The National Sporting Library & Museum is proud to be the home of The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports, published in Boston by M.M. Ballou in 1855. This is the second post of four discussing important works on Early American sport.
The Sportsman’s Portfolio is one of the rarest sporting books in America. When Ernest Gee commissioned the Derrydale Press to run a second print of the book in 1929, he noted that only three were known to exist, with all three existing only in private libraries. The book is short, at 44 pages (8vo), with a little over half of those pages being illustrated wood engravings depicting the popular outdoor sports of the time.
The publisher, Maturin Murray Ballou (1820-1895), was the son of the American Universalist clergyman, Hosea Ballou, who founded the Universalist Review, a popular Protestant publication. Publishing seems to have run in the family, for while he passed the exams and requirements to attend Harvard University, he chose not to attend and instead became a pioneer in American illustrated journalism.
Ballou was editor of Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion, a 19th century illustrated periodical, bought out the paper from the owner, and continued the publication under the title, Ballou’s Pictorial. Ballou began another paper, Ballou’sDollar Monthly Magazine, a general interest magazine. Later, in 1872, Ballou assisted in the founding (and was its editor-in-chief) of the Boston Daily Globe, which was originally called, “Maturin Ballou’s Globe.” (Winzeler, 2014)
The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports was first published in Gleason’s Pictorial Drawing Room Companion sometime during 1853-1854, a year or two before Ballou decided to re-print it as its own standalone publication. (Doyle Auctions, 2018)
Moose hunting, grouse and woodcock shooting, and bass fishing are depicted in the publication. I was drawn to this book because each beautiful wood engraving is accompanied by a brief, yet thorough, description of the sport, perfect for a sporting novice like myself!
If you would like to see, and other Early American Sporting texts, contact the Library to make an appointment!
One resource I have come to rely on heavily since starting at the National Sporting Library & Museum has been the newsletters published by the Library since 1975. It is a real delight to read articles written by the founders themselves, to include Alexander Mackay-Smith. I will be featuring these newsletters in the blog. While many members may have read these when they were first published, I hope that many will be excited reading them for the first time. What follows is the first article published in the first issue of the National Sporting Library & Museum’s newsletter.
National Sporting Library Newsletter, September 1975, Vol. 1, No. 1
No one can really understand a nation without a knowledge of the way it spends its leisure time. By far the greater part of our leisure is devoted to sport, either as participants or as spectators. Our greatest spectator sport is horse racing which leads all other sports in paid admissions by a wide margin. Racing supports its own periodicals including daily newspapers, while the leisure time magazines with much the largest circulation are those devoted to shooting and fishing which, with foxhunting (and beagling), constitute the trio known as Field Sports.
Turf and Field Sports are the province of the National Sporting Library, reputedly the only public library in the country devoted solely to sport. Located in Middleburg, Virginia, forty miles west of Washington, it is housed in the 1804 brick house known as “Vine Hill” which it shares with the weekly periodical, “The Chronicle of the Horse.” Although the comfortable main reading room is open to anyone who wants to look up a pedigree or racing record, the National Sporting Library is, according to its masthead, “A Research Center for Turf and Field Sports, their History and Social Significance.” No books are allowed to leave the building, the lower floor being reserved for the Librarian’s office, for book stacks and for the underground humidity controlled, fireproof vault with shelves for approximately 6,000 volumes.
Since its founding in 1954, the National Sporting Library has received many gifts of entire collections and of individual volumes, some rare, some working copies, and hopes to receive many more in the future. It has, either in original issues or in microfilm, most of the North American periodicals devoted to Turf and Field Sports published during the past two centuries, and hopes to complete this collection within the next few years. It is now in the process of indexing these periodicals in accordance with standards adopted by the American Society of Indexers. Already completed are indexes of The New York Sporting Magazine (Mar. 1833 – Dec. 1834) and its successor, The United States Sporting Magazine (Nov. 1835 – Aug. 1836), and the first five years of available issues of The Spirit of the Times (1831 – 1835). Nearing completion is the index of the American Turf Register, 1829 – 1844.
The considerable number of scholars who have already worked in the Library are enthusiastic about the availability of material, the facilities offered, and the opportunities for original contributions to knowledge based on the very wide range of subjects covered by these periodicals — not only the full spectrum of field sports, but also other sports, art, literature, music and allied fields. We look forward to assisting many others in the future and hope that financial assistance, where required, may be made available to scholars undertaking particularly noteworthy projects through Fellowships and through publication.
The National Sporting Library collections, and particularly its microfilming and indexing project of periodicals devoted to Turf and Field Sports, a field hitherto relatively inaccessible to scholars, are becoming increasingly useful, not only for the pursuit of special projects, but also for putting into proper perspective the immense influence played by sport in the evolution of this country.
By Alexander Mackay-Smith, Curator
Posted by Michelle Guzman, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian
A few weeks ago, I was researching books published by The Derrydale Press under the management of its founder Eugene V. Connett. I came across a series of reprints of Early American Sporting books privately published by The Derrydale Press for Ernest R. Gee. The series consists of: Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club (1927), The American Shooter’s Manual (1928), The Sportsman’s Portfolio of American Field Sports (1929), and The Sportsman’s Companion (1930).
Ernest Gee, a rare books dealer based in New York City, commissioned these reprints to preserve the history of Early American Sport. The Derrydale reprints are themselves uncommon, so I was pleasantly surprised to discover that The National Sporting Library & Museum owns three of the four original books from which the Derrydale editions are reprinted. This is the first of a series of posts that will examine these Early American texts.
Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club by William Milnor, Jr.
In his preface to Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club, Ernest Gee writes that, “the original book is excessively rare and unknown to the majority of present-day sportsmen.” Of the 375 reprints published by The Derrydale Press, the Library owns number 162. While the oldest documentary record of fox hunting in North America is found in volume one of The Hunter-Naturalist: Romance of Sporting by C.W. Webber— published in Philadelphia in 1851— Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox HuntingClub, is the oldest known documentary record of an organized fox hunting club in the United States. The book provides all sorts of interesting stories about the hunts and members of the club.
The Gloucester Fox Hunting Club was formed in Philadelphia on October 29, 1766 and held its first meeting on December 13, 1766. Founding members included Benjamin Chew, Charles Willing, John Cadwallader, and James Wharton. Members who attended the first meeting included James Wharton, Anthony Morris and his son, Samuel Morris, and James Massey.
James Massey, “was appointed the first Huntsman for the Gloucester Foxhunting Club. He served in that capacity from 1766 to 1769 and he was the first professional non-slave hunt servant to officially handle the hounds for a regular subscription pack in America.” (Stewart, Sherri L. “An Historical Survey of Foxhunting in the United States, 1650-1970,” retrieved from: files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/ED084220.pdf.)
The book chronicles the club’s operations—from the ebb and flow of membership and regular hunt locations—to changing characteristics of the club as time progressed.
We learn that, “The hunts took place principally at Cooper’s Creek, about four miles from the city, at the horseheads seven miles, at Chew’s landing, nine miles, at Blackwood-town, twelve miles, at Heston’s Glass-works, twenty miles distant, and sometimes at Thompson’s Point, on the Delaware, many miles to the South.”
During the Revolutionary War, the hunting club took a hiatus when “No less than twenty-two of the club associated and viz. formed the First Troop of Philadelphia City Cavalry,” to include the hunt’s president, Sam L. Morris. After the war ended, “the old club was revived with spirit and a renewed zest imparted to this warrior sport, by the reassemblage of old friends, after years of unavoidable separation, again to partake of the ecstatic pleasures of the chase.”
Specific hunts stood out for being especially memorable: for example, “In 1798, one of them carried the pack in full cry to Salem, forty miles distant.” Out of curiosity, I searched for any town named Salem within a 40 miles radius and did locate a Salem that checks out!
In its more touching moments, the book describes how the club would pay tribute to its first president Samuel Morris, Jr. in his later years. The author writes:
“Years previous to this lamented event [the death of Morris in 1812], when infirmity no longer permitted him to enjoy the manly exercise of horsemanship, he frequently made his welcome appearance on the field in the midst of his old quondam companions of the Hunting Club… He usually rode in a chaise, and sometimes in a light carriage… On these joyous occasions, every kind indulgence was extended, every means used to gratify the venerable and much loved chief of the association. The hunting ground was selected where good roads intersected each other, and where the exciting music of the pack, almost constantly saluted the delighted ears of their followers, and where the clearing occasionally afforded the chance of a view. Oh! these were reviving spirits to the genuine old sportsman…”
Amusingly enough, the author later laments in the history that in contrast to their first president, “the hunter’s chivalric spirit and his generous mantle, had not descended to some enterprising spirited sons of fortune…” He goes to note that in 1800, only half of the 40 members of the Gloucester Club”…were habitual or efficient hunters. Too many chose to relinquish early rising and exposure to invigorating frost, surmised danger, and the apprehension of fatigue, for the cheerful exhilarating festive occasion, which always rounded off the duties of the day, a good hunting dinner, flowing bowls of governor, and sparking goblets of madeira… It was no difficult matter, to discern who had chased the Fox. There could be no mistake, the keen appetite, the roseate bloom of health, and the cheerful countenance, sufficed to mark well the hunter.”
The physical differences between the original 1830 publication and the 1927 Derrydale edition are few but significant. The original is slightly smaller than the Derrydale copy and totals 56 pages bound in muslin. The Derrydale edition of Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club Near Philadelphia, is larger than the original and bound in pink paper over boards.
You can find both the 1830 and 1927 editions of Memoirs of the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club at the National Sporting Library & Museum’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room!
Michellejoined NSLM in September 2019 as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian. She is responsible for managing the John & Martha Daniels Reading Room and the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Books Room. Michelle holds a MLIS from Simmons College in Boston and earned her BA in History from Smith College. Before coming to the National Sporting Library & Museum, Michelle spent 12 years at the Central Intelligence Agency. A native of California, Michelle misses the ocean and the mountains, but enjoys being a local tourist and visiting Washington D.C. and surrounding areas.
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“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.
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