Fletcher Harper, MFH (1874-1963) was Master of the Orange County Hunt for 33 seasons, from 1920 to 1953. In 1900, the Hunt was originally organized in and named for Orange County, New York, but was relocated to Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1903. A set of Orange County Hunting Diaries from 1936 to 1969 are held in the NSLM archives.
Mr. Harper was married to Harriet Wadsworth (1881-1975), whose father, James W. Wadsworth was cousin of William Austin Wadsworth, the Master and founder of the famous Genesee Valley Hunt in New York. Mrs. Harper rode sidesaddle on the off side, due to an injury.
Together, the Harpers worked tirelessly to open the land around The Plains, Virginia to foxhunting. Fletcher became renowned as a thorough and attentive Master, carefully repairing all damage to property from hunts and keeping in close contact with the farming community. Mr. Harper is generally credited with putting Orange County on the map as a premiere American hunt.
“For the past seven years Mr. Harper has carried on the traditions of the Hunt in the most able manner, his tact and great charm working wonders with those landowners who were sometimes difficult to deal with. Mr. Harper found that the greatest evil with which he had to contend was wire, and this difficulty he has successfully combated by paneling the country in some places and putting in ‘chicken coops’ in others, until he now has as rideable a territory as could be wished for.”
From Hunting in the United States and Canada, by A. Henry Higginson and Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, 1928.
Along with George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., Alexander Mackay-Smith, and Lester Karow, Harper founded the National Sporting Library in 1954 as a public resource on equestrian and field sports. Mr. Harper served as President of NSL from its founding in 1956 until his death in 1963. In 1972, Mrs. Harper donated a painting of Mr. Harper to the NSL. This painting is a study for a finished portrait completed in 1931.
The artist, Ellen Emmett Rand, was an accomplished portrait painter who studied at The Art Students League of New York with William Merritt Chase and Kenyon Cox. She is known for her portraits of artists, writers, socialites and politicians, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
After his retirement as Master, Harper assisted Orange County in its hound breeding program until his death in 1963. He and Harriet are buried at the Georgetown Cemetery, Church of Our Savior, Broad Run, Virginia.