Earlier this year I wrote about a few of our many Presidential horsemen.  As a group, the Presidents have nearly all been involved in some sort of sporting activity.  Holders of our highest office have been swimmers, golfers, runners, bicyclists, hunters, card players, sailors, and basketball players.  As young men, quite a few played football or baseball; and along with tens of millions of their fellow Americans, many Presidents have enjoyed angling.

George Washington’s diaries have numerous entries describing days spent fishing.  During the Constitutional Convention in 1787 he went fishing between sessions no less than three times.

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George Washington.  From Wikimeida Commons.

Before becoming President, Chester A. Arthur once held the record for an Atlantic Salmon of fifty-one pounds on the Cascapedia River in Quebec.

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Chester A. Arthur (1830-1886) Twenty-first President (1881-1885), in his late twenties.  By Rufus Anson (Smithsonian Institution National Portrait Gallery) via Wikimedia Commons.

President Carter and his wife frequently fished together.

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President and Mrs. Carter.  Fishing with the Presidents: an Anecdotal History by Bill Mares (1999). The Gift of George Chapman.

Grover Cleveland was an avid fisherman and spent so much time on the water that the press complained about it.  He even wrote a book about fishing,  Fishing and Shooting Sketches, which is available in the Library’s Main Reading Room.

While there are numerous Presidential fisherman, the Library holds interesting objects in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room specific to two of them, Presidents Hoover and Eisenhower.

Hoover was a life long angler and continued fishing into his late eighties.  Prior to becoming President of the United States he had been president of the Izaak Walton League.  While in that post he supported legislation and agreements to regulate fishing and control pollution of the nation’s waterways.

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President Hoover fishing.  White House Sportsmen by Edmund Lindop and Joseph Jares (1964)

He enjoyed the solitude of fishing, and used it  as a way to relieve the stress of the Presidency.  He’s quoted as saying fishing gave him, “the chance to wash one’s soul with pure air, with the rush of the brook, or with the shimmer of the sun on the blue water.  It brings meekness and inspiration from the decency of nature, charity toward tackle-makers, patience toward fish, a mockery of profits and egos, a quieting of hate, a  rejoicing that you do not have to decide a darned thing until next week.  And it is discipline in the equality of men — for all men are equal before fish” (White House Sportsmen, p. 70-71).

To facilitate this need to get away, the President had a fishing camp built in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia.  The site he eventually selected was on the Rapidan River in what is now the Shenandoah National Park.  The book, The President’s Camp on the Rapidan by Thomas Lomax Hunter, housed in the Rare Book Room, describes the camp and the surrounding area.  It features drawings of scenes from the camp and a wonderful map.

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Map of the camp.  The President’s Camp on the Rapidan, the gift of John H. Daniels.

Hoover bought the 164 acre site and leased surrounding land with his own money.  His wife took charge of construction and transformed the camp from a group of tents to a collection of rustic cabins and community buildings.  Visitors to the camp found it remarkable that such an extreme wilderness existed so close to Washington.  The difficulty of getting to the site guaranteed the President the tranquility he was seeking.  Writing in his book Fishing for Fun, Hoover said, “Presidents have only two moments of personal seclusion.  One is prayer; the other is fishing — and they cannot pray all the time.”  The camp on the Rapidan gave him just the secluded venue he desired.

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President and Mrs. Hoover at the Rapidan Camp.  Fishing with the Presidents: an Anecdotal History by Bill Mares (1999)  Gift of George Chapman.

Unlike Hoover, Eisenhower enjoyed the fellowship of fishing with companions.  His vacations tended to be trips with friends and family, focused on golfing, fishing, hunting, and cards.  Although he differed from Hoover in this, he had similar reasons for enjoying fishing…

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Eisenhower fishing with friends.  From http://www.myusualgame.com/tag/dwight-eisenhower/

“There are three [sports] that I like all for the same reason — golf, fishing, and shooting– because they take you into the fields… They induce you to take at any one time two or three hours, when you are thinking of the bird or the ball or the wily trout.  Now, to my mind, it is a very healthful, beneficial kind of thing, and I do it whenever I get a chance. (Fishing with the Presidents, p. 82)

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Eisenhower casting.  The Sports of Our Presidents by John Durant (1964)

In June, 1955, President Eisenhower visited The Parmachenee Club at Parmachenee Lake in Maine.  The Library holds a commemorative scrap book of the fishing trip which features a history of the Club and includes 17 photographs of the President relaxing with friends and fishing in the stream.

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The President relaxing on the porch.  President Eisenhower at the Parmachenee Club 1955

In addition to preferring to fish with friends, rather than alone, Eisenhower also differed from Hoover in his choice of attire.  He had a much more relaxed fishing costume than Hoover, who always fished in a coat and tie.  Regardless of their different approaches to the sport, angling clearly helped both men deal with the stress of the Presidency, and they both enjoyed its challenges and rewards.

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Eisenhower and a fishing guide.  President Eisenhower at the Parmachenee Club 1955

The Library holds several titles describing the sporting activities, fishing and otherwise, of the Presidents.  Most of them are available anytime in the Main Reading Room.  For starters I suggest, The Sports of our Presidents by John Durant, White House Sportsmen by Edmund Lindop and Joseph Jares, The Games Presidents Play by John Sayle Watterson, and Fishing with the Presidents by Bill Mares.  The book about Hoover’s camp on the Rapidan, and Eisenhower’s fishing trip scrap book are both housed in the Rare Book Room so you’ll need to make an appointment to see them, but I’d be happy to get them out for you to take a look at.


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

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For over half the existence of the United States, horses were ubiquitous.  They served as the main source of transportation, and were essential to the military and to speedy communication.  They labored in agriculture, and as freight haulers.  Horses were common in everyday life.  It wasn’t until 1909 that President Taft replaced the Presidential horses and carriages with cars, and transformed the White House stable into a garage.  It is natural therefore, that many of our Presidents have been horsemen.  Some were indifferent or reluctant equestrians, but quite a few were true aficionados, obsessed with their horses, riding, racing, and driving them in every spare moment.  While there have been too many Presidents to cover in a short blog post, I’d like to highlight a few.

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Washington at Verplanck’s Point on the North River on September 14, 1782, reviewing the French troops under General Rochambeau on their return from Virginia after the victory at Yorktown.  By John Trumbull – Winterthur Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57115499

George Washington was a highly accomplished horseman, and a founding member of the Alexandria Jockey Club.  As a general he relied on his mounts and his skill as a rider to lead his men.  His favorite horse during the American Revolution was called Nelson.  Washington was an avid fox hunter and before the war Nelson was his primary mount in this activity.  Nelson survived the war and eventually retired to Mount Vernon with the former President (Horses of the Presidents by Leah C. Taylor (2006), the gift of Leah Taylor).

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President Theodore Roosevelt on Bleistein, 1902. (Presidential Horses, White House History No. 19, Fall 2006)

Another Presidential fox hunter was Teddy Roosevelt.  The Library holds an original, handwritten manuscript of “Riding to Hounds on Long Island,” an essay written by Theodore Roosevelt in July 1886 for the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. The sport was under attack for being “too English” for Americans to participate in, but Roosevelt advocates for fox hunting as excellent exercise and military training.  He also points out that George Washington, an iconic American, was a fox hunter.  If it was good enough for Washington, why wouldn’t it be good enough for average Americans?

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Major General Andrew Jackson, engraved by James B. Longacre after painting by Thomas Sulley c. 1820. (Presidential Horses, White House History No. 19, Fall 2006)

Andrew Jackson’s favorite horses were race horses.  While his passion for racing horses is not unique among Presidents, he is the only President to have run a racing stable out of the White House grounds.  His thoroughbreds raced at courses in Washington and Baltimore.  To avoid the possible scandal of the President participating in a sport that much of the public viewed negatively, his horses were raced under the name of his nephew and private secretary, Andrew Jackson Donelson.  One of his most successful horses, Bolivia, was painted by Edward Troye (Presidential Horses, White House History No. 19, Fall 2006).

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Bolivia by Edward Troye (1836).  Retrieved from Clark Art Institute, http://www.clarkart.edu/Art-Pieces/10996

As yet another military President, Ulysses S. Grant was also an accomplished rider.  It turns out, he was also a bit of a speed demon.  He was actually arrested for exceeding the speed limit while driving his team through the streets of Washington.  He paid a $20 fine on the spot and commended the police officer, but it doesn’t seem that he changed his ways.  There are several more stories of him racing in the streets, including one about a race with a butcher’s delivery wagon.  The butcher’s horse won and Grant eventually purchased the horse for his own stable (Presidents on Wheels by Herbert Ridgeway Collins, 1971).

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Ulysses S. Grant in a carriage pulled by Dexter
Dexter, famed for his ideal trotting action called the “Dexter stroke,” won 46 of 50 races and trotted the mile in a record 2:17.1/4 during the 1860s. Robert Bonner bought and retired the horse, but allowed presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant the thrill of taking the reins at top speed in this popular 1868 lithograph by Currier & Ives. (White House Horses [exhibition postcard], The White House Historical Association.)
 Even after the great age of the horse had been replaced by the automobile, and horses had been relegated to ceremonial and leisure roles, the occupants of the White House and their families continued to ride.  To learn more about Presidents, both historical and modern, and their relationships with horses I encourage you come visit the Main Reading Room and look through our books on the topic.


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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

Those of you who have been on a tour of the Library’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room will be familiar with our collection of fore-edge books. We always include one of these on tours as the lovely paintings hidden on their edges, and visible only when the pages are fanned, never fail to impress. These paintings were added after the book was published and typically the artist is unknown. Very often we display a copy of the Bible, published in 1839, that shows a hawking scene when its pages are fanned.

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Bible (1839) with fore edge painting, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Recently I made a connection between this fore-edge painting and another item in the Library’s collection which reveals the artist’s inspiration if not their identity. Compare the image above with this one by Henry Alken…

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The National Sports of Britain, Hawking, Henry Alken (1821). National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

While the fore-edge painting has been simplified, it is clearly the same image. Henry Alken’s version was published in The National Sports of Great Britain in 1821. The Bible with the corresponding fore-edge painting wasn’t published until 1839, and the fore-edge painting would have been added after that date. The artist must have been a fan of Alken’s work. They wouldn’t have been alone.

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Book plate in The National Sports of Great Britain, Henry Alken (1823). National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Henry Alken (1785 – 1851) was a prolific painter and illustrator. The Library holds upwards of 60 volumes of his work. His subjects included all varieties of sporting topics as well as coaching scenes. He created numerous sets of etchings, often hand colored, depicting sporting scenes.

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Sporting Sketches, Henry Alken (1817). National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

He also specialized in comical vignettes or satirical illustrations such as this image from Hunting or Six Hours Sport (1823), titled Breaking Covert.

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Hunting or Six Hours Sport, Henry Alken (1823). The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

One of the things I love the most about Alken’s work isn’t actually any part of his images but rather the publisher that he frequently partnered with to produce his books. Thomas McLean, a publisher based in London, used the added sobriquet, Repository of Wit and Humour. Now this is a person I would love to meet at a party! I really must come up with a similar tagline myself. Perhaps, Keeper of Curiosities and Wonders?

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Hunting or Six Hours Sport, Henry Alken (1823). National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

In addition to extensive holdings of Alken’s published works, the Library has two items containing his original work. The first gives an interesting insight into Alken’s process.  It’s titled Cartoons and is a collection of preliminary stick figure sketches that would eventually be fleshed out into the finished images in his published works.

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Cartoons, Henry Alken. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Here’s a close up of two images, both of which were destined to be part of Alken’s comical works.

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“Keep Up Your Muzzle,” from Cartoons, Henry Alken. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
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“Endeavouring to Stop.” Cartoons, Henry Alken. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The other volume of original works is a collection of drawings, paintings, and watercolors. It’s called Horses: Original Drawings. Here are two examples. The first is a watercolor.

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Horses: Original Drawings, Henry Alken. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The second is a drawing.

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Horses: Original Drawings, Henry Alken. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

If you would like to explore the Library’s holdings of Alken’s work, I would be happy to oblige. Nearly all of it is housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room so please contact us to make an appointment before you visit.


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

 

 

With the official start of winter only a few days away I thought I’d share the story of Snowman.  No, not the tale of Frosty, the snowman that magically came to life, but rather that of a large grey horse whose true story is no less magical than Frosty’s.

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Snowman. From Snowman by Rutherford Montgomery (1962). National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of Hedda von Goeben.

The horse that would become known as Snowman, and who would reach the pinnacle of the show jumping world, came from humble and uncertain beginnings.  Likely he was originally employed as a plow horse.  The first documented incident of his life was nearly its last.  He was at the New Holland horse auction in Pennsylvania and by the end of the day had been sold to the meat buyer and loaded onto a trailer for the ride to the slaughter pens.  At this point fate intervened in the form of a late arrival at the auction, Harry de Leyer.

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Harry and Snowman.  From The Eighty-Dollar Champion, by Elizabeth Letts (2011).

Harry de Leyer was the riding instructor at the Knox School for Girls on Long Island.  He had made the drive to New Holland hoping to add a horse or two to his stable but bad weather and car trouble had conspired against him and caused him to miss the auction.  As he walked by the trailer headed for the slaughterhouse, he noticed the grey horse and asked to see him.  Despite the horse’s poor condition, there was something in his eyes and the cock of his ears that Harry liked the look of.  He thought the horse might be turned into a decent lesson horse for his heavier students.  He offered the meat buyer $80 for the horse, including delivery to his farm in Long Island.  The offer was quickly accepted and instead of a trailer ride to the end of his life, the horse embarked on a second chance life, and he would make the most of it.

When the horse arrived at the de Leyer farm the whole family turned out to see him.  Snow had started to fall and the children promptly named the horse Snowman.  He was in a sorry state but the family was up to the challenge of rehabilitating the horse and it wasn’t too long before he was cleaned up and filled out.  Once he was healthy again, Snowman began learning to be a riding horse.  He took to the training well and displayed an excellent temperament for a lesson horse.  He was deliberate and even tempered with riders.  Ideal for beginners who were nervous around high strung Thoroughbreds.  Eventually Harry judged him ready to work at the Knox School and Snowman moved from the family farm to the school’s stable.  There Harry hoped he would eventually be able to sell the horse to one of the girls.  When it became apparent that there would be no buyer Harry decided to return to New Holland and sell Snowman there, but once again fate had other plans.

A local doctor showed up at the farm looking to buy a placid horse for his son.  Harry offered to sell him Snowman for $160 and the agreement that if the doctor should ever want to sell the horse, he would bring him back to de Leyer who would pay him $160.  All seemed settled until one morning de Leyer discovered Snowman back inside the paddock.  He called the doctor who informed him that Snowman had repeatedly  jumped over the fence and trampled his neighbor’s garden, despite the doctor raising the height of the fence by a foot.  Jumping high obstacles is something that horses generally have to be trained to do, and Harry was intrigued.  He had trained many jumpers and wondered at the prospects of an animal that was naturally inclined to the activity.  Could he make a show jumper out of him?  Harry bought Snowman back from the doctor and got to work.

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From The Eighty-Dollar Champion, by Elizabeth Letts, (2011).

After a lot of hard work and training, Harry and Snowman began competing on the show jumping circuit.  Initially the chunky former plow horse was mocked as he paraded out along with the elegant Thoroughbred jumpers, but laughter soon turned to astonishment and then to enthusiastic support as Snowman let his jumping do the talking for him.  Harry and Snowman continued to succeed as they progressed through the jumping circuit and eventually they arrived at Madison Square Garden for the championship meet at the National Horse Show.

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From The Eighty-Dollar Champion, by Elizabeth Letts, (2011).

Americans love an underdog and by now the Cinderella story of the plow horse turned show jumper had gripped the public’s imagination.  Harry and Snowman even appeared on the Tonight Show, where Johnny Carson retold their story for a national audience.  The competition lasts a week and by the final contest Snowman was one point behind the leader.  As if in a scripted movie, Harry and Snowman flew to victory!  Snowman was the 1958 Champion.  And to prove it wasn’t a fluke, he repeated his victory the following year and was Champion of 1959 as well.  Snowman toured Europe and the United States and officially retired in 1969 at a ceremony at Madison Square Garden.  He lived the rest of his life at the de Leyer farm where his fans continued to visit him.  Snowman died in 1974.

Snowman’s story has been chronicled in numerous books, one of which, The Eighty-Dollar Champion, was written by John H. Daniels Fellow, Elizabeth Letts here at the NSLM.   In this trailer for the documentary, Harry & Snowman, you can see the pair in action.  In 1992 Snowman was inducted into the Show Jumper Hall of Fame, and he has been commemorated as a Breyer Horse figurine.

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Snowman as a Breyer Horse figurine.  From http://www.breyerhorses.com/snowman

If you would like to read more about this amazing horse and his partnership with Harry de Leyer drop into the Main Reading Room and I can show you a couple of books.


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

Recently I spent some time working with a bestiary compiled in 1607 by Edward Topsell.  The short version of its title is The Historie of Foure-Footed Beasts, the the full title does an admirable job of summarizing the contents:  The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes : Describing the true and lively figure of every beast, with a discourse of their severall names, conditions, kindes, vertues (both naturall and medicinall), countries of their breed, their love and hate to mankinde, and the wonderfull worke of God in their creation, preservation, and destruction : necessary for all divines and students, because the story of every beast is amplified with narrations out of scriptures, fathers, phylosophers, physitians, and poets : wherein are declared divers hyerogliphicks, emblems, epigrams, and other good histories, collected out of all the volumes of Conradus Gesner, and all other writers to this present day.

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The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes by Edward Topsell (1607).  The gift of Thomas E. Marston

Edward Topsell was an English cleric who authored several books.  Today he is best remembered for his zoological works.  The Historie of Foure-Footed Beastes was published in 1607, and he followed it up with The History of Serpents in 1608.  In 1658 the two works were published as a single volume, The History of Four-Footed Beasts and Serpents.  

Topsell was an archival researcher.  He didn’t venture out into the field and make first hand observations.  Rather, he mined historic accounts for information and compiled the results.  The list of authors consulted is several pages long.  He relied heavily on Conrad Gessner’s, Historiae Animalium (1551-1558), but we also see Aristotle and Pliny among his sources.  The result of all this research is a large collection of entries on a wide variety of animals.  Each entry includes a description of the animal and its behavior, where in the world it can be found, and how it relates to man.  Frequently these entries are accompanied by illustrations.

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Horse (p. 282-435)

Many of the animals covered would have been well known to Europeans.  In general, these entries contain reasonably accurate  images and data.  Some, such as that for the horse, are quite extensive, and indeed these sections about horses and other equines, hounds, and big game animals, such as various deer, are the reason this book is in the NSLM collection.

Occasionally his descriptions or the accompanying images seem a bit… off.  For example the abilities attributed to the squirrel strike me as a tad inflated.  He reports that the squirrel’s tail is used by the animal as a sunshade and umbrella, and that it also functions as a wing, noting the tremendous jumps it makes between trees without sinking, or from great height to the ground without injury.  Ok, I can perhaps understand that, but then the entry goes on to say… “The admirable witte of this beast appeareth in her swimming or passing over the waters… to pass over a river, shee seeketh out some rinde or smal barke of a tree which she setteth upon the water,  and then goeth into it, and holding uppe her taile like a saile, letteth the winde drive her to the other side…” (p. 658).  I’m certainly no expert on squirrel behavior but this seems highly unlikely to me.  And then there’s the accompanying illustration.  This is the fiercest squirrel I’ve ever seen!

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Squirrell (p. 657)

The hedgehog appears as expected in its portrait, however its fighting abilities are described in a surprisingly offensive light.

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Hedg-Hog (p. 277)

“The hedghog rowleth upon the serpent piercing his skin and flesh, (yea many times tearing the flesh from the bones) whereby he scapeth alive and killeth his adversary, carrying the flesh upon his speares, like an honorable banner won from his adversary in the field” (p. 279).

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Cat (p. 103)

His description of the cat rings true.  “Once cattes were all wilde but afterward they retyred to houses wherefore there are plenty of them in all countries…  It is needelesse to spend any time about her loving nature to man, how she flattereth by rubbing her skinne against ones legges, how she whurleth with her voyce, having as many tunes as turnes, for she hath one voice to beg and to complain, another to testifie her delight & pleasure, another among hir own kind by flattring, by hissing, by puffing, by spitting, insomuch as some have thought that they have a peculiar intelligible language among themselves” (p. 105).  However, Topsell also recounts the legends that cats steal ones breath at night, and that they are often the familiars of witches.

Nearly all of the entries include recipes utilizing parts of the animal to create cures for a wide variety of diseases.  Everything from headaches and psoriasis, to epilepsy and the bloody flux might be vanquished.

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Asse (p. 20)

For example the ass can help us with tooth trouble and baldness.  “The poulder of an asses hoofe burned and beaten, laide in vineger and made in little bals, and one of them put into the mouth and there held, helpeth the loosnesse and paine in the teeth.  There is a collection of certaine hard matter about an asses legges, called Lichen, which if it be burned and beaten and put into old oyle, will cause haires to grow out of baldnes, and it is of such force, that if is be applyed to a womans cheek, it will produce the same effect…”(p. 27).

In addition to real animals, Topsell includes a number of mythic animals and monsters.  He tries to give us the same sort of information on these as he does for the other animals but largely ends up recounting physical descriptions, legends, and rumors about these beasts, their behavior, and methods of dispatching them.

Judging by the number of authors contributing to the unicorn entry, these magical equines were widespread at one time.  One thing they all agree on is that the unicorn may be subdued by a virgin.  Beyond that information differs.  Their horns can be used in a wide variety of medicinal tonics, and if one is made into a cup, it can either detect, or neutralize poison depending on the account one believes.

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Unicorne (p. 711)

The Mantichora is supposedly a variety of hyena.  “This beast or rather monster (as Ctesias writeth) is bred among the Indians, having a treble row of teeth beneath and above, whose greatnesse, roughnesse, and feete are like a lyons, his face and eares like unto a mans, his eies gray and collour red, his taile like the taile of a scorpion of the earth, armed with a sting, casting forth sharp pointed quils, his voice like the voice of a small trumpet or pipe, being in course as swift as a hart; his wildnes such as can never be tamed, and his appetite is especially to the flesh of man” (p. 442).

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Mantichora (p. 441)

“His body like the body of a lyon, being very apt both to leape and to run, so as no distance or space doth hinder him, and I take it to be the same beast which Auicen calleth Marion, and Maricomorion, with her taile she woundeth her hunters whether they come before her or behind her, and presently when the quils are cast forth, new ones grow up in their roome, wherewithal she overcommeth all the hunters: and although India be full of divers ravening beastes, yet none of them are stiled with the title of Andropophagi, that is to say, Men-eaters, except only this mantichora” (p. 442).

In the new world there resides a beast known as Su.  “There is a region in the new-found world, called Gigantes, and the inhabitants thereof are called Pantagones; now because their country is cold, being far in the south, they cloath themselves with the skins of a beast called in theyr owne toong Su… The true image therof as it was taken by Theuetus, I have heere inserted, for it is of a very deformed shape, and monstrous presence, a great ravener and an untamable wilde beast” (p. 660).

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Wilde Beast (p. 660)

“When the hunters that desire her skinne set upon her, she flyeth very swift, carrying her yong ones upon her back, and covering them with her broad taile:  Now forsomuch as no dogge or man dareth to approach neere unto her, (because such is the wrath therof, that in the pursuit she killeth all that commeth neare hir:) the hunters digge severall pittes or great holes in the earth, which they cover with boughes sticks, and earth, so weakly that if the beast chance at any time to come upon it, she and her young ones fall down into the pit and are taken.  This cruell, untamable, impatient, violent, ravening, and bloody beast, perceiving that her natural strength cannot deliver her from the wit and policy of men her hunters, (for being inclosed, shee can never get out againe), the hunters being at hande to watch her downfall, and worke her overthrow, first of all to save her young ones from taking & taming, she destroyeth them all with her owne teeth; for there was never any of them taken alive, and when she seeth the hunters come about her, she roareth, cryeth, howleth, brayeith, and uttereth such a fearfull noysome, and terrible clamor, that the men which watch to kill her, are not thereby a little amazed, but at last being animated, because there can be no resistance, they approch, and with their darts and spears wound her to death, and then take off her skin, and leave the carcasse in the earth.  And this is all that I finde recorded of this most savage beast” (p. 660).

If you’d like to check out Topsell’s information on your favorite animal or to take a look at some of the other monster entries just contact me and let me know.  I would be happy to get the book out of the rare book room for you.


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

Gamekeepers are employed by land owners to ensure there is enough game or fish for the owner’s sport. People in this occupation use an intense knowledge of the land and of wildlife to create habitats best suited to the game they hope to cultivate.

The Gamekeeper by Richard Ansdell (Wikimedia Commons)

Activities include, building coverts, planting food sources, breeding birds, and eliminating predators.  Although the focus of such efforts is game and game birds, other wildlife in the area often benefits was well.

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Training setters.  Victorian and Edwardian Field Sports from Old Photographs, by J.N.P. Watson (1978). National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars.

Gamekeepers also organize the hunts. Not only do they guide hunters and stalkers to the best spots and provide game law information, they are also involved with the tools of the hunt. They rear and train hunting dogs, flush game, and collect and document the bag of the hunt.

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Keepers bring in some of the bag.  The Big Shots: Edwardian Shooting Parties, by Jonathan Garnier Ruffer (1977).  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

This is an old profession, probably it’s been around ever since individual people owned large swaths of land.  In Medieval times gamekeepers were royal appointments and tended to focus mostly on protecting deer and wild boar as these were favorite royal game animals. Traditionally gamekeeping is a male occupation, however in his book, The Big Shots: Edwardian Shooting Parties, Jonathan Garnier Ruffer describes the exploits of at least one early female gamekeeper.

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Female gamekeeper.  The Big Shots: Edwardian Shooting Parties, by Jonathan Garnier Ruffer (1977).  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

In the 1820s Polly Fishbourne was the gamekeeper at Holkham estate. She had a reputation for ferocity and so was fortunate to find herself in a profession that offered a ready target for her aggression – she was the bane of the local poachers. Women also make appearances as gamekeepers during World War I, often filling in for their husbands.

The Library’s resources on gamekeeping are focused on Great Britain from the very late 18th century through the 20th century.  Some books are essentially gamekeeping text books such as, The Gamekeeper’s Note Book, by Owen Jones and Marcus Woodward (1910). This book gives a detailed description of the keeper’s daily activities over the course of the year.

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The Gamekeeper’s Note Book, by Owen Jones and Marcus Woodward (1910).

Other books give a more general overview of the lifestyle and tasks of the gamekeeper.  For example, The Gamekeeper at Home by Richard Jefferies (first published in 1879) not only talks about the gamekeeper’s techniques and work, but also describes his living conditions, and the likely occupations of his wife.

For me, the most interesting books by far are the autobiographies written by the gamekeepers themselves. These colorful accounts of how the authors came to be gamekeepers and of the adventures they had during their careers are quite entertaining.

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Gamekeeper, John Wilkins.  The Autobiography of an English Gamekeeper, by John Wilkins (1892).

A good example is this excerpt from The Autobiography of an English Gamekeeper, by John Wilkins (1892), in which he describes tricking a known poacher into stealing a clutch of rotten eggs, and the encounter that follows…

“”Good morning, John,” says Harry, as soon as he sees me.  “Good morning, Harry,” says I, politely. “I was just remarking,” says Harry, “What a pity it is to cut down such nice, young oak timber, just growing into money.” Whereat his two companions burst out laughing, thinking, no doubt, how nicely he was smoothing me over. “You seem amused, my dear,” he went on, pleasantly, addressing the maid, who had a nest full of eggs in her hands. “She is so fond of bird’s eggs, John.”  This to me, of course. They all laughed again at this, and I, nothing loth, joined in. When I thought that they had laughed enough, at my expense, I stepped up to Harry, who was still on the grin, and said: — “Yes, and so are you fond of bird’s eggs, aren’t you?”  In a moment his countenance changed, and the grin grew ghastly, as he angrily asked what I meant. “I mean,” said I, “That pocketful of pheasant’s eggs you took from that clump of briars up yonder.” And before he knew what I was up to, I struck his pockets with the flat of my hand, and smash went the rotten egg!

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The Autobiography of an English Gamekeeper, by John Wilkins (1892).

At this he began cursing and swearing, but I merely remarked: — “Good morning, Harry.” Then, turning to the other two, I observed :– “you won’t be so fast to laugh at John Wilkins another time, perhaps.” Thereupon I left them, I indulging in a little mirth on my own account, but you should have seen the change that came over their countenances!”  (Autobiography of an English Gamekeeper, p. 112-113)

Interestingly, in addition to the books on gamekeeping, the Library has quite a few about poachers and poaching.

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A selection of books about poachers and poaching.

They tend to fall into categories similar to those on gamekeeping. Topics include the various tools and techniques of the poacher, specific guides for capturing various types of animals, general woodcraft advice, and techniques for avoiding gamekeepers and the law. The personal accounts of poachers are even more colorful than those of the their opponents, the gamekeepers.

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The Gamekeeper at Home by Richard Jefferies (first published in 1879, this edition 1973) National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The fascinating thing about the tales of ‘gamekeeper vs. poacher’ is how they’re told with a sense of nostalgia by gamekeepers and poachers alike. Despite the injuries sustained on both sides in these conflicts, and the often stiff penalties incurred by the poachers, including fines, prison, and transportation, the participants describe these events with pride.

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The Poacher’s Companion by E. G. Walsh (1982). National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The stories I read were all by retired old men. Perhaps, the distance of time smooths off the rough bits and they are just reliving the glories of youth. They put me in mind of the old Sam Sheepdog and Ralph Wolf cartoons.

Gamekeeping continues today. While the job has evolved over time, many techniques remain the same. Today there are formal training programs at colleges, and professional  gamekeeping organizations. To see what is involved check out The Scottish Gamekeepers or National Gamekeepers.

To learn more about gamekeepers, poachers, wildlife conservation, shooting, and hunting, come see me in the Main Reading Room and I’ll be happy to get you started.


 

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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

Now that we’ve completed reorganizing and re-cataloging the books in the Main Reading Room, I’ve begun work on the books housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

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The F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room in the lower level of the Library.

This room has a controlled climate that protects our delicate, rare, or unique items, including books, manuscripts, and ephemera.  Finding beautiful or interesting items within this collection is common but I thought I’d share a pair of items that really caught my eye recently.

The Library has many items housed in clamshell boxes.  Often these protective cases are used to save fragile antiquarian books from further damage and soiling, however, some books are issued in clamshells by their publishers.  These tend to be deluxe editions, usually with elaborate bindings and featuring signatures from the author and or artist.  One such volume is Trout & Bass: a diverse collection of angling literature, both prose and poetry, compiled by Stephen Bodio (1993).

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Trout & Bass: a diverse collection of angling literature, both prose and poetry, compiled by Stephen Bodio (1993).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

This rather subdued green case does indeed contain a deluxe volume, one of only 50 produced.  The lid of this case hides a surprise.  Mounted inside are 18 hand tied fishing flies in pristine condition.  It was quite the surprise to pull open the lid and find these delicate works of art.

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Trout & Bass: a diverse collection of angling literature, both prose and poetry, compiled by Stephen Bodio (1993).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

Here’s a closer look at a few of the flies.  They were all tied by Jack Gartside.

In addition to the book, and the flies, there is a folio containing unbound plates of all the black and white illustrations that appear in the book.  Each signed by the artist, Alan James Robinson.

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Illustration by Alan James Robinson, in Trout & Bass (1993).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The six watercolor images from the book are also included as unbound plates.  Each is individually cased and is signed by the artist, Alan James Robinson.

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Cutthroat Trout by Alan James Robinson, in Trout & Bass (1993).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The whole collection makes a very nice deluxe edition and housed safely in its clamshell case, and in the controlled climate of the Rare Book Room, it will continue to amaze visitors for many decades to come.

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Trout & Bass: a diverse collection of angling literature, both prose and poetry, compiled by Stephen Bodio (1993).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The second item of interest turned up in a container marked simply “ephemera.”  Among its contents we found a large wooden box with a colorful illustration on its lid.

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Six-sided puzzle with hunting scenes, images by John Sanderson-Wells.  Late 19th early 20th century.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

Sliding the lid off we discovered the box contained a puzzle.

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Six-sided puzzle with hunting scenes, images by John Sanderson-Wells.  Late 19th early 20th century.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

A cube puzzle to be precise.

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Six-sided puzzle with hunting scenes, images by John Sanderson-Wells.  Late 19th early 20th century.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

This sort of puzzle features a different image on each side of its cube shaped pieces, so there are six puzzles in one box.  Very efficient!  The six in one feature isn’t the only advantage cube puzzles have over traditional jigsaw puzzles, their cubical pieces are also much harder to lose than the small flat pieces that make up a jigsaw.

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An individual cube from the puzzle.  Three of the six images/sides are visible.  Six-sided puzzle with hunting scenes, images by John Sanderson-Wells.  Late 19th early 20th century.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

In addition to the image on the lid of the box, there are five posters showing the other five images that can be assembled from the cubes.  One is of fox hunting, two of wing shooting, and two of stag hunting.  All are by John Sanderson-Wells. 

The simple appearance of the cube puzzle is deceptive.  The user has to first figure out which of the six sides on each piece belongs to the design they are working on, and only after that can one determine where the piece belongs in the overall image.

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Six-sided puzzle with hunting scenes, images by John Sanderson-Wells.  Late 19th early 20th century.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.  Housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

Both these items are behind the locked door in the Rare Book Room but that doesn’t mean you can’t see them.  You just need to contact us prior to your visit for an appointment.  You can also schedule a tour of the Rare Book Room during which you will see an assortment of the interesting and unique items housed there.  To make an appointment or to book a tour, contact us at info@nationalsporting.org


 

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