We just finished a shift of materials in the Library this week. Why is that such a big deal? Well, it means that the first leg of our collections maintenance project is drawing to a close.

From a practical point of view, the way our collections used to be organized created challenges to Library users and staff alike. Since Erica joined the NSLM staff last year, we have made tremendous headway to implementing full cataloging for our collections. That means you can find all of the 12,000 titles in the Main Reading Room on the Library’s catalog.

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A new call numbering system has been put in place at NSLM. As new signage is designed, the public is adopting individual stacks to commemorate friends or family. New signs will be ordered soon, and each will display the new system to help researchers find materials.

As we rearranged our books and made more efficient use of space, it became apparent that juggling gaps in the collection and keeping things tidy would be a challenge. The project produced more space, meaning sizable gaps.

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Olivia, our Library intern, was instrumental in helping us shift books. The massive gap was the product of three years of work on the project.
In addition to ease of access and improved findability, we saved enough space to bring the Library’s fiction collections back to the Main Reading Room. These collections had been stored on the Library’s Lower Level, which is restricted access.

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We finally have room for favorite fiction titles by Dick Francis, R. S. Surtees, Marguerite Henry, Paul Brown, and more in the Main Reading Room.
Lastly, the project creates a much more orderly space, with a cleaner feel. It will be easier to keep track of which books are being used or in need of repair. It will also be easier to read the shelves and keep them in order.

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A place for everything and everything in its place!
So what’s next? We’re currently working on cataloging our ephemera, photograph, and vertical file collections. Our Library volunteers Diane and Gale have been tremendously helpful to make progress there. We’re also preparing to begin a similar reprocessing project for our Rare Book Room collections. And after that, we’ll tackle our periodical backfile, much of which is completely uncataloged.


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 few weeks ago, I discovered that the National Museum of American History has a horse halter in its collection. The halter belonged to a horse named First Flight, and after browsing the catalog entry, I was stunned to discover how horses have helped save thousands of lives.

First Flight’s story is remarkable: he was bred to be a racehorse, but doesn’t appear to have ever raced (I couldn’t find him listed in any race records in the NSLM collection) and then went into service as a caisson horse in military funerals at Arlington National Ceremony. It appears that large crowds didn’t agree with him, and we was soon reassigned for being too skittish. In 1978, First Flight went to the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Maryland where he became a “living factory” to produce botulism antitoxin.

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The St. Andrew’s Society Pipes & Drums precedes the Mounted Army Color Guard from the Caisson Platoon of the 3rd U.S. Infantry Regiment at NSLM’s 6th Annual Polo Classic in 2016. First Flight was a caisson horse before being transferred to Fort Detrick to serve as a “living factory” of antitoxin. Photo courtesy of Chris Weber Studios.

Botulism is one of the most potent natural toxins, produced by a variety of strains of botulinum bacteria. First Flight was infected with each strain in succession, and as his immune system produced antibodies, his blood could be harvested to produce an effective remedy to botulism. First Flight’s serum was stockpiled during the Gulf War to protect against biological attacks using botulinum. Between Fort Detrick and a long stay at the University of Minnesota, First Flight gave over 16,000 liters of blood for botulism antitoxin.

 

 

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Horses Used in Serum Production, Wellcome Library, Archives and Manuscripts SA/LIS/R.188, Photo Number L0051725.

 

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One of the first bottles (1895) of diphtheria antitoxin produced at the Hygienic Laboratory, which became the NIH in 1930. Diphtheria antitoxin, was produced by inoculating horses or goats with increasingly concentrated doses of diphtheria bacteria. Image accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

The practice of using horses to derive antitoxin serum dates back to the 19th Century, and has been used to combat rabies, tetanus, and diphtheria. The innovation of serum treatment by Emil Adolf von Behring in 1890 was a huge step toward curing diphtheria and thousands of lives were saved. Horses, due to their hardiness and size, were ideal candidates for serum production. Unfortunately, the new treatment brought its own dangers.

One of the early equine stars of diphtheria serum production was Jim, a former milk wagon horse who produced 30 quarts of antitoxin over his career. In 1901, he showed signs of tetanus and was put down, but mislabeled antitoxin and poor record-keeping allowed tainted serum to be distributed to children, resulting in 13 deaths. The tragedy was a major catalyst behind passage of the Biologics Control Act in 1902, the first broad U. S. regulation of pharmaceuticals. The precedent led to the establishment of the Food and Drug Administration in 1906.

Production of antitoxin serum is more than a little unusual today. But it’s another fascinating way that horses have been instrumental to human progress over the years.


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

Phar Lap is Dead!  The terrible headline traveled around the globe and plunged Australia into mourning.  Why was this headline news?  Who was Phar Lap and why were Australians heartbroken by his death?  Phar Lap was a thoroughbred race horse with an incredible story.  It is the story of an inauspicious beginning, a triumphant rise to fame, and a tragic and mysterious death.

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Phar Lap.  From The Age

The horse that would be named Phar Lap was born in New Zealand, by Night Raid, out of Entreaty.  At the yearling auction at Trentham the chestnut colt was lot 41, the last one of the day.  He was large and clumsy, but based on his pedigree alone, Australian trainer Harry Telford wanted him.  Telford had convinced American David J. Davis to buy the colt sight unseen.  Telford’s brother placed the winning bid, 160 guineas.  A better bargain has never been had on a race horse but that fact would not be revealed for some time yet.

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Harry Telford.  From Museum Victoria

Phar Lap was shipped to Australia to embark on his training and eventual racing career.  When he arrived he was skinny, had developed boils on his face, and was so gangly and clumsy that Davis flat out refused to pay to train him.  Telford couldn’t afford to buy the horse from Davis, however they came to a lease arrangement where Telford would feed and train the horse for three years in exchange for two thirds of its winnings.  Initial training efforts were not very successful and Telford decided to have Phar Lap gelded and turned out for a while to mature.

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David J. Davis.  From Museum Victoria

As a two year old, his training got underway in earnest.  The regimen included grueling workouts where Phar Lap carried heavy weights up and down the coastal dunes.  It was in Telford’s stables that Phar Lap would meet and bond with the young strapper Tom Woodcock.  Tom fed and cared for the horse, and spent more time with him than any other human being.  The two developed a deep friendship and Tom was rarely more than a dozen yards away from Phar Lap for the rest of the horse’s life.

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Tom Woodcock and Phar Lap.  From Phar Lap, the story of the Big Horse, by I. R. Carter (1965).  NSLM. The gift of Alexander Mackay-Smith.

Phar Lap’s racing record is 51 starts for 37 wins, 3 seconds, and 2 thirds, including a streak of 14 consecutive wins between September 1930 and March 1931.  The highlight of this series was an impressive three length win at the Melbourne Cup while carrying the high weight of 138 pounds.  

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Phar Lap wins the 1930 Melbourne Cup by three full lengths, finishing with a time of 3 minutes and 27 seconds.  IMAGE CREDIT: National Library of Australia / Wikimedia Commons

He frequently won by several lengths and preferred to give ground early in a race and then run down the horses ahead of him.  He also frequently carried heavy weight handicaps, although that didn’t seem to bother him except for the 1931 Melbourne Cup race in which he failed to place while carrying 150 pounds, 52 more than the winner of the race.  He had incredible stamina and often raced a grueling schedule.  In one week in 1930 Phar Lap not only won four races in seven days, including the Melbourne Cup, but also survived an assassination attempt.  Someone shot at him from a car on Saturday morning, he raced and won the same day, won the Melbourne Cup on Tuesday, and two other races on Thursday and Saturday.

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Phar Lap with jockey Jim Pike riding at Flemington race track c 1930
Charles Daniel Pratt, 1893-1968 – Held in the collection of the State Library of Victoria

The public fell in love with Phar Lap.  The 1930s were difficult depression years in Australia and the people latched onto the horse’s rise from obscurity to complete domination of the racing world.  He was an underdog who succeeded through hard work and heart, overcoming obstacles such as heavy weight handicaps and even an assassination attempt, in his unstoppable rise to the pinnacle of Australian racing.  They saw in him traits that they valued as a nation, and they thrilled to see him win.

Having met every challenge available in Australia, Telford and Davis set their sights on conquering American racing.  It was decided that Phar Lap would make the long voyage across the Pacific and arrive in time to participate in the Agua Caliente Handicap on Sunday, March 20, 1932.

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Phar Lap being loaded onto the ship.  Taken from The Age

He arrived safely on January 15 to great fanfare and spent the next two months getting acclimated.  On the day of the race Phar Lap didn’t disappoint.  In front of a racecourse packed with 20,000 spectators, he let the pack lead him and then ran them all down effortlessly, winning by two lengths.  He broke the track record for the distance while he was at it.  Watch Phar Lap winning the Agua Caliente Handicap here.  Phar Lap was in peak condition and poised to take the American racing circuit by storm.  Sixteen days later he was dead.

After the Agua Caliente race, Phar Lap was taken to a breeding farm belonging to Edward D. Perry, near Menlo Park, California.  Here he was resting and training as plans were made for his tour of the United States.  On the morning of Tuesday, April 5th, Tom Woodcock found Phar Lap in obvious distress.  The vet that accompanied the party from Australia was summoned.  Initially they thought he was suffering from a colic attack but as his condition rapidly worsened, they began to suspect poisoning.  Despite their best efforts Phar Lap hemorrhaged and died shortly after noon.  By 3:30 the news was out.  Expressions of shock, disbelief, sadness, and condolence poured in from around the world.  How could this have happened?  As it turns out, this question still has not been definitively answered even 85 years later.

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Suspicions that Phar Lap had been poisoned surfaced quickly in the press.
Source: Museum Victoria

The initial autopsy noted that the stomach and intestines were severely inflamed and the lining of the stomach was badly perforated.  The speed of death was much faster than one would expect from colic and almost immediately rumors of intentional poisoning began to spread.  Multiple agencies and individuals investigated, often reporting contradictory information and results.  The possibilities are wide ranging.  He may have been poisoned, either intentionally or accidentally.  It’s possible that someone wanted to kill Phar Lap, after all he had already been the object of one assassination attempt.  Accidental poisoning may have resulted from eating forage that was tainted with insecticide, or through arsenic contained in a tonic.  He may have developed severe bloat, or intestinal tympany, from eating wet alfalfa.  Others have suggested colic or colitis x.  At a minimum one can say that the case continues to hold the public’s interest.  Every few years a new article is published claiming to have definitively solved the mystery.  The truth may never be known.

Amazingly, his death is not the end of Phar Lap’s story. Almost immediately his heart was preserved and given to The Institute of Anatomy in Canberra, where it was exhibited next to the heart of an army remount horse.  Phar Lap’s 14 pound heart dwarfed that of the remount which weighed only 6 pounds.  It can now be seen at the National Museum of Australia.

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Phar Lap’s heart.  From the National Museum of Australia

His skeleton went to The Dominion Museum in Wellington, New Zealand (now called The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa).  For five years it was stored in boxes in the basement due to lack of funds to articulate and display it.  When a subscription list was opened in the Referee, the money was easily raised in just two weeks.  Phar Lap’s bones were assembled and his skeleton was put on display in 1938.

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From The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa

His mounted hide is in The National Museum of Victoria in Melbourne.  It is a masterpiece of taxidermy and was completed by Louis, Leslie and John Jonas of Yonkers, New York.  Although they had never before prepared a horse, their outstanding workmanship on wild animal exhibits was well known in museums.  The exhibit opened in 1933 and remains one of the museum’s most popular.  Through these exhibits Phar Lap’s amazing story survives and continues to inspire those that hear it.

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Equus caballus, taxidermied mount of the racehorse Phar Lap. Registration no. C 10726.  Photographer: Benjamin Healley  Source: Museums Victoria
Copyright Museums Victoria / CC BY (Licensed as Attribution 4.0 International)

The Library holds many biographies of famous horses. If you’d like to learn more about the lives, adventures and accomplishments of these fascinating animals, including Phar Lap, stop by the Main Reading room.


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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

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Gervase Markham, by Burnet Reading, published by Thomas Rodd the Elder, after Thomas Cross, line engraving, early 19th Century. Accessed via Wikipedia.

Whenever I browse the antiquarian titles in the NSLM’s F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, the name “Markham” comes up again and again. It’s not a surprise. Gervase Markham (1568-1637) was, in many ways, the typification of the Renaissance man: soldier, poet, and author of a great number of titles.

Markham spent his early years as a soldier of fortune in the Low Countries and in Ireland. Upon his return to England, he took up writing and benefited from the patronage of the Earl of Essex. Markham’s early works were poetic, but his career focused in many ways on the pragmatic topics touching on country life in England. For Markham, country life was closely tied to national identity.

Markham was a contemporary of William Shakespeare, and it’s likely that Shakespeare was acquainted with Markham’s work. In his 1960 book, Sir Robert Gittings argued that Markham is the subject of satire in the form of the character Don Armando in later drafts of Love’s Labour’s Lost.

The Problem is to find an English Arcadian whom Shaekspeare could have parodied in the same terms as [Antonio] Perez. It can hardly be doubted that the most prolific and persistent author of Arcadian conceits during the years 1594-97, and one moreover particularly associated with the Essex group, was Gervase Markham.
— Robert Gittings, Shakespeare’s Rival, 1960

By the time Shakespeare brought Love’s Labour’s Lost to publication, Markham had established himself as an authority on horsemanship and country life through a discourse on the subject published in 1593. In 1595, he translated and edited The Book of Saint Albans, the landmark title on “Hawking, Hunting, and the Blasting of Arms.” His farriery book Markham’s Masterpiece would go through many editions and reprintings.

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Plan for the design of a fish pond, Gervase Markham, from Cheape and Good Husbandry, Eighth Edition, 1653. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Jacqueline B. Mars.

In 1601, Markham’s career hit a significant setback with the downfall of his noble patron, the Earl of Essex. Markham was forced to reinvent himself as an author, focusing less on poetic works and instead expanding his reach into practical guidebooks. He wrote on riding, farriery, animal husbandry, and even a complete manual for housewives. Of note was Markham’s willingness to gear his works toward an audience outside the wealthy classes, often advertising this fact with titles such as Cheap and Goode Husbandry.

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Gervase Markham, Cheape and Good Husbandry, Eighth Edition, 1653. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Jacqueline B. Mars.

Markham was masterful at realizing as much revenue as possible from his publications. He often recycled material or issued a book under a new title. Printing in multiple editions allowed for multiple dedications to noble lords, who might be disposed to become patrons for future works.

In fact, Markham was so successful that by 1617 English book printers were imploring him not to write again on animal medicine, as his influence was preventing others from being able to publish on the topic. Although he isn’t widely known today, Markham’s books continue to be a valuable source of information on the daily lives of the people and animals of early 17th Century England.


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

Which reformation must be sudden too,
My noble lords; for those that tame wild horses
Pace ’em not in their hands to make ’em gentle,
But stop their mouths with stubborn bits, and spur ’em.
Till they obey the manege.
   — William Shakespeare, Henry VIII, Act 5, Scene 2

In many ways, Europe’s equestrian literary tradition began in 1550 with the publication of Gli Ordini di Cavalcare (The Rules of Riding) by Federico Grisone. Grisone was a famed Neapolitan riding master, and his was the first new book on riding in Europe since Xenophon. Grisone’s work was a huge success, and spread throughout Europe quickly. It was also a product of its age, and is noteworthy for its cruelty in the curbing of horses. Grisone’s treatments were grisly, and included such shocking practices as tying a cat to a horse’s belly to “cure” the horse of refusal to cross a river. Later editions of the work included detailed diagrams of harsh bits designed by Grisone to force the horse to obey instructions.

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An illustration of a bit, from Gli Ordini Di Cavalcare, Federico Grisone, 1561. Grisone reputedly designed these harsh bits, intended to force the horse to submit and obey commands. Grisone was famous for his ability to break recalcitrant horses.

Bits during this period broke down into two main categories: snaffles, which exerted direct pressure on the lips, bars and tongue, and the harsher curb bits, that pinched and cut the horse’s chin. To save the mouth from permanent damage, some trainers turned to cavessans which acted on the nose and muzzle instead.

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Frontispiece of The Art of Riding, a 1609 edition of the translation by Thomas Blundeville of Grisone’s Gli Ordini di Cavalcare. Although Blundeville revered Grisone, he was also among the moderate voices on the use of harsh bits, especially for young horses who were still being trained.

The tenor of these methods is rather unsurprising in the broader cultural context. The middle of the 16th Century was steeped in a philosophical tradition that viewed humans as the only thinking, feeling creatures in nature. The dominance over the horse became an analogue for man’s mastery over nature itself. But as equestrian literary offerings became more robust, varying schools of thought emerged on the practical matter of treatment of horses.

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Image from A General System of Horsemanship, by the Duke of Newcastle. Writing in the 1650s, Newcastle was blunt about using physical punishment to curb recalcitrant horses, but also combined positive reinforcement as a most effective balance.

Through the late 1500s and into the 1600s, more and more voices advocated against the harsh methods. The moderate school included writers like Thomas Blundeville (who translated Grisone’s writings into English), Gervase Markham, and the Duke of Newcastle. All these writers struck a balance that required physical punishment for horses as a necessary part of training, but considered this a last resort, not a first treatment (for example, Markham advocated burning straw around a horse’s head as a treatment for obstinate refusal to carry burdens). In this light, most authors of the age took their cues from Xenophon. Of course, these perspectives were largely explored exclusively among the literate population of Europe. Servants, who were typically tasked with daily care but did not read, often mistreated the horses in their care.

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Portrait of Margaret Cavendish, Duchess of Newcastle, from the frontispiece to her Poems and Fancies, 1653. Lady Newcastle was an early writer advocating better treatment of animals and a rejection of the anthropocentric tradition.

Unsurprisingly, the advocates for gentler treatment often had more experience working directly with horses, and maintained that horses were intelligent and possessed memory, senses and feelings. By the middle of the 1600s, more thinkers began to admit the intelligence of animals, beginning with the horse. The Duchess of Newcastle, in her oft-criticized works, decried the anthropocentric view of her day, asserting that

…Man doth think himselfe so gentle, mild,
When he of Creatures is most cruell wild.
   — Margaret Cavendish, Lady Newcastle, Poems

Lady Margaret’s views, which included criticism of meat eating and hunting, were radical in her day. The growing sentiment toward gentle treatment, however, likely had more to do with practical considerations than abstract philosophies. As the quality of horses grew, they became valuable as commodities and as status symbols. Consequently, owners of good horses wanted to keep them in good condition. John Astley, in his book The Art of Riding, claims that harsh bits ruined horses, having “so dulled and deaded the senses and feeling, as he feeleth little of paine, of pleasure nothing at all, and of a sensible creature is made a senseless blocke.”

The shift in perspective was slowly reflected in the wave of equestrian literature from 1550 to 1650. Authors looked to underscore proper care and training of horses, as a worthy way to perfect human riders, but also to protect costly investments in horseflesh. From our current perspective, it’s also possible to trace the first stirring of a notion of animal rights and the deeper ethical considerations that govern the treatment of horses today.


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

This weekend I’ll be going to the Virginia Foxhound Show.  It will be my first time at a hound show and although I’ll be going with someone knowledgeable, I’ve been doing a little homework and thought I’d pass along what I’ve learned thus far.

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The Virginia Foxhound Club Hound Show at Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott’s “Montpelier,” Orange , Virginia, 1959, by Jean Bowman. National Sporting Library and Museum, Archive Collection (MC0040).

The developmental history of foxhound breeds can and has filled volumes.  The English foxhound was developed through the cross breeding of several varieties of hounds used to hunt hare and stag.  The goal was to create a pack hound with nose and stamina enough to hunt the red fox across long distances, with mounted hunters following behind.  As the story goes, the American foxhound’s development began with a pack of hounds imported to the colonies by Robert Brooke in 1650. Over the next 200 years additional imports of English, French, and Irish hounds were crossbred with the American hounds ultimately resulting in the modern American foxhound.

Although both the English and American foxhounds were developed to hunt fox, breeders select for traits most beneficial in their local terrain.  This divergent selection has resulted in hounds with distinctly different physical characteristics.  The best summation of this difference that I found is that, American foxhounds are the Thoroughbred of foxhounds, while the English are Percherons.

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Example of an American Foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

American foxhounds should have a slightly domed skull, long, large ears, large eyes, straight muzzle, well laid-back shoulders, a moderately long back, fox-like feet, and a slightly curved tail.

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Example of an English foxhound.  Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1973 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

By comparison, the English foxhound is a bit shorter and more heavily built.  They have a wider skull and long muzzle.  Their ears are noticeably shorter and higher set than the American hounds, and their legs are muscular and straight-boned, with rounded, almost cat-like paws.

While hound shows can be interesting to the layperson, and are certainly social events for the groups involved, their main purpose is to further refine the development of the breeds.  It is an opportunity for breeders to see what others have accomplished, and to display their own successes.  Bloodlines with favorable traits are identified and plans are made to add them to breeding programs.

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Program for the first Virginia Foxhound Show, 1934.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0071)

The first Virginia Foxhound Show was associated with the American Foxhound Club and was held in 1934 at the Montpelier estate of Mrs. Marion DuPont Scott.  The meet was suspended during WWII and did not resume until 1955 at which time it was run by the newly formed Virginia Foxhound Club.   The show continued at Montpelier until 1961 when it was moved to the Upperville Horse Show grounds.  In 1965 it was relocated for several years to William W. Brainard, Jr.’s  estate, Glenara, near Marshall.  Finally it settled at Oatlands in 1970 and remained there until 1996 when it moved to its current location at Morven Park.

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This emblem decorates the silver cups presented as trophies in The Virginia Hound Show.  National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0040)

Although the show originally focused only on American Foxhounds, in the late 1960s it began to open up and now features American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel Foxhounds.  Today the Virginia Foxhound Show is the largest sanctioned hound show in the world.

Here’s what I’ve been told to expect at the show.  All handlers wear long white coats.  Those showing English hounds, sport bowler hats, while all others use riding helmets.  English hounds are shown off leash, showcasing natural movement.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are contests for the best of both sexes of, individual hounds, couples of hounds, and parent/offspring, within each class, American, English, Cross-bred, and Penn-Marydel.  The hounds are judged for conformation to an ideal breed standard.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1969 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)
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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1972 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

There are also pack classes of five couple of hounds.  These are judged as a unit on uniformity, conformation, and way of moving; on the obedience of hounds to huntsman; and on the responsiveness of hounds to huntsman.

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1974 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

The Junior Handler Class is open to children associated with exhibiting packs.  There are two divisions, aged under 10, and aged 11-16.  Participants are judged on handling and presentation of the foxhound.  This promises to be quite cute as the children sport the same white coats and hats as adult handlers.  I’m looking forward to seeing all the hounds in person!

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Taken from The American Foxhound Club 1975 calendar. National Sporting Library and Museum archive collection (MC0020)

If you would like to learn more about foxhounds, hunts, or sporting dogs in general, the Library has many resources available.  There are extensive archival materials on various hunts, their hound pedigrees, journals of kennel activities, hound shows, and hunt diaries.  The Main Reading Room houses books on a wide range of breeds and strains.  You can also learn about training sporting dogs, kennel construction, or the medical care of these canine athletes.  Readers can catch up on current events in the hound community through Hounds magazine, also available in the Main Reading Room.  Come visit me in the Library and I’d be happy to connect you with any of these resources.


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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

“Mrs. Noland, I hesitate to suggest it, but do you think you might eliminate molasses from the boys’ breakfast?”

Rosalie Noland had welcomed the school headmistress to her home with her typical southern hospitality and grace, but the conversation had taken an unexpected turn.

Mrs. Noland had recently insisted her seven children learn civility and culture, and had brought them to Washington, D. C. for proper schooling. The children were not adjusting to city life well, and they longed to return to their country home in Middleburg, Virginia. Charlotte, the third oldest at age 13, deeply resented being away from her beloved animals and countryside and acting out had become common. But what did that have to do with the boys of the family eating molasses for breakfast?

Charlotte had been arriving to school late every day. When questioned, she blamed her tardiness on dish-washing duty, claiming that the sticky molasses on the plates prevented a prompt arrival. Unfortunately, that turned out to be a lie. Instead of going to school, Charlotte was sneaking off to a local zoo and helping the zookeeper train and feed a raccoon! The story is told in Charlotte’s biography, Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969, published in 1970 by Foxcroft School.

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The Noland family home, Burrland, in Middleburg, Virginia. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969, 1970, published by Foxcroft School.

Ultimately, Charlotte was expelled for her truancy, and over the next two years, the educational struggle continued at other schools in Washington and Baltimore. Charlotte insisted that the teachers didn’t understand her, and that they made the lessons boring and inaccessible. She began to plot for her own school, a cherished dream that would some day come true.

Charlotte Haxall Noland (1883-1969) spent her childhood leading others (sometimes into mischief) and riding the farm horses around her family home of Burrland. The family reunited with Burrland after two years in the city, and a year later Charlotte went to stay with her aunt in Richmond to make her debut. It was an unqualified success, but upon her return home, the pragmatic Charlotte assessed the ritual as “a lot of fun, but really a waste of time.”

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Miss Charlotte on Screwdriver. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

A turning point came when Charlotte went to work. She found employment as the physical education teacher at St. Timothy’s School in Baltimore, and found that the gym suited her well. She went on to teach at Bryn Mawr School in a similar capacity, refining ideas for her dream school. Eventually she enrolled in a summer course in physical education through the Sargent School at Harvard where she learned the rules and how to officiate a new sport known as basketball.

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Foxcroft students riding to Luray, Virginia. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Upon returning to Baltimore, Charlotte set up a gymnasium for girls, finding clients from all the surrounding schools. She built up enough capital to open her dream school, near her hometown of Middleburg. The school was named Foxcroft School (Charlotte fell in love with the name when she walked past a family home belonging to a Major Foxcroft one summer) and opened in 1914. Charlotte had her dream school at age 31.

Portrait of Miss Charlott Noland
Portrait of Miss Charlotte Noland, by Ellen Emmett Rand, The Collection of Foxcroft School, Middleburg, VA [image source: http://www.foxcroft.org/podium/default.aspx?t=204&sdb=1&nid=602199]
In many ways, Foxcroft was an expression of Charlotte Noland’s belief in the virtues of sport and physical competition. The school motto is “mens sana in corpore sano” (a healthy mind in a healthy body). Beagling was an early mandatory excursion for all students. A basketball tradition was founded at Foxcroft with an annual Thanksgiving game between the school’s two houses, the Foxes and the Hounds.

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The Foxes, 1916: Sophie Fisher, Louise Stovall, Mildred Bromwell, Erwin Hayward (Capt.) Elizabeth Tomlin, Kitty Ulman. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Other sporting traditions began to take shape: the girls were trained in riding (aside or astride) by Miss Charlotte (as she would be called forever afterward) and, with parental approval, be given training on jumping their steeds. Students spent a weekend each year riding their horses to Luray, Virginia (a round trip of over 100 miles). A Coon Hunt was organized every October, and very soon the school had its own horse show.

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Miss Charlotte on Van Epps, with the hunt girls. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

From 1932 to 1946, Miss Charlotte served as Joint Master to the Middleburg Hounds with Daniel Sands. Early in the school’s development, she allowed the best riders from among her students to ride with the Middleburg Hunt. Miss Charlotte’s hunting career eventually came to an end, as she never truly recovered from a bad fall while hunting. She gradually lost the full use of her injured leg, and riding became difficult. Instead, she turned to fishing, spending her retirement in her boat, “The Sea Fox,” and she reportedly caught a 68 pound marlin!

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The Winning Hunt Team: General Billy Mitchell, Miss Charlotte on Winterweather, and Frederick Warburg. From Charlotte Haxall Noland 1883-1969.

Many of the sporting traditions at the school have continued on, and riding is still a signature program of the school. Today, Foxcroft School is a cornerstone of Virginia’s hunt country and an embodiment of its founder’s vision.


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