For over half the existence of the United States, horses were ubiquitous.  They served as the main source of transportation, and were essential to the military and to speedy communication.  They labored in agriculture, and as freight haulers.  Horses were common in everyday life.  It wasn’t until 1909 that President Taft replaced the Presidential horses and carriages with cars, and transformed the White House stable into a garage.  It is natural therefore, that many of our Presidents have been horsemen.  Some were indifferent or reluctant equestrians, but quite a few were true aficionados, obsessed with their horses, riding, racing, and driving them in every spare moment.  While there have been too many Presidents to cover in a short blog post, I’d like to highlight a few.

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Washington at Verplanck’s Point on the North River on September 14, 1782, reviewing the French troops under General Rochambeau on their return from Virginia after the victory at Yorktown.  By John Trumbull – Winterthur Museum, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57115499

George Washington was a highly accomplished horseman, and a founding member of the Alexandria Jockey Club.  As a general he relied on his mounts and his skill as a rider to lead his men.  His favorite horse during the American Revolution was called Nelson.  Washington was an avid fox hunter and before the war Nelson was his primary mount in this activity.  Nelson survived the war and eventually retired to Mount Vernon with the former President (Horses of the Presidents by Leah C. Taylor (2006), the gift of Leah Taylor).

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President Theodore Roosevelt on Bleistein, 1902. (Presidential Horses, White House History No. 19, Fall 2006)

Another Presidential fox hunter was Teddy Roosevelt.  The Library holds an original, handwritten manuscript of “Riding to Hounds on Long Island,” an essay written by Theodore Roosevelt in July 1886 for the Century Illustrated Monthly Magazine. The sport was under attack for being “too English” for Americans to participate in, but Roosevelt advocates for fox hunting as excellent exercise and military training.  He also points out that George Washington, an iconic American, was a fox hunter.  If it was good enough for Washington, why wouldn’t it be good enough for average Americans?

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Major General Andrew Jackson, engraved by James B. Longacre after painting by Thomas Sulley c. 1820. (Presidential Horses, White House History No. 19, Fall 2006)

Andrew Jackson’s favorite horses were race horses.  While his passion for racing horses is not unique among Presidents, he is the only President to have run a racing stable out of the White House grounds.  His thoroughbreds raced at courses in Washington and Baltimore.  To avoid the possible scandal of the President participating in a sport that much of the public viewed negatively, his horses were raced under the name of his nephew and private secretary, Andrew Jackson Donelson.  One of his most successful horses, Bolivia, was painted by Edward Troye (Presidential Horses, White House History No. 19, Fall 2006).

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Bolivia by Edward Troye (1836).  Retrieved from Clark Art Institute, http://www.clarkart.edu/Art-Pieces/10996

As yet another military President, Ulysses S. Grant was also an accomplished rider.  It turns out, he was also a bit of a speed demon.  He was actually arrested for exceeding the speed limit while driving his team through the streets of Washington.  He paid a $20 fine on the spot and commended the police officer, but it doesn’t seem that he changed his ways.  There are several more stories of him racing in the streets, including one about a race with a butcher’s delivery wagon.  The butcher’s horse won and Grant eventually purchased the horse for his own stable (Presidents on Wheels by Herbert Ridgeway Collins, 1971).

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Ulysses S. Grant in a carriage pulled by Dexter
Dexter, famed for his ideal trotting action called the “Dexter stroke,” won 46 of 50 races and trotted the mile in a record 2:17.1/4 during the 1860s. Robert Bonner bought and retired the horse, but allowed presidential candidate Ulysses S. Grant the thrill of taking the reins at top speed in this popular 1868 lithograph by Currier & Ives. (White House Horses [exhibition postcard], The White House Historical Association.)
 Even after the great age of the horse had been replaced by the automobile, and horses had been relegated to ceremonial and leisure roles, the occupants of the White House and their families continued to ride.  To learn more about Presidents, both historical and modern, and their relationships with horses I encourage you come visit the Main Reading Room and look through our books on the topic.


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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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Last month, we cracked open an ambitious project in the Library: the complete reprocessing and recataloging of everything stored in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room. The project will likely last a year and is very challenging as we will be fully describing every object in our rare book collections, many of them in archaic languages.

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Like our Main Reading Room, many objects in the Rare Book Room are not cataloged, and most need to be stored to make more efficient use of space.
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As each collection is cataloged and reprocessed, acid-free index cards with barcodes and call numbers are inserted. Everything will now be findable in the NSLM’s library catalog, and to researchers using the OCLC’s WorldCat system.
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We started with the most challenging materials, building a dedicated section for “folio” items: those which are too large to be shelved with the regular “oversized” books.
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Shelving was cleared and removed for repairs and re-anchoring of wall units. It was a great opportunity for our facilities staff to perform stabilization and repairs.

 

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With repairs and maintenance complete, the entire room was painted for an updated look.

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We’ll be updating our members as we continue work on this exciting project. We’re already cataloging quite a few treasures from our rare collections that will now be easier to find and access.


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

In 1933, a stunning new art exhibition opened at The Field Museum in Chicago. Brought together by none other than Marshall Field, the exhibition was an exclusive selection of 19 sculptures by Herbert Haseltine from his series British Champion Animals.

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“Portrait of Herbert Haseltine by Sir William Orpen, R. A.” frontispiece of Herbert Haseltine: An Exhibition of Sculpture of British Champion Animals, 1933. National Sporting Library & Museum.

Haseltine (1877-1962) was the son of a painter, and was born in Rome (then in the independent state of Lazio). He reputedly took an interest in horses at 12 years old when Buffalo Bill‘s “Wild West” show visited Italy to perform. Haseltine studied in various parts of Europe before settling in Paris (where he lived a great deal of his life).

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Herbert Haseltine (American, 1877 – 1962) Polo Pony: Perfection, 1930 bronze, 10 x 12 ½ x 4 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Jacqueline B. Mars. A selection of Haseltine’s series, British Champion Animals was exhibited at the Field Museum in 1933. Haseltine sent a copy of the exhibition catalog to artist Paul Brown.

The 1933 exhibition presented an opportunity for American artist Paul Brown to reach out to Haseltine. Because of careful retention of the paper record, a view of the relationship between both artists is in the NSLM collection.

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Brown forwarded Haseltine a book of his artwork, and Haseltine returned the favor. The exhibition catalog for British Champion Animals is inscribed “To Paul Brown from his admirer, Herbert Haseltine.” National Sporting Library & Museum.

Brown (1893-1958) was a hugely popular equestrian artist in his own right. He took advantage of Haseltine’s visit to the United States to forward a book featuring his artwork, and received back an exhibition catalog for British Champion Animals, and a letter. The letter shows that Haseltine was eager to “talk shop.”

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“I enjoyed looking at the horses. They are beautifully drawn and terribly alive.”
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“There is also a certain sameness about the mens [sic] faces.”
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“But you have a wonderful foundation for sculpture or painting. I saw your portrait of a horse of Scribners — a little too much detail — if you don’t mind my saying so. Also some of the horses’ ears a little rabbityfied at the points.”

Haseltine can’t keep himself from technical critique, but he tries to lighten the mood, too.

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“Please forgive all this HOT AIR.”

Below is a full transcription:

19th February, 1933

Dear Paul Brown,

Thank you a thousand times for the book – I enjoyed looking at the horses. They are beautifully drawn and terribly alive. Do you mind if I say something?

In the grouping – I would think of the composition in such a way that you couldn’t take anything out of it – without it’s being ruined. If it isn’t ruined, well it would be just as well without it. It all ought to hang together and make one. There is also a certain sameness about the mens faces.

But you have a wonderful foundation for sculpture or painting. I saw your portrait of a horse of Scribners — a little too much detail — if you don’t mind my saying so. Also some of the horses’ ears a little rabbityfied at the points. Look at a horse’s ears, especially a well bred one and you will see what I mean.

Please forgive all this HOT AIR. I hope we shall meet soon again.

Yours,

Herbert Haseltine

We don’t know what Brown thought about the letter, but he prized it enough to keep it, and the exhibition catalog. Both were donated to NSLM by Brown’s daughter, Nancy Brown Searles in 2011 and are now part of our manuscripts collection.

Long after the Field Museum exhibition, three smaller casts of Haseltine’s sculptures are in the permanent collection at NSLM. They’re often on view in the Permanent Collection exhibition, so plan your visit to see them in person soon!


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

 

You see, I’ve been through the desert on a horse with no name. It felt good to be out of the rain. – Dewey Newell

I once read that Dewey Newell, a member of the band, America, wrote the lyrics for the quintessential 1970s flower-power ballad, A Horse with No Name, inspired by the works of two artists – Salvador Dali’s surrealist desserts and M.C. Escher’s horsemen.

Salvador Dali, La persistencia de la memoria (1931)
Salvador Dali, La persistencia de la memoria (1931), source: https://uploads5.wikiart.org/images/salvador-dali/the-persistence-of-memory-1931.jpg

 

M.C. Escher, Horseman (No. 67), 1946
M.C. Escher, Horseman (No. 67), 1946, source: http://www.mcescher.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/E67-MC-Escher-No-67-Horseman-1946.jpg

Works such as these are obviously not intended to depict a particular horse. Sporting portraits, though, are usually realistic renderings of the unique physical traits a specific equine subject. Whenever I come across a portrait of an unnamed horse, America’s song inevitably crosses my mind, even if for a second. Groom Leading a Stallion to the Paddock, 1884, by Henry Stull was one of the paintings that made me hum the haunting tune to myself. The oil on canvas is a life estate bequest from George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. and has been on extended loan from Mrs. Jacqueline L. Ohrstrom to the National Sporting Library & Museum for several years.

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Henry Stull (American, 1851-1913) Groom Leading a Stallion to the Paddock,1884, oil on canvas, 29 x 39 inches, Collection of Jacqueline Ohrstrom

Who was this dark bay stallion? The painting also puzzled me because it is a bit of a departure for Stull and shows British influences.  The early composition was completed when he was still working as an illustrator, before he turned completely to easel painting (Burlew  94). The horizon line is low, which allowed an artist to contrast the subject against the sky as a background. The groom’s face is hidden. Was Stull masking his weakness in human portraiture, or was he emulating earlier sporting artists such as John Wootton who sometimes positioned grooms or jockeys facing away from the viewer or obstructed by compositional elements?

John Wootton, (British, 1682–1764) The Duke of Hamilton's Grey Racehorse, 'Victorious,' at Newmarket, ca. 1725 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection [source: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1668034]
John Wootton, (British, 1682–1764) The Duke of Hamilton’s Grey Racehorse, ‘Victorious,’ at Newmarket, ca. 1725 Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, source: http://collections.britishart.yale.edu/vufind/Record/1668034
Stull’s painting is now on view in the exhibition, The Chronicle of the Horse in Art, at the National Sporting Library & Museum through March 26th.  In researching the exhibit, I came across this Chronicle of the Horse cover:

The Chronicle of the Horse, Vol. 37, No. 10: March 8, 1974. Front cover. © The Chronicle of the Horse, Inc.
The Chronicle of the Horse, Vol. 37, No. 10: March 8, 1974. Front cover. © The Chronicle of the Horse, Inc.

It was a revelation. The horse had a name. The famed Duke of Magenta was a Preakness, Withers, Belmont, and Travers Stakes winner, and the painting was completed for the race horse’s owner George L. Lorillard, as noted in the unpublished manuscript, A Glow of Silver: Henry Stull, 1851-1913, by Frederick B. Burlew held in the NSLM’s manuscript collection. Additionally, the painting was previously owned by another founder of the NSLM, sporting scholar Alexander Mackay-Smith.

There is nothing that pleases me more than to reconnect the dots of history and provenance. “In the desert you can remember your name. ‘Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain. La La la-lalalala…” – Dewey Newell


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

Do you keep a journal? If you care about being remembered to history, you probably should. Today’s highlight is an excellent example of how to make history: the 1826-1842 Case Book of veterinary surgeon Charles Clark.

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The first entry of Charles Clark. Clark was a veterinary surgeon in Giltspur Street, London. His first patient was a gray horse “whose feet have been reduced to a deplorable state by the joint affects of contraction and the knives of the smith.”

Clark was the nephew and pupil of Bracy Clark, one of the first graduates of the veterinary college in London who was known for his research on horse feet. Because of Clark’s careful record-keeping, we can study his first-hand accounts of his treatments and results, sometimes in consultation with his uncle.

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“Uncle Bracy determined to day (Dec 26) to keep the foot distended by mechanical means that the frogs might have liberty to expand themselves.”

You can record lasting history, too. The best bet would be to write on sturdy paper with dark ink, and keep your journal in good condition. Nobody is really sure yet how viable the digital record will be in the long term. Keeping a paper journal might preserve your name for centuries. It worked for Charles Clark, 190 years ago!


Wedding Photography by Spiering Photography

John Connolly has served as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Librarian at the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) since early 2014. He is responsible for the care of the Library collections, including books, magazines, photographs, diaries, letters, and much more. The NSLM collections span over 350 years of the history of equestrian sport, as well as fly fishing, wing shooting, and other field sports. Have a question? Contact John by e-mail

We have many things in the F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room, including many beautifully-decorated books. Often, though, fascinating things don’t have gilt, engravings, or woodblock prints. A tiny (five inches by three inches), leather-bound tome came to hand last week, and it turned into today’s highlight.

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The Generous Sportsman, or, a Brief Discourse of Setting Doggs by A Lover of the Setting Sport. Ca. 1725, bound in early sheep skin, book stamped “Riders 1666” on verso. National Sporting Library & Museum, acquired 1994, the gift of John H. Daniels. F. Ambrose Clark Rare Book Room.

The book is in the manuscripts collection, and is entirely hand written. As the title page indicates, it is a very early (estimated early 18th Century) work on setters, including a general overview of the breed, and discusses training and traits desired for hunting.

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“Shooting Scene,” from Presentation Copy to William Edkins by Samuel Howitt (c. 1756-1822). National Sporting Library & Museum, acquired 2014.

The author discusses best practices for hunting with dogs, whether allowing them more freedom to roam the field or less is more useful for catching scent. The book also claims that dogs with mottled or black coats are desirable, as they are more visible in the evening hours when bird hunting occurred.

The bookseller’s slips that accompany the book indicate that this is the earliest known book in the English language about a particular breed of dog. It also contains the first known mention of the pointer breed by name. The book was purchased as a Christmas gift for John H. Daniels by his wife Martha in 1993.

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Reportedly the earliest known written reference to the pointer. “Should theze omitt mentioning another kind of Doggs much in Vogue with some by ye term of Naturall Pointer, by some called Spanish Trotter.”

The work is clearly legible, with a little patience. There are many abbreviations to save space in the little notebook, and the non-standardized spelling of the day also challenges the modern reader. However, the handwriting is surprisingly clear once you adjust to it.

What book has surprised you with great content in a humble cover? Do you find reading our highlight images to be difficult? Let us know in the comments below or send us an e-mail!


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