The NSLM Library holds more than a few game books and hunt diaries.  Game books typically tally up the bag for a given day’s hunting while hunt diaries give more detailed information about the participants, the weather, and any interesting events that took place during the hunt.  I recently discovered that the Library also holds a copy of the charming fishing diary of a woman named Muriel Foster.

The diary records over 30 years of Muriel’s fishing activities, and as one might expect, details when and where she fished, her catch, and the flies she used.  What makes the diary unique are the lavish illustrations that she added to embellish it.  The diary would become a family heirloom and it is her great-niece that decided to have it published in 1980.

DSCF5015
Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Muriel was born in in 1884 in Surrey, England.  She was a tomboy and enjoyed many of the activities her brothers participated in, including fencing and fishing.  Demonstrating artistic ability, she was enrolled in the Slade School of Art, where she studied under Henry Tonks.  While Muriel did well and even exhibited a drawing at the Royal Academy, she was not destined to become a professional artist.  Unmarried in her mid-forties she established her own household in a home called Ivy Cottage, in Wiltshire.  Here she spent the rest of her life pursuing her interests in drawing, painting, gardening, and fishing, and here she welcomed her many nieces and nephews.

DSCF5053
Ivy Cottage.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The illustrations on the pages of her fishing diary pull the viewer into Muriel’s experience.   She shows us not only the fish and the flies she used to catch them…

DSCF5048
Assorted flies and a fish.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5021
Fish.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

but also the other animals she encountered while fishing…

DSCF5049
Seal off the Islands, and “Luna.”  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5032
Slavonian Grebes on Loch Farralin.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

the landscapes that surrounded her as she fished…

DSCF5025
The river at Hildersham.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5028
Lough Conn, pontoon bridge.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

and the people that sometimes joined her on her outings.

DSCF5044
Colin with Bob, Smoke, Ranger and Jandoc.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.
DSCF5047
Hector.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Her drawings evoke the full experience of fishing, not simply the challenge of hauling in a trout or salmon, but also the enjoyment of spending time out of doors and a love of the countryside.  I imagine her spending cold winter nights illustrating the diary with the same calm and patience required for fishing.  Her paintings and drawings allowing her to relive the days on the river or loch until her next outing.

DSCF5059
The end of the day.  Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, (Muriel Foster, 1980).  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Perhaps some of the fishers reading this will be inspired to create a similar record of their adventures.  I’ve only included a few photos of the diary here.  If you’d like to get a closer look just let us know you’re coming and we’ll be happy to get it out for you.


Erica Libhart has served as the Mars Technical Services Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2016. The focus of her position is collection services, working to increase accessibility to NSLM’s collection of books, periodicals, and archival materials. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact Erica by e-mail

Advertisements

There are five striking oils depicting foxhunting painted entirely in black and white in the National Sporting Library & Museum’s permanent collection. The technique is called en grisaille (pronounced “ohnˈ griˈzɑ yə”), a French term meaning in gray tones. Created with mixtures of black and white pigments, these types of paintings date back to the Middle Ages.

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), A Treed Fox, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 17 x 25 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

Created by George Wright (1860-1942), the paintings were among fifteen important British sporting artworks donated to the NSLM by Felicia Warburg Rogan in 2008. Surprisingly little is known about Wright’s life and teaching. The artist, however, left behind a considerable body of work and was acknowledged as one of the top sporting artists of his day by circa 1900.

Many of Wright’s en grisaille subjects are believed to have been produced early in his career for reproduction as illustrations. Working in gray tones was a practical choice for these types of works. There was no need to use expensive color pigments if they were not intended to be seen. Painting in grayscale also allowed for better control of contrasts, shades, and tones. As an example, NSLM has a sixth painting by George Wright done in color that is an almost identical scene to the monochromatic A Treed Fox. This allows the opportunity to make a direct comparison of Wright’s color and black and white techniques.

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), A Treed Fox, oil on canvas, 13 1/2 x 20 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
Left: Detail of Treed Fox, color version; Center: Detail of Treed Fox, color version converted to grayscale; Right: Detail of Treed Fox, en grisaille painting

On the left is a detail of the color painting; in the center is the color version converted to grayscale; and on the right is the actual black and white work. The composition in color is more painterly with a nuanced palette and brushstrokes. Reproduced in black and white though, it becomes muddy, and the details are difficult to see. Where the reproduction fails, the painting on the right succeeds; it has a refined illustrative quality with crisper lines and higher contrasts.

The obvious and purposeful difference between the way Wright painted the two versions reinforces the idea that the en grisaille works were intended for reproduction. To-date NSLM’s compositions have not been found reproduced, but they tell stories in their own right. Two are the same size and bear inscriptions on the bottom left corner, “In at the Death” and “The Kennels.”

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), In at the Death, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 18 x 27 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

In the first, the huntsman presents the brush (fox’s tail) to the lady wearing a bowler hat and riding aside. The recipient of the trophy was chosen by the Master of Foxhounds to reward participants who were skilled riders and kept at the head of the hunt field. The tradition of presenting the fox mask and brush has today become censured, but it is worthy to note that it was done with a sense of deference to the fox.

“Poor Reynard [“reynard” is French for “fox”], his day is done! No more wild raids on the sleeping countryside; no more slaughter in hen house or rabbit warren…Off from your horse, Mr. Huntsman, for the trophies of so gallant a beast are worth the saving,” wrote B. Fletcher Robinson in Sporting Pictures to describe a painting titled Killed in the Quarry by George Wright. (This 1902 folio sized art book held in the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room was published in celebration of English country sports with works “reproduced in colour by the newest and most perfect process of chromo-lithography.”)

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), At the Kennels, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 18 x 27 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

The second en grisaille painting in the NSLM’s pair, “At The Kennels,shows the hounds obediently following the huntsman to the kennel gate, as the Master looks on and a groom has charge of the horses. The likeness of the huntsman is similar to the one depicted in The Treed Fox discussed earlier and two other en grisaille works in NSLM’s holdings. These all show instances in which the fox is just out of reach of the hound pack.

George Wright (English, 1860-1942), Out of Reach, A Fox at Bay on a High Wall, c. 1884, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 16 x 24 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008
George Wright (English, 1860-1942), Closing In, c. 1884, oil on canvas, en grisaille, 16 x 24 inches, Gift of Mrs. Felicia Warburg Rogan, 2008

Wright is believed to have hunted with the Surrey and Old Burstow, and it is quite evident from his works that he had an intimate understanding of foxhunting and its human, equine, and canine participants. Whether or not he intended for the figures to be likenesses of recognizable individuals is unknown. He included them in other hunt scenes over time. The allure of George Wright’s en grisaille compositions evoke nostalgia for a bygone era and a sport that at the same time remains universal and timeless for those who still participate in it today.


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

This past weekend saw the Royal marriage of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle.  In the procession following the ceremony, the happy couple rode through throngs of well-wishers in an Ascot Landau carriage drawn by a team of four Windsor Grey horses, including a father and son team named Storm and Tyrone.

Mews 1
Prince Harry’s and Meghan’s carriage.

This mode of transportation added to the pageantry and glamour of the event.  Its slow pace gave spectators a good view of the newlyweds, and allowed time for them to wave and cheer the couple along.  The carriages, horses, and coachmen involved in this and other Royal state events are supplied by the royal stables, known as The Royal Mews.

The term “mews” originates in falconry.  It refers to the mewing, or molting, of the birds’ feathers.  During this process the birds were not used to hunt and were kept in a building called a mews.  The King’s Mews was at Charing Cross in London, where the National Gallery now stands, and housed the royal falcons and hawks from Richard II’s reign into Henry VIII’s.  A fire in 1534 destroyed the original building, and when King Henry VIII rebuilt it, he moved the hunting birds out, and instead housed the royal stables there.  The building retained the name “Mews” despite the absence of the hawks.

mews 3
The entrance to the Royal Mews.

Over time the buildings at Charing Cross became inadequate and a new mews was built on the grounds of Buckingham Palace.  It was designed by John Nash and completed in 1825.  While the Royal Mews remains in that location today, it has been renovated numerous times in the intervening years.  Today it houses the royal carriages and automobiles, the stables for the horses, an indoor riding arena, and apartments for the staff and their families.

Nearly all of the royal carriage horses are either Windsor Greys or Cleveland Bays.  Windsor Greys are not a breed but rather a type and are named for Windsor, where they were originally stabled.  They are all grey, at least 16.1 hands tall, and must have a calm, placid temperament.

mews 4
Windsor Greys.

Cleveland Bays are light draft horses.  The breed originated in the Cleveland District of Yorkshire during the 1600s.  Originally they were a mixture of English draft horses and Spanish Andalusians, bred to be sturdy yet swift pack horses.  Eventually Arabian and Thoroughbred blood was added resulting in the taller carriage horses seen at the Royal Mews today.  Cleveland Bays are now quite rare and the line bred at the Royal Mews is important in preserving the breed.

mews 5
Cleveland Bays.

Horses with the correct look and required calm demeanor begin training by being broken to saddle and are gradually introduced to harness work.  The daily routine consists of two exercise and training sessions broken by rest and feedings.  In addition to the typical training of a carriage horse, these horses must also learn to handle the unique challenges faced by royal carriage horses.  They receive intense training to desensitize them to the wide variety of stimuli they will encounter on the job, including loud noises and music, flapping flags, balloons, vehicles, and vast crowds.  Only horses that can remain poised in the face of pandemonium will make the grade and eventually participate in a Royal state event.

The horses reside in loose boxes which are large enough for them to turn around in and lie down.  They are trained and cared for by a team comprised of a head coachman, a deputy coachman, and four other coachmen.  Each coachman is responsible for about eight horses, and is assisted by four liveried helpers, who muck out the stalls, groom, feed, and exercise the horses.

mews 6
Windsor Greys in their loose boxes.

The Royal Mews also houses the collection of royal carriages.  This includes a variety of coaches, landaus, phaetons, barouches, broughams and even a sleigh.  The most elaborate is the Gold State Coach.  It was built for King George III and first appeared publicly in 1762.

DSCF5092
The Gold State Coach.  The Royal Mews, Mary Stewart-Wilson (1991), the gift of The Chronicle of the Horse.

Today it is used only for the most prestigious of occasions.  The coach is huge.  It is 12 feet tall, 24 feet long and weighs in at 4 tons.  It is always drawn by eight horses at a walking pace.  To prepare for pulling the coach, the horses are trained using an empty carriage to which sandbags are added over time, gradually increasing its weight until it matches that of the coach.

The operation of the Royal Mews supports the preservation of a number of artisan professions.  The carriages are maintained by restorers who make repairs and refurbish both the exteriors and interiors of the vehicles.

DSCF5097
“Carriage restorer Erik West with his assistant Martin Oates in the Royal Mews Paint Shop.”  The Royal Mews, Mary Stewart-Wilson (1991), the gift of The Chronicle of the Horse.

The leatherwork on the bridles, harnesses, and saddles is cared for by saddlers.  While leather is replaced regularly, most of the brass fittings date to the 19th century.  Parts of the harness are still hand stitched with the traditional 15-18 stitches per inch.

mews 8
State Harness Room at the Royal Mews in Buckingham Palace. Mr Peter Stark is depicted cleaning the harnesses (Circa 1950).

The livery for the coachmen is as elaborate as the fittings for the horses, and requires specialized tailoring skills to create and maintain.

DSCF5098
“Full State postilion jackets have over 41 metres of gold lace and tubular braid applied to them.”  The Royal Mews, Mary Stewart-Wilson (1991), the gift of The Chronicle of the Horse.

I hope this brief overview gives you an idea of the amount of work and the range of skills required to stage a Royal carriage procession.  The NSLM Library holds a variety of resources on carriages, coaching, horse breeds, saddlery, and the modern sport of driving.  Most of them are available to the public in the Main Reading Room.  Please consider dropping in to explore this fascinating subject more deeply.


SONY DSC

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

 

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.

George_Washington-_first_president_of_the_United_States_LCCN2001700099
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.

Chester_A_Arthur_1859
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.

DSCF5005
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.

DSCF5009
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.

DSCF4997
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.

DSCF5001
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…

eisenhower2
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)

DSCF5013
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.

DSCF4993
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.

DSCF4992
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

“‘The Winnah’ Alligator – Horse of Iron” was the inscription that sporting artist and illustrator Paul Brown chose to describe Alligator, the bay gelding that he noted won not one, not two, not three, but an unbelievable FOUR steeplechases after various jockeys fell and remounted.  The 1928 West Hills Plate, 1929 Maryland Cup, 1930 International Cup at Grasslands, and the Millbrook Hunt Steeplechase are annotated in the lower margin of one of Brown’s illustrations for his book, Ups and Downs (1936). The artist sketched some of Alligator’s gravity-defying crashes and wins for the book as well as his earlier publication, Spills and Thrills (1933), and his captions present entertaining and informative details.

SONY DSC
Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) The “Winnah,” 1936, pencil on paper, inscribed:  The “Winnah” Alligator – Horse of Iron – | Fell   Millbrook  – and won | ”        Maryland – ”       ” |” Grasslands – ”       ” | ” or Lost Rider at West Hills and won  | Paul Brown ’36. Donated by Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013.

The first race was for the West Hills Plate, the seventh annual meet held on Long Island on November 10, 1928. Brown’s drawing shows jockey Frederic C. Thomas going over the horse’s head at the first fence, swinging underneath its neck, and desperately trying to hold on before losing his grip. “An exhibition of indomitable courage was witnessed here this afternoon,” noted the next day’s article in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

SONY DSC
Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) Alligator hit 1st, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, inscribed: Alligator hit 1st – Freddie Thomas started nose dive – caught mounts neck – swung under it – horse stopped – Freddie remounted – and won – West Hills Plate, West Hills 1928. Donated by Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013.

Alligator won the thirty-first running of the Meadow Brook Cup with Lyman Wright up in 1929 without a fall. Brown’s exquisite illustration of the race held on sportsman F. Ambrose Clark’s estate captures a pivotal moment described in an article in the September 29, 1929 The Baltimore Sun: “…Hackenthorpe stayed with his rivals three-quarters of the way, but when the famous stone wall appeared again Hackenthorpe did not have enough left to get over and the race was left to Alligator and Reel Foot.”

SONY DSC
Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) The Hole in the Wall, 1933, pencil and ink on paper,  inscribed: The Hole in the Wall – Alligator, Reel Foot, Hackenthorpe – Lyman Wright, Bill Streett, Charlie Cushman up – how they drove for the gap in the 12th – Alligator won the race – Reel Foot was 2nd – Hackenthorpe fell Meadow Brook Cup 1929 Donated by Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel,  2013.

Brown did not illustrate Alligator’s famed April 1929 Maryland Hunt Cup win in his books, but the wife of the horse’s trainer Harry Plumb found it worthy of a poetic tribute. Plumb was also the father of one of Alligator’s jockeys, Charles T. Plumb:*

From out the ruck / Of many a name, / “Alligator” / He raced to fame.

The Maryland Hunt! / The ‘CUP’ the prize: / “They’re off” the cry, / And then, surprise….

At number-two fence, / That timbered rail, / Alligator fell: / “Too bad” they wail.

But ‘blood’ will not tell / In man or beast. / And fame is made /At racing feast….

For quick as a flash / From starting gun, / Alligator’s up…./ And starts to run.

The ‘field’ out there / In front so far: / A hopeless chase / For this great star.

But fence by fence, / By hand and ride, / Alligator / In glorious stride

Picks up the loss / And leads them all / He wins the race: / “Hurrah” they call.

She continued with a description of a repeat performance by Alligator:

Then, once more, this / “Thorobred Crack” / Surprised the fans / At Grasslands track:

Fencing so clean / With jump and stride. / His praises sung / On every side.

But here, again, / This grand horse fell, / Next fence at last, / Pell-mell! Pell-mell!

Then up again / ‘Tis writ as history, / He galloped on / To cheers and victory.

– “Salute to a Great Horseman” by Elaine T. Plumb, The Chronicle, Dec. 31, 1948

SONY DSC
Paul Desmond Brown (American, 1893-1958) Dramatic, 1933, pencil and ink on paper, inscribed: Dramatic – I’ll say so – next last fence – Alligator fell – Waverly Star dog tired and went down in the mud too tired to get up – Charlie Plum wiped mud and blood from face – remounted – went on – won. Grasslands 1930. Donated by Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013.

Approximately 8,000 spectators witnessed the running of the grueling first International Cup held at the Grasslands Downs Course, TN, in 1930. Every single one of the seventeen entries either fell or pulled up. Brown’s sketch shows Alligator falling on his front knees going over the 25th jump and Waverly Star slipping.  “Charlie Plum [sic] wiped mud and blood from face – remounted – went on – won,” wrote Brown in the caption describing the nail-biting ending of the race.

2009.21.3 web.jpg
Franklin Brooke Voss, (American, 1880-1953) Alligator, 1929, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, Gift of the children of Peter Winants, Sr., 2009

Viewing American sporting artist Franklin Brooke Voss’s serene 1929 portrait of Alligator in light of Paul Brown’s illustrations with the horse’s striking career in mind –  is transformative. This is Alligator, “Horse of Iron,” and one of the most hardcore steeplechase horses that ever lived.

* Errata: The poem was previously incorrectly attributed to the wife of jockey and Meadowbrook Huntsman Charles T. Plumb.


pfeifferClaudia Pfeiffer has been the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art at the National Sporting Library & Museum since the position was underwritten by the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Foundation in 2012. Her primary focus is the research, design, interpretation, writing, and installation of exhibitions. E-mail Claudia at cpfeiffer@nationalsporting.org

“This beautiful animal, which, so far as I can ascertain, has now entirely ceased to exist, and concerning which the strangest legends and traditions are afloat, was, I think it may be positively asserted, of Andalusian blood.”

Henry William Herbert (1807-1858) chronicled the state of all American things equine in his massive two-volume work, Frank Forester’s Horse and Horsemanship of the United States and British provinces of North America (1857). The subject in this chapter was the mysterious Narragansett Pacer, the first truly American breed of horse. Like many inventions in the colonial world, the breed was devised through necessity in environmental conditions that were unknown in Europe.

Saddlebred_Yearlings_At_Willowbank_Farm_In_Simpsonville,_kY_(8082425397)
Saddlebred Yearlings At Willowbank Farm In Simpsonville, KY by Heather Moreton from Louisville, KY, USA. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

Without a system of refined, easy roadways in America, colonial settlers were obliged to ride on horseback instead of using carriages. Riding horseback long distances could be brutally jarring, and it wasn’t long before colonists began looking for a horse with a smoother, more comfortable gait. The result was the Narragansett Pacer, named for the Narragansett Bay in Rhode Island. The breed emerged in mystery, including several wild legends detailed by Herbert:

“The legends, to which I allude, tell in two wise; or rather, I should say, there are only two versions of the same legend. One saying that the original stallion, whence came the breed, was picked up at sea, swimming for his life, no one knew whence or whither; and was so carried in by his salvors to the Providence Plantations; the other, evidently another form of the same story, stating that the same original progenitor was discovered running wild in the woods of Rhode Island.” Frank Forester’s Horse and Horsemanship of the United States and British provinces of North America (1857), volume II, page 67.

pacer
Illustration from Frank Forester’s Horse and Horsemanship of the United States and British Provinces of North America (1857). National Sporting Library & Museum, acquired 1981, the gift of Mrs. William Pyemont.

Fanciful legends aside, it’s most likely that the Pacer was the product of import of Spanish, Irish, and British stock throughout the 17th Century and into the early 18th Century. Like several older European and Asian breeds, the Pacer’s feet of one side moved one after the other. This proved to be far more comfortable than a pounding four-time walk for riders spending hours in the saddle.

704px-American_Saddlebred_Bathing
American Saddlebred Bathing (2008). Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License, accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

In the 1700s, the Pacer became the most popular breed in the American colonies and the fledgling United States. Good Pacers were sought for riding and racing alike, and George Washington owned several. According to legend, when Paul Revere embarked on his famous midnight ride, it was aboard a Narragansett Pacer.

Unfortunately, by the 1880s (and likely long before then) the Narragansett Pacer had gone extinct as a breed. In many ways, the breed was a victim of its own success. Pacers were heavily exported to the Caribbean in the 19th Century. The Pacer was also aggressively cross-bred with other breeds, leading to the demise of the original breed, but also making Pacers a major contributor to a new breed, the American Saddlebred. Although the Narragansett Pacer has been gone for over 140 years, its influence lives on in the many American breeds derived from it.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Head Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. 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 John by e-mail

A Brief Context

Mounted warfare played a critical role in European affairs of state from the 16th through the 19th centuries. Essentially all English works on horsemanship in that period applied directly or indirectly to the military, particularly the many works focused on the British light cavalry, or “light horse,” prominent in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Henry_Herbert_earl_of_Pembroke_by_Joshua_Reynolds
Henry Herbert, Earl of Pembroke, by Joshua Reynolds. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

These works included broad treatises on the discipline, such as Robert Hinde’s The Discipline of the Light-Horse (1778) and Captain L. Neville’s A Treatise on the Discipline of Light Cavalry (1796), as well as narrower works on equitation, such as the Earl of Pembroke’s A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1761, with subsequent editions) and William Tyndale’s A Treatise on Military Equitation (1797).

Pembroke’s Military Equitation

Henry Herbert, 10th Earl of Pembroke (1734-94), entered cavalry service in 1752, rose to the rank of general in 1782, and saw his influential treatise through four editions: A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1761 and 1762), revised and retitled, Military Equitation; or, A Method of Breaking Horses, and Teaching Soldiers to Ride (1778 and 1793). It addressed “the wretched system of Horsemanship, that at present prevails in the ARMY,” a system that leaves men and horses unprepared “for want of proper instructions and intelligence in this Art.”

leather
The full-leather cover of Military Equitation by the Earl of Pembroke, 1778. National Sporting Library & Museum, Ludwig von Hunersdorf collection.

Military Equitation outlines a program, including lessons, for training the military horse and rider, emphasizing both theory and practice. Unsparing in his criticism of current military horsemanship—after Xenophon, “horsemanship was buried for ages, or rather brutalised, which is still too much the case”—and of inept riding-masters, farriers, and grooms, he spares soldiers and remounts (military equines): their ignorance results from poor training and is therefore correctable. Reason and moderation, patience and gentleness, and simplicity of means are the proper tools for educating horses and soldiers alike.

In The Development of Modern Riding (1962), Vladimir Littauer noted that “Pembroke’s is a very small and unimportant book,” particularly when compared to the 18th century masterworks of dressage. Rather than dismissing Pembroke, however, Littauer was praising him as “a follower of the French school [of dressage who] was practical enough to suggest its considerable simplification for the army,” who successfully repurposed dressage for the military work at hand. What Pembroke did for the French school, William Tyndale did for Pembroke: he further simplified the simplifier.

3edition-plate7
Plate from Military Equitation, Third Edition, by the Earl of Pembroke, 1778. National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of John H. and Martha Daniels, 1999.

Tyndale’s Treatise on Military Equitation

William Tyndale (17??-1830) was a landowner who performed regimental service in the late 18th century, notably as major and lieutenant-colonel in the 1st Life Guards. Tyndale’s first tract, Instructions for Young Dragoon Officers (second edition, 1796), was followed by A Treatise on Military Equitation (1797), published in one edition only. The latter was intended for “regimental riding masters” who may know horsemanship through experience but who cannot teach it effectively because they lack knowledge of its underlying principles.

Tyndale invokes Pembroke’s Military Equitation as “the best work of the kind in our language.” Like Pembroke, he believes that “the present system, which is much the same throughout the cavalry, is contrary to every principle of true horsemanship,” and that successful instruction of young men and horses demands reason, patience, and simplicity of means. Regarding Pembroke’s work, however, as “beyond the comprehension of those whom it is my wish to teach and reform,” Tyndale focuses on the practical application of principles of “true” horsemanship.

saddle
A fold-out plate from A Treatise on Military Equitation, by William Tyndale, 1797, illustrating Tyndale’s plan for a military saddle of his “own invention.” National Sporting Library & Museum.

Tyndale also argues that the British predilection for hunting had caused the military to neglect formal dressageInstructors failed to retrain young recruits in “the method of riding which is necessarily adopted in regiments of cavalry, and which must be adopted by every individual” to prevent confusion—even chaos—in tight formation. Whether Tyndale was right or not, British writers in the next century would press the contrary case for hunting as ideal preparation for cavalry.

National Sporting Library & Museum Holdings

What will 21st century equestrian readers gain from these two treatises on military equitation? They will gain historical knowledge of an important moment in the evolution of horsemanship, and they will find principles and lessons applicable to their own riding. All readers, equestrian or not, will gain the opportunity to converse with two quick and practical 18th century minds and to school with two seasoned trainers of horses and men.

title1
Title page of the Earl of Pembroke’s book, 1752 edition, with a pasted plate on the facing page depicting the horse Sportsman.

NSLM holds eight copies of Pembroke’s treatise: two copies of the 1st edition, three of the 2nd edition, two of the 3rd edition, and one of the 4th edition. The 3rd and 4th editions call for seventeen plates, and NSLM’s copy of the 4th edition and one of its copies of the 3rd edition each contain the complete set. NSLM also holds a copy of the single edition of the rare Tyndale treatise, complete with its five called-for plates. The copies are clean and clear, and solidly and impressively bound.

title-lonsdale
The 1752 edition of the Earl of Pembroke’s book, with the bookplate of the Earl of Lonsdale on the facing page.

A reader with access to NSLM holdings, in short, can experience these two works in their original forms—an experience providing not only textual authority and aesthetic pleasure, but also historical immediacy. Each copy carries its provenance in previous owner bookplates and signatures, auction and donor entries, and marginal notations. Travelers through time, these books carry the physical traces of their histories with them.


caramelloCharles Caramello is John H. Daniels Fellow at the National Sporting Library & Museum and Professor of English at University of Maryland. He is working on a book called Horsemen, Horse Soldiers, and Grand Illusions. This blog is adapted from the Introduction to a dual edition of Pembroke’s Military Equitation and Tyndale’s Treatise on Military Equitation, completed at NSLM and forthcoming from Xenophon Press.