I find it hard to indefinitely ignore the things that catch my eye. Passing a shelf and seeing something day after day compels me to take a look, sooner or later. A pleasant-looking blue cloth binding had been beckoning to me from the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room for some weeks. Looking for something to blog about, I fished it out: A Leicestershire Sketch Book by Lionel Edwards.

edwards4
“A red ribbon in the tail denotes a kicker. Judging by the proportion of horses one sees so adorned, when one is going through a crowded gate, it is marvellous we come through alive.”

I’m a huge fan of Edwards’ work. He was a noteworthy sporting illustrator of the early 20th Century, and many of his sporting travels were memorialized in sketches compiled into published volumes.

edwards3
“All the same a voluntary is usually quite involuntary on our part. That depicted took place owing to my deciding to jump the fence, and the horse deciding to go through the gate. ‘In medio,’ etc. is not always a sound proverb!

Leicestershire is at the very heart of the English tradition of foxhunting. Reputedly the home to the first pack of foxhunting hounds. Edwards brings humor, realism, and thoughtful analysis to his sketch book.

edwards5
“The day after hunting I went back to sketch what I took to be the remains of [Thomas Boothby’s] kennels and yards, but there seems to be considerable doubt if what is left was not originally the walls of his kitchen garden, not the kennels.”
In sporting art, depictions of people, landscapes, and animals meet and combine. Edwards excels at sketch work that is both sharp and picturesque. My librarian side also appreciates that his art serves the communication of his own story.

edwards2
The Fernie Hunt. “[T]aken from the hillside below Carlton clump — in the distance Tur Langton Church.”
I’m glad I took the time to open this one! There are plenty more like it that I hope to browse soon.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

Advertisements

When somebody asks me a library question and the initial answer is “I don’t know,” I usually end up learning a whole lot about something. That was true a short time back when somebody contacted me about a horse named Argyle, and his connection to a Supreme Court Justice named Gabriel Duvall. All we knew was Argyle was foaled around 1830 at Duvall’s farm, Marietta.

Looking for broad background information on the horse, Google gave a clue in an entry of The American Turf Register and Sporting Magazine of July 1834:

argyle1

A good start. A useful tool is the All Breed Database, and some simple searching found Argyle’s listing.Argyle’s dam, Thistle, could trace a bloodline through Florizel back to the Godolphin Arabian and the Darley Arabian, two founding sires of the Thoroughbred breed. On his sire’s side, Argyle’s ancestry also goes back to the Godolphin Arabian.

cropped to image, frame obscured, recto
Daniel Quigley (Irish, 18th Century) The Godolphin Arabian, late 18th Century, oil on canvas, 38 x 48 inches, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection. On view at NSLM until March 26, 2017 in The Chronicle of the Horse in Art.

What made Argyle famous? A more comprehensive check of the Turf Register shows a slew of impressive victories in the American south in 1834 and 1835 (putting Argyle at about four years old). Here is one entry, from April 1835:

Charleston (S.C.) Races. The annual races over the Washington course, commenced on Monday Feb. 9 for the citizen’s purse, of $1000; three mile heats and resulted as follows:

Mr. Walden’s br. c. Argyle, four years old, by Monsieur Tonson, dam Thistle, by Oscar, 102 lbs. 1 1
Mr. Haun’s b. m. Rattlesnake, five years old, by Bertrand, dam Devil, by West Paragon, 109 lbs. 2 2
Mr. Montmollin’s br. m. Alborak, five years old, by Sumter, dam Mary Bedford, by imp. Bedford, 109 lbs. 3 3
Col. Fitzsimmons’ ch. f. Rushlight, four years old, by Sir Archy, dam by Pacolet, 99 lbs.

Time, 5 m. 46 s.–5 m. 51 s.


Fourth day,
four mile heats, purse $1000.

Mr. Walden’s br. c. Argyle, four years old, by Monsieur Tonson, dam Thistle, by Oscar, 102 lbs. 1 1
Col. Spann’s ch. h. Bertrand, Jr. aged, by Bertrand, dam Transport, by Virginius, 126 lbs. 2 2

Time, 8 m. 5 s.–8 m. 8 s.

Two wins, three days apart! Argyle tore through his southern competition (usually in the Carolinas and Georgia), and it appears to have ruffled a few feathers that a “northern” horse should dominate. But more on that presently. For now, the main concern was unraveling the mystery of ownership. In April 1834, P. M. Butler is listed as the owner of Argyle, before rotating to J. McLean, then George Walden. Oddly, in the same issue (April 1835) Walden is listed as the owner for the racing calendar, and P. M. Butler took out an ad responding for Argyle to a challenge by a horse named Shark, sired by American Eclipse.

apr1835
Fighting words! P. M. Butler’s advertisement, responding to a challenge of Argyle by Shark, referred to as a “water ‘varment’.” This is likely a less-than-tactful boast about defeating a horse named Rattlesnake at the Charleston Races.

Interesting to note that at this point Argyle was both racing and covering mares at stud for a subscription fee.

By November of 1835, Argyle was considered one of the best horses in the United States. An article appeared in the Turf Register praising Argyle, only to be forcefully contested the following month.

nov1835-a
Exultant praise for Argyle from a writer named “Observer.” November 1835 issue of the American Turf Register.
dec1835
A scathing rebuttal the following month. The writer “Truth” points out the perceived weakness in Argyle’s pedigree. Regardless of how well the horse has performed, we shouldn’t consider him a real Thoroughbred.

In the February 1836 issue, the question of ownership is given some shadowy clarity. Apparently both Col. J. H. Hammond and Walden co-owned Argyle, and they retained a one-third stake while bringing on board additional partners for the princely sum of $15,000. There is no further significant mention of him either in race results or articles until August 1836, when an article details an “unsuccessful race with Bascomb” and claims that Argyle has been withdrawn to parts unknown. From 1836 to 1838, Argyle was noted in five races, all in Virginia and Maryland. It appears Argyle retired from racing at eight years old in 1838.

Did Argyle return to Marietta after his racing career ended? We don’t know. But in looking at the history, you can see the contours of rivalry that match with the conflict that eventually tore apart the nation.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

The 62nd annual meet of the Virginia Fall Races was held at Glenwood Park, Middleburg, this past Saturday, October 8th. Last year’s race day was perfect, sunny weather, but this year featured lots of rain! That didn’t keep us from enjoying a great day of racing though.

mathewes-2016-fall-races_1
Rainy weather makes for muddy horses and jockeys at the Virginia Fall Races! (Photo by Perry Mathewes)

The Virginia Fall Races features the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in the morning, and nine races over the rolling turf course in the afternoon. Funds raised from the event benefit Inova Loudoun Hospital. The National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, held since 1955, is run in memory of Fall Races co-founder, Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., and long-time race supporter, Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr.

trophy-table
The trophies for the day were displayed on a table out of the rain under the announcer’s stand. The NSLM Cup trophy and this year’s keeper trophy bowl, are just left of center.

Saturday’s precipitation made the course footing soft, but it held up fairly well. And, luckily for us, the rain tapered off just in time for our race. This year’s NSLM Cup was won by the Irish-bred Two’s Company, owned by Bruton Street – US, trained by Jack Fisher, and piloted by jockey Sean McDermott. The 7 year-old bay gelding beat six other horses over the long 3 1/4 mile timber course. It was anyone’s race until the tightly packed group was well into their third and final lap of the course. McDermott took the lead with just two fences to go, and won by almost 7 lengths. In second place was the 2015 NSA Timber Horse Champion, Grinding Speed; third was Puller; and fourth was Canyon Road.

lees-2016-fall-races_2
Two’s Company and Sean McDermott ahead of Pured It and Gerard Galligan (Photo by Douglas Lees)

 

lees-2016-fall-races_1
Two’s Company and Sean McDermott in the blue and yellow silks of Bruton Street – US (Photo by Douglas Lees)

Two’s Company is having a successful season so far. With the NSLM Cup as his fourth win of the year, the horse is now ranked first in purse winnings for 2016. Bruton Street – US, Fisher, and McDermott are all ranked among the very top owners, trainers, and jockeys in timber racing. And McDermott has appeared in our NSLM Cup photos before – in 2015 he won aboard Straight To It, another horse trained by Jack Fisher.

2016-nslm-cup-winners-circle
NSLM Cup Winner’s Circle: (left to right) Jacqueline Ohrstrom, Melanie Mathewes (NSLM Executive Director), Juliana May (NSLM Cup Trophy Donor), Michael and Ann Hankin, Sheila Fisher, and jockey Sean McDermott.

A big thank you to those of you that came out to support the races despite the rainy weather!

Six of the horses from the NSLM Cup lineup (including Two’s Company) have been nominated to compete against each other again in the International Gold Cup on October 22, at Great Meadow in The Plains. Fingers crossed for nicer weather that day!

In between the World Wars, foxhunting enjoyed a renaissance of prosperity and popularity, both in England and the United States. A good deal of the literature of the time has a very British flavor, but sometimes books stand out as distinctly American. One is Let’s Ride to Hounds by “Anole Hunter” (pseudonym of Everett Lake Crawford, 1879-1960) and illustrated by Edward King.

ride1
Picturesque illustrations and practical advice.

The book falls into the familiar (and sometimes lampooned) genre of practical advice for entry-level enthusiasts of the sport. Hunter lays out his intent of writing to the concerns and issues surrounding American foxhunting during his time period (the book was published in 1929). The book was printed by The Derrydale Press, itself an enterprise dedicated to raising the profile and quality of American sporting literature.

The book contains good advice for participating in a growing sport, including basics of riding, finding a good horse, starting and developing a pack of hounds, and of course, hunting the fox. Hunter suggests eschewing pure Thoroughbreds for entry-level or casual hunters, as they are easier to manage.

ride3
Good form and bad form are depicted side by side for reference.

I find the emphasis on American hunting to be fascinating, especially unexpected turns in its history:

One of the best things for American Hunting was the World War. Packs were of course depleted, but it has brought about a comradeship between various parts of our land that was sorely lacking in foxhunters. The East was prone to think that they had a monopoly of foxhunting and did not feel that the cowboys from Cleveland, Lake Forest and points West belonged. A big change has come, and the East has been met on even terms too often by Western Foxhunters not to appreciate a fine sportsman when they see one.

ride2
Hunter covers schooling, the basics of riding, and the management of a pack of hounds through anecdotes and reflections tied to the state of foxhunting in the United States.

Hunter also relates a phenomenon that happened near us here in Virginia following World War II: the import of foxes to replenish a depleted population. Foxhunters have a vested interest in keeping foxes around: no fox, no sport. But the import of new foxes means that the familiar haunts and coverts have a tendency to change.

Masters import wild foxes and set them out. These new animals are not acquainted with the points of their neighbors, and they make new points for themselves.

Let’s Ride to Hounds is available for sale in our Annual Auction. The Annual Auction is our main Library fundraiser each year. You can read more about participation in the Annual Auction by viewing the catalog.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail