We love our books, but sometimes things can go wrong. A sad reality about books is that they have limited strength. Spines crack, hinges weaken, leather and paper deteriorate. Here in the Library, we collect for use by our researchers. And each time a book is opened, it breaks down a little more. When we opened a box last year and found a bevy of distressed tomes, we knew we had to act.

img_6709
Can you believe how spineless some books are?

With the help of our members, we raised the funds to take the first set of broken books to the book doctor. I had a chance to visit Nancy Delaney of Delaney Book Restorations and look in on the progress of the restoration work.

The workshop. Nancy has restored antiquarian books by hand for years.
The workshop. Nancy has restored antiquarian books by hand for years.

 

The Lady's Equestrian Guide. This book is getting a complete re-binding, as the old cloth binding fell off entirely.
The Lady’s Equestrian Guide. This book is getting a complete re-binding, as the old cloth binding fell off entirely.

 

Our adopted books are currently being re-stitched, providing strength and stability before new covers are added.
Our adopted books are currently being re-stitched, providing strength and stability before new covers are added.

 

0224170923
Even the spineless can find redemption with a little help! A cloth liner is being added to restore the hinges before a new leather spine is added.

 

0224170923a
It’s not enough to add new leather. The strengthening extends into the boards to extend the life of the book.

 

0224170926a
“The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell,” a fore-edge book, is getting new leather today.

 

First, the replacement leather is cut.
First, the replacement leather is cut.

 

0224170926
And then it’s fitted to the book. Before the leather is attached, it will go through skiving to thin and trim the thickness of the leather.

 

The skiving process is necessary with leather to hide everything beneath the outer layer: leather show everything, and we don’t want the new spine to have bumps, creases or ripples.

We’re thrilled with the restoration work, and look forward to getting images of the fully restored volumes. And keep an eye out for our next round of book adoption opportunities this November!


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

Frequently, reference questions offer tantalizing tangents utterly unrelated to the original question.  I recently pulled a book called The Hare (1896), from the Fur and Feather series edited by Alfred E. T. Watson, for a visitor that was interested in information on coursing.   In addition to information about hare hunting, this book includes a section on Cookery.  Interesting and practical!

dscf4456
The Fur and Feather series edited by Alfred E. T. Watson (1895-1896)

In his introduction to the series Mr. Watson says, “Each volume of the present series will, therefore, be devoted to a bird or beast, and will be divided into three parts.  The Natural History of the variety will first be given ; it will then be considered from the point of view of sport ; and the writer of the third division will assume that the creature has been carried to the larder, and will proceed to discuss it gastronomically.” (The Hare, Preface page v.)

dscf4457
The Hare: Natural History by H. A. Macpherson ; Shooting by Gerald Lascelles ; Coursing by Charles Richardson ; Hunting by J. S. Gibbons and G. H. Longman ; Cookery by Kenney Herbert. c1896. The gift of Dr. Timothy Greenan.

Intrigued by the possibilities of 1896 cookery, I leafed through hare cookery only to stumble across this line, “The only meat I know which might be taken for hare is that of the porcupine, not only in flavour and closeness of grain, but also in appearance, ‘which the blacknesse thereof convinceth,’ for, contrary to the general impression, it is not white.  A young porcupine about half-grown is really a delicacy.” (p. 262).

porcupine
Porcupine.  Image via The Animal Rescue Site

Really?  Porcupine meat was so commonly consumed that it could be used as a reference to describe hare?  I suppose the porcupine, trundling along through the woods, would be a lot easier to catch than the speedy hare but even so it seems like the porcupine would be the exotic meal, not the hare.

On to the cookbooks for further research!  NSLM has quite a few modern day, game cookbooks which I perused looking for porcupine recipes.

dscf4458
Pennsylvania Game Cookbook edited by Bob Bell (1979) ; The Derrydale Game Cook Book by Louis Pullig De Gouy (c1934, 1950) ; Wild fare & wise words : recipes and writing from the great outdoors edited by Jim and Ann Casada (2005) ; The NAHC Wild Game Cookbook edited by Bill Miller et. al. (1991)

Next to the expected recipes for pheasant and venison, I did indeed find quite a few recipes for porcupine!  I also found preparations for a whole host of other critters that I didn’t realize people ate outside of survival situations.  Items on the menu include, crow, fox, groundhog, muskrat, opossum, and raccoon.  Recipes are generally preceded by tips on the appropriate dressing and handling of game.  This is especially critical to those of us who have only cooked with prepared, packaged meat from the grocery store.  The recipes themselves cover a wide range of preparations and, for the most part, sound pretty tasty.  It’s interesting to consider the culturally determined rules governing what is considered food and what isn’t.

Just as I was turning away from the cookbook shelf, I noticed a bright green cover and made the mistake of pulling it out for a look.  In my hands was, The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director by Richard Bradley, originally published in 1736.

dscf4459
The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director by Richard Bradley, c1736, 1980.

Of course I couldn’t resist checking out what cooks were up to in 1736.  On a positive note, they were very thrifty and what we would call “green.”  They used EVERYTHING.  However, here’s a short list of some less savory tidbits from back in the day:  Recipes for “Viper-Soup from Mr. Ganeau” (p. 149-150), for “Calf’s-Head Pie” (p. 158-159),  how “To Prepare the Caviar, or Spawn of the Sturgeon” (p. 23),  and “The Manner of Pickling and Drying of Sheeps Tongues, or Hogs Tongues, which they call Stags Tongues, from a celebrated practioner of forty years standing in London” (p. 27).

badger
Badger, a nice sweet meat! Image via The Animal Rescue Site

I also found out that, “The badger is one of the cleanest creatures, in its food, of any in the world, and one may suppose that the flesh of this creature is not unwholesome.  It eats like the finest pork, and is much sweeter than pork” (p. 145).

Ugh, maybe I’ll stick with the porcupine.

If you would like some fresh ideas on cooking game I’d be happy to show you our cookbooks any time.  They contain many ideas for preparing game fowl, as well as both large, and small game.  Alternatively, if you’d like to challenge Anthony Bourdain and his Parts Unknown show to a time traveling episode, I have a cookbook that’ll be just the thing!


SONY DSC

Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. 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 Erica by e-mail

Since 1939, the Piedmont Foxhounds have hosted the Piedmont Point-to-Point races in Upperville, Virginia. The most prestigious race of the meet is the Rokeby Challenge Bowl, which, for decades, has attracted top horses in training for major steeplechase races. From 1939 until his death in 1999, the race and trophy were sponsored by Mr. Paul Mellon, who was a member of Piedmont and an avid supporter of jump racing. The winner of the race received a small trophy to keep and their names were engraved on a large perpetual trophy which they could keep for one year. Those who won the race three times (not necessarily consecutively or with the same horse) retired the trophy and could take it home for keeps. The trophies provided by Mr. Mellon were exquisite examples of silver and were highly sought after prizes.

The Rokeby Bowl, Piedmont Point-to-Point trophy, c. 1720, sterling silver, on wood and silver base, 15 x 10 ⅞ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mary Gillian Fenwick, 2016

One of the original silver Rokeby Bowl trophies has been generously donated to the NSLM by Mary Gillian “Gill” Fenwick. Mrs. Fenwick retired the Rokeby Bowl after winning the race three consecutive years, in 1961, 1962, and 1963. She was just the third owner to retire the trophy (five more have done so since then). Her winners were piloted by the famous steeplechase jockey Crompton “Tommy” Smith, Jr., all three years. The horses were Bay Barrage (1961), General Tony (1962), and Fluctuate (1963).

fenwick-tommy-smith-on-fluctuate-1963
Tommy Smith aboard Fluctuate, in the 1963 Rokeby Bowl steeplechase. Tommy Smith (1937-2013) was a five-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner and became famous for winning the British Grand National race in 1965 with Jay Trump.  Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

All three were talented racers. After winning in 1961, Bay Barrage ran again in 1962 with Olympic equestrian Frank Chapot on board. He placed third against his stablemate General Tony. Past Maryland Hunt Cup winner Fluctuate, nicknamed “Chris,” won in 1963 when he was 16 years-young and was rewarded with well-earned retirement.

fenwick-tommy-smith-mrs-thomas-b-glascock-jr-gill-fenwick-1961
Gill Fenwick (right) and Tommy Smith (left) accepting the Rokeby Bowl trophies from Mrs. Thomas B. Glascock, Jr. (center) in 1961. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The original course was on Mellon’s Rokeby Farm property in Upperville. The race was 4 1/4 miles long, included 22 post and rail fences averaging 3’9″ high, and included two in-and-outs! In 1957, the point-to-point was relocated to the farms of Mrs. J. F. F. Stewart and Dr. and Mrs. A. C. Randolph along Route 50 in Upperville, now known as the Salem Farm course.

fenwick-frank-chapot-on-bay-barrage-1962
Frank Chapot (1932-2016) on Bay Barrage in the 1962 running of the Rokeby Bowl. Chapot, who just recently passed away in 2016, was an Olympic medalist, USET coach, and world-renowned trainer, who also occasionally rode in steeplechases. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The trophy itself has more stories to tell. The bowl is almost 300 years old, dating to the year 1720. The plain silver punch bowl is hand-engraved with an image of a horse and jockey and inscribed with the words “Silver Tail’d Betty” and “Banbury Town Plate 1720.”  Town Plates (flat race meetings) were held in towns all over England for centuries. Prior to the establishment of the Jockey Club in the early 1750’s, each meet featured its own set of rules. The town of Banbury is located in Oxfordshire, in Southern England.

SONY DSC
Detail of Rokeby Bowl trophy, with engraving of horse and jockey and “Silver Tail’d Bettey”

After Mr. Mellon acquired the bowl, he added a tiered wooden base with sterling silver bands and donated it to Piedmont for the race. The NSLM is grateful to Mrs. Fenwick for gifting this special piece of racing history to the collection. It has traveled a long way since it was first used as a race trophy in 18th century England, then awarded at steeplechase races in 20th century America, and now has a home on display at the NSLM.

The 76th running of the Piedmont Point-to-Point takes place Saturday, March 25th at the Salem Farm course in Upperville, Virginia. For a schedule of all the Spring Steeplechase races, visit the Virginia Steeplechase Association calendar.

While leafing through a copy of the June 3, 1905 edition of The Thoroughbred Record, I happened across a piece under the heading “Local Turf News,” that detailed the visit of John Porter to their editorial offices in Lexington, Kentucky.

Surely this didn’t mean the famous trainer of racehorses, John Porter (1838-1922), who trained horses for the likes of the Duke of Westminster and King George V? The first sentence describes the man who visited:

John Porter, jockey; 4 feet 1 inch in height; weight 98 1/2 pounds, was a caller at The Thoroughbred Record office on Thursday afternoon. There is nothing unusual about Porter’s being a jockey. His height and weight would indicate as much, but when one becomes aware that he is just about seventy-five years old — Porter says he is not quite sure as to his correct age, but “that’s how old white folks tells me I am” is the way he puts it — it dawns upon one that he must indeed be the oldest of all American jockeys now living.

It’s obvious this isn’t the British John Porter, but a man with no less remarkable experience with horses. Upon reading the small piece, I found myself drawn to the mysterious story of the unheralded African American jockey who was still riding at age 75.

The first thing to note is that it’s extremely difficult to find anything about John Porter. He is confirmed as an African American jockey residing in Lexington in the Directory of African Americans in Lexington, KY, 1893 by D. Y. Wilkinson. If he was indeed 75 in 1905, he would have been born in 1830. The article in The Thoroughbred Record says that

Porter was born at the Col. Innis place on the Maysville pike and has been a resident of Lexington all his life, and was exceedingly proud of his owners and trainers badge which gained him admittance to the recent spring meeting, which was by no means his first, and, it is hoped, will not be the last…

It’s likely that Porter was born a slave as were many jockeys of the period. The antebellum racing scene was run largely on the labors of talented African American trainers and jockeys. Porter worked with horses from an early age, exercising horses for John Cameron at the Kentucky Association Course.

kentuckyassociationracetrack-1920
Kentucky Association Racetrack, 1920, by Kraemer Art Company Postcard Proofs – Kentucky Historical Association. Via Wikipedia.

His first mount for a race was on a half-sister of Lexington named Maid of Orleans. It did not go well, at least not immediately. From The Thoroughbred Record:

[S]he jumped the fence, spilling Porter, who claims she ran away clean to the Dicks River cliffs before she was caught. She was eventually found and brought back, and gave Porter his first winning ride on the next day of the meeting.

Success brought opportunity and Porter landed at the stables of Dr. Elisha Warfield, who bred Lexington, then known as Darley. The complexities of the ownership and running of Lexington are their own story, but when ownership shifted and Darley was re-named Lexington, the jockey who rode the newly-christened horse to victory at the 1853 Phoenix Hotel Stakes was John Porter.

SONY DSC
Lexington, c. 1870, Edward Troye (American, 1808-1874) charcoal on paper, 26 x 18 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Ms. Elizabeth J. D. Jeffords, 2008.

In fact, it appears that Porter was the preferred jockey for Lexington again for his most famous match against Le Compte, but Porter, according to The Thoroughbred Record, was “with” a Mr. Viley who refused to allow Porter to travel to Louisiana to ride.

lexington_horse_mullen
Lexington in Stable, James Mullen – Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views of Kentucky, 1875. Via Wikipedia.

A facial infection caused Lexington to go blind, forcing his retirement in 1855, but was a leading sire 16 times before his death in 1875. Porter, however, went on to success as a jockey, and trainer.

I found another article in The Thoroughbred Record about John Porter, this time from September 7, 1918:

An unique figure at the Kentucky Association track is an exercising boy named Porter, grandson of the famous jockey, John Porter, who rode at Lexington in many races, including the Phoenix Hotel Stakes, and who had the mount on Ten Broek in the St. Ledger at Louisville when the noted record-holder finished second to King Alfonso in that classic.

Another John Porter, a grandson carrying forward the family tradition of working with horses. When giving tours at our Library, I often point out that the threads of history are extremely delicate. Although John Porter was considered famous in Kentucky horse circles in 1918, he is today very difficult to find in the pages of history.

The contributions of African American jockeys were so often unacknowledged in historical accounts, but they made huge contributions to their sport. Although the record-keeping is imperfect, we’re fortunate to have at least some resources that let us trace the events. Without them, I never would have heard about our John Porter, the man who once rode to victory aboard one of the greatest race horses in American history.


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