Nancy Barbara Johnson and Gerald B. Webb

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:

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.

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, 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.

“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.


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