One of the great things about this job is how often interesting tidbits of information unexpectedly crop up during routine work with the collections.  In library circles this phenomenon is known as serendipitous discovery and usually refers to how books on a subject or related subjects are shelved together or nearby each other.  This allows the searcher that finds one book on their topic to “serendipitously” find additional useful resources.  “I didn’t know I needed it until I found it,” is the usual comment.  In similar fashion, during reference work I often find fascinating information only tangentially related to that I was originally seeking.  This occurred most recently last month, when a question about our Facebook post for National Horse Day led me to discover the colorful character, Henry Augustus Ward.

The Facebook post was about a fossilized prehistoric horse tooth in the collection and a reader asked how the NSLM had acquired it.  Unfortunately the Library doesn’t have any record of who donated the tooth and the only documentation accompanying it is a specimen tag stating it was Eohippus species, dated from the Eocene, and was found in the Willwood Formation in Worland, Wyoming.  The bottom edge of the tag listed the supplier as Ward’s Natural Science Establishment, Inc. in Rochester NY.  On a whim I checked to see if the company was still in existence.  It is, and today they specialize in supplying classroom materials for science education.  Ward’s Science, as it is called today, was founded in 1862 by Henry Augustus Ward — a man whose life of adventure and travel sounds more like fiction than fact.

Henry Augustus Ward. From Wikimedia Commons.

Ward was born in Rochester, New York in 1834.  At the age of twelve he ran away from home and made his way on foot and by lake steamer to visit his father who was working in Chicago.  It was the first of many adventurous trips.  He was interested in geology and attended several universities, including Harvard where he studied under Louis Agassiz.  At twenty he landed a job as a tutor for his friend Charles Wadsworth.  They attended Mines School in Paris.  The two of them traveled throughout Europe but eventually Wadsworth’s poor health sent them south to warmer climes.  They journeyed to Egypt where they ascended the Nile 1000 miles and then traveled overland from Alexandria to Jerusalem, including a stop to climb Mt. Siani.  Ward stayed on in Europe after the tutoring job ended and began financing his education through the buying and selling of specimens.  It is during this time that he hits on making a career out of building specimen collections for museums and universities. 

On his way back to Rochester from this first European trip, Henry ended up contracting a fever (or small pox depending on the source) and was marooned somewhere along the western coast of Africa by the ship captain for fear of contagion among the crew and other passengers.  He was cared for by the locals and eventually made it back to Rochester, where at 26 he married and was appointed a professor at the University of Rochester.  He reportedly brought home upwards of 40,000 specimens from Europe and his obsession with collecting continued to grow. 

Catalogue of mammals, birds, reptiles, and fishes (1877). From the special collections at University of Rochester, River Campus Libraries

Within two years he founded the Ward’s Natural Science Establishment and began to sell not only geologic collections, such as fossils and minerals, but also natural history collections featuring skeletons and taxidermy mounts.  Ward’s would prove essential to the foundation of many American museums, allowing their core collections to be assembled quickly.  The company was also instrumental in the development of the science of museum taxidermy.  Many of the taxidermists that would eventually serve in America’s finest natural history museums had their start working for Ward’s.

After five years Ward abandoned the teaching profession and continued his life of adventure.  He dabbled in gold mining for a time both in the American West and in the Carolinas.  He became friends with Buffalo Bill Cody and P.T. Barnum, mounting buffalo heads for the former and no less than Jumbo the Elephant for the latter. 

P.T. Barnum’s Jumbo. From Ward’s Science.

He continued to travel to all parts of the world in search of specimens.  In later life he was especially interested in meteorites and amassed an impressive collection of them.  Even in death Ward was singular.  In 1904 on the 4th of July he was hit and killed by a car in Buffalo, NY.  His was the first pedestrian fatality caused by an automobile in that city.  It was a hit and run, although the driver was found and charged with manslaughter. The Buffalo Commercial ran a lengthy article about the accident that may be read here.

Henry Ward with a meteorite. From Wikimedia Commons.

Although Henry Ward wasn’t stuffed and mounted like his specimens, his brain was given to the Wilder Brain Collection at Cornell University, for research on the “physical characteristics of a brilliant mind.”  Ward’s ashes are interred in Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester NY.  His grave is marked by a large jasper-flecked boulder that he brought back from Canada for the purpose. 

Ward’s grave in Mount Hope Cemetery. From Linda Hall Library.

It goes without saying that there is quite a bit more to learn about Henry August Ward than what I included in this short article.  I’d like to share my favorite description of him as well as some sources for further reading.

William T. Hornaday described Ward like this:

“His height is five feet eight, and at present his weight is 172 pounds.  If one could examine him analytically it would be found that internally he is composed of raw-hide, whale-bone and asbestos; for surely no ordinary human materials could for forty-five years so successfully withstand bad cooks, bad food and bad drinks that have necessarily been encountered by anyone who has, so recklessly of self, traveled all over creation.”— W. T. Hornaday, Biographic Memoirs of Deceased Fellows, Proceedings of the Rochester Academy of Science Vol. 5, pp. 241-251, May 1919. 

Resources for further investigation :


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

Books serve to preserve and transmit information both geographically and temporally but almost from the very beginning they have often also been objects d’art.  From the earliest illuminated manuscripts to today’s deluxe editions, scribes, printers, and bookbinders have enhanced the value of manuscripts and books by adding elaborate decoration to the information contained within them.

Manuscripts have decorative illuminations that range from simple enhanced capitals or rubrics, to intricate and colorful capitals, borders, and full illustrations.

A page from the Book of Kells (c. 800 AD) showing illuminated capitals. From Wikimedia Commons.

Decorations have been applied to every surface and aspect of the book. The endpapers have been colored, marbled, bordered with gilt tooling, and featured pictorial decorations. Special paperstock, color plates, and original illustrations often appear in modern limited editions. Some books have elaborate book clasps, slipcases, or clam shell boxes. The edges of the page block have been gilded, colored, marbled, and even enhanced with full paintings known as fore-edge paintings.

Fore-edge painting of a polo scene on Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott (1873). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The outside of the book has also been used for decoration.  Vellum, leather and cloth covers have been produced in many different colors. Sometimes covers feature designs made with inlaid elements, gilt tooling, or embossing.  Gilt lettering appears on the boards as well as the spine, as do pictorial decorations. To get a closer look at a wide variety of book bindings I highly recommend visiting the Folger Shakespeare Library’s special digital collection of bindings here.

The Library’s collection contains many examples of decorative bindings. Recently I was working with our rare books on dogs and hounds for another project and noticed a profusion of decorative covers that I’d like to share.  

Some of the designs, although detailed, are small, such as this fox terrier which appears in the bottom corner of the front cover of its book and is only about two inches across.

A History and Description, with Reminiscences, of the Fox Terrier by Rawdon B. Lee (1890). The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Many of the covers feature portraits such as these noble looking hounds…

Upper left: Dogs of the British Islands by J.H. Walsh (1878). The gift of Dorothy Wagstaff Ripley. Upper right: Scotch Deer-Hounds and their Masters by George Cupples (1894). The gift of Dr. Timothy Greenan. Lower left: Spaniels by H.W. Carlton (1931). The gift of Jacqueline B. Mars. Lower right: The Dog by William Youatt (1858).

Others depict full body images such as this training manual featuring what appears to be some sort of pointer, although one with an oddly shaped head.

Dog Breaking by W.N. Hutchinson (1848)

Some of the covers incorporate the title of the book into the decorative image.

Left: Training and Handling of the Dog by B. Waters (1894). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels. Right: The Spaniel and its Training by F.H.F. Mercer (1890).

I especially like the unusual cover for Dogs and Their Doings. This book is a collection of anecdotes describing the surprising and often heroic actions of specific dogs.

Dogs and Their Doings by Rev. F.O. Morris (1872). The gift of Mrs. Eva C. Stewart.

Although most of the images were gilt, which is eye-catching and would have been especially so when the volumes were new, there were a few decorated in either color images or black images

Left: British Dogs at Work by A. Croxton Smith (1906). The gift of Joseph B. Thomas IV. Right: Hunting Dogs by Oliver Hartley (1909).

If you’d like to explore books as objects d’art or to read about the history of bookbinding, you’re welcome to come browse the Main Reading Room.  If you’d like to get a look at some of our more elaborate bindings or editions, you’ll need to schedule a visit to the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.  Contact me for an appointment, I’d love to share some of our treasures with you.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

Many sportsmen have been inspired by country life to put brush to canvas.  So too have many whose talents have a more literary cast.  The canon of fiction, prose, verse, and song generated by the lovers of country sports and the lifestyle in which they are set fill many shelves at the NSLM.  The poems and songs of William H. Ogilvie are among them.

Will Ogilvie in 1901.  Kerry & Co. of Sydney, from the collection of The State Library of Queensland
Wikimedia Commons.

William, or more commonly Will, Ogilvie was born into a large family based in the Scottish border town of Kelso during the summer of 1869.  He was educated at Kelso High School before attending  Fettes College in Edinburgh where he was a good athlete, participating in rugby and running, and an excellent student, winning a prize for Latin verse.

At the age of twenty, Will emigrated to Australia.  He arrived with a letter of introduction to Robert Scott’s family which eventually landed him the first of a series of jobs at sheep stations.  Friends of the Scotts needed help on their ranch called Belalie located in New South Wales.  Here Will mastered the skills of drover, station hand, horseman, and horse breaker.  Here he also began to record his experiences in poems.  His love of the Australian bush country, horses, dogs, and fair ladies, forms the subject of his ballads.  He published most of his work in newspapers and periodicals and gradually became recognized as one of the great bush poets of Australia.

Will Ogilvie around 1937.  From
Wikimedia Commons.

After twelve years in Australia, Will returned to Scotland.  He would continue to create poems featuring horses, riding, and country life, throughout his long life.  Many of his works would be printed in magazines such as Punch and The Spectator in England, as well as The Bulletin in Australia.  In addition, there were numerous collections of his work published.  Below I’ve shared three of his poems.  I especially enjoy the nostalgic mood of “The Huntsman’s Horse.”

Illustration by Lionel Edwards from his Seen from the Saddle (1937).  The gift of A. Mackay-Smith.

The Huntsman’s Horse
by Will Ogilvie

The galloping seasons have slackened his pace,
And stone wall and timber have battered his knees
It is many a year since he gave up his place
To live out his life in comparative ease.

No more does he stand with his scarlet and white
Like a statue of marble girth deep in the gorse;
No more does he carry the Horn of Delight
That called us to follow the huntsman’s old horse.

How many will pass him and not understand,
As he trots down the road going cramped in his stride,
That he once set the pace to the best in the land
Ere they tightened his curb for a lady to ride!

When the music begins and a right one’s away,
When hoof-strokes are thudding like drums on the ground,
The old spirit wakes in the worn-looking grey
And the pride of his youth comes to life at a bound.

He leans on the bit and he lays to his speed,
To the winds of the open his stiffness he throws,
And if spirit were all he’d be up with the lead
Where the horse that supplants him so easily goes.

No double can daunt him, no ditch can deceive,
No bank can beguile him to set a foot wrong,
But the years that have passed him no power can retrieve —
To the swift is their swiftness, their strength to the strong!

To the best of us all comes a day and a day
When the pace of the leaders shall leave us forlorn,
So we’ll give him a cheer – the old galloping grey –
As he labours along to the lure of the Horn.

From Scattered Scarlet (1923).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Illustration by Lionel Edwards from his My Irish Sketch Book (1938).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The White Hound
by Will Ogilvie

The white hound runs at the head of the pack,
And mute as a mouse is he,
And never a note he flings us back
While the others voice their glee.
With nose to the ground he holds his line
Be it over the plough or grass;
He sets a pace for the twenty-nine
And won’t let one of them pass.

The white hound comes from a home in Wales,
Where they like them pale in hue
And can pick them up when the daylight fails
And the first gold stars look through.
They can see them running on dark hill-sides
If they speak to the scent or no,
And the snow-white hounds are welcome guides
Where the wild Welsh foxes go.

The white hound runs with our dappled pack
Far out behind him strung;
He shows the way to the tan-and-black
But he never throws his tongue.
At times he leads by a hundred yards,
But he’s always sure and sound;
All packs, of course, have their picture cards,
And ours is the old white hound.

The Master says he is far too fast
For our stout, determined strain,
And the huntsman curses him – ‘D—n and blast
He’s away by himself again!’
But the Field is glad when it sees him there,
For we know when a fox is found
The pace will be hot and the riding rare
In the track of the old white hound.

From The Collected Sporting Verse of Will H. Ogilvie (1932). The gift of Edmund S. Twining III.

Illustration by Lionel Edwards from A Handful of Leather (1928). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

A Wish
by Will Ogilvie

O, Fame is a fading story
And gold a glitter of lies,
But speed is an endless glory
And health is a lasting prize;
And the swing of a blood horse striding
On turf elastic and sound
Is joy secure and abiding
And kingship sceptered and crowned.

So give me the brave wind blowing,
The open fields and free,
The tide of the scarlet flowing,
And a good horse under me;
And give me that best of bounties:
A gleam of November sun,
The far-spread English counties,
And a stout red fox to run.

From A Handful of Leather (1928). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library holds many of Ogilvie’s books as well as those of numerous other sporting poets in our Main Reading Room.  Please consider dropping by and spending an afternoon exploring them!


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

This week as the nation recognizes and honors the service and sacrifices of the members of its armed forces we should also honor the many animals that have accompanied our soldiers into war. For as long as people have gone to war they have brought animals with them. Specially trained animals have filled the roles of transportation of both soldiers and equipment, communication, detection, fighter, sentry, mascots, and sadly sometimes as the carriers of explosives – becoming weapons themselves. The list of the types of animals that have filled these roles is long, and each used its special abilities and characteristics to help their human counterparts by doing something the humans couldn’t or by enhancing the skill or effectiveness of the people they worked alongside.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Blake Soller, a Military Working Dog (MWD) handler pets the head of his MWD Rico, at the War Dog Cemetery located on Naval Base Guam. From Wikimedia Commons.

They have lent us their strength, their speed, their agility, their sense of smell, their ability to intimidate and fight, and often their companionship. Some of these animals are familiar such as the horse, mule, and dog. Other animals that have served include, oxen, elephants, camels, birds, reindeer, dolphins, sea lions, pigs, and cats. The Library holds many books describing the roles and heroics of animals in war and I thought I’d share the story of a little mare from Korea that would eventually become a staff sergeant in the US Marine Corps.

A M-20 75 mm recoilless rifle being fired during the Korean War. Wikimedia Commons.

During the Korean War the Recoilless Rifle Platoon, Anti-Tank Company, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division put its large recoilless rifles to good use. Although they were highly effective, the guns were six feet long, weighed over 100 pounds, and fired shells weighing 24 pounds each, making them difficult to move and supply. The platoon leader, Lt. Eric Pedersen had the idea of getting a pack horse to assist his men. The idea was approved and he bought a small chestnut filly with $250 of his own money. The little horse was only 14 hands high and weighed about 900 pounds but she would prove to have a huge impact despite her small stature.

Reckless with her main caretaker, US Marine Sergeant Joseph Latham. Wikimedia Commons.

Once she arrived back at camp several marines, who were also experienced horsemen, were tasked with her training. PFC Monroe Coleman and Sgt. Joe Latham drew the duty. She was dubbed Reckless which was also a nickname for the recoilless gun that the platoon used. PFC Reckless’s “hoof-camp” training began the next morning. She learned to carry the gun and its heavy ammunition, became accustomed to the sounds of the firing of the gun, and learned to ride in a little trailer attached to a jeep.

Hoof-Camp training. From Reckless Pride of the Marines by Andrew Geer (1955). The gift of Mrs. Howard Linn.

She also mastered lying down when under fire, and running for cover to a bunker when “incoming” was yelled. Her training was so effective that she was able to make trips from the ammo supply up to the gun emplacements by herself after being shown the route only a few times. In addition to supplying the guns with ammunition, Reckless assisted with other tasks. She was especially useful stringing out telephone wire from spools carried on her pack. She was able to string more telephone line in a day than 10 men on foot. She also carried wounded soldiers from the front lines back to medical assistance.

Sergeant Reckless pictured with a reel of communication wire. Wikimedia Commons.

The highlight of Reckless’s military career would come in 1953 when she participated in the Battle for Outpost Vegas. During a single day of the battle Reckless traveled back and forth to the front lines 50 times. She traveled 35 miles, carrying nearly 9000 pounds of ammunition, and brought wounded marines back to the supply point. During the battle she was wounded twice, once in the flank and once above her eye, but she continued to make the trek back and forth to the front. Her efforts earned her a promotion to corporal.

Sergeant Reckless under fire during the Korean War. From Reckless Pride of the Marines by Andrew Geer (1955). The gift of Mrs. Howard Linn.

Reckless became a true member of her platoon and was able to wander about camp and into tents freely. She frequently insisted on being the center of attention, and must have had a bit of goat in her as she was known to eat anything and everything. She especially liked scrambled eggs and coffee, and would enjoy a beer with her compatriots. She also ate items such has her blanket, hats, and even poker chips!

Reckless hanging out with her platoon-mates. From Horse Stars Hall of Fame.

In April 1954, Reckless received a battlefield promotion to sergeant from Randolph Pate, the commander of the 1st Marine Division. Later that year she rotated out of Korea and made the journey to her new home at Camp Pendleton in California.  Here she received her final promotion to staff sergeant on August 31, 1959. The ceremony included a 19-gun salute and a 1,700-man parade of Marines from her unit. Her military decorations include, two Purple Hearts, the Dickin Medal, the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, the Navy Unit Commendation, the Marine Corps Good Conduct Medal, the Korean Service Medal, the Korean Presidential Unit Citation, the United Nations Korea Medal, and the French Fourragere.

Reckless’s life in retirement was good. Thanks to a pair of Saturday Evening Post articles she was well known before she arrived stateside and she made several public appearances. She was also the guest of honor at the Marine Birthday Ball where she is reported to have eaten both cake and the centerpieces. While at Camp Pendleton she was bred several times and had four foals. In 1957, 1959, and 1964 she had the colts Fearless, Dautnless, and Chesty. She also had a filly in 1965 or 1966 that died only a month after her birth and was never named.

Sampling the centerpieces. From The Camp Pendleton Historical Society.

Reckless died on May 13, 1968, while under sedation to treat injuries from a fall into barbed wire. She was reported to be either 19 or 20 years old. Her resolute determination under fire inspired the love and loyalty of those that knew her and many who had only heard of her. She has been memorialized in a sculpture by Jocelyn Russell at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, a similar sculpture by Russell at Camp Pendleton, and most recently at the Kentucky Horse Park which installed the same bronze sculpture by Russell.

Hundreds of veterans, servicemembers, and civilians gather to view the full-size bronze statue at the close of the dedication ceremony of Korean War Horse Veteran Staff Sgt. Reckless at the National Museum of the Marine Corps, Triangle, Va., July 26, 2013. SSgt Reckless is listed as a National hero and served as a Marine in Korea from 1952-1953. The Commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. James F. Amos, and Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps, Sgt. Maj. Micheal P. Barrett, were in attendance. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Kathy Reesey/Released) Unit: MCB Quantico Combat Camera. Wikimedia Commons.

If you are interested in learning more about Reckless or about other animals that have served in war, drop in to the Main Reading Room and I’d be happy to show you some of our books on the subject.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

Visitors to Middleburg earlier this month were met with an interesting sight.  On the afternoon of Sunday, October 6th the NSLM partnered with Emmanuel Episcopal Church to host an interfaith Blessing of the Animals event and the community turned out in force to participate. 

Pastor Gil Gibson, Reverend Gail Epes, Rabbi Rose Lyn Jacob, and Reverend Gene LeCouteur. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

Our front lawn was full of people who brought their animal friends to receive blessings offered by Episcopal priests The Reverends Gene LeCouteur and Gail Epes, Pastor Gil Gibson of Aldie Presbyterian Church, and Rabbi Rose Lyn Jacob of Culpeper. 

Horses waiting for their blessings. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

There was a festive feel to the day as people enjoyed mingling with other animal lovers and meeting their pets.  The clergy circulated through the crowd imparting blessings to many dogs, a cat or two, a rabbit, several horses and ponies, and even a parrot. 

Reverend Gene LeCouteur blessing a dog. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

In addition there were several community partners that had tables at the event.  Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, Middleburg Humane Foundation, War Horses at Rose Bower, and Potomac Cairn Terrier Rescue, all shared information about their programs with attendees.  The afternoon was a celebration of the animals in people’s lives and the joy that comes from those relationships.

Reverend Gail Epes blessing a dog. Photo by Lauren Kraut.

Interestingly none of this would have happened but for a rich Italian kid born more than 830 years ago.  Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, later known as Francesco, was born in Assisi, Italy at the end of 1181 or beginning of 1182.  He was the son of a wealthy silk merchant and by all accounts lived a privileged and carefree life, indulging in fine clothing and food, and spending his days listening to singers with his friends.  After a brief career as a soldier Francis began to turn away from his life of material wealth and focused on his religious life.  Eventually he would renounce his former life entirely and would go on to found the Franciscan Order. 

By Andrea Vanni – Web Gallery of Art: Image Info about artwork, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11140810

Among his key beliefs was that humans were but one among the creatures created by God.  He called all creatures his brothers and sisters and is said to have preached to the birds which flocked around him transfixed by his voice.  He believed that nature is an integrated system to which humans belong but also steward. 

Saint Francis of Assisi, as he is known today, is one of the most popular Christian saints.  He is the patron saint of animals and of ecology.  His feast day in the Christian calendar is October 4th. Blessing of the Animals services are typically held on the Sunday closest to that date in honor of Saint Francis.  If you missed the event on NSLM’s campus this year, mark you calendars for next year’s celebration and bring your favorite animal companion to the party.

*Fun fact: In 1220 Saint Francis is credited with creating the first nativity scene using real animals.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

For more than 250 years the name Tattersalls has been synonymous with the buying and selling of bloodstock. Over 13,000 horses are auctioned off annually in 32 sales held at Newmarket, Ascot, and Cheltenham in Britain, and at Fairyhouse in Ireland. Total sales have topped 300 million guineas in each of the last two years.

Entrance to Tattersalls. Photo by Claudia Pfeiffer

The young man that would found this famous firm was Richard Tattersall. Born in 1724 at Hurstwood, Richard showed an affinity for horses at an early age and spent most of his time in the family stables. At about ten he was sent to Burnley Grammar School where he studied Latin, Greek, math, and rhetoric under the guidance of Ellis Nutter. Here he also worked with a writing master and learned basic accounting.

Hurstwood. From Tattersalls: two hundred years of sporting history by Vincent Orchard (1954). The gift of Mrs. Walter D. Fletcher.

At 14, Richard secretly bought his first horse. In actuality an old cart horse, to him it was a treasure. He hid the horse in a vacant byre and sneaked out to care for it and ride it. It wasn’t long before his father spotted him and the secret was out. As a result of this shenanigan Richard was given a choice by his parents. He could either stay in school and seriously pursue a scholarship to Cambridge or he could become an apprentice wool stapler working with a friend of his father’s. In the end it was decided that he would stay in school until he was 16 at which point he would begin his apprenticeship.

Richard Tattersall. From Tattersalls: two hundred years of sporting history by Vincent Orchard (1954). The gift of Mrs. Walter D. Fletcher.

The apprenticeship did not last long as the wool trade, although lucrative, did not interest Richard. By 1745 he had gone south to London to make his fortune. There is some speculation that Richard was a Jacobite supporter and was sent to London by his father to keep him out of the fighting but biographers differ on whether he was actually a supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie or not. In either case Richard went to London and embarked on a career in the horse industry. His first position was with Beevor’s Horse Repository in St. Martin’s Lane, where he would rise to the position of head ostler. He was also always on the lookout for opportunities and wrote to his father about a lucrative trip to Scotland. He had heard of a Scottish nobleman that was selling his stud and Richard convinced a friend to go in with him to purchase it. He bought cheap and sold the stock for a healthy profit in York and London.

In 1753 Richard entered the service of Evelyn Pierrepoint, the 2nd Duke of Kingston, eventually rising to the position of Stud Manager. In this role he not only entered the world of bloodstock breeding but also that of the important and affluent individuals that were organizing and developing the horse racing industry of England. Three years later he married Catherine Somerville, a grand daughter of the 12th Earl of Somerville, and two years after that their only child was born, a son named Edmund. Over the next several years Richard continued to extend his network of friends and acquaintances in the world of horse racing. He developed a reputation for integrity, honesty, and business ability, and is quoted as saying “better to lose commission than a friend.”

Richard Tattersall (1724-95) with ‘Highflyer’ in the background by Beach, Thomas (1738-1806) Private Collection English, out of copyright

In 1766 he had amassed enough capital to enact his dream of building his own bloodstock auction. He entered into a 99 year lease with Lord Grosvenor for a parcel of land at Hyde Park Corner. It was on this tract of land that he would found the Tattersall’s firm. He began conservatively and adapted existing buildings into an office and horse boxes. Eventually he developed the site to include a house, an office, coach houses, kennels, stables, and exercise yards, covering 10 to 15 acres. In 1779 he outfitted two rooms for the use of members of the Jockey Club. These rooms quickly became an important gathering spot for the elite racing group.

Highflyer. From The story of Tattersalls by Peter Willett (1987). NSLM collection.

In addition to his success as a horse dealer, Richard Tattersall was also a successful owner and breeder of horses. In 1779 he bought Highflyer from Lord Bolingbroke for 2,500 pounds. In his three racing seasons, Highflyer was never defeated and pulled in a total of 9,336 pounds in stakes money. Richard retired the horse to the stud barn. At the time everyone was after stock bred by the great Eclipse. Tattersall’s solution was to get as many daughters of Eclipse as he could and breed them with Highflyer thus combining the bloodlines of the two great racers. In addition to Highflyer’s the stud fees, Richard also made money buying Eclipse mares and selling them in foal to Highflyer for top dollar amounts. He also added the best of Highflyer’s daughters to his stud and sold their produce for large profits. Highflyer was champion sire of winners 12 times and his progeny included Derby winners Noble, Sir Peter and Skyscraper, the Oaks winner Volante, and the St. Leger winners Omphale, Cowslip, Spadille and Young Flora. This great success allowed Richard to build a country house he called Highflyer Hall.

Highflyer Hall in the 1950s. From Tattersalls: two hundred years of sporting history by Vincent Orchard (1954). The gift of Mrs. Walter D. Fletcher.

By all accounts Richard Tattersall was excellent company and truly enjoyed hosting his friends. He began a tradition of Monday Dinners at the lavish dining room at his Hyde Park establishment. These dinners were long affairs and often didn’t wrap up until late in the evening. He frequently entertained at Highflyer Hall as well where his friends, including no less than the Prince of Wales, could count on his well stocked wine cellar and excellent conversation. His popularity was so widespread that he was said to be “free of the road, as no highwayman would molest him, and even a pickpocket returned his handkerchief, with compliments.”

On February 21, 1795 Richard Tattersall died after a short illness. He was 71. He left behind a reputation for kindness, honesty, integrity, and geniality. He also left the well established Tattersall’s firm which his son, Edmund, took over. Direct descendants of Richard would continue to guide the development and growth of Tattersall’s until the death of Sommerville Tattersall in 1942. The firm has continued to prosper and is now known as Tattersalls, no apostrophe.

I’ve only touched on the main points of Richard Tattersall’s life. He’s an interesting character particularly because he operated during a time when Thoroughbred racing was getting well organized in Britain. The history of his family and his company are very much tied up with the history of British horse racing. The Library holds several biographies on Tattersall’s the family and the firm if you’d like to get the full story. Or for a more concise version I can point you to chapters in a variety of books on the history of the British turf.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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.

One of the most significant collections held by the Library is the John H. Daniels Collection.  It comprises 5,000 volumes collected over thirty years by John Hancock “Jack” Daniels and was donated to the Library by him and his wife between 1995 and 1999.  The magnitude of the gift required more room for housing than that which was available in the Vine Hill house and spurred the construction of the Library’s current building, including its climate-controlled F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

books
Books in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The collection includes books, periodicals, manuscripts, and ephemera, and covers a variety of sporting topics including sporting art, horsemanship, foxhunting, equestrian sports, shooting, fly fishing, veterinary medicine, and more.  Anyone who has been on a tour of the Rare Book Room will be familiar with items from the Daniels collection such as the handwritten manuscript on fox hunting by Teddy Roosevelt or one of many books featuring a fore-edge painting.

John Daniels
John H. Daniels.

Daniels was a life-long sportsman himself.  He played polo and was MFH of the Camden Hunt in South Carolina.  He co-founded and served as Joint-MFH of the Long Lake Hounds in Minnesota, and the Old Stonington Hunt in Illinois. He also served on the boards of the Carolina and Colonial Cup Steeplechases, and the National Steeplechase Museum.  He was a member of the board of directors here at the National Sporting Library from 1987 to 2004.

JH Daniels with family Long Lake Hounds
John H. Daniels and family with the Long Lake Hounds.

By donating his impressive collection of sporting books to the NSLM, John Daniels preserved the books themselves and shared the knowledge contained within them.  He was adamant that his books should be used.  He envisioned scholars developing new research from and about these books and sharing it with the larger world.  In 2007 the NSLM realized that vision though the creation of a fellowship program named in his honor, The John H. Daniels Fellowship.  This September we will welcome our 80th Daniels Fellow.

The program is open to university faculty, graduate students, museum professionals, librarians, independent researchers, writers, and interested others.  Recipients of a Daniels Fellowship have come to the NSLM from across the country and around the world.  They are supported during their research through stipends, and out of town researchers are frequently housed in a cottage on the NSLM campus.  Research conducted through the program has resulted in the publication of books and articles, and scholars frequently share their research with the public through the NSLM’s lecture series.  Their research topics have been as varied as the Collection, including horsemanship and equestrian sport, art, fly fishing, shooting, and literature, just to name a few.

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Dr. David Gerleman, Professor at George Mason University and one of NSLM’s 2019 John H. Daniels Fellows discusses his research during a lecture in June 2019.

The application period for the 2020 John H. Daniels Fellowship program closes on August 15th.  I would like to encourage researchers whose projects touch on field sports or sporting art to look at our collections, and if they can identify useful resources, to apply for a John H. Daniels Fellowship.


SONY DSCErica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services 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