Iconic in its simple elegance, Middleburg is nestled in the idyllic countryside filled with horses grazing in pastures bounded by stone walls. For those who’ve never been, Middleburg, Virginia is foxhunting country. It wasn’t always that way; the “Great Hound Match” in 1905 put Northern Virginia on the map as prime hunting country. The following year, in 1906, the Middleburg Hunt was formed and has been active ever since.

Today we only have one image to offer, but it’s pretty special. It’s called “Hunt Scene at Middleburg,” and it’s a photo taken in 1924.

"Hunt Scene at Middleburg," 1924
“Hunt Scene at Middleburg,” 1924

We have cropped the full scan of the image, due to the advanced deterioration of the lower edges and the brittle nature of the original print. So, what makes this image so special? First, I can tell you the exact date this image was snapped: November 27, 1924. The note on the rear of the image says that this hunting party assembled “after Thanksgiving party at Foxcroft, 1924.” But what’s really special is that a note was attached to the photo which lists the names of many of the most visible participants. That is highly unusual when exploring old photos!

Letter from Thomas Atkinson, dated May 26, 1965.  This was written in response to a request to identify riders in the photo.
Letter from Thomas Atkinson, dated May 26, 1965. This was written in response to a request to identify riders in the photo.

The note is stamped by Chronicle of the Horse; many of our photos and albums were kept and maintained at the Chronicle before entering the NSLM collections in the 1960s. Here is our best effort to match up sections of the note to the images.

Dear Miss White: The two front riders are Miss Julia Gatewood...
Dear Miss White: The two front riders are Miss Julia Gatewood…
...and Mr. Taylor Hardin.
…and Mr. Taylor Hardin.
Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr.
Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr.

Behind Miss Gatewood is Mr. Harry Duffy Jr. In center of first group in a grey coat with a chrysanemum [sic] is, I feel sure, Miss Nancy Penn Smith (Mrs. J Hannum).
In center of first group in a grey coat with a chrysanemum [sic] is, I feel sure, Miss Nancy Penn Smith (Mrs. J Hannum).
Mr. Atkinson evidently had access to a second photograph. That photo apparently showed the second group (in the far background of this photo) much more clearly. Mr. Atkinson writes:

Again I am not sure, but I believe the second lady on a white horse leading the second group is Miss Charlotte N. In the small photograph I can only recognize the Hunstman, Robert Maddux, Mr. Sands leading on the road, with Mr. Jim Skinner on his right, and Mr. Halbert on the white mule.

I am sorry I can’t be more helpful. Sincerely, Thomas Atkinson.

It’s possible that the second photo will emerge someday. Do you recognize anybody in the photograph above?

For more photographs and upcoming events at the National Sporting Library & Museum, like us on Facebook and visit our website!

Today we have something on the lighter side: An Academy for Grown Horsemen; Containing the Completest Instructions for Walking, Trotting, Cantering, Galloping, Stumbling, and Tumbling. The book was written and illustrated by English caricaturist Henry William Bunbury (1750-1811), under the guise of alter ego Geoffrey Gambado, Esq., Riding Master, Master of the Horse, and Grand Equerry to the Doge of Venice. The book was printed in 1796 and is part of the Vladimir S. Littauer collection.

The book spoofs the many Italian riding manuals of the 17th and 18th Centuries, treating poor practices and inattention as riding exercises to be learned and practiced. “When I have told [the reader] how to chuse [sic] a horse,” pontificates Gambado, “how to tackle him properly, in what sort of dress to ride him, how to ride him out, and, above all, how to ride him home again; if he is not a complete horseman in the course of ten or dozen summers, I will be bold to foretell, that neither the skill of Mr. Astley, nor the experience of Mr. John Gilpin, will ever make him one.”

"The Mistaken Notion" Gambado laments the "false notions of horsemanship adopted, and industriously circulated by Newcastle, La Fosse, Pembroke, and Berenger."
“The Mistaken Notion”
Gambado laments the “false notions of horsemanship adopted, and industriously circulated by Newcastle, La Fosse, Pembroke, and Berenger.”
"One way to stop your horse."
“One way to stop your horse.”

Gambado decries the awful state of British horse stock, claiming that nothing can stop modern horses from running in a straight line forever.

“Meet a higler’s cart, he will stop it, either with his own head or your leg; fall in with a hackney coach, and he will carry you slap dash against it.”

Instead, the reader is urged to buy a horse who carries his head low, with “bald face, wall eyes, and white legs,” as this makes the horse easier to see at night.

"How to ride genteel and agreeable down hill."
“How to ride genteel and agreeable down hill.”
"How to lose your way."
“How to lose your way.”

“A cock’d hat . . . has so many [advantages] that it is wonderful to me, it is not universally worn, but more particularly by equestrians.”

"How to pass a carriage."
“How to pass a carriage.”

“In riding the road, observe in passing a whisky, a phaeton or a stage coach, in short any carriage where the driver sits on the right hand, to pass it on that side, he may not see you on the other, and though you may meet with a lash in the eye, what is the loss of an eye to a leg or perhaps neck.”

6
“How to ride a horse upon three legs, discover’d Ann. Dom. 1768.”

“The Doctor went off at a spurt . . . and having got clear of the pavement, wished to (what is called) mend his pace; but his horse was obdurate, and all his influence could not prevail. The Doctor fancied, at times, he went oddly, and therefore brought to at Alconbury, five miles from Huntingdon, and alighted for an examination: when he discovered that the hostler, through inattention, had buckled up one of the horse’s hind legs in the surcingle: and to this alone he had to attribute his hobbling way of going.”

Visit the National Sporting Library & Museum website.

Today I have something a bit more modern that was on hand already for another project: Ratcatcher to Scarlet, a book written and illustrated by Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) in 1933.

I wish I had more time to read books like this one! You couldn’t ask for a more clear, concise, and practical explanation of the dos and don’ts of foxhunting. For those who are curious, the title of the book refers to the tweed hunting attire known as a ratcatcher. An apt title, Ratcatcher to Scarlet covers all the bases, from following on foot or horseback, to best practices for cubbing and everything in between.

The book carries on an older tradition in foxhunting literature: the passing down of advice from older generations to younger enthusiasts. Aldin specifically points this out in his preface.

“These notes are for that young entry and not for the old hounds, but we may also include the beginner in the noble art of fox-catching, of whatever age, be he youngster, subaltern, millionaire or embryo Jorrocks. Penned for my son-in-law, I leave them in the form in which they were originally written.”

I greatly enjoy reading Aldin’s writings. An active foxhunter, Aldin used his extensive knowledge of the etiquette and techniques of foxhunting in his many illustrations.

"A. is in the wrong. Firstly, because he jumped a fence when hounds were not running. Secondly, he was wrong because he has smashed a repair rail unnecessarily, a rail which the farmer, to keep his cattle in the field, will have to repair the next day."
“A. is in the wrong. Firstly, because he jumped a fence when hounds were not running. Secondly, he was wrong because he has smashed a repair rail unnecessarily, a rail which the farmer, to keep his cattle in the field, will have to repair the next day.”
"In a few moments hounds hit off almost at our feet and the whole field comes charging down upon us. A few yards from us is a gateway in the timber fence; we open this and hold it back for those who prefer a gate to timber topping, and once more we have a fine view of a fox away and the pack and field in his wake."
“In a few moments hounds hit off almost at our feet and the whole field comes charging down upon us. A few yards from us is a gateway in the timber fence; we open this and hold it back for those who prefer a gate to timber topping, and once more we have a fine view of a fox away and the pack and field in his wake.”
"Notwithstanding your vigorous kicks, she eased up as she approached the ditch in front of her, springing off her hocks straight on to the top of the bank and broken fence, with her ears cocked forward ready for the Irish ditch on the landing side."
“Notwithstanding your vigorous kicks, she eased up as she approached the ditch in front of her, springing off her hocks straight on to the top of the bank and broken fence, with her ears cocked forward ready for the Irish ditch on the landing side.”
"At water, your heart should be over long before your horse. By the feel of your legs your horse should not have the slightest doubt about your intention of going over -- or in, i.e. that if he doesn't do his best you mean driving him in. A suggestion of hesitation on your part conveys itself immediately to your mount -- your heart therefore must be in or over long before you are, if you mean to have a cut at it at all."
“At water, your heart should be over long before your horse. By the feel of your legs your horse should not have the slightest doubt about your intention of going over — or in, i.e. that if he doesn’t do his best you mean driving him in. A suggestion of hesitation on your part conveys itself immediately to your mount — your heart therefore must be in or over long before you are, if you mean to have a cut at it at all.”
"Make him bend in and out of these trees at the walk and trot, looking well ahead of yourself all the time. Imagine you are driving a car through them. You would not be gazing down at your wheels; it is well ahead all the time you would be looking. Never hesitate as to which side of a tree you are going, or your horse will hesitate as well and probably smash your knee."
“Make him bend in and out of these trees at the walk and trot, looking well ahead of yourself all the time. Imagine you are driving a car through them. You would not be gazing down at your wheels; it is well ahead all the time you would be looking. Never hesitate as to which side of a tree you are going, or your horse will hesitate as well and probably smash your knee.”

The book is very practical. At heart, it underscores the reality of hunting that transcends the outward spectacle: the successful hunter possesses  knowledge of hunting and good riding; nothing can replace that.

For more information, visit the National Sporting Library & Museum website.

I’ve been exploring the Library’s photograph collection over the past few weeks, and there’s a wealth of material in that collection, and I found the following photo there:

"Presentation to HSF, Timonium Fair, 1948" Photograph Collection, National Sporting Library & Museum
“Presentation to HSF, Timonium Fair, 1948” Photograph Collection, National Sporting Library & Museum

The caption struck me as mysterious, but what intrigued me most was the ceramic sculpture. It looked awfully familiar. It’s the very same one that’s currently in our Executive Director’s office.

Ceramic Draft Horse Sculpture, Inscribed "H. S. Finney From Maryland Draft Horse Breeders Association"
Percheron, Edward Marshall Boehm, 1948. Inscription: “H. S. Finney From Maryland Draft Horse Breeders Association”

I needed some answers, and fortunately for me, NSLM Summer Intern Nicole Corbin did a wonderful job researching the sculpture. It was sculpted by Edward Marshall Boehm, a native of Maryland, who is best known for his sculptures of birds. His work can be seen at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the White House, as well as being in the collection of Queen Elizabeth II. The only other known Pecheron Work Horse sculpture by Boehm is in the collection at the Met.

Percheron Stallion, Edward Marshall Boehm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Percheron Stallion, Edward Marshall Boehm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Some of you may have already recognized Humphrey S. Finney (1903-1984) in the photograph. His glasses, bow tie and hair parted in the middle gave him a distinctive look! He was best known in the horse world as president, then chairman of Fasig-Tipton, the prominent horse auctioning firm. Something a little less well-known was his long relationship with draft horses.

In recognition for his annually sponsoring the draft horse classes at the Maryland State Fair, the Maryland Draft Horse Breeders Association presented Finney with this ceramic sculpture at the 1948 fair at the Timonium Fairgrounds. The sculpture was donated to the National Sporting Library by Finney’s daughter, Marge Dance, in 1995.

Cover art from "The Thirty-Eight Annual Testimonial Dinner of the Thoroughbred Club of America in Honor of Mr. Humphrey S. Finney" 1969.
Cover art from “The Thirty-Eight Annual Testimonial Dinner of the Thoroughbred Club of America in Honor of Mr. Humphrey S. Finney” 1969.

Finney was born in England and came to the United States at 21 to work with horses. His first job was in Michigan, exhibiting draft horses. He moved on to Ohio to work conditioning hunters and polo ponies before breaking into the Thoroughbred industry. Finney was elected to the board of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association in the 1930s, and at the Association’s suggestion, he founded and edited The Maryland Horse magazine in 1936. His autobiography, Fair Exchange: Recollections of a Life With Horses (1974)is in the Library Collections and can be accessed in the Library’s Main Reading Room at NSLM.