This week I’d like to highlight a section of the Library collection that really surprised me.  Recently, I’ve been working with the big game hunting books.  I’m not a hunter and I don’t come from a hunting family.  While I have no problem with the sport in general, the idea of trophy hunting is disagreeable to me.  As such I began work on the big game books with trepidation.  I expected to encounter long lists of trophies taken or photos of white men posing with their foot on the corpse of a lion or elephant.  While there is a fair bit of this sort of thing, there is also a great deal more to be discovered if one takes the time to read more closely.

The Dark Continent. Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

The books that caught my attention were originally published between 1850 and 1950 and are accounts of expeditions, not simply butcher’s bills of the local fauna.  First things first, these books can in no way be considered politically correct.  In addition to the sometimes graphic descriptions of hunting scenes, there are also some comments and attitudes about anyone non-white or non-Christian that many modern day readers would find objectionable.  However, if you try to view the writing through the lens of what was considered acceptable behavior in the late 19th or early 20th century, an extremely interesting account of travel and exploration emerges.

Dwarfed by the environment.  Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

In addition to being skilled hunters, these men, and sometimes women, were also geographers, naturalists, anthropologists, and writers.  They journeyed throughout Africa, India, Asia, and North America in a time when travel was still a challenge in and of itself.  And as they trekked, they analyzed and described the behavior of the local animals, sometimes collecting specimens for museums.  They recorded the topography of their routes, and they interacted with the indigenous populations.

Local shopping. P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Returning home, they published their experiences, recounting not only the hunting, but also the traveling, and their impressions of the lands and people that they encountered.  These accounts allowed the armchair adventurer of the time to experience exotic locales without risking the dangers of injury or disease, and they allow modern day readers to experience a world that in a very real sense no longer exists.

In Two Dianas in Alaska (1909), Agnes Herbert recounts her shooting trip to Alaska with her cousin Cecily.  The account begins with a description of their trip from New York City to Butte City, Montana.

Agnes Herbert in native parka.  Agnes Herbert, Two Dianas in Alaska (1909).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

While it is interesting to read about the traveling conditions in the United States at that time, what is even more entertaining is her charming and engaging tone.  It reads like a letter from a good friend, with comical remarks, and candid comments.

Edouard Foa. Edouard Foa, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.


Edouard Foa’s book, After Big Game in Central Africa (1899), describes his experiences during a three year expedition in Africa from 1894 to 1897.  In it he carefully describes the behavior of many African game animals and includes frank advice for operating in that environment.  For example, when encountering rainy conditions while hunting or marching in the bush, he removes his clothing, places it in a waterproof bag, and walks about in a loincloth, shoes, and hat.  “Not that I can say I have a very elegant appearance in this dress, but I have found it is the most practicable during the rainy season.  Immediately the rain stops the skin dries, and you have not the inconvenience of keeping on your wet clothes, which brings on fever and rheumatism” (p. 51).

P. H. G. Powell-Cotton.  P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902), by P. H. G. Powell-Cotton includes a wonderful appendix that meticulously lists the food, equipment, armaments and munitions, and personnel required for a successful journey.

Don’t forget the egg cup and dessert spoons!  P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902).  The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Although a prolific hunter, he also furnishes a great deal of information on the local culture, politics, and sites of interest.  The subtitle of his books says it all, “A Narrative of a Nine Months’ Journey from the Plains of the Hawash to the Snows of Simien, with a Description of the Game, from Elephant to Ibex, and Notes on the Manners and Customs of the Natives.”  Here he gives us a photo of the resting place of the true Arc of the Covenant.

P. H. G. Powell-Cotton, A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia (1902). The gift of John and Martha Daniels.

Many of the library’s big game volumes are reprints of much earlier works and include forewords that provide a useful historical and biographical context for the book.  By being mindful of this context, modern readers can still enjoy these intriguing books despite the fact that they have not aged particularly well.


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

Once upon a time, the tiny Virginia town of Middleburg experienced a golden age of enthusiasm for riding and equestrian sport. After The Great Hound Match of 1905 put Virginia on the map as prime foxhunting country, several hunts began operating in the region and the countryside transformed into an optimal landscape for riding.

“Children and Ponies,” Undated photograph by Dove Hayes. In the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Archive, National Sporting Library & Museum. Caption reads: “Left to Right: Polly Baldwin and ‘Merry’; Bobby Baldwin and ‘Star’; Barry Hamilton and ‘Jock’; Jimmy Hamilton and ‘Mountain Music’; Eve Prime and ‘Spoogie Woogie’; Christie Thompson and ‘Dummie.'”

Middleburg became a close-knit community in the heart of Hunt Country in the 1920s and 1930s. An excellent first-hand account of Middleburg in this era can be found in The Way It Was: Middleburg in the 1920s and 1930s by Catherine Hulbert Harts (a copy is in the NSLM collection). There really was no age barrier to participation in horse sports: children rode on ponies as soon as they were able to sit up in the saddle.

The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Christopher McClary, 2016. Foxhunting directories often included hunt diary sections for riders to record daily activities. This copy belonged to Jane Stevenson McClary, who was eleven years old in 1931.

A recent donation to the NSLM collection is a British-printed copy of The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. The entries were made by a young lady named Jane Walker Stevenson, who rode in and around Middleburg. Jane was eleven years old in 1931, and was quite the accomplished rider, foxhunting with the Orange County Hounds and riding with friends from Foxcroft School.

An afternoon of hide-and-seek, misadventures, and apples. In 1931, children played with their ponies in and around Middleburg.

Jane’s entries are both charming and opinionated. “Nancy and Barbara Iselin, Louise Dillworth came over on ponies,” she notes in her entry on Friday, March 6, 1931. “Played hide & seek on ponies. Barby fell off and I was going to lead Atoka over a jump and he pulled away from me twice. Jumped the four ft. post & sail. Atoka knocked the top rail off. Gave horses apples.”

The following day, Jane was out with Orange County, starting from the No. 18 School House in Marshall, and cutting across country to Rectortown, some five miles away.

“Number 18 School in Marshall,” 2011. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons. The Orange County meet began at this one-room school house, which still stands in Marshall, VA today.

“I was so mad at Nancy Smith,” writes Jane, “she said she was such a great rider and nonsence [sic] and she fell off on a chicken coop about 3 ft. My! She can boast.”

A “Collossal Run with Orange County,” March 7, 1931.

The episode didn’t ruin the day, though. “Lovely Mrs. Filly was out and she *is* lovely. GREAT Day and nice,” she writes.

An impressive roster! Jane lists all her hunting outings, and every horse she rode during the year. She terms it “a truly grand season.”

As for Jane Stevenson, her practice at writing evidently paid off. After attending The Hill School in Middleburg, she went on to marry Robinson McIlvane and write for The Washington Times-Herald and Fortune.

Jane grew up to be an accomplished journalist and author. Her book To Win the Hunt was illustrated by her husband, Nelson McClary.

After her first marriage ended in divorce, she returned to Middleburg, eventually marrying Nelson McClary and she rode again with the Orange County Hounds. She wrote regularly for Middleburg Life and published over a dozen books during her lifetime. After Nelson passed, his son Christopher donated the family’s books to NSLM. Jane’s childhood diary was included in the donation, and we’re pleased to preserve the stories she recorded from the days where children kept pace with some of the best riders in the country.

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

You may have seen the hashtag #5womenartists on your feed or in the news in the last few weeks. It has been shared broadly, but it was first begun by the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA) in honor of Women’s History Month last year. “Using the hashtag #5womenartists, the campaign will encourage NMWA’s online community to help address the gender imbalance in the presentation of art both in the United States and internationally,” notes the NMWA webpage. Here are five women artists that you can find at the National Sporting Library & Museum.

#1 – Jean Bowman was a leading 20th century, American equestrian portraitist and a founding member of the American Academy of Equine Art.

Jean Bowman, Mongo
Jean Eleanor Bowman (American, 1917-1994), Mongo on the Turf at Laurel Racetrack, Maryland with Charles Burr Up, 1964, oil on canvas, 29 x 36 inches, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars, 2012 © John H. Pentecost

The painful reality is that unlike institutions such as NMWA which focus on female artists, only 3-5% of museum permanent collection objects in the U.S. and Europe have been produced by women (NMWA’s Get the Facts). Depressing, right?

#2 – Susan Catherine Moore Waters was an early female artist who attained recognition during her lifetime for her animal paintings, exhibiting at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.

Susan Waters, Chickens & Raspberries
Susan Catherine Moore Waters (American, 1823-1900), Chickens and Raspberries, c.1880, oil on canvas, 24 x 16 ½ inches, Gift of The Phelan Collection, 2012

I was curious to see how the NSLM’s permanent collection would hold up to this statistic. 41 objects by females out of 962 paintings, works on paper, sculpture, prints, and trophies from 17th century to the present were recorded in the 2015 full inventory. This equals 4.3% females.

#3 – Tessa Pullan was commissioned by Paul Mellon to sculpt the three-quarter life-size bronze of his winning Thoroughbred Sea Hero, now installed in the NSLM’s boxwood garden.

Tessa Pullan, Sea Hero
Tessa Pullan, (British, b.1953) Sea Hero, bronze on slate stone base, 96 x 88 x 29 ¼ inches, Bequest of Paul Mellon, 1999, Acquired 2014 © Tessa Pullan

Looking at objects made from the 20th century to the present in isolation, however, reflects a stronger number of 27.5% women. This mirrors the rising number of female artists attaining success throughout the 20th century. Additionally, 31% of the original art that came to the NSLM since the Museum opened in 2011 was created by women artists.

#4 – Clarice Smith’s exhilarating three-dimensional exploration of a horse race brings an edgy and contemporary perspective to the traditional subject.

Clarice Smith, Gallop
Clarice Smith, (American, b.1933), Gallop, 2009, oil with gold and copper leaf on canvas, on 5-panel screen, 50 x 77 ½ inches, Gift of Clarice Smith, 2015 © Clarice Smith

In addition to the artists from the permanent collection highlighted in this post, I must add Marie-Rosalie “Rosa” Bonheur (French, 1822 – 1899) to my #5womenartists. She was an innovator in her time and stands as a beacon to 20th century women artists. Even though NSLM does not yet have a work by Bonheur in its permanent collection, you can currently see one of her paintings at the Museum on loan. She is on our wish list, as the collection continues to grow through generous donations and bequests.

#5 – French painter and sculptor Rosa Bonheur is one of the most revered artists of the 19th century. See her painting in The Chronicle of the Horse in Art exhibition on loan through March 19, 2017.

Marie-Rosalie (Rosa) Bonheur (French, 1822-1899), Highland Ponies, 1861, oil on canvas, 14 ¼ x 20 inches, Collection of Amy Chuckrow (on loan to The Chronicle of the Horse in Art exhibition through March 19, 2017)

We as keepers of history do not wish to revise the past, but we have our eyes open to the promise of the future. Today 51% of visual artists are women (NMWA’s Get the Facts).

What are your favorite #5womenartists? We would love to hear from you.

pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at


Jessica Callihan grew up fishing on her family’s dairy farm in Southern Michigan, an upbringing familiar to us here in Middleburg- pastoral landscapes, wildlife, and ‘one stoplight’ towns. But Jessica had her sights set high, and she worked hard towards becoming an Aviation Electrician with the United States Navy. That’s when fate intervened.

During a training exercise while on active duty, Jessica fell approximately 10 feet and sustained permanent nerve damage to her extremities. In between surgeries and being confined to a hospital, Jessica’s was given a set of pastels. Jessica began recreating fishing and pastoral works in earnest. Her first pastel pieces got her, well, “hooked.”

Jessica Callihan,  A Time For Reflections, pastel on panel 11 x 14 inches. Private Collection.

While exploring art as a way to relieve the pain and frustration of her arduous recovery, a group called Project Healing Waters found her and taught her how to tie flies, cast a rod, and fish with her disabilities.


“The program gave me so much more than the sport of fly fishing; it gave me a community that became extended family and ultimately gave me beauty back in life.” -Jessica Callihan

Determined to grow despite setbacks that would challenge even the most disciplined individuals, Jessica slowly transitioned from a participant to an Ambassador for Project Healing Waters, and at the same time she earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Maryville College in Tennessee.


Jessica Callihan, Sweet Dreams, oil on canvas, 9.75 x 18 inches

Recently, Jessica became a Founding Member of Able Women: a nonprofit dedicated to empowering women through the strength, courage, passion, and determination found through fly fishing and being outdoors. Her own story of how fly fishing saved her life inspires Jessica to teach others, especially disabled Veterans, women, and children, how to do the sport she loves. When she is not traveling, giving speeches, or teaching the art of fly fishing, she is in her art studio recreating memories of being on the water and the awe-inspiring places her life has led her.

Photo by Two Fisted Heart Productions

Jessica will be in Middleburg speaking at the National Sporting Library & Museum event, Hooked: Changing Tides, Enduring Bonds on March 18th, 2017. Join us to hear more about her incredible journey.