Downstairs we have a file cabinet that houses the Library’s vertical files: documents that don’t necessarily belong in an archive collection, yet have significant value and are used as ready reference material to supplement our book and archive collections. Some of the subjects in our vertical files include a variety of horse associations, hunt clubs, and biographies of the artists and writers. Usually the documents in vertical files are a mix of grey literature: brochures, newspaper clippings, maps, catalogs, etc. At the NLSM our vertical files also contain a few research papers and drafts of articles that appear to have been written with the intent of publication, but for whatever reason, never made it to that stage.

Today, I am sharing portions of a draft paper from our Upperville Colt and Horse Show vertical file written sometime after the publication of Nina Carter Tabb’s article which was published in 1937. I have not been able to determine whether this piece appeared in print anywhere, but I thought it was a great summary of the show and includes all sorts of interesting historical tidbits. The author was a judge at the 1905 show, and appears to have judged later shows as well. Enjoy!

When Colonel Richard Hunter Dulany imported his Cleveland Bays from England, ten or fifteen years before the War between the States while the South was in its glory, to interest his neighbors and friends from afar in the breeding of high-class horses, he founded the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. In 1852, the first exhibition was held, as told me by Rozier Dulany, “at a place known as ‘The Vineyard’ in the suburbs of Upperville, which–as near as I can ascertain–is the same location under the giant oaks on the Grafton plantation, where the show has been held continuously ever since, except when discontinued on account of the Civil War.”

Christopher J. FitzGerald, one of the best authorities on the thoroughbred of America and who, for a number of years, had charge of the publicity of the Jockey Club–had never known much of Virginia except from hearsay, but after he had judged at the Upperville Colt Show, was as enthusiastic as the friend who had told him in the Palm Room of the old Boston Club in New Orleans about the great thoroughbred-loving breeders of Loudoun and Fauquier.

“Chris” wrote, “When honored with an invitation to serve as judge at the Upperville Colt Show a few years ago, I got my first glimpse of the country so lavishly praised by my friends. A few hours in company of those responsible for the perpetration of the Show, which had its inception long before the Civil War period, was an inspiring as it was revealing.”

By far the best history of this Show was written by Mayme Ober Peak in the Loudoun-Fauquier Magazine; and so that the interesting facts gathered by her may be saved for all time in book form, I quote from her writings:

On June 11, 1931, crowds again gathered for the annual exhibition of the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, on its grounds a little east of Upperville, much as they did over three-quarters of a century ago. What a contrast is found in this brilliant assemblage, and that first picnic crowd of horse lovers who gathered in the grove on the outskirts of Upperville, Va.

Then the entries comprised less than a dozen heavy drafts, shaggy mares and green hunters; there was no music except from the throats of the birds, and no grandstand seats except Fauquier stones and lap-robes on the ground. But when the lunch baskets were brought from the buggies and buck-boards, and their contents spread under the trees, no more enthusiastic spirit could have been found than among the little group of gentry and farmers, who, all unconsciously, were making turf history. For on that fine day in June, 1852, when was held the first colt show in the country, seed was sown from which grew the great Association of American Horse Shows.

The development of the show is an interesting story. The organizer and moving spirit of the idea was Colonel Richard Hunter Dulany, whose estate ‘Welbourne’ is a few miles from Upperville and who, before his death, was one of the largest landowners in this section of the Blue Ridge.

A gentleman of the old school — a hospitable, generous, public-spirited, he wielded a big influence in the community. His love for horses was a tradition. this love was inherited from his English ancestors, and handed down. The hunters Colonel Dulany bred and rode to hounds were always the envy of the neighboring gentry.

The idea of having an annual colt show and offering prizes for the best purebred colts exhibited was suggested to him by seeing such a show in connection with a county fair in Canada. Calling a meeting of the gentry, he laid the plan before them and it was met with instant and hearty cooperation.

Silver loving cups being decided upon as the most attractive prizes, Colonel Dulany went all the way to New York to purchase a supply. In those days Tiffany’s was almost as famous as it is now, and the Colonel went straight there to do his shopping. As it happened, Mr. Tiffany himself waited on the Virginian. When he found out for what purpose the cups were intended, he was highly interested and excited. in the breast of the Gotham silversmith, it seemed, also beat the heart of a sportsman; “I would consider it a great honor,” he said, “if you would permit me to contribute workmanship on the cups so they would cost you only the weight of the silver. Your plan appeals to me strongly and I would like to aid you in carrying it out.”

[The author continues with several more pages from Mayne Ober Peak’s article, but I will end her article here].

The Upperville Colt Show has undoubtedly played a great part in giving Virginia horses their place in the sun; but as it came in the hot days of June, I had never seen the Colt Show until I was asked to judge hunters there in 1905, and never shall I forget the interesting day. The paragraphs that follow tell of what happened then and also when I was judging later, while the guest of the President of the show, George Slater of Rose Hill.

The Show grounds are attractively laid out parallel to the old pike leading to Middleburg, and in the early days–as all can well remember–the dust from the road used to blow over the grandstand and make all those in attendance unhappy. This, of course, the cement covering has now eliminated. The stand backs on the road and with its enclosure guards one side of the show ring which is railed off from the grounds–which was part of Grafton, formerly “Number Six”–and is shaded by the beautiful oaks, planted a hundred years ago by some tree-loving ancestor. To guard the grounds proper, as the Show increased, horse boxes had been built which give a uniformity to the layout.

The breeding classes come in the morning and are attended by many; but the first great function is the luncheon which, like that of Epsom Downs on Derby Day, everyone brings for himself and his friends. History tells us that since the first Colt Show in ’53 the Dulanys have had their luncheon party come to one particular oak; the Carters just beyond; the Glascocks on farther. Not far away was the “Josh” Fletcher party; the Slaters under the tree beyond; and I am frank to say I never appreciated what find sportsmen and agriculturists lived round till I judged that Show in 1905.

Hot, hot, hot! Yes, piping hot! The ladies in the grandstand fanned themselves and brushed off the dust. There might have been a guard at the ring gate, but how could he stop anyone going into the ring when they were all friends of his and all interested to watch the judging and get a close view of the horses? So, in they crowded. The Dulanys; the great farmers; Colonels and Generals in the War; diplomats from Washington — all filled up the little ring and made it almost impossible to judge the jumping classes, as from the center of the ring you could not see any of the jumps except as the hunter rose in the air, and if you went over to one line of jumps, those on the other side were obscured from you. But it was always been that way. The dear old Colonel was here, there and everywhere, his kindly face shrouded in a grey beard and one arm crippled while leading the Virginia cavalry in Pickett’s Charge, that memorable day at Gettysburg when Lee’s valiant efforts to whip Meade were rendered impossible by Longstreet who, because his plan was not adopted, sulked in this tent.

Miss Ober tells of the beautiful Tiffany silver cups, one of which I had on exhibition at the second Sportsmen’s dinner in New York in 1912, when from all over America, trophies of the Turf and the Chase poured in. The illustration shows the beauty and simplicity of the Colt Show trophies which were so strongly battled for in 1852.

Bell-horses, bel-horses, what time of day? One o’clock, two o’clock, three and away!

The use of bells was first brought about for road warnings of the old convoys and before that by pack horses. In Central America I have heard them as the lead mule guides his pack train down the steep incline of the Andes.

It was a grand sight to see the great four and six horse teams in the ring at the earlier shows. The driver, astride a saddle on the near-wheeler, controlled the team by a jerk line which was attached to the off-side bit of the leader. The team was controlled as perfectly as Howlett controlled a six or four-in-hand, with all the reins in his left hand and his right about the collar of his whip, as he sat on the box of his coach in Paris.

Some of the teams were got up in the most imposing manner, the old-fashioned hames with balls of brass on top, the bell frame over the saddle, the plaited manes and tails with colored ribbands, and on a few the polished brass harness ornaments which were riveted onto the cheek pieces of the bridles and elsewhere…

At that time, 1905, there were few dealers present; now and then one from Philadelphia; but when fox-hunting came in strong–there are ten or twelve packs of hounds within thirty miles of Upperville–the breeding, breaking and selling of hunters has run up to thousands and thousands a year. I shall never forget two most important classes which I judged at one of the later shows. On being asked by George Slater to judge, I wrote down and explained to him the value of an outside course for hunters and jumpers. he accepted the idea and going down a day or two ahead of time, we laid the present course out, which has proved of great value. At that time David Gray, a fine three-quarter bred grey horse was –although twelve or fifteen years old–considered unbeatable. he could seemingly jump all day and never make a mistake. When his class was called, he put up the usual perfect score, but few entries later, came a three-quarter bred chestnut mare Miss Soliloquy bred by Jim Ferguson of Mountsville, which also went perfect, making a sparkling performance.

This chapter of the Upperville Colt and Horse show continues for a total of thirteen pages. There are great details here about the making of mint juleps, the families involved in the show, and descriptions of country life here in Virginia. I have included photos in the vertical file from the Washington Star dated June 5, 1949.

My feet are killing me. I’m tired. I subjected Art Handler Alex to various podcasts and audiobooks. And I’m running out of black leggings to wear. But I love it. Exhibition change-out is my favorite time of year and the past four weeks have been particularly exciting.

Artist Jamie Wyeth generously allowed us to enjoy Phyllis Mills Wyeth: A Celebration a little longer, which meant it closed a week before the March 21 closing date for Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art. In the midst of this was the arrival of artwork from the National Museum of Wildlife Art for Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature. Of over 80 works of art.

Monday, March 15

The month-long extravaganza is officially underway. Alex and I began packing the 31 Wyeth paintings (plus one trophy). For those that remember how large Connemara Four is, you can imagine how careful we were. It called for a few extra hands.

Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Connemara Four (1991), oil on panel, 48 x 96 inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

The deinstallation was bittersweet for a couple reasons. First, this exhibition was a wonderful celebration of the life of our local friend, Mrs. Wyeth. Over the past year, I met many lovely people who either knew her or knew of her. I heard stories of her sense of adventure and her humor, her zeal for life. Listening to these provided such poignant context to the paintings. Second, the exhibition opened pre-COVID, only a few weeks before NSLM closed for four months. I thought back to installation when five of us were crowded in a gallery without worrying about masks or social distancing yet. It is hard to believe it has only been a year, rather it seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened in the world. But our museum has not only survived, but thrived thanks to our loyal members, visitors, and friends. To the sound of Joe Friday and Dragnet, Alex and I dutifully packed up the exhibition and said goodbye to the Wyeths.

From left to right: Jamie Wyeth (American, b. 1946), Sable (1988), oil and gesso on panel, 30 x 40 inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection; She’s Gone to the Barn (2016), acrylic, gesso, and oil on panel, 16 x 11½ inches, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection; Stealing Hollies from the Irenees (2016), 23 x 29 inches, acrylic, gesso, and oil on panel, The Phyllis and Jamie Wyeth Collection

Monday, March 21

Next on our To-Do list was to tackle Steeplechase. We dove in according to the shipping schedule, which meant that as the work from the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts was going to be the first to be picked up the following Monday, it was first to come off the walls. This was different from Wyeth because this exhibition had 16 private lenders, as well as several public institutions. The transportation logistics can always be hairy as it is multiple schedules we are working around. This appeals to my Virgo nature though – spreadsheets and color coding.

Painting far left: Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880-1953), Welbourne Jack with Jack Skinner up at Glenwood Park, 1937, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, Private Collection; sculpture: Emma MacDermott (Irish, b. 1957), Steeplechase, c. 1986, bronze, 28 x 46 ½ x 10 ½ inches, Private Collection

The individual lenders decide how they want to pack artwork: sometimes paintings arrive in wooden crates, other times in cardboard softpack. There are multiple layers of bubble wrap, plastic, and/or foam core. Everything is saved – how it arrives is how it is returned. Sometimes if a lender is local, they may just transport the painting in the back seat of their car, which is perfectly fine. However, we’ll pack it up safely for its return trip home. We give it the same care as if it were being returned to a place like Yale or VMFA.

Wednesday, March 25

Halfway through the week and halfway through packing, the shipment of Tucker Smith paintings from the NMWA arrived. Our receiving area was soon flooded with crates. I started laughing that hysterical laughter one does when the abstract becomes reality. I knew this was a large exhibition and I knew how many crates would be arriving but seeing it made my eyes bulge.

Also, because of all the packing and shipments, I was still technically two exhibitions behind the rest of the staff. So whilst Claudia, Valerie, and Cynthia Kurtz, our new Marketing Manager (and previous NSLM intern!), were firmly in the world of Tucker Smith, I was still knee-deep in Wyeth and Steeplechase. When Cynthia referred to The Refuge, the massive 45 ¼ x 129 ½ painting by Smith that had just arrived, I was racking my brain for a painting of the same name in one of the previous exhibitions.

We never open art upon arrival. It needs to acclimate. This was fine since we still had to finish with Steeplechase. Thank goodness for comfy sneakers. By the end of the week, Alex and I finished not only the packing of the exhibition, but an entire season of the Criminal Broads podcast.

Empty Steeplechase walls

Monday, March 29

And so the start of return shipments and local deliveries. We tend to use a few different companies because of where they can make deliveries. The interesting part of shipping logistics is to ensure that there is not a double booking for the trucks, but we can only plan so much because, just like the cable company, they provide a window of time rather than a specific one.

Always keeping myself on my toes, we had several pickups that morning, as well as a local delivery. Everyone was on the earlier side of the window which normally is perfect, but because of scheduling for the local transport, I had to pull Claudia away from her mountain of work to handle the pickup. Thankfully, it all went off without a hitch.

And now I could finally devote my attention to Tucker Smith and his beautiful oeuvre. I have never been to the West. I am the stereotypical East Coaster – there’s the west coast, the east coast, and everything else in the middle. A terrible attitude and it (rightfully) rankles my Minnesota friends and family. This exhibition, though, has me wanting to visit Wyoming right now. Alex spent nine years in his previous life as a cowboy near where Smith painted many of the works we were unpacking.

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), The Season, 2005, oil on canvas, 30 x 30 inches, Collection of Beverly and Roe Hatlen

In between Poirot’s Finest Cases on audiobook, I enjoyed listening to Alex’s stories of being out west. In Rabbit Brush, Lupine, and Sage which features an entire foreground of sagebrush, he told me of the beautiful scent released as he rode through it. He confirmed that the expansive blue sky that goes on forever in the aptly titled Big Sky is just as wonderous as Smith depicts it. As Alex looked at The Branding, I learned more about castration than I needed to know. I also learned how to not frighten moose and that “butte” is pronounced “beau-t.”

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), The Branding, 1988, oil on canvas, Collection of Curtice and Bob McCloy

The exhibition was not even officially open yet and something I had already noticed was how evocative the paintings are. People see them and immediately launch into their own stories about muleys, rams, and bears. Claudia told us about a childhood family trip out west. A board member who happened to be at the museum told us of the moose he saw on his visits to Yellowstone. These paintings with their rich colors and unique perspectives bring those memories alive for the viewer in a way I have not experienced at the NSLM before.

Tucker Smith (American, b. 1940), Big Sky, 1990, 12 x 14 inches, oil on canvas, Collection of Curice and Bob McCloy

An unofficial element of the NSLM mission is the conservation and preservation of our natural landscapes and this exhibition really underlines that. It shows the importance of preserved spaces for both the land and the animals. Many of the human figures Smith includes in his landscapes show us how small we truly are, but also how big our responsibility is to be capable stewards of such magnificent places.

Friday, April 9

Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature is officially open! Be sure to see this stunning retrospective before it closes on August 22. Reserve your tickets online.


Having not ventured to the West beyond a handful of trips to Arizona, it made me want to rent an RV and soak up the landscape. Consider this my two weeks notice, boss. I’m off to ride into that big Wyoming sky.

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

Please meet, Saint

Post by Cynthia Kurtz, Marketing Manager

I own an exceptionally patient horse. I bought him as a 6-year-old with a mere 60 days of saddle training and had him teaching toddlers to ride by the following weekend. He is unflappable, smart, and willing to try new things.

So when I saw a used harness for sale locally, I did what any reasonable equestrian would do, and decided to learn to drive with my horse who also didn’t know how to drive. I am normally an advocate of at least one party knowing what they are doing—green riders and green horses do not go well together—but this is the horse that enjoys joining us at the bonfire while the rest of the herd runs away from the flames. I was sure he’d be fine.

The first step was putting the harness on, which entailed me learning what the parts were and Saint learning to accept leather straps in various places on his body. I expected him to react to the breeching, straps that wrap below the rump and function as brakes, and the crupper, which goes below the tail to keep the surcingle from sliding too far forward, but my steady steed hardly flinched.

At this stage in training, the breeching is strapped on tightly, so the horse becomes accustomed to the pressure and doesn’t panic. Eventually, it’ll hang more loosely, and the horse will be taught to stand against the pressure as the cart slows to a stop behind him. I also let other straps hang loosely from the harness to allow Saint to become accustomed to things swinging around and dragging behind him. The traces, not being attached to a cart, are tied up into the surcingle and then hang loosely at his sides so he feels them but cannot step on them.

This was the point at which I stepped behind him and taught him to “ground-drive,” essentially the same as driving but with me walking behind him instead of riding in a cart. For obvious reasons, this is the safest way to introduce the concept of driving. I attached the lines to a halter so I could steer him without worrying about him struggling against a bit while he figured it out. Using a driving whip I encouraged him to move forward, and within one session he had walk, trot, and halt down pat with me controlling him from behind. I even took him for a walk around the property to show off!

After a few months, in which time Saint mastered commands such as “gee” to turn right and “haw” to turn left as well as cues from my whip to move sideways or backwards, it was time to introduce the bridle with blinders. The blinders serve to focus the horse’s attention forward, especially preventing them from panicking at the sight of a carriage following them. Saint is a very attentive horse and hasn’t taken to the blinders particularly well. He prefers an “open” bridle, which is a driving bridle without blinders, but they are harder to find because most horses are not as relaxed as Saint is without them. It was at this point that he got used to steering with the bit instead of the halter, and we got to start going on adventures down the road.

Finally, he was ready to start pulling some weight! One of the benefits of living in Maine in the winter is we get to take our horses sledding. While at first Saint was rather displeased about the thing following him, within an hour or so we were driving around with me on the sled.

At long last, it was time to introduce the last piece of the harness: the overcheck rein. Formerly known as the “bearing” rein, many readers will be familiar with it from Black Beauty. It prevents the horse from putting his head down below the shafts of the cart, which would be very dangerous. Many horses don’t need it, and it is not used to hold the horse’s head artificially high as it was in Victorian England. Saint, however, is a fan of stopping to smell the roses, so he absolutely needs to wear the overcheck to keep us both safe. This was the first point in his training where he actively resented something I presented him with. As a western riding horse, he is not accustomed to having a lot of contact with the hit, so the pressure of the overcheck is foreign to him. At the time of writing, it has only been a week since the overcheck was introduced, so I am sure with more time and patience he will come around. 

We still have a long way to go before he is ready to pull a cart. We’ll keep pulling tires and sleds around the arena for a while, and then start getting him used to shafts, and finally a vehicle following him without being attached. Once he has passed all these tests with flying colors, he’ll be ready to drive around the countryside!

A few weeks ago, I got an intriguing email from William Harris, a co-conspirator in the “rewilding” of American portrait painter Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand (American, 1878-1941):

I hope this finds you doing well. I thought immediately of you when I came across this slender volume from the 1890s, “Out of Town Aquarelles,” watercolor plates by Ellen G. Emmett. Each one depicts an outdoor or athletic activity including a woman riding side saddle as well as a fox hunt. I didn’t know if you were familiar with it. Alexis had not seen it. Though I know the exhibit is over it is still fun since Rand was all of 20 when doing these. Attached are some pictures.

Very Best,
Bill Harris

The “Alexis” to which Bill referred in his email is Alexis Boylan, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Connecticut, with a joint appointment in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and Associate Director of Humanities Institute. She led the writer of the email, William Ashley Harris, seven other scholars, and myself on an almost 4-year journey beginning with a writers’ retreat at UConn in 2016 (read more: Ellen Emmet Rand Slept Here). The resulting research led us all to contribute essays to the book, Ellen Emmet Rand: Gender, Art, and Business, published by Bloomsbury Academic in November 2020 and edited by Alexis. Her introduction to the book is titled, “The Rewilding of Ellen Emmet Rand.” “Rewilding” refers to returning an animal to its natural ecosystem, and the project solidified Rand’s rightful (and natural) place within art historical discourse.

Researching this project also led me to develop and curate the exhibition, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand, at the National Sporting Library & Museum, which we closed last April. Bill’s email gave me a welcome excuse to venture back into Rand’s contributions. Although the NSLM exhibition focused on her later work in the 1920s and 1930s, she was gifted at a young age.

In the book, Dear Females, by Rand’s granddaughter and namesake Ellen E. Rand, she drew on correspondences and archives to paint a picture of her grandmother as a young woman and consummate professional committed to financially supporting her family as a successful portrait painter from her earliest days.

Rand first studied at the Art Students League in 1889. Among her instructors was the portrait painter William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916), and in the summer of 1891, she was among the first students to attend his Summer School of Art at Shinnecock on Long Island (read more: Shinnecock Summer School of Art: The Art Village). Harry Whitney McVickar (American, 1860-1905), an artist, illustrator for the Frederick A. Stokes Company, and a prominent member of the New York City social scene saw Rand’s entry in an end-of-season art exhibition. At the time, McVickar was also the first Art Director for the fledgling periodical, Vogue, and he hired Rand to illustrate the second cover of the now renowned fashion magazine which was targeted toward society and written to appeal to a male demographic (read more: 1892 vs. 2017: What’s Changed, and What Hasn’t, Since the First Issue of Vogue Was Published). Rand was just 16 years old! Additionally, she was hired as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly and comfortably supported her family with her income in the following years. She was frustrated, however, by not having more time to paint (Rand 20).

Vogue. vol. 1, no. 2. 24 December 1892, Front cover illustrated by E.G. Emmet [source: https://www.vogue.com/article/vogue-125-1892-2017-compare-and-contrast-now-and-then%5D

It is at this point that we return to Bill Harris’s rare book find. Printed two years after Rand was first hired by Vogue, Out-of-Town Aquarelles was released during the Christmas season. The cover with its fine red and green paper, inset chromolithograph of a watercolor, and an ornate embossing, speaks to the quality of the publication. The title page notes that the illustrated aquarelles (French for “watercolor”) within are “Facsimiles of Paintings in Water Color” and includes the titles of six image plates that follow. The publisher is listed as Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, the firm that had also employed McVickar.

Cover: Out-of-Town Aquarelles: Facsimiles of Paintings in Water Color by Ellen G. Emmet, 1894
Title page lists the Frederick A. Stokes Company as the publisher.

The publisher was known for its art books and the quality of its chromolithographic reproductions. “The Critic’s Review” in the 16 December 1889 Pittsburgh Dispatch noted about an earlier book printed by Stokes: “‘chromo’ is, however, an important work of art, for it means the accurate reproduction of color; it means a painting can be practically duplicated and multiplied to give inspiration and pleasure to thousands…, The Fac-similes of Aquarelles which are presented in this book belong to the same high class.”

“After a Day’s Skating.”

The first plate in Rand’s book shows a dashing young couple after ice skating. The female figure is dressed in a beautifully tailored winter outfit complete with a fur and muff. The male figure is stylishly dressed in men’s outerwear. It is a variation on the theme of Rand’s Vogue cover. Both were painted in watercolor; however, the book plate in color is much more lively than the black and white reproduction on the magazine cover.

“A Fair Horse-woman.”

The second plate shows an elegantly turned-out sidesaddle rider ready for a foxhunt. It speaks to Rand’s knowledge as an equestrian, as she herself rode aside.

“Yachting”

The third plate illustrates a fashionably-dressed young couple yachting, and the fourth a dapper polo player. The latter sport had taken hold in the United States after the founding of the Newport Polo Grounds in Connecticut in 1876.

“A Polo Player.”
“A Fox Hunter.”

The above plates of the romanticized gentleman polo player and the well-healed foxhunter are a foreshadowing of the man Rand would marry in 1911. William Blanchard Rand was 9 years Ellen’s junior, a polo player, and a horseman. Together they built the town and country life in Salisbury, Connecticut of which she had dreamed in her early years and for which she worked to support her entire career. She was a lifelong equestrian, but it was not until 1929 when she was in her fifties that she finally experienced the exhilarating sport of foxhunting following Blanchard when he became Master of Old Lebanon Hunt.

“Ready for the Toboggan.”

In 1896, just two years after Out-of-Town Aquarelles was published, the young Rand earned enough income to travel to Paris where she became the first female student of Frederic William MacMonnies (American, 1863-1947) and upon returning, embarked on a four-decade career as a pioneering and financially successful female portrait painter. The folders of early original drawings Rand had sold, which her granddaughter inherited, contained notes “that the work is never to be shown to any art dealer or critic.” (Rand, 20) Although Rand left the illustration world behind, her early works speak to her talent, dreams, and aspirations.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing this gem. It is another eye-opening layer of the rewilding of Ellen Emmet Rand.


Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. 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

Born in 1926 at the United States Army Remount Depot in Front Royal, Virginia (less than an hour from the National Sporting Library & Museum), Jenny Camp was named after the cavalry’s horse shows open to enlisted soldiers, women, and children, known as “Jenny Camp” shows. Despite being the daughter of one of the Army’s finest remount stallions, Gordon Russell, Jenny Camp did not come equipped with wonderful confirmation, but she did come with a scrappy hardiness that would take her far.

Jenny Camp. “Olympic Horseflesh” by John T. Cole, Cavalry Journal May-June 1937, p. 202.

At the Cavalry School in Fort Riley, Kansas, Jenny Camp was selected as a potential Olympic team mount and began training for the three-part Olympic event called Eventing. This event developed out of military horsemanship and requires the competitors to excel in dressage, cross country riding, and show jumping – all skills needed in a good cavalry mount. Not just a test of the horse’s abilities, it is also a showcase for the skills of the rider, and close teamwork between the mount and rider is critical for success. Jenny Camp was paired with Lieutenant Earl F. “Tommy” Thompson (1900–1971).

Earl F. “Tommy” Thompson. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012) p.82. The gift of William Steinkraus.

Thompson was a graduate of West Point and a polo player. He would go on to become one of the most successful of the United States military’s Olympians. His partnership with Jenny Camp yielded three medals in two consecutive Olympic Games. The pair won the individual silver medal and the team gold medal in eventing at the 1932 Olympics, and the individual silver medal in eventing at the 1936 Olympics. In 1948 he won two more medals on other mounts, bringing his total to five. In 1952 Olympics he participated as an official for the equestrian events.

Thompson and Jenny Camp. Equestrian Excellence by Barbara Wallace Shambach (1996), p. 28.

The eventing competition in the 1936 Olympics would come with controversy. The cross country segment included a jump into water that would prove difficult and even deadly. Riders were required to negotiate a three foot post-and-rail fence into a pond approximately two feet deep, and clear a jump out on the far side. The water was deeper than it appeared and the footing on the bottom of the pond was soft and muddy, resulting in numerous falls. Only fifteen of forty-eight horses successfully handled the obstacle and three were required to be euthanized due to injury, including one of the American team’s mounts.

Footage of the dangerous water obstacle at the 1936 Olympics. Thompson and Jenny Camp can been seen at 3:01.

The controversy came when the Germans all handled the jump by taking a longer, less direct route which appeared to have good, even footing. There was speculation that they knew the condition of the footing under the water ahead of time and were able to avoid trouble. In the end nothing could be proven. In order to be eligible for a team medal, all members of a team must complete each element of the eventing trial. By the end of the cross country portion of the event, there remained only three intact teams. Despite being out of the team competition, Thompson and Jenny Camp took on the show jumping course the following day and earned their second individual silver medal.

Thompson and Jenny Camp at the 1936 Olympics. They would win the individual silver medal for eventing. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012), p. 95. The gift of William Steinkraus.

Commentary on Jenny Camp from the time can be found in two articles for the The Cavalry Journal May/June 1937 issue. In the first, “Olympic Horseflesh,” Major John T. Cole said, “Although she is a frail little thing, she showed wonderful stamina and courage… She is now at the Remount Depot at Fort Robinson, being bred in hopes that she may transmit her fine courage and stamina to a better shaped and nicer moving colt” (p. 201).

Thompson and Jenny Camp at the 1932 Olympics. They would win the individual silver medal and the team gold medal for eventing. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012), p. 82. The gift of William Steinkraus

In his article “The Conformation of Three-Day Horses” Lieutenant Colonel Harry D. Chamberlin said, “Jenny Camp, however, has proved herself the miracle horse, in that, as stated by Major Cole, she is on the small side, short-gaited, far from prepossessing from the knee down (particularly in her front pasterns which are quite upright), and undoubtedly the poorest of the three horses in general conformation. Yet she did the best work then and lived to repeat in 1936. Captain Earl F. Thompson must share generously in her glory, for such things do not happen to any horse unless superbly and intelligently ridden… In addition she possessed that greatest of all virtues, true quality. This word is frequently misused and misunderstood. When used generally about a horse, as “that horse has quality,” it means something that can be determined only by test. It is a matter of the circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and digestive system, substance of the tendons, muscles, bones, etc., and their proper functioning under tremendous strain, requiring particularly endurance and maximum effort. In quality, the gallant little mare proved a marvel, having that final and all-important virtue embraced in the term “quality”; i.e., great courage. She also has the innate and impossible-to-develop attributes of agility and quickness” (203-4).

Thompson and Jenny Camp. Olympic Equestrian by Jennifer O. Bryant (2008), p. 98. The gift of The Blood-Horse.

During World War II Earl F. Thompson served as chief of staff for the 10th Mountain Division. He earned the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He retired from the Army in 1954 as a full Colonel. Jenny Camp retired from Olympic competition after the 1936 games and went to Fort Robinson to serve as a broodmare. One of the members of the 1932 Olympic equestrian team eventually bought her and moved her to his farm in California where she lived to the the age of thirty-two. Today her memory is preserved in the Jenny Camp Horse Trials held by the Maryland Combined Training Association every September.


Works Cited

Ammann, Max E. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games 1912-2008. Lusanne, Federation Equestre Internationale, 2012.

Bryant, Jennifer. Olympic Equestrian. Lexington, Kentucky, Eclipse Press, 2008.

Chamberlin, Harry D. “The Conformation of Three-Day Horses.” The Cavalry Journal, May-June 1937, pp. 203-205.

Cole, John T. “Olympic Horseflesh.” The Cavalry Journal, May-June 1937, pp.197-230.

Shambach, Barbara Wallace. Equestrian Excellence. Boonsboro, Maryland, Half Halt Press, 1996.


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 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

Or, the full title, “Black Beauty: His grooms and companions. The autobiography of a horse. Translated from the original equine by Anna Sewell

Just in time for Sewell’s birthday on March 30! As mentioned in prior blog posts, I am not an equestrienne in any sense of the word. My acquaintance with horses was exactly one Girl Scout excursion circa 1995 and reading about Felicity’s love for her horse, Penny, in the American Girl series. American Girl was also the root of my love for history and set me on my path to majoring in it (History, not American Girls – if only) in undergrad – books for the win!

Felicity and her brother watching Penny with her terrible owner in Meet Felicity. Image courtesy of American Girl Wiki

And now for a Classic. I have always known of Black Beauty, the way one hears about Treasure Island or Gulliver’s Travels. It’s just one of those ubiquitous books. Due to its relatively short length and its narration by the titular character, it is often considered a children’s book. But it really isn’t, per the intentions of the author. It just worked out that way as its publication coincided with legislation that began requiring children to attend school, so it literally had a whole new audience.

First, a little about the author.

Anna Sewell
Image courtesy of Literary Ladies Guides

Sewell was born in 1820 in Great Yarmouth in England to Isaac and Mary, who instilled in their two children (brother Philip came along in 1822) a sense of moral responsibility influenced by their Quaker faith. Isaac wasn’t initially the most successful of breadwinners, and the family frequently moved. As a toddler, Sewell often wanted to feed the horses. At her uncle’s farm, she learned to ride (sidesaddle, as was the custom) and carriage drive. She and Philip would spend the days riding and exploring. She was described by her mother as having a “great deal of courage and independence of character, never burdened with any kind of fear.”

As young children Anne and Philip were tutored by their mother. Perhaps the most important lesson taught was “that everything living was part of God’s family and ‘that all cruelty or injury inflicted is displeasing to Him who made His creatures to be happy.’” As they got older, the now teenage Anna and Philip attended the local schools. One day running home during a rainstorm, she fell and injured her ankles. Though the family thought it would heal in its own time, it dramatically affected her life as she thereafter had difficulty walking.

Sewell, aged 10

Sewell was encouraged to maintain riding horses as a way to treat her injuries that were a constant source of pain and frustration. It must have also provided a freedom she felt she had lost. She seemed to have a particular connection to horses, perhaps also at the mercy of others, felt a kinship. A family friend noted that when driving, “[Anna] seemed simply to hold the reins in her hand, trusting to her voice to give all needed directions to her horse. She evidently believed in a horse having a moral nature, if we may judge by her mode of remonstrance. ‘Now thee shouldn’t walk up this hill – don’t thee see how it rains?’ ‘Now thee must go a little faster – thee would be sorry for us to be late at the station.’”

Throughout her life, Sewell, along with her mother, continued their good works. Around the age of 50, Sewell became primarily bedridden due to, what her death certificate lists, as “Chronic Hepatitis” and “Phthisis Pulmonalis,” also known as tuberculosis.

Black Beauty was written, off and on, beginning in 1871, which was (perhaps not coincidentally) when she was no longer able to ride or drive, as noted by her biographer Adrienne E. Gavin. Sewell occasionally dictated to Mary, other times, Sewell wrote herself. It was a family affair with her brother and father also serving as editors and readers.

Now, to me.

I read the annotated version by Ellen B. Wells and Anne Grimshaw, which was great for a 21st-century non-rider. It provided definitions and descriptions along the way. After I finished, I just sat there absorbing it all. There is a lot to unpack.

My first thought was that I do not know why anyone thinks this is a children’s book. It certainly has its pleasant, idyllic moments, but it has even darker moments that would have, frankly, given me nightmares as a kid. Honestly, as an adult too, I have a vivid imagination, and I am the type of reader who will continue to think about a book for days after.

Its simple message of kindness to horses was perfect. Throughout are passages that describe the proper treatment and how respect and gentleness serve horse and rider better than a rough hand, “Oh! If people knew what a comfort to horses a light is, and how it keeps a good mouth and a good temper, they surely would not chuck, and drag, and pull at the rein as they often do.”

What I found so remarkable were the descriptions. They are so detailed that I could see everything clearly from the opening line, “The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end.” The description of the bearing-rein from Black Beauty’s perspective made made me cringe, “Of course I wanted to pull my head forward and take the carriage up with a will, as we had been used to do; but no, I had to pull with my head up now, and that took all the spirit out of me, and the strain came on my back and legs.”

I was frequently wondering when the other shoe would drop. I sensed the idyllic lifestyle of Black Beauty’s first home wasn’t going to last; I just knew something was going to happen. The whole book is about the treatment of horses, and the Victorian era wasn’t known for its kindness to animals. It wasn’t the Royal Society for Continuing to be Nice to Animals that was established in 1824. Black Beauty’s decline in living and working conditions was heartbreaking. I knew each move was going to get progressively worse, but hoped there was a kind soul. When I thought it could not get any worse, Ginger happens. The mare who can barely catch a break, who gets only snippets of contentment.

I sat on my little couch with the book in my lap, wanting to run out and snuggle all the horses I saw. Of course, that would entail driving to Middleburg and then not scaring the horses, who, as we learned, can sense when someone has no idea what she or he is doing. Admittedly, I’d do more damage than good. Instead, I attempted to unsuccessfully cuddle with my cats.

Black Beauty has never been out of print, and myriad editions exist. The Library here has multiple copies, which was a little overwhelming when Mars Technical Librarian Erica Libhart laid them out in front of me.

Some of the editions in the NSLM Library

The book was first illustrated in 1894 by sporting artist John Beer. Considered the best of the illustrations are by Lucy Kemp-Dent in 1915.

Various artist friends of ours have tackled the subject, like Cecil Aldin, Lionel Edwards, and Paul Brown.

Black Beauty spawned various sequels and movies, the most recent was last year on Disney+. But its most important roles to influence and educate has continued. As Gavin noted, in 1924, one man’s animal cruelty sentence involved not only involved a year in jail, but he had to read Black Beauty three times.

Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 in November, the anniversary of its first publication, when I’ll be diving into the social issues presented within the book. If you have not read it, or it has been a while, this gives you time! Can there be spoilers after 144 years?

Sources: Gavin, Adrienne, Dark Horse: A Life of Anne Sewell. J.H. Haynes, 2004.

Sewell, Anne, et. al. The Annotated Black Beauty. J.A. Allen, 1989.

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

Does the woodblock print below look familiar? If not, sit back to learn more! Not only is a it a striking image of a horse, there is a pretty interesting backstory about the artist as well.

The woodblock print can be found in the National Sporting Library & Museum’s copy of Hippiatria sive Marescalia by Lorenzo Rusio. Rusio, who published under a Latinized version of his name, “Laurentius Rusius,” gained his expertise as a stable master to a Roman cardinal in the 14th century, according to a bibliography by Richard Baron von Hunersdorff:

Originally written in the 13th century, [Hippiatria] it was based on sources compiled at the court of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, himself a passionate horseman. Described are methods of controlling the horse by means of physical force exercised by way of severe horse-bits. It was an attempt to solve the problem of quickly stopping and turning the heavy and coarse horses used in combat and jousting (176, von Hunersdorff).

In Hippiatria, the three large woodcuts were created by H.S. Beham (Hans Sebald Beham). Born in 1550, Beham was a noted German printmaker, and is known as the most prominent of the “Little Masters,” a group of German printmakers who produced a prodigious number of highly detailed prints during the first half of the 16th century. The artists were active a generation after the great artist, Albrecht Durer. Like Durer, Beham was also based in Nuremberg.

Beham was a young man when the Reformation broke out in 1517, when Martin Luther attempted to reform the Christian Church. Passionate about Luther’s ideas, Beham found himself caught in the cross-current of the new religious ideas, and had to flee from his home-base in Nuremberg several times to avoid arrest. For his part, Beham contributed to the “Wild Reformation” through woodcuts, the most popular and accessible form of publicity and to some extent, the acquisition of knowledge, in those days of limited literacy. In some ways, woodcuts prints were the TikTok videos of the 1500s. The year of the Peasants War, 1525, Sebald, and his younger brother Barthel, were banished from Nuremberg for religious and political disobedience. In 1528, after publishing a book on the proportions of the horse, Dises Büchlein zeyget an und lernet ein Mass oder Proportion der Ross, Beham was accused of plagiarizing unpublished work by Dürer and again fled from Nuremberg.

There are not enough records to determine whether or not Beham was indeed guilty of plagiarism. In any case, the nickname, “The Godless Painter” was given to Beham during his trial with the Nuremberg city council. According to scholar Alison G. Stewart:

In the following years, Beham once again ran into trouble in Nuremberg. On July 22, 1528, the town council prohibited Beham and his colleague “Iheronimus formschneidern,” probably the printer-woodcutter Hieronymus Andreae, from publishing Beham’s book on the proportions of horses … until Dürer’s book on human proportions was published posthumously by his widow, who was the manager of Dürer’s workshop. The fact that Beham fled town quickly when summoned by the authorities (which resulted in his wife having to send his coat to him) might suggest that he was indeed guilty of plagiarism, as charged, although his guilt has been neither proved nor disproved. But it is also possible that Beham left posthaste because he feared he would be imprisoned or expelled, having previously experienced the power of the Nuremberg authorities to do just that. 

Two woodcuts by H.S. Beham, each signed with his monogram beneath the horse
Close up of marking for the library of the Marquis de Guineye

This copy, a second edition published in Paris, contains the markings indicating that the book was once owned by the Marquis de Guineye. Later, the book was owned by the German researcher and academic, and book collector, J.H. Anderhub, whose bookplate dates ownership at 1937. According the the von Hunersdorff bibliography, the copy at the University of Cambridge is “imperfect, lacking the two leaves with the Beham woodcuts.” We are indeed lucky at the NLSM to have such a well-kept copy!

I recommend reading the fascinating article by Alison G. Stewart on Sebald Beham. She provides in-depth research on the art of Behald, his training and possible link to Dürer, plus great detail on the numerous(!) run-ins that Beham had with the law. You can read her article, Sebald Beham: Entrepreneur, Printmaker, Painter here: https://jhna.org/articles/sebald-beham-entrepreneur-printmaker-painter/.

One of the most awkward and thought-provoking moments I have ever experienced at the National Sporting Library & Museum was in my early years as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator when the Museum first opened. It was in 2012, and I was a young and enthusiastic curator of a fine art collection which had grown over the previous decades through generous donations and bequests to the Library and was transferred to the new space under Museum standards and care. I was conducting a private tour with a potential sponsor considering underwriting bus transport for student groups.

Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880–1953), Portrait of Mrs. William C. Langley, Aside on Sandown, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Eleanor Langley Fletcher, 1962

As we wound our way through the galleries, discussion flowed freely. We chatted about highlights of the collection, challenges of new museums, and growth of the collections. We built a good rapport, and as the tour ended, we exchanged contact information. I was honored by the kind compliments offered as we said goodbye. Then, the visitor paused for a moment and remarked:

“You know, this museum is really beautiful, but I haven’t seen a single woman represented in these spaces today.”

Marie-Louise Radziwill (American, b. 1956), The Maryland Hunt Cup, 1973, bronze, 9 x 12 1/2 x 9 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the artist, 1978

I was taken aback, but upon further reflection, it was an astute observation and largely correct. At that time, there were few works by female artists or depictions of women on view in the Museum galleries. Frankly, we did not have many artworks in this category (in addition to other notable gaps) in the permanent collection that met the bar for Museum display based on condition and prominence set forth in our Collections Management Policy. Needless to say, we did not get the underwriting, and that day I understood that I needed to focus more on making our art collection installations, acquisitions, and permanent and loan exhibitions more diverse representations of the sporting culture of our past, the community our mission serves today, and future interest.

Marie-Rosalie Bonheur (French 1822–1899), Lion studies, oil on canvas, 9 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018

Let me be clear. I am not a revisionist in my role at NSLM. My dedication to our institution is to drill down to finding an accurate account of sporting art and culture in any given era. There are many times when these concepts have not historically converged, but illustrations and satirical images fill in the gaps, opening our eyes to individuals and their stories.

Salle Foster, “The Sporting Woman: A Book of Days,” 1989. Little, Brown, and Company, NSLM Collection; reproduction of John Collet (English, 1720 – 1780), “The Ladies Shooting Poney,” hand-colored mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven.

We have worked hard over the years, not as a politically correct endeavor. The National Museum of Women in that Arts mission and #fivewomenartists campaign reminds us that women have historically been significantly underrepresented across museums (Further reading: Women in Art: The Double X Factor, 2017 blog). Acknowledging this, means recognizing that if museums continue to prioritize prominent artists from past eras, this then perpetuates the selection of male over female artists.  We countered this at the NSLM by creating a Collecting Plan to equally consider underrepresented artists and subjects as part of our growth. 

Mildred Sands Kratz (American, 1928 – 2013), End of the Line, 1970, watercolor on paper, sight size 20 3/4 x 28 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Patricia Cox Panzarella and Thomas Panzarella, 2020

Additionally, we have looked to curating exhibitions featuring female solo artists and introduced new scholarship on sporting women and art, including The Art of Women and the Sporting Life, Clarice Smith: Power & Grace, and Sidesaddle, 1690-1935. Most recently we presented, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand, a project that re-established the artist’s significant contributions to sporting portraiture during the heyday of sporting life in the U.S. and her prominent career as a pioneering female artist in her lifetime.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Miss Emily Davie, ex-Whipper-in to the Aiken Junior Drag, 1932, oil on canvas,
48 ½ x 31 inches, on loan from the Collection of Geoffrey N. Bradfield to “Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand” exhibition, October 4, 2019 – June 30, 2020

Women’s History Month offers us an opportunity to reflect and reminds us to set new goals for the future, not just in this month but year-round. Women have always been an integral part of sporting culture and art, and it is imperative that we preserve the record of their endeavors and accomplishments.

Clarice Smith, (American, b.1933), Gallop, 2009, oil with gold and copper leaf on canvas, on 5-panel screen, 50 x 77 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Clarice Smith, 2015, © Clarice Smith

Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. 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

The East Prussian Warmblood of Trakehner Origin, more commonly known as the Trakehaner, is a frequent occupant of the winner’s stand. The breed especially excels in dressage, but is also seen in show jumping and eventing competitions. They are admired for their athletic ability, excellent endurance, and elegant way of going. The Trakehners of today are all descended from a small number of horses that survived a grueling flight ahead of the Russian army at the end of World War II. But for their strength and endurance, and the determination of a handful of people, the breed might easily have been lost to history.

Kleopatra4, CC BY-SA 3.0 http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/, via Wikimedia Commons

The East Prussian region has a long history of horse breeding. The local horse, called the Schweiken, used by farmers as a general utility horse, clearly descended from the wild Tarpan horse. It was a small, hardy horse that required little fodder, was a willing worker, and was remarkably healthy. Organized breeding programs aimed at adding to the size and weight of these sturdy horses came and went beginning in the 16th century. In 1726, driven by the need to establish a reliable supply of cavalry remounts and royal horses, Friedrich Wilhelm I decided to create a centralized stud bringing together the stock from numerous regional stud farms. He selected 8600 acres near the estate known as Trakehnen, and in 1732 the Trakehnen Central Stud was opened.

Trakehnen Stud. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Early breeding programs at Trakehnen met with mixed success but in the 1780s Friedrich Wilhelm II chose Count Karl Lindenau as stud manager for Trakehnen. Both men were knowledgeable horsemen and they enthusiastically developed a new and well planned breeding program. One of their first actions was to dramatically increase the number of stallion stations. Two hundred and sixty nine state stallions were selected and distributed to regional studs at which private owners could bring their mares for service. At the same time, strict guidelines for the mares were developed and only those meeting these high standards were permitted to be covered by the state owned stallions. This system served to drastically improve the privately owned stock. At the same time a review was conducted of the stock at the Trakehnen stud. Twenty-five of the thirty-eight stallions and 144 of the 356 mares failed to meet the standards and were removed from the breeding program. From this carefully selected foundation the development of the Trakehner horse proceeded. The herds of broodmares were distributed among five farms sorted by type, carriage vs. riding, and by color. Improvements to the breed were made through the careful infusion of Thoroughbred and Arabian blood.

Landstallmeister house at the Trakehnen central stud farm. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

After the First World War the goal of the breeding program shifted from a light cavalry horse to one with more substance. Any horse put forward by his owner as a possible sire was sent to Zwion for training and testing at the age of two and a half. After a year’s training during which the director evaluated a stallion’s health, temperament, action, and habits, a final 3 day cross country test was administered. Roughly 10 percent of the stallions selected to go through the process failed to meet the necessary standards for inclusion in the stud book as a sire. Mares were also tested before being selected for breeding. They must be registered in the East Prussian stud book, show capability in plowing, pulling heavy loads, and demonstrate paces under a rider.

The use of privately owned horses in addition to the state owned horses and the application of such strict breed standards resulted in great national pride in the Trakehner horse. These beloved animals were prized possessions for both the private individual as well as the state. Due to wars and unrest in the region the Trakehnen Stud was evacuated several times between its founding and the Second World War. But the horses always returned and the breed survived and eventually thrived again in its traditional home. Sadly that would not be the case in the evacuation precipitated by the Russian invasion of Germany during World War II.

Route from Trakehnen to safety in the West. Goodall (1973) p. 14.

In the fall of 1944 the Trakehnen stud was finally given permission to evacuate the horses. This was accomplished by old men and young boys as the men were all conscripted into the German army. Despite valiant effort and overcoming a variety of demanding trials most of these horses ended up in Russian or Polish hands or died during the journey. Very few state owned Trakehners succeeding in finding safe homes in the West. The privately owned mares, many in foal, joined their owners in a brutal overland trek of up to 900 miles through mud, snow, and biting cold. Most horses were unshod, there was little to no food available and very little shelter. Often the mares remained in harness overnight. The most treacherous segment of the journey was a five mile walk over the frozen lagoon Frisches Haff during which many people and horses were lost beneath the ice. In her book, Flight of the East Prussian Horses, Daphne Machin Goodall includes letters from people that survived the journey. All are heartbreaking maybe more so for their lack of emotion. This is an excerpt from Albert Shenk’s account:

“I left Kreis Bartenstein on 28 January in driving snow and above 20 degrees of frost with a waggon weighing over 40cwt. It was impossible even to think of finding shelter at night. For more than six weeks by day and night the horses were harnessed to the waggon without being taken out, and endured every kind of wind and weather. In January and February, when it would be impossible for two horses to go forward in the deep snow, four would be harnessed together. As we came near the Haff, it began to thaw, the ice was cracked and water stood over it. From the beach, the waggons went over with fifty yards distance between each waggon, one behind the other; many were not careful enough and drove too near each other and therefore many waggons were lost. Near Leisunen we drove on to the Haff, and thought only to drive across to the Nehrung, but we were not allowed on, and had to drive to Kahlberg, the whole distance of the Haff.

We had to spend the night on the ice, and then came to a place where for about 200 yards the horses had to be driven through at the gallop — the ice rolled behind the waggon like waves of water… When we had the worse part of the journey behind us, their foals were born. The foals were completely developed but had starved to death before birth. There were days when we had done over 50km. Usually we made 30km per day and we arrived after a journey of nine weeks.”

Goodall (1973) p. 74-76.

In the end, out of over 50,000 Trakehners, fewer than 1,000 would escape to the West. The Trakehnen central stud was never reopened, and the horses never returned to their homeland. The survivors were scattered and isolated but determined individuals endeavored to save the breed, in particular Dr. Fritz Schilke and Siegfried Freiherr von Schroetter, both officers of the East Prussian Studbook Society in Königsberg.  The Trakehner Verband was founded in 1947, and continues to govern the development of the breed today. The first West German Trakehners were born in 1948 and in 1950 the West German government joined the effort to rebuild the breed and funded a Trakehner farm. With 40 stallions and 700 mares the Verband managed to register 650 mares and 50 stallions by 1954. Those numbers increased to 1600 registered mares and just under 200 stallions by 1970.

Today the breed continues to thrive. The Trakehner Verband still runs the show in Europe and there is an American Trakehner Association in North America. The breeding program continues to be guided by performance tests for both stallions and mares. The Trakehner is often used as a refiner in the breeding programs of other breeds. I find the breed’s story inspiring. They were forced through the most drastic of performance tests and their stoic endurance served them well. The Library has several books on the breed and its history. We are not currently open due to the pandemic but I’m hopeful that this summer you’ll be able to visit and read all about the Trakehner.


Clough, P. (2009). The Flight Across the Ice: the escape of the East Prussian Horses. Haus Books.

Goodall, D. M. (1973). The Flight of the East Prussian Horses. David & Charles.

Strickland, C. (1992). The Warmblood Guidebook. Half Halt Press.

Velsen-Zerweck, E. and Schulte, E. (1990). The Trakehner. J. A. Allen


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 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

In July 1871, upper-class Londoners were introduced to a new sport: domestic cat showing. Wire cages lined the interior of the Crystal Palace, a cast iron and glass structure built in Hyde Park for the Grand International Exhibition of 1851. Cats of all shapes and sizes reclined “on crimson cushions, making no sound save now and then a homely purring, as from time to time they lapped the nice new milk provided for them.” After paying an entrance fees, enthralled ladies and gentlemen walked among the cages, peering in to see “short-haired tortoiseshell cats,” “blue and silver tabbies,” “long-haired Angoras,” and “Abyssinian” felines.[1]

View from the Knightsbridge Road of The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park for Grand International Exhibition of 1851. Dedicated to the Royal Commissioners., London: Read & Co. Engravers & Printers, 1851.

Monetary prizes, provided by the directors of the Crystal Palace Company and the National History Department, were awarded to the best in show. After careful consideration, the judges selected six cats: the Siamese, the French-African Cat, “a Persian direct from Persia,” “an enormous English cat, weighing 21 pounds, the biggest in the show,” “a native of the Isle of Man, with the usual Manx absence of tail,” and “a British wild-cat exhibited by the Duke of Sutherland.” This last cat was a notable rarity. According to Harper’s Weekly, “This cat is very scarce—indeed, almost extinct in the British Islands. His color is sandy brown, and the form of the end of the nose and tail peculiar . . . He behaves like a mad devil, and ten men could not get him into a wire cage [and] out of the box in which he was sent.” [2]

The prize winning cats. Harper’s Weekly (August 19, 1871), 772.

Nine-year-old Rosa Crawley was one of many who visited the exhibition. During her visit, the “royal cat of the King of Siam” lounged upon his back “yawning” while kittens played in nearby cages. The “working men’s cats,” in particular, fascinated the young girl. “Such big fellows!—with gay ribbons round their necks, looking so sleek and solemn, with their broad noses,” she remarked. “I could not have lifted some of them, I am sure, they must be so heavy.”[3]

“At the Cat Show,” Chatterbox, No. 49 (November 2, 1872): 386.

The novel notion of showing cats originated with Mr. Harrison Weir. “Among animals possibly the most perfect, and certainly the most domestic, is the Cat,” he declared. Pontificating at length about the superiority of the Felis catus, Weir continued, “it is a veritable part of our household, and is both useful, quiet, affectionate, and ornamental. The small or large dog may be regarded and petted, but is generally useless; the Cat, a pet or not, is of service. Were it not for our Cats, rats and mice would overrun our houses, buildings, cultivated and other lands. If there were not millions of Cats, there would be billions of vermin.”[4]

Cats, he reasoned, were intelligent and loving creatures, too often the subject of abuse and neglect. As part of a broader nineteenth-century movement, Weir intended to bring attention to the maltreatment of domestic felines. The United Kingdom had a long history of animal welfare reform; the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1824, years before the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals organized in New York City in 1866. Social reform movements, for the protection of both people and pets, grew in popularity during the nineteenth-century. Typically aimed at minorities, immigrants, and members of the working class, upper and middle-class reformers (often white women) crusaded for diverse causes—abolition, child labor, and temperance—and advocated for legal, social, cultural, and economic change. In this case: special prizes were given to working men’s cats “to encourage the poor to be kind to them and feed them well.”[5]

In July 1872, Baily’s Magazine of Sports & Pastimes both praised and critiqued the Cat Show: “It is said that we are indebted to Mr. Harrison Weir, the eminent artist, for the notion and arrangement of the cat show. All honour to him for the suggestion, but let us hope that the hideous cat’s head on the flaming yellow placard, which annually announces the coming cat carnival and frightens small boys at the railway stations, is not a design from the pencil of the great artist.” Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All about Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management, and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty (Turnbridge Wells: R. Clements and Company, 1889), 1; Baily’s Magazine of Sports & Pastimes, Vol. 22 (July 1872): 80.

The venture was so ‘purfectly’ successful that a “Second Cat Show” occurred in December 1871. The Spirit of the Times chronicled these unique cats for their readers. A “cosey black she cat” had been “in Paris during the whole of the late siege, sitting at the widow, watching the barricades.” An Abyssinian cat, owned by Miss Bramie Harris Zeyla, “was taken in the late war by an officer in the 102d Fusilier, and carried to India, and 20 months ago was brought to England. This gentle-looking pet will take up a tumbler or cup, and drink from it like a child.” Not to be outdone, the Zoological Society “sent a pair of wild cats.”[6]

While paging through the Spirit of the Times, I discovered this article: “Cat Show at the Crystal Palace.” My curiosity was piqued. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but, in my case, it resulted in a blog post. “Cat Show at the Crystal Palace,” Spirit of the Times: A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage (December 30, 1871).

Subsequently, the Crystal Palace hosted dog shows and game bird shows. Although never as popular as dog shows, Great Britain and United States still have several feline fanciers’ associations and organizations. Today, the Cat Fanciers’ Association awards ribbons to cats judged “Best Champion” and “Premier of Breed.” And, while most of us are not showing our housecats, we do tend to view them as ‘family’ members. According to a 2007 Harris Poll, 95% percent of pet owner viewed their cat or dog as part of the family. In humanizing our pets, we have accomplished—to a point considered inconceivable to most in the nineteenth-century—Harrison Weir’s mission: we learned to love our cats.[7]

Cat showing, I must admit, is not the subject of my doctoral dissertation. Yet the research process is full of serendipitous discoveries—some more niche or esoteric than others. This was just one the unusual topics that I encountered while browsing the Spirit of the Times, a weekly periodical published in nineteenth-century New York City. An eclectic magazine with sections on literature, humor, theatre, riding, shooting, and sport, this publication—one of the many periodicals housed at the National Sporting Library & Museum—offers a wealth of material for researchers.


Author Biography: Tracy L. Barnett is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Georgia. Rifles—their meaning to men and their availability in nineteenth-century America—are at the center of her research. Her dissertation, “Men and Their Guns: The Culture of Self-Deputized Manhood in the South, 1850–1877,” analyzes the historic origins of America’s gun culture. She holds a John H. Daniels Fellowship at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Indeed, “I’m not a cat.”


Citations

[1] Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All about Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management, and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty (Turnbridge Wells: R. Clements and Company, 1889), 4.

[2]Harper’s Weekly (August 19, 1871), 772.

[3] “At the Cat Show,” Chatterbox, No. 49 (November 2, 1872): 386. < https://www.google.com/books/edition/Chatterbox/p8YPAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=cat+show+at+the+crystal+palace&pg=PA386&printsec=frontcover>

[4] Emphasis in the original. Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All about Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management, and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty (Turnbridge Wells: R. Clements and Company, 1889), iii.

[5] Weir, Our Cats and All about Them, 2; “At the Cat Show,” Chatterbox, No. 49 (November 2, 1872): 386.

[6] “Cat Show at the Crystal Palace,” Spirit of the Times: A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage (December 30, 1871).

[7] Baily’s Magazine of Sports & Pastimes, Vol. 22 (July 1872): 80; The Cat Fanciers’ Association <https://cfa.org>; “Report: 95% say pets are part of the family,” PetFoodIndustry.com (March 9, 2016) <https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/5695-report—say-pets-are-part-of-the-family>