Sadly I do not get to spend my days reading all of our amazing books, periodicals, and archives. Knowledge of the collection is built over time and through a variety of avenues. Sometimes I discover things while working on presentations, or an interesting tibit turns up while searching for some other piece of information and I make a note of it as a possible future blog topic. Often the visitors to the Library help with this process by discussing the sporting topics they are passionate about with me, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. Answering reference requests from researchers and as well as from the general public also often leads to interesting information held in our collections that I have never encountered before. Last week I received such a request from a library in Buffalo, New York. They were looking for a copy of an article by Jim Foral called “Ithaca’s Golden Girls,” originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of The Double Gun & Single Shot Journal. Fulfilling this request led to the delightful discovery of an article outlining the early participation of women in the sport of trapshooting.

Leading up to the turn of the 20th century women began to sample the outdoor pursuits that had so long been the domain of men. Led by a few exceptional sportswomen, the physical, mental, and social benefits of outdoor recreation were enthusiastically embraced by the female population at large. Foral’s article describes how magazines and retailers both adapted to cater to this new audience. Sports and outdoors magazines began to feature articles targeting women and even those written by sportswomen. Sellers of sports equipment and apparel developed lines of merchandise for women and ran advertisements in magazines aimed at women. The bulk of Foral’s article is about the commercial relationships that developed between individual sportswomen and gun manufacturers, specifically two spokeswomen for the Ithaca Gun Company, Mrs. Alice Belknap and Mrs. Troup Saxon.

Mrs. Alice Belknap (Foral, 134).

Alice Belknap was a grade school teacher and her husband was a doctor. They lived in Wyoming, New York. In 1899, Dr. Belknap had a hand in founding the Wyoming Gun Club which held monthly trap shooting practices and quarterly registered shooting matches. Although she started as a spectator, it wasn’t long before Alice picked up a gun herself and joined in. She developed into a strong competitor and was passionate about promoting the sport of trapshooting to women. She contributed articles to sporting magazines in which she noted the benefits of trapshooting including spending time with ones husband, the glow of health acquired through outdoor pursuits, and the development of discipline, steady nerves, and confidence.

Mrs. Belknap shooting at the Wyoming Gun Club in New York (Foral 130-131).

In 1908 Alice won the Wyoming Gun Club Championship and was elected the Club’s president. She competed in local and regional contests and was soon known as “The Best Lady Shot in the East.” It should come as no surprise then that the Ithaca Gun Company recruited her as a representative. The company sent her a No. 4 grade twelve gauge gun with gold-plated triggers and ran an ad including her image and testimonial in November 1908 issues of sporting magazines. She was also featured in Ithaca Gun Company ads in March and April of 1913.

Mrs. Belknap in an ad for Ithaca Gun Company (Foral 130).

After her husband’s death in 1913 Alice Belknap gave up competitive shooting. She remained interested in the sport of trapshooting and continued to promote it by occasionally acting as an instructor to other women. The independent streak that helped her rise to the top rank of amateur shooters stood her in good stead for the rest of her life. She purchased an insurance agency and several years later also started a real estate business. At one point she also owned the Wyoming City Water Works which she expanded and improved. She never remarried. After a long and successful life she died at 83 in December 1957.

Mrs. Ermina Saxon (Foral, 135).

Ithaca Gun Company’s second female spokesperson shared Mrs. Belknap’s plucky independence but little else of her story is similar. Mrs. Ermina Broadwell was a tomboy from Oklahoma territory who spent her childhood rambling around the countryside and hunting with her dog Jack. In her late teens Mr. Troup Saxon came to town performing rifle shooting exhibitions. Ermina met him through her father and the two were married in 1908. Mrs. Troup Saxon showed a natural affinity for shooting, hitting nineteen of twenty-five targets in her first trapshooting competition – beating all other shooters by three. The Saxons hit the road, making a living trapshooting. Ermina burst onto the national stage at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1908. The pretty young woman caused a sensation when she outshot all the local male competitors. The fact that she was citizen of the state made her even more popular. In addition to putting on shooting exhibitions and participating in competitions, the Saxons helped establish local shooting clubs wherever they went. They were ideal representatives for a gun company and Ithaca Guns established a relationship with them. The Saxons became commissioned gun-sales representatives for the Ithaca Gun Company and would display and demonstrate the Ithaca guns, as well as take orders for them.

Mrs. Saxon in an ad for Ithaca Gun Company (Foral, 130).

Mr. and Mrs. Troup Saxon traveled from town to town performing. Mr. Saxon developed into a skilled marketer and made sure that their shows were well publicized. Despite her skill, there is also correspondence between Mr. Saxon and Ithaca Gun Company outlining a plan to make sure that she beat him by one shot in nine out of ten competitions. Mrs. Saxon’s gun of choice was a No. seven grade, twelve gauge ejector gun that retailed for $400. Ithaca Gun Company used photos of Mrs. Troup Saxon and her gun in ads that ran in all the sporting magazines in April and May of 1911.

Mrs. Saxon circa 1911 in a photo that ran in Outdoor Life (Foral, 135).

In 1914 the Saxon marriage had failed and Ermina found herself looking for work. She approached Ithaca Guns about becoming a salaried salesperson or demonstrator but company policy barred such arrangements. The best they could offer her was a commission on sales. She made one last attempt to revive her shooting career at the Grand American Handicap in Ohio but only managed a middling performance. Her career as professional trapshooter was over but her pluck and independence never failed her. She lived in Seattle, Idaho, and Arizona, before establishing herself in Anchorage, Alaska where she cooked for mining camps and managed hotels. She had a daughter and eventually had four more husbands before dying in 1949 at age 60.

Mrs. Saxon (Foral, 137).

Both of these women did a great deal to normalize women’s participation in trapshooting and outdoor pursuits in general. They led by example but also encouraged would be shooters through the establishment of gun clubs, authoring of magazine articles, and instruction of novice gunners. Although advertisers like The Ithaca Gun Company were after the potential profit that might be generated by these new sportswomen, their ads traveled far beyond the regions that women like Mrs. Belknap or Mrs. Saxon could visit in person. Those images did their share to inspire women’s participation in sport too. Happily the sport of trapshooting is alive and well and many women still participate in it. In fact several members of the NSLM staff recently tried it for the first time! If you would like to read Jim Foral’s full account of these enterprising women please contact me at the Library.


Foral, Jim. “Ithaca’s Golden Girls.” Double Gun & Single Shot Journal, Winter 2016, pp. 129-139.


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.

The old adage goes, “Opportunity knocks but once,” but sometimes it’s twice. Two-weekends ago we had the second opportunity to showcase the National Sporting Library & Museum at the Washington Winter Show (WWS). Each year they invite a museum to exhibit at American University’s Katzen Center in Washington, DC, during their charity antique show in January. This year, they ventured into the virtual world due to COVID-19 with a theme of “@Home with the Washington Winter Show” and welcomed previous exhibitors to present live tours and pre-recorded segments. We went live in the Library (thanks to Clarice & Robert H. Smith Educator Valerie Peacock’s camerawork) and uploaded a virtual 360° guided tour of our current exhibition, Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art.

Screen shot of virtual 360° guided tour of Thrill of the ‘Chace: Steeplechase in Art

Coincidentally, WWS’s theme eight years ago was “The Thrill of the Chase,” and we fit right in. NSLM was asked to curate the exhibition at the Katzen Center, and we jumped at the opportunity. We highlighted art and books including our 49-inch-long silver coach which was even featured on the front cover of the catalogue, and I wrote an essay, “Sporting Pastimes: Art & Objects of Leisure.” It was a great chance to introduce NSLM’s then-new Museum, which had just opened a little over a year earlier, to a broader audience. A primer on the history of five country sports, the exhibit was broken up into five sections: angling, wingshooting, coaching, foxhunting, and horse racing.

2013 Washington Winter Show catalogue front cover featuring: Park Drag Tabletop Centerpiece, c. 1910, English sterling silver on a marble and wooden base, complete with custom-built, mahogany travel case made by Elkington & Co. Ltd. Silversmiths, London (not pictured), 17 ½ x 41 ½ x 9 ½ inches (excluding the base)
Museum purchase with funds donated by: Hector Alcalde, Helen K. Groves, Manuel H. Johnson, Jacqueline B. Mars and Jacqueline L. Ohrstrom, 2011

The NSLM’s English sterling silver model of a park drag was the centerpiece of the installation, surrounded by a decorative coaching horn inscribed on the bell “London to Bristol 1805” and a set of four coaching prints after Henri D’Ainecy, Comte de Montpezat (French, 1817-1859), La Vie d’un Gentilhomme en Toutes Saisons: Printemps, Été, Automne, and Hiver. Published in 1846, the title of the set translates to the “Life of a Gentleman in All Seasons” and depicts pleasure driving in spring, summer, autumn, and winter.

Coaching display at the 2013 Washington Winter Show

Because the installation was only on view for four days, it allowed us to install several books in fanned positions to reveal their fore-edge paintings. Always popular on a rare books tour, these curiosities are made by clamping a book in a vise and painting a scene with watercolor on the edge. Once completed, the book is returned to its natural position, and the page ends are gilt, masking the painting in the book’s natural position.

Fore-edge books from the John H. and Martha Daniels Collection in the 2013 Washington Show

It was an exciting time for the growth of NSLM’s art collection. At the center of the angling section in the exhibit was The Day’s Catch, 1864, by 19th century British artist John Bucknell Russell, one of a pair by the artist which had been recently donated by Dr. & Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan. Still-life paintings were popularized in Britain in the mid-1800s, and Russell’s highly detailed compositions of arranged fish on a riverbank were academic exercises showing his mastery in painting every glistening fish scale.

John Bucknell Russell (British, c. 1819 – 1893), Day’s Catch, 1864; oil on canvas, 24 x 36 inches; Gift of
Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2011

Also on view were a set of three prints (after) Samuel Howitt (English, c. 1765 – 1822), Pheasant Shooting, Partridge Shooting, and Wild Duck Shooting. The 1809 first edition aquatints were among an impressive donation of 120 early 19th-century fine prints given to NSLM by Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins in 2012. The collection reflects the popularity country pursuits had attained across Britain and a revival of fine print making during this era.

Wingshooting section in 2013 Washington Winter Show with set of Samuel Howitt prints at left.

One of the museum collection favorites was also prominently on view, John Emms, Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878. The large oil painting set the bar for the growth of the collection as part of an incredibly generous donation of 15 British sporting artworks made by Felicia Warburg Rogan in 2008. Alongside the Emms hung a painting by American artist Franklin Brooke Voss, Portrait of Elida B. Langley, Aside on Sandown, 1921. The early 20th-century painting of a smartly turned out sidesaddle rider, represents the end of the time period in which highly skilled women participated in hunting, predominantly riding aside instead of astride.

FranlJohn Emms (English, 1841-1912), Foxhounds and Terrier in a Stable Interior, 1878, oil on canvas
39 x 52 inches, Gift of Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
Foxhunting Section in the 2013 Washington Winter Show

In the exhibit, the Emms was also flanked by an 1850s light-blue hunt vest embroidered with running foxes and fox masks; the riding boots of philanthropist, sportsman, and art collector Paul Mellon; and a natural horn manufactured in 1898 by Coesnon & Cie., Paris. The latter is a style of large circular or “curly” horn used in stag hunts and in early English foxhunts before the traditional, straight short horn began to be adopted towards the end of the 17th century. While the NSLM’s Collecting Plan focuses on fine art, we have accepted a few objects such as these into the collection as well.

Detail of: British, mid-19th century, foxhunting vest, cotton on canvas lined with dark blue, medium blue and neutral polished cotton, brown leather facing, and brass buttons, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Timothy J. Greenan, 2011

The racing section included loans relating to famed Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The iconic blue and white checked silks of Penny Chenery’s stable from Washington & Lee University collection drew viewers’ attention. Also selected for the display was Proctor Knott (The First Futurity, 1888, Jerome Park, Sheepshead Bay, a Close Finish), c. 1888, by Louis Maurer (American, 1832 – 1932). It is a study for the large painting of the first Futurity Stakes held in the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame’s collection in Saratoga, NY. Shelby “Pike” Barnes is shown in the lead astride the bay racehorse Proctor Knott. Barnes was the leading North American jockey in both 1888 and 1889 and was the first jockey to win over 200 races in a year. Important scholarship (much of it done at the NSLM’s Library) has established the legacy of the highly-accomplished African-American jockeys like Barnes who who dominated the sport in the late 19th century and were sadly driven out by Jim Crow laws.

Horse Racing section in 2013 Washington Winter Show

It was an invaluable experience working on the exhibit in 2013, although I hesitate to call it “work.” This year’s show was surprisingly enjoyable as well—one “for the books” as they say. Just as with everything else related to the pandemic, it was a unique opportunity to bring in new friends and showcase what our organization has to offer. Here’s to a strong start to 2021!

2013 Washington Winter Show co-chair Mason Blavin, a much younger me; Jonathan Willen, Executive Director of the Washington Winter Show; and 2013 Co-Chair Anne Elmore

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 her curatorial position was first underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

Did you know that the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) has an Aldine book? Neither did I! Till last week! I was reviewing the Library’s rare book collection for items published prior to 1700, when I spotted the word “Aldine” in the library catalog.

The Aldine Press was founded in Venice in 1494 by Aldus Manutius. He was a noted scholar and Renaissance humanist. Specifically, he focused on the publication of classical Greek texts because he believed that reading Aristotle and Aristophanes first-hand provided an elevated reading experience. Today, Aldus is remembered for making Venice a center of Greek printing and scholarship, and for commissioning the typeface we know today as italic.

After his death, the press passed to other family members before his youngest son Paulus took over the press. The book below was printed under the aegis of Paulus Manutius. The book at the NSLM, Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three Distinguished Poets Published for the First Time], published in 1534, was the first time these ancient poems on hunting and fishing were printed using a press. The book opens with De Venatione by the first-century writer Faliscus Gratius. The second poem is a fragment of Ovid’s Halieuticon [Treatise on Fishing, a fragment], and the third poem is Cynegeticon [Hunting with Dogs] by the third-century writer Nemesanius. The book concludes with Ecologues by the first-century writer Calpurnius Siculus.

In the photos above, you can see Aldus’s printer’s device, the anchor and dolphin, which are printed on the title page and on the verso of the last leaf. The book appears to have been restored in 19th-century cloth with red morocco spine labels. We are proud that this classic book found a home in Middleburg! It reminds us that the love of hunting and angling has thrived for only not hundreds but thousands of years.

Gratius, Faliscus; Nemesanius; and Siculus, Calpurnius. Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three distinguished poets published for the first time]. Venice: Aldine Press, 1534.

In the fall of 2018, the NSLM received a donation of several works of art, including a small canvas comprising several lion heads in various positions, paws, even a floating eye. It is small, measuring 9 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a study by French artist Rosa Bonheur (1822–1899).

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur (1822-1899), Lion Studies, n.d.,
oil on canvas, 13 1/4 x 16 1/2 inches,
Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018.

As a student, and now instructor, of art history, I was rather excited to see this. To further set the scene, I had just started at NSLM and was still getting acquainted with sporting art and artists. So here was a familiar name. It was like traveling away from home and then, miles and states away, meeting a friend randomly at a restaurant.

Recently, I read an article in Smithsonian magazine entitled The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur. This threw me off – does she need to be redeemed? It sounded as if she had fallen from grace. Not so. It was more about bringing her back out into the forefront. I was rather shocked because, to me, she is in that pantheon of well-known, top tier 19th-century artists. I thought she was already in the forefront, but according to this article, in her home country, she has been relatively forgotten.

In the event you are unfamiliar with her, please let me introduce you.

André-Alphonse-Eugène Disdéri (French, 1819-1889), Rosa Bonheur, 1861-1864, albumen print on cardboard, 3 5/16 x 2 1/16 inches. Getty Center, 84.XD.1157.2203

Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur was born into an artistic family. Her father, Oscar-Raymond, was an occasional art teacher and her brother (one of three artistic siblings), Isidore, became a sculptor (One of his sculptures is in the NSLM’s collection). Like most artists, the tomboy Rosa loved to sketch from a young age. According to The Art Story, her mother, Sophie, suggested her daughter learn the alphabet by having her draw an animal whose name began with each letter. Bonheur “always credited her, and this moment in life for her enduring love and deep understanding of animals.” Her father believed in the socialist ideas of theorist Henri de Saint-Simon, which promoted, amongst many things, equality of the sexes, including in education. Since women were not generally admitted to official art schools (sketching the nude models was considered improper for women), training was often conducted with an acquaintance, family friend, or, as in Bonheur’s case, her father. She clearly had talent and he encouraged her to go to the Louvre and copy the Old Masters, as was traditional. However, as they both shared a passion for animals, he also recommended drawing from life and the local assortment of livestock and horses. This all created a solid artistic foundation for someone who would become one of the great Realist and animalier artists.

I do want to point out that even though all the above sounds very cheerful, her upbringing was far from it. Her father left his family at times to live with other Saint-Simonian members in, ironically, a utopian society. The family was quite poor and struggled to make ends meet and then her mother died when Bonheur was 11. They were so poor that Sophie was buried in a pauper’s grave.

In 1841, at the age of 19, Bonheur exhibited at the Paris Salon with two paintings: Goats and Sheep and Rabbits Nibbling Carrots. At the Salon of 1849, Bonheur showed Ploughing in the Nivernais, a commission from the state. It does not get much more Realist than this, this is one of those paintings that is a sensorial experience. You can hear the cowherders and the oxen as they trudge along, you can feel the dirt beneath your feet, and you can smell the earth and the livestock.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), Labourage nivernais (Ploughing in Nevers), 1849, oil on canvas,
52 3/4 x 102 1/4 inches, © RMN-Grand Palais (Musée d’Orsay) / DR

Perhaps her most well-known painting is The Horse Fair. This enormous (8 x 16 ½ feet) painting was completed in 1853 and was called “the world’s greatest animal picture.” It actually went on tour throughout England, seen by no less than the Queen herself. Smaller versions were created and sold, as were prints. The original went to auction in 1887 and was purchased by Cornelius Vanderbilt for $53,000 (over $1.3 million today), which he then donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where it still resides (Gallery 816 if you are interested). This reaction is remarkable for an animalier artist as the subject matter was not treated with the same regard as historical or portrait painting, considered the loftier genres.

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Horse Fair, 1852-55, oil on canvas, 96 1/4 x 199 1/2 inches,
Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Cornelius Vanderbilt, 1887

Bonheur took the idea that her father gave her, to paint from life, and ran with it. She attended horse and livestock markets, animal fairs, and slaughterhouses. She wore men’s clothes to these events, as it allowed (in every sense of the word) more freedom. To do so, Bonheur had to apply for special permission from the police.

Permit allowing her to wear men’s clothing. Her doctor completed it, citing “for reason of health.” Copied from Smithsonian Magazine’s article, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020 (Claudine Doury)

At home on the outskirts of Paris, in her chateau that she purchased from the sale of her paintings, she kept a small menagerie she would use as models. This included sheep, monkeys, dogs, birds, horses, and the occasional tiger and lion, which brings us back to our small study. We do not know when or what it was created for, perhaps it was simply an exercise or maybe it was preparation for one of her many lion paintings, like The Lions at Home (1881) below?

Rosa Bonheur (1822-1899), The Lions at Home, 1881, oil on canvas, 64 x 103 inches,
Ferens Art Gallery, KINCM:2005.4763

Regardless, it is fascinating to see an artist’s process. The sketches seem to hint at what is to come: if the study is this good (I particularly like the fur on the paws), imagine what the final product will look like. It is interesting to think that the quick sketches that she probably thought little of upon completion is now something very special.

Her abilities emanate from her paintings: the shadows on the backside of a horse, the clumps of dirt, the furrowed brow of a lion – we come for the subject and stay for the Realism. Even in the sketches, the different shades of the lion manes, the curve of the mouth, the whiskers, all attest to her skill.

Lion Studies

In 1865, Bonheur became the first woman to receive the Légion d’Honneur. Twenty-nine years later, she was raised from a Chevalier to an Officier. In these later years, even though she and her art were well respected, Realism was no longer popular. Representational art is cyclical and it was, once again, falling out of fashion. Claude Monet’s revolutionary Impression: Sunrise had debuted at the Paris Salon in 1874 marking the rise of a new movement. 

On the surface, Lion Studies gives insight into an artist’s process – I see Bonheur flicking her brush over the canvas, muttering edits to herself. More broadly, though, it represents an artist reclaiming her due. Whenever a museum shows one of her works, whether a small study or a large oil painting, more of her reemerges.

Sources:

The Art Story, Rosa Bonheur

Britannica, Rosa Bonheur, Kathleen Kuiper

Smithsonian Magazine, The Redemption of Rosa Bonheur, November 2020

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

One of the most frequently asked questions on tours of the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room is how old is our oldest book. We always ask guests to guess and they are rarely even close. Our oldest book was published in 1523, just shy of 500 years ago! Perhaps even more interesting than its age is its subject matter. It’s a volume on dueling!

De Duello, or On the Duel, by Paride del Pozzo (1410-1493) was first published in 1471 or 1472. Pozzo, also called il Puteo, Paridis or Paris de Puteo, was an Italian jurist who translated his professional experiences gained while serving the king of Napoli, Alfonso V of Aragon, into several popular legal treatises, including De Duello. This volume is of great interest today because it not only enumerates the laws of dueling in the 15th century, but also includes detailed accounts of actual duels, which allow the modern reader to understand how these conflicts actually played out.

Title page of De Duello (1523) showing two combatants fighting with halberds in front of five jurists. The gift of John H. and Marta Daniels.

The publication history of De Duello is complex. It spawned several editions, was published in three languages, was reprinted at least 16 separate times, and sections of the book were included in other titles on dueling. The first edition was published in Latin and targeted jurists. An Italian edition soon followed which expanded on the Latin, and targeted the participants of duels rather than those adjudicating the contests. In the 16th century, the Italian edition was republished in Venice a number of times and featured a resetting of the type, and updated spelling and punctuation. The NSLM’s copy dates from this time period.

De Duello‘s subject matter is sorted into a series of books, the number of which depends on the edition being viewed. Various editions combine books or expand their content. This table of contents gives a good idea of the material covered:

  • Book 1: by Paride del Pozzo
  • Book 2: On the place of combat or battle
  • Book 3: On the duel
  • Book 4: On armaments
  • Book 5: On the need of a champion
  • Book 6: On the causes for dueling
  • Book 7: On noble fights and on [rebrociis]
  • Book 8: On cases of duels and pacts to fight
  • Book 9: On capture and redemption in duels
  • Book 10: On heraldry and unsaying
  • Book 11: On the decision and appeal in making battle

Interest in the book remained strong throughout the 16th century and it was even translated into English. In an interesting coincidence the first author to make an English translation of De Duello is Thomas Bedingfield. He is familiar to me for his 1584 volume, The Art of Riding, which the NSLM also owns. Apparently Bedingfield’s 1580 translation, Questions of Honor and Arms, was never published and only exists as a manuscript held by the Folger Shakespeare Library. De Duello finally makes it into English publication in 1590 when it is translated and abridged by William Segar.

When showing this volume on tours I often speculate about the life of the book. Our copy is in good condition which makes me a little sad since that implies that it was either loved but little used, or just completely forgotten on a shelf. Granted the materials of which books were fabricated in the 16th century are far sturdier than those in today’s books but I regularly handle books nearly as old that are in rough shape. Sometimes that damage is due to neglect but more often it’s the dogeared pages, dedications scrawled on the endpapers, notes of all sorts along the margins, and stains, all resulting from heavy use.

Our copy of De Duello was given to the Library in 1999 by John H. and Martha Daniels. At some point it belonged to the collector Jack Grolin who’s bookplate remains inside the cover.

Bookplate of Jack Grolin pasted inside the front cover of the NSLM’s copy of De Duello.

The last clue we have is an inscription on the fly leaf. The first line might be some sort of inventory notation, it’s difficult to say, but the rest of the inscription appears to read “di L. Giovanni Romani di Casalmaggi 1808. So we can assume the book was still in Italy in 1808, but the nearly 300 years between its printing and 1808 remain a mystery.

Notation on the flyleaf of NSLM’s copy of De Duello.

Due to the pandemic the Library is currently closed to visitors. We hope to welcome guests again soon. When we do, we’d love it if you’d come visit our oldest book!

Sources: The Wiktenauer website was extremely helpful in describing the publication history of De Duello and with the background of Paride del Pozzo.


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.

I’ve been keen to try fishing for a while, especially since starting at NSLM over two years ago.

A close friend of mine, who has been diligently quarantining, asked me, another diligent quarantiner, if I would like to join her for a long weekend in Cassadaga, NY for her birthday at the end of October. I jumped at such an opportunity. Knowing we’d be together, even though we are fairly isolated anyway, we upped being diligent, and monitored our health daily for the preceding two weeks and off we went. Per state regulations, we couldn’t leave the house, which, frankly, was fine with us.

Our little Airbnb cabin was on its own island with a dock on one side and bridge to the main road on the other.

Isn’t this the sweetest?
All photos, except the one of her (of course), courtesy of Rebecca Hagen.

My friend, Rebecca, is an experienced fisher. She initially just accompanied her father when he went fishing, but now it has become a favorite hobby of hers. She has been to a variety of places, like the South Holston River near Bristol, TN and the Youghiogheny in western PA. I have been exactly one time in college (which is in the rearview mirror farther than I would like to admit) and I don’t even know if I would call it “fishing.” Rebecca knew I had been eager to try it and this was part of the lure (too early for fishing puns?), although I really would have gone anyway. Our first day there, she took a walk around the house and noticed that there were absolutely no fish. Something we noticed over the next few days – we saw zero fish. Am I setting this up to have an excuse for later? Possibly.

On Halloween, our designated Fishing Day, the weather was beautiful. Freezing, but beautiful. Freezing and windy, but beautiful. Rebecca gave me a tutorial on flies, the difference between dry flies and wet flies, what nymphs are, and when and where they should be used. 

I donned waders (completely unnecessarily) and, along with a fishing vest that would have made my father proud and some trusty boots, I was ready to go. Suitably overdressed, Rebecca started from scratch and made me practice hand and arm movements, essentially casting with the rod on dry land to get the feel of what exactly I’ve be doing. This took some time. I was a terrible pupil, who just wanted to get that line in the water! But it was helpful just to get an idea of how my arm should move and how to flick the wrist. Even though I felt I was following Rebecca’s example of wide arms and hands, I wasn’t actually doing that. Perhaps it was all the layers that made me feel like I was, but I most definitely was not.

This is the pose of a woman, who knows what she’s doing.

When she deemed me somewhat passable, she set up the rod and picked out a dry fly. The first one she chose had some spikes on it that would sit on top of the water (also please notice Rebecca’s amazing shirt). 

Shirt purchased from Orvis, for anyone interested.

Making sure I had my eyes protected and that Rebecca was safely to my left, I cast my line and…it dropped right in front of me.

One of many efforts.

I should mention that right behind us, at about 4 o’clock, was a tree taunting us with the casualties of lures past. Rebecca guided me in how to avoid it, by casting more to the side rather than straight back. Once the line was in the water, I moved it around a little to make the fly dance and then I’d cast again. Rebecca said this was right, but she could simply have been humoring me. In my enthusiasm, I cast too far back and sure enough, like so many before me, got the lure caught in the tree. There was no way to retrieve it. The branches extended over the water and climbing the tree was not an option. Rebecca made sure we were both looking away and then tugged it to break the line.

Round 2 – Rebecca had a good feeling about one lure in particular. she was excited to try it.

I let her take over with the new lure, that was a lot of pressure for me. I had just lost one, I didn’t want to lose another, especially one clearly so special. Rebecca had the slack in one hand, the rod in the other, she started making the swift arcs and…snag. The lucky lure didn’t even make it in the water. She was devastated.

I decided to give it one more go. My hands were red and freezing (as seen in the picture) and, as much as I was enjoying myself, the thought of a hot chocolate waiting for me was too much of a siren’s song. I did a lovely rookie cast, out it went, we waited for a few minutes, and then there was a tug! Both Rebecca and I got excited as she instructed to me to pull the line, pull some more, and WHAM! Coming quickly towards me was something green and shiny.

See below for my catch.

That’s right. I caught seaweed. But you know what, it was a personal trial, and I was proud of my morning’s accomplishments. It is now hanging above my mantle.

But I had Been Fishing! And I really enjoyed it! Something I always try to do when speaking with NSLM visitors, whether it is with first-time guests or with our board members, is find a way to make a connection. Now having this shared experience, despite my clumsiness, is a way to do just that.

Truthfully though, it was a lot of fun, and I can’t wait to try it again. Maybe in less chilly temperatures so my fingers work a little better and I can tolerate the weather more. Thank you, Rebecca, for being a wonderful instructor and somehow putting up with my ineptness. We’re already making tentative plans for something next summer (vaccines willing). I just hope it’s to a place I can wear my waders!

BFFs – Best Fishers Forever

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

Full disclosure: not everyone at the NSLM rides, hunts, plays polo, wingshoots, or fishes. We currently have nine full-time staff members. Of that nine, two are regular riders and sportswomen, and one is a part-time rider, having been much more active in her younger years (which, should be stated, was not too long ago). The remaining six of us enjoy learning about the various sports our mission encompasses and listening to others tell their stories and experiences but are not active participants.

Recently, a few NSLM staff tried some of the sports we “preserve, promote, and share” and with that, we created a series entitled “Never Have I Ever.” We want to tell you about our adventures, what we thought of them, and, most importantly, would we do them again? This is the second post in the series, by Michelle Guzman, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian.

The road to the shooting grounds

Last October, I had the opportunity to spend an afternoon shooting for the first time. For an especially appropriate team building activity, Executive Director Elizabeth von Hassell invited the staff to an afternoon of clay shooting. Elizabeth, Director of Development Reid O’Connor, Senior Collections Manager and Registrar Lauren Kraut, and I drove over to the shooting grounds owned by Isobel Ziluca, who would be our clay instructor for the afternoon.

I had never shot a gun before. I was very excited, but can’t lie, I was also quite anxious about the upcoming lesson. The day of the shoot was an exceptionally beautiful afternoon. Not only was the sky the perfect tone of blue, it was also comfortably warm! The Californian in me rejoiced.

We arrived at Crockett’s Shooting Club and met our instructor, Isobel Ziluca. I made the mistake of reading her profile on her website prior to the lesson: Isobel is a lifetime member and certified instructor with National Sporting Clays Association. She is also an AA Class competitive shooter and current 2020 All-American 12 gauge team (and 20, 28 and 410 gauge teams). She currently sits in the top 5 shooters of the North East. I was worried that my total novice status would irritate her to no end!

Isobel with Reid and Elizabeth

Isobel brought the shotguns over using a shooting cart, which looks like a very chic baby jogger. We took turns shooting round robin style. As Isobel handed me a Beretta, the shooting lesson began with gun safety first! As I held the shotgun, I immediately realized that the gun was much, much heavier than I thought it would be. After a couple of minutes on learning how to position my feet and keep balance, I held the shotgun up at an angle to target the clay, my arms withered, and with the butt of the gun against my face, I pulled the trigger. Miss!

Throughout the lesson, Isobel patiently taught me how to track the clay target, how I should be moving the gun (slightly!) in sync with its trajectory, to conclude with pulling the trigger. I have to confess; shooting was a lot more athletic than I thought it would be. The tension created from the proper stance, holding the gun properly, raising the arm, monitoring the target, taking aim, to the pulling of the trigger is a lot of muscle and mind work. I was completely fascinated by the process!

Lauren and Reid were pros compared to my poor showing! Isobel raised the stakes metaphorically by having Elizabeth shoot at two targets, which Elizabeth managed with a breeze! As we progressed through the lesson, we found it hilarious how we each had our own distinct shooting styles. Mine stood out the most. I literally wait a ludicrous amount of time before I pull the trigger! For one reason or the other, I kept waiting before shooting! I am generally a very patient person, however that afternoon patience was no virtue. Luckily, I managed to hit two targets that afternoon.

The real treat was watching Isobel demonstrate her amazing shooting skills. Now I understand why people lined up to watch Annie Oakley. It’s been a long time since I’ve let out a gasp, but that afternoon, watching Isobel take out multiple targets, one right after the other, was incredible. The accuracy was unbelievable!

Lauren, Isobel, and I

In all, I would definitely go shooting again! The afternoon was laid-back fun, the scenery was gorgeous and inspiring, and the instruction from Isobel was a lot of fun! The afternoon also allowed me to appreciate the sporting literature from the 19th century that I often flip through from the NSLM’s collections. I often thought that the writing was tedious, boring, and slow. However, having experienced an afternoon of shooting, I have come to realize that the authors, though not very successfully, were trying to convey the excitement and rush that come with the sport. A big thank you to Elizabeth for the fun afternoon out!

Spring 2019 feels like a lifetime ago, but it was in March of last year that I started a collections management project at NSLM as part of my graduate museum & gallery studies program requirements for the University of St Andrews in Scotland. Lauren Kraut, NSLM’s Sr. Collections Manager & Registrar asked me to organize and inventory a box of Paul Brown’s works on paper.  The contents of Box 11 were part of a 2011 gift to the museum from Brown’s daughter, Nancy Brown Searles. Details about the internship were first published in an August 13, 2019 blog post A Lifetime of Drawing: Paul Brown and the Searles Collection. Here I am, more than a year later, wrapping up a project that included many twists and turns. Paul Brown has been good company all along the way.  

Photograph of Paul Brown, Paul Brown Archive, Gift from the artist’s daughter, Nancy Searles, 2011

Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) was an artist, illustrator, and chronicler of sporting life in the first half of the 20th century. He was well known for his drawings of horses, dogs, and their human companions. His drawings and sketches of animals, especially horses, at work and play, were published in sporting magazines, Brooks Brothers catalogs, and numerous books for children and adults. His career spanned more than fifty years. The National Sporting Library & Museum holds the largest collection Paul Brown art, books, and archival material in the world. The Searles Collection and other gifts have helped preserve the work and reputation of a talented and beloved artist who might otherwise fall into obscurity.

For example, Crazy Quilt: The Story of a Piebald Pony and Piper’s Pony: The Story of Patchwork, the first two in a series of children’s books about the Perkins family, were published in the early 1930s. The books are well remembered by their generation. The NSLM library has first editions in its collection and The Searles Collection archive includes preliminary pen and ink drawings for the books and other prepublication working sketches. The Perkins family series and most of Brown’s books, if not all, are out of print and rare finds on antiquarian websites.

Paul Brown, Crazy Quilt: The Story of a Piebald Pony and Piper’s Pony: The Story of Patchwork. New York and London:
Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934, 1935
[untitled], 1935, illustration, pen and ink, Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, Searles Collection, 2011

The Searles Collection Box 11 is filled with Paul Brown’s childhood drawings, watercolors inscribed to family members, working sketches for books, and etching plates from portfolios. This personal collection brings him to life. Cataloging the contents, I imagined Mr. Brown as a hard-working artist with a quick hand and a delightful sense of humor. His ability to use a variety of techniques also shines through. Pencil drawings, watercolors, ink washes, etchings and drypoints are diverse, but they express an overarching mastery of multiple techniques. These works on paper also reveal the public and private Paul Brown.

Paul Brown Archive, Box 11, Searles Collection, 2011

During the Covid-19 era, the world continues to come in and out of lockdown and museum-going has gone virtual. I notice that museums are sharing, digitally, more archival material on website tours and talks.  It makes sense since there is no danger of overexposure to fragile objects. I welcome this adaptation. It increases my appreciation for an internship that prepares Paul Brown’s archive for further use.

The National Sporting Library & Museum is dedicated to the preservation of the sporting life and its cultural context. The staff embraces the history and the artists who recorded it. I am happy to have been a part of making Mr. Brown’s work more available to be shared in person and online. NSLM has been a wonderful host to me, and I know that Paul Brown’s legacy will be well cared for in the years to come. I have no doubt that his fans and future generations will continue to enjoy his timeless appeal.

Grace Pierce is pursuing a Master of Museum and Gallery Studies at University of St Andrews in Scotland. These days she may be found at home in Rappahannock County, Virginia visiting museums all over the world, virtually.

Recently during a presentation, I mentioned that several artists we were discussing had contributed artwork for the Federal Duck Stamp. Someone asked me what the Federal Duck Stamp was and all I really knew was that the program had been around for a long time, that the artists were originally asked to participate, and that today the annual design is chosen from among submissions from the general public. I was also aware that there is a Junior Duck Stamp but beyond that I had no information. Needless to say, immediately after the presentation I rectified that situation and I’d like to share what I discovered. It turns out the Migratory Bird Hunting Act, i.e. the Duck Stamp Act, resulted in a highly successful conservation program that continues to thrive today.

Ross’ Goose the 2006/2007 Federal Duck Stamp. Image by Sherrie Russell Meline/USFWS – 2006-07 Duck Stamp Final, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10536205

Federal Duck Stamps are issued annually and function as hunting licenses. Waterfowl hunters over the age of 16 are required to purchase and carry a current Duck Stamp. The stamps also serve as passes to any National Wildlife Refuge that charges admission. Ninety-eight percent of the purchase price of Duck Stamps is deposited directly into the Migratory Bird Conservation Fund which is used to purchase and preserve the wetland habitats so critical to migratory birds. Funds are also used to purchase conservation easements for the National Wildlife Refuge System. Such arrangements allow important habitat to be protected for future generations, while allowing owners to retain many private property rights, and to live on and use their land. To date the program has raised more than a billion dollars and protected more than 6 million acres of habitat. More than 300 national wildlife refuges have been created or expanded using funds generated through the sale of Duck Stamps.

Map of US National Wildlife Refuges (refuges in Hawaii, Pacific Islands, and Alaska not shown). Image from the National Wildlife Refuge site.

The origin of the Migratory Bird Hunting Act lies in the culmination of several damaging trends. By the late 1920’s and early 1930’s the United State’s population of waterfowl had been decimated through a combination of unregulated market hunting, demand for plumage in the fashion industry, and habitat loss due to drought. In 1929, President Herbert Hoover signed the Migratory Bird Conservation Act in an effort to reverse the damage. The Act authorized the acquisition and preservation of wetlands as waterfowl habitat but neglected to furnish a permanent source of funding for the project. On March 16, 1934 this issue was resolved when President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp Act, popularly known as the Duck Stamp Act. The first stamp was issued for the 1934-35 season. It featured an image of mallard ducks coming in for a landing by Jay N. “Ding” Darling, the Chief of the US Biological Survey. It sold for one dollar; 635,001 were purchased.

This 1934/1935 United States Department of Agriculture Migratory Bird Hunting Stamp depicting mallards was the first one and was designed by Jay N. “Ding” Darling, chief of the U.S. Biological Survey. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

For the first fifteen years of the program stamp designs were solicited from noted wildlife artists. Beginning in 1949 the design was chosen through an art contest open to any US artist that wished to participate. Guidelines are issued each year including the permitted species to be shown, and the entries are judged by a panel of wildlife and conservation experts, and artists. It is the nation’s longest running and only Congressionally mandated wildlife art competition. Winners receive a set of stamps and bragging rights. The winner for the 2021-22 season was Richard Clifton of Milford, Delaware with his painting of a single Lesser Scaup drake.

The winning design for the 2021-22 Duck Stamp. Lesser Scaup drake by Richard Clifton. Image from Delaware State News.

In addition to the Federal Duck Stamp there is a Junior Duck Stamp. This program was developed by Dr. Joan Allemand in 1989, with a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. It is an educational program designed to teach students from K-12 wetland and waterfowl conservation. The program incorporates scientific and wildlife management principles into a visual arts curriculum and participants complete a Junior Duck Stamp design as their visual “term paper.” Beginning in 1993 an open art contest featuring these visual “term papers” was held to select the image for the following year’s Junior Duck Stamp. The stamps are sold for $5 and the money raised through the sale of the stamps funds conservation education, and provides awards and scholarships for the students, teachers, and schools that participate in the program. This year’s winning Junior Duck Stamp design is by 13-year old Madison Grimm from South Dakota.

Madison Grimm’s painting of a Wood Duck won the 2020 Junior Duck Stamp art contest and was featured on the stamp. Image from the US Fish and Wildlife site.

For 86 years the Duck Stamp program has been successful. Originally backed by hunters, it now also counts birders, environmental conservationists, and stamp collectors among it’s supporters. In recognition of the stamp’s growing value as a conservation tool, its formal name was changed to the Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp.

If you’d like to explore the world of waterfowl the Library has extensive holdings on many species. We are currently open by appointment and would be pleased to share these items with you.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

The inspiration for my blog post this week stems from the unfortunate fact that for the past few months, my horse Taco has been experiencing a plethora of medical issues. No matter what I do, I cannot seem to keep him sound. As soon as I solve one problem, another one pops up. It has been a depressing and expensive cycle of chiropractic work, creams, lotions, supplements, and vet visits. I know that fellow horse owners out there (especially Thoroughbred owners) can relate.

One day, while doing research for another project, I stumbled upon a book called Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia. Written by John Henry Walsh, Ellwood Harvey, and John Elderken and published in 1871, it claimed to be “the most complete work on the horse ever published” and had an entire section on treatments for various diseases, ailments, and vices. Considering the desperate situation I had found myself in, it piqued my interest. Maybe there were some helpful ideas in there that had been lost in the sands of time?

Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia, written John Henry Walsh, Ellwood Harvey, and John Elderken, published in 1871 by Porter & Coates, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels

Once I started reading, I could not pull myself away – the information was fascinating. On one hand, it demonstrated how much veterinary medicine had changed over the past century. However, I could not help but be surprised at how much continuity was revealed as well – some of the treatments that I use on my horse today were already being recommended over a century ago. Listed below are some of the most interesting and unique entries from the book. Just a heads up, some of them are not for the faint of heart!

Crib-Biting

Known in modern times as cribbing, this is an issue near and dear to my heart. Taco is a voracious cribber and it has caused many problems over the past four years. When horses crib, they latch onto an object with their front teeth, arch their neck, and draw air into their esophagus. It is a learned behavior that can be brought on by stressful environments and digestive issues. It can cause many long term issues including dental problems and colic if left untreated, and is highly addictive once horses start. The Cyclopedia says that there “has never yet been a cure discovered, except on the principle of restraint” (202). There are several recommended deterrents for cribbing that exist today including sprays, muzzles, and cribbing straps. I have found the cribbing strap to be most effective – it goes around the neck of the horse and applies pressure when they attempt to suck in air. However, according to the Cyclopedia, these impede the blood of the brain from returning back to the heart (so I might have to reevaluate my choice). Instead, the book proposes the use of an invention by Mr. Cook, Saddler of Long Acre, called a bar muzzle. Unlike the muzzles used today that go around the horse’s entire mouth, it consists of a halter with a set of two prongs placed just in front of the lips. The author espouses this method as “entirely harmless, perfectly effectual” with “the sole objection to it being the fact that it proclaims the wearer to everyone who looks into the stable as a cribber” (203). The horse can still eat and drink but is unable to latch its teeth onto anything. Perhaps this is something I need to look into?

The author espouses this method as “entirely harmless, perfectly effectual” with “the sole objection to it being the fact that it proclaims the wearer to everyone who looks into the stable as a cribber.”

Dyspepsia

Known today as indigestion, dyspepsia in horses can be caused for a variety of reasons and there are many different treatments. However, the Cyclopedia proposes that indigestion stems from the fact that horses are forced to eat the same thing every day with no variation. The author states that “Every domestic animal suffers in health if he is constantly fed on the same articles, and man himself, perhaps, more than they do. Partridges are relished by him early in September, but toujours perdrix would disgust the most inveterate lover of that article of food” (354). The entry goes on to suggest that a complete change of food should be implemented if the horses starts to suffer from indigestion and a lack of appetite. It recommends green food of some kind if it can be obtained, or if not, carrots or even steamed potatoes (355). It also suggests that a handful of malt dust be added to the food once or twice a week to alter the flavor. At the end of the entry, it adds that “the use of ‘fashionable horse feeds’ of the present day will serve the same purpose” such as Thorley’s food or Henri’s food, which is promoted in the advertisement below (355).

Keep your hunters in condition by using Henri’s horse condition powders…/manufactured by Henri’s Patent Cattle Feed Co. Public Domain Mark

Tearing the clothes off

Under the section on stable vices, this amusing entry describes a solution for horses that cannot seem to keep their blankets on in the winter. This is by no means an uncommon problem, even by today’s standards. However, the contraption that the Cyclopedia recommends is something truly unique. It consists of “a pole of ash about three quarters of an inch in diameter, with an iron eye attached to each end. One of these is fastened, by means of a short leather strap and buckle, to the right side of the roller pad while the other has a strap or chain about a foot long, which attaches it to the head collar” (204-205). According to the author, “it is a very simple and cheap apparatus, and any village blacksmith can make and apply it” (205). The next time you wake up to blankets on the stable floor covered in manure, consider showing the diagram below to your local blacksmith in order to solve your pesky blanket problem!

It consists of “a pole of ash about three quarters of an inch in diameter, with an iron eye attached to each end. One of these is fastened, by means of a short leather strap and buckle, to the right side of the roller pad while the other has a strap or chain about a foot long, which attaches it to the head collar” (204-205).

Thrush

Thrush is a problem that afflicts many horses in this area, especially during the muddiest parts of the spring. Essentially, it is an infection of the frog (a part of the horse’s hoof) caused by dirty and damp conditions. The Cyclopedia characterizes it as “an offensive discharge from the frog” (401). The recommended treatment it proposes is a dose of physic, food of a less stimulating quality, and regular exercise, in addition to maintaining a cleanly environment (401). If the condition persists, it says that a bran poultice should be applied for a few days and then tar ointment should be put directly on the frog. It also recommends a solution of chloride of zinc. Today, treatments for thrush vary, but include applying iodine, diluted bleach, and trimming the dead tissue from the affected area. One thing that I would like to make note of in this entry is the line about administering “a dose of physic” to the horse. I found this part especially confusing because there seems to be no clear definition of what goes into a physic. However, upon further research, I discovered that it is most likely a being used as a term to describe the administration of medicine in general. There is an entire section of the Cyclopedia dedicated to the creation of various types of physics and their administration. The two main ways of giving a horse internal medicine during the time period were through balls or drenches. Balls are solid mixtures which were put directly into the mouth of the horse, and drenches were poured down their throat using a type of funnel.

Scratches

One of the first things that I searched for in the Cyclopedia was scratches, because it is a problem that has afflicted Taco for months now. I found it under an entry labelled “grease.” Today, it is sometimes still referred to as “greasy heel,” although “scratches” and “pastern dermatitis” are more common. The Cyclopedia defines scratches as a “slight swelling of the skin of the heels and adjacent parts which soon cracks, and from the fissures there exudes an offensive discharge which looks greasy but is really watery” (395). Pretty disgusting stuff in my experience. However, I was struck by the similarities in the treatments recommended for scratches by the Cyclopedia and by my veterinarian. Both advised applying glycerin to the area and trying to keep it clean and dry. However, the Cyclopedia suggested applying chloride of zinc, while I was instructed to use zinc oxide. In addition, the Cyclopedia stated that if the growths were bad enough, they could be sliced off and cauterized. This is not exactly something that I ever want to attempt at home. In a serious case of scratches, the text suggested that other organs could be damaged “unless the unhealthy state of the blood is attended to” (396). Supposedly, the fluid secreted through the scratches is drawn from the blood and pulled from the digestive organs, thereby weakening them. In order to counteract this effect, the author recommends feeding the horse arsenic with its food. He admits that “how it (the arsenic) acts has never been made out” but assures that in small doses it will produce no injurious effect. Nonetheless, I think I am probably going to keep the arsenic out of Taco’s daily feed regimen for now.

The Cyclopedia is full of interesting information, and provides a valuable window into what equine medicine was like in the 19th century. However, it left me feeling extremely glad that as a horse owner in the 21st century, my vet is only a phone call away!

Sources Cited

Walsh, John Henry, et al. Every Horse Owner’s Cyclopedia. Porter and Coates, 1871.

Victoria Peace is the summer 2020 Curatorial Intern at the National Sporting Library and Museum. A junior at Georgetown University, she is double majoring in Art History and French. Outside of work, she enjoys spending time with her OTTB Taco, trail riding, and playing polo. Email her at museumintern@nationalsporting.org.