I have always been an equestrian. I took my first riding lesson when I was eight years old and spent the next ten years as an eventer and dressage rider, riding with some of the best trainers in New England. I’ve ridden a half-dozen Grand Prix trained dressage horses, bragging rights that are not common among adult amateurs. In my teen years I began slowly transitioning to riding western, the discipline I find myself in today. My fondness for English sport has never left me, as evidenced by my current position at the National Sporting Library & Museum, but the comfort of a western saddle and the ability to leave all four feet on the ground has enormous appeal.

This varied background has given me a unique perspective on the two disciplines, and some observations I will now share with you.

Please note, the division of English and western riding is far more complicated than just a difference in saddle, and even within those categories individual disciplines are as varied as can be; reining and barrel racing are as different as dressage and foxhunting.

Western and English styles of riding were both born out of necessity. In Europe, after the invention of the saddle with stirrups, the mounted soldier was a formidable weapon on the field of battle. A method of riding where the rider had complete control of the horse and all his limbs was paramount for successful waging of war. The animal had to be nimble and strong and completely broken of any habits which might interfere with the soldier’s ability to ride and brandish a sword. The saddle had to be secure enough to assist the rider in staying on, but minimalistic enough to allow a great range of movement. The horse and rider had to be able to clear obstacles in the varied European terrain. Athleticism in the moment was more important than endurance; the horse had to be powerful, but only had to last long enough to win or be replaced by reinforcements. Communication between human and equine was constant, allowing for minute adjustments and instant changes in action to respond to attacks.

Painting of a gray horse performing a levade with a rider and two handlers on the ground
(after) James Seymour, (English, 1702-1752), Four-Panel Sporting Screen (detail), c. 1860, hand-colored engravings mounted on canvas, and oil on canvas mounted on a wooden frame , each panel 81 ½ x 27 inches, Bequest of Sonia Phipps Seherr-Thoss, 2006

The horse here is depicted schooling the levade, a movement that in battle would have intimidated the enemy and moved the rider up and out of sword’s reach. Today the movement is considered one of the most difficult in dressage and is one of the famed “airs above the ground.”

As war became leisure for the aristocracy, disciplines such as dressage and hunting developed to demonstrate a horse and rider’s abilities to fight successfully in facsimile. The enemy was replaced by a wily fox or a distinguished audience, and the movements once used on the battlefield were fine-tuned for less bloody competition.

Western riding developed similarly out of necessity. In the wild west, vast expanses of land allowed for the cultivation of cattle while necessitating a mode of transportation that was efficient and comfortable. Horses, not requiring roads, paths, or rails, were naturally the mode of choice. Riding for hours and hours tending cattle required a method of riding that was comfortable and long-lasting, but athletic when needed. The trot, a jarring and inefficient gait, was transformed into the jog, a slow but smooth manner of moving for the horse that can be maintained by man and beast for hours. The horse also had to be able to react quickly in case of emergency, hence the development of the American Quarter Horse who can run faster than any other breed but only for short distances. While the cowboy’s attention was on the cattle or scanning the horizon for danger, the horse had to fend for themselves, leading to a style of training in which the horse is more responsible for its own carriage and propulsion. There were no pages, squires, or grooms; a horse left tied had to reliably stay tied, often for hours at a time.

Phoebe Phipps (English/American,? – 1993), The Quail Hunter, 1986, acrylic on canvas, 18 x 24 inches, Gift of Mrs. Mimi Abel Smith, 2012

In this image by Phoebe Phipps, the western discipline is showing its usefulness in modern times. This rider is able to traverse difficult terrain inaccessible by vehicle during the course of the quail hunt. His horse is wearing saddle bags, likely holding supplies. The western saddle is designed to hold a variety of equipment and typically has ties and rings throughout the skirt for attaching such.

The difference is well-illustrated in this clip from the 2015 World Cup “Duel in the Desert,” where a reiner and showjumper swapped horses and disciplines for an exhibition. The western rider steers the horse towards each jump, then effectively gets out of the horse’s way. Without the minute adjustments provided by the English rider, the horse rushes the fences and knocks most of them over. The horse is also on the wrong lead for a few turns, suggesting the rider did not direct him to change and the horse did not manage to change on his own. The English rider maintains strong rein contact while attempting to cut the cow, trying to steer the horse by hand to follow the cow. Unfortunately, the delay between the rider noticing the cow’s movement and directing the horse to follow is too long and the horse misses the cow at every turn; the western rider would have dropped the reins and allowed the horse more freedom to watch and follow the cow on its own, eliminating this reaction time. Both riders are very good; they both stayed on despite being thrown out of their comfort zone, but they ride in ways their horses are not accustomed to, accentuating the differences between them.

I will stop short of suggesting which discipline is superior (although I will assert that the western saddle is far more comfortable, and no one can change my mind on that). Both approaches to horsemanship accomplish what they set out to do through specializations of tack, training, and even breed of horse, developed over the centuries as horseback riding transitioned from necessary task to enjoyable endeavor.

Tucker Smith: A Celebration of Nature, on view now at the NSLM, features a wide variety of paintings by the artist inspired by his life in the American outback. The horse is still a widely used tool in the region and Smith’s work often features the working western mount. Be sure to visit and learn more about the western discipline in everyday use.


Cynthia Kurtz received her M.A. in Museum Studies from The George Washington University in Washington, DC, and her B.A. from Tulane University in New Orleans, LA. She is responsible for marketing, social media, and graphic design to support the entire NSLM. When not working, she enjoys trail riding in the woods of Loudoun County.

She can be reached at ckurtz@nationalsporting.org.

Downstairs we have a file cabinet that houses the Library’s vertical files: documents that don’t necessarily belong in an archive collection, yet have significant value and are used as ready reference material to supplement our book and archive collections. Some of the subjects in our vertical files include a variety of horse associations, hunt clubs, and biographies of the artists and writers. Usually the documents in vertical files are a mix of grey literature: brochures, newspaper clippings, maps, catalogs, etc. At the NLSM our vertical files also contain a few research papers and drafts of articles that appear to have been written with the intent of publication, but for whatever reason, never made it to that stage.

Today, I am sharing portions of a draft paper from our Upperville Colt and Horse Show vertical file written sometime after the publication of Nina Carter Tabb’s article which was published in 1937. I have not been able to determine whether this piece appeared in print anywhere, but I thought it was a great summary of the show and includes all sorts of interesting historical tidbits. The author was a judge at the 1905 show, and appears to have judged later shows as well. Enjoy!

When Colonel Richard Hunter Dulany imported his Cleveland Bays from England, ten or fifteen years before the War between the States while the South was in its glory, to interest his neighbors and friends from afar in the breeding of high-class horses, he founded the Upperville Colt and Horse Show. In 1852, the first exhibition was held, as told me by Rozier Dulany, “at a place known as ‘The Vineyard’ in the suburbs of Upperville, which–as near as I can ascertain–is the same location under the giant oaks on the Grafton plantation, where the show has been held continuously ever since, except when discontinued on account of the Civil War.”

Christopher J. FitzGerald, one of the best authorities on the thoroughbred of America and who, for a number of years, had charge of the publicity of the Jockey Club–had never known much of Virginia except from hearsay, but after he had judged at the Upperville Colt Show, was as enthusiastic as the friend who had told him in the Palm Room of the old Boston Club in New Orleans about the great thoroughbred-loving breeders of Loudoun and Fauquier.

“Chris” wrote, “When honored with an invitation to serve as judge at the Upperville Colt Show a few years ago, I got my first glimpse of the country so lavishly praised by my friends. A few hours in company of those responsible for the perpetration of the Show, which had its inception long before the Civil War period, was an inspiring as it was revealing.”

By far the best history of this Show was written by Mayme Ober Peak in the Loudoun-Fauquier Magazine; and so that the interesting facts gathered by her may be saved for all time in book form, I quote from her writings:

On June 11, 1931, crowds again gathered for the annual exhibition of the Upperville Colt and Horse Show, on its grounds a little east of Upperville, much as they did over three-quarters of a century ago. What a contrast is found in this brilliant assemblage, and that first picnic crowd of horse lovers who gathered in the grove on the outskirts of Upperville, Va.

Then the entries comprised less than a dozen heavy drafts, shaggy mares and green hunters; there was no music except from the throats of the birds, and no grandstand seats except Fauquier stones and lap-robes on the ground. But when the lunch baskets were brought from the buggies and buck-boards, and their contents spread under the trees, no more enthusiastic spirit could have been found than among the little group of gentry and farmers, who, all unconsciously, were making turf history. For on that fine day in June, 1852, when was held the first colt show in the country, seed was sown from which grew the great Association of American Horse Shows.

The development of the show is an interesting story. The organizer and moving spirit of the idea was Colonel Richard Hunter Dulany, whose estate ‘Welbourne’ is a few miles from Upperville and who, before his death, was one of the largest landowners in this section of the Blue Ridge.

A gentleman of the old school — a hospitable, generous, public-spirited, he wielded a big influence in the community. His love for horses was a tradition. this love was inherited from his English ancestors, and handed down. The hunters Colonel Dulany bred and rode to hounds were always the envy of the neighboring gentry.

The idea of having an annual colt show and offering prizes for the best purebred colts exhibited was suggested to him by seeing such a show in connection with a county fair in Canada. Calling a meeting of the gentry, he laid the plan before them and it was met with instant and hearty cooperation.

Silver loving cups being decided upon as the most attractive prizes, Colonel Dulany went all the way to New York to purchase a supply. In those days Tiffany’s was almost as famous as it is now, and the Colonel went straight there to do his shopping. As it happened, Mr. Tiffany himself waited on the Virginian. When he found out for what purpose the cups were intended, he was highly interested and excited. in the breast of the Gotham silversmith, it seemed, also beat the heart of a sportsman; “I would consider it a great honor,” he said, “if you would permit me to contribute workmanship on the cups so they would cost you only the weight of the silver. Your plan appeals to me strongly and I would like to aid you in carrying it out.”

[The author continues with several more pages from Mayne Ober Peak’s article, but I will end her article here].

The Upperville Colt Show has undoubtedly played a great part in giving Virginia horses their place in the sun; but as it came in the hot days of June, I had never seen the Colt Show until I was asked to judge hunters there in 1905, and never shall I forget the interesting day. The paragraphs that follow tell of what happened then and also when I was judging later, while the guest of the President of the show, George Slater of Rose Hill.

The Show grounds are attractively laid out parallel to the old pike leading to Middleburg, and in the early days–as all can well remember–the dust from the road used to blow over the grandstand and make all those in attendance unhappy. This, of course, the cement covering has now eliminated. The stand backs on the road and with its enclosure guards one side of the show ring which is railed off from the grounds–which was part of Grafton, formerly “Number Six”–and is shaded by the beautiful oaks, planted a hundred years ago by some tree-loving ancestor. To guard the grounds proper, as the Show increased, horse boxes had been built which give a uniformity to the layout.

The breeding classes come in the morning and are attended by many; but the first great function is the luncheon which, like that of Epsom Downs on Derby Day, everyone brings for himself and his friends. History tells us that since the first Colt Show in ’53 the Dulanys have had their luncheon party come to one particular oak; the Carters just beyond; the Glascocks on farther. Not far away was the “Josh” Fletcher party; the Slaters under the tree beyond; and I am frank to say I never appreciated what find sportsmen and agriculturists lived round till I judged that Show in 1905.

Hot, hot, hot! Yes, piping hot! The ladies in the grandstand fanned themselves and brushed off the dust. There might have been a guard at the ring gate, but how could he stop anyone going into the ring when they were all friends of his and all interested to watch the judging and get a close view of the horses? So, in they crowded. The Dulanys; the great farmers; Colonels and Generals in the War; diplomats from Washington — all filled up the little ring and made it almost impossible to judge the jumping classes, as from the center of the ring you could not see any of the jumps except as the hunter rose in the air, and if you went over to one line of jumps, those on the other side were obscured from you. But it was always been that way. The dear old Colonel was here, there and everywhere, his kindly face shrouded in a grey beard and one arm crippled while leading the Virginia cavalry in Pickett’s Charge, that memorable day at Gettysburg when Lee’s valiant efforts to whip Meade were rendered impossible by Longstreet who, because his plan was not adopted, sulked in this tent.

Miss Ober tells of the beautiful Tiffany silver cups, one of which I had on exhibition at the second Sportsmen’s dinner in New York in 1912, when from all over America, trophies of the Turf and the Chase poured in. The illustration shows the beauty and simplicity of the Colt Show trophies which were so strongly battled for in 1852.

Bell-horses, bel-horses, what time of day? One o’clock, two o’clock, three and away!

The use of bells was first brought about for road warnings of the old convoys and before that by pack horses. In Central America I have heard them as the lead mule guides his pack train down the steep incline of the Andes.

It was a grand sight to see the great four and six horse teams in the ring at the earlier shows. The driver, astride a saddle on the near-wheeler, controlled the team by a jerk line which was attached to the off-side bit of the leader. The team was controlled as perfectly as Howlett controlled a six or four-in-hand, with all the reins in his left hand and his right about the collar of his whip, as he sat on the box of his coach in Paris.

Some of the teams were got up in the most imposing manner, the old-fashioned hames with balls of brass on top, the bell frame over the saddle, the plaited manes and tails with colored ribbands, and on a few the polished brass harness ornaments which were riveted onto the cheek pieces of the bridles and elsewhere…

At that time, 1905, there were few dealers present; now and then one from Philadelphia; but when fox-hunting came in strong–there are ten or twelve packs of hounds within thirty miles of Upperville–the breeding, breaking and selling of hunters has run up to thousands and thousands a year. I shall never forget two most important classes which I judged at one of the later shows. On being asked by George Slater to judge, I wrote down and explained to him the value of an outside course for hunters and jumpers. he accepted the idea and going down a day or two ahead of time, we laid the present course out, which has proved of great value. At that time David Gray, a fine three-quarter bred grey horse was –although twelve or fifteen years old–considered unbeatable. he could seemingly jump all day and never make a mistake. When his class was called, he put up the usual perfect score, but few entries later, came a three-quarter bred chestnut mare Miss Soliloquy bred by Jim Ferguson of Mountsville, which also went perfect, making a sparkling performance.

This chapter of the Upperville Colt and Horse show continues for a total of thirteen pages. There are great details here about the making of mint juleps, the families involved in the show, and descriptions of country life here in Virginia. I have included photos in the vertical file from the Washington Star dated June 5, 1949.

Please meet, Saint

I own an exceptionally patient horse. I bought him as a 6-year-old with a mere 60 days of saddle training and had him teaching toddlers to ride by the following weekend. He is unflappable, smart, and willing to try new things.

So when I saw a used harness for sale locally, I did what any reasonable equestrian would do, and decided to learn to drive with my horse who also didn’t know how to drive. I am normally an advocate of at least one party knowing what they are doing—green riders and green horses do not go well together—but this is the horse that enjoys joining us at the bonfire while the rest of the herd runs away from the flames. I was sure he’d be fine.

The first step was putting the harness on, which entailed me learning what the parts were and Saint learning to accept leather straps in various places on his body. I expected him to react to the breeching, straps that wrap below the rump and function as brakes, and the crupper, which goes below the tail to keep the surcingle from sliding too far forward, but my steady steed hardly flinched.

At this stage in training, the breeching is strapped on tightly, so the horse becomes accustomed to the pressure and doesn’t panic. Eventually, it’ll hang more loosely, and the horse will be taught to stand against the pressure as the cart slows to a stop behind him. I also let other straps hang loosely from the harness to allow Saint to become accustomed to things swinging around and dragging behind him. The traces, not being attached to a cart, are tied up into the surcingle and then hang loosely at his sides so he feels them but cannot step on them.

This was the point at which I stepped behind him and taught him to “ground-drive,” essentially the same as driving but with me walking behind him instead of riding in a cart. For obvious reasons, this is the safest way to introduce the concept of driving. I attached the lines to a halter so I could steer him without worrying about him struggling against a bit while he figured it out. Using a driving whip I encouraged him to move forward, and within one session he had walk, trot, and halt down pat with me controlling him from behind. I even took him for a walk around the property to show off!

After a few months, in which time Saint mastered commands such as “gee” to turn right and “haw” to turn left as well as cues from my whip to move sideways or backwards, it was time to introduce the bridle with blinders. The blinders serve to focus the horse’s attention forward, especially preventing them from panicking at the sight of a carriage following them. Saint is a very attentive horse and hasn’t taken to the blinders particularly well. He prefers an “open” bridle, which is a driving bridle without blinders, but they are harder to find because most horses are not as relaxed as Saint is without them. It was at this point that he got used to steering with the bit instead of the halter, and we got to start going on adventures down the road.

Finally, he was ready to start pulling some weight! One of the benefits of living in Maine in the winter is we get to take our horses sledding. While at first Saint was rather displeased about the thing following him, within an hour or so we were driving around with me on the sled.

At long last, it was time to introduce the last piece of the harness: the overcheck rein. Formerly known as the “bearing” rein, many readers will be familiar with it from Black Beauty. It prevents the horse from putting his head down below the shafts of the cart, which would be very dangerous. Many horses don’t need it, and it is not used to hold the horse’s head artificially high as it was in Victorian England. Saint, however, is a fan of stopping to smell the roses, so he absolutely needs to wear the overcheck to keep us both safe. This was the first point in his training where he actively resented something I presented him with. As a western riding horse, he is not accustomed to having a lot of contact with the bit, so the pressure of the overcheck is foreign to him. At the time of writing, it has only been a week since the overcheck was introduced, so I am sure with more time and patience he will come around. 

We still have a long way to go before he is ready to pull a cart. We’ll keep pulling tires and sleds around the arena for a while, and then start getting him used to shafts, and finally a vehicle following him without being attached. Once he has passed all these tests with flying colors, he’ll be ready to drive around the countryside!

A few weeks ago, I got an intriguing email from William Harris, a co-conspirator in the “rewilding” of American portrait painter Ellen Gertrude Emmet Rand (American, 1878-1941):

I hope this finds you doing well. I thought immediately of you when I came across this slender volume from the 1890s, “Out of Town Aquarelles,” watercolor plates by Ellen G. Emmett. Each one depicts an outdoor or athletic activity including a woman riding side saddle as well as a fox hunt. I didn’t know if you were familiar with it. Alexis had not seen it. Though I know the exhibit is over it is still fun since Rand was all of 20 when doing these. Attached are some pictures.

Very Best,
Bill Harris

The “Alexis” to which Bill referred in his email is Alexis Boylan, Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Connecticut, with a joint appointment in the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Program and Associate Director of Humanities Institute. She led the writer of the email, William Ashley Harris, seven other scholars, and myself on an almost 4-year journey beginning with a writers’ retreat at UConn in 2016 (read more: Ellen Emmet Rand Slept Here). The resulting research led us all to contribute essays to the book, Ellen Emmet Rand: Gender, Art, and Business, published by Bloomsbury Academic in November 2020 and edited by Alexis. Her introduction to the book is titled, “The Rewilding of Ellen Emmet Rand.” “Rewilding” refers to returning an animal to its natural ecosystem, and the project solidified Rand’s rightful (and natural) place within art historical discourse.

Researching this project also led me to develop and curate the exhibition, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand, at the National Sporting Library & Museum, which we closed last April. Bill’s email gave me a welcome excuse to venture back into Rand’s contributions. Although the NSLM exhibition focused on her later work in the 1920s and 1930s, she was gifted at a young age.

In the book, Dear Females, by Rand’s granddaughter and namesake Ellen E. Rand, she drew on correspondences and archives to paint a picture of her grandmother as a young woman and consummate professional committed to financially supporting her family as a successful portrait painter from her earliest days.

Rand first studied at the Art Students League in 1889. Among her instructors was the portrait painter William Merritt Chase (American, 1849-1916), and in the summer of 1891, she was among the first students to attend his Summer School of Art at Shinnecock on Long Island (read more: Shinnecock Summer School of Art: The Art Village). Harry Whitney McVickar (American, 1860-1905), an artist, illustrator for the Frederick A. Stokes Company, and a prominent member of the New York City social scene saw Rand’s entry in an end-of-season art exhibition. At the time, McVickar was also the first Art Director for the fledgling periodical, Vogue, and he hired Rand to illustrate the second cover of the now renowned fashion magazine which was targeted toward society and written to appeal to a male demographic (read more: 1892 vs. 2017: What’s Changed, and What Hasn’t, Since the First Issue of Vogue Was Published). Rand was just 16 years old! Additionally, she was hired as an illustrator for Harper’s Weekly and comfortably supported her family with her income in the following years. She was frustrated, however, by not having more time to paint (Rand 20).

Vogue. vol. 1, no. 2. 24 December 1892, Front cover illustrated by E.G. Emmet [source: https://www.vogue.com/article/vogue-125-1892-2017-compare-and-contrast-now-and-then%5D

It is at this point that we return to Bill Harris’s rare book find. Printed two years after Rand was first hired by Vogue, Out-of-Town Aquarelles was released during the Christmas season. The cover with its fine red and green paper, inset chromolithograph of a watercolor, and an ornate embossing, speaks to the quality of the publication. The title page notes that the illustrated aquarelles (French for “watercolor”) within are “Facsimiles of Paintings in Water Color” and includes the titles of six image plates that follow. The publisher is listed as Frederick A. Stokes Company, New York, the firm that had also employed McVickar.

Cover: Out-of-Town Aquarelles: Facsimiles of Paintings in Water Color by Ellen G. Emmet, 1894
Title page lists the Frederick A. Stokes Company as the publisher.

The publisher was known for its art books and the quality of its chromolithographic reproductions. “The Critic’s Review” in the 16 December 1889 Pittsburgh Dispatch noted about an earlier book printed by Stokes: “‘chromo’ is, however, an important work of art, for it means the accurate reproduction of color; it means a painting can be practically duplicated and multiplied to give inspiration and pleasure to thousands…, The Fac-similes of Aquarelles which are presented in this book belong to the same high class.”

“After a Day’s Skating.”

The first plate in Rand’s book shows a dashing young couple after ice skating. The female figure is dressed in a beautifully tailored winter outfit complete with a fur and muff. The male figure is stylishly dressed in men’s outerwear. It is a variation on the theme of Rand’s Vogue cover. Both were painted in watercolor; however, the book plate in color is much more lively than the black and white reproduction on the magazine cover.

“A Fair Horse-woman.”

The second plate shows an elegantly turned-out sidesaddle rider ready for a foxhunt. It speaks to Rand’s knowledge as an equestrian, as she herself rode aside.

“Yachting”

The third plate illustrates a fashionably-dressed young couple yachting, and the fourth a dapper polo player. The latter sport had taken hold in the United States after the founding of the Newport Polo Grounds in Connecticut in 1876.

“A Polo Player.”
“A Fox Hunter.”

The above plates of the romanticized gentleman polo player and the well-healed foxhunter are a foreshadowing of the man Rand would marry in 1911. William Blanchard Rand was 9 years Ellen’s junior, a polo player, and a horseman. Together they built the town and country life in Salisbury, Connecticut of which she had dreamed in her early years and for which she worked to support her entire career. She was a lifelong equestrian, but it was not until 1929 when she was in her fifties that she finally experienced the exhilarating sport of foxhunting following Blanchard when he became Master of Old Lebanon Hunt.

“Ready for the Toboggan.”

In 1896, just two years after Out-of-Town Aquarelles was published, the young Rand earned enough income to travel to Paris where she became the first female student of Frederic William MacMonnies (American, 1863-1947) and upon returning, embarked on a four-decade career as a pioneering and financially successful female portrait painter. The folders of early original drawings Rand had sold, which her granddaughter inherited, contained notes “that the work is never to be shown to any art dealer or critic.” (Rand, 20) Although Rand left the illustration world behind, her early works speak to her talent, dreams, and aspirations.

Thank you, Bill, for sharing this gem. It is another eye-opening layer of the rewilding of Ellen Emmet Rand.


Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first 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

Or, the full title, “Black Beauty: His grooms and companions. The autobiography of a horse. Translated from the original equine by Anna Sewell

Just in time for Sewell’s birthday on March 30! As mentioned in prior blog posts, I am not an equestrienne in any sense of the word. My acquaintance with horses was exactly one Girl Scout excursion circa 1995 and reading about Felicity’s love for her horse, Penny, in the American Girl series. American Girl was also the root of my love for history and set me on my path to majoring in it (History, not American Girls – if only) in undergrad – books for the win!

Felicity and her brother watching Penny with her terrible owner in Meet Felicity. Image courtesy of American Girl Wiki

And now for a Classic. I have always known of Black Beauty, the way one hears about Treasure Island or Gulliver’s Travels. It’s just one of those ubiquitous books. Due to its relatively short length and its narration by the titular character, it is often considered a children’s book. But it really isn’t, per the intentions of the author. It just worked out that way as its publication coincided with legislation that began requiring children to attend school, so it literally had a whole new audience.

First, a little about the author.

Anna Sewell
Image courtesy of Literary Ladies Guides

Sewell was born in 1820 in Great Yarmouth in England to Isaac and Mary, who instilled in their two children (brother Philip came along in 1822) a sense of moral responsibility influenced by their Quaker faith. Isaac wasn’t initially the most successful of breadwinners, and the family frequently moved. As a toddler, Sewell often wanted to feed the horses. At her uncle’s farm, she learned to ride (sidesaddle, as was the custom) and carriage drive. She and Philip would spend the days riding and exploring. She was described by her mother as having a “great deal of courage and independence of character, never burdened with any kind of fear.”

As young children Anne and Philip were tutored by their mother. Perhaps the most important lesson taught was “that everything living was part of God’s family and ‘that all cruelty or injury inflicted is displeasing to Him who made His creatures to be happy.’” As they got older, the now teenage Anna and Philip attended the local schools. One day running home during a rainstorm, she fell and injured her ankles. Though the family thought it would heal in its own time, it dramatically affected her life as she thereafter had difficulty walking.

Sewell, aged 10

Sewell was encouraged to maintain riding horses as a way to treat her injuries that were a constant source of pain and frustration. It must have also provided a freedom she felt she had lost. She seemed to have a particular connection to horses, perhaps also at the mercy of others, felt a kinship. A family friend noted that when driving, “[Anna] seemed simply to hold the reins in her hand, trusting to her voice to give all needed directions to her horse. She evidently believed in a horse having a moral nature, if we may judge by her mode of remonstrance. ‘Now thee shouldn’t walk up this hill – don’t thee see how it rains?’ ‘Now thee must go a little faster – thee would be sorry for us to be late at the station.’”

Throughout her life, Sewell, along with her mother, continued their good works. Around the age of 50, Sewell became primarily bedridden due to, what her death certificate lists, as “Chronic Hepatitis” and “Phthisis Pulmonalis,” also known as tuberculosis.

Black Beauty was written, off and on, beginning in 1871, which was (perhaps not coincidentally) when she was no longer able to ride or drive, as noted by her biographer Adrienne E. Gavin. Sewell occasionally dictated to Mary, other times, Sewell wrote herself. It was a family affair with her brother and father also serving as editors and readers.

Now, to me.

I read the annotated version by Ellen B. Wells and Anne Grimshaw, which was great for a 21st-century non-rider. It provided definitions and descriptions along the way. After I finished, I just sat there absorbing it all. There is a lot to unpack.

My first thought was that I do not know why anyone thinks this is a children’s book. It certainly has its pleasant, idyllic moments, but it has even darker moments that would have, frankly, given me nightmares as a kid. Honestly, as an adult too, I have a vivid imagination, and I am the type of reader who will continue to think about a book for days after.

Its simple message of kindness to horses was perfect. Throughout are passages that describe the proper treatment and how respect and gentleness serve horse and rider better than a rough hand, “Oh! If people knew what a comfort to horses a light is, and how it keeps a good mouth and a good temper, they surely would not chuck, and drag, and pull at the rein as they often do.”

What I found so remarkable were the descriptions. They are so detailed that I could see everything clearly from the opening line, “The first place that I can well remember was a large pleasant meadow with a pond of clear water in it. Some shady trees leaned over it, and rushes and water-lilies grew at the deep end.” The description of the bearing-rein from Black Beauty’s perspective made made me cringe, “Of course I wanted to pull my head forward and take the carriage up with a will, as we had been used to do; but no, I had to pull with my head up now, and that took all the spirit out of me, and the strain came on my back and legs.”

I was frequently wondering when the other shoe would drop. I sensed the idyllic lifestyle of Black Beauty’s first home wasn’t going to last; I just knew something was going to happen. The whole book is about the treatment of horses, and the Victorian era wasn’t known for its kindness to animals. It wasn’t the Royal Society for Continuing to be Nice to Animals that was established in 1824. Black Beauty’s decline in living and working conditions was heartbreaking. I knew each move was going to get progressively worse, but hoped there was a kind soul. When I thought it could not get any worse, Ginger happens. The mare who can barely catch a break, who gets only snippets of contentment.

I sat on my little couch with the book in my lap, wanting to run out and snuggle all the horses I saw. Of course, that would entail driving to Middleburg and then not scaring the horses, who, as we learned, can sense when someone has no idea what she or he is doing. Admittedly, I’d do more damage than good. Instead, I attempted to unsuccessfully cuddle with my cats.

Black Beauty has never been out of print, and myriad editions exist. The Library here has multiple copies, which was a little overwhelming when Mars Technical Librarian Erica Libhart laid them out in front of me.

Some of the editions in the NSLM Library

The book was first illustrated in 1894 by sporting artist John Beer. Considered the best of the illustrations are by Lucy Kemp-Dent in 1915.

Various artist friends of ours have tackled the subject, like Cecil Aldin, Lionel Edwards, and Paul Brown.

Black Beauty spawned various sequels and movies, the most recent was last year on Disney+. But its most important roles to influence and educate has continued. As Gavin noted, in 1924, one man’s animal cruelty sentence involved not only involved a year in jail, but he had to read Black Beauty three times.

Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 in November, the anniversary of its first publication, when I’ll be diving into the social issues presented within the book. If you have not read it, or it has been a while, this gives you time! Can there be spoilers after 144 years?

Sources: Gavin, Adrienne, Dark Horse: A Life of Anne Sewell. J.H. Haynes, 2004.

Sewell, Anne, et. al. The Annotated Black Beauty. J.A. Allen, 1989.

Lauren Kraut is the Collections Manager at the National Sporting Library & Museum. Her primary focus is to maintain and preserve the works of art in the collection and on loan. Email her at lkraut@NationalSporting.org

Does the woodblock print below look familiar? If not, sit back to learn more! Not only is a it a striking image of a horse, there is a pretty interesting backstory about the artist as well.

The woodblock print can be found in the National Sporting Library & Museum’s copy of Hippiatria sive Marescalia by Lorenzo Rusio. Rusio, who published under a Latinized version of his name, “Laurentius Rusius,” gained his expertise as a stable master to a Roman cardinal in the 14th century, according to a bibliography by Richard Baron von Hunersdorff:

Originally written in the 13th century, [Hippiatria] it was based on sources compiled at the court of Frederick II of Hohenstaufen, himself a passionate horseman. Described are methods of controlling the horse by means of physical force exercised by way of severe horse-bits. It was an attempt to solve the problem of quickly stopping and turning the heavy and coarse horses used in combat and jousting (176, von Hunersdorff).

In Hippiatria, the three large woodcuts were created by H.S. Beham (Hans Sebald Beham). Born in 1550, Beham was a noted German printmaker, and is known as the most prominent of the “Little Masters,” a group of German printmakers who produced a prodigious number of highly detailed prints during the first half of the 16th century. The artists were active a generation after the great artist, Albrecht Durer. Like Durer, Beham was also based in Nuremberg.

Beham was a young man when the Reformation broke out in 1517, when Martin Luther attempted to reform the Christian Church. Passionate about Luther’s ideas, Beham found himself caught in the cross-current of the new religious ideas, and had to flee from his home-base in Nuremberg several times to avoid arrest. For his part, Beham contributed to the “Wild Reformation” through woodcuts, the most popular and accessible form of publicity and to some extent, the acquisition of knowledge, in those days of limited literacy. In some ways, woodcuts prints were the TikTok videos of the 1500s. The year of the Peasants War, 1525, Sebald, and his younger brother Barthel, were banished from Nuremberg for religious and political disobedience. In 1528, after publishing a book on the proportions of the horse, Dises Büchlein zeyget an und lernet ein Mass oder Proportion der Ross, Beham was accused of plagiarizing unpublished work by Dürer and again fled from Nuremberg.

There are not enough records to determine whether or not Beham was indeed guilty of plagiarism. In any case, the nickname, “The Godless Painter” was given to Beham during his trial with the Nuremberg city council. According to scholar Alison G. Stewart:

In the following years, Beham once again ran into trouble in Nuremberg. On July 22, 1528, the town council prohibited Beham and his colleague “Iheronimus formschneidern,” probably the printer-woodcutter Hieronymus Andreae, from publishing Beham’s book on the proportions of horses … until Dürer’s book on human proportions was published posthumously by his widow, who was the manager of Dürer’s workshop. The fact that Beham fled town quickly when summoned by the authorities (which resulted in his wife having to send his coat to him) might suggest that he was indeed guilty of plagiarism, as charged, although his guilt has been neither proved nor disproved. But it is also possible that Beham left posthaste because he feared he would be imprisoned or expelled, having previously experienced the power of the Nuremberg authorities to do just that. 

Two woodcuts by H.S. Beham, each signed with his monogram beneath the horse
Close up of marking for the library of the Marquis de Guineye

This copy, a second edition published in Paris, contains the markings indicating that the book was once owned by the Marquis de Guineye. Later, the book was owned by the German researcher and academic, and book collector, J.H. Anderhub, whose bookplate dates ownership at 1937. According the the von Hunersdorff bibliography, the copy at the University of Cambridge is “imperfect, lacking the two leaves with the Beham woodcuts.” We are indeed lucky at the NLSM to have such a well-kept copy!

I recommend reading the fascinating article by Alison G. Stewart on Sebald Beham. She provides in-depth research on the art of Behald, his training and possible link to Dürer, plus great detail on the numerous(!) run-ins that Beham had with the law. You can read her article, Sebald Beham: Entrepreneur, Printmaker, Painter here: https://jhna.org/articles/sebald-beham-entrepreneur-printmaker-painter/.

One of the most awkward and thought-provoking moments I have ever experienced at the National Sporting Library & Museum was in my early years as the George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator when the Museum first opened. It was in 2012, and I was a young and enthusiastic curator of a fine art collection which had grown over the previous decades through generous donations and bequests to the Library and was transferred to the new space under Museum standards and care. I was conducting a private tour with a potential sponsor considering underwriting bus transport for student groups.

Franklin Brooke Voss (American, 1880–1953), Portrait of Mrs. William C. Langley, Aside on Sandown, oil on canvas, 28 x 36 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Mrs. Eleanor Langley Fletcher, 1962

As we wound our way through the galleries, discussion flowed freely. We chatted about highlights of the collection, challenges of new museums, and growth of the collections. We built a good rapport, and as the tour ended, we exchanged contact information. I was honored by the kind compliments offered as we said goodbye. Then, the visitor paused for a moment and remarked:

“You know, this museum is really beautiful, but I haven’t seen a single woman represented in these spaces today.”

Marie-Louise Radziwill (American, b. 1956), The Maryland Hunt Cup, 1973, bronze, 9 x 12 1/2 x 9 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the artist, 1978

I was taken aback, but upon further reflection, it was an astute observation and largely correct. At that time, there were few works by female artists or depictions of women on view in the Museum galleries. Frankly, we did not have many artworks in this category (in addition to other notable gaps) in the permanent collection that met the bar for Museum display based on condition and prominence set forth in our Collections Management Policy. Needless to say, we did not get the underwriting, and that day I understood that I needed to focus more on making our art collection installations, acquisitions, and permanent and loan exhibitions more diverse representations of the sporting culture of our past, the community our mission serves today, and future interest.

Marie-Rosalie Bonheur (French 1822–1899), Lion studies, oil on canvas, 9 1/8 x 12 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of the Estate of Milton Ritzenberg, 2018

Let me be clear. I am not a revisionist in my role at NSLM. My dedication to our institution is to drill down to finding an accurate account of sporting art and culture in any given era. There are many times when these concepts have not historically converged, but illustrations and satirical images fill in the gaps, opening our eyes to individuals and their stories.

Salle Foster, “The Sporting Woman: A Book of Days,” 1989. Little, Brown, and Company, NSLM Collection; reproduction of John Collet (English, 1720 – 1780), “The Ladies Shooting Poney,” hand-colored mezzotint, Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection, New Haven.

We have worked hard over the years, not as a politically correct endeavor. The National Museum of Women in that Arts mission and #fivewomenartists campaign reminds us that women have historically been significantly underrepresented across museums (Further reading: Women in Art: The Double X Factor, 2017 blog). Acknowledging this, means recognizing that if museums continue to prioritize prominent artists from past eras, this then perpetuates the selection of male over female artists.  We countered this at the NSLM by creating a Collecting Plan to equally consider underrepresented artists and subjects as part of our growth. 

Mildred Sands Kratz (American, 1928 – 2013), End of the Line, 1970, watercolor on paper, sight size 20 3/4 x 28 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Patricia Cox Panzarella and Thomas Panzarella, 2020

Additionally, we have looked to curating exhibitions featuring female solo artists and introduced new scholarship on sporting women and art, including The Art of Women and the Sporting Life, Clarice Smith: Power & Grace, and Sidesaddle, 1690-1935. Most recently we presented, Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand, a project that re-established the artist’s significant contributions to sporting portraiture during the heyday of sporting life in the U.S. and her prominent career as a pioneering female artist in her lifetime.

Ellen Emmet Rand (American, 1875-1941), Miss Emily Davie, ex-Whipper-in to the Aiken Junior Drag, 1932, oil on canvas,
48 ½ x 31 inches, on loan from the Collection of Geoffrey N. Bradfield to “Leading the Field: Ellen Emmet Rand” exhibition, October 4, 2019 – June 30, 2020

Women’s History Month offers us an opportunity to reflect and reminds us to set new goals for the future, not just in this month but year-round. Women have always been an integral part of sporting culture and art, and it is imperative that we preserve the record of their endeavors and accomplishments.

Clarice Smith, (American, b.1933), Gallop, 2009, oil with gold and copper leaf on canvas, on 5-panel screen, 50 x 77 1/2 inches, National Sporting Library & Museum, Gift of Clarice Smith, 2015, © Clarice Smith

Claudia Pfeiffer is the Deputy Director and George L. Ohrstrom, Jr. Curator at the National Sporting Library & Museum and has been with the organization since the position was first 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

Detail of engraving depicting the Duke of Newcastle, William Cavendish, on horseback, accompanied by groom

Did you know that the National Sporting Library & Museum owns a rare, first-edition of Methode et invention nouvelle de dresser les chevaux (Method and new way to train horses)? The volume, written by William Cavendish (1592-1676), the first duke of Newcastle, was published in 1657 in Antwerp, where the Royalist general lived in political exile during the Commonwealth period.

According to a bibliography by Richard von Hunersdorff, the folio-sized volume, published in French from an English manuscript, is illustrated with 42 double-page engravings by Abraham van Diepenbeeck, a Dutch painter of the Flemish school who was a student and assistant of Peter Paul Rubens. The engravings depict a variety of scenes: hunting scenes set at his estates at Welbeck and Bolsover Castle, his stud farm, and figurative scenes showing the duke worshiped by his horses with the gods of Olympus watching in amazement. To be fair, William Cavendish’s self-confidence was warranted: he trained in Naples and was the only English master of the High School of Riding. In addition, he taught the young Charles Stuart and his cousin, Prince Rupert and trained them to be accomplished horsemen. Cavendish returned to England, where King Charles II awarded the general a dukedom for his loyalty.

Detail of spine

We are not sure who received the NSLM’s presentation copy of Methode. The inscription on the title page, “Ex dono Illustrissimi Authoris, Evellendo Cultior” is attributed to John Evelyn. John Evelyn was an English writer, gardener, diarist, and bibliophile. His diary spanned his adult life, from 1640 to 1706, the year of his death. His work was overshadowed by a contemporary, Samuel Pepys. Evelyn was introduced to the Duke of Newcastle and his wife while also in exile, through Sir Richard Brown, an English Royalist who served as an English representative at the Court of France from 1641-1660. John Evelyn married Browne’s daughter in 1647 and it is noted that Brown greatly influenced Evelyn’s book collecting. The phrase, “Evellando Cultior” appear in other titles of Evelyn’s library. It is a Latin pun that translates to “more elegant as a result of pruning.” In addition, the title page of NSLM’s copy, contains the pressmark of John Evelyn: B.41 (see second photo below).

John Evelyn’s inscription atop the title page
John Evelyn’s pressmark

Both Browne and Evelyn lived in Paris while in exile, and according to Hunersdorff, both had their books bound in Paris using customized book binding hand tools, like the stamp that was created to combine their initials above and used to decorate the binding of Methode. You can see the “E” and “B” in the monogram below.

Bindings by Samuel Mearne. Left, Methode et Invention Nouvelle de dresser les chevaux. Antwerp: Chez Jacques van Meurs, 1657. National Sporting Library & Museum. Right,
The Book of Common Prayer. London: John Bill & Christopher Barker, [1662]. Bridwell Library, Southern Methodist University.

The NSLM’s volume of Methode was bound by Samuel Mearne (1624-1683), the bookbinder to King Charles II, whose work is regarded as a high point of pre-industrial bookbinding. Mearne’s bindings are known for their ornate gold-tooled and inlaid embellishments. He is attributed for the “cottage-roof” style, which refers to the design on the central panel where the top and bottom are decorated with motifs that resemble a roof. Most of the extant books by Mearne are service and prayer books used at the Chapel and Closet of Whitehall, where he replaced the bindings every three to five years. Mearne’s style was widely celebrated and Mearne and his bindery are recognized to this day for their contribution to the “golden age” of English bookbinding. As you can see from the photos above, Mearne’s style was very distinctive, but due to its popularity, would later be copied by other bookbinders.

The back cover of Methode

So how did the NSLM come to acquire this book? Sometime in the early 1990s, Ludwig von Hunersdorf’s book collection was available for purchase. Through the generosity of the Ohrstrom Foundation, the Library was able to purchase the entire collection from Richard Baron von Hunersdorff (yes, that is an extra “f”), a sixth-generation descendant of Ludwig Baron von Hunersdorf (1748-1812), a German riding master who in 1790 published his own treatise on equitation. Through the years, the books were passed down through the Hunersdorf family, and supplemented with additional acquisitions. The collection spans several centuries, with tiles from 1528 through the early 1900s. The 205 books arrived in Middleburg in the fall of 1993, in a 400-pound wooden crate from England. Ellen Wells, an NSL board member and head of the Special Collections Department at the Smithsonian, collated and made extensive notes of the collection.

More detail of Sir Richard Browne’s coat of arms on the spine of Methode.

I will conclude with Richard Baron von Hunersdorff’s description of the volume: “Folio… Additional double-page engraved title (dated 1658), 42 double-page engraved and etched plates after Abraham van Diepenbeke, 50 woodcut diagrams in the text, ornamental initials. Bound in contemporary mottled calf by Samuel Mearne, the sides tooled in gilt with a triple filet border with Sir Richard Browne’s crest in the inner corners, roll-tooled panel with semi-circular ornament; Browne’s monogram and a smaller version of his crest in the inner corners; goatskin onlay with Browne’s arms and motto in center of backcover; spine with 7 raised bands, lettered in one panel, the other panels tooled alternately with Browne’s monogram and crest in oval compartments with elaborate center pieces; edges gilt; neatly rehinged and corners restored.”

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.

Did you know that the National Sporting Library & Museum (NSLM) has an Aldine book? Neither did I! Till last week! I was reviewing the Library’s rare book collection for items published prior to 1700, when I spotted the word “Aldine” in the library catalog.

The Aldine Press was founded in Venice in 1494 by Aldus Manutius. He was a noted scholar and Renaissance humanist. Specifically, he focused on the publication of classical Greek texts because he believed that reading Aristotle and Aristophanes first-hand provided an elevated reading experience. Today, Aldus is remembered for making Venice a center of Greek printing and scholarship, and for commissioning the typeface we know today as italic.

After his death, the press passed to other family members before his youngest son Paulus took over the press. The book below was printed under the aegis of Paulus Manutius. The book at the NSLM, Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three Distinguished Poets Published for the First Time], published in 1534, was the first time these ancient poems on hunting and fishing were printed using a press. The book opens with De Venatione by the first-century writer Faliscus Gratius. The second poem is a fragment of Ovid’s Halieuticon [Treatise on Fishing, a fragment], and the third poem is Cynegeticon [Hunting with Dogs] by the third-century writer Nemesanius. The book concludes with Ecologues by the first-century writer Calpurnius Siculus.

In the photos above, you can see Aldus’s printer’s device, the anchor and dolphin, which are printed on the title page and on the verso of the last leaf. The book appears to have been restored in 19th-century cloth with red morocco spine labels. We are proud that this classic book found a home in Middleburg! It reminds us that the love of hunting and angling has thrived for only not hundreds but thousands of years.

Gratius, Faliscus; Nemesanius; and Siculus, Calpurnius. Poetae tres egregii nunc primum in lucem editi [Three distinguished poets published for the first time]. Venice: Aldine Press, 1534.