice Smith.

In the collection:

The NSLM is grateful for all Smith has contributed to the organization. Gallop, a three-paneled screen, was donated by the artist in 2015. It was recently highlighted in a virtual Gallery Talk.

Clarice Smith (American, b.1933) Gallop, 2009, oil with gold and copper leaf on canvas, on 5-paneled screen, 50 x 77 ½ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Clarice Smith, 2015 © Clarice Smith

Click here for the virtual tour of our permanent collection: see if you can find Bowman’s painting of Major Kindersley and Smith’s Gallop.

For a fun twist on the theme is a portrait of a mother created by an artist mother.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941) was a portrait painter in the early 20th century. She trained in the Paris studio of Frederick MacMonnies (American, 1863-1937) and was influenced by Sargent. Her patrons were movers and shakers within politics and society: the Vanderbilts, the du Ponts, and not least, she painted the first presidential portrait of Franklin D. Roosevelt. Less known are the sporting portraits she produced. The sitters were “her” crowd, people she hunted and rode with, who were part of her social circle. But these were also influential individuals, like New York Senator Frederic Bontecou.

Rand was mother to three sons, Christopher, William, and John, as well as grandmother and great-grandmother to many. She was also the namesake to her first granddaughter, who followed in Rand’s footsteps, becoming an artist in her own right. Paintings of her sons were included the NSLM’s 2019-2020 exhibition, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand.

In the exhibition:

Also featured in Leading the Field was this painting of Mrs. Emily Bedford Davie. It is one of the few portraits in the exhibition not in sporting attire, though Mrs. Davie was an avid horsewoman. Her daughter’s portrait is also included in the show, Miss Emily Davie, ex-Whipper-in to the Aiken Junior Drag. Like many mothers and daughters, they look very similar. Click here to go to the virtual tour and see if you can find her! Unfortunately, the below portrait of Emily Bedford Davie was returned before the virtual tour was produced but here she is, looking absolutely lovely:

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Emily Bedford Davie, 1933, oil on canvas, 28 1/2 x 19 inches, Collection of great-nephew B. McCashin

This is by no means all the mothers in our collection or on exhibit, but just a few women to highlight on the most special of days! Happy Mother’s Day to all Moms, Moms-to-be, surrogate Moms, Stepmothers, Moms who do double duty as Dads, Dads who do double duty as Moms, Grandmothers, and anyone you call Mom. And of course, a shout out to my very own Mama Bear!

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 This is the author with her mother, 1987

Did you know that the National Sporting Library & Museum is home to an autograph manuscript of the renowned hunting song, “John Peel”?

“D’ye ken John Peel,” which translates to “Do you know John Peel?” is a famous Cumberland hunting song written by John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886) in celebration of his friend John Peel (1776-1854), an English fox hunter from the Lake District. Graves is said to have sung his verses to an old Cumberland tune of “Bonnie Annie.” The song was formally set to music by the choirmaster of Carlisle Cathedral.

The manuscript was written by Graves, after he emigrated to Tasmania, for the Honorary William Hodgson, M.L.C. The manuscript shows the song as originally sung by Graves and his friend John Peel. As the song was translated from the Cumberland and anglicized, variations in the text emerged. For example, in the first line, “Did ye ken John Peel in his cwot seay gray,” is now usually printed out as “coat so gay.” The gray coat is a reference to the traditional costume of the Cumberland yeoman.

The “John Peel” manuscript. Gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars.

A history that accompanies the manuscript provides some interesting background of the author of the song. Graves, “out of the saddle, was a strange and remarkable character.” He was born on February 9, 1795. His father was an ironmonger or a glazier in Wigton, Cumberland. His father died, when Graves was only seven years old. When he was 14, he moved to the North Cumberland coast to apprentice under his uncle as a sign-painter. It was here that Graves “was soon in the saddle — an ardent follower of the hounds of one Joseph Steele, Esq.” He married at twenty-one, became a widower a year later, then re-married five years later to a childhood friend, Miss Porthouse, with whom he would father eight children. Life seemed settled as, “What with hunting in the ‘mwornins’, and pleasant evenings in the snug parlour with Peel, John Woodcock Graves seemed to be as settled in life as an old Margery.”

Always a speculator, several years later, Graves lost his savings in an investment gone bad. “Both John’s interest in the wool business and his savings disappeared with the slipperiness of an auld fox gone to earth. Ever a violent-tempered man, he quarelled with his manager; there were blows and a law case; and in 1833 (only a few months after John Peel had been immortalized in the song) the headstrong Graves drained a last tankard with his hero….packed up….and sailed for the convict settlement of Van Diemen’s Land – and new fortunes.”

Unfortunately, Graves and his family were met with even more misfortune upon their arrival to Tasmania. “Indeed, on the first night of arrival, their house was broken into by convicts; and for a long time Graves had little employment or none at all.” He eventually found work at a newspaper, where he became quite vocal “against the cruelties inflicted on the convicts: and he quarreled also with the authorities because their allotment of free-land to him was not up to promise.” His quarrels with authorities quickly escalated, and he ended up in a lunatic asylum.

This is where Graves’s story gets stranger. He somehow was able to acquire a painter’s kit through a visiting justice who was also a fox hunter. He painted a fresco of a kangaroo hunt on one of the asylum walls. He then painted hounds in full cry with the justice who supplied his paint kit leading the field. Graves, at this point, earning a reputation as a painter at the asylum, convinced the powers that be that he needed a ladder so that he could paint skies in his frescoes. Graves’s ingenious ploy worked — he used the ladder to escape the asylum forever.

Graves is depicted not so flatteringly toward the end of his life. “…The old exile was a lonely, self-centered, reserved man — fond of his hounds, and quite happy if he had beside him books, chemicals, mathematical instruments, and model machinery, to occupy his inventive abilities.” He died at the age of 91 on August 17, 1886.

A hand-colored etching by Henry Alken accompanied the manuscript.

The manuscript was previously at the Library of His Royal Highness, The Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester. Through the generosity of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars, the National Sporting Library & Museum was able to acquire the manuscript at an auction held in 2006.

You can view the manuscript by clicking the link below!

The Hodgson Manuscript of D’ye Ken John Peel by John Woodcock Graves

(This blog post was written and submitted by NSLM intern Erin Smith) I never got the chance to do an internship while completing my undergrad degree, so I was very excited to do one as part of the Museum Studies program at John Tyler Community College. I had previously worked at the National Sporting Library & Museum, as a Visitor Services Associate, so I was curious to see how an internship would differ. It ended up being very informative because I got to see a lot of the pieces I missed from my work as a part-timer. Seeing the artwork come in and working directly with it was very different from sitting behind a desk and watching guests interact with the end results.

Condition reporting starts before the box is even open!

Curatorial internships boil down to learning how to treat the artifacts well so that they are preserved for future generations to enjoy. The goal is to leave artwork in the same, if not better, condition than when they arrived. This can involve complex issues like UV lighting and relative humidity, but can also involve simple things like:

  • Washing your hands or wearing gloves
  • Securing jewelry or loose clothing
  • Lifting over-sized objects as a team
  • No. Seriously. Wash your hands!

Over the course of my time at the NSLM many of these concepts were employed. In particular was the need to have several sets of hands involved to move large paintings. The very first part of my internship involved helping with the installation of Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration. Many of the paintings are massive and were even more intimidating to move. If you’ve seen the exhibit, you know just how much of the wall they consume. (If you haven’t had the chance to see these in person yet, the staff have outdone themselves putting together a virtual tour available on the NSLM’s website!) Most of these paintings took three people to move. Not to mention a couple more standing by just in case.

Installation of Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration. Painting on the left: Jamie Wyeth (American, B. 1946), Out of the Deep Gorge, 2002, combined mediums on toned board, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection; painting on the right: Jamie Wyeth (American, B. 1946) And Then Into the Deep Gorge, 1975, oil on canvas, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Knowing the materials that make up artifacts was another concept that was utilized daily to protect the museum’s objects. The NSLM is home to a large collection of antique dog collars that are both metal and leather. Whenever the metal collars are handled it is imperative that gloves are worn to prevent damage. No matter how well you wash your hands, oils are naturally go to occur on skin and potentially cause harm. In an ironic, and somewhat ghoulish, twist these skin oils meant the leather collars were a threat to the metal ones. To prevent the leather from greasing up the other collars they are housed separately. If you study the bottom of the leather collar box you can even see where cardboard has soaked up the juices. The soiled boxes are easily replaced but it is an ongoing battle.

My ongoing project throughout my curatorial internship was condition reporting a collection of prints. The museum received over 300 engraving prints, each featuring different water fowl, fish, and game. Many of the prints feature the art of American illustrators Churchill Ettinger, Walter E. Bohl, Richard Bishop, and Han Kleiber amongst others. Each print had to be assessed for condition and matched to a master list. What helped immensely with sorting the prints was the original paperwork the donor included. Magazine articles, newspaper clippings, and even original receipts from art dealers aided in identifying the pieces. Many of the prints had come from eBay and the printed auction screenshots made it easier to tell one duck from the next. It is a beautiful collection of engravings and you would never suspect the variety of scenes involved with wing shooting. Luckily, I’m a stickler for organization so being left alone in storage to meticulously check over a stack of prints was perfect for me.

William Schaldach (American, 1896-1982), Two Dogs and a Pheasant, n.d., etching, 11 3/4 x 9 3/4 inches, Gift of C. Cato Ealy, 2019

It was a joy interning at the National Sporting Library & Museum and I am so thankful for the opportunity. I learned a lot about safeguarding museum objects and can see these lessons being useful in the future.

Erin Smith is the spring 2020 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Library & Museum. She is presently working towards a Museum Studies CSC at John Tyler Community College. In 2011, she graduated magna cum laude from Mary Baldwin University with a degree in Studio Art and Asian Studies. Outside of museum work she enjoys practicing her Japanese reading comprehension.

Occasionally while working with a book or object I have the chance to find out a great deal about the person that created it. This happened again recently during my work on our upcoming Angling in Special Collections exhibit. One element of the exhibition is a hand-made bamboo fly rod made by Henry Woolman, III. Mr. Woolman lived and worked in the area around the NSLM for many years and it was suggested to me that I reach out to his widow, Marcia Woolman, for information about him to use on the label that will accompany his fly rod in our exhibition. I did so and discovered that Hank was not only a rod maker, fly tier, and fisherman, but also enjoyed foxhunting, hound judging, and art. There was far too much information to include on the exhibit label so I offered Marcia the opportunity to talk about her late husband and their life together here on the NSLM’s blog. She took me up on that offer and what follows is her description of Hank.

Hank Woolman. Image from his obituary in The Fauquier Times, July 29, 2019.

Henry N. Woolman III, 11/21/1931 to 7/27/2019 by Marcia Woolman

Hank Woolman, a man with many talents and interests. Hank taught himself to do many of the things that filled his life. He was a country gentleman, and all his complex hobbies related to the outdoors and country life. Hank was a master of the skills he focused on in pursuit of a full life. He made cane (bamboo) rods for over 40 years, which he learned to do from reading a book by Garrison, and by trial and error he became a Master craftsman. A self-taught fly fisherman and fly tier which he eventually turned into a business in Middleburg called “The Outdoorsman.” This eventually led to having a Flyfishing School and guiding, both in Virginia and Montana where he and fellow angler, wife, Marcia had a summer home.

Hank in the early stages of rod making. Splitting the culm of cane for a bamboo rod. Photo courtesy of John Ross.

Hank’s complete submersion in his craft took him into the world of beautiful rods, tying the perfect fly to find and catch native fish, and becoming part of the rarified group of bamboo rod makers. He was selected to be one of the Makers when he attended a Cane Rod Makers symposium each summer in Grayling, MI, along the famous Au Sable River in the town where Trout Unlimited was founded over 60 years ago. In the late 1990’s, this group of rod builders, decided to do a fund raiser called “The Makers Rod.” Several selected rod builders were invited to make one strip for “The Makers Rod” and the pieces were sent to be assembled into one cane rod to be chanced off at the Symposium the following summer. What a great honor to be one of the chosen in this exceptional group of talented men.

Hank at work creating a rod. Photo courtesy of John Ross.

Hank possessed another talent that comes to some effortlessly, like a natural gift, and to the rest of us it may never come. Defining this talent; it is that inner communication with the natural word, especially that of the fox and hound relationship. At a young age of about 40 he was asked to be Master of the Orange County Hounds (OCH). He had the gift of always knowing where he was, where a fox could be found, and when the chase began, he knew where it would probably go. As an MFH, he needed that gift. He remained MFH at OCH until 1971 when a farming accident took his right hand. But as you can tell from the bamboo rod making, he was determined not to change his outdoor life as he mastered all aspects of fishing and hunting hounds with only his left hand.  Hank went on to fox hunt as the Huntsman for Eve Fout’s MOC Beagles, to teach the local children to safely fox hunt and learn all the protocols required. All the while he trained both the hounds and his horses. Last, but not least Hank worked endlessly to do it all well.

The silver platter pictured here is the Julian M. Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award. Mr. Marshall served as President of the Bryn Marw Hound Show Association from 1983 to 1987 and as Honorary Chair from 1988 to 1999. After Mr. Marshall’s death the family inaugurated the award, which is presented by a member of the Marshall family, to a living individual who is selected for their outstanding contribution to hounds and hunting. Hank was awarded the Julian M. Marshall Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006. Photo courtesy of Marcia Woolman.

But there is more…. Shortly after leaving Johns Hopkins with no fingers, with just, what he referred to, as his “paw,” he began using pencil drawing to develop and fine tune his ability to use his left hand so he could return to his fishing hobbies. Let’s look at each of these endeavors as he salvaged each by determination that never diminished the rest of his life. At the time of his accident he was starting into cane rod making. After he mastered the fundamentals, he started experimenting with creating his own tapers which eventually grew into stiffer rods, rather than the traditional softer early cane rods. He preferred to finish his rods by flaming them slightly with a blow torch rather than leave them the natural light blond color. Hank had rods in both finishes.

Before he took up rod making, he was an accomplished fly tier and fisherman, even identifying a unique sub species of mayfly that used his Woolman name in its identity. After losing his hand he continued tying beautiful dry flies and other aquatic life like nymphs, crustaceans and small fish imitations. It was interesting to see how he managed to tie one of these small imitations onto his fly line. He stuck the pointed end of the fly into the cork on the rod handle which held it still, while he maneuvered his fingers to tie the required knot for that task, as well as all other fishing knots on leaders so thin the fish could see only the fly.

As years passed and more time to be an artist became possible, Hank took some lessons locally, and moved from pencils, charcoal, and watercolors to oil painting. He especially found time and enjoyment in his later years in Yellowstone where landscapes became his favorite. Many were near his Montana summer home were there were endless choices of geological features, wildlife, and vast views of nearby mountains. His life was like a kaleidoscope in its variety of ways to use his many talents. As his dear friend, Eve Fout, once said, “Hank can do more with one hand than most of us can do with two.” She was sure right about that!

Bamboo fly rod made by Hank Woolman. The gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars.

If you would like to see NSLM’s Woolman rod please plan to visit the Angling in Special Collections exhibition in the Library’s Forrest E. Mars, Sr. Exhibit Hall located in the Library’s lower level. The exhibit features rare books on angling topics, including our first edition of The Compleat Angler, more than 50 tied flies from our George Chapman collection, angling themed artwork from the Museum’s collection, and photos of best catches submitted from the public especially for this exhibition. Angling in Special Collections will run through August 2020.

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.