Once upon a time, the tiny Virginia town of Middleburg experienced a golden age of enthusiasm for riding and equestrian sport. After The Great Hound Match of 1905 put Virginia on the map as prime foxhunting country, several hunts began operating in the region and the countryside transformed into an optimal landscape for riding.

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“Children and Ponies,” Undated photograph by Dove Hayes. In the Gerald B. Webb, Jr. Archive, National Sporting Library & Museum. Caption reads: “Left to Right: Polly Baldwin and ‘Merry’; Bobby Baldwin and ‘Star’; Barry Hamilton and ‘Jock’; Jimmy Hamilton and ‘Mountain Music’; Eve Prime and ‘Spoogie Woogie’; Christie Thompson and ‘Dummie.'”

Middleburg became a close-knit community in the heart of Hunt Country in the 1920s and 1930s. An excellent first-hand account of Middleburg in this era can be found in The Way It Was: Middleburg in the 1920s and 1930s by Catherine Hulbert Harts (a copy is in the NSLM collection). There really was no age barrier to participation in horse sports: children rode on ponies as soon as they were able to sit up in the saddle.

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The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Christopher McClary, 2016. Foxhunting directories often included hunt diary sections for riders to record daily activities. This copy belonged to Jane Stevenson McClary, who was eleven years old in 1931.

A recent donation to the NSLM collection is a British-printed copy of The Hunting Diary and Guide, 1930-31. The entries were made by a young lady named Jane Walker Stevenson, who rode in and around Middleburg. Jane was eleven years old in 1931, and was quite the accomplished rider, foxhunting with the Orange County Hounds and riding with friends from Foxcroft School.

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An afternoon of hide-and-seek, misadventures, and apples. In 1931, children played with their ponies in and around Middleburg.

Jane’s entries are both charming and opinionated. “Nancy and Barbara Iselin, Louise Dillworth came over on ponies,” she notes in her entry on Friday, March 6, 1931. “Played hide & seek on ponies. Barby fell off and I was going to lead Atoka over a jump and he pulled away from me twice. Jumped the four ft. post & sail. Atoka knocked the top rail off. Gave horses apples.”

The following day, Jane was out with Orange County, starting from the No. 18 School House in Marshall, and cutting across country to Rectortown, some five miles away.

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“Number 18 School in Marshall,” 2011. Accessed via Wikimedia Commons. The Orange County meet began at this one-room school house, which still stands in Marshall, VA today.

“I was so mad at Nancy Smith,” writes Jane, “she said she was such a great rider and nonsence [sic] and she fell off on a chicken coop about 3 ft. My! She can boast.”

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A “Collossal Run with Orange County,” March 7, 1931.

The episode didn’t ruin the day, though. “Lovely Mrs. Filly was out and she *is* lovely. GREAT Day and nice,” she writes.

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An impressive roster! Jane lists all her hunting outings, and every horse she rode during the year. She terms it “a truly grand season.”

As for Jane Stevenson, her practice at writing evidently paid off. After attending The Hill School in Middleburg, she went on to marry Robinson McIlvane and write for The Washington Times-Herald and Fortune.

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Jane grew up to be an accomplished journalist and author. Her book To Win the Hunt was illustrated by her husband, Nelson McClary.

After her first marriage ended in divorce, she returned to Middleburg, eventually marrying Nelson McClary and she rode again with the Orange County Hounds. She wrote regularly for Middleburg Life and published over a dozen books during her lifetime. After Nelson passed, his son Christopher donated the family’s books to NSLM. Jane’s childhood diary was included in the donation, and we’re pleased to preserve the stories she recorded from the days where children kept pace with some of the best riders in the country.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. 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

We love our books, but sometimes things can go wrong. A sad reality about books is that they have limited strength. Spines crack, hinges weaken, leather and paper deteriorate. Here in the Library, we collect for use by our researchers. And each time a book is opened, it breaks down a little more. When we opened a box last year and found a bevy of distressed tomes, we knew we had to act.

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Can you believe how spineless some books are?

With the help of our members, we raised the funds to take the first set of broken books to the book doctor. I had a chance to visit Nancy Delaney of Delaney Book Restorations and look in on the progress of the restoration work.

The workshop. Nancy has restored antiquarian books by hand for years.
The workshop. Nancy has restored antiquarian books by hand for years.

 

The Lady's Equestrian Guide. This book is getting a complete re-binding, as the old cloth binding fell off entirely.
The Lady’s Equestrian Guide. This book is getting a complete re-binding, as the old cloth binding fell off entirely.

 

Our adopted books are currently being re-stitched, providing strength and stability before new covers are added.
Our adopted books are currently being re-stitched, providing strength and stability before new covers are added.

 

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Even the spineless can find redemption with a little help! A cloth liner is being added to restore the hinges before a new leather spine is added.

 

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It’s not enough to add new leather. The strengthening extends into the boards to extend the life of the book.

 

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“The Poetical Works of Thomas Campbell,” a fore-edge book, is getting new leather today.

 

First, the replacement leather is cut.
First, the replacement leather is cut.

 

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And then it’s fitted to the book. Before the leather is attached, it will go through skiving to thin and trim the thickness of the leather.

 

The skiving process is necessary with leather to hide everything beneath the outer layer: leather show everything, and we don’t want the new spine to have bumps, creases or ripples.

We’re thrilled with the restoration work, and look forward to getting images of the fully restored volumes. And keep an eye out for our next round of book adoption opportunities this November!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. 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

Frequently, reference questions offer tantalizing tangents utterly unrelated to the original question.  I recently pulled a book called The Hare (1896), from the Fur and Feather series edited by Alfred E. T. Watson, for a visitor that was interested in information on coursing.   In addition to information about hare hunting, this book includes a section on Cookery.  Interesting and practical!

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The Fur and Feather series edited by Alfred E. T. Watson (1895-1896)

In his introduction to the series Mr. Watson says, “Each volume of the present series will, therefore, be devoted to a bird or beast, and will be divided into three parts.  The Natural History of the variety will first be given ; it will then be considered from the point of view of sport ; and the writer of the third division will assume that the creature has been carried to the larder, and will proceed to discuss it gastronomically.” (The Hare, Preface page v.)

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The Hare: Natural History by H. A. Macpherson ; Shooting by Gerald Lascelles ; Coursing by Charles Richardson ; Hunting by J. S. Gibbons and G. H. Longman ; Cookery by Kenney Herbert. c1896. The gift of Dr. Timothy Greenan.

Intrigued by the possibilities of 1896 cookery, I leafed through hare cookery only to stumble across this line, “The only meat I know which might be taken for hare is that of the porcupine, not only in flavour and closeness of grain, but also in appearance, ‘which the blacknesse thereof convinceth,’ for, contrary to the general impression, it is not white.  A young porcupine about half-grown is really a delicacy.” (p. 262).

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Porcupine.  Image via The Animal Rescue Site

Really?  Porcupine meat was so commonly consumed that it could be used as a reference to describe hare?  I suppose the porcupine, trundling along through the woods, would be a lot easier to catch than the speedy hare but even so it seems like the porcupine would be the exotic meal, not the hare.

On to the cookbooks for further research!  NSLM has quite a few modern day, game cookbooks which I perused looking for porcupine recipes.

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Pennsylvania Game Cookbook edited by Bob Bell (1979) ; The Derrydale Game Cook Book by Louis Pullig De Gouy (c1934, 1950) ; Wild fare & wise words : recipes and writing from the great outdoors edited by Jim and Ann Casada (2005) ; The NAHC Wild Game Cookbook edited by Bill Miller et. al. (1991)

Next to the expected recipes for pheasant and venison, I did indeed find quite a few recipes for porcupine!  I also found preparations for a whole host of other critters that I didn’t realize people ate outside of survival situations.  Items on the menu include, crow, fox, groundhog, muskrat, opossum, and raccoon.  Recipes are generally preceded by tips on the appropriate dressing and handling of game.  This is especially critical to those of us who have only cooked with prepared, packaged meat from the grocery store.  The recipes themselves cover a wide range of preparations and, for the most part, sound pretty tasty.  It’s interesting to consider the culturally determined rules governing what is considered food and what isn’t.

Just as I was turning away from the cookbook shelf, I noticed a bright green cover and made the mistake of pulling it out for a look.  In my hands was, The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director by Richard Bradley, originally published in 1736.

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The Country Housewife and Lady’s Director by Richard Bradley, c1736, 1980.

Of course I couldn’t resist checking out what cooks were up to in 1736.  On a positive note, they were very thrifty and what we would call “green.”  They used EVERYTHING.  However, here’s a short list of some less savory tidbits from back in the day:  Recipes for “Viper-Soup from Mr. Ganeau” (p. 149-150), for “Calf’s-Head Pie” (p. 158-159),  how “To Prepare the Caviar, or Spawn of the Sturgeon” (p. 23),  and “The Manner of Pickling and Drying of Sheeps Tongues, or Hogs Tongues, which they call Stags Tongues, from a celebrated practioner of forty years standing in London” (p. 27).

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Badger, a nice sweet meat! Image via The Animal Rescue Site

I also found out that, “The badger is one of the cleanest creatures, in its food, of any in the world, and one may suppose that the flesh of this creature is not unwholesome.  It eats like the finest pork, and is much sweeter than pork” (p. 145).

Ugh, maybe I’ll stick with the porcupine.

If you would like some fresh ideas on cooking game I’d be happy to show you our cookbooks any time.  They contain many ideas for preparing game fowl, as well as both large, and small game.  Alternatively, if you’d like to challenge Anthony Bourdain and his Parts Unknown show to a time traveling episode, I have a cookbook that’ll be just the thing!


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

Many readers may not realize it, but the vast majority of the books at the National Sporting Library have been donated to us.  We rarely purchase titles.  In 1954, two of our founders, Alexander Mackay-Smith and George L. Ohrstrom Sr., pooled their personal libraries to create the National Sporting Library.  Since then the collection has grown and evolved through donations both large and small from the community.

The library today is a reflection of the interests of the sporting community.  We have books, both scholarly and for the layperson, on a large variety of equine topics, as well as on art, angling, hunting, wingshooting, hounds, firearms, biography, and general sporting.  The sporting community has a long tradition of poking fun at itself and as such, you will also find humorous books on our shelves.

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John Tickner, Horse & Hound Magazine, 6 March 1997, pg. 12

John Tickner (1913-1997) was a prolific writer and cartoonist.  He is probably best known for his weekly cartoon in Horse & Hound magazine where he worked for twenty years.  In addition, he also wrote and illustrated numerous lighthearted books on horses, riding, and country life.

Here at NSLM we have ten volumes by Tickner and one compilation of his Horse & Hound cartoons.

tickner-booksTickner’s Dog Licence (1957), Tickner’s Light Horse (1958), Tickner’s Show Piece (1958), Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia (1960), To Hounds with John Tickner (1962), Tickner’s Pub (1965), Tickner’s Rural Guide (1967), Tickner’s Hunting Field (1970), Tickner’s Terriers (1977), Tickner’s Ponies (1991, c1966), and Tickner’s Horse & Hound (1997).

Here’s a closer look at Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia (1960).

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John Tickner, 1960.

Under A…

Accident: “An accident is an awful thing when it is happening to you but, if you happen to survive it – and quite a few horse persons do – it gives you a wonderful opportunity to bore everyone you meet for weeks, months and even years.”

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Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia, by John Tickner, 1960, pg. 7.

Under C…

Colour: “The colour of horses is one of the most useful topics of conversation if you wish to trap people who pretend to know about horses into revealing that they don’t.  All horses are a colour and some horses are several.  The essential thing to know is that a horse is hardly ever the colour it appears to be.”

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Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia by John Tickner, 1960, pg. 29

And under M…

Mount: “The most spectacular way of mounting (see films and television) is to leap from a balcony.  This is frightfully spectacular and is most spectacular when the horse moves off just as the mounting person is in the middle of leaping from the balcony.”

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Tickner’s Horse Encyclopaedia by John Tickner, 1960, pgs. 68-69.

All of Tickner’s books are light, comical, and quick reads.  If you’re looking for a way to spend a cold winter afternoon, I encourage you to drop by the main reading room and settle into one of our comfy couches or chairs and have a laugh or two with John Tickner.


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

The village of Middleburg and its surrounding beautiful Virginia hunt country boast numerous famous residents and visitors, both past and present. The portrait painter Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand (1876-1941) can now officially be added to this list.

Rand was among the first females in the United States to succeed as a professional portrait artist. She was a contemporary of Mary Foote who painted Rand’s portrait.

Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 image source: https://i0.wp.com/www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg
Mary Foote (American, 1847-1938), Portrait of Ellen Emmet, c. 1907 [ image source: http://www.askart.com/photos2/2014/BAR20080801_6627/170.jpg ]

Rand was formally trained, having attended classes at Cowles Art School in Boston and the Art Student League in New York City. She received instruction from some of the greats of her generation, studying at William Merritt Chase’s school in Shinnecock, New York, and with Frederick MacMonnies in Paris.

Ellen Emmet Rand, Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Frederick MacMonnies In His Studio, ca. 1898, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.17.jpg ]
Rand is perhaps best known for painting the official presidential portrait of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1934, among the hundreds of portraits which she completed of politicians, captains of industry, socialites, artists, and scholars throughout her over forty-year career.

In 1936, the Sporting Gallery in New York City held an exhibition titled Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A., featuring twenty of her hunt paintings. Among these, seven were of Virginia-based sitters. I have been researching this exhibition for an essay I am contributing to a book being developed for the University of Connecticut/William Benton Museum’s upcoming retrospective exhibition, The Business of Bodies: Ellen Emmet Rand (1875-1941) and the Persuasion of Portraiture, on view in Connecticut from October 2018 through March 2019.

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Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet cover from the Frick Art Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 the Frick Reference Library, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files
Photocopy of Sporting Portraits by Ellen Emmet Rand, N.A. exhibition pamphlet pages 2 and 3 from the Frick Reference Library, New York, National Sporting Library & Museum, Ellen Emmet Rand Curatorial files

In exploring Ellen Emmet Rand’s densely-written diaries (years 1918 and 1926-1941) which are housed in the Ellen Emmet Rand archives held at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut, I am beginning to discover entries about Rand’s travels to Middleburg and the surrounding region to paint. Some of these portraits were in the 1936 exhibition.

Rand stayed at the Red Fox Inn in Middleburg in 1929 to paint the portrait of Foxcroft School founder and jt-MFH of the Middleburg Hunt, Miss Charlotte Noland (#7 in the Sporting Gallery pamphlet). Rand received what would become one of her favorite mares, Gandora, in lieu of payment for the painting. She wrote on March 8, 1929:

The deal for this portrait is a very good mare of Miss Charlotte’s  thoroughly broken + a fine jumper + a good size + a good horse quite nice looking. That is Miss Charlotte’s return for the portrait + I am well satisfied. (1929 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

Considering Rand was making between $3,000 and $4,500 per painting that year, it must have been quite a horse!

, The Collection of Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (1875 – 1941), Miss Charlotte Noland, Joint M.F.H., The Middleburg Hunt, 1929, oil on canvas, 40 x 30 inches, Foxcroft School, Middleburg, Virginia [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199 ]
In April and October of 1930, Rand stayed at the Orange County Hunt Club in The Plains  to paint Mrs. Harriet Harper and her husband Mr. Fletcher Harper, MFH of the Orange County (and an NSLM founder) respectively, #1 and 2 in the 1936 exhibition. (Read more about the couple here: Mr. and Mrs. Fletcher Harper by John Connolly) Rand only drew two sketches in her 1930 Diary; both were of Fletcher Harper. She made what she called “a fake start” of Mr. Harper’s portrait on October 1,1930:

October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand
Sketch of Fletcher Harper, October 1-2, 1930 diary entries by Ellen Emmet Rand, 1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut

I started F. this p.m. Made a fake start, the position + lights were not quite right! I will make a fresh start tomorrow. He is awfully good fun to paint. (1930 Diary, Ellen Emmet Rand Archive, Box 6, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut)

The passage most likely refers to the incomplete painting in the NSLM’s permanent collection.

Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972

The artist, however, did not only come to Virginia hunt country to work. She and her husband William Blanchard Rand were both accomplished equestrians and sometimes made trips to The Plains on and around Thanksgiving to ride, shop for horses, attend the Warrenton Point-to-Point, visit with friends and acquaintances, foxhunt, and hilltop. Rand’s portrait completed in January 1936 of her husband, who was MFH of Old Chatham and a polo player, depicts him in his hunt attire. It was #12  in the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

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Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941), William B. Rand, ca. 1935, William Benton Museum of Art Collection © University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT. [image source: http://benton.uconn.edu/wp-content/uploads/sites/1519/2016/05/1969.18.jpg ]
It is not surprising that Ellen Emmet Rand as a portrait painter who loved horses would be drawn to the Middleburg area. I look forward to discovering other local places she may have rested her head as I continue to delve into her first-person account to research the 1936 Sporting Gallery exhibition.

If you are willing to share information about any Ellen Emmet Rand works, especially the whereabouts of any of the Sporting Gallery exhibition paintings listed above, please contact me. It is an opportunity to flesh out scholarship with nine specialists who are focusing on the life and times of Ellen Emmet Rand. Not only will the research support this project, but we are developing an exhibition for the National Sporting Library & Museum as well.

Writer's Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center.
Writer’s Retreat, December 1, 2016, Essay authors consult the Ellen Emmet Rand manuscript collection at UConn’s Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center. Project lead and Curator: Alexis Boylan, UConn-Art & Art History; Essay Contributors: Emily Burns, Auburn University; Betsy Fahlman, Arizona State University; William Harris, Franklin D. Roosevelt Presidential Library and Museum (not pictured); Elizabeth Lee, Dickinson College; Emily Mazzola, Fitchburg Art Museum; Claudia Pfeiffer, National Sporting Library & Museum (not pictured); Susan Spiggle, UConn- School of Business; Thayer Tolles, Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Christopher Vials, UConn-English (not pictured).

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

 

Several months ago, I saw a fascinating column by John Kelly in The Washington Post that looked at an outbreak of equine influenza in 1872. The column looks at the impact on Washington, DC and Richmond of “The Great Epizootic,” a massive outbreak that impacted Canada and most of the United States between October and December of that year. Since my desk is less than 30 feet from the NSLM’s collection of 19th Century newspapers, I decided to see if any of our materials could help tell the story.

Two resources were most prominent in our collection on the topic: The Turf, Field and Farm and The Spirit of the Times. Both were weekly newspapers printed in New York City, but enjoyed a national audience that submitted small columns or letters spread throughout the paper.

“The disease appears to be a form of influenza, and is classed by veterinary authorities under three heads, viz., the catarrhal, rheumatic and the gastro-erysipelatous forms. The disease, which has made such havoc in the stables of Buffalo, Niagara and [Rochester], is of a catarrhal character, its first noticeable symptoms being a flow of tears from the eyes, a watery discharge from the nose, and general languor, followed by a cough.”

“The Horse Epidemic,” The Turf, Field and Farm, October 25, 1872

The papers assert that the disease first broke out in Canada and trailed south quickly, infecting stables across the United States in a matter of days.

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Illustration from Every Man His Own Horse Doctor by George Armitage, 1877. The main symptom of “The Great Epizootic” was lethargy and weakness.

Almost overnight, “The Great Epizootic” became a national crisis. Although most food sources during the era were far more local than today, many other aspects of the economy ground to a halt without a means of transportation. The horse was still the main powerhouse for plowing and carting in rural communities, and by the 1870s, urban travel had quickly become dependent on the horse to pull rail cars and trolleys in the cities.

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Horse-drawn rail car of the Toronto Street Railway Company, High Park line, at King and Queen Streets, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, circa 1889. Toronto Public Library, via Wikimedia Commons.

Even worse, the epidemic was a critical factor in the Great Boston Fire, which broke out on November 9 and destroyed over 750 buildings in twelve hours. The Boston Fire Department’s horses were unable to pull tanks and engines when the fire broke out, forcing the department to respond to the fire with volunteers pushing equipment on foot.

“The fire departments of London and New York have put out thousands of fires every bit as threatening in the commencement, and in as crowded neighborhoods, as the one at Boston. But at the latter place the sickness of the horses induced the fire companies to draw their own engines, heavy engines, to the fire. Before they reached it and got to work it was beyond their control.”

“The Horse Epidemic: The Boston Fire,” The Spirit of the Times, November 16, 1872.

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Aftermath of the Great Boston Fire of 1872. Public Works Department photograph collection, Collection 5000.009, City of Boston Archives, Boston, via Wikimedia Commons.

The challenges of contemporary American veterinary science were on full display during the crisis as conflicting theories of medicine and contagion resulted in recommendations from sources reliable or otherwise. The editors of The Turf, Field and Farm took a commonsense approach to their advice, endorsing the course of action that history would bear out as correct: give the patient rest, keep her comfortable, and feed her well.

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An ad for Taylor’s Great Compound in the November 16, 1872 issue of The Spirit of the Times. Businesses that lost money for each day a horse was ill were willing to pay well for those who claimed to have “the cure.”

The mortality rate of “The Great Epizootic” is estimated at no higher than 10 percent, but it likely could have been lower were it not for the great economic pressures to resist giving adequate rest. It appears that most casualties were very old, or had been overworked. The reality is sad in retrospect, but we might excuse some of it due to just how important the horse was to everyday life in the 19th Century.


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. 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

In a world dominated by word processors and digital publication, the treasures of the past can be uncovered in handwritten materials. The NSLM collections have many handwritten manuscripts in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. We do our best to ensure these materials get some regular appreciation, so here is a list of five great handwritten pieces in the NSLM collection.

5. Robert Burns, The Bonie Moorhen

This poem by Robert Burns (1759-1796) was never published during the poet’s lifetime. The poem details the difficulty of tracking the “moorhen” (grouse), but in reality it’s a romantic ode to Nancy McLehose, who exchanged letters with Burns in the 1780s. McLehose was married, but estranged from her husband, and she urged Burns not to publish a poem that would surely cause social scandal for everybody involved.

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The Bonie Moorhen, Robert Burns, 1788. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

4. R. S. Surtees, Account Book

One of the most prolific and classic sporting authors, R. S. Surtees (1805-1864) helped pioneer the sporting novel while creating comedic characters that have stood the test of time. This pocket-sized cash book was printed in 1853 and belonged to Surtees. It details both his daily expenditures and serves as a brief diary outlining weather or activities of the day.

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Account Book, R. S. Surtees, 1853. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

 

3. Samuel Howitt, Presentation Inscription

Samuel Howitt (1756-1822) was a prolific engraver of animals and sporting subjects during his lifetime. Financially independent as a young man, he devoted his time to riding and field sports before financial difficulties forced him into trade as an artist. His time on horseback served him well — much of his work draws upon his country experiences to depict shooting and equestrian scenes. The two volumes of etchings in the NSLM collection were presentation copies, and include a brief dedication by Howitt to the recipient, William Edkins.

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Presentation Inscription, Samuel Howitt, 1811. National Sporting Library & Museum, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

 

2. George Osbaldeston, Trotting Letter

“Squire” George Osbaldeston (1786-1866) was the prototype of the early sporting gentleman: rash, dashing, and eminently capable in the saddle and with a gun. Osbaldeston wagered thousands of pounds on his abilities, winning huge bets through his ability to ride for speed or endurance. Unfortunately, much of this money went to outrageous gambling debts that eventually forced him to sell his lands and die penniless. This letter is directed to Osbaldeston’s friend, Harry England, asking his opinion about two trotting matches to be races against time. The races would cover 31 miles in two hours, the other could cover 30 miles in two hours.

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Trotting Letter, George Osbaldeston, 1831. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

 

1. Theodore Roosevelt, Riding to Hounds on Long Island

Anybody who has been on our Library tour at NSLM has seen this piece. We’re very happy that John Daniels donated it to NSLM in 1999. The manuscript is an editorial piece for the Century Illustrated Magazine, and Roosevelt (1858-1919) wrote about the culture of foxhunting, and how Americans practice it. It’s the only manuscript in our collection from a U. S. President. The manuscript includes corrections and is signed on the final page.

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Riding to Hounds on Long Island, Theodore Roosevelt, 1886. National Sporting Library & Museum, John H. Daniels Collection, F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

It was difficult to pick just five, so we’ll have to highlight more in the coming weeks! Our blog is beginning a new Tuesday posting schedule for 2017. You can subscribe to the blog by clicking on the “Follow” button on our sidebar. We hope you’ll come back to read more about our collections (handwritten or printed) this year!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. 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