While our manuscript by Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) comes out for every tour of the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, there are some equally fascinating pieces about our nation’s 26th president at the National Sporting Library & Museum. An intimate glimpse into Roosevelt’s private life can be found in the book Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, a 1946 publication of letters Roosevelt wrote to his son, Kermit Roosevelt (1889-1943), between 1902 and 1908.

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President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt seated on lawn, surrounded by their family, 1903. From left to right: Quentin, Theodore Sr., Theodore Jr., Archie, Alice, Kermit, Edith, and Ethel. From Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs division, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Theodore Roosevelt is widely credited as a founder of the modern environmental conservation movement. He and Kermit had a close relationship, most notably in their 1913-14 adventure exploring the “River of Doubt,” today named Rio Roosevelt. Kermit, newly engaged, put off his marriage to accompany his father at the request of his mother. Both Kermit and Teddy nearly died on the expedition.

Kermit was away at boarding school during many of the years chronicled in the letters.

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“Father and Mr. Burroughs galloping up on some elk — bulls and cows. The elk are tired and have begun to open their mouths and pant. You can tell Mr. Burroughs by the beard. There are a great many rocks on the ground. The pine tree is small and Scraggly.” Letter of April 16, 1903, from Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, 1946.

Letters chronicle family illnesses and general news, as well as Teddy’s adventures touring the United States as President. Teddy would note anything of interest in his letters, such as “To-day, by the way, as I rode along the beach I saw seals, cormorants, gulls and ducks, all astonishingly tame.” Roosevelt would almost always sign, “Your loving father, T. R.”

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Kermit Roosevelt and his dog, Jack, 1902. From Library of Congress’ Prints and Photographs division, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Quite a few of the letters belie Teddy’s sense of humor:

Oyster Bay, N. Y.
September 23, 1903

Blessed Kermit:
The house seems very empty without you and Ted; although I cannot conscientiously say that it is quiet — Archie and Quentin attend to that. Archie, bare-footed, bareheaded, and with his usual faded blue overalls much torn and patched, has just returned from a morning with his beloved Nick. Quentin has passed the morning in sports and pastimes with the long-suffering secret service men. Allan has been associating closely with Mother and me. Yesterday, Ethel went off riding with Loraine. She rode Wyoming, who is really turning out a very good family horse. This evening, I expect Grant La Farge and Owen Wister, who are coming to spend the night. Mother is as busy as possible putting up the house; Ethel and I insist that she now eyes us both with a purely professional gaze, and secretly wishes that she could wrap us up in a neatly pinned sheet with camphor balls inside. Good by, blessed fellow!

Your loving father,
T. R.

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“Today I took Rusty jumping.” Letter of June 12, 1904, from Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt, 1946.

Letters to Kermit by Theodore Roosevelt shows the sweet, funny, and affectionate relationship between the president and his second son. It can be accessed in the Main Reading Room during NSLM’s open hours.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head 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

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We just finished a shift of materials in the Library this week. Why is that such a big deal? Well, it means that the first leg of our collections maintenance project is drawing to a close.

From a practical point of view, the way our collections used to be organized created challenges to Library users and staff alike. Since Erica joined the NSLM staff last year, we have made tremendous headway to implementing full cataloging for our collections. That means you can find all of the 12,000 titles in the Main Reading Room on the Library’s catalog.

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A new call numbering system has been put in place at NSLM. As new signage is designed, the public is adopting individual stacks to commemorate friends or family. New signs will be ordered soon, and each will display the new system to help researchers find materials.

As we rearranged our books and made more efficient use of space, it became apparent that juggling gaps in the collection and keeping things tidy would be a challenge. The project produced more space, meaning sizable gaps.

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Olivia, our Library intern, was instrumental in helping us shift books. The massive gap was the product of three years of work on the project.
In addition to ease of access and improved findability, we saved enough space to bring the Library’s fiction collections back to the Main Reading Room. These collections had been stored on the Library’s Lower Level, which is restricted access.

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We finally have room for favorite fiction titles by Dick Francis, R. S. Surtees, Marguerite Henry, Paul Brown, and more in the Main Reading Room.
Lastly, the project creates a much more orderly space, with a cleaner feel. It will be easier to keep track of which books are being used or in need of repair. It will also be easier to read the shelves and keep them in order.

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A place for everything and everything in its place!
So what’s next? We’re currently working on cataloging our ephemera, photograph, and vertical file collections. Our Library volunteers Diane and Gale have been tremendously helpful to make progress there. We’re also preparing to begin a similar reprocessing project for our Rare Book Room collections. And after that, we’ll tackle our periodical backfile, much of which is completely uncataloged.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head 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

I recently spent some time in Berlin visiting several amazing museums. The collections in the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (State Museums of Berlin) are incredible – from major examples of ancient art to fabulous modern and contemporary pieces. During my travels, I encountered quite a few works that reminded me of Middleburg and the NSLM. Here are just a few:

The Old National Gallery in Berlin primarily features German artists – some familiar and some lesser known.

Wilhelm Trubner (German, 1851-1917), Equestrian Portrait of Ida Gorz, 1900/1902, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Old National Gallery), Acquired 1921

My poor quality photo doesn’t do this painting justice – it is quite a striking portrait.

Adolph Menzel (German, 1815-1905), Horse study, 1848, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Old National Gallery), Acquired 1906

 

Carl Steffeck (German, 1818-1890), Fox in its Burrow, 1842, oil on canvas, mounted on cardboard, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Old National Gallery), Purchase of Ernst Zaeslein, Grunewald, 1911

With the upcoming show The Horse in Ancient Greek Art on my mind, mythological horses keep popping up everywhere.

Hippocamp (half-horse, half-sea serpent creatures) details on the Friedrichstrausse bridge, over the Spree River, Berlin.

 

Attic (Athens), Greece, Votive Relief for a Chariot Victory, 400–390 BCE, marble, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Altes Museum), Acquired 1884. Caption reads: “The nude warrior wearing a helmet next to the bearded charioteer is about to jump off the speeding chariot to continue the race on foot.”

 

The German History Museum has a massive collection of almost 1 million objects, spanning the history of Germany from the Middle Ages to the late-20th century.

Gothic Field Armour, c. 1470, iron, German History Museum

 

This 15th century set of battle armor is made of iron. The caption explained that it was so heavy – for both horse and rider – that the knights and their steeds could only fight for a very short amount of time before being overcome by exhaustion. (At least this rider has his heels down).

Sidesaddle, c. 1700, leather, silk, velvet, German History Museum

This early-18th century ladies sidesaddle with velvet cushioning looked like it would be very comfortable.

Hare Hunting und Bird Hunting, 2nd half of the 18th century, oil on canvas, German History Museum

This pair of 18th century sporting scenes show hare hunting and bird hunting with hounds. I thought it was interesting that the hunter in the second scene is mounted on a paint (it almost looks like an appaloosa) horse. Hunting was a large part of social life for royal and noble families of German speaking territories throughout the 16th to 19th centuries. Coursing was adopted by German princes (from the French) around the end of the 17th century.

On a day trip to Hamburg, I discovered the Museum of Arts and Crafts. This fabulous suit is an “Original/Interpretation” piece in the exhibition Sports/No Sports, which explores the correlation between fashion and sportswear.

Foxhunting Ensemble, Museum of Arts and Crafts, Hamburg

The Museum of Fine Arts in Hamburg also has an impressive collection, including this Renoir (with it’s very Renoir-esque figures).

Pierre-Auguste Renoir (French, 1841-1919), Riding in the Bois de Boulogne, 1873, oil on canvas, Hamburger Kunsthalle, Acquired 1913

 

This is just a tiny selection of all the wonderful art there is to see in Germany. It was fun to explore new museums and collections and discover pieces that remind me of the art here at home.

A few weeks ago, I discovered that the National Museum of American History has a horse halter in its collection. The halter belonged to a horse named First Flight, and after browsing the catalog entry, I was stunned to discover how horses have helped save thousands of lives.

First Flight’s story is remarkable: he was bred to be a racehorse, but doesn’t appear to have ever raced (I couldn’t find him listed in any race records in the NSLM collection) and then went into service as a caisson horse in military funerals at Arlington National Ceremony. It appears that large crowds didn’t agree with him, and we was soon reassigned for being too skittish. In 1978, First Flight went to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland where he became a “living factory” to produce botulism antitoxin.

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The St. Andrew’s Society Pipes & Drums precedes the Mounted Army Color Guard from the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at NSLM’s 6th Annual Polo Classic in 2016. First Flight was a caisson horse before being transferred to Fort Detrick to serve as a “living factory” of antitoxin. Photo courtesy of Chris Weber Studios.

Botulism is one of the most potent natural toxins, produced by a variety of strains of botulinum bacteria. First Flight was infected with each strain in succession, and as his immune system produced antibodies, his blood could be harvested to produce an effective remedy to botulism. First Flight’s serum was stockpiled during the Gulf War to protect against biological attacks using botulinum. Between Fort Detrick and a long stay at the University of Minnesota, First Flight gave over 16,000 liters of blood for botulism antitoxin.

 

 

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Horses Used in Serum Production, Wellcome Library, Archives and Manuscripts SA/LIS/R.188, Photo Number L0051725.

 

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One of the first bottles (1895) of diphtheria antitoxin produced at the Hygienic Laboratory, which became the NIH in 1930. Diphtheria antitoxin, was produced by inoculating horses or goats with increasingly concentrated doses of diphtheria bacteria. Image accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

The practice of using horses to derive antitoxin serum dates back to the 19th Century, and has been used to combat rabies, tetanus, and diphtheria. The innovation of serum treatment by Emil Adolf von Behring in 1890 was a huge step toward curing diphtheria and thousands of lives were saved. Horses, due to their hardiness and size, were ideal candidates for serum production. Unfortunately, the new treatment brought its own dangers.

One of the early equine stars of diphtheria serum production was Jim, a former milk wagon horse who produced 30 quarts of antitoxin over his career. In 1901, he showed signs of tetanus and was put down, but mislabeled antitoxin and poor record-keeping allowed tainted serum to be distributed to children, resulting in 13 deaths. The tragedy was a major catalyst behind passage of the Biologics Control Act in 1902, the first broad U. S. regulation of pharmaceuticals. The precedent led to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration in 1906.

Production of antitoxin serum is more than a little unusual today. But it’s another fascinating way that horses have been instrumental to human progress over the years.


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