Born in 1926 at the United States Army Remount Depot in Front Royal, Virginia (less than an hour from the National Sporting Library & Museum), Jenny Camp was named after the cavalry’s horse shows open to enlisted soldiers, women, and children, known as “Jenny Camp” shows. Despite being the daughter of one of the Army’s finest remount stallions, Gordon Russell, Jenny Camp did not come equipped with wonderful confirmation, but she did come with a scrappy hardiness that would take her far.

Jenny Camp. “Olympic Horseflesh” by John T. Cole, Cavalry Journal May-June 1937, p. 202.

At the Cavalry School in Fort Riley, Kansas, Jenny Camp was selected as a potential Olympic team mount and began training for the three-part Olympic event called Eventing. This event developed out of military horsemanship and requires the competitors to excel in dressage, cross country riding, and show jumping – all skills needed in a good cavalry mount. Not just a test of the horse’s abilities, it is also a showcase for the skills of the rider, and close teamwork between the mount and rider is critical for success. Jenny Camp was paired with Lieutenant Earl F. “Tommy” Thompson (1900–1971).

Earl F. “Tommy” Thompson. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012) p.82. The gift of William Steinkraus.

Thompson was a graduate of West Point and a polo player. He would go on to become one of the most successful of the United States military’s Olympians. His partnership with Jenny Camp yielded three medals in two consecutive Olympic Games. The pair won the individual silver medal and the team gold medal in eventing at the 1932 Olympics, and the individual silver medal in eventing at the 1936 Olympics. In 1948 he won two more medals on other mounts, bringing his total to five. In 1952 Olympics he participated as an official for the equestrian events.

Thompson and Jenny Camp. Equestrian Excellence by Barbara Wallace Shambach (1996), p. 28.

The eventing competition in the 1936 Olympics would come with controversy. The cross country segment included a jump into water that would prove difficult and even deadly. Riders were required to negotiate a three foot post-and-rail fence into a pond approximately two feet deep, and clear a jump out on the far side. The water was deeper than it appeared and the footing on the bottom of the pond was soft and muddy, resulting in numerous falls. Only fifteen of forty-eight horses successfully handled the obstacle and three were required to be euthanized due to injury, including one of the American team’s mounts.

Footage of the dangerous water obstacle at the 1936 Olympics. Thompson and Jenny Camp can been seen at 3:01.

The controversy came when the Germans all handled the jump by taking a longer, less direct route which appeared to have good, even footing. There was speculation that they knew the condition of the footing under the water ahead of time and were able to avoid trouble. In the end nothing could be proven. In order to be eligible for a team medal, all members of a team must complete each element of the eventing trial. By the end of the cross country portion of the event, there remained only three intact teams. Despite being out of the team competition, Thompson and Jenny Camp took on the show jumping course the following day and earned their second individual silver medal.

Thompson and Jenny Camp at the 1936 Olympics. They would win the individual silver medal for eventing. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012), p. 95. The gift of William Steinkraus.

Commentary on Jenny Camp from the time can be found in two articles for the The Cavalry Journal May/June 1937 issue. In the first, “Olympic Horseflesh,” Major John T. Cole said, “Although she is a frail little thing, she showed wonderful stamina and courage… She is now at the Remount Depot at Fort Robinson, being bred in hopes that she may transmit her fine courage and stamina to a better shaped and nicer moving colt” (p. 201).

Thompson and Jenny Camp at the 1932 Olympics. They would win the individual silver medal and the team gold medal for eventing. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games: 1912-2008 by Max Ammann (2012), p. 82. The gift of William Steinkraus

In his article “The Conformation of Three-Day Horses” Lieutenant Colonel Harry D. Chamberlin said, “Jenny Camp, however, has proved herself the miracle horse, in that, as stated by Major Cole, she is on the small side, short-gaited, far from prepossessing from the knee down (particularly in her front pasterns which are quite upright), and undoubtedly the poorest of the three horses in general conformation. Yet she did the best work then and lived to repeat in 1936. Captain Earl F. Thompson must share generously in her glory, for such things do not happen to any horse unless superbly and intelligently ridden… In addition she possessed that greatest of all virtues, true quality. This word is frequently misused and misunderstood. When used generally about a horse, as “that horse has quality,” it means something that can be determined only by test. It is a matter of the circulatory, respiratory, nervous, and digestive system, substance of the tendons, muscles, bones, etc., and their proper functioning under tremendous strain, requiring particularly endurance and maximum effort. In quality, the gallant little mare proved a marvel, having that final and all-important virtue embraced in the term “quality”; i.e., great courage. She also has the innate and impossible-to-develop attributes of agility and quickness” (203-4).

Thompson and Jenny Camp. Olympic Equestrian by Jennifer O. Bryant (2008), p. 98. The gift of The Blood-Horse.

During World War II Earl F. Thompson served as chief of staff for the 10th Mountain Division. He earned the Silver Star, the Legion of Merit, and the Bronze Star Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster. He retired from the Army in 1954 as a full Colonel. Jenny Camp retired from Olympic competition after the 1936 games and went to Fort Robinson to serve as a broodmare. One of the members of the 1932 Olympic equestrian team eventually bought her and moved her to his farm in California where she lived to the the age of thirty-two. Today her memory is preserved in the Jenny Camp Horse Trials held by the Maryland Combined Training Association every September.


Works Cited

Ammann, Max E. Equestrian Sport at the Olympic Games 1912-2008. Lusanne, Federation Equestre Internationale, 2012.

Bryant, Jennifer. Olympic Equestrian. Lexington, Kentucky, Eclipse Press, 2008.

Chamberlin, Harry D. “The Conformation of Three-Day Horses.” The Cavalry Journal, May-June 1937, pp. 203-205.

Cole, John T. “Olympic Horseflesh.” The Cavalry Journal, May-June 1937, pp.197-230.

Shambach, Barbara Wallace. Equestrian Excellence. Boonsboro, Maryland, Half Halt Press, 1996.


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 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

In July 1871, upper-class Londoners were introduced to a new sport: domestic cat showing. Wire cages lined the interior of the Crystal Palace, a cast iron and glass structure built in Hyde Park for the Grand International Exhibition of 1851. Cats of all shapes and sizes reclined “on crimson cushions, making no sound save now and then a homely purring, as from time to time they lapped the nice new milk provided for them.” After paying an entrance fees, enthralled ladies and gentlemen walked among the cages, peering in to see “short-haired tortoiseshell cats,” “blue and silver tabbies,” “long-haired Angoras,” and “Abyssinian” felines.[1]

View from the Knightsbridge Road of The Crystal Palace in Hyde Park for Grand International Exhibition of 1851. Dedicated to the Royal Commissioners., London: Read & Co. Engravers & Printers, 1851.

Monetary prizes, provided by the directors of the Crystal Palace Company and the National History Department, were awarded to the best in show. After careful consideration, the judges selected six cats: the Siamese, the French-African Cat, “a Persian direct from Persia,” “an enormous English cat, weighing 21 pounds, the biggest in the show,” “a native of the Isle of Man, with the usual Manx absence of tail,” and “a British wild-cat exhibited by the Duke of Sutherland.” This last cat was a notable rarity. According to Harper’s Weekly, “This cat is very scarce—indeed, almost extinct in the British Islands. His color is sandy brown, and the form of the end of the nose and tail peculiar . . . He behaves like a mad devil, and ten men could not get him into a wire cage [and] out of the box in which he was sent.” [2]

The prize winning cats. Harper’s Weekly (August 19, 1871), 772.

Nine-year-old Rosa Crawley was one of many who visited the exhibition. During her visit, the “royal cat of the King of Siam” lounged upon his back “yawning” while kittens played in nearby cages. The “working men’s cats,” in particular, fascinated the young girl. “Such big fellows!—with gay ribbons round their necks, looking so sleek and solemn, with their broad noses,” she remarked. “I could not have lifted some of them, I am sure, they must be so heavy.”[3]

“At the Cat Show,” Chatterbox, No. 49 (November 2, 1872): 386.

The novel notion of showing cats originated with Mr. Harrison Weir. “Among animals possibly the most perfect, and certainly the most domestic, is the Cat,” he declared. Pontificating at length about the superiority of the Felis catus, Weir continued, “it is a veritable part of our household, and is both useful, quiet, affectionate, and ornamental. The small or large dog may be regarded and petted, but is generally useless; the Cat, a pet or not, is of service. Were it not for our Cats, rats and mice would overrun our houses, buildings, cultivated and other lands. If there were not millions of Cats, there would be billions of vermin.”[4]

Cats, he reasoned, were intelligent and loving creatures, too often the subject of abuse and neglect. As part of a broader nineteenth-century movement, Weir intended to bring attention to the maltreatment of domestic felines. The United Kingdom had a long history of animal welfare reform; the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals was founded in 1824, years before the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals organized in New York City in 1866. Social reform movements, for the protection of both people and pets, grew in popularity during the nineteenth-century. Typically aimed at minorities, immigrants, and members of the working class, upper and middle-class reformers (often white women) crusaded for diverse causes—abolition, child labor, and temperance—and advocated for legal, social, cultural, and economic change. In this case: special prizes were given to working men’s cats “to encourage the poor to be kind to them and feed them well.”[5]

In July 1872, Baily’s Magazine of Sports & Pastimes both praised and critiqued the Cat Show: “It is said that we are indebted to Mr. Harrison Weir, the eminent artist, for the notion and arrangement of the cat show. All honour to him for the suggestion, but let us hope that the hideous cat’s head on the flaming yellow placard, which annually announces the coming cat carnival and frightens small boys at the railway stations, is not a design from the pencil of the great artist.” Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All about Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management, and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty (Turnbridge Wells: R. Clements and Company, 1889), 1; Baily’s Magazine of Sports & Pastimes, Vol. 22 (July 1872): 80.

The venture was so ‘purfectly’ successful that a “Second Cat Show” occurred in December 1871. The Spirit of the Times chronicled these unique cats for their readers. A “cosey black she cat” had been “in Paris during the whole of the late siege, sitting at the widow, watching the barricades.” An Abyssinian cat, owned by Miss Bramie Harris Zeyla, “was taken in the late war by an officer in the 102d Fusilier, and carried to India, and 20 months ago was brought to England. This gentle-looking pet will take up a tumbler or cup, and drink from it like a child.” Not to be outdone, the Zoological Society “sent a pair of wild cats.”[6]

While paging through the Spirit of the Times, I discovered this article: “Cat Show at the Crystal Palace.” My curiosity was piqued. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but, in my case, it resulted in a blog post. “Cat Show at the Crystal Palace,” Spirit of the Times: A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage (December 30, 1871).

Subsequently, the Crystal Palace hosted dog shows and game bird shows. Although never as popular as dog shows, Great Britain and United States still have several feline fanciers’ associations and organizations. Today, the Cat Fanciers’ Association awards ribbons to cats judged “Best Champion” and “Premier of Breed.” And, while most of us are not showing our housecats, we do tend to view them as ‘family’ members. According to a 2007 Harris Poll, 95% percent of pet owner viewed their cat or dog as part of the family. In humanizing our pets, we have accomplished—to a point considered inconceivable to most in the nineteenth-century—Harrison Weir’s mission: we learned to love our cats.[7]

Cat showing, I must admit, is not the subject of my doctoral dissertation. Yet the research process is full of serendipitous discoveries—some more niche or esoteric than others. This was just one the unusual topics that I encountered while browsing the Spirit of the Times, a weekly periodical published in nineteenth-century New York City. An eclectic magazine with sections on literature, humor, theatre, riding, shooting, and sport, this publication—one of the many periodicals housed at the National Sporting Library & Museum—offers a wealth of material for researchers.


Author Biography: Tracy L. Barnett is a doctoral candidate in the Department of History at the University of Georgia. Rifles—their meaning to men and their availability in nineteenth-century America—are at the center of her research. Her dissertation, “Men and Their Guns: The Culture of Self-Deputized Manhood in the South, 1850–1877,” analyzes the historic origins of America’s gun culture. She holds a John H. Daniels Fellowship at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Indeed, “I’m not a cat.”


Citations

[1] Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All about Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management, and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty (Turnbridge Wells: R. Clements and Company, 1889), 4.

[2]Harper’s Weekly (August 19, 1871), 772.

[3] “At the Cat Show,” Chatterbox, No. 49 (November 2, 1872): 386. < https://www.google.com/books/edition/Chatterbox/p8YPAQAAIAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=1&dq=cat+show+at+the+crystal+palace&pg=PA386&printsec=frontcover>

[4] Emphasis in the original. Harrison Weir, Our Cats and All about Them: Their Varieties, Habits, and Management, and for Show, the Standard of Excellence and Beauty (Turnbridge Wells: R. Clements and Company, 1889), iii.

[5] Weir, Our Cats and All about Them, 2; “At the Cat Show,” Chatterbox, No. 49 (November 2, 1872): 386.

[6] “Cat Show at the Crystal Palace,” Spirit of the Times: A Chronicle of the Turf, Agriculture, Field Sports, Literature and the Stage (December 30, 1871).

[7] Baily’s Magazine of Sports & Pastimes, Vol. 22 (July 1872): 80; The Cat Fanciers’ Association <https://cfa.org>; “Report: 95% say pets are part of the family,” PetFoodIndustry.com (March 9, 2016) <https://www.petfoodindustry.com/articles/5695-report—say-pets-are-part-of-the-family>   

Sadly I do not get to spend my days reading all of our amazing books, periodicals, and archives. Knowledge of the collection is built over time and through a variety of avenues. Sometimes I discover things while working on presentations, or an interesting tibit turns up while searching for some other piece of information and I make a note of it as a possible future blog topic. Often the visitors to the Library help with this process by discussing the sporting topics they are passionate about with me, sharing their knowledge and enthusiasm. Answering reference requests from researchers and as well as from the general public also often leads to interesting information held in our collections that I have never encountered before. Last week I received such a request from a library in Buffalo, New York. They were looking for a copy of an article by Jim Foral called “Ithaca’s Golden Girls,” originally published in the Winter 2016 issue of The Double Gun & Single Shot Journal. Fulfilling this request led to the delightful discovery of an article outlining the early participation of women in the sport of trapshooting.

Leading up to the turn of the 20th century women began to sample the outdoor pursuits that had so long been the domain of men. Led by a few exceptional sportswomen, the physical, mental, and social benefits of outdoor recreation were enthusiastically embraced by the female population at large. Foral’s article describes how magazines and retailers both adapted to cater to this new audience. Sports and outdoors magazines began to feature articles targeting women and even those written by sportswomen. Sellers of sports equipment and apparel developed lines of merchandise for women and ran advertisements in magazines aimed at women. The bulk of Foral’s article is about the commercial relationships that developed between individual sportswomen and gun manufacturers, specifically two spokeswomen for the Ithaca Gun Company, Mrs. Alice Belknap and Mrs. Troup Saxon.

Mrs. Alice Belknap (Foral, 134).

Alice Belknap was a grade school teacher and her husband was a doctor. They lived in Wyoming, New York. In 1899, Dr. Belknap had a hand in founding the Wyoming Gun Club which held monthly trap shooting practices and quarterly registered shooting matches. Although she started as a spectator, it wasn’t long before Alice picked up a gun herself and joined in. She developed into a strong competitor and was passionate about promoting the sport of trapshooting to women. She contributed articles to sporting magazines in which she noted the benefits of trapshooting including spending time with ones husband, the glow of health acquired through outdoor pursuits, and the development of discipline, steady nerves, and confidence.

Mrs. Belknap shooting at the Wyoming Gun Club in New York (Foral 130-131).

In 1908 Alice won the Wyoming Gun Club Championship and was elected the Club’s president. She competed in local and regional contests and was soon known as “The Best Lady Shot in the East.” It should come as no surprise then that the Ithaca Gun Company recruited her as a representative. The company sent her a No. 4 grade twelve gauge gun with gold-plated triggers and ran an ad including her image and testimonial in November 1908 issues of sporting magazines. She was also featured in Ithaca Gun Company ads in March and April of 1913.

Mrs. Belknap in an ad for Ithaca Gun Company (Foral 130).

After her husband’s death in 1913 Alice Belknap gave up competitive shooting. She remained interested in the sport of trapshooting and continued to promote it by occasionally acting as an instructor to other women. The independent streak that helped her rise to the top rank of amateur shooters stood her in good stead for the rest of her life. She purchased an insurance agency and several years later also started a real estate business. At one point she also owned the Wyoming City Water Works which she expanded and improved. She never remarried. After a long and successful life she died at 83 in December 1957.

Mrs. Ermina Saxon (Foral, 135).

Ithaca Gun Company’s second female spokesperson shared Mrs. Belknap’s plucky independence but little else of her story is similar. Mrs. Ermina Broadwell was a tomboy from Oklahoma territory who spent her childhood rambling around the countryside and hunting with her dog Jack. In her late teens Mr. Troup Saxon came to town performing rifle shooting exhibitions. Ermina met him through her father and the two were married in 1908. Mrs. Troup Saxon showed a natural affinity for shooting, hitting nineteen of twenty-five targets in her first trapshooting competition – beating all other shooters by three. The Saxons hit the road, making a living trapshooting. Ermina burst onto the national stage at the Oklahoma State Fair in 1908. The pretty young woman caused a sensation when she outshot all the local male competitors. The fact that she was citizen of the state made her even more popular. In addition to putting on shooting exhibitions and participating in competitions, the Saxons helped establish local shooting clubs wherever they went. They were ideal representatives for a gun company and Ithaca Guns established a relationship with them. The Saxons became commissioned gun-sales representatives for the Ithaca Gun Company and would display and demonstrate the Ithaca guns, as well as take orders for them.

Mrs. Saxon in an ad for Ithaca Gun Company (Foral, 130).

Mr. and Mrs. Troup Saxon traveled from town to town performing. Mr. Saxon developed into a skilled marketer and made sure that their shows were well publicized. Despite her skill, there is also correspondence between Mr. Saxon and Ithaca Gun Company outlining a plan to make sure that she beat him by one shot in nine out of ten competitions. Mrs. Saxon’s gun of choice was a No. seven grade, twelve gauge ejector gun that retailed for $400. Ithaca Gun Company used photos of Mrs. Troup Saxon and her gun in ads that ran in all the sporting magazines in April and May of 1911.

Mrs. Saxon circa 1911 in a photo that ran in Outdoor Life (Foral, 135).

In 1914 the Saxon marriage had failed and Ermina found herself looking for work. She approached Ithaca Guns about becoming a salaried salesperson or demonstrator but company policy barred such arrangements. The best they could offer her was a commission on sales. She made one last attempt to revive her shooting career at the Grand American Handicap in Ohio but only managed a middling performance. Her career as professional trapshooter was over but her pluck and independence never failed her. She lived in Seattle, Idaho, and Arizona, before establishing herself in Anchorage, Alaska where she cooked for mining camps and managed hotels. She had a daughter and eventually had four more husbands before dying in 1949 at age 60.

Mrs. Saxon (Foral, 137).

Both of these women did a great deal to normalize women’s participation in trapshooting and outdoor pursuits in general. They led by example but also encouraged would be shooters through the establishment of gun clubs, authoring of magazine articles, and instruction of novice gunners. Although advertisers like The Ithaca Gun Company were after the potential profit that might be generated by these new sportswomen, their ads traveled far beyond the regions that women like Mrs. Belknap or Mrs. Saxon could visit in person. Those images did their share to inspire women’s participation in sport too. Happily the sport of trapshooting is alive and well and many women still participate in it. In fact several members of the NSLM staff recently tried it for the first time! If you would like to read Jim Foral’s full account of these enterprising women please contact me at the Library.


Foral, Jim. “Ithaca’s Golden Girls.” Double Gun & Single Shot Journal, Winter 2016, pp. 129-139.


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 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

Although the legendary horses of flat racing are generally more well known to the population at large, there are horses within the steeplechasing community that enjoy the same level of fame as any flat racer. One such hero was a bay gelding called Saluter, who would rise from inauspicious beginnings to win the Virginia Gold Cup six years in a row.

Saluter. National Steeplechase Association, American Steeplechasing 1995, page 274, photo by Doug Lees.

Saluter was born in 1989 on Rose Estes’s farm in Virginia. He was purchased as a yearling by Richard Small who tried him at both flat races and hurdle races with disappointing results. In 1993 Small sold the horse to steeplechase jockey and trainer Jack Fisher for $2500. Soon after Henry and Ann Stern of Richmond, Virginia purchased a half interest in the horse. Fisher trained Saluter as a timber racer and the longer races suited the horse well. That fall Saluter won in upstate New York and again at Montpelier for the Virginia Hunt Cup. The following spring he would win the first of six consecutive (1994-1999) Virginia Gold Cup races at Great Meadow in The Plains, Virginia.

Saluter
Saluter (left) in action. Photo from The Sahuarita Sun.

During his career he would also win the International Gold Cup and the Radnor Hunt Cup twice, and the Virginia Hunt Cup four times. In 1997 he followed up a Virginia Gold Cup win with a trip to England where he won the Marlborough Cup. Winning both races in the same year earned him the title World Timber Champion and a $100,000 bonus. By the end of his racing career Saluter would win a record 21 timber races, and rake in $429,489 in timber earnings.

Saluter and Jack Fisher. Peter Winants, Steeplechasing: A Complete History of the Sport in North America (2000), page 236.

Jack Fisher, Saluter’s regular rider as well as his trainer, has commented that the horse’s strength was his ability to accelerate from a gallop to a sprint. Longer races allowed the horse to build up his momentum and then kick in the afterburners to run down the competition late in the race. This racing style led to exciting victories where the crowd could see Saluter come from behind and win over the last few jumps. His dramatic style combined with his winning streak at the Virginia Gold Cup caused Saluter’s popularity to soar and in turn brought crowds to the racecourse. Creating new steeplechase fans may be his longest lasting legacy to the sport even if his Gold Cup record is never broken.

Saluter and Jack Fisher. Peter Winants, Steeplechasing: A Complete History of the Sport in North America (2000), page 240.

Following the 2000 season, at 12 years of age, Saluter retired to Jack Fisher’s farm in Monkton, Maryland. In 2001 he was honored with a farewell lap at the Virginia Gold Cup at Great Meadow. A crowd of 53,000 cheered him on as he galloped around the course he had dominated for over half a decade, and William Allison, the President of the Gold Cup’s Board of Directors presented him with a bushel of carrots and apples. In retirement Saluter took up foxhunting. He would return to Great Meadow and the Gold Cup once again in 2008 to view the bronze statue of himself by sculptor Alexa King. Commemorating his six win streak, the statue was installed at the racecourse in 2007. Saluter died in 2017. He was 28 years old. Earlier this year Joe Clancy created a touching tribute to Saluter that was originally aired on the National Steeplechase Association’s live stream show covering 2020 Gold Cup races. Click through for some wonderful photos of the great horse.

Bronze statue of Saluter by Alexa King at Great Meadow. Photo by Peter Fynmere.

The Library holds many books and periodicals about steeplechasing, its great racecourses, and the colorful people and horses, both past and present, that participate in the sport. To delve into any of these resources contact the Library to make an appointment. Appointments are available Tuesday through Friday. Also consider booking a visit to see the Museum’s newest exhibit, The Thrill of the ‘Chase, which showcases the history of steeplechasing and its depiction in art. Museum tickets are available on Fridays and Saturdays and must be booked ahead of time on our website.


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 450 years of the history of equestrian sport, fly fishing, wing shooting, other field sports, and country life.

For more than 250 years the name Tattersalls has been synonymous with the buying and selling of bloodstock. Over 13,000 horses are auctioned off annually in 32 sales held at Newmarket, Ascot, and Cheltenham in Britain, and at Fairyhouse in Ireland. Total sales have topped 300 million guineas in each of the last two years.

Entrance to Tattersalls. Photo by Claudia Pfeiffer

The young man that would found this famous firm was Richard Tattersall. Born in 1724 at Hurstwood, Richard showed an affinity for horses at an early age and spent most of his time in the family stables. At about ten he was sent to Burnley Grammar School where he studied Latin, Greek, math, and rhetoric under the guidance of Ellis Nutter. Here he also worked with a writing master and learned basic accounting.

Hurstwood. From Tattersalls: two hundred years of sporting history by Vincent Orchard (1954). The gift of Mrs. Walter D. Fletcher.

At 14, Richard secretly bought his first horse. In actuality an old cart horse, to him it was a treasure. He hid the horse in a vacant byre and sneaked out to care for it and ride it. It wasn’t long before his father spotted him and the secret was out. As a result of this shenanigan Richard was given a choice by his parents. He could either stay in school and seriously pursue a scholarship to Cambridge or he could become an apprentice wool stapler working with a friend of his father’s. In the end it was decided that he would stay in school until he was 16 at which point he would begin his apprenticeship.

Richard Tattersall. From Tattersalls: two hundred years of sporting history by Vincent Orchard (1954). The gift of Mrs. Walter D. Fletcher.

The apprenticeship did not last long as the wool trade, although lucrative, did not interest Richard. By 1745 he had gone south to London to make his fortune. There is some speculation that Richard was a Jacobite supporter and was sent to London by his father to keep him out of the fighting but biographers differ on whether he was actually a supporter of Bonnie Prince Charlie or not. In either case Richard went to London and embarked on a career in the horse industry. His first position was with Beevor’s Horse Repository in St. Martin’s Lane, where he would rise to the position of head ostler. He was also always on the lookout for opportunities and wrote to his father about a lucrative trip to Scotland. He had heard of a Scottish nobleman that was selling his stud and Richard convinced a friend to go in with him to purchase it. He bought cheap and sold the stock for a healthy profit in York and London.

In 1753 Richard entered the service of Evelyn Pierrepoint, the 2nd Duke of Kingston, eventually rising to the position of Stud Manager. In this role he not only entered the world of bloodstock breeding but also that of the important and affluent individuals that were organizing and developing the horse racing industry of England. Three years later he married Catherine Somerville, a grand daughter of the 12th Earl of Somerville, and two years after that their only child was born, a son named Edmund. Over the next several years Richard continued to extend his network of friends and acquaintances in the world of horse racing. He developed a reputation for integrity, honesty, and business ability, and is quoted as saying “better to lose commission than a friend.”

Richard Tattersall (1724-95) with ‘Highflyer’ in the background by Beach, Thomas (1738-1806) Private Collection English, out of copyright

In 1766 he had amassed enough capital to enact his dream of building his own bloodstock auction. He entered into a 99 year lease with Lord Grosvenor for a parcel of land at Hyde Park Corner. It was on this tract of land that he would found the Tattersall’s firm. He began conservatively and adapted existing buildings into an office and horse boxes. Eventually he developed the site to include a house, an office, coach houses, kennels, stables, and exercise yards, covering 10 to 15 acres. In 1779 he outfitted two rooms for the use of members of the Jockey Club. These rooms quickly became an important gathering spot for the elite racing group.

Highflyer. From The story of Tattersalls by Peter Willett (1987). NSLM collection.

In addition to his success as a horse dealer, Richard Tattersall was also a successful owner and breeder of horses. In 1779 he bought Highflyer from Lord Bolingbroke for 2,500 pounds. In his three racing seasons, Highflyer was never defeated and pulled in a total of 9,336 pounds in stakes money. Richard retired the horse to the stud barn. At the time everyone was after stock bred by the great Eclipse. Tattersall’s solution was to get as many daughters of Eclipse as he could and breed them with Highflyer thus combining the bloodlines of the two great racers. In addition to Highflyer’s the stud fees, Richard also made money buying Eclipse mares and selling them in foal to Highflyer for top dollar amounts. He also added the best of Highflyer’s daughters to his stud and sold their produce for large profits. Highflyer was champion sire of winners 12 times and his progeny included Derby winners Noble, Sir Peter and Skyscraper, the Oaks winner Volante, and the St. Leger winners Omphale, Cowslip, Spadille and Young Flora. This great success allowed Richard to build a country house he called Highflyer Hall.

Highflyer Hall in the 1950s. From Tattersalls: two hundred years of sporting history by Vincent Orchard (1954). The gift of Mrs. Walter D. Fletcher.

By all accounts Richard Tattersall was excellent company and truly enjoyed hosting his friends. He began a tradition of Monday Dinners at the lavish dining room at his Hyde Park establishment. These dinners were long affairs and often didn’t wrap up until late in the evening. He frequently entertained at Highflyer Hall as well where his friends, including no less than the Prince of Wales, could count on his well stocked wine cellar and excellent conversation. His popularity was so widespread that he was said to be “free of the road, as no highwayman would molest him, and even a pickpocket returned his handkerchief, with compliments.”

On February 21, 1795 Richard Tattersall died after a short illness. He was 71. He left behind a reputation for kindness, honesty, integrity, and geniality. He also left the well established Tattersall’s firm which his son, Edmund, took over. Direct descendants of Richard would continue to guide the development and growth of Tattersall’s until the death of Sommerville Tattersall in 1942. The firm has continued to prosper and is now known as Tattersalls, no apostrophe.

I’ve only touched on the main points of Richard Tattersall’s life. He’s an interesting character particularly because he operated during a time when Thoroughbred racing was getting well organized in Britain. The history of his family and his company are very much tied up with the history of British horse racing. The Library holds several biographies on Tattersall’s the family and the firm if you’d like to get the full story. Or for a more concise version I can point you to chapters in a variety of books on the history of the British turf.


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.

A recent reference question sent me on a hunt to find out if any fillies had ever won the Kentucky Derby.  It turns out that three ladies have won the fabled race at Churchill Downs.  The first was a chestnut mare with a white blaze named Regret who won the 1915 contest.

Regret was bred and owned by Harry Payne Whitney, a member of America’s horse racing royalty.  He was the leading American owner by earnings six times between 1905 and 1930, as well as the leading American breeder from 1926 to 1932.  Her trainer was James G. Rowe, Sr., a former jockey who had an illustrious second career as a trainer of racehorses.  Over his career he trained more than 30 champions.

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Regret at Saratoga.  From Women of the Year by Avalyn Hunter (2004).  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of The Chronicle of the Horse.

For her debut season in 1914, Regret ran in and won a series of three races at Saratoga.  The first was the Saratoga Special, the second was the Sanford Memorial, and the third was the Hopeful Stakes.  In all these races she ran against colts, including the season’s best juvenile colt, Pebbles, in the final two.  Following this brilliant first season she was rested until the Kentucky Derby in May 1915.

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Regret with trainer James Rowe (left) and owner Harry Payne Whitney (right).  From Women of the Year by Avalyn Hunter (2004).  National Sporting Library & Museum, the gift of The Chronicle of the Horse.

At the time, the Kentucky Derby was not the iconic American race that it is today.  Most of the prestigious races were based in New York.  Matt Winn, the general manager of Churchill Downs, was working hard to raise the cachet of the track.  In order to lure top competitors to the Derby, he decided to make it the richest race of the season.  The winner’s purse was $11,450 and a gold cup.  This outstripped the purses at eastern races, where the Preakness Stakes purse was $1,275 and the Belmont’s was $1,825 that year.

Regret led the field from the start and won the race by two lengths in 2:05 2/5.  The sensation of a filly beating the boys, the incredible purse, and Whitney’s statement following the race that, “She has won the greatest race in America, and I am satisfied,” all combined to help launch the Kentucky Derby on the path to in fact becoming the greatest race in America.  It would be 65 years until Regret had company.

Oddly enough it would be another chestnut filly with a white blaze that would finally join Regret as a lady of the Kentucky Derby.  The horse that would become known as Genuine Risk was born on February 15th, 1977.  At the Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July sale of yearlings 14-year-old Matthew Firestone spotted her and lobbied his parents, Bert and Diana Firestone, to purchase the filly.  They agreed and Genuine Risk began schooling at the Firestone’s farm near Waterford, Virginia.  She is described as generally gentle but opinionated, and was known to sometimes run off with exercise riders.

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Genuine Risk following the Kentucky Derby.  From The Blood-Horse, May 10, 1980, pg. 2508.

As a two year old, she began training with LeRoy Jolley and made her debut on September 30, 1978 at Belmont Park.  She was undefeated in this first season of racing, and her winning streak continued into her second season.  She was doing so well it was decided to test her against colts in the Wood Memorial Stakes, a race that is often a precursor to Kentucky Derby appearances.  She ran the entire race just behind Plugged Nickle and Colonel Moran and finished in third, 1 and 3/4 lengths behind the boys.  There was a bit of drama when her jockey claimed a foul but in the end the stewards did not agree and the results stood.

This loss cast doubt on whether running with the boys was too much for Genuine Risk and her appearance in the Kentucky Derby was doubted by many.  However, she recovered well from Wood Memorial race and the Firestones, her trainer, and her jockey all felt she would be competitive in the Derby and she was entered.  As the big day approached speculation abounded about all the contestants.  The Lexinton Herald polled 44 members of the media and only five predicted Genuine Risk as the winner.  Twenty-six of them predicted that she would finish out of the money altogether.

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Genuine Risk winning the Kentucky Derby.  From The Blood-Horse, May 10, 1980, cover.

As it happened, she held back for the first half of the race and then moved to the outside,  charged to the lead, and stayed there through the finish line where she joined Regret in a very exclusive club.  After 65 years there were now two Ladies that owned the Kentucky Derby.  Later Harper’s Bazaar named Genuine Risk one of its seven top women achievers for 1980.

The most recent filly to win the roses was aptly named, Winning Colors.  She accomplished the feat in 1988.  Like the two fillies that preceded her, she had a white blaze, but she had a roan rather than a chestnut coat.  She was bred by Don Sucher at Echo Valley Horse Farm in Kentucky.  At the July auction in 1986, trainer D. Wayne Lukas liked the looks of her and purchased her for an owner he represented, Eugene Klein.  Lukas and his son Jeff began training her among a stable of talented horses.  Her first race was at Saratoga on August 13.  She won by 2 1/2 lengths over Epitome, who would go on to become the champion of the two year old filly division.  She continued her racing career on the west coast of the United States winning all but one of the races she entered.  On April 9th 1988 in the Santa Anita Derby, she easily led a field of 3 year old colts and won by 7 1/2 lengths.  From that moment on there was no doubt that she would compete in the Kentucky Derby the following month.

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Winning Colors.  From The Blood-Horse, May 14, 1988, Cover.

On the big day at Churchill Downs she would charge to the front of the field and stay there the entire race.  In an exciting finale, she was challenged in the home stretch by Forty Niner who closed a seven length lead.  But Winning Colors held on to win by a neck, and joined Regret and Genuine Risk as a Lady of the Kentucky Derby.

To learn more about these wonderful fillies and their lives after the Kentucky Derby, or to brush up on your Kentucky Derby history, just drop by the Main Reading Room and I’d be happy to show you some resources.


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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

As I’ve been working on cataloging the Library’s periodical holdings, I’ve come to realize that these journals provided an outlet for artists and engravers, both of which were frequently employed to provide illustrations for publication.  One such journal that is absolutely crammed with lovely engravings is the French weekly newspaper, La Chasse Illustree, (The Illustrated Hunt) which ran under slightly varying titles from 1867 to 1914.  The Library holds the first year, 1867-8, and the tenth year 1877 as two bound volumes.

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Original 1867 masthead for La Chasse Illustree.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The original masthead includes the subtitle, journal des plaisirs de la ferme et du chateau, or pleasures of the farm and castle, and lists topics covered such as fishing, natural history, and travel.

By the tenth year the masthead has been updated somewhat.  The subtitle has changed to, journal des chasseurs et la vie a la campagne, or journal of hunters and country life.  The words describing content on the earlier masthead have been replaced by illustrations and we can see a variety of hunters, fishermen, and shooters, shown in scenes surrounding the title.

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The masthead in 1877.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

As the title suggests this journal covers a wide range of sporting life.  Despite my inability to read the french text, a survey of the engravings clearly displays the variety of topics covered.

Here we find the expected hunters, such as this highland stalker.

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Highland hunter. Samedi 24 Mars 1877.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

As well as images of the hunter’s companions, like this bird dog.

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Bird dog. Samedi 23 Fevrier 1878.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

Hunters of every sort appear in the pages.  Not only men but also animal predators, including some rather exotic beasts like these leopards chasing after Tragopan Satyrs (a Himalayan pheasant)…

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Leopards.  Samedi 12 Mai 1877.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

an octopus…

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Octopus. Samedi 1 Decembre 1877. T. Wood, Butterworth and Heath.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

and even a spider!

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Spider. Samedi 26, Octobre 1878. T. Specht.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

The techniques used by hunters are also shown.  Here are two hunters using a blind to hide from their quarry.

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Hunters using a blind. Samedi 24 Aout 1867.  Yan Dargent, Huyot.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

This chap is using a complicated looking trap to try and capture some birds.  His set up even includes a tethered live decoy which can be seen at the far left of the image.

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Bird traps. Samedi 8 Fevrier 1868. E Ade’ Stuttgart, E. Foeest.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

And this interesting cross sectional image shows another trap, this one for fish.

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Fishing with net. Samedi 28 Septembre 1867. F. Lehmert, Huyot.  The gift of John H. and Martha Daniels.

If you can make the trip to visit the Library I’d love to bring out these two volumes for you to spend an afternoon browsing through.  The illustrations I’ve included hardly scratch the surface of this fantastic collection of weekly journals.


SONY DSCErica 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

Now is the time when people set their resolutions for the new year. The Library’s main resolutions for 2019 are:

(1) Complete setup of the Library’s new Digital Repository
(2)  Catalog the periodicals collection

Speaking of the periodicals project, we were going through some old copies of Thoroughbred Record to catalog them, and picked up the New Year’s issue for 1936 (January 4).

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Thoroughbred Record, January 4, 1936

We came across an article on New Year’s Resolutions by “Salvator,” the pen-name of John Hervey. The article fell under the paper’s “Marginalia” heading.

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Salvator has quite a few ideas for resolutions, all of them best practices for people associated with horse racing in some fashion. For example, he has insightful (and cynical) resolutions for bettors:

Remember that the average of winning favorites is about 38 per cent.
That playing hunches is playing dunces.
That inside info is outside bunco.
That book-makers are your natural enemies.
That the totalisator, only, cannot be bought.
That all players die broke, anyhow.

Or his resolutions for jockeys:

Less rough riding.
More judgment.
More respect for the judges.
Less anxiety to beat the starter.
More skill at the finish.
Drastic treatment for swelled-head.

He even suggests resolutions for the racing commissions, track managers, and breeders. For trainers:

More interest in good horsemanship.
More interest in good horses.
Less interest in bad horses.
A stern stand against “dope.”
More consideration for horses as horses.
Less consideration for them as gambling tools.
And iron hand on subordinates.

How many of Salvator’s resolutions still hold up today? For us, we’re confident our projects will move forward to completion in the coming year, and hope all the best for the resolutions of our NSLM members and blog readers. Happy New Year!


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 

Occasionally the drama of horse racing spills over from the racetrack.  In 1977 it splashed onto a mare called Fanfreluche, who was stolen from Claiborne Farm near Paris, Kentucky, and was missing without a trace for several months.  This tale of intrigue was covered by many news outlets but for all things Thoroughbred, The Blood-Horse Weekly magazine is the ideal resource.  Fortunately the Library holds nearly a complete run of this essential Thoroughbred horse periodical and I was able to get all the details of this odd incident.

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Fanfreluche racing.  Blood-Horse Weekly, July 4, 1977 (2844-5).  NSLM periodicals collection.

Born in 1967, and owned by Jean-Louis Levesque, Fanfreluche had an excellent record on the track, earning $238,688 and being named 1970 Canadian Horse of the Year.  An injury during her fourth year ended her racing career and she embarked on a new career as a broodmare in which she would prove equally successful.  In 1977 she journeyed south to Claiborne Farm in Kentucky to be bred to Secretariat and was soon confirmed as in foal to the famous Triple Crown winner.

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Fanfreluche.  Blood-Horse Weekly, July 11, 1977 (2924).  NSLM periodicals collection.

On June 26th Fanfreluche vanished from a grazing field she shared with several other broodmares.  She was last seen late in the afternoon by farm staff.  Later in the evening when the head count came up one short it was assumed that the missing mare was simply out of view.  The next morning the stunning truth was revealed, Fanfreluche was missing.

The State police and the FBI were called in.  Investigation of the area turned up two cut fences…

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A cut fence. Blood-Horse Weekly, July 4, 1977 (2844-5). NSLM periodicals collection.

and a trail that led along a stone wall to a wooded area near the road, where the hoof prints stopped.  Presumably the thief had a van waiting, loaded Fanfreluche into it, and made his get away.

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The escape route. Blood-Horse Weekly, July 4, 1977 (2844-5). NSLM periodicals collection.

The authorities, indeed everyone, expected a ransom call.  Although she was valuable, due to strict registration rules Fanfreluche wouldn’t be worth much to the thief.  In much the same way that a stolen artwork is difficult if not impossible to sell, a famous horse with registration lip tattoo would be impossible to pass off as another horse.  Inexplicably no phone call came.

After a week or two the State Police released these photos to the public hoping that someone had seen the missing mare.

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Blood-Horse Weekly, July 11, 1977 (2924).  NSLM periodicals collection.

In an attempt to drum up leads, a false story was circulated that Fanfreluche required medication.  Also a $25,000 reward was offered for information leading to a conviction.  In July an arrest warrant was issued for William Michael McCandless.  He voluntarily turned himself in and denied any connection with the crime.  He was arraigned on July 29th, but there was still no sign of the missing horse.

It wasn’t until December 8th that a tip led investigators to the rural town of Tompkinsville, Kentucky.  At the home of Larry McPherson a mare matching the description of Fanfreluche is discovered and her identity is confirmed from her lip tattoo.  McPherson had been in possession of the horse since shortly after her kidnapping.  One morning his neighbor had spotted a stray horse and assumed that it belonged to McPherson.  They called to alert him and he went out expecting to find one of his horses.

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The road where Fanfreluche was found (top) and the McPherson home (bottom).  Blood-Horse Weekly, Dec 19, 1977 (6199-6202).  NSLM periodicals collection.

Instead it was an unknown horse.  He retrieved the horse and told the neighbor it wasn’t his and to pass the word around that there was a stray horse at his place.  He expected the owner to turn up shortly to claim their animal.  When no one did he reported it to the local police.  No one made the connection to the race horse that had been stolen about 150 miles away.  Eventually McPherson named the stray Brandy and occasionally used her for pleasure riding.   He reported that she was very gentle but was difficult to catch, and that she never seemed to like the name he had given her and had never responded when he used it.

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The McPhersons and “Brandy.”  Blood-Horse Weekly, Dec 19, 1977 (6199-6202).  NSLM periodicals collection.

The McPhersons were cleared of any connection to the theft.  Although Fanfreluche was in need of a brushing and having her hooves trimmed, she was none the worse for wear from her time as an ordinary horse.  She returned to the luxury of Claiborne Farm and in February gave birth to a healthy colt named Sain Et Sauf, or Safe and Sound.

Fanfreluche had a long and productive life before passing away in 1999 at the age of 32.  She is a member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame and also won the Sovereign Award for outstanding broodmare.  She had 18 foals.  14 of them were winners, five were stakes winners, and three were champions.

William Michael McCandless was convicted of the theft and sentenced to four years in prison.  It wasn’t his first run in the with law and it wouldn’t be his last.

The Library has a large collection of periodicals dating from the late 1700’s to the present day.  Only our active subscriptions are available without an appointment in the Main Reading Room.  The bulk of the collection is in the Lower Level Reading Room which requires an appointment to visit.  I am currently working on cataloging the periodicals collection so in the near future it will be easy to see what we have available by using our online catalog.


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.

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