When I walked into Joan Danziger’s studio for the first time in 2016, it was magical. An authentic reflection of the artist’s creative output for the past four decades, it is both a working space and a showcase.

I was there to view a new wire and glass sculpture series Danziger had embarked upon of horses. I knew of her previous beetle sculptures, and my interest was piqued. Against a backdrop of over 50 sparkling insects hanging on a wall were two completed equine works, Riders of the Blue Spirit and Black Star, and a few others that had been started.

Black Star, 2016, metal and glass, 32 x 48 x 17 inches

They were something new, something different. As I walked around the sculptures taking pictures of them, I began to analyze how they were different. They were joyful, they made me smile, and they were free-spirited; there was something noteworthy about how they were created that made them unique.

Riders of the Blue Spirit, 2016, metal and glass, 29 x 40 x 29 inches

Danziger has completed 17 horses in the past three years since that visit, of which we have on loan 13 in her current solo exhibition at the National Sporting Library & Museum, Canter & Crawl: The Glass Sculpture of Joan Danziger. Her sometimes whimsical works have a freedom and airiness that is emphasized by their mixed media and construction. Each has a metal base with a soldered rod around which up to four layers of chicken wire are wrapped and shaped. Because her materials are so lightweight, Danziger can project her forms, sometimes as much as 3 feet, away from their footings. The negative space created around the works adds an almost ethereal quality. The support rods are mostly hidden in the finished sculpture, heightening the allusion of her horses as archetypes of dancing, galloping, jumping, and frolicking.

Golden Prince, 2017, metal, glass, dichroic glass, and brass wire, 39 x 53 x 25 inches

The contemporary sculptor’s pieces are obviously not meant to be perfect representations of horse anatomy but are an exploration of the spirit and nature of the horse. Danziger’s studio assistant Rebecca Long, a representational sculptor, creates the basic forms, and Danziger instructs her on elongating and exaggerating proportions. In her early career, Danziger was an abstract painter having studied at Cornell University. Relying on her knowledge of color theory and abstraction, she cuts and applies glass shards and braids wire to the forms to create mosaic surfaces that are an intriguing play of light, shadow, texture, translucency, and opacity.

Detail of Riders of the Blue Spirit, 2016

As a photographer, I can attest to how difficult it is to capture the nuances and subtleties of three-dimensional art in a photograph. We at NSLM are excited to be the first venue for Joan Danziger’s uplifting horse series so that visitors may experience these sparkling jewels in person. If you haven’t seen the exhibition yet and are within driving distance, I encourage you to visit Canter & Crawl before it closes on January 5, 2020.

Panorama of one of the Canter & Crawl galleries.

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

This year the National Sporting Library & Museum will participate in its first-ever GivingTuesday and we are so excited!

Falling annually on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, GivingTuesday began with the simple idea of encouragement: encouragement to do good, to inspire others to give, reach out to others, create community, and celebrate generosity.

GivingTuesday was created in 2012 to kick off the beginning of the charitable giving season. It is a digital initiative where organizations primarily raise funds through emails and social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. In 2018, more than 150 countries participated in this international day of giving, raising $400+ million online.

For our first ever GivingTuesday, we will be raising $700 to repair the clamshell box that stores and protects Theodore Roosevelt’s original, handwritten manuscript, “Riding to hounds on Long Island.” This rare manuscript is a popular item at the NSLM and is often shown to the public on tours or used by visiting researchers. The manuscript is housed in a protective red leather case along with a copy of “The Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine” (July, 1886) in which the final copy of his manuscript was published.

We have such a fantastic community of supporters at the NSLM and we cannot wait to see your response to GivingTuesday!

Here is how you can help:

  1. Donate! Any amount makes a tremendous difference to our dear Teddy!
  2. Share our GivingTuesday posts on Facebook with your friends and family. You are our best supporter and ambassador in the community!
  3. Forward our GivingTuesday emails!

If you’d like to contribute this GivingTuesday to help fix the case protecting Theodore Roosevelt’s original manuscript, please follow the link below:

https://app.etapestry.com/onlineforms/NationalSportingLibrary/2019-GivingTuesday.html

Let’s help protect this rare piece of American History at the NSLM!

Lauren joined the NSLM’s Development Department in July 2019 as the Development Associate. She is responsible for membership, communications, and database management.

Image from Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club Near Philadelphia, Philadelphia: Judah Dobson, 1830. Gift of John and Martha Daniels.

A few weeks ago, I was researching books published by The Derrydale Press under the management of its founder Eugene V. Connett. I came across a series of reprints of Early American Sporting books privately published by The Derrydale Press for Ernest R. Gee. The series consists of: Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club (1927), The American Shooter’s Manual (1928), The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports (1929), and The Sportsman’s Companion (1930).

Ernest Gee, a rare books dealer based in New York City, commissioned these reprints to preserve the history of Early American Sport. The Derrydale reprints are themselves uncommon, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that The National Sporting Library & Museum owns three of the four original books from which the Derrydale editions are reprinted. This is the first of a series of posts that will examine these Early American texts.

Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club by William Milnor, Jr.

In his preface to Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club, Ernest Gee writes that, “the original book is excessively rare and unknown to the majority of present-day sportsmen.” Of the 375 reprints published by The Derrydale Press, the Library owns number 162. While the oldest documentary record of fox hunting in North America is found in volume one of The Hunter-Naturalist: Romance of Sporting by C.W. Webber— published in Philadelphia in 1851— Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club, is the oldest known documentary record of an organized fox hunting club in the United States. The book provides all sorts of interesting stories about the hunts and members of the club.

The Gloucester Fox Hunting Club was formed in Philadelphia on October 29, 1766 and held its first meeting on December 13, 1766. Founding members included Benjamin Chew, Charles Willing, John Cadwallader, and James Wharton. Members who attended the first meeting included James Wharton, Anthony Morris and his son, Samuel Morris, and James Massey.

James Massey, “was appointed the first Huntsman for the Gloucester Foxhunting Club. He served in that capacity from 1766 to 1769 and he was the first professional non-slave hunt servant to officially handle the hounds for a regular subscription pack in America.” (Stewart, Sherri L. “An Historical Survey of Foxhunting in the United States, 1650-1970,” retrieved from: files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED084220.pdf.)

Image from Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club Near Philadelphia, Philadelphia: Judah Dobson, 1830. Gift of John and Martha Daniels.

The book chronicles the club’s operations—from the ebb and flow of membership and regular hunt locations—to changing characteristics of the club as time progressed.

We learn that, “The hunts took place principally at Cooper’s Creek, about four miles from the city, at the horseheads seven miles, at Chew’s landing, nine miles, at Blackwood-town, twelve miles, at Heston’s Glass-works, twenty miles distant, and sometimes at Thompson’s Point, on the Delaware, many miles to the South.”

During the Revolutionary War, the hunting club took a hiatus when “No less than twenty-two of the club associated and viz. formed the First Troop of Philadelphia City Cavalry,” to include the hunt’s president, Sam L. Morris. After the war ended, “the old club was revived with spirit and a renewed zest imparted to this warrior sport, by the reassemblage of old friends, after years of unavoidable separation, again to partake of the ecstatic pleasures of the chase.”

Specific hunts stood out for being especially memorable: for example, “In 1798, one of them carried the pack in full cry to Salem, forty miles distant.” Out of curiosity, I searched for any town named Salem within a 40 miles radius and did locate a Salem that checks out!

In its more touching moments, the book describes how the club would pay tribute to its first president Samuel Morris, Jr. in his later years. The author writes:

“Years previous to this lamented event [the death of Morris in 1812], when infirmity no longer permitted him to enjoy the manly exercise of horsemanship, he frequently made his welcome appearance on the field in the midst of his old quondam companions of the Hunting Club… He usually rode in a chaise, and sometimes in a light carriage… On these joyous occasions, every kind indulgence was extended, every means used to gratify the venerable and much loved chief of the association. The hunting ground was selected where good roads intersected each other, and where the exciting music of the pack, almost constantly saluted the delighted ears of their followers, and where the clearing occasionally afforded the chance of a view. Oh! these were reviving spirits to the genuine old sportsman…”

Amusingly enough, the author later laments in the history that in contrast to their first president, “the hunter’s chivalric spirit and his generous mantle, had not descended to some enterprising spirited sons of fortune…” He goes to note that in 1800, only half of the 40 members of the Gloucester Club”…were habitual or efficient hunters. Too many chose to relinquish early rising and exposure to invigorating frost, surmised danger, and the apprehension of fatigue, for the cheerful exhilarating festive occasion, which always rounded off the duties of the day, a good hunting dinner, flowing bowls of governor, and sparking goblets of madeira… It was no difficult matter, to discern who had chased the Fox. There could be no mistake, the keen appetite, the roseate bloom of health, and the cheerful countenance, sufficed to mark well the hunter.”

Image from Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club Near Philadelphia, Philadelphia: Judah Dobson, 1830. Gift of John and Martha Daniels.

The physical differences between the original 1830 publication and the 1927 Derrydale edition are few but significant. The original is slightly smaller than the Derrydale copy and totals 56 pages bound in muslin. The Derrydale edition of Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club Near Philadelphia, is larger than the original and bound in pink paper over boards.

Left, Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club Near Philadelphia, by William Milnor, Jr. published by Judah Dobson in 1830. Right, the 1927 edition, privately printed for Ernest Gee by The Derrydale Press.

You can find both the 1830 and 1927 editions of Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club at the National Sporting Library & Museum’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room!

Michelle joined NSLM in September 2019 as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian. She is responsible for managing the John & Martha Daniels Reading Room and the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room.  Michelle holds a MLIS from Simmons College in Boston and earned her BA in History from Smith College. Before coming to the National Sporting Library & Museum, Michelle spent 12 years at the Central Intelligence Agency. A native of California, Michelle misses the ocean and the mountains, but enjoys being a local tourist and visiting Washington D.C. and surrounding areas.

Dr. Seuss (Ted Geisel), is arguably the most prolific and popular children’s book author and illustrator. He is a household name, with many of us growing up with a love and fascination for his imaginative worlds and creative characters. Geisel had a way of creating books that sparked a passion for reading and creativity for kids and adults alike, even after his death in 1991. For years, previously unpublished manuscripts drafted and sketched by Geisel were complied and published posthumously including, DaisyHead Mayzie (1995) and What Pet Should I Get (2015). Each new published book was followed by excitement and rave reviews, illustrating the deep multi-generational connection we have with Dr. Seuss.

Twenty-eight years after Geisel’s death, the connection is still strong with the publication of Dr. Seuss’s The Horse Museum (2019) released on the 3rd of September. The book immediately hit #1 on the New York Times Best Seller List. Copies flew off the shelves and many shops are on back order for the title. The eighty-page book follows an energetic equine tour guide through an art museum dedicated to horses and teaches the reader about the different ways of making and thinking about art.

It is purely by chance we have a new addition to the Dr. Seuss family of books. Audrey Geisel, wife of Ted Geisel, found an overlooked box of manuscripts in their former California home back in 2012. The box of unrhymed text and sketches, believed to be from the 1950s, was a remarkable discovery and plans to finish the illustrations and publish the book began.

The idea of a Horse Museum, led by a bow tie wearing horse guide, is perfect for NSLM. We have a strong and ever-growing collection in art and books of equines and (obviously) we are museum and library. Our topic can be so niche that it is often hard to find children’s books for our institution, so we pre-ordered two books and impatiently waited for September 3rd to arrive.

The books came and we were speechless! It seemed as though Geisel made this book just for NSLM (or that is what we like to believe).  

Valerie Peacock, Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator and Michelle Guzman, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian, reading Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum.

As we devoured the pages of The Horse Museum, we began to realize how perfectly this new Dr. Seuss book fit within our institution. It depicted several images related to our collection, it talked about art in the terms we use for our school tours, and it even included art in library books (told you – made just for us).

The book opens up by asking “What is Art All About?”, something we like to ask our students on tours. The fantastic thing about it is how Geisel uses the horse tour guide to take you through all types of art depicting equines, from cave paintings to modern art and showcases color, speed, and movement.

Several paintings, sculptures, and ways of storytelling through art jumped out at us as relating to our collection.

The “beautiful lines” that the artist Katsushika Hokausai saw in horses are similar to the beautiful lines that we will see in the upcoming exhibition Nakayama’s Horses: The Art of Tadashi Nakayama, opening July 17, 2020 at NSLM. 

You can see similarities in how some artists see color, like Mane-Katz’s painting of horse racing and The Start  by Daphne vom Baur on view in our Recent Acquisitions Hall. The varied uses of color and how it can be used to illustrate mood, movement, and context are my favorite to talk about on tours with school groups.

Some artists see speed, especially those in our collection with many depictions of racing. Eadweard Muybridge, The Horse in Motion, can be seen in the book while our collection holds Muybridge’s Horse and Rider! Can you spot the differences? The speed and power of horses is found in many of our collection pieces.

There was even a 500-year-old image of polo being played in Persia! While NSLM has more contemporary depictions of the sport, seeing the similarities and differences of the sport across time is fascinating.

The book then moves into modern art and the way contemporary artists view and depict horses, including the wire sculpture by Alexander Calder. If you have visited the museum lately you will have noticed a similar medium in contemporary artist Joan Danziger’s sculptures of wire and glass in current exhibition Canter & Crawl: The Glass Sculpture of Joan Danziger. Like Calder’s sculpture, you would not want to sit on Danziger’s sculptures. (Ouch!)

Lastly, Dr. Seuss reminds the reader that art can be found outside of a museum. Just look at books in a library! Books can be adorned with beautiful covers like James Baldwin’s Fifty Famous Rides and Riders. Many books are filled with beautiful illustrations, like the Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum and C.W.Anderson’s The Blind Connemara. Even anatomy books can be considered art – just look at the skeletal drawing of a horse in a 1683 anatomy book.

All in all, Dr. Seuss’s Horse Museum perfectly encapsulates the things we love about our museum and library collections.

Want to read it? Come by the Library, get cozy in a reading nook and read on. Afterwards, stop by the Museum and see if you can find lines, color, speed, and familiar artworks.

Don’t forget to save the date for our Dr. Seuss Day Celebration on March 1, 2020 at NSLM. For more information on our celebration click here. 

And, while we have not trained a horse to wear bow-ties and give tours (yet!), we do have free weekly tours on Wednesdays at 2PM conducted by our fantastic human staff. We hope to see you there!

This week as the nation recognizes and honors the service and sacrifices of the members of its armed forces we should also honor the many animals that have accompanied our soldiers into war. For as long as people have gone to war they have brought animals with them. Specially trained animals have filled the roles of transportation of both soldiers and equipment, communication, detection, fighter, sentry, mascots, and sadly sometimes as the carriers of explosives – becoming weapons themselves. The list of the types of animals that have filled these roles is long, and each used its special abilities and characteristics to help their human counterparts by doing something the humans couldn’t or by enhancing the skill or effectiveness of the people they worked alongside.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller, a Military Working Dog (MWD) handler pets the head of his MWD Rico, at the War Dog Cemetery located on Naval Base Guam. From Wikimedia Commons.

They have lent us their strength, their speed, their agility, their sense of smell, their ability to intimidate and fight, and often their companionship. Some of these animals are familiar such as the horse, mule, and dog. Other animals that have served include, oxen, elephants, camels, birds, reindeer, dolphins, sea lions, pigs, and cats. The Library holds many books describing the roles and heroics of animals in war and I thought I’d share the story of a little mare from Korea that would eventually become a staff sergeant in the US Marine Corps.

A M-20 75 mm recoilless rifle being fired during the Korean War. Wikimedia Commons.

During the Korean War the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division put its large recoilless rifles to good use. Although they were highly effective, the guns were six feet long, weighed over 100 pounds, and fired shells weighing 24 pounds each, making them difficult to move and supply. The platoon leader, Lt. Eric Pedersen had the idea of getting a pack horse to assist his men. The idea was approved and he bought a small chestnut filly with $250 of his own money. The little horse was only 14 hands high and weighed about 900 pounds but she would prove to have a huge impact despite her small stature.

Reckless with her main caretaker, US Marine Sergeant Joseph Latham. Wikimedia Commons.

Once she arrived back at camp several marines, who were also experienced horsemen, were tasked with her training. PFC Monroe Coleman and Sgt. Joe Latham drew the duty. She was dubbed Reckless which was also a nickname for the recoilless gun that the platoon used. PFC Reckless’s “hoof-camp” training began the next morning. She learned to carry the gun and its heavy ammunition, became accustomed to the sounds of the firing of the gun, and learned to ride in a little trailer attached to a jeep.

Hoof-Camp training. From Reckless Pride of the Marines by Andrew Geer (1955). The gift of Mrs. Howard Linn.

She also mastered lying down when under fire, and running for cover to a bunker when “incoming” was yelled. Her training was so effective that she was able to make trips from the ammo supply up to the gun emplacements by herself after being shown the route only a few times. In addition to supplying the guns with ammunition, Reckless assisted with other tasks. She was especially useful stringing out telephone wire from spools carried on her pack. She was able to string more telephone line in a day than 10 men on foot. She also carried wounded soldiers from the front lines back to medical assistance.

Sergeant Reckless pictured with a reel of communication wire. Wikimedia Commons.

The highlight of Reckless’s military career would come in 1953 when she participated in the Battle for Outpost Vegas. During a single day of the battle Reckless traveled back and forth to the front lines 50 times. She traveled 35 miles, carrying nearly 9000 pounds of ammunition, and brought wounded marines back to the supply point. During the battle she was wounded twice, once in the flank and once above her eye, but she continued to make the trek back and forth to the front. Her efforts earned her a promotion to corporal.

Sergeant Reckless under fire during the Korean War. From Reckless Pride of the Marines by Andrew Geer (1955). The gift of Mrs. Howard Linn.

Reckless became a true member of her platoon and was able to wander about camp and into tents freely. She frequently insisted on being the center of attention, and must have had a bit of goat in her as she was known to eat anything and everything. She especially liked scrambled eggs and coffee, and would enjoy a beer with her compatriots. She also ate items such has her blanket, hats, and even poker chips!

Reckless hanging out with her platoon-mates. From Horse Stars Hall of Fame.

In April 1954, Reckless received a battlefield promotion to sergeant from Randolph Pate, the commander of the 1st Marine Division. Later that year she rotated out of Korea and made the journey to her new home at Camp Pendleton in California.  Here she received her final promotion to staff sergeant on August 31, 1959. The ceremony included a 19-gun salute and a 1,700-man parade of Marines from her unit. Her military decorations include, two Purple Hearts, the Dickin Medal, the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the United Nations Korea Medal, and the French Fourragere.

Reckless’s life in retirement was good. Thanks to a pair of Saturday Evening Post articles she was well known before she arrived stateside and she made several public appearances. She was also the guest of honor at the Marine Birthday Ball where she is reported to have eaten both cake and the centerpieces. While at Camp Pendleton she was bred several times and had four foals. In 1957, 1959, and 1964 she had the colts Fearless, Dautnless, and Chesty. She also had a filly in 1965 or 1966 that died only a month after her birth and was never named.

Sampling the centerpieces. From The Camp Pendleton Historical Society.

Reckless died on May 13, 1968, while under sedation to treat injuries from a fall into barbed wire. She was reported to be either 19 or 20 years old. Her resolute determination under fire inspired the love and loyalty of those that knew her and many who had only heard of her. She has been memorialized in a sculpture by Jocelyn Russell at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, a similar sculpture by Russell at Camp Pendleton, and most recently at the Kentucky Horse Park which installed the same bronze sculpture by Russell.

Hundreds of veterans, servicemembers, and civilians gather to view the full-size bronze statue at the close of the dedication ceremony of Korean War Horse Veteran Staff Sgt. Reckless at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Va., July 26, 2013. SSgt Reckless is listed as a National hero and served as a Marine in Korea from 1952-1953. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, were in attendance. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kathy Reesey/Released) Unit: MCB Quantico Combat Camera. Wikimedia Commons.

If you are interested in learning more about Reckless or about other animals that have served in war, drop in to the Main Reading Room and I’d be happy to show you some of our books on the subject.


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.

The permanent collection at the National Sporting Library & Museum has over 1,300 objects, including paintings, sculptures, works on paper, weathervanes, and dog collars. That’s right, dog collars.

Fifteen years ago, Dr. and Mrs. Tim Greenan began collecting dog collars, eventually amassing 187 of them. In 2014, they donated their entire collection to the NSLM, making the museum one of the largest (if not the largest) repositories in the world for these niche objects.

Dr. Greenan and the Curatorial department are developing an exhibition for 2022 that will display the objects alongside works of art that feature similar collars. The show will also highlight the relationship between dogs and humans and how that relationship has evolved throughout the centuries.

It’s hard to remember a time when dogs have not been Man’s Best Friend snuggling up on our laps and eagerly awaiting our return. Initially, they were trained for war, hunting, working, fighting, and scouting. The one shown below dates from the 18th century and is firmly utilitarian.  The spikes repelled attackers and protected the canine.

Dog Collar, 18th century, British, metal,
7 inches diameter x 1 inches wide

The brass one below would have been used for bear baiting or boar hunting. It is important to remember to not look at such collars through 21st-century eyes, but rather keep it in context of the 18th century. While we view it as cruel, bear baiting was considered a regular sport for all societal classes at the time. This collar is inscribed “WILLIAM ECKLES ISLAND HILL 1792.” The sharp sawtooth edges would have protected the neck of the dog wearing it.

Dog collar, 1792, British, brass,
6 inches diameter x 2 1/2 inches wide

The large horsehair collar below (and my favorite!) is from the 18th century, possibly from Goa, India. It is decorated with orange agate cabochons and is almost 12 inches in diameter. You can imagine that this is also quite heavy and would probably have been worn by a mastiff.

Dog collar, 18th century, possibly Goa, India, horsehair leather with agate cabochons and brass mounts with ring attachment
11 3/4 inches diameter x 2 7/8 inches height x 3 1/2 inches wide

As dogs were domesticated, they also served as a status symbol: the breed, pedigree, and, of course, the collar. Tiffany & Co., known for their wonderful and highly sought-after jewelry, also produced many everyday objects, including the below silver dog collar from 1831-1832. It is inscribed with the owner’s name, “GEO. H. INGERSOLL ./ NEW YORK.,” is adjustable, and came to the collection with the owner’s choice for a lock. It was not uncommon for dogs to be stolen, their identification to be removed, and then be resold on the street as dogs in need of a home. The lock served to discourage would-be thieves.

Dog collar, 1831-1832, American, silver,
4 1/4 inches diameter x 3 /4 inches wide

The inscriptions could sometimes be whimsical and silly.  The one below is from the 1920s or 1930s and reads, “I’M / H.O. SWINFORD’S DOG / WHOSE DOG / ARE YOU?”

Dog collar, 1920s or 1930s, American, leather, 4 inches diameter x
1 3/4 inches wide

The image below shows an Italian collar from the 1940s with distinctly Roman motifs. One crest has an image of Romulus, the founder of Rome, and his twin brother, Remus. The other crest shows the she-wolf that nursed the twins after they were abandoned. Incredibly appropriate motifs to adorn such an object!

Dog collar, 1940s, Italian, leather,
5 1/2 inches diameter x 1 3/4 inches wide

Stay tuned as we continue to learn about these everyday, yet fascinating, objects. We’ll be posting more teasers in preparation for the forthcoming 2022 exhibition.

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

Visitors to Middleburg earlier this month were met with an interesting sight.  On the afternoon of Sunday, October 6th the NSLM partnered with Emmanuel Episcopal Church to host an interfaith Blessing of the Animals event and the community turned out in force to participate. 

Pastor Gil Gibson, Reverend Gail Epes, Rabbi Rose Lyn Jacob, and Reverend Gene LeCouteur. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

Our front lawn was full of people who brought their animal friends to receive blessings offered by Episcopal priests The Reverends Gene LeCouteur and Gail Epes, Pastor Gil Gibson of Aldie Presbyterian Church, and Rabbi Rose Lyn Jacob of Culpeper. 

Horses waiting for their blessings. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

There was a festive feel to the day as people enjoyed mingling with other animal lovers and meeting their pets.  The clergy circulated through the crowd imparting blessings to many dogs, a cat or two, a rabbit, several horses and ponies, and even a parrot. 

Reverend Gene LeCouteur blessing a dog. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

In addition there were several community partners that had tables at the event.  Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, Middleburg Humane Foundation, War Horses at Rose Bower, and Potomac Cairn Terrier Rescue, all shared information about their programs with attendees.  The afternoon was a celebration of the animals in people’s lives and the joy that comes from those relationships.

Reverend Gail Epes blessing a dog. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

Interestingly none of this would have happened but for a rich Italian kid born more than 830 years ago.  Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, later known as Francesco, was born in Assisi, Italy at the end of 1181 or beginning of 1182.  He was the son of a wealthy silk merchant and by all accounts lived a privileged and carefree life, indulging in fine clothing and food, and spending his days listening to singers with his friends.  After a brief career as a soldier Francis began to turn away from his life of material wealth and focused on his religious life.  Eventually he would renounce his former life entirely and would go on to found the Franciscan Order. 

By Andrea Vanni – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11140810

Among his key beliefs was that humans were but one among the creatures created by God.  He called all creatures his brothers and sisters and is said to have preached to the birds which flocked around him transfixed by his voice.  He believed that nature is an integrated system to which humans belong but also steward. 

Saint Francis of Assisi, as he is known today, is one of the most popular Christian saints.  He is the patron saint of animals and of ecology.  His feast day in the Christian calendar is October 4th. Blessing of the Animals services are typically held on the Sunday closest to that date in honor of Saint Francis.  If you missed the event on NSLM’s campus this year, mark you calendars for next year’s celebration and bring your favorite animal companion to the party.

*Fun fact: In 1220 Saint Francis is credited with creating the first nativity scene using real 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.