WordPress.com prepared a 2015 annual report for our blog. Some of the items in the report were really surprising! Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 11,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 4 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you to all our members, readers, and researchers! We’re looking forward to 2016. We wish all of you a happy and safe New Year.

Welcome to our redesigned blog format! As we head into 2016,  the blog looks a bit newer, but we’ll continue to write about all the wonderful objects in our collections. Today, we highlight one of the many items in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room that cross the boundary between art and books. Today’s highlight is an unbound, undated collection of 13 drawings in pencil and watercolor by sporting artist Robert Ball (1890-1975).

Mallards. The collection is original drawings and watercolors, most depicting animals in nature.
Mallards. The collection is original drawings and watercolors, most depicting animals in nature.
Ball's style is subtle and soft, and the images in the collection are extremely charming.
Ball’s style is subtle and soft, and the images in the collection are extremely charming.

Ball’s illustrations can be found in several sporting books published by the Derrydale Press. He also drew the iconic masthead and cover illustration that adorned the Chronicle of the Horse for decades.

Doe and Fawns.
Doe and Fawns.
Messenger, 1788. Messenger was an important foundational sire of racing blood stock in the United States. Imported shortly after the American Revolution, Messenger was a British thoroughbred descended from the Godolphin Arabian.
Messenger, 1788. Messenger was an important foundational sire of racing blood stock in the United States. Imported shortly after the American Revolution, Messenger was a British thoroughbred descended from the Godolphin Arabian.

These drawings, collected by John Daniels, are tipped into a folder and protected in a clamshell box. Daniels was a meticulous record-keeper, a habit that often provides moments of insight into how his books were collected. A note in the box identifies this collection as a birthday gift from his wife, Martha, in 1993.

Foxhound.
Foxhound.

Today we’re highlighting Pictures of Life & Character (volume one of five), by John Leech (1817-1864). Leech was a prominent caricaturist and illustrator in 19th Century Britain, and was widely regarded for his humorous and political cartoons in the comic magazine Punch.

Rather Severe. "Shall I 'old your 'orse, sir?"
Rather Severe.
“Shall I ‘old your ‘orse, sir?”

Pictures of Life & Character is an undated collection of Leech’s cartoons from Punch. Most of them are satirical commentary on social or political events, and quite a few are simply jocular. We’ve focused today on the sporting cartoons in the first volume.

Tableau -- Representing Mr. Briggs out for a day's rabbit-shooting.
Tableau — Representing Mr. Briggs out for a day’s rabbit-shooting.

Leech’s subjects often dealt with the sporting culture of his time, and he also illustrated many of the humorous sporting novels of his contemporary, R. S. Surtees (1805-1864). Many of the sporting cartoons in Pictures of Life & Character focus on the misadventures of Mr. Briggs, an enthusiastic (but ultimately incompetent) sportsman.

Pleasures of Horsekeeping. The frost goes, and Mr. Briggs's horse is disagreeably fresh after his long rest. He sets up his back and squeaks and plunges at everything he meets.
Pleasures of Horsekeeping.
The frost goes, and Mr. Briggs’s horse is disagreeably fresh after his long rest. He sets up his back and squeaks and plunges at everything he meets.
Our friend Briggs contemplates a day's fishing.
Our friend Briggs contemplates a day’s fishing.
Mr. Briggs, on his way to the "Metropolitan Steeple chase," tries whether his horse is a good one across country. He is represented riding at a brook (!).
Mr. Briggs, on his way to the “Metropolitan Steeple chase,” tries whether his horse is a good one across country. He is represented riding at a brook (!).
Mr. Briggs, not being good at his "fences," goes through the performance of opening a gate.
Mr. Briggs, not being good at his “fences,” goes through the performance of opening a gate.
Mr. Briggs Grouse Shooting. 9 a.m., his arrival on the moor. Mr. Briggs says that the fine bracing air makes him so vigorous that he shall never be beat. He also facetiously remarks that he is on "his native health," and that his "name is MacGregor!" The result of the Day's Sport will be communicated by Electric Telegraph.
Mr. Briggs Grouse Shooting.
9 a.m., his arrival on the moor. Mr. Briggs says that the fine bracing air makes him so vigorous that he shall never be beat. He also facetiously remarks that he is on “his native health,” and that his “name is MacGregor!”
The result of the Day’s Sport will be communicated by Electric Telegraph.

12 a.m. [noon], total prostration of Mr. Briggs.
12 a.m. [noon], total prostration of Mr. Briggs.
Thank you for reading along with us this year! Drawing Covert has been a huge success; we’ve received over 11,000 visits since we launched the blog one year ago. We wish all our readers a happy and peaceful holiday season and we’ll be back to look at more books next week.

Today’s highlight from the Library collection is a scrapbook of lithographed plates by sporting illustrator Henry Alken (1785-1851). Alken was a leading illustrator of sporting topics in England during his lifetime, working in engravings as well as oils and watercolors. This Sporting Scrap Book (published in 1824 by Thomas McLean) features fifty plates that include complete scenes and image collages on many different country sports.

The plates in this scrapbook feature a wide variety of subjects. What might be considered non sequitur today made logical sense in Alken's time: shooting, foxhunting, and riding were all connected as leisure pursuits of the landed classes.
The plates in this scrapbook feature a wide variety of subjects. What might be considered non sequitur today made logical sense in Alken’s time: shooting, foxhunting, and riding were all connected as leisure pursuits of the landed classes.
The Sporting Scrap Book is one of dozens of early and first editions of Alken’s work collected by John Daniels. Today, the book is housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room on the Library’s Lower Level.
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Alken’s work is very flexible; he could be humorous and satirical, but he also possessed the ability to capture subjects seriously as well.
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Very business-like hounds. Many breeds of dogs served specific roles as hunters.
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Look closely! A hare hides in the grass. Other popular quarry for hunters included fox and badger.

If you’d like to learn more about the development of hunting and shooting (and the dogs that made it all possible), don’t miss our ongoing exhibition, “Side-by-Side with Gun & Dog” at the Museum until March 20. Can’t visit us before then? The Side-by-Side catalog is available for purchase now so you can enjoy the artwork from home!

A few months ago, NSLM was approached with an offer we could not refuse: go to Charleston for Garden & Gun‘s Made in the South Jubilee. If you have not yet attended Jubilee, it is an incredible experience to see, hear, taste, and bring home the best of Southern and sporting life. From the Oyster Roast Thursday night to the concert Sunday afternoon, our mission was tell the thousands of visitors about our Museum and Library in Middleburg, Virginia.

Jubilee

 

LWhouse
the rear view of the Legare Waring House

We were set up in the library of the historic Legare Waring House, just one part of a whole campus of Jubilee event areas at Charles Towne Landing State Historic Site. The event saw close to 3,000 people!

 

library
We were right at home in the library

Over the course of the weekend we met hundreds of people, and saw several friends of NSLM all the way down in Charleston. In addition to handing information to attendees, we met the governor of South Carolina, some folks from museums across the South, and several businesses we look forward to seeing again soon.

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Top: (left) Sea Island Forge,  (right) Foggy Ridge Cider. Bottom:  (left) Rappahannock River Oysters LLC,  (right) Cannonborough Sodas

This opportunity would not have been possible without the help of some key friends. All of our contacts at Garden & Gun were quick to help and very supportive to us newcomers. Our event sponsor, Highcliffe Clothiers, generously lent us some of their pieces to make sure we looked our hunt country best.

At the end of the weekend, we gave out over a thousand pieces of literature to folks at Jubilee, and inspired many to donate to our organization. We are very fortunate to have been included in an event whose attendees care about our mission to preserve and promote equestrian, angling, and turf and field sports. So long Charleston, we hope to see you next year!

 

We’re always amazed at the faith that is placed in our staff here at NSLM. Not only have hundreds of supporters trusted us to preserve their historical treasures, but they also come to us with questions and research projects on varying topics. Often, these queries are as educational to the Librarian as the researcher!

Sometimes, the questions go in the other direction. For example, the image below was found in a drawer in the Library’s Lower Level. There was only a name, no other information:

Nancy_Barbara_Johnson_Full
This photo’s caption only reads, “Nancy Barbara Johnson, Southern Pines, NC, 1943, with ‘Mighty’.”

Naturally, that wasn’t enough to satisfy curiosity. Searches of NSLM materials didn’t reveal very much. It was suspected that Johnson was Nancy’s maiden name, and that any other biographical information would likely refer to her by her married name. To get an answer, we turned to the Facebook group, “Equestrians from ‘Back in the Day,'” a collection of thousands of historical equestrian photo enthusiasts.

Our request for help wasn’t in vain. Within a half hour, many members of the group had pooled genealogical resources to find the connection: Nancy Barbara Johnson had married Gerald B. Webb in 1946. Once that had been established, we knew we could finish the story.

Gerald_Webb_Full
We are often reliant on outside help to identify photos that have no captions. This photo is only identified as Gerald Webb (left) and unknown man (right). There is no date associated with the photo.

We recognized the name Gerald Webb from an earlier reference question. Webb’s archive of photograph albums is housed here at NSLM.

Gerald B. Webb, Jr., was a longtime horseman and foxhunter, the son of Dr. Gerald B. Webb, a noted expert on tuberculosis. His mother, Varena Hayes Webb, was a descendant of Jefferson Davis. After graduating from the University of Virginia, Webb took a job as the managing editor of The Fauquier Democrat. He left that position to found The Middleburg Chronicle (today known as The Chronicle of the Horse and located here at NSLM’s campus) with fellow foxhunter Stacy Lloyd. Webb served as managing editor of the new publication.  First published on September 17, 1937, the new weekly briefly discussed local politics on the front page before devoting the following seven pages to equestrian news. The publication would eventually focus exclusively on equestrian sports and establish itself as a staple equestrian publication.

Gerald_Webb_3_Full
“Gerald Webb, 1938, at Morven Park” Photograph by Hayes, Alexandria, VA. In the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Archive, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Unfortunately, Webb would not enjoy the journal’s success for long. On April 19, 1947, Webb was killed while competing in the Fox Hunters Challenge Cup.  His horse crashed while attempting a jump and Webb’s spur caught in his leathers; he was dragged by the horse for half a mile. He never regained consciousness, and died later that evening at the Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. It was just over a year since the announcement of his wedding to Nancy Johnson.

Gerald_Webb_2_Full
“Fred Wallberg, Dot Smithwick, and Gerry Webb” Photograph by Thomas Neil Darling. In the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Archive, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Webb’s collection of photograph albums consist of 16 spiral-bound volumes containing photographs of equestrian events throughout the Middleburg area from 1935 to 1941. A few albums date beyond Webb’s death; we presume that the scrapbooks were continued by staff at The Chronicle of the Horse into the 1950s. Based on the help we received from Facebook, it’s clear the photo of Nancy Johnson belongs with the rest of this collection.

Do you know more about the people or places in some of these photographs? Let us know! You can comment here or contact us if you can fill in any blanks. You just might have the key to making sure the whole story is preserved.