1. Some NSLM Holdings

            As a quick search of the collection reveals, the National Sporting Library holds some 956 books on “fox-hunting,” ranging in date from J. Roberts, An Essay on Hunting (1733) to Alastair Jackson, Lady of the Chase: The Life and Hunting Diaries of Daphne Moore (2018). Anyone likely to be visiting this website will know all the familiar names, from the prolific Nimrod and Robert Smith Surtees, to the less widely published William Scarth Dixon and Willoughby de Broke, Richard Greville Verney, to writers primarily known for one seminal work: Anthony Trollope, Hunting Sketches (1865), or George Whyte-Melville, Riding Recollections (1878).

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An Essay on Hunting by a Country Squire (1820). Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The Library’s holdings from the 20th century alone total an impressive 602 works. They also include many by familiar names, such as the “standards” J. Stanley Reeve and A. Henry Higginson or, more recently, Michael Clayton and Alexander Mackay-Smith, as well as a number of influential works by women writers, such as Lady Diana Shedden and Lady Apsley, “To Whom The Goddess . . .”—Hunting and Riding for Women (1932), Lida Fleitmann Bloodgood, Hoofs in the Distance (1953), and E.V.A. Christy, Cross-Saddle and Side-Saddle (1932), one of many books on equitation that include the demands of riding across country.

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Many of the 20th century works, most of them held by NSLM, date to the interwar years. Citing 177 examples, Anne Grimshaw has estimated that books specifically on hunting published in England between 1919 and 1945 accounted for “25% of the total output of equestrian literature” (Grimshaw, 160). They include at least one title of signal literary merit: Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, published by the distinguished poet Siegfried Sassoon in 1928 as the first volume of what would become a Great War trilogy, The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston (1937).

 

2. Sassoon and Sherston

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Siegfried Loraine Sassoon (1886-1967), poet and novelist, platinum print, wearing military uniform with the collar badges of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and hat, Beresford’s stamp and copyright line on verso, 6 x 4½ in (15.2 x 11.5 cm). Accessed via Wikimedia Commons, January 2019.

Though primarily known as a “Great War Poet,” Sassoon joins Robert Graves and Edmund Blunden as one of the most important British memoirists to have served on the Western Front.[1] In addition to three volumes of non-fictional memoirs, Sassoon published the three volumes of fictional memoirs that constitute the Sherston trilogy: the first two volumes form a clearly linked pair written only two years apart; the much shorter and less fully realized third volume, written four years later, brings the trilogy’s story to a coherent conclusion and provides the vantage from which Sherston narrates it.[2]

In outline, the story is simple. Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man tracks Sherston’s evolution as a young rural sportsman to his installation as a newly minted infantry officer in 1914. It concludes with his waking from an idyllic dream of hunt country to a grim view over no man’s land. Memoirs of an Infantry Officer recounts Sherston’s life at the front from 1915 to 1917, including the single-handed attack on a German trench that earns him a Military Cross, and the growing “anti-war bitterness” that issues in his public anti-war statement and the military’s retaliatory diagnosis of him as “shell-shocked.” Sherston’s Progress, finally, limns Sherston’s psychiatric therapy and plumbs the internal conflict that results in his return to action in 1918 and the wound that ended his military service.

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5. Sherston’s Progress by Siegfried Sassoon (1945). Gift of Alexander Mackay-Smith.

The events in Sassoon’s own life and memoirs match those in Sherston’s closely, with the crucial difference, as Sassoon puts it, that “Sherston was a simplified version of my ‘outdoor self.’ He was denied the complex advantage of being a soldier poet” (Siegfried’s Journey, 69). As Sherston puts it, Fox-Hunting Man depends “solely on my experiences as a sportsman,” primarily as horseman, but also as cricketer and golfer. The War, ironically, will fix his one shortcoming: “I had never shot at a bird or an animal in my life, though I’d often felt that my position as a sportsman would be stronger if I were ‘a good man with a gun.’”

3. Horseman and Infantryman

Fox-Hunting Man first appeared anonymously and independently and quickly enjoyed wide acclaim.[3] The reading public in 1928, like many readers in sporting circles today, celebrated it as one of the gently ironic memoirs of fox-hunting published in great numbers in England and America between the wars. Sassoon nominally proffered it as such, but its final chapters, and the subsequent publication of Infantry Officer, make clear that he also intended to draw out parallels between hunting in England and soldiering in France.

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Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man by Siegfried Sassoon (1929).

The parallelism that Sassoon (and thus Sherston) develops is manifold, complex, nuanced, and ambivalent. It involves, among other things, landscape (rural hunt country and war-torn wasteland), organization (hunt hierarchy and military command), protocols  (hunt etiquette and military rules of procedure), horses (hunters and chargers), and, perhaps most important, the shared values of specialized knowledge and skill and of boldness and courage, and a shared recognition that some acts are irrevocable—Sherston’s facing a big hedge with the feeling “that I was ‘in for it’” foreshadows his feeling when “going over the top.”

At first look, Fox-Hunting Man and Infantry Officer set fox hunting and warfare in opposition. They contrast the freedom of fast and exhilarating movement on horseback over bright and broad fields dotted with woods, hedges, and fences with the confinement of cramped and terrified movement in dark and narrow trenches or on one’s belly through corpse strewn mud. At the same time, however, the books also place hunting and warfare in apposition. They call both hunting and warfare “inhumane” practices that enact ritual killing (albeit of different prey) and that entail attrition of men and horses (albeit incidental as opposed to intrinsic).

Fox-hunting comprises mounted humans following a canine pack chasing vulpine prey across a rural landscape. Sassoon links those essentials both literally and figuratively to corresponding aspects of the Great War. “Wire,” for example, shows up repeatedly in Fox-Hunting Man—in single strands hidden in hedges as “the most dangerous enemy of the hunting-man” and in tangled masses in no man’s land as fatal to wiring parties and wire-cutting patrols alike. The hunter Sherston unhorsed by hidden wire foreshadows the officer Sherston bereaved by a friend’s death on a wiring-party (fall from grace foreshadowing rise toward redemption).

 

4. Hunting and Warfare

If wire binds the parts of the trilogy, the parallelism of hunting and warfare provides its foundation—a parallel that Sassoon, clearly conflicted, both subverts with irony and enforces with nostalgia. Far from inventing this parallel, Sassoon is drawing on an idea prevalent in British military writing in the 17th through 19th centuries: fox-hunting as fit preparation for warfare and leadership in war.[4] While the idea retained vitality through the Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, it became moribund as a serious proposition following the mass carnage of the Great War.[5]

For obvious reasons, writers applied the parallel primarily to cavalry, promoting the physical and mental demands of hunting as ideal preparation for the cavalry officer. That advocacy reached its high water mark in E.A.H. Alderson’s Pink and Scarlet, or Hunting as a School for Soldiering (1900), a work directly relevant to the Sherston trilogy since it treats hunting as preparation for “soldiering” in all arms. “The hunting man is already a more than half-made soldier,” Alderson contends, the beneficiary of the “things that hunting cannot help teaching, and the many, many things it may be made to teach if taken in the right way” (Alderson, vii, 13).

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Pink and Scarlet or Hunting as a School for Soldiering by E. A. H. Alderson (1900) and Riding Recollections by G. J. Whyte-Melville (1878). Gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Sassoon’s trilogy picks up the basic idea as a trope. Tracking Sherston from hunting on an idyllic English landscape to killing on a hellish Western Front, Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man strongly implies that hunting could have prepared no one for the uniquely modern horrors of the Great War. Yet Memoirs of an Infantry Officer intimates that hunting was precisely what equipped Sherston with the skill, boldness, and basic recklessness for his battlefield heroics, and Sherston’s Progress strongly implies that hunting also equipped him with the ethics, pluck, and moral courage that demanded and enabled his “progress” to antiwar activism.[6]

The Great War rendered mounted cavalry an anachronism, along with the idea of fox-hunting as preparation for cavalry (and for soldiering in general). A plethora of books published in the postwar moment, however, was reaffirming the fox-hunt as icon of a disappearing rural British culture and its traditional values. Ultimately more elegiac than ironic, Sassoon’s trilogy respected the icon and reflected and promoted the nostalgia. Sassoon, in short, revived a moribund British conflation of sports, notably field sports, and warfare; he buried that conflation under three volumes of irony; but, in the end, he resurrected it.


[1] Blunden’s Undertones of War (1928), Graves’s Goodbye to All That (1929), and Sassoon’s Complete Memoirs of George Sherston exemplify the genre. Their stature is no small matter, given the hundreds of Great War memoirs written by eminent British literary and military figures and by veterans and observers of lesser or no renown. For the latter, see Lengel, World War 1 Memories, and Donovan, In Memoriam. Vera Brittain’s Testament of Youth (1933) exemplifies Great War memoirs not set at the Front.

[2] Sassoon’s non-fictional memoirs comprise The Old Century and Seven More Years (1938), The Weald of Youth (1942), and Siegfried’s Journey (1946). All six memoirs, those of Sassoon and those of Sherston, were based on extensive diaries kept by Sassoon during the war and its aftermath and posthumously published as Diaries, 1915-1918 (1983), Diaries, 1920-1922 (1981), and Diaries, 1923-1925 (1985).

[3] By 1928, Sassoon was an established and celebrated poet whose work often incorporated fox-hunting, such as the title poem of his first collection, The Old Huntsman and Other Poems (1917).

[4] To cite just two examples, Lewis Edward Nolan writes in Cavalry: History and Tactics (1853) that “the Englishman beats the world in a ride after the hounds and a run across country,” in what he calls “this manly sport—the best of all to form bold riders” (61), and Sir Evelyn Wood adds in Achievements of Cavalry (1897): “We have one incalculable advantage which no other nation possesses, in that our officers are able to hunt” (39).

[5] In the prewar Our Cavalry (1912), for example, M.F. Rimington assesses the right officer material: “We particularly want the hunting breed of man, because he goes into danger for the love of it” (159). And in Modern Cavalry (1922), Malcolm Wheeler-Nicholson, perhaps the most eloquent of the remaining postwar apologists for the idea, echoes Rimington: “The man who rides into danger for the love of it, the man who keenly enjoys cross-country going and polo, contains in his disposition the germs of success as a cavalry officer” (49).

[6] Sassoon writes in Siegfred’s Journey that his anti-war statement was “a moral equivalent of ‘going over the top,’” both actions “requiring moral courage” (52, 57).

 

WORKS CITED

Alderson, E.A.H. Pink and Scarlet, or Hunting as a School for Soldiering. London: Heinemann, 1900.

Donovan, Tom. In Memoriam: A Bibliography of the Personal Memorial Volumes of the Great War, 1914–1918. Brighton: Tom Donovan Editions, 2015.

Grimshaw, Anne. The Horse: A Bibliography of British Books 1851-1976. London: The Library Association, 1982.

Lengel, Edward. World War 1 Memories: An Annotated Bibliography of Personal Accounts Published in English since 1919. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow Press, 2004.

Nolan, Louis Edward. Cavalry: History and Tactics. 1853. Yardley, PA: Westholme, 2007.

Rimington, M.F. Our Cavalry. London: Macmillan, 1912.

Sassoon, Siegfried. Siegfried’s Journey. London: Faber & Faber, 1945.

Sassoon, Siegfried. The Complete Memoirs of George Sherston. London: Faber & Faber, 1937.

Wheeler-Nicholson, Malcolm. Modern Cavalry. New York: Macmillan, 1922.

Wood, Sir Evelyn. Achievements of Cavalry. London: George Bell & Sons, 1897.


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.

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In July 1836, a stage coach at Walham Green suffered an accident: runaway horses overturned the coach and several passengers suffered broken limbs. One of the passengers was forcibly thrown from the coach, but escaped with only a strained back. That passenger was named James Pollard, a painter of coaches and carriages who was also a great traveler across the English countryside in pursuit of his occupation.

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“Omnibuses Leaving the Nag’s Head, Holloway,” Cat. No. 140, from James Pollard 1792-1867 by N. C. Selway, 1965. National Sporting Library & Museum.

James Pollard (1792-1867) was the son of engraver Robert Pollard (1755-1838). The elder Pollard strove to encourage his son in an artist’s career, and young James worked alongside his father producing drawings and designs for engravings while honing his skills as a painter.

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“‘Fly Fishing,’ from a painting by James Pollard, engraved on wood by F. Babbage,” from Animal Painters of England From the Year 1650, Volume II by Sir Walter Gilbey. National Sporting Library & Museum.

In 1820, James was commissioned by Edward Orme to produce a painting of a mail coach for a signboard of an inn. The painting caught the eye of the Austrian ambassador, who requested another by the same artist. Three more orders came in, and James was on the road to an established career painting coaches, horses, and passengers. He would go on to exhibit at the Royal Academy in 1821 and again in 1824.

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“The Bath & Bristol Mail Coach By Moonlight,” Cat. No. 19, from James Pollard 1792-1867 by N. C. Selway, 1965. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Pollard was a sportsman, and although he enjoyed most success as a painter of coaches, he also painted other sporting scenes. He was an avid fisherman and painted angling scenes multiple times. He also painted scenes from the Epsom races and occasionally foxhunting scenes.

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(after) James Pollard (English, 1792-1867) Aylesbury Grand Steeplechase, The Light Weight Stakes: Starting Field, Plate 1, 1836 aquatint on paper, 15 ¼ x 20 ½ inches National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Norman R. Bobins, 2012

In 1825, James married and went into business for himself as an independent artist. He enjoyed great success in the 1830s, but in 1840 his wife and youngest daughter both died. It was reported that James never truly recovered his old form. His career suffered, though he continued to produce paintings into the late 1850s. In his later years, he retired to live with his son and family, and he died in 1867 at 75 years old.


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 

Most of us have probably seen a wooden duck decoy in an antiques store, at an auction, or in a friend’s home, but the decoy was a utilitarian tool long before it became a collectible sculpture.  Hunters of waterfowl have used decoys from earliest times to lure their quarry into striking range.  Rather than attempting to stalk skittish birds which would fly off at the slightest sound, hunters could lay a trap that would get the birds to come to them.  By putting out a spread of decoys the hunters might trick the target birds into thinking the area safe and welcoming.  As the birds fly in for a landing, the hunters are able to bag a few and put some food on the table.  The use of decoys made waterfowl hunting a reliable source of food.

Decoys have been made out of handy materials such as reeds, carved from a variety of woods, made of cork or injection molded plastic, and even been tethered live birds.

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Duck decoys ca. 400 BC–AD 100
Lovelock Cave, Humboldt County, Nevada
Tule rush, feathers, cordage, paint, 31 x 12 cm
Collected by Mark R. Harrington
13/4512, 13/4513.
Image from The National Museum of the American Indian.

Excavations in 1924 at Lovelock Cave, Nevada revealed a cache of duck decoys made by Native Americans approximately 2000 years ago.  The bodies are made of tule and some of them have duck feathers attached to make them seem more life-like.  Today they can be seen at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C.

In the United States, following the Civil War, subsistence hunting of waterfowl was rapidly replaced by market hunting.  The booming cities of the country required staggering amounts of food, and fowl of all sorts was on the menu.   To meet this need hunters began to harvest waterfowl in huge numbers.  To do this, they needed equally large numbers of decoys.  With a wide spread of decoys, several flocks of waterfowl could be lured into a small area.  Hunters would then use extremely large shotguns called punt guns, to harvest as many as 100 birds with a single shot.

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Waterfowl hunter with mounted punt gun.  By Sydney Harold Smith (or collaborators on his behalf) – This file has been provided by York Museums Trust as part of a GLAMwiki partnership., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31565244

At the same time the popularity of sport hunting was on the rise.  The wealthy members of shooting clubs created an additional demand for decoys.  Some market hunters began to supplement their income by carving and selling decoys to sport hunters.  Regional carvers emerged specializing in the local varieties of waterfowl.  This trend towards the commercialization of decoy carving was intensified when over-hunting led to the regulation of wildfowl shooting.

In 1913, the Federal Migratory Bird Law, and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918, effectively ended market gunning in the United States and transformed waterfowl hunting into a highly regulated sport.  Many of the men that had made a living through market hunting now turned to decoy carving.  As specific carvers became highly sought after, wait lists for custom, hand-carved decoys became common.   Seeing an opportunity, entrepreneurs such as George Petersen, Jasper N. Dodge, and William J. Mason opened factories to produce decoys on an industrial scale.

 

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Early factory Mallard drake.  George Petersen Factory.  Image from RJB Antiques.

Fast forward to the present day and what began as hunting equipment has become valuable American folk art.  Decoys carved by individuals, as well as those made in factories, are in high demand.  In 2007 two decoys by A. Elmer Crowell, a carver from East Harwich, Massachusetts, were sold in a private sale for $1.1 million each!  His preening Pintale drake duck, and sleeping Canada Goose, are both quite beautiful and have each set records in past sales.  I expect they will again the next time they are for sale.

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Preening Pintail drake, circa 1915.  Image from Antiques and the Arts Weekly.
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The sleeping Canada Goose decoy, circa 1917.  Image from Antiques and the Arts Weekly.

The Library holds numerous books on the history of the use and manufacture of decoys, as well as books dealing with the collection of them.  If you have a decoy sitting on the mantle piece perhaps you can come to the Library to research it’s origins.


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

The year before last, one of our books up for repair from our Book Adoption Program was written by John Henry Walsh (1810-1888), who wrote under the pseudonym “Stonehenge.” The book, called British Rural Sports, was adopted for restoration by John and Kelly Johnson.

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John Henry Walsh, “Stonehenge,” from British Rural Sports, 1877, National Sporting Library & Museum.

British Rural Sports is an all-in-one volume on 19th Century country sport, showing off Walsh’s command of sporting topics with almost 1,000 pages of content on foxhunting, steeplechase, fly fishing, all variety of shooting and hunting, dog breeds, canine and equine anatomy, and more.

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Toy Terrier and Italian Greyhound, from British Rural Sports, 1877, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Walsh got his start as a surgeon but gravitated to sporting life. He had an interest in every imaginable field sport: angling, riding to hounds, wing shooting, yachting, and more. He was particularly attached to the breeding of dogs and to the development of sporting firearms. He quickly established himself as an expert sporting author, publishing a book on greyhound breeding in 1853 and becoming a regular contributor of articles to periodicals that covered field sports.

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Hunting, from British Rural Sports, 1877, National Sporting Library & Museum.

In 1857, Walsh became editor of The Field, a prominent sporting magazine. He continued his career as a noteworthy sporting author, penning volumes on stabling horses, caring for the health of dogs, and on sporting shotguns and rifles.

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Truffle Dog, from British Rural Sports, 1877, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Walsh instigated a series of field trials for sporting firearms, testing the abilities of various gun designs and varieties of gunpowder. Walsh was also associated with the Kennel Club, working to organize and promote early dog shows. He rode to hounds, trained pointers and setters, and is also reported to have trained hawks. He died in 1888 at 77 years old.


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 

Anyone who has ever witnessed a horse race will undoubtedly recall the riot of color and pattern displayed by the jockeys on their jackets and caps.  Although this flamboyant wardrobe, known as racing colours, adds to the cachet of the sport, the colors and designs serve an important function in the racing world.  Each is unique to a specific horse owner and this “livery” allows judges, announcers, and spectators to more readily tell the horses apart.

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By Paul – HDR Style Horse Racing Photo, CC BY 2.0, Wikimedia Commons

While reports of color being employed in horse or even chariot races go as far back as ancient Greece and Rome, the racing colours we are familiar with today have their origin in Great Britain in the mid 1700’s.  Up until then races were much longer, up to 4 miles, and usually had relatively few entrants.  This made it easy to tell the horses apart as the small field would tend to get strung out over the long distance of the race.  But as the popularity of racing grew so did the number of horses entered.  Additionally races began to be run over shorter distances at courses.  Both trends resulted in confusing clusters of horses and disputes over which horse had won.  Initial attempts at adding colored jackets were unsuccessful as multiple owners used the same colors or individual owners changed colors frequently.  By 1762 it became clear that something had to be done.

On October 4, 1762, the members of the English Jockey Club requested that owners submit specific colors for jacket and cap. To register their colors and to use them consistently in an attempt to distinguish riders among a field of horses or to settle disputes that might arise. This resulted the famous Newmarket resolution:

“For the greater conveniency of distinguishing the horses in running, as also for the prevention of disputes arising from not knowing the colours worn by each rider, the underwritten gentlemen have come to the resolution and agreement of having the colours annexed to the following names, worn by their respective riders…”

The document goes on to list 19 owners and the color assigned to each.  Once an owner had chosen and declared a jacket of a particular color, it became his property.  He was only permitted to run his horses under that color, and no other owner could run their horses under the same color.  However, after the passage of several years, ownership of the colours could be resigned and a new owner could obtain those colours as their own.  The Duke of Devonshire’s Straw-Colour is still in the same ownership today making them the oldest in continuous use.

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A cigarette card showing the Duke of Devonshire’s racing colours.  From Flickr Hive Mind

After quite a few false starts the racing community in American eventually followed suit and the Jockey Club began registering racing colours in 1895.  The first registered set was the scarlet jacket and cap belonging to John A. Morris.  Although registered in 1895, it is said these colours were in use at the Metairie Track in New Orleans in the mid 1850’s.

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Colours of John A. Morris.  The oldest in the United States.  Bill Christine’s top 10 most iconic silks

Over time patterned design elements for the sleeves and body of the jacket, and the cap have been added to the permitted colors allowing for a great deal of creativity.  Today there are over 28,000 registered colours.

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The Benson and Hedges Book of Racing Colours by The Jockeys’ Association of Great Britain, (1973) National Sporting Library & Museum.

The rules for design of racing colours continue to develop.  In the United States owners may choose to have an emblem or up to three initials on certain designs.  While in Great Britain bespoke designs that don’t have to adhere to the traditional rules can be created and registered for a large fee.

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A bespoke set of racing colours.

What would you choose?  A simple, elegant, single color, or something wild with several colors and design elements?  Try creating your own colours and see if they are available for registration here.


 

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

NSLM is pleased to announce that Dr. Charles Caramello, a John H. Daniels Fellow, has recently had his new book published by Xenophon Press.  Eighteenth Century Equitation: “Military Equitation; A Method of Breaking Horses and Teaching Soldiers to Ride” by The Earl of Pembroke & “A Treatise on Military Equitation” by William Tyndale, provides facsimile copies of two classic English manuals on military horsemanship from the late 1700’s, and enhances them with notes and commentary by Dr. Caramello.

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Eighteenth Century Equitation: “Military Equitation; A Method of Breaking Horses and Teaching Soldiers to Ride” by The Earl of Pembroke & “A Treatise on Military Equitation” by William Tyndale with notes and commentary by Charles Caramello (2018).

Dr. Caramello is a Professor of English, and the Senior Advisor for Graduate Education at The University of Maryland.  He was accepted as a John H. Daniels Fellow for 2017 and conducted his research using several editions of Pembroke’s and Tyndale’s works in the NSLM’s collections.

His introduction and notes serve to set each piece in its historical context and to assist the modern-day reader in connecting with 18th century writing.  Additionally, the included facsimile copies of these works make them easily available to the general public.  The originals are housed in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room and require an appointment to view, but this new book may be accessed by the general public at any time in the Library’s Main Reading Room.

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John H. Daniels Fellow, Dr. Charles Caramello.

According to Dr. Caramello’s  introduction, “[e]questrian readers of Pembroke and Tyndale will engage with two eminently sensible military horsemen, learn from two seasoned trainers of horses and riders, and, if lucky, discover something new and unexpected about equestrian sport.” If this piques your interest please drop by the library and have a look.

Dr. Caramello has returned as a John H. Daniels Fellow for 2018 and is currently completing a book-in-progress, Horsemen, Horse Soldiers, and Grand Illusions, and is conducting research in the NSLM archives for a projected book on equitation between the two World Wars.


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

For approximately 75 years, from the 1850’s into the 1920’s, horses formed a key element of firefighting companies.  Prior to the introduction of horses, humans pulled the firefighting equipment to blazes.  The superior strength and speed of horses allowed longer ladder wagons, and larger pumpers and chemical wagons to be used, and the equipment and firefighters arrived to the scene of the fire much more quickly.

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Engine Company No. 3.  From Wikimedia Commons.

Horses chosen for service with the fire department had to meet certain criteria.  Often departments had specific weight requirements for horses.  For example, the weight requirements in the Detroit fire department were as follows:  Horses pulling hose wagons must weigh at least 1,100 pounds, to haul a steamer 1,400 pounds, and for a hook and ladder wagon 1,700 pounds.  Both mares and stallions were eligible for service.  The key traits necessary included strength, speed, obedience, intelligence, and fearlessness.

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Working Horses : Looking Back 100 Years to America’s Horse-Drawn Days by Charles Philip Fox (1990).  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of The Little River Foundation.

After their frantic dash to the scene, horses were expected to stand calmly amidst the chaos while their human partners fought the fire.

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The team pulling the ladder wagon waiting calmly.  Working Horses : Looking Back 100 Years to America’s Horse-Drawn Days by Charles Philip Fox (1990).  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of The Little River Foundation.

At the fire station, the horses were housed in stalls next to the equipment they were to pull.  When an alarm sounded, the stall doors would open and the horses were trained to dash to their positions in front of the wagons.  Harnesses suspended above them were dropped onto the horses’ backs, specially designed collars were snapped closed, and the team was charging out of the station house in only a few seconds.

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A three horse harness ready for horses to dash into position.  Note the stall doors in the background on the right.  Working Horses : Looking Back 100 Years to America’s Horse-Drawn Days by Charles Philip Fox (1990).  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of The Little River Foundation.

This video  from The Aurora Regional Fire Museum’s exhibit, Getting There • Getting Water • Getting Rescued: 150 years of the tools and technology used to fight fires and save lives, shows the fire horses in action.  We can see how quickly the team responds to an alarm, and how excited the horses are to jump into action.  The various types of wagons used can be seen, including pumpers and a ladder truck, as they roll out of the station.

The fire horses were well cared for and received daily exercise and grooming.  Some departments were large enough to employ their own veterinarians and farriers, and some had horse ambulances to support their equine members.  Working together in such strenuous and stressful conditions, it is not surprising that the firefighters developed strong bonds with their horses.  This can be seen in the numerous tributes to specific horses as they retired or died in the line of duty.

Chubgreenerpastures
Obituary for the popular retired fire horse Chubby.  From “Firefighter Chubby” on the Craft Company No. 6 site.

The members of the Rochester Fire Department petitioned the local cemetery to allow them to bury fallen fire horses in the fireman’s plot.  When the cemetery refused, the local chapter of the American Legion erected a bronze plaque in honor of all the horses that served in the fire department.  It reads,

Our FireHorses
Glorious in beauty and in service;
Faithful Friends
We cannot call them dumb
Because they spoke in deeds
In every hour of danger
Perpetual remembrance
Enshrines their loyalty and courage

By the 1920’s fire departments began exchanging their horses for trucks.  In many towns ceremonial “last runs” were held in which the fire horses responded to a false alarm and the public lined the streets in tribute.

last run
Last run of Barney, Gene, and Tom, Dist. Fire Dept. horses. From the Library of Congress, Wikimedia Commons.

Although their day had passed their contributions to the community were honored and they still feature prominently in many firefighting museums across the country.


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