Since 1939, the Piedmont Foxhounds have hosted the Piedmont Point-to-Point races in Upperville, Virginia. The most prestigious race of the meet is the Rokeby Challenge Bowl, which, for decades, has attracted top horses in training for major steeplechase races. From 1939 until his death in 1999, the race and trophy were sponsored by Mr. Paul Mellon, who was a member of Piedmont and an avid supporter of jump racing. The winner of the race received a small trophy to keep and their names were engraved on a large perpetual trophy which they could keep for one year. Those who won the race three times (not necessarily consecutively or with the same horse) retired the trophy and could take it home for keeps. The trophies provided by Mr. Mellon were exquisite examples of silver and were highly sought after prizes.

The Rokeby Bowl, Piedmont Point-to-Point trophy, c. 1720, sterling silver, on wood and silver base, 15 x 10 ⅞ inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mary Gillian Fenwick, 2016

One of the original silver Rokeby Bowl trophies has been generously donated to the NSLM by Mary Gillian “Gill” Fenwick. Mrs. Fenwick retired the Rokeby Bowl after winning the race three consecutive years, in 1961, 1962, and 1963. She was just the third owner to retire the trophy (five more have done so since then). Her winners were piloted by the famous steeplechase jockey Crompton “Tommy” Smith, Jr., all three years. The horses were Bay Barrage (1961), General Tony (1962), and Fluctuate (1963).

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Tommy Smith aboard Fluctuate, in the 1963 Rokeby Bowl steeplechase. Tommy Smith (1937-2013) was a five-time Maryland Hunt Cup winner and became famous for winning the British Grand National race in 1965 with Jay Trump.  Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

All three were talented racers. After winning in 1961, Bay Barrage ran again in 1962 with Olympic equestrian Frank Chapot on board. He placed third against his stablemate General Tony. Past Maryland Hunt Cup winner Fluctuate, nicknamed “Chris,” won in 1963 when he was 16 years-young and was rewarded with well-earned retirement.

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Gill Fenwick (right) and Tommy Smith (left) accepting the Rokeby Bowl trophies from Mrs. Thomas B. Glascock, Jr. (center) in 1961. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The original course was on Mellon’s Rokeby Farm property in Upperville. The race was 4 1/4 miles long, included 22 post and rail fences averaging 3’9″ high, and included two in-and-outs! In 1957, the point-to-point was relocated to the farms of Mrs. J. F. F. Stewart and Dr. and Mrs. A. C. Randolph along Route 50 in Upperville, now known as the Salem Farm course.

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Frank Chapot (1932-2016) on Bay Barrage in the 1962 running of the Rokeby Bowl. Chapot, who just recently passed away in 2016, was an Olympic medalist, USET coach, and world-renowned trainer, who also occasionally rode in steeplechases. Photo courtesy of Carol Fenwick. ©Howard Allen Photography, LLC

The trophy itself has more stories to tell. The bowl is almost 300 years old, dating to the year 1720. The plain silver punch bowl is hand-engraved with an image of a horse and jockey and inscribed with the words “Silver Tail’d Betty” and “Banbury Town Plate 1720.”  Town Plates (flat race meetings) were held in towns all over England for centuries. Prior to the establishment of the Jockey Club in the early 1750’s, each meet featured its own set of rules. The town of Banbury is located in Oxfordshire, in Southern England.

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Detail of Rokeby Bowl trophy, with engraving of horse and jockey and “Silver Tail’d Bettey”

After Mr. Mellon acquired the bowl, he added a tiered wooden base with sterling silver bands and donated it to Piedmont for the race. The NSLM is grateful to Mrs. Fenwick for gifting this special piece of racing history to the collection. It has traveled a long way since it was first used as a race trophy in 18th century England, then awarded at steeplechase races in 20th century America, and now has a home on display at the NSLM.

The 76th running of the Piedmont Point-to-Point takes place Saturday, March 25th at the Salem Farm course in Upperville, Virginia. For a schedule of all the Spring Steeplechase races, visit the Virginia Steeplechase Association calendar.

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The 62nd annual meet of the Virginia Fall Races was held at Glenwood Park, Middleburg, this past Saturday, October 8th. Last year’s race day was perfect, sunny weather, but this year featured lots of rain! That didn’t keep us from enjoying a great day of racing though.

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Rainy weather makes for muddy horses and jockeys at the Virginia Fall Races! (Photo by Perry Mathewes)

The Virginia Fall Races features the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship in the morning, and nine races over the rolling turf course in the afternoon. Funds raised from the event benefit Inova Loudoun Hospital. The National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, held since 1955, is run in memory of Fall Races co-founder, Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., and long-time race supporter, Mr. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr.

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The trophies for the day were displayed on a table out of the rain under the announcer’s stand. The NSLM Cup trophy and this year’s keeper trophy bowl, are just left of center.

Saturday’s precipitation made the course footing soft, but it held up fairly well. And, luckily for us, the rain tapered off just in time for our race. This year’s NSLM Cup was won by the Irish-bred Two’s Company, owned by Bruton Street – US, trained by Jack Fisher, and piloted by jockey Sean McDermott. The 7 year-old bay gelding beat six other horses over the long 3 1/4 mile timber course. It was anyone’s race until the tightly packed group was well into their third and final lap of the course. McDermott took the lead with just two fences to go, and won by almost 7 lengths. In second place was the 2015 NSA Timber Horse Champion, Grinding Speed; third was Puller; and fourth was Canyon Road.

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Two’s Company and Sean McDermott ahead of Pured It and Gerard Galligan (Photo by Douglas Lees)

 

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Two’s Company and Sean McDermott in the blue and yellow silks of Bruton Street – US (Photo by Douglas Lees)

Two’s Company is having a successful season so far. With the NSLM Cup as his fourth win of the year, the horse is now ranked first in purse winnings for 2016. Bruton Street – US, Fisher, and McDermott are all ranked among the very top owners, trainers, and jockeys in timber racing. And McDermott has appeared in our NSLM Cup photos before – in 2015 he won aboard Straight To It, another horse trained by Jack Fisher.

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NSLM Cup Winner’s Circle: (left to right) Jacqueline Ohrstrom, Melanie Mathewes (NSLM Executive Director), Juliana May (NSLM Cup Trophy Donor), Michael and Ann Hankin, Sheila Fisher, and jockey Sean McDermott.

A big thank you to those of you that came out to support the races despite the rainy weather!

Six of the horses from the NSLM Cup lineup (including Two’s Company) have been nominated to compete against each other again in the International Gold Cup on October 22, at Great Meadow in The Plains. Fingers crossed for nicer weather that day!

This Saturday, October 10th, the Virginia Fall Races will be held at Glenwood Park here in Middleburg.  Glenwood is a fantastic venue – just outside of town, and there are no bad seats to be found!  It’s easy for guests to get close to the action along the courses and at the paddock.

Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park, 2011. (Photo courtesy of VA Fall Races)
Virginia Fall Races at Glenwood Park, 2011 (photo courtesy of VA Fall Races)

We here at the NSLM take care of the literature, art, and history of sports like steeplechasing. But we also love to celebrate the sport today. Steeplechases, or jump races, are generally held on grass tracks, often with somewhat hilly terrain, over fences of brush, timber (wood), and sometimes water jumps. The horses are thoroughbreds and many of them got their start racing on the flat. They are generally older and a bit sturdier than their cousins and siblings at the flat racing tracks. And the jockeys don’t have to be the size of Derby winner Victor Espinoza (he’s 5’2″), but instead can be quite tall.

The Fall race meet at Glenwood is a particularly special one. The feature race of the day is the National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, which is held in memory of NSLM founders George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr.

Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. (1894 - 1955) by Erik Guide Haupt (American, 1891 - 1984), oil on canvas Gift of the Ohrstrom Family
Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Sr. (1894 – 1955)
by Erik Guide Haupt (American, 1891 – 1984), oil on canvas
Gift of the Ohrstrom Family
Thomas S. Buechner (American, 1926 - 2010) Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. (1927 - 2005) oil on canvas, 40 x 30 ¼ inches Gift of the Ohrstrom Family, 2003
Portrait of George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. (1927 – 2005), by Thomas S. Buechner (American, 1926 – 2010), oil on canvas
Gift of the Ohrstrom Family, 2003

The Virginia Fall Races were founded not long after the NSLM (founded as the National Sporting Library in 1954). In 1955, George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., who was president of the Orange County Hounds, and Mrs. Theodora A. Randolph, the famous horsewoman and Master of the Piedmont Foxhounds for 40 years, worked together to create a new race meet for Virginia.  Sadly, Mr. Ohrstrom passed away just a month after the first October races. His son, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., carried on supporting the races and the sport of steeplechasing. Today the Ohrstrom family continues to support the sport and sponsors the NSLM Cup.

The NSLM Cup is a timber race run over a long 3 and 1/4 miles course. The race is open to horses 4 years old and up – and a whopping 17 entries have been nominated to run this year.

National Sporting Library & Museum Cup Elkington & Co., London, 1920, sterling silver Gift of Juliana May, 2014
National Sporting Library & Museum Cup
Elkington & Co., London, 1920, sterling silver
Gift of Juliana May, 2014

The beautiful sterling silver NSLM Cup perpetual trophy will be awarded to the winner, and their names will be engraved on the base. New this year is a gorgeous “keeper” trophy. The owners of the winning horse will receive a stunning sterling silver salver (flat tray with small feet on the bottom) – for keeps! Generously donated by Juliana May, this piece was crafted by English silversmiths William Hutton & Sons, in 1930. It was engraved this year for the 2015 race.

National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, 2015 Winner’s Trophy William Hutton & Sons, Sheffield, England, 1930, sterling silver Gift of Juliana May, 2015
National Sporting Library & Museum Cup, 2015 Winner’s Trophy
William Hutton & Sons, Sheffield, England, 1930, sterling silver
Gift of Juliana May, 2015

Post time for the races is 1 pm. But come to town early and see fox hunters from around the country compete in the Theodora A. Randolph Field Hunter Championship on the infield. Or come to the NSLM to see great examples of steeplechasing in art – before you go see the real thing!

Cecil Aldin (English, 1870 – 1935) The Grand National Series: No. 3, Valentine’s Brook, c. 1923 photogravure, 13 x 25 inches Gift of Dr. Laura Jane Schrock, 1996
Cecil Aldin (English, 1870 – 1935)
The Grand National Series: No. 3, Valentine’s Brook, c. 1923, photogravure
Gift of Dr. Laura Jane Schrock, 1996
Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958) The Last Fence, Pickering, 1934 pencil on paper Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013
Paul Brown (American, 1893-1958)
The Last Fence, Pickering, 1934, pencil on paper
Gift of Boots Wright in memory of Mr. and Mrs. Richard E. Riegel, 2013

When you get to Glenwood, come visit us on the rail at spot A23!

Fletcher Harper, MFH (1874-1963) was Master of the Orange County Hunt for 33 seasons, from 1920 to 1953. In 1900, the Hunt was originally organized in and named for Orange County, New York, but was relocated to Fauquier County, Virginia, in 1903. A set of Orange County Hunting Diaries from 1936 to 1969 are held in the NSLM archives.

Fletcher Harper, MFH, National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.
Fletcher Harper, MFH, National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.

Mr. Harper was married to Harriet Wadsworth (1881-1975), whose father, James W. Wadsworth was cousin of William Austin Wadsworth, the Master and founder of the famous Genesee Valley Hunt in New York. Mrs. Harper rode sidesaddle on the off side, due to an injury.

Mrs. Fletcher Harper, photograph by Ira Haas, NY. National Sporting Library & Museum photographs collection.
Mrs. Fletcher Harper, photograph by Ira Haas, NY. National Sporting Library & Museum Photographs Collection.

Together, the Harpers worked tirelessly to open the land around The Plains, Virginia to foxhunting. Fletcher became renowned as a thorough and attentive Master, carefully repairing all damage to property from hunts and keeping in close contact with the farming community. Mr. Harper is generally credited with putting Orange County on the map as a premiere American hunt.

“For the past seven years Mr. Harper has carried on the traditions of the Hunt in the most able manner, his tact and great charm working wonders with those landowners who were sometimes difficult to deal with. Mr. Harper found that the greatest evil with which he had to contend was wire, and this difficulty he has successfully combated by paneling the country in some places and putting in ‘chicken coops’ in others, until he now has as rideable a territory as could be wished for.”

From Hunting in the United States and Canada, by A. Henry Higginson and Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, 1928.

Along with George L. Ohrstrom, Sr., Alexander Mackay-Smith, and Lester Karow, Harper founded the National Sporting Library in 1954 as a public resource on equestrian and field sports. Mr. Harper served as President of NSL from its founding in 1956 until his death in 1963. In 1972, Mrs. Harper donated a painting of Mr. Harper to the NSL. This painting is a study for a finished portrait completed in 1931.

Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.
Ellen Gertrude Emmett Rand (American, 1875-1941) Study for Portrait of Fletcher Harper (1874-1963), c. 1931, oil on canvas, 45 x 34 ½ inches. National Sporting Library & Museum, gift of Mrs. Fletcher Harper, 1972.

The artist, Ellen Emmett Rand, was an accomplished portrait painter who studied at The Art Students League of New York with William Merritt Chase and Kenyon Cox. She is known for her portraits of artists, writers, socialites and politicians, including President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Fletcher Harper Memorial Trophy: Foxhunters Timber Race, sterling silver, diameter: 12 inches, Collection of Orange County Hounds, on loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum
Fletcher Harper Memorial Trophy: Foxhunters Timber Race, sterling silver, diameter: 12 inches, Collection of Orange County Hounds, on loan to the National Sporting Library & Museum

After his retirement as Master, Harper assisted Orange County in its hound breeding program until his death in 1963. He and Harriet are buried at the Georgetown Cemetery, Church of Our Savior, Broad Run, Virginia.

In addition to the many trophies that are part of the permanent collection here at the NSLM, our institution also houses several long-term loans from hunts, shows and racing associations. Perpetual trophies that are awarded once a year spend the rest of their time living here. They are on display in our Library so that our visitors, event fans and even past winners can come see them. The Baltimore Museum of Art does something similar – the Woodlawn Vase, awarded to the winner of the Preakness in May, is displayed in their galleries during the rest of the year.

Many of our loan trophies are silver and some are bronze or painted bronze sculptures, like this one.

David L. "Zeke" Ferguson Memorial Trophy, 2007, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John T. Ferguson, Jr.
David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Trophy, 2007, Collection of Mr. and Mrs. John T. Ferguson, Jr.

This charming trophy is for the David L. “Zeke” Ferguson Memorial Stakes race. The owners, John, Jr. and Leah Ferguson, recently took some time to tell me more about the trophy and its namesake. The award is in honor of Zeke Ferguson (1922 – 1994),  a prominent Virginia horseman who fox hunted, played polo and owned both hurdle and timber steeplechase horses. (Hurdle means brush fences and timber means wooden post-and-rail fences.) Zeke’s most accomplished horse was a grey named Leeds Don, who won the Virginia Gold Cup three times in a row (1965 – 1967)! The National Steeplechase Association instituted the memorial stakes race to commemorate Zeke’s many contributions to the sport of steeplechasing and the race was first run in 1998 at Colonial Downs in Richmond. This past year it was relocated to the International Gold Cup at Great Meadow. The 2014 winner was Able Deputy, owned by Irvin Naylor, trained by Cyril Murphy and ridden by Ross Geraghty.

Presentation of the Ferguson Trophy, International Gold Cup, October 25, 2014. Pictured:
Presentation of the Ferguson Trophy, International Gold Cup, October 25, 2014. Pictured left to right: Cyril Murphy, Trainer; Jeanne and Senator John Warner; Diane and Irv Naylor, Owners; Will Allison, Chairman of Gold Cup; Jack Ferguson, Jr. (holding trophy) and Leah Ferguson; and Ross Geraghty, Jockey. Photo by Richard Clay.

The bronze sculpture is by Eve Prime Fout (1929 – 2007), who was an accomplished Virginia horsewoman – on the hunt field and on the track – and was also a painter and sculptor. The Ferguson family commissioned her to create the trophy in 2007.  The horse is a grey like Leeds Don and the jockey’s silks are the garnet and grey colors of Ferguson.

The NSLM collections include a few other works by Eve. Our favorite fox on the wall in front of the Library building is also by her. And several Orange County Hunt trophies feature her bronze sculptures.

Eve Prime Fout, Stalking Fox, 2001, bronze, Gift of the Artist
Eve Prime Fout, Stalking Fox, 2001, bronze, Gift of the Artist

The start of the 2015 steeplechase season is right around the corner. Check out the National Steeplechase Association to find out about upcoming races in Virginia and elsewhere.

Please join us in congratulating NSLM Board Member Mrs. George L. Ohrstrom, Jr., the owner of Demonstrative, winner of the 2014 Eclipse Award for Steeplechase Champion.

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Trainer Richard Valentine and Jacqueline Ohrstrom accept Steeplechase Champion for Demonstrative. Photo: photosbyz.com | source: slide 12 – http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/slideshows/slideshow/2014-eclipse-awards/2014-eclipse-awards

The racing world is abuzz over the announcement of the winners  at the 2014 Eclipse Awards dinner held on January 17, 2015.  Now in its 44th year, the American Thoroughbred industry’s equivalent to the Oscars was established in 1971, when the Daily Racing Form, National Thoroughbred Racing Association, and the National Turf Writers Association (not necessarily in that order) first got together to sponsor the accolade.  Twenty distinct categories are voted on annually to honor champion horses, trainers, and members of the media.

J.B. Faulconer was the Publicity Director at Keeneland, the horse racing facility in Kentucky, and is credited with the idea for the awards. He asked Kentucky-based sculptor Adalin Wichman (1922 – 2013), who was also an Advertising Director at Keeneland, to design a statue befitting of the new national honor, and the Eclipse Award was born. The first ones were handed out in 1972 to the 1971 winners.

Adalin Wichman with Eclipse Award photo by Jennifer Podis from Alison Wichman
Adalin Wichman with a gold-plated Eclipse Award, the finish given for Horse of the Year. The other bronzes are patinated.  photo by Jennifer Podis, image courtesy Alison Wichman, MD

The artist retained copyright, oversaw foundry production, and finished each in her studio over the years to assure the trophy’s continued quality. Still cast with the same care today, each bronze is mounted on a Kentucky-walnut base with an inscribed brass plaque. The NSLM has one of these casts with a rare brushed finish in its permanent collection, donated by the artist.

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Adalin Wichman (American, 1922 – 2013), Eclipse Award, bronze on wooden base, 9 ½ x 6 inches, Gift of Adalin Wichman, 2011

Adalin Wichman, a sculptor, painter, and jewelry designer, lived to be 91 years old. She was honored for her achievements in the arts in 2011 with Kentucky’s state-wide Milner Award given by the Governor. Below is the letter Wichman wrote offering the Eclipse Award to the NSL in 2009.

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Letter written to NSLM Museum Exhibitions and Collections Chair F. Turner Reuter, Jr., Curatorial General Files, Adalin Wichman folder

Wichman modeled the horse bronze in the likeness of the undefeated British Thoroughbred and foundational sire Eclipse painted by the renowned eighteenth-century British artist George Stubbs and numerous followers.

George Stubbs (English, 1724 – 1806) Eclipse, 1770, oil on canvas, Private Collection | source: http://www.wikigallery.org/wiki/painting_234660/George-Stubbs/Eclipse,-1770

The venerable “Stubbs”… we all throw the illustrious artist’s name around as the password to sporting art, but he’s just the tip of an amazing iceberg of images enjoyed by sporting enthusiasts and art lovers. To all of you who get goose bumps at the mention of any of the other equestrian portrait greats – Alfred Munnings, Edward Troye, Benjamin Marshall, Henry Stull, John Frederick Herring, or more recently, Andre Pater, for example – know that you are in fine company. Mrs. Ohrstrom can often be found in the galleries of the NSLM, and she gets goose bumps too.

– Claudia Pfeiffer, George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator of Art

Further Reading:

Adalin Wichman, designer of the Eclipse Awards statuette, dies at 91
Daily Racing Form: http://www.drf.com/news/adalin-wichman-designer-eclipse-awards-statuette-dies-91

Lexington artist Adalin Wichman, known for her work and wit, dies at 91
Kentucky.com: http://www.kentucky.com/2013/03/12/2553870_lexington-artist-adalin-wichman.html?rh=1

J.B. Faulconer, ‘Father of the Eclipse Awards,’ Dies
BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/2119/jb-faulconer-father-of-the-eclipse-awards-dies#ixzz3Pg5WD2j7

Demonstrative wins Eclipse Award for champion steeplechaser; Palace Malice second in older male division
Aiken Standard: http://www.aikenstandard.com/article/20150118/AIK0101/150119464

Demonstrative Named Steeplechase Champion
BloodHorse.com: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/articles/89631/demonstrative-named-steeplechase-champion

Demonstrative Crowned as Eclipse Award Champion
National Steeplechase Association: http://www.nationalsteeplechase.com/news/demonstrative-crowned-eclipse-award-champion/

Demonstrative Wins 2014 Eclipse Award
Chronicle of the Horse: http://www.chronofhorse.com/article/demonstrative-wins-2014-eclipse-award

Ohrstrom savors Demonstrative’s Eclipse Award win; Campbell not shocked by Palace Malice’s loss
Aiken Standard: http://www.aikenstandard.com/article/20150119/aik0101/150119420

Another recent addition to the NSLM trophy collection, which is sure to be a favorite, is the Maryland Hunt Cup trophy,  won by Mr. T. B. Blakiston in 1912, on board the horse Conby.

Maryland Hunt Cup, April 20th, 1912, sterling silver, 15 x 7 ½ inches, Gift of Thomas B. Blakiston, Jr., 2014

The Maryland Hunt Cup, one of the most challenging steeplechase races in the world, was first run in 1894. The four-mile race with twenty-two fences has been run at Worthington Valley (northwest of Baltimore) since 1922.

Engraving on the top of the tankard – “Established 1894” (in Roman numerals)

I wonder if Mr. Blakiston celebrated his win by taking a big drink of champagne from his new tankard trophy? He certainly would have deserved it! The fences in this timber race are up to 4 ft 10 inches high. Yikes.

1921 Maryland Hunt Cup advertisement
1921 Maryland Hunt Cup advertisement

This little piece of Hunt Cup ephemera from the NSLM holdings advertises the 1921 race. The fences still look pretty much the same – solid wood, post and rail. The early courses also included deep ditches, creeks and railroad tracks, but those were removed from the course after 1922 (Phew!).

Nicole Stribling
Curator of Permanent Collections