I’ve recently been cataloging some of our Cecil Aldin books and I’ve been enjoying his work so I’m sharing it, and some of what I’ve learned about him, here with you.  Cecil Aldin (1870-1935) was a successful and prolific artist.  He is probably best known for his dog portraits and sporting scenes, but his illustrations filled books, magazines, and newspapers, and frequently appeared on posters.

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Full Cry, from The Fallowfield Hunt.  From The Sporting Art of Cecil Aldin (1990) by Roy Heron.

Aldin believed that it was critical to work from life.  In much the same way that writers are told to write what they know, he drew and painted things that he knew well.  He was a life long hunter and followed fox hounds, harriers, beagles, and bassets during his sporting career.  In fact he attained the office of Master twice.  First as Master of the Peppard Farmers’ Harriers, and later as Master of Foxhounds for the South Berks Hunt.

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Aldin, third from the left, as Master of the Peppard Farmers’ Harriers.  From The Sporting Art of Cecil Aldin (1990) by Roy Heron.

His long and intimate knowledge of hunt riding gives his hunt scenes authenticity.  He frequently sketched in the saddle and was able to capture the idiosyncrasies of individual riders to such a degree that people who knew them were able to identify them in paintings.

After his death his daughter published one of his sketchbooks and it provides interesting insight to his artistic process.  I love how the setting is so concrete while the riders, horses, and hounds drift through the scene like ghosts.

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The Aterstone.  From Hunting Scenes (1936) by Cecil Aldin.  The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Compare this sketch of the South Berks near Shinfield with a final painting of a similar scene.

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South Berks near Shinfield.  From Hunting Scenes (1936) by Cecil Aldin.  The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.
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The South Berks.  From The Sporting Art of Cecil Aldin (1990) by Roy Heron.

Aldin was surrounded by dogs and hounds of all sorts his entire life.  Here are a couple pictures of his “models” in the studio.

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From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
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From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

This photo and the following etching of Micky the wolfhound once again show Aldin working from life.

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Micky napping in the studio.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
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Micky the wolfhound.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Aldin’s favorite model was the bull terrier, Cracker.

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Cracker on Sentry Duty.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Cracker outlived his master by over two years.  He was so popular with the public that his own eventual death received coverage on the radio and in the newspapers.  Several papers printed obituaries.

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Cracker’s obituaries.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Aldin’s life story is full of interesting episodes and people.  One story that really caught my eye has to do with the remount station that he ran during World War I.  Despite the doubts of the war office, he staffed his remount station entirely with women.

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A group of women remount workers at Purley Remount Depot.  From Cecil Aldin: the story of a sporting artist (1981) by Roy Heron.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

From his hunting experiences he knew many  women who were skilled horse handlers.  In the end there were over 100 women, from all social classes and of all ages, working in the remount station.  It was so successful that by the end of the war, women were employed in remount stations across England.

If you would like to read more about Cecil Aldin’s life, or to see some of his illustrations and paintings, stop by the Library and see me.  I’d love to share some more stories from his interesting life.


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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

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I recently ran across the book Brian Wildsmith’s Fishes in the Library’s collection.  It’s a small book that pairs colorful illustrations with whimsical collective nouns for groups of various sorts of fish.

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A Hover of Trout.  Brian Wildsmith’s Fishes (1968).  NSLM Main Reading Room.  The gift of George Chapman.
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A Cluster of Porcupine Fish.  Brian Wildsmith’s Fishes (1968).  NSLM Main Reading Room.  The gift of George Chapman.

Many collective nouns, such as flock of birds, school of fish, class of students, or pack of hounds, are authorized or accepted terms in English.  However, there is a seemingly limitless variety of group nouns being created by everyday English language speakers.  The generation of these terms is a word game that allows speakers to customize their language on the fly, displaying their cleverness and imagination.  Collective terms tend to focus on a characteristic or behavior of the thing being named.

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A Paddling of Ducks.  Image by R. G. Daniel.

For example, a paddling of ducks, or a murmuration of starlings.  A quick google search for collective nouns provides many examples of this dynamic language generation.

The writer of this blog details how attendees at a mathematics conference came up with group nouns for mathematicians.  My favorite was “A distribution of probabilists.”

Here is a list of group nouns for Pokemon.

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A Mischief of Pikachus.  Image from Zam.com

The website All-sorts.org leverages the power of Twitter to collect group nouns.  They recently held a contest in which participants submitted images illustrating their favorite collective noun.  Here is “An Orchard of Macs” by Chris Dobson…

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An Orchard of Macs.  Illustration by Chris Dobson.

and “A Tangle of Octupuses” by Rachel Wilson.

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A Tangle of Octopuses.  Illustration by Rachel Wilson

Even Downton Abbey gets in on the fun in season four.  While watching several men who are contending for Lady Mary’s attention depart, Rose asks, “What’s a group noun for suitors?”  Cora replies, “What do you think? A desire?”  Rosamund responds, “A desire of suitors. Very good.”

While we are all familiar with these fun terms, I’ll bet you didn’t know that the tradition of generating clever or whimsical group nouns goes back at least to the late 1400’s.  The Boke of St. Albans (1486) is a manual on hunting, hawking, and heraldry for the education of gentlemen.  This education includes the correct terms for groups of animals.  Knowing the jargon is a critical indication of membership in any group and aristocrats are no exception.  The list, Companys of Beestys and Fowlys, provides the appropriate terminology for discussing groups of animals in a hunting setting.

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The Boke of St. Albans (1881) in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room at the NSLM.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Interestingly it also includes quite a few humorous terms for groups of people and professions.  Demonstrating that people at that time enjoyed clever or especially apt terms just as we do today.  And perhaps suggesting to gentleman that displaying their wit and humor by creating such a term is acceptable behavior.

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The Gentleman’s Recreation by Nicholas Cox (1674) in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room at the NSLM.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Later books of courtesy reprinted many of these terms and expanded on them.  The Gentleman’s Recreation (1674) and The Complete Sportsman (1775) are two other examples that the Library holds in addition to later editions of The Boke of St. Albans.

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The Complete Sportsman by Thomas Fairfax (1775) in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room at the NSLM.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

In his article, Proper Terms: An attempt at a rational explanation of the meanings of the Collection of Phrases in “The Book of St Albans,” 1486, entitled “The Compaynys of beestys and fowlys” and similar lists, for The Philological Society in 1914, John Hodgkin collects lists of these collective nouns found in early manuscripts and books and analyzes their generation and historical development.  The collection of lists is worth a look, not least for the ease of reading them compared to reading the historical fonts found in the original books.  Hodgkin argues that many of these words were never used in actual conversation and that some of them were not even meant as collective nouns at all.  He goes on to give the likely origins of each of these terms, many of which are confusing to modern readers, but reveal the same sense of humor and whimsy as our modern-made terms once they are explained.

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Tapster. Image from OpenClipArt.org

For example the collective term for tapsters or wine drawers is listed as, “A Promise of Tapsters.”  “Refers to the usual habit of tapsters or wine drawers, who say that they “are coming now, sir” when they have every intention of attending to about a dozen other thirsty souls first” (p. 163).

What are some of your favorite collective nouns?  Let me know in the comments section.


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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

Phar Lap is Dead!  The terrible headline traveled around the globe and plunged Australia into mourning.  Why was this headline news?  Who was Phar Lap and why were Australians heartbroken by his death?  Phar Lap was a thoroughbred race horse with an incredible story.  It is the story of an inauspicious beginning, a triumphant rise to fame, and a tragic and mysterious death.

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Phar Lap.  From The Age

The horse that would be named Phar Lap was born in New Zealand, by Night Raid, out of Entreaty.  At the yearling auction at Trentham the chestnut colt was lot 41, the last one of the day.  He was large and clumsy, but based on his pedigree alone, Australian trainer Harry Telford wanted him.  Telford had convinced American David J. Davis to buy the colt sight unseen.  Telford’s brother placed the winning bid, 160 guineas.  A better bargain has never been had on a race horse but that fact would not be revealed for some time yet.

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Harry Telford.  From Museum Victoria

Phar Lap was shipped to Australia to embark on his training and eventual racing career.  When he arrived he was skinny, had developed boils on his face, and was so gangly and clumsy that Davis flat out refused to pay to train him.  Telford couldn’t afford to buy the horse from Davis, however they came to a lease arrangement where Telford would feed and train the horse for three years in exchange for two thirds of its winnings.  Initial training efforts were not very successful and Telford decided to have Phar Lap gelded and turned out for a while to mature.

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David J. Davis.  From Museum Victoria

As a two year old, his training got underway in earnest.  The regimen included grueling workouts where Phar Lap carried heavy weights up and down the coastal dunes.  It was in Telford’s stables that Phar Lap would meet and bond with the young strapper Tom Woodcock.  Tom fed and cared for the horse, and spent more time with him than any other human being.  The two developed a deep friendship and Tom was rarely more than a dozen yards away from Phar Lap for the rest of the horse’s life.

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Tom Woodcock and Phar Lap.  From Phar Lap, the story of the Big Horse, by I. R. Carter (1965).  NSLM. The gift of Alexander Mackay-Smith.

Phar Lap’s racing record is 51 starts for 37 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds, including a streak of 14 consecutive wins between September 1930 and March 1931.  The highlight of this series was an impressive three length win at the Melbourne Cup while carrying the high weight of 138 pounds.  

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Phar Lap wins the 1930 Melbourne Cup by three full lengths, finishing with a time of 3 minutes and 27 seconds.  IMAGE CREDIT: National Library of Australia / Wikimedia Commons

He frequently won by several lengths and preferred to give ground early in a race and then run down the horses ahead of him.  He also frequently carried heavy weight handicaps, although that didn’t seem to bother him except for the 1931 Melbourne Cup race in which he failed to place while carrying 150 pounds, 52 more than the winner of the race.  He had incredible stamina and often raced a grueling schedule.  In one week in 1930 Phar Lap not only won four races in seven days, including the Melbourne Cup, but also survived an assassination attempt.  Someone shot at him from a car on Saturday morning, he raced and won the same day, won the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, and two other races on Thursday and Saturday.

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Phar Lap with jockey Jim Pike riding at Flemington race track c 1930
Charles Daniel Pratt, 1893-1968 – Held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria

The public fell in love with Phar Lap.  The 1930s were difficult depression years in Australia and the people latched onto the horse’s rise from obscurity to complete domination of the racing world.  He was an underdog who succeeded through hard work and heart, overcoming obstacles such as heavy weight handicaps and even an assassination attempt, in his unstoppable rise to the pinnacle of Australian racing.  They saw in him traits that they valued as a nation, and they thrilled to see him win.

Having met every challenge available in Australia, Telford and Davis set their sights on conquering American racing.  It was decided that Phar Lap would make the long voyage across the Pacific and arrive in time to participate in the Agua Caliente Handicap on Sunday, March 20, 1932.

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Phar Lap being loaded onto the ship.  Taken from The Age

He arrived safely on January 15 to great fanfare and spent the next two months getting acclimated.  On the day of the race Phar Lap didn’t disappoint.  In front of a racecourse packed with 20,000 spectators, he let the pack lead him and then ran them all down effortlessly, winning by two lengths.  He broke the track record for the distance while he was at it.  Watch Phar Lap winning the Agua Caliente Handicap here.  Phar Lap was in peak condition and poised to take the American racing circuit by storm.  Sixteen days later he was dead.

After the Agua Caliente race, Phar Lap was taken to a breeding farm belonging to Edward D. Perry, near Menlo Park, California.  Here he was resting and training as plans were made for his tour of the United States.  On the morning of Tuesday, April 5th, Tom Woodcock found Phar Lap in obvious distress.  The vet that accompanied the party from Australia was summoned.  Initially they thought he was suffering from a colic attack but as his condition rapidly worsened, they began to suspect poisoning.  Despite their best efforts Phar Lap hemorrhaged and died shortly after noon.  By 3:30 the news was out.  Expressions of shock, disbelief, sadness, and condolence poured in from around the world.  How could this have happened?  As it turns out, this question still has not been definitively answered even 85 years later.

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Suspicions that Phar Lap had been poisoned surfaced quickly in the press.
Source: Museum Victoria

The initial autopsy noted that the stomach and intestines were severely inflamed and the lining of the stomach was badly perforated.  The speed of death was much faster than one would expect from colic and almost immediately rumors of intentional poisoning began to spread.  Multiple agencies and individuals investigated, often reporting contradictory information and results.  The possibilities are wide ranging.  He may have been poisoned, either intentionally or accidentally.  It’s possible that someone wanted to kill Phar Lap, after all he had already been the object of one assassination attempt.  Accidental poisoning may have resulted from eating forage that was tainted with insecticide, or through arsenic contained in a tonic.  He may have developed severe bloat, or intestinal tympany, from eating wet alfalfa.  Others have suggested colic or colitis x.  At a minimum one can say that the case continues to hold the public’s interest.  Every few years a new article is published claiming to have definitively solved the mystery.  The truth may never be known.

Amazingly, his death is not the end of Phar Lap’s story. Almost immediately his heart was preserved and given to The Institute of Anatomy in Canberra, where it was exhibited next to the heart of an army remount horse.  Phar Lap’s 14 pound heart dwarfed that of the remount which weighed only 6 pounds.  It can now be seen at the National Museum of Australia.

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Phar Lap’s heart.  From the National Museum of Australia

His skeleton went to The Dominion Museum in Wellington, New Zealand (now called The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa).  For five years it was stored in boxes in the basement due to lack of funds to articulate and display it.  When a subscription list was opened in the Referee, the money was easily raised in just two weeks.  Phar Lap’s bones were assembled and his skeleton was put on display in 1938.

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From The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

His mounted hide is in The National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne.  It is a masterpiece of taxidermy and was completed by Louis, Leslie and John Jonas of Yonkers, New York.  Although they had never before prepared a horse, their outstanding workmanship on wild animal exhibits was well known in museums.  The exhibit opened in 1933 and remains one of the museum’s most popular.  Through these exhibits Phar Lap’s amazing story survives and continues to inspire those that hear it.

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Equus caballus, taxidermied mount of the racehorse Phar Lap. Registration no. C 10726.  Photographer: Benjamin Healley  Source: Museums Victoria
Copyright Museums Victoria / CC BY (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International)

The Library holds many biographies of famous horses. If you’d like to learn more about the lives, adventures and accomplishments of these fascinating animals, including Phar Lap, stop by the Main Reading room.


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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

This weekend I’ll be going to the Virginia Foxhound Show.  It will be my first time at a hound show and although I’ll be going with someone knowledgeable, I’ve been doing a little homework and thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned thus far.

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The Virginia Foxhound Club Hound Show at Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott’s “Montpelier,” Orange , Virginia, 1959, by Jean Bowman. National Sporting Library and Museum, Archive Collection (MC0040).

The developmental history of foxhound breeds can and has filled volumes.  The English foxhound was developed through the cross breeding of several varieties of hounds used to hunt hare and stag.  The goal was to create a pack hound with nose and stamina enough to hunt the red fox across long distances, with mounted hunters following behind.  As the story goes, the American foxhound’s development began with a pack of hounds imported to the colonies by Robert Brooke in 1650. Over the next 200 years additional imports of English, French, and Irish hounds were crossbred with the American hounds ultimately resulting in the modern American foxhound.

Although both the English and American foxhounds were developed to hunt fox, breeders select for traits most beneficial in their local terrain.  This divergent selection has resulted in hounds with distinctly different physical characteristics.  The best summation of this difference that I found is that, American foxhounds are the Thoroughbred of foxhounds, while the English are Percherons.

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Example of an American Foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

American foxhounds should have a slightly domed skull, long, large ears, large eyes, straight muzzle, well laid-back shoulders, a moderately long back, fox-like feet, and a slightly curved tail.

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Example of an English foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1973 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

By comparison, the English foxhound is a bit shorter and more heavily built.  They have a wider skull and long muzzle.  Their ears are noticeably shorter and higher set than the American hounds, and their legs are muscular and straight-boned, with rounded, almost cat-like paws.

While hound shows can be interesting to the layperson, and are certainly social events for the groups involved, their main purpose is to further refine the development of the breeds.  It is an opportunity for breeders to see what others have accomplished, and to display their own successes.  Bloodlines with favorable traits are identified and plans are made to add them to breeding programs.

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Program for the first Virginia Foxhound Show, 1934.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0071)

The first Virginia Foxhound Show was associated with the American Foxhound Club and was held in 1934 at the Montpelier estate of Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott.  The meet was suspended during WWII and did not resume until 1955 at which time it was run by the newly formed Virginia Foxhound Club.   The show continued at Montpelier until 1961 when it was moved to the Upperville Horse Show grounds.  In 1965 it was relocated for several years to William W. Brainard, Jr.’s  estate, Glenara, near Marshall.  Finally it settled at Oatlands in 1970 and remained there until 1996 when it moved to its current location at Morven Park.

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This emblem decorates the silver cups presented as trophies in The Virginia Hound Show.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0040)

Although the show originally focused only on American Foxhounds, in the late 1960s it began to open up and now features American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel Foxhounds.  Today the Virginia Foxhound Show is the largest sanctioned hound show in the world.

Here’s what I’ve been told to expect at the show.  All handlers wear long white coats.  Those showing English hounds, sport bowler hats, while all others use riding helmets.  English hounds are shown off leash, showcasing natural movement.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are contests for the best of both sexes of, individual hounds, couples of hounds, and parent/offspring, within each class, American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel.  The hounds are judged for conformation to an ideal breed standard.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1969 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)
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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1972 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are also pack classes of five couple of hounds.  These are judged as a unit on uniformity, conformation, and way of moving; on the obedience of hounds to huntsman; and on the responsiveness of hounds to huntsman.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

The Junior Handler Class is open to children associated with exhibiting packs.  There are two divisions, aged under 10, and aged 11-16.  Participants are judged on handling and presentation of the foxhound.  This promises to be quite cute as the children sport the same white coats and hats as adult handlers.  I’m looking forward to seeing all the hounds in person!

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

If you would like to learn more about foxhounds, hunts, or sporting dogs in general, the Library has many resources available.  There are extensive archival materials on various hunts, their hound pedigrees, journals of kennel activities, hound shows, and hunt diaries.  The Main Reading Room houses books on a wide range of breeds and strains.  You can also learn about training sporting dogs, kennel construction, or the medical care of these canine athletes.  Readers can catch up on current events in the hound community through Hounds magazine, also available in the Main Reading Room.  Come visit me in the Library and I’d be happy to connect you with any of these resources.


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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

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Great Sporting Posters of the Golden Age, Sid Latham (1978)

In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s manufacturers of guns, munitions, and to a lesser extent fishing tackle, promoted their products with large colorful posters and calendars, featuring artwork commissioned from some of the finest illustrators of the era. I was recently introduced to this art form through Sid Latham’s book, Great Sporting Posters of the Golden Age (1978). This oversize volume, found in the Library’s Main Reading Room, showcases two dozen advertising posters.

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Brant by Lynn Bogue Hunt (1909), for Du Pont Powder Company.

Right away one notices the lack of product information on these posters. There are company names, and tag lines, but beyond that there are only the images. Rather than directly peddling their products, these companies seek to evoke the memories and feelings of a viewer’s own experience in the field, and to associate their products with those experiences.

Here we see the thrill of the chase.  The image on the left was created for The Horton Manufacturing Company by Philip R. Goodwin (1917).  The lake scene on the right is by an unknown artist and was created for The Laflin & Rand Powder Company (1904 or 1905).  Quite a few of the posters in Latham’s book are by uncredited artists.  He tells us that some artists would not sign their commercial work in order to maintain their reputations as fine artists.  Apparently advertising work was considered undignified by some.

The next two posters highlight the beauty of the quarry.  The pair of grouse on the left are by Edward Knoebel (1909) for The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  On the right, Gustave Muss-Arnolt places the viewer in the sky with a squadron of mallard ducks.  This poster was created for The Peters Cartridge Company.

Some posters, like this one by Carl Rungius for the Savage Arms Company (1904), showcase the moment of victory.

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This scene showing an unexpected occurrence sure to become an oft-told tale was done by an unknown artist for The Laflin & Rand Powder Company (1906).

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Both of the posters below are by unnamed artists.  They highlight a hunter’s working relationship and companionship with his dogs.  The setters on the left were painted for The Winchester Repeating Arms Company.  The hunter resting with his canine companions was created for Lefever Arms Company.

And of course, you can’t go wrong with puppies!  These adorable chaps were painted for The Union Metallic Cartridge Company by an unknown artist (1904).

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One of the reasons I think these illustrations are so evocative is that many of the artists were sporting men themselves. They spent time in the field and as a result their images have an authentic feel. In The Art of American Arms Makers (2004), we can see Philip R. Goodwin’s, Off for the Day’s Hunt, first as a preliminary water color sketch, next as the completed oil painting, and finally as a calendar for Winchester Guns and Cartridges.  Goodwin hunted in Montana in 1907 and 1910.  It’s likely that this scene is drawn from his experiences on those trips.

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Off for the Day’s Hunt by Philip R. Goodwin (1915).  In The Art of American Arms Makers, Richard C. Rattenbury (2004).  The gift of David S. Nelson.

Once the readership of sporting magazines ballooned manufacturers began to reach out to their potential customers through that venue.  There was no longer a need for the posters.  Today they are quite collectible, and of course they remain as evocative as ever.  In fact an added layer of nostalgia increases their beauty.

Beyond creating commercial posters, these artists illustrated books, painted, and sculpted.  The Library’s collections contain many examples of their work, as well as books about their careers.  The museum also holds examples of fine art created by some of the same artists.

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Matchless, by Gustave Muss-Arnolt (1885).  The gift of Harry T. Peters, Jr.

Drop in and read about Lynn Bogue Hunt’s, or Carl Rungius’ life in The Main Reading Room, or view a set of hound portraits painted by Gustave Muss-Arnolt in the Museum’s permanent collection.


SONY DSCErica 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

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.


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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

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!

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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.)

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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!


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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