As the mission of the NSLM states, we are committed to “preserve, promote, and share the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports.” Two new temporary exhibitions cover all three of these areas.

The National Sporting Library & Museum reopened in limited scope on Friday, July 17. Greeting visitors in Gallery 1 is In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine featuring two new acquisitions: a pair of bronzes by American sculptor Herbert Haseltine (1877-1962), Percheron Stallion: Rhum and Percheron Messaline: Mare and Foal. They are part of the British Champion Animals series made up of 19 sculptures of prizewinning livestock including cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses created by Haseltine beginning in 1920.

In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine, on view until August 23, 2020.

Though several quarter-scale size sculptures were produced (one of which is also in the exhibit, Polo Pony: Perfection), it is believed that Haseltine produced only one complete third-scale set. It was purchased by Marshall Field in 1933 for Chicago’s Field Museum and then purchased by Paul Mellon in 1986, who donated them to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

The current exhibition, open only until August 23, places the Percherons within the context of other Haseltine sculptures in the NSLM’s permanent collection. The earliest sculptures on display are a pair of Portuguese Rejoneadores, horse-riding bullfighters. From there, Haseltine’s evolution as an artist can be followed through the room – the influence of Egyptian art and his experimentation with colors, sizes, and technique.

Portuguese Rejoneadores, a pair modeled 1921, gilded bronze, 12 3/4 x 11 1/4 x 4 3/4 inches, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018.

In 1913, Haseltine began his quest to create his version of the quintessential Thoroughbred, inspired by the many horses that impressed him. Over the span of three decades, he continued to fine tune this composite concept, like an equine Dr. Frankenstein. One of those models is in this exhibition entitled The Thoroughbred and dated 1928. Finally, in 1949, he was satisfied with the result. That version, aptly named The Perfect Thoroughbred, sits next to 1928 model. See if you can spot some of the changes!

(left) The Thoroughbred, 1928, bronze on marble, 10 x 13 1/4 x 4 inches, on loan from a Private Collection; (right) The Thoroughbred Horse: The Perfect Thoroughbred, 1949, bronze, 13 x 14 x 5 5/16 inches, Gift of Edward H. Tuck, 2001

The second exhibition currently on view focuses on angling and a glimpse of field sports. Last fall, artist Dale Weiler and his wife, conservationist Loti Wood, generously donated one of his sculptures, as well as a watercolor by his father Milton Weiler (American, 1910-1974). The subject of both the watercolor, Matapedia Magic, and the sculpture, In Your Dreams, is fishing. These serve as a pleasant introduction for the next gallery, which feature paintings by Frank Weston Benson (American, 1862-1951) and Ogden Minton Pleissner (American, 1905-1983).

(left) Milton C. Weiler, Matapedia Magic, 1968 watercolor, 30 x 37 inches, Gift of Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, 2019; (right) Dale Weiler, In Your Dreams, cast 2009 bronze, 11 x 21 x 20 inches, Gift of Loti Woods and Dale Weiler, 2019

Within this gallery are five paintings thoughtfully donated by two different collectors, a private collector and Mrs. Frederic C. Hamilton. Made up of both oil on canvas and watercolors, the mediums add to the tone of the scenes. The thicker application of oils on Pleissner’s Heavy Water, St. John contribute further build-up to the moment of anticipation. If the brushstrokes had been lighter or looser, it could completely change the painting’s emotional charge. Likewise, the serene colors in Benson’s watercolor Lower Camp Pool provide a peaceful, almost lazy, mood. Amongst the angling artworks is a wingshooting scene, a watercolor by Benson in beautiful calming shades of blue.

From left to right: Ogden Minton Pleissner, Heavy Water, St. John, 20th century watercolor, 19 x 30 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Ogden Minton Pleissner, Fisherman on the George Pool, 20th century watercolor on paper, 18 x 28 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Ogden Minton Pleissner, The Bridge Pool, Ballynahinch, 20th century oil on canvas, 24 x 40 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; Frank W. Benson, Lower Camp Pool, 1928 oil on canvas, 32 x 40 inches, Gift from a Private Collection, 2020; and Frank W. Benson, Setting Out, 1926 watercolor on paper, 18 3/4 x 28 3/4 inches, Gift of Mrs. Frederic C. Hamilton, 2020

Along with the Weiler artworks, these paintings also highlight a theme of conservation. They were all (except for the sculpture) created during the mid-20th century when there seemed to be a nostalgia for the countryside and a yearning for nature. These paintings remind us to absorb what Mother Earth has to give us: to appreciate her abundance, yet leave no trace that we’ve visited.

In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine is only on view until the end of summer so be sure to see this unique exhibition of ten (!!!!) Haseltine sculptures all in one place. To purchase tickets and view our new safety requirements, please visit our website (click here).

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

I am an avid reader and always have been, my parents have joked that I was born with a book in my hand. I consume books, from science fiction to historical biographies and everything in between. I have to admit though, I find no greater reading pleasure than diving into the world of children’s books. Board books, picture books, beginner reader books, and chapter books; I can not get enough of them.

What makes children’s books so great? 

Besides the obvious – that they are incredibly fun to read – I see children’s books as these tangible portals into imagination and playfulness for their readers. As an educator, I value their work as facilitators of knowledge-making and cultivators of curiosity, imagination, and self-esteem for their young readers. Often times, adults do not always catch on to the subtilties and the beauty within these books as children do. So, I make it a point to read children’s books and enjoy them from a child’s perspective and, honestly, it is so much fun. You can really get lost in the impish nature of children’s books and the remarkable illustrations that accompany the text.

C. Gifford Ambler, Ten Little FoxHounds, 1951.
C. Gifford Ambler, Ten Little FoxHounds, 1951.

Naturally, when I came to the National Sporting Library & Museum last June, one of the very first things that I looked at were the children’s books in our Main Reading Room. As a national research library that supports academic pursuits through our John H. Daniels Fellowship, I was delightfully surprised to find that the NSLM also contains a fantastic, albeit small, collection of children’s books.

People do not always recognize this part of our collection so I wanted to share with you a few highlights from our Main Reading Room and I hope that it encourages you to make an appointment to visit the Library and read them for yourself.

Caution, there are book ending spoiler alerts here!

An all-time favorite is Welcome Home! by Ludwig Bemelmans, the author of the popular Madeline series.

Ludwig Bemelmans, Welcome Home!, 1959, Gift of Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959.

Based off a poem by Beverley Bogort, the reader follows the Gallant Hunt and a clever fox through seventeen brilliant illustrations as the fox evades the Holiday Hounds using his cunning skill. The story ends with the fox safely snuggled up at home with his family as his yearly tradition has been successful.

Ludwig Bemelmans, Welcome Home!, 1959, Gift of Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959.

Not only does this picture book fit within our mission, but it also holds a more personal space in the heart of the NSLM staff. If you look carefully, you can see that the fox is reading The Chronicle of the Horse in bed with his tea and sandwiches (on a side note – check out the fox hunting scene on his tea cup!).

The NSLM has had a long standing relationship with the Chronicle of the Horse. One of our founders, Alexander Mackay-Smith, was editor of the magazine from 1952 to 1976, and they are our neighbors on campus. Glued inside the front cover is a handwritten letter from the author’s daughter, Barbara, thanking Mr. Mackay-Smith for allowing her father to use an image from The Chronicle of the Horse in his book.

Letter from Barbara Bemelmans inside, Ludwig Bemelmans, Welcome Home!, 1959, Gift of Ludwig Bemelmans, 1959.

This very copy was gifted to Mr. MacKay-Smith and, in turn, gifted to the Library that he enjoyed so much. This children’s book is not only entertaining, but is a piece of NSLM history!

Another favorite of mine is a pair of books by Walter Farley that he wrote for the Dr. Seuss Beginner Books series. I am sure many of us can remember seeing that Beginner Books logo with the familiar face of Cat in the Hat and reading these at home or school.

Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.

Walter Farley, Little Black Goes to the Circus!, 1963, Gift of the Estate of Patricia Meadows, 2010.

I did not read the Little Black books growing up, but have thoroughly enjoyed them as an adult (despite the horrifying clown imagery). Both books chronicle the story of Little Black, a small yet precocious pony, his young boy rider, and their activities together. What I found intriguing, beyond the stories themselves, were the differences in color throughout the books by the same illustrator, James Schucker. In the first book, Little Black, A Pony, the pages are filled with black and white imagery accented by pops of saturated color.

Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.

It tells the story of how Little Black downtrodden when his rider began regularly riding Big Red, a much larger and stronger horse than himself, finds confidence in himself after saving his rider from a perilous situation using his own bravery.

Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.
Walter Farley, Little Black, A Pony, 1961, Gift of Annie Weeden, 2008.

The second book, unlike the first has no dangerous icy water, but instead tells of how Little Black proved himself at the circus. The illustrations, while similar in design, are vastly different in color with bright and vibrant full color pages throughout the book.

Walter Farley, Little Black Goes to the Circus!, 1963, Gift of the Estate of Patricia Meadows, 2010.

Little Black attempts to recreate a trick he sees a circus horse performing, but with no such luck. The ringleader laughs at Little Black who becomes a very sad pony (poor Little Black!). His rider decides to cheer him up and encourages him to learn a different type of trick – walking the plank. Our little pony is excellent at this new trick and races to the circus to show off his skill on the highest of all planks and impresses everyone. His rider is sad because he believes his horse has run off to join the circus (as we all have dreamed of doing at one point), but is delighted to see Little Black running towards him and away from the circus. As all sweet books end, they ride off into the sunset together as a happy pair.

Walter Farley, Little Black Goes to the Circus!, 1963, Gift of the Estate of Patricia Meadows, 2010.

We have many more amazing finds in the Library, from picture books to the famous Blaze series by C.W. Anderson, and more contemporary works like our Dr. Seuss’s A Horse Museum. I could go on forever about the children’s books that we have in the Library. I hope that this little teaser will encourage you to not only view our stacks for their amazing academic research properties, but also for the playfulness of our children’s collection.

Want to see these books and more?

The Library is opening up with limited hours and appointments on July 17th, 2020. You can make an appointment to come in and read the children’s books, have a little story time as a family, or enjoy reading them yourself!

Click here to learn more about our visitor requirements for visiting the Library and Museum and how to book an appointment.  

As always, the Library is free and open to the public.


“When one door closes, another opens.” Most may know this saying but not be aware that it was attributed to Alexander Graham Bell on his deathbed, or that there is a second half to the quote: “but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”

It was exceedingly difficult for the NSLM to close its doors to the public just a few weeks after opening of Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration by American artist Jamie Wyeth. The inspiring exhibition organized by the Brandywine River Museum in Chadds Ford, PA, is exactly the type of uplifting experience that brings hope and inspiration, especially in a time when we all crave positivity and happy distractions from the world around us.

Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration virtual tour

It also quickly became clear that we would be unable to complete the inbound shipments to open the April 2020 exhibition, The Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art. We had aligned it with the 100th anniversary of the Middleburg Spring Races to celebrate and examine the sport, its art, and its history. After all, that is the mission of the National Sporting Library & Museum, to promote, preserve, and share the literature, art, and culture of equestrian, angling, and field sports.

The best laid plans of mice and men… the entire spring Museum schedule crumbled within weeks. The much-anticipated reveal of the magnificent additions to the permanent collection of two rare one-third life-size sculptures, Percheron Mare: Messaline and Foal and Percheron Stallion: Rhum by Herbert Haseltine (American, 1877 –1962) was no longer possible. They remained in storage as we worked from home. Another important and generous donation also was still off view: two works by Frank Weston Benson and three by Ogden Minton Pleissner. The Librarians’ Angling in Special Collections exhibit lay dormant in the Forrest E. Mars Exhibit Hall.

Angling in Special Collections online Library exhibition

A growing sense of disappointment, sadness, and loss loomed overhead as we contemplated the doors that had closed, the duration of the closures, and the reality of extended limited access to the exhibition experience as we knew it. We are an organization that by its very definition exists to serve its community. At all levels we thought about what we could do. How would we be able to continue to connect remotely and with strategic visits to campus?

We learned… quickly. We “pivoted” as the industry calls it. Executive Director Elizabeth von Hassell led with calm and kindness and was a conduit for all. Development Associate Lauren O’Neill recorded several videos of Collections Manager Lauren Kraut and myself highlighting artwork in the galleries just before the Executive Order to close was announced. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian Michelle Guzman managed IT needs as we set up our virtual office in Microsoft Teams and learned to Zoom. Associate Director of Development Reid O’Connor coordinated person-to-person calls and letters to our community. Facilities Manager Aaron Patten took advantage of the closure and coordinated a much needed comprehensive, building-wide HVAC upgrade in the Library. Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator Valerie Peacock found online tour platforms and recorded educational content.  Mars Technical Services Librarian Erica Libhart learned how to use Adobe Spark. I (happily) jumped into 360° photography. We ramped up what we were already doing on social media and Marketing Manager Jody West revamped the website.

Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand virtual tour

The results were an impressive amount of content in a short window: a virtual tour of Ellen Emmet Rand: Leading the Field, the Wyeth exhibition, and the permanent collection; an online exhibition of Angling in Special Collections; an NSLM YouTube channel, virtual Sunday Sketch, and virtual Coffee with the Curator. Through this time, we stayed in touch with our members and followers and made new friends across the globe.

What does the future hold? We are committed to continuing to connect online with virtual interactions, and we look forward to reopening our physical doors on Friday, July 17, with limited ticketed access. The number one priority is safety, so the museum experience and new exhibit designs will look a little bit different with physical distancing measures in place.

In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine opens Friday, July 17

What will you see in-person and have access to online? Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration has been extended through January 3, 2021. In Bronze: Herbert Haseltine and the Pleissner and Benson acquisitions, curated by Lauren Kraut, will be on view through August 23. We are excited to rescheduled Thrill of the ‘Chace to open September 9.  

The “new normal” calls for flexibility and a can-do spirit. I am proud to be a member of this small and mighty team. When one door closed, we have found ways to open others. The show must (and will) go on.


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

As promised from last week’s Instagram teaser, I’d like to highlight this wonderful collage of Wilhelmine Kirby. My predecessor, Curator of Permanent Collections Nicole Stribling, unearthed this in a Library storage room and decided to hang it in her office, which, after she left, is now my office.

It’s not a huge office. In fact, it’s an old storage room that Nicole converted into office space when she started at the NSLM in 2013. I’ve made it my own but have retained much of the decoration Nicole acquired, including the collage. I can’t get to my desk without walking by it, so I’ve literally passed it thousands of times. Each time, I glance at it and wonder, who was Wilhelmine Kirby?

Wilhelmine Kirby collage, National Sporting Library & Museum

I was able to glean some information from that reliable source: the internet. She was born in 1914 to parents Wilhelmine Stewart Dunn-Claflin and Gustavus T. Kirby and attended Miss Chapin’s School in New York City and Fermata School in Aiken, SC. The family lived at Tanrackin Farm in Bedford Hills, NY. (A quick note: I generally refer to people by their last names in blog posts, but I really love the name Wilhelmine, so even though I will refer to her very casually, it is with the upmost respect.)

The New York Times turned up a few articles in their archives, some regaling society parties that Wilhelmine attended. Also making an appearance at one of these parties was Primrose Whitfield, a portrait of whom was recently included in NSLM’s Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition (proving that it really is a small world). But also discovered were a few articles that highlight the two milestones in a young affluent woman’s life in the early 20th century: her society debut and her wedding announcement (after the fact, interestingly!). Wilhelmine’s official “coming out” as a debutante was held on December 20, 1931. The Parisian-themed fête included costumed waiters, a midnight dinner with dancing until 2 am, accompanied by the Blue Devil musicians, who were dressed in uniforms similar to those worn by the French infantry of the same name. Her marriage on April 7, 1942 to Thomas Waller was a very low-key affair with no bridal attendants and no reception as her mother had recently passed away. Wilhelmine’s associations were listed and included such illustrious groups as the Daughters of the Cincinnati, the Colonial Dames of America, and the Colony Club of New York.

The New York Times, April 7, 1942

Sidenote: to share another Times article, something I found interesting, but very unrelated, was that in 1979, Wilhelmine recognized the name (though not the photograph) of a man suspected of murder.

The New York Times, June 2, 1979

Back on track: Further articles, though, attest to her skill as a horsewoman. Several mention ribbons and awards she won at various shows and competitions, like “Miss Kirby’s Gelding Also Takes Hunter Honors in Rockwood Hall Event.” In an October 2, 1937 article announcing, “Awards Made at Horse Show,” Wilhelmine’s name comes up no less than four times.

The New York Times, October 2, 1937

The articles in the collage provide better headlines: “It’s a Perfect Jump! Miss Kirby Clears Fence at Piping Rock Horse Show.”

Unknown newspaper and date, Wilhelmine Kirby collage, National Sporting Library & Museum

Perhaps my favorite description is “the most accomplished equestrienne in metropolitan social circles at Aiken, S.C., current capital of the American horse-loving world.” That sums it up nicely, doesn’t it?

Unknown newspaper and date, Wilhelmine Kirby collage, National Sporting Library & Museum

Regarding the collage itself, it’s still unknown who made it or how it ended up at the NSLM. We don’t even know when this was created.

There aren’t many dates on the collage and the few that are included exhibit quite a range. The earliest date provided is from a National Horse Show Association Exhibitor badge in 1933 with Wilhelmine’s name neatly written on the line. The latest date is a 1951 National Horse Show Association program that lists her father “Gustavus T. Kirby” as the Head Timing Judge.

In an effort to establish more firm dates, I’ve attempted to marry the online articles with the collage cut-outs. I’ve been able to match exactly one (possibly?): a Camden Horse Show article from March 12, 1938 announcing the blue ribbons her chestnut, Royal Reveler, received.

Stay tuned because this will clearly be an on-going endeavor. It represents this woman’s life and shows what was important to the creator of this collage. I’d like to point out that there aren’t any of Wilhelmine’s dance cards here, but the telegram congratulating her on her winning horse is.

The New York Times did provide one last announcement for Wilhelmine and that, of course, was her obituary. She passed away at Tanrackin Farm at the age of 90 on April 7, 2004, her 62nd wedding anniversary. Her husband had predeceased her in 1990. She appears to have led a full life being involved with her church, as well as president of the Bedford Garden Club and the Garden Club of America.

What a beautiful woman! Wilhelmine Stewart Kirby Waller, from Find A, added by Laura J. Stewart

The collage hangs behind me and stares at my back all day. The perspective must be an interesting one. Wilhelmine watches me as I conduct research and go down Herring print rabbit holes or get excited when a shipping estimate comes in under budget. She, in all her incarnations, watches as I constantly trip over my trash can or peruse my files. Goodness knows what she thinks when I start talking to myself. But she has kept me company these last few years and I’m happy she’s here.

If you are familiar with Wilhelmine Kirby or her family, I’d like to hear from you. My email is

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

For anyone who has taken a tour of the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, the name Vladimir Littauer will be a familiar one. The Littauer Collection, gifted to the NSLM by Andrew and Anya Littauer in 2006, contains over 200 books and pamphlets on equitation and horsemanship from the 17th through the 20th centuries. Captain Vladimir S. Littauer’s (1892-1989) influence on American riding is incredibly significant. Not only was he horseback riding master, he was in much demand as a riding instructor, and was a prolific author. Littauer published 17 books before his death in 1989.

Littauer was born in the Ural Mountains of Russia but grew up in St. Petersburg. In the fall of 1911, at age 19, he entered the two-year officer training program at the Nicholas Cavalry School in St. Petersburg, where he was trained according to the French tradition.

During the Summer Olympics of 1912, Russian cavalry officers who had spent time in Pinerolo, Italy learning methods pioneered by Captain Federico Caprilli distinguished themselves and excited much interest in Caprilli’s new system of “forward riding.” Around 1913, senior coronet Vladimir Sokolov introduced Littauer to Caprilli’s revolutionary method of riding. In 1913, Littauer was commissioned as a cornet (second lieutenant) in the 1st Sumsky Hussars, where he served against Germany during World War I, rising to the rank of Captain. After the October Revolution of 1917, Littauer joined the White Army, fighting in the Russian Civil War in Ukraine and Siberia before fleeing with his family to Canada in 1920. Littauer came to the United States in 1921.

The Boots & Saddles Riding School: 1927-1937. New York: Reffes Printing Co., 1937. Gift of Mr. Paul Cronin.

In October 1927, Littauer with two other former Russian cavalry officers, Colonel Prince Kader A. Guirey and Captain Sergei N. Kournakoff, founded the Boots and Saddles Riding School to teach the principles of dressage they had learned in cavalry school. Soon they began experimenting with teaching Caprilli’s forward riding methods, and the school found success at its New York City location on 316 East 91st Street.

A small history of Boots & Saddles published in 1937—gifted to the NSLM by Mr. Paul Cronin in 2019—provides insight into school’s curriculum, courses, competitions, and their graduates. According to the school’s history, the three former cavalry officers had “exactly $2,000” to establish the school. “Of this limited amount, $750 had to be paid as a deposit on the lease, leaving only $1,250 for the purchase of horses and equipment necessary alterations, and to face current expenses.”

After four years, the original old milk-wagon barn that was converted into a ring was torn down and replaced by a new 90 x 45 foot ring with a glass roof. The facility was now able to board 40 horses and included a reviewing stand that could accommodate 150 people which was “furnished in country-club style.” During the summer, the school taught in several towns outside New York City so that students could take what they learned in the ring and practice in the country.

The Jumping Course at Mt. Kisco, New York

At registration, students were required to self-assign themselves to either the Exercise Group or the Horsemanship Group. According to the registration form below, “…we decided to divide our Students into two groups: those who aim high and are willing to work hard, and those who are satisfied with elementary knowledge and wish to acquire it by easy stages.”

The registration form for Boots & Saddles

The students were divided into several classes depending on their “knowledge, ability, and aspirations.” Classes were 55 minutes each, with classes offered weekdays and weekends. It is interesting to note that all instructors taught the same method of equitation, but because “each one has something individual to offer,” all students studied under all instructors in rotation. Of course, the key feature of the curriculum was the Modern Forward Seat as seen below:

The school proved to be wildly successful. The school took pride in teaching students how to learn quickly and ride well. By 1937, Boots & Saddles had instructed 3,300 students, provided over 64,000 lessons, held 34 competitions, and operated 10 summer branches.

Young contestants pose for a photo (December 15, 1935)

In 1937, Littauer left Boots and Saddles to begin working with students on their own horses and to offer riding clinics at schools, colleges and hunt clubs. He was a frequent guest lecturer at Sweet Briar College in Virginia where one of his students, Harriet Rogers, founded a riding program for the college. Over the years Captain V. S. Littauer conducted original research which, through his writing, resulted in major contributions to the sport of riding.

Top: Mrs. John V. Bouvier, III at the Southampton Horse Show

The lures used by fly-fisherman fall into two general categories, dry flies and wet flies.  Both are meant to trick fish into biting on the hook by imitating the look and behavior of the insects that fish feed on.  Dry flies imitate insects that land upon the water’s surface, while wet flies imitate those which live beneath the water’s surface.  In either case, success hinges on the angler’s ability to mimic both the look and behavior of an insect the fish is interested in eating.

Traditional Stimulator dry fly. Photo by Mike Cline / CC BY-SA ( Wikimedia Commons.

The use of dry flies is challenging.  The fisher must cast with pinpoint accuracy and be able to land the fly gently on the surface of the water.  A splash-landing is likely to frighten off the very fish being targeted.  The selection of fly is also critical.  Surface insects represent the final stage of development and matching the fly to the specific type of insect maturing at any given time is required in order to offer the fish what it expects to find.  Choosing a fly that is not currently hatching will result in the fish taking every other insect off the surface while disregarding the angler’s fly.  However, the fisher that chooses the correct fly and manages a cast that closely imitates the behavior of a live insect may be rewarded by seeing the fish surge out of the water as it strikes at the fly.

Frederic Halford. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Known today as the “Father of Modern Dry Fly Fishing,” Frederic Halford (1844-1914) was an avid fly fisherman and prolific author on the subject.  He felt that pursuing fish striking at the surface was the purist form of angling and developed a full range of floating flies to mimic the downstream drifting of real insects floating on the surface of the water.  He would become the recognized authority on the tying and use of dry-flies on the chalk streams of southern England.  He also enjoyed a good argument and frequently participated in debates with other anglers in which he insisted that the dry-fly technique was superior to any other form of fly fishing.

Dry Fly Entomology, Frederic Halford (1897). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds all of Halford’s books on dry-fly fishing and fly tying.  The volume seen here is the second volume of the deluxe edition of Dry Fly Entomology. The first volume contains the text and the second comprises boards displaying actual specimens of the artificial flies described in the first volume. NSLM’s copy is signed by Frederic Halford.

A Grizzly King wet fly. Image By Jimmy1shot , CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons.

Fishing with a wet fly is generally more forgiving for beginners than fishing with a dry fly.  In this technique the targeted fish are feeding underwater, not at the surface.  Fish feed on submerged insects much more frequently than on those at the surface, providing more opportunities for the angler to catch a fish.  The heavier wet flies are easier to cast and a sloppy cast is less likely the scare off the targeted fish which are deeper in the water.  However the fisher must still imitate the kind of insect the fish expects and be able to land his fly at the correct depth in the water column in order to succeed.  It can also be difficult for the angler to know when a fish has taken the bait.  The strike takes place out of sight, under the water, and the pull of the current can easily be mistaken for that of a fish.

G. E. M. Skues. Image from Fly Fishing Devon.

George Edward MacKenzie Skues, usually known as G. E. M. Skues (1858–1949), was a British lawyer, author and fly-fisherman.  He developed the method of wet fly fishing known today as nymph fishing. Rather than tempting trout with imitations of flying insects at the water’s surface, he advocated for imitating nymphs, the earlier developmental stages of the same insects.  Most of the insect’s life occurs underwater and Skues felt that limiting fly fishing to imitating only the final adult stage at the surface caused anglers to miss out on many opportunities for success below the surface.

As Skues perfected his technique and others began to adopt it, tension grew between the nymph, or wet-fly fisherman and the dry-fly fisherman.  Although the wet-fly technique that Skues used was successful, the school of dry-fly fishing described it as, unethical and bad for the chalk streams.  The debate would continue for many years but in the end both techniques have survived and are widely used today.

The Way of a Trout with a Fly, G.E.M. Skues (1921). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds several books by and about G. E. M. Skues including his, The Way of a Trout with a Fly (1921) which is considered the seminal work on nymph fishing. This deluxe two-volume set contains 20 nymphs that were tied to the stringent specifications of G.E.M. Skues by famed English fly dresser, Jim Nice. Only 150 sets of the deluxe edition were made. In total, 3,000 nymphs were tied for the 150 sets. The NSLM owns set number 75.

To see either Dry Fly Entomology or The Way of a Trout with a Fly plan to visit the Library before the end of August.  Both books are included in our Angling in Special Collections exhibition which features a number of rare books on angling, a large collection of mounted flies from the George Chapman Collection, and angling related artwork from the Museum’s permanent collection.  If you can’t make it to the Library, the exhibition may be viewed online.

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, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

Like most museums, the NSLM has only about 10% of its collection on display. Most is in storage, which is where I’ve been spending a lot of time lately and found myself repeating, “I’d love to put this out!” Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just wanting to hang something up. Instead, I decided now would be a good time to share some of those with you.

Of course I’m drawn towards the prints (I have made my love of prints known in a previous blog post). The one below is an engraving of a gentleman on horseback in a landscape and next to the sea. Meet Douglas Hamilton, the 8th Duke of Hamilton, 5th Duke of Brandon (just two of a few titles!). Born in Scotland in 1756, he inherited his titles from his father at the young age of thirteen. Upon the death of the childless 8th Duke, his ducal title was then passed to his uncle whilst his barony was inherited by his half-brother. It is interesting to note that the Duke doesn’t face us, instead turned towards the sea. Published on October 15, 1797, it was engraved by W.Ward and painted G. Garrard.

(after) George Garrard (English, 1760-1826) William Ward, engraver His Grace the Duke of Hamilton & Brandon & etc., 1797 mezzotint, 27 3/4 x 32 3/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

Below is a coaching scene published on October 1 1837 and entitled The Taglioni!!! Four brown horses pull a fancy Windsor coach, known as a Taglioni. It is believed that the name came from an Italian ballerina, Marie Taglioni (1804-1884), who was thought to be the first to dance en pointe. She makes an appearance as the small ballerina on the door of the coach. Well-dressed aristocrats are sitting atop the carriage with two footmen sitting in the back wearing white and blue uniforms. The horses are in the “rocking horse” pose, thought to be how horses truly galloped. This was engraved by J. Harris and after Charles Cooper Henderson.

(after) Charles Cooper Henderson (English, 1803-1877) Rudolph Ackermann II, publisher, The Taglioni!!!, 1837 aquatint, 23 x 27 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012
Detail of The Taglioni!!!

This next print is by Leon Danchin, Gordon Setter with Duck. Gordon setters (or Black and Tan Setters) are one of four setter breeds, the others are English, Irish, and Irish Red and White. Setters are remarkable wingshooting companions. Here you can see that the gundog has retrieved the quarry. They are trained to “soft mouth” their catch so as not to damage any of the meat. If you want to learn more about setters, or any breed, head over to the website of the American Kennel Club’s Museum of the Dog here.

Leon Danchin (French, 1887-1938), Gordon Setter with Duck, 20th century, 16 x 22 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of William E. Enemark, 2014

Here’s a close-up:

Detail of Gordon Setter with Duck

The last print I’d like to share is that of British jockey Fred Archer (1857-1886). This was produced to commemorate the jockey’s death. Archer came from a family of jockeys that included both his brothers and his father. Though he had a relatively short career, Fred Archer is considered one of the greatest turf jockeys: he won the Epsom Derby five times (1877, 1880, 1881, 1885, and 1886), and won 246 races in 1885, a 62-year record. He was tall for a jockey, coming in at 5’ 9” and was constantly having to keep his weight down, resorting to unsafe diets to control it. After his wife died shortly after childbirth and his health took a turn for the worse, he died by suicide at the extremely young age of 29. The below print was reproduced in the newspapers, showing Archer wearing the colors of the Prince of Wales.

The Late Fred Archer in the Colours of H.R.H. Prince of Wales, 1886, lithograph, 18 1/4 x 14 1/4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum

I hope you enjoyed the trip into storage, keep your eyes peeled on our social media feeds to see more behind-the-scenes at the NSLM.


George Glazer Gallery:

How They Play: The Tragic Life of Fred Archer by Rupert Taylor

Museum of the Dog:

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 week I’d like to share Oriental Field Sports: being a complete, detailed, and accurate description of the wild sports of the East by Captain Thomas Williamson.  Published in 1807, this folio sized book is aptly described by its full subtitle:

being a complete, detailed, and accurate description of the wild sports of the East and exhibiting, in a novel and interesting manner, the natural history of the elephant, the rhinoceros, the tiger, the leopard, the bear, the deer, the buffalo, the wolf, the wild hog, the jackall, the wild dog, the civet, and other undomesticated animals: as likewise the different species of feathered game, fishes, and serpents. The whole interspersed with a variety of original, authentic, and curious anecdotes which render the work replete with information and amusement. The scenery gives a faithful representation of that picturesque country together with the manners and customs of both the native and European inhabitants. The narrative is divided into forty heads, forming collectively a complete work, but so arranged that each part is a detail of one of the forty coloured engravings with which the publication is embellished.

The text of the book is supplied by Captain Thomas Williamson who spent twenty years serving in India.  The striking accompanying illustrations were made from Williamson’s drawings by the English illustrator, Samuel Howitt.  The overall result is a large and engaging book.  But before we delve too deeply into the book, let’s look at the story of how Captain Williamson came to create it.

Thomas Williamson left England for India on May 27, 1778 at the age of 19.  At that time there were two military organizations operating in India under British control.  The first was the British Military known as the Queen’s army and the second was the East India Company army.  The Queen’s army was made up of British soldiers serving tours of duty in India under the same regulations as British troops elsewhere in the empire. The East India Company army was composed of what amount to mercenaries. The Company recruited an assortment of European soldiers specifically for service in India and also organized native companies made up of indigenous men under the command of British officers.  The differences in background, culture, pay, and status between the two armies resulted in hostility and tension which would ultimately lead to the Crown assuming control of the East India Company’s army and absorbing its units in 1858. 

Williamson began his career as a Lieutenant in the East India Company army’s 2nd Battalion, 3rd European Regiment.  His career would culminate with his appointment to Captain in the 2nd Battalion of the 13th Native Infantry and very briefly in the 17th Native Infantry in 1798.

As early as the 1790’s the problems resulting from having two armies operating in the same region but under differing regulations had become apparent.  Discussions on how to deal with the situation were underway on both sides of the issue and on May 15, 1797 the Calcutta Telegraph published a letter from Lord Cornwallis which outlined his solution to incorporate the East India Company units into the British military proper and subject them to the same rules and requirements.  Captain Williamson, during an illness in February and March of 1798, responded to these plans in a vehement letter to the Telegraph attacking Cornwallis. It is described as, “Seething with at first barely controlled anger he throws common sense to the winds as he covers page after page, and his manner of address develops from restrained hectoring to outright insult” (Edwards, 678).  

Although he signed the letter “Mentor,” it did not take long for an investigation to identify Captain Williamson as the author and a trial ensued.  As his defense Williamson claimed the delirium of illness, and that he had no recollection of writing to the paper.  His doctor testified to Williamson’s condition at the time and the course of his treatment but ultimately the defense was not allowed.  In the end he was suspended from service by the East India Company Board and sent back to England.  Three years later he was permitted to retire on half pay.

Thus Williamson was left scrambling for a means to support himself and his family.  He would prove resourceful in this endeavor, opening a shop selling musical instruments, sheet music, drawings, and prints.  In addition to publishing his own musical works, he was among the first to publish transcriptions of Indian music.  He also wrote a number of books on a range of topics, some drawn from his experiences in India.  One such volume is Oriental Field Sports (1807).

The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

I’ve written before about how accounts of hunting expeditions often double as interesting travelogues or amateur works of anthropology but Captain Williamson’s work intentionally set out to incorporate these elements.  He cleverly paired experiences familiar to his intended audience such as riding to hounds, wingshooting, and hunting, with detailed descriptions of “What Life is Like in India.” This framework resulted in a fascinating book.  Each color engraving is accompanied by a detailed description.

Hunters Going out in the Morning

The first plate in the book is titled, Hunters Going out in the Morning and depicts a scene packed with activity.  It shows the camp, the hunters, horses, elephants, hounds, and the native staff.  Williamson spends a full page describing the accommodations.  Not simply a general description, but one that includes the layout of the tents, what materials they are built from, how they are constructed, and how each feature is adapted for the Indian climate.

Description of tents.

He covers the necessary retinue for European parties, describes the foods they will encounter and the methods used to cook it, what the environment is like, and some information about the local people.  Finally he gets to a description of leaving for the hunt.  He reports that most hunters will travel to and from the field via elephant in order to spare their horse, as they usually only have a single mount.  He describes the various sorts of elephants employed, and details about their equipment and their training, before commenting on the horses involved. 

Description of hunter horses in India.

In the next plate, Beating Sugar Canes for a Hog, he delivers not only a full recounting of one of his own experiences hunting hogs, but also a great deal of information about the lifestyle of the animal. 

Description of wild hogs.

He uses the hunting framework to describe the agricultural setting, the surrounding landscape, the method of yoking oxen, and even the well and irrigation pump shown in the plate.

Beating Sugar Canes for a Hog

Below are images of several other plates found in Oriental Field Sports.  As with the first two, each of these is accompanied by Williamson’s fascinating descriptions and anecdotes.

He gives the reader the Indian version of wingshooting in the plate titled Peacock Shooting. Note the details: monkeys in the near tree, additional peacocks in the far tree, cranes or ibises in the water, and a boar lurking in the reeds at the edge of the pool.

Peacock Shooting

In Hunting a Hog Deer and Hunting Jackalls we get riding to hounds.

Hunting a Hog Deer
Hunting Jackalls.

And no book about India would be complete without tigers. Williamson gives us several tiger scenes.

A Tiger Prowling Through a Village.
A Tiger Seizing a Bullock in a Pass.
Driving a Tiger out of a Jungle.
The Tiger at Bay.

Sadly for Thomas Williamson he never recovered from his rash decision to publicly air his opinions on the military situation in India.  Despite vigorously transforming his experiences into marketable commodities he was ultimately unsuccessful economically and he died in 1817 leaving his wife and seven children destitute.

Edwards, Owain. “Captain Thomas Williamson of India.” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 14, no. 4, 1980, pp. 673-682. JSTOR accessed 16 Mar. 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, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

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