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

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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.

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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.

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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

While reprocessing our Rare Book collections, we often come across unusual volumes. We enjoyed finding two volumes of The Gentleman’s Companion. Volume I is titled An Exotic Cookery Book and volume II is titled An Exotic Drinking Book. Both were donated to NSLM by Paul Mellon in 1957, and both are indeed exotic! Many of the recipes are as outlandish today as they were when the books were published in 1939.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Broiled Turtle Steaks, a Isla de Pinos, Being a Receipt from an American Pineapple Planter in Estates there before Our Government Returned the Island to Cuba.
Steaks may be from green, hawkbill or loggerhead turtles, but not too thick or too aged — 1/2″ to 3/4″ thickness is correct. Rub with cut lime vigorously so as to get oil from peel into steak, rub with a cut clove of garlic, sprinkle with salt and let stand in squeezed juice lime for 1 hour. Brush with lots of olive oil and broil like any steak over coals or under broiler, seasoning to taste.

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“More Friends and Less Need of Them,” from Involuntary Thoughts Henry Alken, 1824. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The book includes handy advice for how to prepare its meals, “exploding” the “old wives’ tales” associated with cooking. But many entries simply give hints on how to spice up preexisting recipes or give direction as to who might enjoy the dish.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Wine Jelly, a la Tsarina, which is another Delicate Remembrance from the Grandly Royal Days of Old Russia
We include this as suggestion for a wine jelly dish to be sent to the bedside of a favourite hospital patient, or invalid, as a taste-change from usual wabbly desserts dietitians seem to delight in inflicting on helpless souls. … Put jelly moulds on ice where they will get really chilled. Fill with any good usual wine jelly flavoured with the fruit which is the favourite of the subject, and sherry, being careful not to pass the half-way mark in the mould — retaining equal amount of the jelly. … While this last is still liquid, add 1 jigger of Gilka kummel, and whip with an egg beater so diligently that it grows white and thick. Put enough into moulds to fill, and chill very cold indeed.

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From Randolph Caldecott’s “Graphic” Pictures, 1898. National Sporting Library & Museum.

As for the exotic drinks, there are plenty of unusual concoctions and advice as well.

The Bird of Paradise, a Colorful, Eye-Filling Experience We Found in Signing Our Names to the Book at the Strangers Club, Colon, Panama
This strange little club has many famous names in its logbook, Robinson from the SVAAP, Alain Gerbault, poor Dick Halliburton whom we first met in Singapore before he flew to Sarawak in 1932, sitting at table with Ruth Elder and Walter Camp. We always have found a welcome there during the 10 or 1 doz times we have been in the “Zone” going west to east or vice versa. … Actually this Bird of Paradise Fizz is Aziz’ Special to which 2 to 3 tsp of raspberry syrup have been added instad of the sugar, and juice of 1 1/2 limes instead of the lemon. Float on a red rose petal, or any scarlet small tropical blossom, like bougainvillea, as a final garnish. Shake hard and long.

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“Nights of Pleasure,” from Involuntary Thoughts Henry Alken, 1824. National Sporting Library & Museum.

An entertaining entry is how “To Salvage a Guest from the Effects of Hanging — by Rope, not the Morning After.” Cited as an “Ancient English routine,” the instructions are unusual, and include stripping the victim of clothing, rubbing the body with wool-gloved hands, or placing the victim’s body face-down on the living room rug to perform compression on the lower rib cage. The book knowingly advises:

Don’t dawdle or joke. Hanging is no fun and must be handled quickly or not at all.


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 

On September 17, 1937, a new newspaper launched in Middleburg, Virginia. Called The Middleburg Chronicle, it would one day be re-named The Chronicle of the Horse and become one of the most popular sporting periodicals of the 20th Century.

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The paper was founded by Stacy Lloyd and Gerald Webb, who served as publisher/editor and managing editor, respectively. The front page of the new paper contained a sad but significant piece of horse racing news:

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John T. “Jack” Skinner was a steeplechase trainer and jockey in Middleburg, and had trained Welbourne Jake into a winner. The horse won the 1937 Maryland Hunt Cup, one of the most prestigious steeplechase races in North America.

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Welbourne Jake, photo of painting by Franklin Brooke Voss, 1937. National Sporting Library & Museum images collection, 2018.0223.

Skinner was initially slated to ride in the Maryland Hunt Cup, but was sidelined when a fall broke his collarbone. Instead, a young college student named John Harrison rode to victory.

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Unidentified steeplechase. John T. Skinner, second from left. National Sporting Library & Museum images collection, 2018.0240

It’s impossible to say what Welbourne Jake’s career might have been if not for his unfortunate accident. But for one day, the connection between Paul Mellon, Marion duPont Scott, Jack Skinner and the Maryland Hunt Cup were immortalized on the first front page of The Chronicle.


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 

One of the most impressive Thoroughbred racers of the 20th Century was Gallant Fox, whose racing career lasted from 1929-1930. Gallant Fox was the second horse ever to win the American Triple Crown, and the term “Triple Crown” for the Derby, the Preakness, and the Belmont was popularized during his 1930 campaign.

“The Fox” was owned by William Woodward Sr.’s Belair Stud in Maryland but was foaled in Kentucky. Following the horse’s retirement from racing, William Woodward wrote a custom-printed memoir to commemorate Gallant Fox’s achievements. The National Sporting Library & Museum is privileged to hold a copy of this book, one of the scarcest volumes in the NSLM collection. It has great value for its memories of the entire racing career of Gallant Fox.

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Gallant Fox with his dam, Marguerite. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Jacqueline B. Mars, Dr. Timothy J. Greenan, Mrs. Helen K. Groves, and Dr. Manuel H. Johnson, 2015.

One of Woodward’s memories of “The Fox” was his intelligence and curiosity, even from his earliest days as a colt.

The colt was broken and showed no special signs of anything one way or another, except that he was curious-minded and wanted to know all that was going on, giving every evidence of a high mentality, which however, would be slow to develop.He was a good fast colt as a yearling, with nice action, which was also the case in the beginning of his two-year-old year.

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

The Fox’s curiosity would last throughout his career, and it was the horse’s custom to eye the grandstands before each race. Still, Gallant Fox’s penchant for distraction led to a bad start to his racing career:

We started him in a five furlong race, with Peto as a companion. There was a good horse in the race called Desert Light. It was a small field. Gallant Fox was looking around the country when the tape was sprung and he was left about seven or eight lengths.

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Despite the bad start, The Fox recovered to finish third, kicking off an auspicious career with an impressive list of prominent wins: the Kentucky Derby, the Belmont Stakes, the Preakness Stakes, the Arlington Classic, the Dwyer Stakes, the Saratoga Cup and the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

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Gallant Fox’s Trainer, James E. “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The jockey for most of Gallant Fox’s wins was Earl Sande, a South Dakota native who got his start as a “bronco buster” before turning to Thoroughbred horse racing. Sande was most famous for his time on Gallant Fox, and went on to be a successful trainer and racehorse owner. Two days before the 1930 Belmont Stakes, Sande was in an automobile accident, putting his start in jeopardy.

On Thursday night before the Belmont, Sande was riding in an automobile driven by one of his friends, when they had a crash. The car turned over, and as he had been under it and was rather badly cut up, I sat with him on Friday afternoon in the Belmont paddock for quite a while to see whether he was in proper shape to ride such an important race. He was altogether himself and was fortunately unhurt except for scratches and patches. He said that his first thought, when he found himself under the car, was, “How terrible! I won’t be able to ride the horse on Saturday.”

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

Sande, his face bandaged from the episode, rode to victory, making Gallant Fox the second American Triple Crown winner in history.

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William Woodward Leading Gallant Fox after winning the Lawrence Realization Stakes, Sande up. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Later in the year, on a very heavy track, Gallant Fox lost the Travers Stakes in a major upset. Weighed down in the mud, Gallant Fox and rival Whichone dueled throughout the race, before both were overtaken by Jim Dandy, who won handily. Popular sentiment pegged Gallant Fox as weak on a heavy track. Woodward, however, saw the way the race unfolded on position as the primary reason why Gallant Fox was defeated.

To my way of thinking there were two reasons for The Fox’s defeat. First, the star was an unfortunate one for Gallant Fox. Second, he was taken wide the entire way against our will, and intentionally so, as evidenced by Workman’s ride on Questionnaire in the Realization. The Fox was horse enough to race outside of Whichone and beat him but neither he nor Whichone could give away the distance given to Jim Dandy and win.

From Gallant Fox: A Memoir, by William Woodward, Sr.,
1930, National Sporting Library & Museum.

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Gallant Fox and Whichone famously lost the Travers Stakes, depicted in a series of photographic plates. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Following the 1930 season, Gallant Fox was retired to stud with 11 wins in 17 races and over $300,000 in earnings.

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Gallant Fox returning to the scales after winning the 1930 Kentucky Derby. From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Beyond racing, Gallant Fox’s enjoyed considerable success at stud. In 1932, Gallant Fox sired Omaha, who would go on to be the third winner of the American Triple Crown in 1935. In 1933, Gallant Fox sired Flares, the second American horse to win the Ascot Gold Cup, a race narrowly lost by Omaha in 1936.

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From Gallant Fox: A Memoir. National Sporting Library & Museum.

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 

Some weeks ago, our friend Viviane brought us a packet to read. “Save it for a rainy day to look it over,” she told me. With the surfeit of precipitation this month, I found ample opportunity to take her up on the suggestion.

Inside the packet were three comb-bound publications of memories, each taken from a hunter’s hunting diary. Equestrian sports are chock full of passion and excitement, and often those elements are overlooked by those who don’t directly participate in these sports. Hunting diaries are a great way to experience the close-up history of foxhunting, as many who ride to hounds keep meticulous track of their exploits.

Called Entries From an Orange County Hunt Journal, the pages in the packet were full of personal accounts from the local sporting scene. Memories are poignant and humorous, and reflect the experiences on horseback, and were compiled by the late R. Moses Thompson, who moved to the Middleburg area in 1991. Thompson wrote one entry about falls while hunting, including a tale about his own unusual fall:

At a gallop, going east across the open pastures from the corner of the Zulla and Rock Hill Mill, my horse, to avoid a ground hog hole that he had seen but I had not, leapt to the right, suddenly, dropping his head and shooting off in a near right-angle trajectory. True to my studies in physics, my body kept going in the direction it was headed, with forward momentum of a horse in full gallop, just without the horse. Jerking to the right, my horse had dropped his head low so that my right leg slipped over his neck and I flew forward, leaving my horse cleanly, hitting the ground on my feet, spontaneously breaking into a very fast run, legs churning, to prevent burying my face in the dirt.

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Excerpt from an Orange County hunt diary, 1947. National Sporting Library & Museum.

The recounting of hunting tales from hunt diaries is not new. NSLM has many hunt diaries in its collection, the earliest dating back to the early 19th Century, but quite a few from the 20th Century as well. Old hunting directories often included a calendar-based diary section for all-in-one note taking.

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The childhood diary of Jane McIlvaine McClary, detailing her adventures riding with the hunts in the Middleburg area.

Keeping a diary of riding activities is a great way to keep track of adventures (and misadventures) and range from formal accounts of a rider’s activities to the heartwarming or humorous personal entries.

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An anonymous British hunting diary, 1816. National Sporting Library & Museum.

For researchers, these diaries are a treasure trove of local history: names, dates, and landmarks are chronicled in a single document. The practice has continued for hundreds of years, and for those who study history, we hope it will continue in the future. Do you keep sporting or riding diaries? To view some of the NSLM’s hunt diaries collection, you can contact me to arrange an appointment.


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