The NSLM manuscripts collection is in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, which houses the Library’s rare books collection as well as the John H. Daniels Collection. One of the manuscripts donated by John and Martha Daniels is a letter from Edith Somerville to Virginia sportsman Harry Worcester Smith in 1924. Somerville was a prominent author of sporting novels with her cousin “Martin Ross” (Violet Martin).
Today I get to share an item of which we’re very proud at NSLM. This is the original manuscript of “Riding to Hounds on Long Island,” an essay written by Theodore Roosevelt in July 1886 for the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. I’m always certain to bring this out for viewing when we have visitors on tour at the Library.
A couple of months back, I received an in-print reference question. That wasn’t nearly as remarkable as the fact that the reference question had been submitted to one of our Museum curators instead of the Librarian. This person wanted to know who a rider was in a photograph she had found online. Apparently, somebody had blogged about NSLM and this photograph was listed as being in our collections.
So this question was very layered. The first thing to find out was, does NSLM really have this photo. If so, where? We have dozens of Archival Collections with photographs, but the individual photographs are not tagged and being given an image without a citation is not unlike the proverbial needle in the haystack. In this case, I had a very valuable clue built into the request: the photo was somewhere out on the internet someplace.
Some judicious Google usage landed me a 2009 blog post that gave a broad citation, but a very workable one: “the Gerald Webb papers.” NSLM has an Archival Collection called the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Photograph Albums, 1935-1961. The trail was heating up. Unfortunately for me, the photographs were mostly pasted or tipped in to some very large scrapbooks. Not exactly albums, but again, workable. What followed was a lot of tedious searching by hand, until I landed the photo, and a hand-written label.
This was great, but I kind of wanted a little more. Who was Margaret Cotter? And Rocksie? Back to the internet!
Once I had names, Google was my best friend. The Baltimore Sun yielded photos from their back file of Ms. Cotter and Rocksie, a big bay hunter. The second photo, an action shot similar to Mr. Webb’s, is dated 1938.
Another resource I tapped later was Newspapers.com, which is a subscription service which allows a free seven-day trial. I found an article in The Lethbridge Herald (Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada) from Tuesday, September 16, 1941. Another paper ran it citing Lucrece Hudgins of the Associated Press as the author.
It’s impossible for me to say for certain which show was in the photograph Gerald Webb, Jr. took and which is now in NSLM’s Archival Collections. The article above relates the story of Ms. Cotter’s and Rocksie’s breakthrough success in 1938:
I believe this photo must be from sometime between 1938 and 1941. That looks an awful lot like six feet in the photo. It’s very possible this is the first record-breaking moment in 1938… but I can’t say so definitively. Nevertheless, Ms. Cotter seems to have been a phenomenal athlete and equestrian (to say nothing of Rocksie’s athletic abilities!). It’s gratifying to have had the opportunity to discover a little bit about her.
Do you have a reference question you’d like help with? Contact me with your requests!
Our next item of interest is in a small green box, labeled with the mysterious title, “A Peep at a Fox Chase – Ephemera – 1829.” Let me explain why this is intriguing.
Merriam-Webster defines ephemera as “paper items (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) that were originally meant to be discarded after use but have since become collectibles.” It’s one of the broadest archival categories, and one of the more difficult ones on which to make decisions. Archives is all about balancing historicity with limitations of space. The main question is, “What gets kept, what doesn’t?” Does the library keep railway tickets? What about postcards? “Ephemera” becomes a blanket term for all these things. It could mean something prosaic or it could mean something weird, amusing, or unidentifiable.
Anyhow, let’s open it up and see what’s inside. 1829 was a long time ago. This could be almost anything.
I should note that the box is a current-day custom storage box that book sellers will sometimes make to protect rare materials. In the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, many of the older books of a manageable size are in these boxes.
The John H. Daniels collection comprises a lifetime of collecting: over 5,000 sporting books, periodicals, manuscripts, and small, odd diamonds in the rough like the “Peep at the Fox Chase.”
I muddled around with this thing for a little while before I figured out what it is. I don’t really know the proper word for it. It’s like a panorama, but since it’s not giving a wide view of everything, that term doesn’t seem to fit cleanly. It’s a neat little 19th Century image viewer that lets you see a picture in 3D. This one was difficult to get on camera in all its glory. Maybe someday I can create a video of how it opens and shuts.
I love how the lady in the foreground has to restrain the child from running along after the hunt. Horses and hounds are headed every which way! The hunt is caught out in an instant of pure pandemonium. Although it’s a novelty item that probably fits well into the definition of “ephemera,” I’m fond of this little item. It represents an elegant solution to 3D imaging, considering the technological limitations in 1829.
You are invited to meet author Silvio Calabi for a book signing on Thursday, December 11!
Silvio Calabi was an editor of sporting magazines for 30 years. He is a Knight of the International Order of St. Hubertus, a member of Safari Club International, and the Namibian Professional Hunting Association, and was a director of the California Side by Side Society. With Roger Sanger, he co-founded the Gold Medal Concours d’Elegance of Fine Guns. With Sanger and Steve Helsley, he also co-authored Rigby: A Grand Tradition and a series of acclaimed guidebooks: The Gun Book for Boys, The Gun Book for Girls, and The Gun Book for Parents. From his home on the Maine coast, Mr. Calabi travels and writes widely, and creates and hosts high-end hunting adventures around the world.
I came in early today to help host a two-day teacher’s seminar from Journey Through Hallowed Ground (JTHG) at the Library. The seminar is titled Engaging Students with the National Civil War Memorial Teacher Seminar, and provides a great opportunity for educators to receive professional development and curriculum ideas, as well as access to online family history tools. It’s always exciting to work with educators. It’s even better to work with educators when we can help facilitate their success and serve as a resource for their students.
The seminar is connected with the Living Legacy Program, an initiative to commemorate each of the 620,000 soldiers that died in the American Civil War by planting a tree for each one. After planting, each tree is geotagged, allowing visitors the opportunity to learn the name and story of the young man for whom the tree is planted, with photos, diary entries, and letters home also shared through JTHG interactive map.
As a Civil War geek and technophile, I find the whole concept to be incredibly cool. But as a librarian, I can also appreciate the massive potential as a research resource as well. The program is a collaboration with Ancestry.com, Fold3.com, and AncestryK12.com; the goal is to provide students around the country with the resources necessary to conduct primary source-based research on the fallen from their community.
The event hosted teachers from across the region: Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and beyond. It’s a thrill to have our Library be a part of bringing these resources to students. The day got started with an overview from Brock Bierman, Senior Director for Ancestry Education, Ancestry.com’s initiative to provide classroom resources to teachers. Teachers can apply for a grant and receive one year of access to Ancestry’s U.S. content, Fold3 (Ancestry’s military history database), and Newspapers.com (Ancestry’s newspapers archive).
JTHG is a partner of the Ancestry Education initiative, and the JTHG lesson plans are available for download here. Another free initiative through Ancestry’s Fold3 service is the Wall of Honor, compiling records of individual fallen soldiers from every U.S. conflict.
Following the Ancestry presentation, I took attendees on a tour of the Library. I had pulled several objects to show them: Mary Cochrane’s Middleburg Civil War Diary (from our Archival Collections), and some of our rare manuscripts and books from the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.
I’m pleased to begin this blog for the NSLM Library. As I’ve settled in at NSLM over the past ten months, I’ve come across some amazing materials that are only rarely seen and appreciated by our guests and researchers. As I continue to work on the many ongoing projects at NSLM, I’m delighted at the prospect of sharing it with our members, donors and admirers through an online platform.
The name, “Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox. It’s my hope that I can bring forward many of NSLM’s most intriguing and historical items for your appreciation.
To get things off on a good note, I would like to share something I recently found in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room while exploring for materials I could share with the librarians at Mount Vernon. Entirely by accident, I found a fascinating little ledger book in the manuscripts collection.
Monday - CLOSED
Tuesday - CLOSED
Wednesday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Thursday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Friday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Saturday - 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
“Drawing Covert,” refers to the practice in foxhunting of putting hounds in a covert (pronounced like “cover”), a thicket or wooded brush area, to find the fox.
This blog is about the exhibitions, tours, research, programs, and events, at NSLM on its unique collection of books, archives, paintings, sculpture and much more.